Begin Again relocated slaves and land

Human neck shackle, 1862

Human neck shackle, 1862
Item 6644   info
Maine Historical Society

Captain Charles C.G. Thornton, who served in the 12th Maine volunteers, filed this iron collar and chain from the neck of a Black enslaved field hand who came inside the Federal lines from the Confederacy in 1862 at Pontchartrain, Louisiana during the Civil War.

Thornton presented the shackle to the Maine Historical Society with the following note:
The collar originally had three iron prongs reaching to the top of the man's head and was fastened by the chain to a shackle around his ankle, carrying a ten-pound ball. He said he had worn it a year and the condition of his neck and ankle, calloused in deep ridges, verified his word. The prongs and ball he had got rid of before he reached our lines. The irons were put on him because when forbidden to visit his wife, who had been sold to a planter living ten miles away, he ran away. He was recaptured and his master caused irons to be riveted on him.

George Washington Kemp, Leeds, ca. 1890

George Washington Kemp, Leeds, ca. 1890
Item 99381   info
Maine Historical Society

George Washington "Wash" Kemp, pronounced "Camp," came to Maine early in January 1865 with Captain Charles Howard after serving with him and his brother, General Otis Howard in the Union Army.

Kemp, a former slave who had escaped to Union lines early in the Civil War, was to stay in Leeds and assist Howard's widowed mother on her farm.

Howard and Kemp (1833-1911) arrived with a pony, a birthday gift for the nine-year-old son of General O.O. Howard, Charles Howard's older brother.

A year after Kemp's arrival, the Howards helped to find Kemp's wife and two young children and brought them to Maine. The Kemp family later moved to its own farm in Leeds.

The family was well known throughout Maine and New England as Jubilee singers.

Kemp Family Singers broadside, Leeds, ca. 1895

Kemp Family Singers broadside, Leeds, ca. 1895
Item 99331   info
Maine Historical Society

George Washington "Wash" Kemp, along with his wife, Maria Barbour Kemp, and three of their daughters traveled around New England in the later years of the 19th century, performing as the "Colored Kemp Family" from the "Old Sunny South."

They performed for about 25 years.

Kemp and his wife and their two oldest children, John and Mary, were escaped slaves. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard was responsible for their move to Maine.

The broadside details the history of the relationship between Howard and the Kemps. When the war ended, Howard was head of the Freedmen's Bureau.

The broadside was restored from the original and reprinted.

Lizzie Howard on wedding of former slaves, Leeds, 1864

Lizzie Howard on wedding of former slaves, Leeds, 1864
Item 99018   info
Bowdoin College Library

Lizzie Howard wrote to her husband, Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, engaged in the march to Atlanta with the Union Army, to describe the wedding of Julia McDermott (or McDonald), a former slave who had followed the Union army from east Tennessee with her two young daughters.

Gen. Howard brought "Julia," as she was called throughout the letter, and her two children, to Maine at the end of January 1864, when he returned briefly on furlough. Julia was to serve as cook for Lizzie Howard and her four children, who lived in Augusta.

At the end of November 1865, Julia married Frederick Brown at the Howard home in Augusta. Brown, also a former slave, had come to Maine with an officer of the 15th Maine Infantry, in 1864.

Lizzie Howard describes to her husband the wedding of the two former slaves, and explains what she has done for Julia and her daughters during the time they have lived with her.

William "Napoleon" Thomas, Rumford Center, ca. 1870

William "Napoleon" Thomas, Rumford Center, ca. 1870
Item 100358   info
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

William "Napoleon" Thomas arrived in Rumford with Captain Elisha F. Goddard on November 1865. Stuart Martin, a Rumford historian reported that the 16 year-old former slave, “strayed into the quarters of Company A, of the 12th Maine Regiment while on duty in New Orleans …and became the Captain’s house boy."

William "Napoleon" Thomas married Angie Ellen Washburn Taylor, a widow with two children, on November 29, 1887 at Hanover, Maine. They had three sons: Sylvester born in 1888, who died at age 11 after another child accidentally hit him in the head with a rock while playing at school in Rumford Center; George born about 1890; and Clarence born in 1892.

Thomas’ wife later left him and his young sons, and never returned. Several years afterward, George ran away, reportedly to Magalloway Plantation, and also never returned.

William "Napoleon" Thomas and his son, Clarence ran a market garden, selling produce from their farm to neighbors and friends in Rumford. They also supported themselves as handymen. Clarence Thomas married Maude Jenkins Maxwell on November 4, 1931.

William "Napoleon" Thomas died of cancer on October 19, 1923, at age 72, according to the death certificate signed by physician Henry Howard of Rumford. He is buried in East Ellis-Goddard Cemetery with his sons Sylvester (1888-1899) and Clarence (1892-1956) and Clarence’s wife, Maude (1894-1986). It is interesting to note that he is buried near Civil War veteran Dr. Hiram Abbott, who was his friend and mentor.

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