Born in Scotland, William Trent immigrated to the United States in the early 1690s and embarked upon a successful career as a Philadelphia merchant. He traded mainly with Great Britain and with other American colonies and was also involved in the slave trade between Africa and the West Indies.
In 1714, Trent purchased a large tract of land in central New Jersey and built a grand country residence, completed in 1719. Trent, his family and the enslaved members of his household moved to the home in 1721, and Trent continued his active civic life, serving in the New Jersey Assembly and as the chief justice. The city of Trenton takes its name from “Trent’s Town,” the area around Trent’s home.
The names of eleven enslaved men, women and children—including Yaff, Bob, Nanny, Julius and Harry—appear in the 1726 inventory of William Trent’s estate and have inspired ongoing research into the role of forced labor in the site’s operation during the colonial era. The names and occupations of the enslaved individuals are now incorporated into the site experience for visitors.