Jube Savage and Titus Wilson were Black Revolutionary War soldiers with ties to the Monadnock region

  • Although we have little more than descriptions of Jube Savage and Titus Wilson, two Black American Revolution soldiers with ties to the Monadnock region, this contemporary painting by artist Gordon Carlisle captures the spirit of an African-American soldier during the American Revolution and appears on the cover of “Patriot’s Reward,” a well researched historical novel by author Stephen Clarkson.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/15/2021 10:50:05 AM

In October 1792, the Temple town fathers met to address a frightening development in the town, Monadnock Center for History and Culture executive director Michelle Stahl said. “Smallpox had broken out in a community that had grown up around the site of the old glassworks that had been abandoned in 1783. At their meeting, they voted ‘…that a man be procured to inspect ye Houses of the Small Pox, both at Mr. Todd’s and Jube Savage’s,’” she said, and that the necessary supplies and doctors be secured. 

It was the first mention of Jube Savage that Stahl encountered. His story, as a former enslaved man and American Revolution veteran, is one of those the Citizen Archivists campaign is illuminating as it pieces together archival records to discover more about the Monadnock region’s Black residents through history.

Savage appears on the 1790 Federal Census in Temple as the head of household, living with two other people of color. At that time, the census was only recording the name of the head of household and the number of other people, Stahl said. That year, only one other African American family was recorded in Temple, headed by a man named John Searles.

According to the 1860 “History of Temple,” written by Henry Ames Blood, three or four Black families settled on the glassworks site after its abandonment in 1783, but “having distinguished themselves by having the small-pox, to the great terror of all the country, most of them soon died there, and now rest in unmarked graves.”

It’s clear Savage and his family met a sad demise in Temple, but that scant reference left so much unknown about his life, Stahl said. A wider sweep of vital records revealed an earlier appearance in Weston, Massachusetts, when Savage’s intent to marry a woman named Judith was recorded on June 1, 1777. Jube and Judith were both identified as “negro servant[s],” of Mr. Samuel Ph. Savage of Weston and Capt. Adams of Lincoln, respectively, Stahl said. Samuel Phillips Savage is recorded as a landowner in both Weston and Lincoln with one “Servant for Life” in the 1771 Massachusetts inventory of taxable property, Stahl said.

“Judith Savage may be one of the people living with Jube in Temple in 1790, but no documentation has revealed when Judith was born, when she died or if the couple had any children,” Stahl said.

Savage next appears in American Revolution records. As part of a militia, he fortified the Dorchester hills outside of Boston in March 1776. Military records list him as a private, age 40. That means he was born around 1736, and died in Temple about 56 years later, Stahl said.

Savage went on to serve in Captain John Minot’s company in December 1776, and appeared to live as a free man thereafter, Stahl said. “It is not clear if his service in the Revolution earned him his freedom. While some African-Americans were manumitted for their service to the country, it was not automatic,” she said.

Three years later, Savage purchased some land from his wife’s owner Joseph Adams near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. A community of free African Americans lived in that area immediately after the Revolution, Stahl said, and Savage’s land had been a part of the large slave-owning Chamber Russell Estate, which is known as the Codman Estate and operated by Historic New England today.

Records indicate the town of Lincoln paid Savage through the 1780s “for the boarding and keeping of Lucy Oliver,” Stahl said. It was common for towns to pay people to care for the town’s poor during that era, she said, but it was also a common practice to “warn out” a person, meaning they didn’t have permission to live in town and therefore the town had no obligation to support them if they couldn’t support themselves.

It’s possible that Savage and his family were “warned out” of Lincoln due to a legal redefining of residency in 1789, wherein a town could warn out a landowner if they didn’t make more than three pounds a year, or if they hadn’t paid taxes for five consecutive years. The timing of the change coincides with Savage’s arrival in Temple, Stahl said. “Hopefully, more research will provide the answer.”

Savage wasn’t the only Black Revolutionary War soldier with Monadnock region ties, Stahl said. Titus Wilson was a Peterborough man who fought and presumably died during the war. He was 30 years old and 5’11,” according to a roster of missing soldiers from 1778, Stahl said, described as having black hair and skin, and eyes designated as “yaller.”

A column headed “Where Left” says Wilson was “with ye enemy,” Stahl said.

Stahl first encountered Wilson during a keyword search of online town histories from the 19th century.

“When writing his history of Peterborough Dr. Albert Smith attempted to capture the names and service records of the Peterborough men who fought in the American Revolution. At the end of list, he noted, “Titus Wilson, of the twenty-two men furnished April, 1777. Alarm at Walpole.; a negro; died at Mount Independence, 1777.“” Stahl said.

Indexes of old town histories are usually not very extensive, Stahl said, and Citizen Archivists volunteers have been finding a lot of success in doing keyword searches through digital texts to help them find references to people of color. “I wouldn’t have thought to look on the Revolutionary War list,” she said.

Wilson doesn’t appear on any records before the Revolution, Stahl said, but his name is on several muster rolls and lists from Captain William Scott’s Company, First New Hampshire Battalion of the Continental Army. He enlisted for the duration of the war in April 1777 among a group of men from Peterborough and surrounding towns.

That spring, the company moved from Fort No. 4 in Charlestown to Skenesborough, New York, at the south end of Lake Champlain. They then went to Mount Independence, a recently constructed American fort across the lake from Fort Ticonderoga. On July 5 that year, British forces outnumbered and surrounded Mount Independence, forcing the American soldiers to retreat. Two days later, some were attacked on their way to nearby Hubbardton. “Titus Wilson disappeared that day along with fellow Peterborough patriot John Taggart. Both men were presumed captured and probably died while in British custody,” Stahl said.

So far, there is no record of how Titus Wilson came to live in Peterborough, or whether he was enslaved, Stahl said, but there may be a clue in a 1777 muster list. One of the other enlisted Peterborough men was Isaac Mitchell, the 16-year-old son of Isaac Mitchell, Sr., who came to Peterborough from Massachusetts in 1763 and was one of five slave owners in town. “Before the Revolution, Mitchell had one enslaved person in his household. In the 1790 census no enslaved people or free people of color are listed in Mitchell’s household,” Stahl said. “Could Titus Wilson have been enslaved to Isaac Mitchell? With more digging, we hope to find the answer.”

The Citizen Archivist African American history project is an ongoing effort, coordinated by the Monadnock Center for History and Culture and the Historical Society of Cheshire County. For more information, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, contact Stahl at director@monadnockcenter.org.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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