Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 14, 2013

Dalton column: Slaves in Andover


Although there may be local stories about the mistreatment of Andover slaves, I’ve found none in the records. There is evidence there that Andover’s slaves were treated well and many were taught to read and write. Some slaves were treated more like servants than slaves and may have been paid for their work. There is, on record, the writing a slave once owned by Rev. Samuel Phillips that is articulate and sensitive, showing loyalty to his masters.

On record, there is an indication of a bond between slaves and their owners. In the Old Burying Ground near North Andover Commons, is a headstone that reads: In Memory of Primus/ Who was a faithful servant of Mr. Benjamin Stevens Jr/ Who died July 25, 1792/ Aged 72 years, 5 months, 16 days.

We can assume that poor relations between masters and slaves never went to record, although Andover was such a lightly populated town that it’s hard to believe that a bad master would have escaped unnoticed or unpunished. Although many crimes occurred in old Andover, few escaped notice, for the townspeoplewere basically good and would not have tolerated bad people, I believe (excepting the strange period of the witch hysteria, that to me is still not explained or understood).

In the South Parish Burying Ground is the grave of the last slave born in Andover, Rose Coburn, wife of Titus Coburn. The stone says she died at age 92 in 1859. Historian Bailey, who must have known Rose, says of her, “She was a slave born in Andover and the last survivor of all born here in that condition. A pension was paid to her as the widow of a soldier of the Revolution. She was a person of great honesty, veracity, and intelligence and retained all her facilities in a singular degree to the last.”

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