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Slavery and Forced Labor in the Early Piscataqua

The Chadbournes and other merchants and mill owners of the Piscataqua needed labor to run their operations. In part their turned to indentured servants and slaves to fill this need, though these people rarely show up in surviving records. Humphrey Chabourne’s 1667 probate inventory includes  “five servant men & mades” valued at 40 pounds. These almost certainly would have been indentured servants, though the 1688 probate inventory of Lucy Chadbourne’s second husband, Thomas Wills includes a “negro man” valued at 12 pounds (York County Probate vol. I fol. 7). 

Nicholas Shapleigh was Lucy Chadbourne’s uncle. He lived in present-day Eliot, Maine and was one of the wealthiest merchants in the Piscataqua.  His 1682 probate inventory includes indentured servants, “Two Irish boys, one to serve about two yeares, & one 3 yeares” valued at 10 pounds.  It also includes “4 Neagers 3 men one woman & one little Neager” valued together at 90 pounds.  (York Deeds Vol. V, fol. 15-16). Presumably one of these slaves was Coffee, whose deed of sale is below. This rare document may be the earliest surviving deed of sale for a Maine slave.
Edward Bushell to Nicholas Shapleigh, May 4, 1676, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Deeds, Volume 9, folio 336. Published in Suffolk Deeds (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1897), IX, 336.

To all People to whome these presents shall come Greeting &c. Know yee that I Edward Bushell Mercht. now resident in Boston in New England for good causes and Considerations mee thereunto moveing Have bargained & Sould unto Major Nicholas Shapleigh of Kittery in sd. New England a Certaine Negro man Called Coffe now in the Custody of John Holder Sr. Liveing in Scotland on the Island of Barbados To Have and and to hold the sd. Negro called Coffe to the use benifitt & behoofe of him the sd. Shapleigh his heires & assignes during the terme of the nat­ural I life of him the sd. Coffe And I the sd. Bushell hereby prom­ise to warrant & defend the Sale abovesd. against any pson or psons claimeing Lawfully any right title or Intrest to the abovesd. Negro In Witness whereof I have heereunto Set my hand & Scale in Boston abovesd. the fourth day of May 1676.


Edward Bushel & a seale
Signed Sealed & Delivd. In presence of
Robert Oxe
Alwin Childe

This Instrumt of Sale was acknowledged by Edward Bushell as his act &. deed this 26th : may 1676 before mee Joseph Dudley  
Recorded & compared 26th : May 1676 p Freegrace Bendell Recordr.  

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