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Dover's Anti-Slavery Newspaper


"The Morning Star" eventually prospered as opposition waned as more members and those outside the denomination began to realize what a great evil slavery was in a nation that had declared that all men were created equal. The newspaper had made a decisive impact on the subject in New Hampshire, and Dover was the first city in the state to send to the state Legislature members who espoused strong anti-slavery sentiment. And of course Dover's John Parker Hale, once a Democrat but now out of the party because of his anti-slavery stand, would become the first anti-slavery Senator elected to Congress.

The Gazette never gave up in its opposition, though, and its diatribes against the Star continued until the end of the Civil War. Eventually, William Burr triumphed in his war against the evils of slavery. His newspaper was a leader at a time when the struggle was unpopular. He was able to say at the denomination's general conference in 1865:

"Since the last conference the Star has had the unspeakable joy of announcing the most important event of the nineteenth century. viz. the overthrow and, as we hope in God, the final death of American slavery, for which it has so long and arduously labored, and ardently hoped and prayed, but which at times it has almost despaired of living to see."

Burr had lived to see his great struggle triumph. But he died the next year, on November 5, 1866. His death was sudden. In contrast to the violent opposition that had railed against him in earlier years, it seemed as if the whole city turned out for his funeral. The mayor and other city officials were at the service in the packed Washington Street Freewill Baptist Church (now Dover Baptist). Stores in downtown Dover closed; some of the newspapers which had lambasted him for his stand on slavery were kinder this day. Times had changed.

Burr lies in the same plot in Dover's Pine Hill Cemetery in which six of his children preceded him. His wife Frances would follow in 1895. "The Morning Star" eventually moved its operation to Boston.

About the Author
Ed Wentworth moved to Dover from Newton, NH in 1936 when he was five. He returned to Dover in 1993 after 25 years as a journalist at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He is the author of "Vital Records 1790-1828 from Dover, NH's First Newspaper."

Photo of Burr: From "The Life of William Burr" printed in 1871.

Sources: "The Life of William Burr (1871), the Dover Gazette & Strafford Advertiser, The Morning Star, Reports of the Freewill Baptist Anti-Slavery Society, Freewill Baptist meeting records.

Copyright © 1998 and Ed Wentworth. Please attribute all refernces..

William Burr

Willam Burr, the anit-slavery editor of Dover NH's radical "Morning Star" newspaper, lived to see his lifelong dream of emancipation come true. He died the following year and is buried in Dover.

Morning Star Office, Dover, NH

Home of "The Morning Star" Dover, NH's 19th century anti-slavery newspaper as it appeared in 1868. An engraving of the Freewill Baptist Printing Establishment from "Free Baptist Cyclopaedia," published in 1889. This building stood on Washington Street at the junction of Locust in Dover, NH. It was torn down in 1970 to create a parking lot.

From "The Life of Willam Burr" printed in 1871
Engraving courtesy of Ed Wentworth

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