Venus (Sylvester) Manning is a part of US Black heritage.
A native of Scituate, Massachusetts, Venus was born in 1777 to unknown enslaved parents connected to a white North River shipbuilding family named Sylvester.
We know through probate files that her brother was Fruitful Sylvester, and the fact that Venus is buried alongside Fruitful and her four sisters in Norwell's First Parish Cemetery corroborates this claim. Furthermore, we can infer that Venus was born into slavery by examining Vernon Briggs's brief sketch of Fruitful Sylvester that mentions that he was born of enslaved parents.
Despite Venus and her five siblings being born into slavery, Venus boasted a robust probate file at the time of her 1860 death and, as a single woman, she was amongst the wealthiest single women in the town of South Scituate (Norwell). This is because, no doubt, beyond Fruitful Sylvester, none of the Sylvester siblings had children; subsequently, the siblings were able to transfer money and property to their survivors. Venus was the last of the six Sylvesters standing.
But acknowledging that Venus may have inherited some wealth from her siblings should not discount Venus's own industriousness. Records show that Venus was baptized, married, and banked in Boston and later resided in neighboring Roxbury. Records from Baldwin Place Baptist Church report Venus's Baptism in 1805.
She married Thomas Manning at the same church in 1809.
 And extant records from the Provident Institution for Savings show both Venus Manning and Thomas Manning making deposits.
Venus was financially literate. Her probate file further reveals that, upon return to her hometown, she held accounts at the Scituate Savings Bank and the South Scituate Savings Bank, and she also owned and collected dividends on 3 shares in the Boston and Albany Railroad. Beyond that, she held a $200 note against the town of South Scituate. The note against the town is further attested to in South Scituate's annual report for 1860.
Strikingly, Venus exhibits a philanthropic streak. She was a Life Member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society
and donated to the Baptist Missionary Society.
Her last will and testament leaves $200 to the Baldwin Place Church in order to "promote the cause of abolition of slavery in these United States” and she further leaves $200 to the same Norwell Methodist Society that her nieces Patty and Katie founded.
Venus died in 1860
and here are condensed excerpts from Venus Manning's will illustrating both her family connections and her connections to her extended African American community:
[In the sixth item, after debts and funeral costs are cleared, Venus wanted the] "remainder to be administrated as follows, first to render such assistance to Ichabod, James, Catherine, and Patty Sylvester, children of my deceased brother Fruitful Sylvester".
As a fitting postscript to Venus Manning's life, we find a note in an 1864 Boston Advertiser notice that describes a the Baldwin Place Baptist Society dispatching a $100 gift from the "Venus Manning Fund" for "the relief of the suffering Freed Colored People of the Mississippi Valley."
Venus Manning was born in 1777. Her birth was recorded at Scituate, Plymouth, Massachusetts. No sex or parents named. Assuming Venus is female as "The name Venus is a girl's name of Latin origin. The name of a heavenly planet and the Roman goddess of beauty and love."
The record states that she is colored. This could possibly mean that she was African American, Native American or of mixed race.
Manning, Venus, colored. ------ . G.R.14.
This record is a Gravestone record for South Parish Cemetery at Norwell.
It would be nice to think that this profile of Venus Manning is the same amazing woman as Venus (Sylvester) Manning. Yet, the 2 sources (Birth: 1777. Baptismal: 1805) for this profile clearly state that her maiden name is Manning. The proposed merge needs more research as Venus Sylvester married Thomas Manning on 19 Feb 1809 at Boston. By Rev. Thos. Baldwin. City document.
The extensive research for Venus Sylvester appears to be a mixture of 2 different woman. ie:
Baptism record in 1805 attached to Venus Sylvester, clearly states: Venus Manning. I've attached it to this profile as a possible source.
Marriage record in 1809 attached to Venus Sylvester, clearly states that Venus Sylvester married Thomas Manning.
It's easy to speculate at first glance that they are one and the same. Even the death record listed below would make one wonder as it would put the widowed Venus Manning at the same age as this profile. Yet, there is no birth record for the Venus Sylvester that married Thomas Manning. We do have a birth record for this profile of Venus Manning. Note: The birth record is from a Gravestone record for South Parish Cemetery at Norwell. Now the issue remaining is that of the baptism record.
At this point it appears that we have 2 different people. Hallisey-27 12:32, 26 June 2022 (UTC)Cheri
Possible Baptismal Record:
31 Mar 1805: There is a Venus Manning, (Colored) that was baptized at the Baldwin Place Baptist Church.
31 Mar 1805: Venus Manning (col'd,) was received as a member of the Baldwin Place Baptist Church. She is living in Scituate. The latest members of the church were recorded in 1854, the year of its printing. Thomas Manning is not listed as a member. There are also no "Sylvester's" listed as members.
Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/142764050/venus-manning: accessed 26 June 2022), memorial page for Venus Manning (1777–23 Aug 1860), Find a Grave Memorial ID 142764050, citing First Parish Cemetery, Norwell, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA; Maintained by James Bianco (contributor 47745493).
Baptist General Convention. Board of Managers., American Baptist Missionary Union. Executive Committee. (1841). The Baptist missionary magazine, vol. 21. [Boston: Board of Managers, Baptist General Convention.
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I've spent 4 hours this morning looking over a few of your sources and looking for more information. Not to mention the other numerous hours of research for my profile of Venus Manning. I can only imagine the countless hours you've put in to researching Venus Sylvester! I'd like to point out that the source you have for Venus Sylvester's baptism in 1805 clearly states, Venus Manning. And the marriage record in 1809 for Venus Sylvester who married Thomas Manning, clearly states Venus Sylvester. Also, I do have a birth record for Venus Manning, b. 1777 at Scituate. Now this raises a question: Was the birth record a spin off of the death record I found in one of your links? Who knows? It would be nice to find a photo image of the birth record. Also, can you add the FAG link for Venus Sylvester please? And a link to her Family Search profile if she has one. Please take a look at my profile for Venus Manning. I've updated my notes about the proposed merge. At this point and per WT standards for sources, I believe we have 2 different woman in the 18th and 19th (edited typo) century. : ) Sincerely, Cheri
edited by Cheri (Hallisey) Ryals-Hallisey
1. Yes, the birth record is a spin off of the death record. Notice how there is no month and date, only a year? Also, by reading the notes at the beginning of the Scituate vital records, we know that G.R. 14 stands for "Gravestone Record, South Parish Cemetery, Norwell." What used to be the South Parish Cemetery in Scituate is now the First Parish Cemetery in the section of Scituate that broke off to become today's Norwell. So that birth record is calculated from the age on Venus Manning's headstone, although that date is not visible in 2022. Note also that a maiden name would not appear on a headstone and someone recording info from headstones in 1909 would not have easy access to the maiden name of a woman who died 49 years earlier. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/msu.31293104950823?urlappend=%3Bseq=14%3Bownerid=13510798902617163-18
2. We also know that through probate files and the marriage record that Venus's maiden name certainly was Sylvester. Furthermore, I have visited Venus Manning's gravesite in Norwell and she and her 5 Sylvester siblings are all buried next to each other.
3. Beyond Venus's 1860 probate file, we also have this death 1860 record that records Venus Manning's age as 83. 1860-83=1777. It also states that she was "widowed" indicating Manning is not her maiden name. This confirms that the "Manning, Venus, colored. ------ . G.R.14" from the Scituate vital records is the same woman. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DRBS-CWF?i=737&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AN71P-XM9
4. We further have census records confirming age (and thus year of birth) and the fact that she lives with Sylvester relatives.
5. This eliminates the possibility that there are two Black Venus Mannings from Scituate both born in 1777. But what about the Baptism?
5. The Baldwin Church history linked before mentions that Venus Manning was "colored," was from Scituate, and was baptized March 31, 1805. And we know Venus Sylvester and Thomas Manning were married by Rev. Baldwin 1809. And we can confirm that the Venus who died in Scituate in 1860 was connected to the Baldwin Church because she left $200 to the church in her will. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433081909479?urlappend=%3Bseq=75%3Bownerid=27021597765573703-79
6. The Baldwin church record linked was published in 1854, 49 years after the original baptismal record was made. Venus would have still been alive and, although living in Scituate, would have been known to some of the church members. Who knows if the transciber was working from original records or a second or third-hand transcription? Perhaps Venus provided the date of Baptism herself. Also, enough time had passed that after 49 years, no one in the Church would have known Venus by her maiden name.
7. In scouring the same Scituate vital records that notes "Manning, Venus, colored. ------ . G.R.14," we find that this is the *only* appearance of the last name Manning in Scituate (and what would become Norwell) from 1636-1849. There was no Manning family in the town and no other woman with the first name Venus. Therefore, the odds are extremely low that there were two separate Black women named Venus born in 1777 in Scituate and attended the same Baptist church 30 miles away in Boston. I think that whoever wrote the 1854 book of church records decided to list Venus by the name her fellow worshipers knew her by and perhaps may not even known her maiden name.
edited by Wayne Tucker II
I also have an extended piece on her here: https://eleven-names.com/2021/12/01/meet-venus-manning-of-south-scituate-massachusetts/
There is so much more to learn about this amazing woman who was born enslaved and became active in the anti-slavery movement.
Can you tell me what page the marriage record is on please? I see the baptismal record for Venus "Manning" in your sources, but didn't find the marriage record which came later in 1809 for Venus Sylvester. So far, we have a birth and baptismal record stating the maiden name of Manning, not Sylvester. The research you've done on Venus Sylvester is impressive and she sure was an amazing woman! I'd like to think she was the same woman as Venus Manning, but I think we need more proof before a merge. At this point, they appear to be two different individuals. I look forward to collaborating with you on this! Sincerely, Cousin Cheri (I think I saw that we were cousins) : )
Thank you for the kind words.
Marriage record here: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.li3bkp?urlappend=%3Bseq=274%3Bownerid=116031466-278
Here is the page in the Baldwin church records that mentions that Venus is Black and hails from Scituate: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433081909479?urlappend=%3Bseq=75%3Bownerid=27021597765573703-79
Other marriage records are behind a paywall, so not linked directly, but I did post photos to my blog story about Venus linked in the first comment.
Also, in Venus's will, she mentions her brother Fruitful Sylvester by name. In Scituate during the 18th and 19th centuries, there was only one man named Fruitful and one woman Venus. https://elevennames294244203.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/venus-will-mentions-fruitful.jpg
Edna Sylvester mentions sisters Rhoda Sylvester and "Venus Manning of Roxbury" in her will, further attesting to Venus' Sylvester maiden name. https://elevennames294244203.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/plymouth-county-ma_-probate-file-papers-1686-1881-16.jpg
I have a hypothesis that Venus's husband Thomas was a mariner from the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe of Martha's Vineyard, but I have come up dry when I try to prove it. I have sincerely tried to prove Thomas Manning beyond the one Boston marriage record but I can't.
edited by Wayne Tucker II