On Saturday, September 15 at 10 am, local author Patricia Q. Wall, Eliot Historical Society member Rosanne Adams, and Berwick residents Paul and Pat Boisvert will host a special panel discussion at the Counting House Museum about the lives of Black Will and Black Will, Jr. (as they are commonly referred to in primary sources such as deeds). Black Will (circa 1660-1727) is one of eight characters featured in the Forgotten Frontier exhibit, open Saturdays and Sundays 1pm-4pm through October.
Black Will was one of five slaves owned by Nicholas Shapleigh of Kittery when he died in 1682. As was typical for the time, they were included in the estate inventory right after the livestock. Major Shapleigh’s nephew, John Shapleigh, inherited Will and freed him in 1700. Wall will share an overview of slavery in the area based on the research from her book “Lives of Consequence."
While still a slave, Will was able to save £25 to buy 100 acres of land in present-day Eliot, where he established a farmstead. In 1708, Shapleigh’s neighbor, Charles Frost, freed his slave Tony (Anthony Freeman) in a deal brokered by Black Will. Adams will be talking about her search for Black Will’s property in Eliot, and the community that was drawn to it.
Black Will died in 1727, leaving his widow Sarah and two sons. William Black Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth Turbat (the granddaughter of Patience and Thomas Spencer), were the first settlers of Bailey’s Island, Maine, then known as Will’s Island. Descendants still live in the Casco Bay area. The Boisverts, who now own Will, Jr.’s land, will be discussing life in the Blackberry Hill area of Berwick when Will, Jr. lived there.
The panelists will also touch upon Will, Jr.’s move to Bailey’s and Orr’s Islands and the community that grew there. A question and answer session will follow. Black Will (circa 1660-1727) is one of eight characters featured in the Forgotten Frontier exhibit, open through October. The program is free and open to the public.