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Free Persons of Color: The Averys of Waterboro, ME

by Bruce R. Tucker, Alfred Historical Society


Historically the black population of Alfred and Waterboro has never been large, in fact, it has been downright infinitesimal. In this regard, these towns are not much different from other towns in York County, Maine. Given their small numbers, blacks seem to pass through our cultural landscape like ghosts, leaving few footprints in our stony soil.

One of the places the black presence in York County is recorded is the United States Census, taken every decade since 1790. The census serves as a snapshot of the population, enumerating exactly where everyone was living at the moment the census was taken. Before 1850, only the head of household was named, the population was broken down by sex, age groups and race. Non white citizens were listed as “slaves” or “free persons of color”, a distinction of grave importance. Amid the overwhelmingly white population of York County, this enumeration consigned black residents to a conspicuous census entry, a seldom used column on the far right of the page. Autonomous black families were listed by head of household but often only the total of family members given. Single blacks in white households were listed as ciphers only, unnamed, and unknown. They were usually young males and females, likely servants or laborers, and their tenure often fleeting, gone by the next census. [i]

Among the most enduring black presence in York County was the Avery family of Waterboro. The Averys' place of origin is unclear but Nov. 13, 1794, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts conveyed to Peter Avery, 24 acres in Waterboro bordering on the Alfred town line. The land cost Avery 37 shillings and 6 pence and was a portion of the estate seized from the loyalist Sir William Pepperrell in the wake of the Revolution. At the time of the conveyance, Peter Avery was described as a resident of Waterboro, “where he now dwells”.[ii] Massachusetts was distributing much of the loyalist land among soldiers who had served in the Revolution and I searched in vain to find Avery listed as a veteran. Nor could I find Peter Avery in the 1790 census for Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire. He may have been enumerated, unnamed, in a white household. Obviously more research is needed on this point.

By the end of the Revolution all New England states had moved to banish slavery to some degree. Massachusetts, of which Maine was part, allowed blacks and Native Americans to vote as early as 1780 and finally outlawed slavery in 1783.[iii] Historically slavery never had a large presence in New England, the climate and soils being unsuited for the large scale agriculture that necessitated slaves. New England slaves tended to work as domestics, as laborers on small farms or at trades that benefited their masters. They often lived in close association with their masters, eating and sleeping under the same roof. Their intimacy with their owners and their families resulted in their being more trusted than slaves in the south and their small numbers meant they were less a threat to the dominant class of Euro-Americans. Thus New England slaves enjoyed more freedom, rights, autonomy and legal protection than their brethren further south.[iv] Also, New England’s Puritan tradition encouraged social unity and equality, diversity was viewed as a threat to their culture’s stability. To have slaves, a permanent, subordinate underclass staring them in the face everyday made staunch Puritans uncomfortable. (This is not to say that Puritans did not have slaves, they did. Perhaps because Puritans could not justify slavery as necessary to their economic system, the use of slaves seemed frivolous and self aggrandizing, making it even harder to reconcile with their doctrine of equality.)

The Revolution was a great social leveler. Social differences gave way to social equality, societal barriers were broken down and citizens were afforded a fresh start in American air. Even racial barriers, exemplified by the institution of slavery, began to fall to some degree, though they still had a long way to go. This is not to say that everyone benefited equally under the new system but more elements of society had the opportunity to better their situation. America in the 18th century was an agricultural economy and the basis of New England wealth was in small homesteads. The fastest method of accumulating wealth and security was to own land and work it. Many in the working class and aspiring farmers without access to cheap land saw the opening of interior York County as their opportunity to acquire the land they needed. Their aspirations were not lofty; they only sought to get off the bottom rung of the economic ladder.[v] It is likely these were the aspirations of Peter Avery when he joined the post Revolutionary rush of settlers to the Maine frontier.

The decision to work a Maine farm put Avery among a small minority, even among blacks. Because most blacks were domestics, servants, and laborers or engaged in trades (the “service industry”), most blacks resisted a move to the country. New England black population was largely urban where employment opportunities that utilized their skills were more common. This migration of free blacks to New England urban centers quickly became a glut and was actively discouraged. In 1788, Massachusetts warned non-resident blacks out of the state and in 1821 attempted to prevent blacks from moving into their state at all.[vi] Frontier farming was a marginal prospect at best, with slim chance of real prosperity. Black farm laborers found few on the frontier with resources enough to employ labor beyond their own family members. The day to day struggle to survive created a common bond among these subsistence farmers. Poor whites and poor blacks on the frontier shared a steady diet of poverty and sacrifice, humbled by Maine’s stony soils and short growing season. Materially, the Averys were likely not much worse off than their struggling white neighbors, wresting a meager living from their new farmsteads. Poverty was as great a leveler as the Revolution.

That said, the Avery social life was markedly different from their white neighbors. Their blackness stood out in a community of paler faces. That difference was readily apparent and no doubt frequently pointed out in terms of social discrimination and language we would find intolerable (and illegal) today. Due to the small number of blacks on the Maine frontier, formation of black communities was near impossible and opportunity for social interaction with other blacks was often rare and therefore dearer. Marriage opportunities, family formation and mutual support systems were very difficult to develop and access among rural Maine blacks, particularly isolated black families like the Averys. The black response to this dilemma was to form extended communities, bound by intermarriage and fluid living situations. Despite these difficulties, on Oct. 17,1813, James Avery of Waterboro, son of Peter, married Eleanor (Nelly) Wire (spelled variously Weare, Wyer, Ware) of Arundel. The Wares had deep York County roots in the Arundel-Kennebunkport area, having previously lived in York.[vii] Eleanor was apparently a member of the Sippio Ware family as she joined in a deed selling Sophie Wares land in Kennebunkport in 1837.[viii] The far flung siblings joining Eleanor in the deeds were Mrs. Anna Peters (later Black, of Portland)[ix], Nathaniel Wyer (Bath), and Mrs. Mrs. Henry Van Meter (Bangor). Their more urban residences reflecting migration to the bustling port cities of Maine where economic opportunities and employment abounded in shipping and lumbering.

The census of 1850 was markedly different from previous censuses in that every person was named, not just head of household. Also recorded were ages, occupations, state of birth, slave or free black, and value of property. This census also attempted to differentiate degrees of “blackness”, asking census takers to distinguish between blacks and mulattos. The validity of this endeavor relied heavily on the eye of the enumerator; its accuracy is, no doubt, questionable. None the less, we can finally put names to everyone in the Avery household. James Avery, age 50, and his wife Eleanor, age 53 appear, as do daughters Nancy A., age 20, and Miranda, age 13, all born in Maine. James’ occupation is given as laborer and his farm was valued at $500. Another black person in town was Augusta March, age 40, a servant in the household of John Spencer, “laborer”.

The 1850 census also contained a precise accounting of the state of American agriculture. Such items as type and value of crops raised, value and type of machinery present on the farm, labor estimates, etc., were all enumerated. This allowed future agricultural statisticians to produce a very detailed (and boring) analysis of the state of American farms on the eve of the Civil War. Most of it is pretty dry stuff, but a few facts leap out. Essentially, free northern black farmers were among the poorest people in their community. Farming families of both races had a chance to preserve some wealth in the value of their land but still, the color of a farmers skin resulted in a $1600 disparity of accumulated wealth. When non farming households were included, a white house hold had, on average 13 1/2 times more accumulated wealth than an identical black family. In the northeast, where wealth distribution was remarkably uniform throughout the community, this disparity persisted and was readily apparent to all. The difference was no doubt most keenly felt by black farmers when they compared their economic situation to that of the white neighbors around them.[x]

In the case of the Averys, this generalization may have not been far off the mark. In the 1798 assessments for the first federal direct tax, the assessment of Peter Averys property stated he had a house worth $5 and 26 acres of land for a total valuation (including house value) of $50. Even allowing for the fact that Waterboro was still virtually a frontier community and Peter had been working his farmstead less than a decade, this level of wealth is way below the norm for the neighborhood. Still the Averys persevered.

The 1860 census showed a slight change in the Avery household. James, Eleanor and Miranda are there, though 10 years older. Daughter Nancy is found in the Alfred census, age 30 years, boarding at the jail and employed as a domestic. She likely worked at one of the boarding houses in Alfred that flourished when court was in session.

Other blacks residing in Waterboro in the 1850 census were Jacob March, age 50, in the household of Ivory Jellison and Samuel Avery, age 55, in the household of John Davis.[xi] The 1860 census also revealed that another black family had moved to Waterboro, the William B. Kendall family. He was 58 years old and listed his occupation as merchants clerk. With him was his wife Mary, age 55; a daughter Albertina M., age 20; and William K. Avery, age 6 years , a mulatto. The child’s name would indicate some relation to the Averys, he may have been Albertina’s son or he may simply have been given to the Kendalls to raise as their own. Children living with extended family members were a common occurrence, especially among struggling families. The interests of the child were usually at the heart of the matter. The burden of one more mouth to feed was lifted from the parents and, hopefully, his guardians could expose the child to opportunities such as education or learning a trade. In antebellum black families, fewer than 10% of free black children lived in a household of a different surname from their own.[xii] This speaks to the close nature of kinship among free northern blacks and the important interdependence of their extended families.

An instance of Avery financial misfortune occurred in 1817, shortly after the marriage of James Avery. To settle a debt of $47.94, Alfred merchant Samuel Silsby and his Boston partners won a court judgment against James and attempted to seize his assets.[xiii] Apparently Peter Avery had died before 1817 and his estate passed to his widow and son (no probate could be located for Peter). James’s only asset was his Waterboro farm which he held as a tenant in common with his widowed mother, Peggy. Silsbee began foreclosure proceedings but got no apparent response from James on the matter. It is customary for the debtor to be able to have a say in appointing the appraisers but James “ refused and neglected to chose an appraiser”. James' non participation allowed Silsby to appoint all three of the appraisers of the 24 acre Avery property in preparation to its partition and sale to settle the debt. No further action on the matter could be found but on April 17, 1819, James conveyed his interest in the prepay to his mother for $50.[xiv] The same day, Peggy Avery conveyed title to the Avery homestead to the town of Waterboro for $150. In order for the town to vote funds for the purchase of land, one would assume the matter would have to be discussed by the townsmen at their annual town meeting. Interestingly, no money was appropriated nor was there any apparent action regarding the Avery property at Waterboro town meeting. To sue for debts and sell or seize land was a common practice in Maine. For any town to purchase a parcel of land they had no use for was an unusual step and to interfere with private financial affairs was even stranger. The most likely explanation was that the town feared that if the Averys were evicted from their homestead, they would be unable to support themselves and the financial responsibility for their support would fall on the town of Waterboro.[xv]

The discussion of how to manage the town’s poor consumed much of the annual Waterboro town meeting and was a major civic concern.[xvi] They may have taken action to prevent the Averys from being dispossessed and allow them means to provide their own support rather than foot the bill themselves. In any event, the Avery’s continued to live on their homestead unmolested while the town held the title to their farm for the next four decades. When James’s daughter Nancy required the property from the town in 1860, it was with the stipulation that, “ Nancy Avery shall clear the town from all support of the said James and Nell Avery during their natural life otherwise this deed shall be void.”[xvii] The records of Waterboro town meetings reflect no action taken by the town when the property was conveyed back to the Averys.

Exactly what the Averys felt about black issues of the day, we have little clue. Before and shortly after the Revolution, black American cultural identity was strongly linked to Africa and great pride was taken in African religious and cultural achievements. In that era, white Americans believed that African culture formed much of the basis of Egyptian and Greek cultures. These cultures were, in turn, the cultural foundations upon which most European beliefs and institutions are built. At the turn of the 18th century, there was much talk of resettling free blacks in a country of their own- in Africa, on the American frontier or Haiti. Much energy, both black and white, was spent on these relocation schemes, the blacks hoping for an end to slavery and a chance for autonomy, the whites hoping the nettlesome albatross of slavery would move beyond their shores and relieve them of this ideological embarrassment in the “land of the free”.[xviii]

In the 1830’s, with the repeated failure of resettlement schemes, the majority of American blacks came to the conclusion that, though they may have been unwilling immigrants, America was now their home and many blacks rejected the concept of resettlement. Free black Americans began to distance themselves from African ties by changing church names and rejecting emigration schemes. They decided to remain in America and claim their rights as Americans. Blacks no longer wanted to be considered Africans but free persons of color, citizens of a different hue, fully deserving of the same rights all Americans were heir to. Free black Americans demanded and asserted their rights and railed more vocally against the cursed institution of slavery.[xix] The idea of resettlement may have reminded them of the reservation system then being set up for Native Americans, another example of removing and isolating racial minorities from the dominant Euro-American culture.

Concurrent with this ground swell of black American pride and self assertion, white Americans began rejecting the notion that European institutions may be based on African cultures. The concept arose that blacks had no role in world history and their contributions to world culture were minimal.[xx] These white precepts may have been an attempt to rationalize the rejection of black demands, preserve slavery and maintain free blacks as a permanent underclass. The continuation of slavery and the dismissal of black participation in world culture aided in the institutionalization of prejudice in American culture. An 1836 survey stated that “ 3/5 of northern whites believe blacks were an inferior race.” Open discrimination was the ugly face on this “conventional wisdom” and blacks were required to ride on the top of coaches when they had paid full fare or sleep on decks of vessels on which they had purchased passage.[xxi] Many free blacks concluded that equality anywhere within American society was not feasible and again raised the prospect of emigration, this time to Canada. A lower white population and cheap land could allow Canada to offer free blacks the social equality America was not willing to grant. Black newspapers called once again for free blacks to leave the city and become self sufficient farmers. Canada became viewed as the promised land, a utopia where discrimination had not yet taken root and a growing black population would preclude its institutionalization.[xxii] The black flight to Canada was urged on by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law that allowed pursuit of slaves into free states. Escaped slaves fled to Canada where pursuit was not possible. By the 1850’s, however, free blacks came to realize that Canadian emigration was not the answer to their problems. In Canada, small groups of blacks were tolerated but racial discrimination was endemic on both sides of the border.[xxiii]

Moral reformers believed that discrimination against free blacks was a tied to the treatment of blacks still suffering in slavery. To stop discrimination, therefore, slavery must end. American blacks, tiring of the arguments over emigration and wearying of debating semantics, began to view the whole process of names and labels as distracting and divisive.[xxiv]

The Averys, on their farmstead in Waterboro, left us no clue as to how they viewed these national debates. They were way ahead of the curve in rejecting city life and retiring to work the land. By mid-century, they had been living a rural, hardscrabble life in Waterboro for two generations. Most of the rhetoric and debate regarding social reengineering was undoubtedly lost on them as they worked their incredibly rocky land. Emigration northward apparently held little attraction for them. Canada was, after all, the source of the frigid Arctic air that blew under their outhouse in the northern corner of their barn. From their hilltop farm they could view the foothills of the White Mountains, still snowcapped late into the spring. It was beautiful to look at but less than glamorous to live in.

That the Averys suffered discrimination, there is no doubt. The suit by Silsbee and James Averys apparent escape from the payment of the debt may be the inspiration for a choice bit of oral tradition that is told in Waterboro to this day. This oral tradition was related to me by Esther Smith whose family have been Waterboro residents and neighbors of the Averys for several generations.[xxv]

“Jim Avery ran a bill in an Alfred store every winter and went in to settle up each spring. He asked to know the amount due and the store clerk said, “ Oh yes, Jim Nigger.” Jim drew himself up proud and said, “I will pay the bill of James Avery but I shall not pay money for Jim Nigger.” There was apparently a lawsuit and the settlement held he did not have to pay the account of Jim Nigger.”

The story contains several elements common to the documented record regarding the Silsbee suit and may be the basis for the tradition but the connection would be difficult to prove. We let the story stand as told, the response of a proud black man asserting his claim to the rights of all Americans. This included the right to be accorded the respect of his neighbors, respect he had earned as a long time, hardworking resident of the community.

A discussion of the historic black presence in York County in not without hazard. Because present day black population is lower than it was in the 19th century, we have difficulty envisioning the black population as a permanent, enduring segment of the citizenry. When the subject is broached and scant oral tradition repeated regarding a black presence, it invariably concludes with, “they must have arrived on the Underground Railroad”. Areas of town linked to historic black activity have often labeled nearby houses as stations on the Underground Railroad. Case in point is the Sayward/McConkey house, close by the Avery house. Because of the Avery’s long residence on their farmstead, the area where they lived became known as “Nigger Hill”. The Sayward/ McConkey residence was the oldest house in the immediate area and recently, when it was destroyed by fire, was designated as a station on the Underground Railroad. Esther Smith, whose great grandmother was born in the house, declared her father was very interested in history and had he suspected the house was a station, he certainly would have stated as much. He never did.[xxvi] The first mention Smith could recall of the house functioning as a station was in the newspaper article that recounted its burning. Another house rumored to be a station is the Nathan Dane Place on Federal Street in Alfred. Subsequent investigation could not substantiate these rumors. Close by the Dane House was the homestead of Archibald Smith, a former ship captain born in Maryland who removed to Alfred in 1770’s. Archibald Smith was another ancestor of Esther Smith and she shared this bit of oral tradition,

“Archibald Smith was from Maryland and brought a slave family to Alfred because they were to be broke up and sold. Smith built a log cabin for them but the cold winters killed a few of the blacks every winter from pneumonia. They are buried in unmarked graves across Federal Street from the Smith place (currently the Graber residence on Federal Street- BT).

The memories of how these blacks came to be on Federal Street may have become muddied over time and their fortunes tied to the largest prominent house in the neighborhood. We are left to speculate that blacks in the area were former slaves freed from bondage and living near former masters or fugitives passing through Alfred on the shadowy Underground Railroad. The former would likely not be listed on census records as head of households and the latter would obviously strive to keep a low profile. The majority of blacks, however, were not merely passing through our town. The Averys, Marchs and Weares can trace their immediate roots to coastal Maine towns. Their arrival in interior York County would be related to the general movement of settlers from crowded coastal towns to frontier towns where cheap land was available. The aforementioned families had been part of the Maine cultural landscape for a long time. Their roots were deep and they had no intention of moving. They were no doubt sympathetic to the plight of fugitive slaves and, if the opportunity arose, they would likely assist in the effort. Escaping slaves first sought assistance from other blacks, approaching their brethren seeking food, shelter and guidance. And blacks seldom failed to render the assistance sought with instances of betrayal being rare. Informal escape networks among blacks had existed since the 1700’s.[xxvii]

The very presence of the Averys would have been an aid to fugitives. The appearance of an unknown black man on the back roads of Waterboro in the mid 1800’s, would likely be passed off as a member of the extended Avery family traveling to see kin or on an errand. It would not arouse great suspicion to see blacks in the Gore or nearby areas. Averys neighbors were hardly rabid abolitionists nor were they slave catchers. They likely were as busy as the Averys, scratching out a living on stony soil.[xxviii] The role of the Averys in the Underground Railroad and abolitionist causes certainly warrant further research.

The Avery religious life followed a typical pattern for frontier yeomen in interior York County. Peter Avery’s arrival in the 1790’s coincided with a religious upheaval among the settlers that was redefining the role and structure of religion in American daily life. The frontier was awash with seekers and preachers, proselytizing the citizenry, forming and dissolving churches and sorting themselves out. The Alfred/ Waterboro area was no exception to this turmoil as New Lights, Old Lights, Baptists, Shakers and religious splinter groups sought adherents. Many blacks sought comfort in the newly formed churches, especially the Baptist and Methodist denominations. Blacks appreciated the demonstrative, participatory style of worship and related to the plain talk of itinerant preachers. The Averys were no exception.

On April 25, 1849, Nancy Avery “related her Christian experience” and was received as a member of the First Baptist Church of Waterboro, just around the corner from her home. She confessed along with members of many of the neighborhoods prominent families; the Giles, Ricker, Allen, Hill and Carpenter families. She was baptized May 6 with members of the Scribner, Hall, Day and Hamilton families.[xxix] Her mother Nellie had apparently joined the church in 1839 and her father James signed the petition to incorporate the church in 1849. He also purchased a slip (pew) in the new meeting house in 1850 for $17.[xxx] Church records are replete with committees of deacons visiting wayward members of the flock for such indiscretions as attending dance lessons, drinking or hashing out marital problems but the Avery family does not appear to be among those visited. Apparently they kept a steady hand on the moral tiller. Esther Smith related a story about the Averys concern with how they were perceived by their neighbors.

An Old Avery man came down to the Ivory Smith farm at the foot of Starr Hill Rd. on a Sunday morning while Ivory was eating breakfast. Ivory asked him why he was up so early on a Sunday morning. Avery, who stuttered badly, insisted it was Monday morning and sat down to ponder. Suddenly, he jumped up saying, “Your right, it is Sunday.” and raced home to tell his wife to stop doing the wash. He knew the people from Alfred Gore would be passing by his house to go to the Baptist church and it would not do to have them see her washing (working) on a Sunday.

The best remembered Alfred connection to the Avery family was Nancy Avery. Obituary and grave records indicate she was born in Wells Nov. 28, 1828. Since the Averys were living in Waterboro at that time, her mother Eleanor may have traveled to the home of a family member to bear her child. Reportedly one of thirteen children, census records indicate no more than six children were living in the house hold at one time. One brother reportedly became a lawyer, but the primary occupation of the Averys was laborers and stone wall builders. Given the rocky condition of their neighborhood, they had plenty of raw materials to work with. The walls around the McConkey house and the Avery family burial ground are reportedly their handiwork.

Nancy Avery worked as a domestic and cook in several homes and business around Alfred. A picture of her on the front steps of the Berry Tavern can be found in Harland Eastmans book, Alfred, Maine, The Shakers and the Village, 1986.[xxxi] Her prowess as a cook is illustrated in another Esther Smith tradition.

Nancy Avery worked in the hotels in Alfred as a cook. A judge who ate at Berry Tavern was upset when he ordered a dinner and could tell immediately it was not cooked by Nancy. She had left briefly to work in another place in Alfred but returned to Berry Tavern shortly.

After purchasing title to her family homestead, Nancy sold portions of it in 1878 and 1899.[xxxii] On the later deed, Sam Came was her lawyer. His office was in the little building on the Alfred village green where Conant Realty in now located. Nancy was careful to exempt from the sale the Avery burying ground. A quick survey of this grave yard reveals numerous field stones set in the ground. These likely mark the head and footstones of other Avery family members, unnamed and now forgotten. Nancy did not want the same fate to befall herself and several other loved ones. Before her death, Nancy purchased four headstones for herself, her parents and a favorite brother, Peter. The stones probably came from the marble works in town that the Berrys had a partial interest in. These stones were erected in the family plot down Avery road from the homestead and stand to this day.

The late Maud Sayward recalled, as a child, seeing Nancy Avery about town and was fearful of meeting her because of her dark skin. Her mother finally took her by the hand and introduced the youngster to Nancy. Nancy treated her with such kindness that Maud was thereafter ashamed of her reluctance to meet Miss Avery.

[i]Perhaps the most intriguing black presence in Alfred appears in the 1800 census: A black man named Peter (no surname given) and his family of six. Peter lived in the Alfred Mills area with the Conants and Friends as neighbors. [ii] York County Registry of Deeds, Book 59, p. 126 [iii] Horton, James O. and Lois E. Horton In Hope of Liberty- Culture, Community and Protest Among Free Northern Blacks 1700- 1860 1997, p. 70, 73. [iv] Horton, p. 16,27,28 [v] Horton, p. 50 [vi] Horton, p. 26, 101, 102 [vii] Sherman Wire (3 persons) appears in the 1800 York census but was on the 1810 Wells/ Kennebunk census along with Sippio Weare (4 persons). A black family headed by John Weare remained in York in the 1810 census. The old Weare family dwelling in York was described as “a slave factory. Here were several negro families, and many negro children were from it to market. How this trade was handled we are unable to state. But we are well assured that many scenes were witnessed there, on such occasions that would make the heart ache. ” Bourne, p. 406, 407 [viii] YCRD bk. 160, p. 182, date Jan. 1, 1837 [ix] Anna Peters mark was witnessed by Portland justice of the peace Samuel Fessenden. YCRD 160/ 182 [x] Atack, Jeremy and Fred Bateman, To Their own Soil: Agriculture in the Antebellum North , 1987. [xi] Jacob March and Augusta March (in the previous census) were likely offspring of Fortune March who moved his family from Waterboro to Shapleigh after 1820. Samuel Avery was likely a nephew or younger brother to James Avery. [xii] Horton, p. 94 [xiii]Silsby was originally from Kennebunk and ran a store in Alfred in the former Webber tavern, on the current site of the library. Reference to the suit may be found in YCRD 98/ 96, date Aug. 14, 1817. [xiv] YCRD 103/ 37 [xv] Notes from Ruth Knight interview with Esther Ricker indicate that there were as many as three dwellings on the Avery property indicating a number of families lived there. This was not confirmed by Esther Smith who could recall hearing of only one dwelling on the property. [xvi]The usual practice was to set up the town paupers at an auction and “strike them off to the lowest bidder”. The Benjamin Barnes family of Waterboro is a case in point. Benjamin Barnes was stuck off for no money (this means the town did not have to pay the person feeding and housing him any money, presumably they could get enough work out of Ben to earn his keep.) but his host was not responsible for providing his cloths. (Waterboro Rec. book 1, p. 172) In 1817, Ben’s support cost the town 17 cents per week but his host, Hezekiah Cook, had to cloth him (Water. rec. 1/174). Ben’s wife Betsy cost the town 24 cents per week to board with James Smith and a six year old son Isreal cost 24 cents per week to live with Gideon Walker (Water. rec 1/170, 179). The process was changed slightly in 1832 to accept one bid of $300 to care for all of Waterboro’s paupers for the whole year. The town broke the arrangement before the year was up and rebid the town paupers separately. Waterboro also attempted to join with neighboring Alfred and Lyman to establish a town farm to support to local poor, all attempts were unsuccessful. [xvii] YCRD 270/ 525 [xviii] Horton, p. 177 [xix] Horton, p. 201 [xx] Horton, p.199 [xxi] Horton p. 220, 204 [xxii] Horton, p. 206, 209 [xxiii] Horton, p. 262 [xxiv] Horton, p.221,222. Black leader Samuel Cornish expressed his impatience with debating names and labels in 1838, “ They are quarrelling about trifles, while our enemies are robbing them of diamonds and gold. ...You are COLORED AMERICANS, the Indians are RED AMERICANS, and the white people are WHITE AMERICANS and you are as good as they and they are no better than you.” A leading newspaper concluded, “ the only way to improve the condition of black people was the improvement of the white man’s heart.” [xxv] The Smith family at one time owned the Sayward/ McConkey house (on Star Hill Road) that burned in the winter of 1997/8. That house is nearly within sight of the Avery house on Avery Road. In bygone days, when the fields were cleared, it easily would have been. [xxvi] Telephone interview with Esther Smith April 9, 1998 [xxvii] Horton, p.22, 229 [xxviii]Alfred diarists mention blacks infrequently. Samuel Leighton, on Dec. 2, 1825, “attended a lecture of a Mr. Niles for the Colonization Society for the transportation of slaves from this continent to Africa and he collected by subscription $30.50.” The diarist George Came mentions, on May 26, 1874, “Allan B. Kimball’s hired man Thompson, a negrow, was found dead in his bed this morning.” Thompson had shortly before been run out a three acre farm on the Morgan Garey place. (ref. Came Diary p. 418, 422) On a nice Aug. day in 1887, Came saw “Uncle Tom’s Cabin under canvas by the Courthouse.” (p. 759) Came also mentioned occasionally attending a “negrow concert” (p.457, 497, 560) and attending the lecture of “an African Negro” (p. 1001) [xxix]Records of the First Baptist Church of Waterboro, Bk. 1, p. 210. The records are in the manuscript collection of the Maine Historical Society [xxx] Rec. First Baptist Ch. of Waterboro, bk. 4, p. 13, 33 The Averys do not appear on the list of pew purchasers in the pew sales of 1803. Likely they were still members of the Hobbs Free Will Baptist church where James and Eleanor were married. [xxxi] page 80 [xxxii] YCRD bk 367 p. 327; Bk. 503 p. 335

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