J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Meeting Thomas Dugan in Concord, 7 June

Tomorrow, 7 June, the Concord Museum and the Robbins House will co-sponsor a walking tour that explores Concord’s antislavery history. The route will begin at the museum, which is hosting a special exhibit called “Thomas Dugan, Yeoman of Concord,” and end at the Robbins House, built for the children of Caesar Robbins.

In 1769, when Robbins was in his early twenties, he married a Concord woman named Phillis. They were both enslaved, he to Simon Hunt and she to the Rev. William and Phebe Emerson.

Having fought as a teenager in the French and Indian War, Robbins served in an Acton militia company at the end of the siege of Boston. Caesar Robbins became free during the war. He raised his family in Concord, dying in 1822.

Back in 2009 I noted the effort to save the Robbins family house. That campaign succeeded, and the house is now one of Concord’s historic attractions.

Thomas Dugan came to Concord by 1791, having been enslaved in Virginia. He was about forty-four years old. He married, raised a family, and worked a seven-acre farm until his death in 1827.
The exhibition “Thomas Dugan, Yeoman of Concord” attempts to visualize the furnishings of Dugan’s house and barn as listed in the probate inventory. The items, for the most part, are drawn from the Concord Museum collection, with additional loans from private collections, and have local histories; one piece—the fowler valued in 1827 at $1.50—is an actual artifact that belonged to Thomas Dugan. . . .

Dugan is referred to as a yeoman on the inventory of his estate; a yeoman is a property-owning farmer. The value of his property indicates that Dugan was a good farmer; he was a land owner—fewer than half of his Concord contemporaries, white or black, could say the same—and he died without any debts, rare at the time when surviving on credit was normal. Long after he died he was recalled as an expert grafter of apple trees, one who “did much to advance the farming interests in Concord; he was industrious and a peace maker.”
Objects in the exhibit include a “rye cradle” (shown above), which was a tool for harvesting grain that people credited Dugan with introducing to Concord. There will be a short gallery talk on Tuesday, 9 June, at 2:00 P.M.

The walking tour will take place on Sunday from 2:00 to 3:30 P.M. The cost is $10 for Concord Museum Members, $15 for others, and includes admission to the museum. Reserve a space by calling 978-369-9763, ext. 216. The sponsors urge participants to wear comfortable shoes. 

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