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Slavery and the Langdon Family

Slaves on Northern Farms  (continued)

Slaves on Northern Farms

Some of New Hampshire's colonial slaves were employed in agricultural work. It is sometimes incorrectly conjectured that slaves were not used on New Hampshire farms because the area's thin and infertile soil could not support huge-scale agricultural slavery like that sustained by West Indian sugar, coffee, and cocoa plantations, Central American mahogany stands, tidewater Virginia and Rhode Island tobacco plantations, or later cotton plantations in the upland South. But a difference in scale and economy meant only a difference in the numbers of slaves applied to agricultural labor, not their absence. While most Portsmouth slaves fulfilled white needs of domestic convenience, skilled trades, and hierarchical display they unquestionably worked on farms too.

Langdon Slave Burial Ground

Behind the parsonage of Christ Episcopal Church on Lafayette Road is a small old burial ground. The land on the south side of Sagamore Creek was for several centuries owned by the Langdon family, and the north bank of the creek belonged to another branch of the Langdon family.

Oral tradition says the burial ground behind Christ Church was for the Langdon family slaves. No corroborating written evidence verifies this tradition, but the physical evidence is consonant. The stones are small, un-inscribed, and made of readily-available local stone rather than imported slate. These features indicate low status burials. It is likely that among the slaves buried here were several who spent much of their lives working on the Langdon farm.

The Langdons and their Slaves
Visit Urban Forestry Center site of the Langdon Farm

Members of the Langdon family bought slaves at intervals from the late 1600s through to the eve of the Revolution.

- June 16, 1699 Captain Tobias Langdon of Portsmouth bought from Christopher Possell, a tanner in Hampton, an un-named black man about sixteen or seventeen years of age for £30.

- September 10, 1718, Captain Tobias Langdon bought a "Negro Slave Named Hannah" for £36 from a J. Wentworth.

- In 1724 Tobias Langdon, a wheelwright by trade, bequeathed to his son John Langdon Sr "...all my Chattel undisposed of By the will, Be it Cattle Stock Goods utensills whatsoever to me Belonging & all my Slaves...".

- February 26, 1742/43, a John Langdon Sr. (1708-1780) yeoman farmer of Portsmouth bought of Jacob Tilton of Newmarket "a Negro Servant Slave named Pomp" about fourteen years of age for £150, and Tilton did "warrant Said Servant to be Sound and wel in Helth".

- August 6, 1763 Joseph Langdon conveyed ownership of "one certain Negro Female Slave for Life named Nanne" (whom he had bought from his late brother Tobias) to Sarah Langdon of Portsmouth, widow of Tobias, not for money but "in consideration of the Love & Good Will that he bears to Sarah Langdon." Knowing that this gift was coming to her, the previous day Sarah Langdon provided for Nanne's possible freedom should she outlive Sarah.

- March 1, 1773 Mary Langdon (wife of John Langdon, Sr. 1708-1780), bought from Elizabeth Lear of Portsmouth for £25 "a Negro Wench, named Violet" in six annual payments of £4/5/0 beginning in August of 1774 (with the provision that if she should die before the payments are complete, the payments will die with her).

- Some bills for clothing a slave named Pomp also survive. On December 6, 1776 and again on July 23, 1779, John Langdon Sr. bought a pair of shoes for a slave named Pomp, each time spending 2 shillings. If this is the same Pomp as purchased in 1742/3, he would have been in his 40s by this time.


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