Payroll, “Capt. Henry Brightmans Company of militia in the Continental Service,” June 2, 1779, to July 2, 1779. Laid paper, “GR” over coronet watermark; England.
Serving in the company was Boston Durfee, a “Negroman”; listed with the rank of Private, he earned the same wage as his fellow soldiers.
On November 16, 1788, in Freetown, Massachusetts, Boston Durfee, an African-American patriot, married Sarah Slocum ”alias Dick”; evidenced by his surname, he was likely a former slave.
The slave trade between New England and the West Indies was established in the 17th century, with Newport, Rhode Island, as its chief marketplace. Some early residents in the area that is now Fall River invested in slaves, using them as farmhands and domestic servants. Thomas Durfee (1643-1712), the first settler of that surname in New England, owned a slave named Jack, bequeathing him to his wife, Deliverance (Hall) Tripp Durfee (?-1721) in his will, which was proved on July 14, 1712: “To wife, Deliverance, a negro called Jack, for life, and at her death the value of said negro, equally, to two daughters.” It was a common practice for slaves to adopt the surname of their owners, hence Jack was known as Jack Durfee. Wills and estate inventories of other early residents in the area that is now Fall River list slaves, bequeathed to heirs of the deceased along with other property. Slavery was abolished in Massachusetts in 1783.