History of Slavery in Ipswich
by Thomas Franklin Waters
In 1638, a ship returned to Salem from the West Indies after a seven-month voyage. Its cargo included cotton, tobacco and, as far as we know, the first African slaves to be imported into Massachusetts. In 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony adopted a code of laws that made slavery legal. It would remain so for the next 140 years, but slavery apparently continued. The Boston newspapers abounded in advertisements of the sale of slaves. The Boston Gazette rarely appeared without them. In the year 1761, on July 13 it announced, “Just imported from Africa. A number of prime young slaves from the Midward Coast and to be sold on board and also, a likely, hearty, male Negro child about a month old to be given away.”
“Two citizens of Ipswich took so resolute a stand against human slavery, that the Colony of Massachusetts Bay would never have borne the reproach of permitting it, if their counsels had been heeded. Nathaniel Ward, the author of the Body of Liberties adopted in 1641, thus dealt with it: “There shall never be any bond-slavery or captivity among us, unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or is sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israel concerning such persons doth morally require.” Richard Saltonstall denounced in General Court the act of Capt. James, master of the ship “Rainbow,” who kidnapped two negroes on the Guinea Coast and brought them into Boston in 1645, and demanded that they be returned at the public expense.
Indian slavery began at an early date. William Paine had an Indian servant, Mary, in 1656. The horrors of King Philip’s War kindled intense hatred against the Indians and at its close many were bought as slaves. Capt. John Whipple brought home an Indian boy, Lawrence. Major Samuel Appleton bought three captives, and Samuel Symonds, Esq., the Deputy Governor, paid £5 for an Indian boy and girl. Rev. John Rogers had an Indian servant, James Huntaway, in 1692.
Negro slavery was well established in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. In 1755, the slaves in this town above the age of sixteen numbered sixty-two. In the Candlewood district, James Burnham, as his inventory revealed in 1737, owned a negro man and an old negro woman. The man was appraised at £100 but the poor old woman was valued only at £5, while the cows were appraised at £8, a yoke of oxen at £17 and a horse at £22. Husbands were sold without their wives, wives without husbands and little children were torn from their mother’s arms to be sold or given away.
Ipswich slaves married and their children seem to have grown up in the families of which they were members. They were assigned seats in the meeting house, were allowed to become communicants and enjoy all the privileges of church members. Their children were baptized. They were cared for in old age and were given Christian burial by those whom they had served. But they were only chattels. If the whim of the owner decreed, they were sold, and families were scattered. Eventually, they died or drifted away from the town, after they had received their freedom.”
As early as 1765, public opinion began to be strongly against slavery, and Deacon Whipple’s and Col. Choate’s freeing of their slaves by will illustrates a frequent method of terminating their bondage. The slaves themselves were already demanding their freedom before the Courts.
The tide of public sentiment was now rising rapidly. Nathaniel Appleton and James Swan, merchants of Boston, distinguished themselves as writers on the side of Liberty. In 1773, the abolition of slavery was a subject of forensic discussion at the Harvard Commencement. Juries invariably gave verdicts in favor of slaves who sued for freedom and in 1780, the present Constitution of Massachusetts was adopted, its first article asserting that all men are born free and equal. The General Court passed an Act in March,1788, “to prevent the slave trade and for granting relief to the families of such unhappy persons as may be kidnapped or decoyed away from this Commonwealth.”
Names of the Known Ipswich Slaves and Servants
- Andrew, son of Scipio, servant of Col. Berry and Flora] baptised Oct. 14, 1750.
- Anthony, son of Tidey, servant to Ens. John Whipp]e, baptised May 7, 1738.
- Bristo and Venus, servants of Mr Daniel Giddings.
- Cato Haskell: owned by Mark Haskell of the Comfort Hill farm on the Rowley road, who made a bold burst for liberty in June, 1772, and his master proclaimed his loss, “Ran away from Mark Haskell of Ipswich last Saturday night, a Negro Man named Cato 22 years old, middling stature etc.” In 1802. Cato Haskell killed Charles Lewis from Virginia with a scythe. Haskell was sentenced for manslaughter, to be branded on the forehead with M, and imprisoned a year.
- Ceasar and Phillis, married in 1765
- Chance Bradstreet, leased in 1777 by Reverend Isaac Story of Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Abraham Dodge, a ship captain and maritime trader living on Elm Street in Ipswich. That house is now at the Smithsonian Museum.
- Charles Lewis murdered in North Common Fields by Cato Haskell.
- Cuffee and Nanny married in 1732, owned by Thomas Lord
- Cursor and Jane Sleigh, servant of Stephen Emerson, married in 1747
- Dille, servant of Mr. Jacob Story
- Dinah, owned by Colonel John Appleton. 1751
- Dinah, servant of Francis and Thomas Choate.
- Edward and Sabina, belonging to Mr. Francis Choate, baptised Oct. 24, 1742. Their son Titus.
- Esther, servant of Increase Howe tavener, died in 1751
- Flora and Tim or Thom, who were married in 1726. Owned by Benjamin Crocker
- Flora Brown, adult servant ol William Brown, baptised Aug. 7, 1743
- Flora servant of Capt. Daniel Goodhue
- George and Dinah, slaves of Major Isaac Appleton were married in 1741 and three children were born to them, Jacob, Bilhah and David baptised Feb. 23. 1745at the Appleton Farm,
- Jacob, owned by Col. John Appleton, died in 1736.
- Jane, owned by James Brown, died in 1733
- Jane, servant to Phillip Lord, baptised Apr. 3, 1743
- Jenny Slew of Ipswich brought suit against John Whipple Jr. gentleman, In the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, in March, 1765 on a plea of trespass. She lost her suit but appealed to the Superior Court of Judicature, and at the November term in 1766, the jury found for the appellant and awarded her £4, “money damage,” and £9. 9s. 6d. costs, and execution was issued accordingly. Read the full court decision. Future president John Adams witnessed the trial of Slew v. Whipple, noting in his diary on Wednesday, November 5, 1766, “Attended court; heard the trial of an action of trespass brought by a mulatto woman for damages for restraining her of her liberty. This is called suing for liberty, the first action that ever I knew of the sort. though I have heard there have been many.” Read “Minutes of the Argument, Essex Superior Court, Salem, November 1766: Slew vs. Whipple.
- Jethro servant of Capt. Jacob Dodge
- Jupiter, died. 1750. Servant of Samuel Adams, married Tidy, servant of Isaac Appleton.
- Jupiter servant of Rev. Mr Jewett, married Violet servant of widow Rebekah Dodge,
- Kant, appraised in 1741 at £70 and Bett appraised at £80 at the farm of James Brown.
- Kate servant Mr Joseph Cogswell
- Louie and Phillis devised by the will of John Brown in 1759.
- Ned. Thomas Choate, while a member of the General Court, bought for his son, Francis Choate, a negro boy just arrived from Africa, who married the girl Sabina
- Peter owned by Mr. Wade, and Mr. Burnham’s Sarah, married in 1729.
- Peter died 1750 and wife, Jane, servant of Thomas Staniford.
- Peter, given by Mr. Richard Shatswell in 1772 to his wife
- Peter, owned by Jonathan Wade, Esq.
- Peter, servant of Lieut. John Choate
- Peter, servant of Samuel Adams
- Phyllis, girl, owned by Mr. Joseph Abbe, born in 1744
- Phillis former former servant to Joshua Cogswell married Plato, freeman in 1785
- Phebe, 1762, servants of Deacon Matthew Whipple
- Plato, freeman, formerly servant to Deacon Whipple. Deacon Matthew Whipple of the Hamlet made provision for his slave. In his will, “in Consideration that my Servant Plato has been a faithful Servant that after my Death and my Wife’s Death he shall be free.” Plato married Phebe, another slave in the same household, in 1702, and for a second wife, Phillis, formerly servant of Col. Jonathan Cogswell, in 1785, the widow of Caesar Choate.” Plato died in 1799 at the age of 109
- Prince, freeman; former servant of Mr. Joseph Cogswell
- Prince was a slave in the Safford family who may himself have descended from African tribal leaders. The slave became a freeman, and married Kate, a servant of Joseph Cogswell, in 1790. Their son James married Peely Chever, and they had two children, two children, Jane and Jacob. At 26 years of age, Emma Jane Mitchell, a descendant of the American Indian leader Massasoit, married the eldest son, Jacob Cheever Safford.
- Quash, servant of John Wainwright, Esq., died in 1721.
- Rose, a servant of Mrs. Hannah Crompton died in 1731
- Rose, servant of Widow Sarah Wallis, baptised Feb. 20, 1757
- Rose owned by Mr Rust, found dead in bed in 1787
- Reuben, servant of Lieutenant Thomas Choate
- Sarah, belonging to Thomas Purnam, 3d, baptised Feb. 2, 1728
- Scipio and Flora, married in 1761, servant of Joseph Rust
- Scipio and Thyris. owned by Col. Thos. Berry. Scipio and Flora had two babies, Tamasin, baptized in 1746, and Andrew, baptized in 1750.
- Scipio and Peggy Harden
- Scipio, son of Scipio and Dinah, and died in 1750.
- Scipio, servant of John Brown; who died in 1787.
- Scipio and Ruth, married in 1768, servants of Lieut. Moses Bradstreet
- Silas age Sixteen years. The original deed of sale of a slave by Nathaniel Kinsman: “One Mulatto Servant To Have and to Hold the said Mulatto Servant to Jonathan Burley …. for and during the natural Life of the said Mulatto Servant.
- Tamasin, daughter of Scipio, servant of Col. Berry, Aug. 3, 1746
- Tidey, another slave of Major Isaac Appleton, married Jupiter, servant of Samuel Adams in 1751.
- Tom, owned by Benjamin Crocker
- Violet, servant of widow Rebecca Dodge, married Jupiter, former slave of Mr. Jewett in 1779.
NEGROES (s=son, d= daughter. ch=child(?))
- Armor, , ch. Joseph Lemons, Oct , 1789
- Armour, ch. Joseph, Mar. 26, 1791.
- Armour, s. Joseph Lemmon, Sept. 6, 1787
- Armour, ch. Joseph, July 2, 1797.
- Bilhah, d. George and Dinah, baptised Feb. 7, 1747
- Cesar, s. Phillis, baptised Aug. 26, 1764.
- Dick, Titus, s. Peter and Sarah, baptised. Oct. 18, 1730
- Field, John, s. Caroline, at House of Correction, Apr. 25, 1843
- Fields, , ch. Caroline, at House of Correction, Mar. 2, 1842
- Freeman, Peter, s. York and Catharine, June 17, 1776.
- Jacob, s. George and Dinah, servant of Maj. Appleton, baptised July 24, 1743
- Jane, d. Edward and Sabinna, belonging to Mr. Francis Choate, baptised Oct. 24, 1742
- Jane, d. Flora, baptised August 2, 1761
- Katherine, d. John, baptised 1728.
- Low, ch. “Peter Low’s Kate,” Aug. 22, 1792
- Margaret, d. Edward and Binah, alias Sibina, baptised April . Apr. 10, 1748
- Nedson, s. Esther, d. Titus, May 15, 1787
- Nedson, ch. Esther, d. Titus, Jan. 5, 1789
- Nedson, ch. Ester, d. Titus, June, 1790
- Nedson, ch. Ester, d. Titus, Dec. 13, 1791
- Peter, s. Edward and Sabina, baptised June 5, 1713
- Peter, .s. Peter and Bynah, baptised Oct. 26, 1777
- Reuben, s. Flora, baptised Oct. 3, 1756
- Rose, d. Scipio, bp. June 5, 1748
- Rubin, s. Flora, baptised. Aug. 20, 1749
- Safford, Elislia, Prince and Kate, Apr. 21, 1793
- Safford, Hilty, d. twin, Prince and Kate, Jan. 21, 1799
- Safford, Jacob Danford, s. Prince and Kate, Dec. 14, 1801
- Safford, James, s. Prince and Kate, July 4, 1796
- Safford, Pamela, d. Prince and Kate, Nov. 31, 1786
- Safford, Peter, s. twin. Prince and Kate, Jan. 21, 1799
- Safford, Ruben, s. Prince and Kate, Dec. 18, 1785
- Safford, Venus, d. Prince and Kate, Dec. 28, 1781
- Scipio, s. Scipio and Dinah, baptised. July 1, 1744
- Small, John, s. John, mulatto, baptised June 23, 1728.
- Small, Phene, d. John, baptised 1728
- Violet, d. Edward and Sabina, belonging to Mr. Francis Choate, baptised Oct. 24, 1742
The most famous slave from Ipswich was Pomp, who was hung at Pingrey’s Plain in Ipswich for killing his new master, Captain Charles Furbush, of Andover.
There is a stone cooking hearth in the basement of Hale house on North Main Street, and an old story that an owner had two black “servants” living in the basement who cooked food for the family and sent it upstairs with a dumbwaiter that still exists, hidden in the walls.
We read in the book “Choates in America,” the following:
“Thomas Choate, while a member of the General Court, bought for his son, Francis Choate, a negro boy just arrived from Africa, by the name of “Ned.” He married the girl Sabina, a black woman for whom one “Phillis” was exchanged with Robert Choate, of Ipswich. Ned and ‘Binah had seven children, all of whom were baptized, as Ned was a member of the church. Their names were Edward, Titus, Peter, Caezar, Jane, Violet, and Peggy. “Ned and ‘Binah” remained slaves until 1845, when Mr. Francis Choate gave them their freedom if they wished to take it, otherwise they were to be supported. They chose to remain with the family, and accordingly were cared for as long as they lived.”
The Ipswich Riverwalk Mural portrays the slave Jenny Slew receiving compensation from John Whipple, scene from Ipswich Riverwalk
The following table from Felt’s History of Ipswich, Essex and Hamilton gives the population of Ipswich in the year 1830:
- Males, white: 676
- Males, black: 6
- Females, white: 643
- Females, black: 8
Leading up to the Civil War, Ipswich residents played an important role in the national abolition of slavery. The Thomas Manning house on North Main St. was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The House formerly at 16 Elm St., now at the Smithsonian, was a frequent meeting place for the abolition movement. Read more at Ipswich’s anti-slavery roots ran deep.
- Antiquarian Papers At Archive.org
- Mass Moments: First Slaves Arrive in Massachusetts
- Nathaniel Ward: Body of Liberties
- Thomas Franklin Waters, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Volume II , Vol. II, pp. 210-217.
- (*Felt’s History of Ipswich, Essex and Hamilton, page 289).
- “Choates in America,”
- Melissa Berry, Ipswich’s anti-slavery roots ran deep
- Minutes of the Argument, Essex Superior Court, Salem, November 1766: Slew vs. Whipple.