Slavery in Maine


Receipt for slave, Kittery, 1738

Receipt for slave, Kittery, 1738
Item 22517   info
Maine Historical Society

James Fogg of Kittery paid 130 pounds for a "Negro woman" in 1738.

Bill of lading for slave, 1719

Bill of lading for slave, 1719
Item 7372   info
Maine Historical Society

The document records a "Negro woman" who was being transported to be sold as an enslaved person to William Pepperrell for 50 shillings. The document noted the woman was, "markd with a Y on ye right sholder." Captain John Morris of the ship Sarah created the bill of lading, dated April 1719, from Barbados.

Some sources suggest that this person died shortly after arriving and others Bullard attempted to import from Barbados did not survive the passage, either.

William Pepperrell (1696–1759) of Kittery was a merchant, military officer, Governor of Massachusetts, and the most prolific slave owner in Maine. He bought and sold slaves throughout his life and left four slaves to his wife in his will. In 1705 William Pepperrell advertised in the Boston News-Letter about a runaway slave,
…named Peter, aged about 20, speaks good English, of pretty brown Complexion, middle Stature, has'on a mixt gray home-spun Coat, white home spun Jacket and Breeches, French fall Shoes, fad coloured Stockings, or a mixt worsted pair, and a Black Hat. Whosoever shall take up said Negro, and bring or convey him safe to his said master, or secure him and send notice of him either to his Master, or to Andrew Belcher Esqr. at Boston, shall be well rewarded for his pains, and all reasonable charges paid besides.

Bill of sale for slave Scippio, 1759

Bill of sale for slave Scippio, 1759
Item 6355   info
Maine Historical Society

James Noyes made this bill of sale to Moses Pearson, conveying "One Negro man named Scippio" for £8, approximately $1,900 in 2020 currency.

Enslaved people were commonly renamed after people in the Bible, figures in Greek and Roman mythology or notables in history. In this case, Scippio was likely named after Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.

"The Owners Ship Eagle in Account Current with Henry Skinner," 1791

"The Owners Ship Eagle in Account Current with Henry Skinner," 1791
Item 101827   info
Maine Historical Society

This account is directed to the owners of the ship Eagle which included Thomas Robison of Portland, Maine. As a participant in the triangle trade, Robison used sugar and molasses from the West Indies to produce rum in his distil house, located on his wharf at the foot of Ann (now Park) Street in Portland. Rum from New England was often shipped to Africa, where ship captains would collect a cargo of slaves before sailing to the West Indies.

In 1791, Spain's King Charles IV had recently opened the port of Havana, Cuba to foreign trade. The Eagle's Captain Henry Skinner took advantage of this trade opportunity by purchasing goods and services in Havana after selling thirteen slaves from Africa. Most of the proceeds from the sale were put toward the purchase of sugar; other expenses show the cost of feeding, clothing, and transporting human cargo.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts outlawed the slave trade in 1787, and the Eagle's slaving voyage was unlawful. As a result, the Eagle's Captain Henry Skinner and Robison's agent Thomas Hodges were taken to court in Portland in 1792. According to a footnote on page 28 of William Willis's "History of Portland" (1831) Skinner et. al. were fined £200 for fitting out the ship and £50 for each of the thirteen slaves sold.

William Pepperrell receipt for purchase of slave, 1718

William Pepperrell receipt for purchase of slave, 1718
Item 22513   info
Maine Historical Society

A receipt to William Pepperrell of Kittery for 35 pounds for purchase of a "Negro Man" named Seasor.

Slave receipt, 1803

Slave receipt, 1803
Item 7486   info
Maine Historical Society

This receipt represents a transaction involving a slave captured during a battle off of Tripoli on Dec. 23, 1803, involving the Battleship the Constitution, and the ketch Mathco, now called Intrepid.

Will of Charles Frost, 1724

Will of Charles Frost, 1724
Item 9270   info
Maine Historical Society

Last will and testament of Charles Frost, 1678-1724 laying out the properties around the towns of Kittery and Berwick. This will also transfers ownership of four "negro men" (slaves) to Charles Frost's children. The slaves' names are Hector, Peince, Pompey, and Cesar.

Letter from Ambrose Crane about stolen slave, 1835

Letter from Ambrose Crane about stolen slave, 1835
Item 7345   info
Maine Historical Society

Ambrose Crane of St. Marks, Florida, wrote this letter in November 1835 to "Deacon Dowle" (Ebeneezer Dole of Hallowell) accusing him of stealing his wife's slave girl.

Crane threatened Dole and asked him to return his wife's property or suffer degradation and financial ruin.

Dole was a founding member of the Maine Anti-Slavery Society and a supporter of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Thomas Reed to Thomas Robison regarding the Caribbean economy and slave market, Sint Eustatius, 1791

Thomas Reed to Thomas Robison regarding the Caribbean economy and slave market, Sint Eustatius, 1791
Item 101784   info
Maine Historical Society

In this July 24, 1791 letter to Thomas Robison, his one-time business partner, Thomas Reed sent news from the island of St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies. He reported what he heard about the Eagle (a ship owned in part by Robison) and included several details of the Caribbean economy in 1791.

Reed hinted at a disagreement aboard the Eagle between George Bolland, who is part owner of the ship, and its captain, Henry Skinner, regarding the shipment of slaves from Africa to the West Indies. Reed adds a post-script warning Robison of a potential conflict between George Bolland and Robison's son-in-law and agent, Thomas Hodges.

Reed's letter contains a wealth of economic advice to Robison. He detailed the saturated market for slaves in the islands and estimated prices in common Portuguese currency known as Johanneses (or Joes). He sent news that Spain's King Charles IV just opened Havana, Cuba to foreign merchants, and advised Robison to send his goods there. Reed also mentioned the risk of trading on credit to French citizens while their home country experiences the political upheaval of the French Revolution.

Letter from Thomas Hodges to Captain Henry Skinner, Portland, 1791

Letter from Thomas Hodges to Captain Henry Skinner, Portland, 1791
Item 102024   info
Maine Historical Society

In February 1791, Thomas Hodges sold 29 slaves in Hispaniola on behalf of his father-in-law, Thomas Robison of Portland. American ships were not allowed to bring slaves to the French colony, so Hodges had chartered a French ship to bring his cargo into the port of Aux Cayes (present day Les Cayes, Haiti). Once there, he devised a plan to sneak a second shipment of slaves into Hispaniola aboard the Eagle, which would sail from Africa that summer.

Hodges sent his plan to Portland for Thomas Robison's approval, in hopes that Robison would forward his instructions to friends on the island of St. Eustatius, where the Eagle was expected to land in July or August. These instructions directed Captain Henry Skinner to sail directly to a sugar plantation along the coast of Hispaniola, within a short distance of Aux Cayes. He was to meet the plantation owner, who would take the slaves, and move along to the port, where it would appear that the Eagle had arrived with an empty hull.

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