Loading

“Ye Are the Children of One Father” Stories of the Enslaved in a New England Town

Two Larcom Families—Black and White—Entwined for Generations

In 1750, David Larcom married the widow Mary (Herrick) West (1711–1750), who brought to her marriage an enslaved woman named Juno (1724–1816), whose story is told in Section 2. It was at this time that Juno became known as Juno Larcom, establishing the black Larcom family. A generation later, Brutus Julius Mozambique (Jule) came to the Larcom family as an enslaved African purchased by Captain Henry Larcom.

The Story of Brutus Julius Mozambique

Sometime between 1816 and 1819, the boy who would come to be called “Brutus” was born into slavery in the African country of Mozambique. By 1825, he was living in Brazil, where he was purchased by Captain Henry Larcom (1777–1862), a Beverly sea captain on a trading voyage to Brazil. Captain Larcom and his wife Fanny (1780–1847), who later renamed the boy “Julius Caesar Larcom,” planned to train the boy as an indentured house servant. Brutus (Jule, as he was later called) lived in Beverly for about six years with Henry Larcom’s family, learning the trade of being a house servant and attending school. The last record of Brutus that we have shows him at age 16 on the crew list of the ship Catherine, sailing for the Pacific Ocean. At present, there is no information indicating why Brutus stopped being a house servant and went to sea instead.

Even though Brutus has been called by various names from Brutus, to Julius and finally Jule, for the purpose of the exhibit we will use “Brutus” for consistency.

Captain Henry Larcom Writes Home About Brutus

In a letter written to his wife and daughter while he was in Brazil, Larcom noted that Brutus would be freed and would learn to be a house servant, cleaning Captain Larcom’s boots and doing other small jobs.

I shall not come alone, but bring a N.E.G.R.O. boy by the name of Brutus to clean my boots and other small jobs; he was born in Africa and a slave, but will be free at the moment he treads on the soil of our country; ten doubloons was paid for him, about one for every year of his age. I suppose you will scowl, but never mind, we hold all men are born free and equal.”

Indenture papers (or apprentice papers) were written. This was a contract stating that Brutus would remain a servant of the Larcoms for the next 15 years, learning his trade. In addition, he would be taught to read and write. When Brutus finished his indenture, Captain Larcom promised to provide him with two suits of clothing, at least one of which would be new. This was a standard indenture contract for a child. Adults were indentured for shorter periods, usually between three to ten years. Apparently, Brutus did not live long enough to complete his indenture.

Indenture Papers for Brutus

Indentured servants were under contract for a specific time and then were free. Had he lived to 1840, the boy called “Brutus” in this document would have been completely free.

This Indenture made at the City of Rio de Janeiro in the Empire of Brasil [sic], on the ninth day of June . . . one thousand eight hundred and twenty five . . . the boy Brutus is apprenticed to Henry Larcom, to learn the trade of house servant from this day until the full end and term of fifteen years.”

The passport for Brutus was written in both Portuguese and English. This is the Portuguese version.

Larcom Family Accounts of Brutus

Fortunately for history, the Larcom family wrote many letters to each other, several of which mention Brutus. Fanny wrote to her father in 1831 that “Jule (Brutus) has done tolerably well for a day or two past but began his career on Monday with a pretty high hand . . . Mother made out to frighten him by rapping his knuckles and promising him a good basting when you got home.” In another letter, Fanny mentions that she got help from Brutus to find a pen that she had lost, and that she had confidence in the “keenness of his gaze.” In 1833, after Fanny had married, she asked her mother if Brutus still had a “black soul.” Years later, a grandson wrote that his grandmother (Fanny) had had a great deal of trouble training Jule to be a good servant.

Letter Dated 1831 from Fanny Larcom to Her Father About Brutus

Jule (Brutus) has done tolerably well for a day or two past but he began his career monday morning with a pretty high hand. I had a great mind to send a letter to you the next morning but Mother made out to frighten him by rapping his knuckles and promising him a good basting [severe beating] when you got home so you must come prepared to give him one of the real good whippings with a cool, calm, reasonable, spirit.”

Illustrations from Fanny Larcom’s Art Book

A visual record of Jule survives in some of the drawings in Fanny Larcom’s scrapbook. One page in particular includes a silhouette of Brutus as well as a sketch of him playing ball. Also shown is a drawing of a grasshopper carrying two buckets on a yoke over the handwritten caption, “Tythornes, who having lived to a great age, was at last turned to a grasshopper.”

Silhouette of Brutus

This silhouette of Brutus comes from Fanny Larcom’s scrapbook.

Drawing of Brutus playing ball taken from Fanny Larcom’s scrapbook pages.

Fanny Larcom put in her scrapbook (on the same page as her sketch of Brutus) this picture of two children embracing, entitled “Ye are the Children of one Father.”

Lucy Larcom’s Written Accounts of Brutus

Lucy Larcom (1824–1893), a descendant of Cornelius and Abigail Larcom, was a well-known poet, writer, editor, and teacher in the 19th century. In her autobiography, A New England Girlhood, Lucy recounts her childhood memories of the enslaved people of Beverly both before and after they won their freedom.

Lucy recalled that when she started school in 1826, there was “a colored boy . . . who did not sit on a bench, like the rest, but on a block of wood . . . Aunt Hannah [the teacher] often called him a ‘blockhead,’ and I supposed it was because he sat on that block. Sometimes, in his absence, a boy was made to sit in his place for punishment, for being a ‘blockhead’ too . . . Stupid little girls received a different treatment, - an occasional rap on the head with the teacher’s thimble; accompanied with a half-whispered, impatient . . . ‘Numskull!’” It is likely that this “colored boy” was Brutus. He would have been between 7 and 11 years old in 1826. Any person of color would have stood out, as the town had 4,231 residents and just 4 black males and 6 females.

In A New England Girlhood, Lucy Larcom also wrote about some other enslaved citizens of Beverly:

Some of them had belonged in my great-grandfather’s family, and they hung about the old homestead at ‘The Farms’ (Beverly Farms) long after they were at liberty to go anywhere they pleased. There was a ‘Rose’ and a ‘Phillis’* among them who came to our house to bring luscious blackberries. . . . They seemed pathetically out of place, although they lived among us on equal terms, respectable and respected.” [*Rose was Juno’s daughter-in-law and Phillis was Phillis Cave, also related to Juno through marriage.]
Families of black people were scattered about, relics of when not even New England had freed her slaves.”

1830 Census Shows Brutus

Every ten years, from 1810 to 1840, Robert Rantoul took a census of the population of Beverly. In the 1830 entry for “Colored persons,” “Julius Caeaser Larcom” is listed, along with nine other people. This is the last official record of Brutus. Four of the ten people were members of the Larcom family: Rose Larcom was married to Reuben Larcom, son of Juno Larcom and Jethro Thistle; Cloe Turner was their youngest daughter, and Harriot Wellman their granddaughter. From a high of more than fifty individuals just forty years before, the black community had shrunk to ten people, possibly due to lack of work.

After 1833, Brutus disappears from both public and private records. There are no more letters from the Larcom family mentioning him and no census, marriage, or death records have been found to indicate what happened to him.

The Story of Cloe Turner

Of the several Larcom family descendants who wrote about black people who lived in Beverly, it is Mary Larcom Dow who remembered Juno Larcom’s youngest child, Cloe (also spelled “Chloe”) Turner. Born in Beverly in 1764, Cloe was enslaved by the Larcom family, along with her mother and siblings. She became free at about 10 years of age when her mother and her family “[c]laimed their freedom.” She lived in Beverly all her life and died at age 95 in 1859. Mary Larcom Dow described “Aunt Chloe and Aunt Milan” (another black woman in Beverly) in their later years as “being pretty lazy old things, but everybody liked them and contributed good naturedly to their support.” The two women also received money from the town; neither of them “could stand the thought of the Poor House.” Aunt Cloe always had candy and nuts to distribute to the local children.

“Cloe Turner’s Book”

There is one other written account of Cloe Turner besides that of the Larcom family—a poem she wrote on the fly leaf of her hymnal:

Cloe Turner’s Book . . . Cloe Turner is my name; Nevermyland is my station; Beverly is my dwelling place, and Christ is my salvation; When I am dead and in my grave; only my bones are rotten; When this you see remember me so that I am not forgotten.”
Poem written on the flyleaf of Cloe Turner’s hymnal.

To discover how some Beverly citizens opposed slavery before the Civil War, click below to go the next section, “Opposition to Slavery in Beverly.”

This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Beverly Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. https://massculturalcouncil.org