Died 1743 at age 39
Greetings from Portland. Sweater weather is here. Every day this month I’m telling a story that bridges the gap between this world, and the next. I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side by posting one video each day, relating the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”
You know, I’ve always felt good about being from the northeast, where there was never any slavery.
OK, I understand New England merchants were indirectly involved with slavery via the triangle trade — but there was never any actual slavery going on here.
Wrong. Take Phinehas Jones, for instance.
When he died in Portland, at the age of 39, in 1743, his will listed all his Earthly possessions, including a house, a barn, a wharf, land, furniture, livestock, clothing, 725 gallons of molasses, 107 gallons of rum, 176 gallons of brandy and one human being — a black man named Cambridge.
Massachusetts was part of Maine back then, and didn’t outlaw slavery till 1783. That’s almost a decade after the Declaration of Independence.
So, the next time you get to feeling smug about the Missouri Compromise and how Maine was a free state, remember Portland slaveowner Phinheas Jones.
If you’re wondering, he left everything to his family, even his slave. What an amazing, generous man.
Today’s story is brought to you, in part, by Spirits Alive, a tireless non-profit organization that looks after the Eastern Cemetery and all its permanent residents.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.