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Mum Bett Claverack to Sheffield Slavery to Freedom


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Mum Bett Claverack to Sheffield Slavery to Freedom

  1. 1. Bett (Hogeboom) “Mother of Freedom” Bett was born about 1744 at Claverack in the household of Jannetje Muldor (Muller/Miller) and Pieter Maase Hogeboom. Jeane M. LaPorta Historian Town of Claverack, N.Y. March 20, 2015
  2. 2. Claverack Hogeboom Family • Well respected, prolific family immigrated to the Hudson Valley from the Netherlands. • Pieter Masse was born near present day Kinderhook about 1675 and became a well respected farmer of the southern van Rensselaer manor. • Property noted J Hogeboom located on the vR 1767 tenant map
  3. 3. Claverack’s Farms “….them being slavery days” • In order to accomplish the enormous work of taming the wilds of the Hudson Valley wilderness many strong hands were required to do the work. • Not just the rich and famous or the large wealthy southern plantations that utilized slave labor. • In fact, it was common to the small farms of the Hudson Valley to maintain at least one field hand, a slave, who worked side-by-side with the property owner most had a few. • While most people don’t associate slave trade with the Northern colonies it was, in fact, a thriving business. Sadly, well respected shipping lines, the Dutch West India company among them and pirates, traded goods, and, human cargo through Manhattan and over boarders for profit. • The first minister to the CDRC , Rev Johannis Casparus Freyenmoet 1756, had several slaves. They rest in the cemetery in Claverack, graves marked “Fryman”.
  4. 4. A little girl from Claverack • Bett was born in Claverack of African parents who were slaves attached to the Pieter Hogeboom house hold. • Bett would have used the family surname of record. • From an early age Bett’s training was practical including: household duties as a serving maid, cooking, cleaning, sewing but she is remembered as a nurse and midwife. • Bett had no formal academic education of note. She was not taught to read or write. (The CDRC did have bible school for slave children and “negroes” and slave children were baptized there. Bett specifically does not appear in the CDRC archives.)
  5. 5. Claverack to Sheffield
  6. 6. Bett is moved to Sheffield Massachusetts from Claverack • About 1758 Bett, along with her younger sister Lizzy, were removed from the Hogeboom household to the Ashley homestead at Sheffield Massachusetts. • It is unsubstantiated whether Bett was a “wedding gift”, part of the “dowry” or if she was purchased by Colonel John Ashley but she was moved from Claverack in her early teens. • Annetje “Hannah” [English] Hogeboom, a younger daughter of Pieter and Jannetje, married Colonel John Ashley a founder of Sheffield.
  7. 7. Ashley homestead and home of Bett from c1858 through 1781 Cooper Road Sheffield Massachusetts
  8. 8. Claverack girl educated by learned men of Sheffield • While serving as a maid for Hannah Hogeboom Ashley, Bett waited on the committee of 11 gentlemen from nearby towns when they met to write out the Sheffield Resolves, manifesto against British domination. • The colonel was active in the formation of the “Sheffield Resolves” a precursor of the Declaration of Independence. • Bett absorbed their words for she is quoted later as repeating them… • “..Mankind in their natural state are born free and equal…” These words must have struck her forcefully.
  9. 9. Bett’s talent afforded her unusual independence • As the occasion warranted, Bett was loaned out to attend the needs of neighbors and friends. A skilled nurse to the sick and midwife, Bett earned a level of self determination and trust that was not ordinary between slave and master. • Bett had a high level of autonomy which played a role in the life she dreamed of achieving for herself. • Of note, slavery was rationalized but not generally well viewed in the northeast and New England colonies. There were many abolitionists. • Some offered biblical citations to support the notion of slave master relationships but generally abolitionist leanings were strong while “looking the other way” was the norm. • The Revolutionary War delayed antislavery legislation in NYS, Mass and Ct where abolitionist sentiments ran high.
  10. 10. Article 1; Bett’s case • Political meetings at the home of John Ashley introduced Bett to the notion of personal freedom in the form of the “Sheffield Resolves” (which predated the Declaration of Independence). • During meetings at the Ashley house, Bett became acquainted with and befriended Theodore Sedgwick, a Stockbridge attorney and abolitionist who wrote the Sheffield Resolves. • Bett ran away from the Ashley home and never returned.
  11. 11. Brom and Bett vs Ashley • Brom and Bett were both slaves of the Ashley household. Together they appealed to Theodore Sedgwick to help them sue for freedom, based on article 1 of the constitution of the common wealth, which they had heard read in Sheffield. The Constitution was passed on Oct 25, 1780. • Their case was heard by the court of common pleas in Great Barrington, August 1781. • The jury ruled in Bett’s favor and she became the first slave set free under the constitution. She was awarded damages for being held a slave and unpaid labor. • This was a land mark case, Brom and Bett vs Ashley served as a precedent in the State Supreme Court. Significant to abolition Commonwealth of Mass.
  12. 12. Miss Elizabeth Freeman • After winning her freedom, Bett took the surname “Freeman”. • She entered employment at the household of Theodore Sedgwick where she worked as a governess to the Sedgwick children and helped to care for their home. • The Sedgwick’s affectionately referred to her as “Mumbet”. • Elizabeth, Mumbet, Freeman passed December 28, 1829, two years after the end of slavery in NYS. • Ms Freeman rests in the Sedgwick plot, Stockbridge Ma.
  13. 13. Sedgwick home Stockbridge Life as a free woman
  14. 14. Good Mother Farewell
  15. 15. Epitaph Died December 28, 1829. Her supposed age was 85 years. She was born a slave, and remained a slave for nearly thirty years: She could neither read nor write, Yet in her own sphere she had no Superior nor equal: she neither Wasted time of property: she Never violated a trust, nor failed to Perform a duty. In every situation Of domestic trial, she was the most Efficient helper and the tenderest friend. Good MOTHER FAREWELL…. Photo: public domain. CCHS, Mum Bett. Carroll, John. Kinderhook, NY. Summer Fall 2006
  16. 16. Elizabeth Freeman; last will and testament bequeaths her property, household possessions and clothing to her family and her mother’s shawl to her granddaughter. Water color portrait with gold bead necklace featured below.
  17. 17. Bett was quoted • “Anytime while I was a slave, if one minutes freedom had been offered me, and I had been told that I must die after that minute, I would have taken it just to stand one minute on God’s airth [earth] a free woman. I would.” (Elizabeth Freeman)
  18. 18. Ashley Homestead
  19. 19. Sheffield Resolves • The Sheffield Resolves, a petition against British dominion and a statement appealing for human rights was approved by the Town of Sheffield, January 12, 1773. Meetings to formulate the Resolves took place at the home of Colonel John and Hannah Ashley, Sheffield Falls. • The Resolves were debated and approved by the committee of eleven local men including: Deacon Silas Kellog, Col. John Ashley (chairman), Dr. Lemuel Bernard, Aaron Root, Mjr John Fellows, Philip Callender, Capt. William Day, Deacon Ebenezer Smith, Capt. Daniel Austin, Capt. Stephen Dewey, Theodore Sedgwick. • First Resolution: “Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other, and have a right to the undisturbed enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and property,”
  20. 20. Abolition time line Northeast US 1780 Pennsylvania gradual end of slavery 1783 Massachusetts/Maine (Maine was part of Mass) immediate end to slavery 1783 New Hampshire gradual end 1784 Connecticut gradual end to slavery 1784 Rhode Island gradual end 1799 NYS gradual elimination with final end of slavery 1827 1804 New Jersey gradual end 1770-1810 Vermont gradual ending of slave and slave trading out of state Sources Ashley House Historic Site Exhibition. The Trustees of Reservations. Ashley Falls, Mass. 2015. Carroll, John. “Mum Bett”. Columbia Count History & Heritage. Volume 5. Number 2. CCHS. Kinderhook, NY. Summer Fall. 2006. p. 19. Coulbourn,, John Dr. “A History of the Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack. 250th Anniversary celebration of the RDCC. New York. 1966. Jackson, Nancy. “Elizabeth Freeman’s Journey Liberty for All”. American Spirit. Vol 148. No. 2. NSDAR . Washington D.C. March/April 2004. p 19. Kelly, Arthur, C.M., transcribed & indexed. Baptism Record of the Reformed Church Claverack (Columbia County) New York. 1727-1899. Kinship. Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Sedgwick, Susan Ridley. Portrait of Elizabeth Freeman. Water color on ivory c1812. e-domain. Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved 2015. Musical Selections Ungar, Jay & Mason, Molly. Prairie Spring slides 1-13, Solstice Hymn slides 14-23. Harvest Home. Music For All Seasons. Produced by Ungar, Mason and Squires with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra et al. 1999.