Friday, September 17, 2010

Hunting for a slave burial ground and Sambo Slocum

African American Cemeteries in Dartmouth, MA

My head has been stuck in Bristol County, Massachusetts quite a bit this year.  I have visited several times and also given a few talks there.  Today I was browsing through the town of Dartmouth section of A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries and I came across two unexpected items.

The first was a notation of a "Slave Burial Ground Site" at Tucker Road and Allen Street.  The book noted that "the site is destroyed." The second was the "Sambo Slocum Cemetery" next to Gaffney Road.  To me that sounds like it very well may be an African American name.

Slave Burial Ground

Intersection of Tucker Rd & Allen St in Dartmouth, MA
I checked out the Slave Burial Ground Site on Bing Maps.  Only one of the three corners of the intersection hasn't been developed.  I'm hoping that is where the burial ground was.

The Bristol County Cemeteries Database notes that the site may be "legendary."  I couldn't find any other reference to it through a quick internet search.

Sambo Slocum

The Bristol County Cemeteries Database was the only internet hit for Sambo Slocum in Dartmouth.  The page notes that there are two stones believed to be those of African Americans, Sambo Slocum and his wife.  I checked both Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 database and the 1841-1910 database.  I didn't get any hits on either one.

I did have better luck at Ancestry.com. The 1810 US Federal Census for Dartmouth, MA shows a Sambo Slocum family of 8 in the "All Other Free Persons" column. They lived independently unlike some of the other African Americans in town who were recorded in white households.

In the 1800 US Federal Census for Dartmouth, MA I found two Sambos - Sambo Slocum (erroneously indexed as Hocum) and Sambo Tucker.  In 1800 Sambo is listed with a family of three. While this is pure conjecture, I could speculate that Sambo was a younger man in 1800, perhaps recently married, and in 1810  had quite a growing family.  If that is the case I would speculate that he could have been born in the 1770-1780 time frame.

I took a peek at Sambo Tucker as well.  He was listed with a family of five in 1800.  Both the Tuckers and the Slocums were found in the "All Other Free Persons" column and were living independently of a white family.  I wonder if there is any connection to the Slave Burial Ground at the intersection of Tucker Road mentioned above and the African American Tucker family.  Both families could have sprung from former slaves in the area.

I took one last look at the census by browsing the 1820 US Federal Census for Dartmouth since Sambo Slocum didn't appear in the index.  As expected he is found (on page 14 just above George Smith) despite the fact that he is not in the index.  He is listed with a family of five.

Looking Forward

While my time for exploring has come to an end for today, I know much more information about Sambo Slocum so that I can resume my search later.  I know the general time frame that he was alive, c. 1770/80 - 1820+. I also know that there was ship building activity in the Dartmouth area.  This could be a source for future research.  Also, successful African American ship builder Paul Cuffee (1759-1817) lived in nearby Westport, MA.  Other avenues to explore include researching local town histories as well as the white Tucker and Slocum(b) families for further clues.

If you have any information about the slave burial site in Dartmouth, MA or the African American Slocum or Tucker families of Dartmouth, please let me know.  I would love to hear more on these topics.

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