Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black History Month – Part 2

Yesterday I listed bits of trivia in my genealogy notes related to slaves. Today I’ll write about more tidbits in the genealogy data base related to African American History or slavery, but not directly related to black slaves owned by the family. There were a plethora of abolitionists and social reformers in my family, and their stories are below...


Romanus Emerson (1782 – 1852) was my 4x great grandfather, and also a cousin to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the sage of Concord. He was a reformer, and also a quite interesting Boston character. From "History of South Boston (It's Past and Present) and Prospects for the Future with Sketches of Prominent Men" by John J. Toomey and Edward P. B. Rankin, Boston, Massachusetts, 1901, pages 224 -225

"Romanus Emerson was one of the residents of "The Village" on Emerson Street, near K Street. He lived in South Boston more than forty years, arriving in 1808, and kept a small grocery store in addition to following his trade of carpenter. During his time he witnessed changes and improvements in the district. He, himself, was forward in every movement for social reform, and took a deep interest in the moral progress of society. In the closing clays of his life he was zealously engaged in the temperance and anti-slavery movements. He was of an easy, quiet disposition, and his temper was not quickly ruffled. He was especially peculiar in his views of religion. Toward the close of his life he renounced all religious opinions whatever, deliberatively holding to his speculative belief. He died October 10, 1852, at the age of 70. "

Romanus’s wife, Jemima Burnham, was the daughter of Colonel Joshua Burnham, the dear friend of the famous Hutchinson singers I wrote about in my blog on January 8, 2010 in “The Hutchinson Family Singers of Milford, New Hampshire.” The Hutchinsons were friends of Frederick Douglass. They traveled with him on his lecture tours and lived near his Lynn, Massachusetts home. I hope that some of the Emerson and Burnham family members had a chance to meet or talk with this great man.

Dr. Andrew Nichols (1785- 1853) was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts. From the Newhall’s home in East Saugus, Dr. Nichols received and cared for escaping slaves. Andrew Nichols was the head of the Free Soil Party in South Danvers (now Peabody) and a graduate of Harvard Medical School. In addition to helping escaped slaves, he befriended abolitionist lecturers. His tombstone in Peabody bears the words “Erected by the Friends of Humanity to Humanity’s Friend.”

Dr. Andrews Nichols was a cousin through the Ward Family (his wife was Mary Holyoke Ward). After him, there were four generations of Dr. Andrews Nichols in succession, and each Andrew was tied to my Wilkinson ancestors in Salem, up until the early 20th century when my uncle, Bob Wilkinson, worked as for Dr. Nichols (1890 -1978) at the Danvers State Hospital. This Dr. Nichols’ mother (Mary Ann Bill) was sister to my great grandmother Isabella Lyons Bill. This last Dr. Nichols was a reformer in the world of mental health, and advocated humane care in the Massachusetts state institutions at Danvers and Tewksbury.


Noah Martin Eaton (1832 – 1909) was a South Reading, Massachusetts abolitionist who removed to Lawrence, Kansas, a center of anti-slavery sentiment. His two oldest children out of six were born there in 1861 and 1862. On August 21, 1863, during the Civil War, Confederate guerillas led by William Quantrill burned most of the houses and killed 150 to 200 of the men they found in Lawrence. Noah removed his family back to Wakefield, Massachusetts, where he spent the rest of his life. They were lucky to escape Kansas safely during this violent part of history! Noah’s grandmother was another Emerson cousin of mine, and his wife, Eliza Ruth Walton (1837 – 1856) is a descendant of my Flint ancestral family.

A reversed role….
Dr. Daniel Mason (1647-1698) is a cousin through the Fiske family. He graduated from Harvard College in 1666. He was a physician and in served as a ships surgeon and sailed from Charlestown, Massachusetts in n 1679. He was captured by a Barbary Corsair and carried to Algiers and is supposed to have died in slavery, 1698. These are the Barbary pirates made famous in the Navy hymn “from the shores of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli” -Tripoli being the capital where they operated during the First Barbary War in 1784 (which was triggered by tributes paid to the pirates – sound familiar?). Thousands of American, Europeans (and Africans) were captured and sold into slavery in North Africa during this episode of history.

James Putnam King (1817- 1894) was a successful farmer, politician and abolitionist in Peabody, Massachusetts. He became a member of the Massachusetts legislature in 1854, overseer of the poor for the town of Peabody, and was quite well known as a large land owner. Mr. King was not famous, nor produced any noteworthy abolitionist literature, but is typical of the family sentiment in the 1800s. As a reformer, he was well known in Peabody. Mr. King’s brother-in-law married into my Wilkinson family from New Hampshire, and he shared Southwick, Jacobs, Waters, and Trask ancestors with me. Most of these Peabody families were originally Quaker, which may explain their abolitionist beliefs.

Food for thought:

I wonder how many of these Massachusetts abolitionists and reformers knew that certain ancestors owned slaves?

For Part One Click Here

For Part Three Click Here


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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