CENTER FOR LOWELL HISTORY – UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL LIBRARIES

Home     Digital Photographs     Genealogy Resources     Special Collections     Search
 
PROFILES IN COURAGE: AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN LOWELL
 
freedom in Canada to return home to Lowell.  One member  expressing "a willingness to suffer death rather than let a fugitive slave be caught when it was within his power to prevent it."  In 1851, when slave catchers returned for Booth, Linus Child, Boott Mill agent, negotiated with the southern plantation owner and then raised money from the Lowell community to purchase Booth's freedom.  In 1855, the Massachusetts Legislature extended the Personal Liberty Law which practically nullified the 1850 Federal Fugitive Slave Law.  The South viewed this action as defiance of the Federal Constitution and the tension between the South and the North grew.

     The families of John Levy, Walker Lewis, and Peter Lewis, Jr. became an integral part of Lowell.  They owned homes and businesses and were active in the educational, political, and religious life of this city.  When Walker Lewis died in 1856, Linus Child, Boott Mill agent, served as guardian for Walker Lewis, Jr.  In 1858, Walker Jr. reached majority age and Linus Child returned all the money Walker Lewis left for his son's care.

     By 1853, Simpson H. Lewis was one of the "colored citizens" petitioning the State for the right of men of color to serve in the militia.  However, it was not until the Civil War, under "military necessity," that naval crews and regiments were opened to "colored recruits."  Perhaps their uncle's early fight explained why so many of the young Lewis men were among the first to enlist and serve aboard the USS Rhode Island with the 55th Colored Cavalry.

     In the late 1800s, life became very hard for the families of Edward B. Lewis, Theodore W. Lewis, Levi Lewis and Walker Lewis, Jr.  Some injured in the Civil War suffered severe health conditions.  Others find their businesses as barbers slowed by competition from Irish and French-Canadian immigrants.  These health and financial difficulties forced them to seek Soldiers Relief from the Lowell Office of Veterans Affairs.  By the early 1900s, members of this generation were gone.  In 1954, Theodore W. Lewis, last daughter died and was buried in the family plot at  the Lowell Cemetery.

The Lew Family
The Lew Family story began with Primus of Groton, a former servant of Captain Jonathan Boyden and Margaret Lew, a former servant of Samuel Scripture.  As free blacks, Primus and Margret Lew married in 1742 and they had two sons and two daughters.  Primus served as a musician in the 1747 French and Indian War.  In 1752, Primus married again, Rose Canterbury.  They bought a farm on the west side of the Nashua River in the Pepperell section of Groton and had two children.  Even in the early 1900s, this section of Pepperell was called Primus Hill and the nearby depot of the Fitchburg Railroad Branch Line was called Primus Station.

Top Of Page   Previous Page or Next Page