Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 7, 2013

Dalton column: Salem Poor's heroism and disappointing life

A bicentennial stamp was issued to honor Andover’s Salem Poor 200 years after his heroism. This is pretty well known, at least by those with interest in local history, but what is less known are the details of the tragic life that followed his heroic act.

An Andover woman purchased Poor at a slave auction in 1747. He was an infant. By 1769, when Poor was 22, he’d bought his freedom from John Poor III for 27 pounds, a considerable amount of money - about $6,000 today. There is no record of how he acquired the money but there is reason to believe that Poor III treated his slave more like a servant and paid him.

Salem Poor married another former slave, Nancy Parker, in 1771, and they had a child, Jonas. A 1774 Andover Town Meeting voted to not provide financial support to the wife and children of Salem, “the servant of John Poor III” (Juliet Haines Mofford, “Andover Massachusetts Historical Selections from Four Centuries,” 2004).

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Salem Poor enlisted in Captain Benjamin Ames’ South Parish company and fought at Bunker Hill. Five Andover men near him were killed on the spot and another six were seriously wounded. Helping the wounded, Poor was slow to retreat and fired one last shot that killed British Army Lt. Col. James Abercrombie. In John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Lieutenant Colonel is portrayed lying dead beneath the feet of the surging British forces.

Six months after the battle,14 Colonial officers petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, stating: “...we declare that a negro man called Salem Poor the late Battle of [Bunker Hill] behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth the particulars of his conduct would be tedious, we would only beg leave to say that in the Person of this negro centers a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to the Congress.” Perhaps the 14 officers should have set forth the “particulars of his conduct,” as the General Court never acted on the petition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES/Courtesy photo Dr. Howard Koh will step down as U.S. assistant secretary for health after five years to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health this fall in a new position in its Department of Health Policy and Management.

    Koh to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health Posted 5 days ago 1 Photo
  • 48 locals to pedal in Pan-Mass Challenge Posted 5 days ago

    Courtesy photo Hannah Currie is spending 10 days this summer becoming immersed in the music industry at GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles.

    Currie hits note at LA's GRAMMY Camp Posted 5 days ago 1 Photo
  • South Church names new senior pastor Posted 12 days ago

    COURTESY PHOTO Andover residents Patrick James, left, Adam Geaslen, Ryan Byrd and Dan Bryant claimed first place at the 35th annual Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Golf Tournament at Indian Ridge Country Club in town.

    Local foursome aces Boys & Girls Club tourney Posted 12 days ago 2 Photos

    COURTESY PHOTO The Marble sisters --Anna, 8, left, and Isabel, 11 -- post-donatin to Locks of Love.

    Sisters pair up to donate pony tails to Locks of Love Posted 12 days ago 4 Photos
  • AT HOST1

    DESI SMITH/Staff photo Former Andover residents Dana Cohen and his wife, Ginny, back, left, have regularly hosted foreign exchange students since 1989. Farrah Moussa, back right, from Egypt, and Paula Valverde, front right, from Spain, are the latest students to spend a year with the Cohens, who now live in Gloucester.

    Former Andover couple welcomes exchange students for quarter-century Posted 12 days ago 4 Photos
  • Thursday, July 3, 2014
  • LENO1

    FILE PHOTO Jay Leno, who honed his comedy skills growing up in Andover, will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this fall during a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

    In good comedy company Posted 19 days ago 2 Photos

    ACT 3.jpg Susan Stott, third from left, accepts the Opening Doors to Affordable Housing in Andover Award from Andover Community Trust directors, from left, Don Schroeder, treasurer; John Pearson, president; and Joan Johnson, clerk.

    Affordable housing advocates honored Posted 19 days ago 2 Photos

    Salim Tabit

    Townspeople in the News Posted 19 days ago 1 Photo

Pictures of the Week