By Beth Bower

As an antidote to any lingering ignorance of slavery in Essex County and the cruel reality of enslavement and racism in the North, I offer the probate of widow Hannah (Clark) Cabot of Salem, Massachusetts. Proved in 1764, the inventory and disposition of Rose, Peter, and Celia makes clear that these individuals are assets and property to be divided among heirs and, in some cases, directs they be “cashed in” for investment purposes. Listed in the Mrs. Cabot’s estate inventory are:

a Negro Woman Named Rose £20, China £35

a Negro Boy Nam’d Peter £45, a Cow £3 2p

the Negro Wench’s bed & bedstead Cabbin & Bed Clothes £3 12p

1 Negro Girl Named Ceelia 35£

The total value of her estate was about £1931, including land but not “shop goods.”

Since Mrs. Cabot had no surviving children, the house and lands she occupied reverted to her brothers-in-law. In her detailed will, she distributes her assets including Rose, Peter, and Celia as follows:

Item: I give and Bequeath to Rebecca Vans (daughter of my niece Mary Vans) my Negro Woman named Rose also all the Household goods which I purchased of her Father William Vans as appears by his Bill of Parcells and Receipt dated August 9th 1764 and during the minority of said Rebecca or until she is married. My niece Mary Vans is to have the Service of said Negro & the said goods.

Item:  I give and Bequeath to William Vans junr. (son of my aforesaid niece Mary Vans) my Negro Boy Peter to be disposed of as soon as can be conveniently and the Produce put out to Interest until he is twenty one years old and the Interest to be paid annually till that time to my aforesaid Niece for her own use.

Item: I order that my Horse and Chaise be sold for the Benefit of my Estate and also my Negro girl Celia as soon as a good Place can be got.

The executors moved forward with dispatch and the following advertisement ran for several weeks in the Boston Post-Boy, &c. Extraordinary, February 1765, all three for sale.

Image source: GenealogyBank: Boston Post-Boy, &c. Extraordinary, February 25,1765 Issue 393 page 4.

One thought on “Disposition of the Enslaved in a Salem Household: The Probate of Hannah (Clark) Cabot

  1. Fascinating. Can we assume that Peter and Celia are the children of Rose? The relative sale prices are telling. the children are valued much higher than the woman (their mother?), which must reflect their higher potential for return in the investment. Thanks, Beth.

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