|Ginger Harvey |
an African American and daughter of former slaves
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 http://www.nhdeeds.com/rockingham/RoHome.html . 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
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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo