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PROFILES IN COURAGE: AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN LOWELL
 
Primus and Margret's oldest child, Barzillai Lew (pronounced BAR-zeal-ya) often called "Zeal" or "Zelah," was born November 5, 1743.  He was described as "big and strong with an extraordinary talent as a musician."  He was a member of the English forces in the 1760 war against the French and Indians.  About 1767, he bought Dinah Bowman's freedom for $400 and married her.  Early in the American Revolution, his skills and talents were called upon again and he served with Captain John Ford at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 as a fifer.  On Barzillai Lew's return to Chelmsford, MA, he joined Joseph Bradley Varnum's Militia from Dracut, MA.  In September 1777, they were sent to Fort Ticondaroga to engage Burgoyne's Army.  Jonathan Varnum, Joseph B. Varnum's son, wrote in his diary on November 1, 1777, "Zeal" is selected as a fifer and fiddler for the grand appearance the day that Burgoyne's Famous Army is to be brought in.  A Wonderful Show ..."

     With wages from his military service, Barzillai and Dinah purchased a large tract of farmland on the far side of the Merrimack River.  They built a house near Varnum Avenue and Totman Road, then called Zeal Road, named after Barzillai.  As active members of the community, they were members and musicians at the Pawtucket Society Church on Mammoth Road.   In 1832, this church organized the first anti-slavery meeting for the Greater Lowell area.

Pawtucket Society Church

     Barzillai and Dinah had thirteen children.  Some worked on the Middlesex Canal, some farmed in Pawtucketville, while others moved to Andover, Boston, and Charlestown.  The Lew Family was noted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries as well educated, skilled, and talented musicians.  It was said that "no family in Middlesex County from Lowell to Cambridge could produce so much good music."

     After his death in 1822, Barzillai Lew's Pawtucketville farm went to his sons, Zadock and Zimri.  Zadock, a well-known musician, died in 1826 without a will and his property was sold at auction.  Zimri died in 1847 in a tragic train accident in Lowell on Fast Day.

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