Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ginger Harvey of Londonderry

Ginger Harvey
an African American and daughter of former slaves

At Sunnyside Cemetery, the Old Baptist Cemetery, on Litchfield Road, is an impressive gravestone for Ginger Harvey dated 1865. It is located right by the gate next to the sign for Sunnyside Cemetery. She was the daughter of slaves, so how could she afford such a nice tombstone? Legend has it that she once saved a family from their burning house by banging on the windows with a broom to awaken them. The family asked how they could reward her kindness, and she asked for a nice funeral. The Londonderry vital records say that she was 100 years old at her death.

This was quite a gravestone to an African American woman who was a pauper during her lifetime. In the book, “Annual Report of the Committee on Finance of the City of Manchester, 1847 “ by the Manchester, NH Historical Society, on pages 56 and 50 there are references to firewood, goods and groceries being delivered to Ginger Harvey. On page 250 of the “Manchester Historic Association Collections” Volume 11, there is a line “Ginger Harvey was struck off to James Young at five shillings per week so long as she may need assistance during one year”. In other words, at the March Town meeting for Manchester in 1826, instead of sending her to a poor farm, she was assigned to live with a local family.

Ginger Harvey was born about 1778 in Salem, Massachusetts. Her parents, Caesar Harvey and Jane Lea were married in Salem in October 1778 (Salem, MA VR). Caesar was the slave of John Dowse and Jane was owned by “the widow Lois Lee””. The Londonderry records state that “Caesor Hervy” married Jane Lea on 15 April 1771. Either way, Ginger Harvey wasn’t really 100 years old.

Recently, a descendant of Ginger Harvey contacted the Londonderry Historical Society to find more information on the Harvey family. I was given this interesting case to work on, and especially to find out more about the land Caesar owned in Londonderry. According to family lore, a son sold the farm to pay a large medical bill in 1825. The location of the land was also a mystery.

I asked Marian Pierre-Louis, the “New England House Historian” for a little help. Marian has a business researching property at Fieldstone Historic Research in Massachusetts, and writes two blogs. "Root and Rambles" and "New England House Historian". From Marian I learned about the database for the Rockingham County deeds at the website . At this search Marian found two deeds with Caesar Harvey’s name. First Caesar Harvey as buyer (grantee) "Caesar Harvey from Stephen Pingry", 1800, book 0162, page 0465, in the Rockingham County records of deeds [when he bought the farm] and then a second deed with Caesar Harvey as seller (grantor), “Cezar Harvey to Ginger Harvey”, 1814, book 0203, page 252, Rockingham County records of deeds [Caesar sold the land to his daughter]. There was no record of the land being sold in 1825 in Rockingham County.

After a search of the records in the Londonderry Leach Library, I found a story on pages 42-49 of “Early Londonderry, Vol. I” by the Londonderry Historical Society, 1962. In this story, a Mrs. Bertha Goodwin Hammond recalls the story of the Londonderry fire and how Ginger Harvey rescued the family. It also mentioned her father’s land was called “Caesar’s Beach”, located at Lake Massabesic. Today this lake is within the boundaries of Manchester and Auburn, New Hampshire.

I have friends who live on Lake Massabesic and they told me about a recent TV history show that featured Caesar’s Beach. This was a good hint, so I inquired at our local station, WMUR in Manchester, about the show. I also sent an inquiry to the Auburn Historical Society, and they sent me a map of the lake, showing the location of Caesar’s beach, near the Boy Scout Camp in Manchester.

With this information I was able to tell the Harvey descendants the location of the Harvey farm, and that now the property would be located in the boundaries of Hillsborough County, and the records would be available at the Hillsborough Registry of Deeds. We also confirmed that the family owned land. This is an interesting story about African Americans in early New Hampshire. The fact is that they were a Black family that owned land, even though they were quite poor.

There are a few short stories about Caesar and Ginger Harvey in the old book Willey's Book of Nutfield, by George F. Willey, 1895. This book also mentions Caesar's Beach on the banks of Lake Massabesic.

Our local historian, Fritz Wetherbee, who gives a daily New Hampshire history lesson every night on TV on channel 9 WMUR, had indeed recently told a story about Caesar Harvey, but it was full of inaccuracies. He stated that Caesar arrived with Captain John Smith in 1614 whilst exploring the Isles of Shoals, and escaped to Lake Massabesic. If so, he was over 200 years old when he sold his land to his daughter Ginger in 1814.* Another myth, just like the age of 100 written on Ginger’s gravestone!

Ginger Harvey's gravestone is located
right next to the gate at Sunnyside Cemetery

*WMUR “New Hampshire Chronicle” transcript, emailed to me on 1 Sept. 2010

The URL for this post is

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. [this comment was added by me via email from the descendants mentioned above in the post]

    The "son" mentioned above was one Luke Hall. He was more likely a grandson, given his birth year of about 1798. Luke married a Sarah Wescott (who was born in Maine, but moved to Candia) and the couple lived in Candia. Luke was most likely of mixed descent as family oral stories say he passed himself off as being Native American or Portuguese. Indeed, Candia town records referencing his name have "a Portuguese" in parenthesis after his name. There are several references in early town records for Deerfield (now Manchester) and early Manchester regarding Luke's family being responsible for Caesar's medical bill. Unfortunately, there seems to be a few Luke Halls living in Manchester at the time so it is unclear whether or not this particular Luke Hall and the Luke Hall mentioned in the records are one in the same - family oral history from a few descendants seems to point to the fact, but to date no "hard evidence" has been located. Candia Town Hall burned at one point and many older records were permanently lost.

    Records show that Ginger had three brothers; Isaac (b.1773), Caesar (b.1776), Jacob (b.1783), and a sister, Jane (b.1778). Curiously, no birth record for Ginger has been found to date. Her birth year comes solely from census records placing it about 1777, making her in her late eighties when she died.

    Mike S
    Manchester, NH

  2. Very interesting. I love Fritz and watch New Hampshire Chronicle almost every night.
    The descendant of Ginger is lucky to have you as a researcher, will you be in contact with that person or does everything have to go through the Historical Society? Either way, this was a nice piece.

  3. Hi Heather, Nice blog & good post. overall You have beautifully maintained it, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

  4. What an appealing story! The gift of a nice funeral and gravestone, for saving a family from their burning house. And the town seems to have taken care of Ginger Harvey in her declining years. A black family, descendants of slaves, who owned land in New Hampshire, and Ginger Harvey's death seems ironically just as the Civil War was ending. I am so impressed by the sources that you found, with Marian Pierre-Louis's help, and the way you fold in the local TV history show, the map of the lake, and Willey's Book of Nutfield. Documents converge from all sides upon your story. (PS Isn't Robert Frost's farm from 1900-1911 in Derry?)

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Mariann. And, yes, the Robert Frost farm is next door in Derry, on Rt. 28. It is open to visitors, and around the farm land there is a poetry trail you can hike with poems for each landmark along the way. You can guess what poems they posted for the stonewall, a fork in the trail, the pasture, etc...

  5. What a wonderful post! I so appreciate the work you do. Such a wealth of information in this post! I feel truly blessed today to have stumbled across it! Thank you so much for all the work you put into it. I am a descendant of Ginger Harvey and her husband, Samuel Hall, through son Luke. He had a daughter Harriet N. Hall, who married Augustus Colby. Thier granddaughter, Agnes Blanche Haines, was my mother's great grandmother. On the marriage certificate I found for Samuel Hall's parents, it did not list their color. In fact, the whole thing was blank except for the names and date. I'd like to know more about Luke, and his father's family. If Samuel Hall's parents were white, how did it come to pass that he married the daughter of African Americans at that time and place in history? My records have Joseph Hall, Samuel's father, as having fought in the Revolution. Also, their was one person of color living in their house, enumerated on the 1820 census record. Could it have been Ginger? My sister and I are both as white can be. I jokingly call my sister "the chalk lady," so I was very surprised to discover this African American family in my tree. I want to find out more about them!

    1. Did you see the comment above by Mike S. of Manchester? Luke passed himself off as "Portuguese" instead of mixed race, which makes sense because of the time period. I have read many cases of this happening in the Northeast, where it wasn't questioned as much as south of the Mason-Dixon line.

    2. Agnes Blanche Haines is my 2nd great grandmother on my mom's side. This history is interesting.

    3. Agnes Blanche Haines is my 2nd great grandmother on my mom's side. This history is interesting.

  6. Ms. Ginger's history is Overwhelming! I loved this. Plus the fact you all get a daily dose of History every night! "Passing for White". WoW. Very particular piece and worth sharing! I don't know why I'm always surprised there were People of Color in New Hampshire. I just can't wait to visit! Thanks for this Heather! You teach us so much! Ginger's History is not lost.

  7. Thank you so much for this article! I'm a descendant of Ginger Harvey! She's my 6th great grandmother, through her son, Luke. It was always in our family tree that Luke was her son, however, we didn't know, until I started doing genealogical research for our family that Ginger was an African American slave. There was a legend in our family that we were part Portuguese and Native American, which could be, in part to Luke's attempt to pass, as such. We had a little information about Luke and his father, where he'd lived, etc. but nothing about his mother, except for her name. Very interesting!

  8. Dena Heavin: Agnes Blanche Haines is my 2nd great-grandmother, as well! My mom's paternal grandmother is Ida May (Gould) Adams.