“Negroes” in the Plymouth County Court Records

Snapshots of Black life as told by court cases indexed by “negro” in the Plymouth County Court Records from 1686-1787, translated into modern vernacular. Additional context provided as available.

Abraham: enticed to run away, then hidden

1735: Benjamin Stockbridge claimed that James Hyland “enticed [his negro man servant] Abraham to run away with him and hid him from September to November 1732, and…refused to obey an order of the superior court in April 1734 to return [Abraham]”. Verdict for the plaintiff, appealed by the defendant.

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John, branded with a B for burglary

1686: “John Negro, Slave of Capt John Williams” of Scituate confessed to the burglary of “money, writings, and divers goods”. John was sentenced to stand on the gallows for 1 hour and be burnt in the hand with the letter B, as well as being required to pay for prosecution, imprisonment, and court fees.

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Charles, the stowaway from Barbados

1742: John Coshat/Corhatt, a minor of Plymouth (mariner), and Scipio, a negro slave belonging to Capt John Pickard, while visiting Carlisle Bay, Barbados, “did take and conceal on board the sloop Molly…a…negro man called Charles”, held in slavery by Benjamin Bissett.

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Surre, “possessed of the divel”

1730: Nicholas Litchfield sued Isreal Cowing for fraud. Cowing sold Litchfield a Negro man named Jack and a woman named Surre for £160, but Surre was never delivered. Cowing had promised to “deliver said Negroes well and in good order”.

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Scipea’s clandestine lodging

1753: Ruben Harlow “did entice and seduce Scipea a Negro man servant…to supply…Ruben with meat, drink, washing, and lodging in a secret and clandestine way at the house of…[Isaac] Thomas” of Plymouth.

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SOURCE: Plymouth County, MA: Plymouth Court Records, 1686-1859. CD-ROM. Boston, MA.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002. Copyright, 2002, Pilgrim Society. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.)

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