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Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Account of Limbo, Early Settler of Fryeburg

Source: S. A. Evans, The descendants of David Evans of Charlestown, Mass. [Ancestry.com] (1893), pp. 9-10.
LIMBO.
Any account of the Pequawket settlement would be incomplete without the story of Limbo, the slave, who, even in this remote northern locality, was a factor in American civilization. For many of the facts in his history Mr. A. F. Lewis of Fryeburg is the authority. According to his own account, Limbo was kidnapped, on the coast of Guinea, while he was out feeding silkworms. Of his early life there are no records. We first know him as the slave of William McLellan of Gorham in the district of Maine, State of Massachusetts. Before the settlement of the Seven Lots he, with others, used to drive cattle up to the great Pigwacket meadows and winter them there. He and two white men, Nathaniel Merrill and John Stevens, passed the winter of 1762-3 there, and thus formed an acquaintance with the first settlers from Penacook [Concord, N. H.]. He was quite an old man when the come-outers and new-lights (which must have been equivalent to the anarchists of our day), whose creed was universal freedom and universal liberty for every man to do as he pleased, were flourishing in Gorham. Limbo was fond of going to their meetings, and they persuaded him to exchange the comforts of life with slavery for the hardships and privations of a new settlement in the wilderness with freedom, whereupon he ran away to Pigwacket. He must have been the first passenger and Pigwacket the earliest terminus of the "Underground Railway." As Fryeburg is less than forty miles from Gorham, the inference is plain either that slave property did not bear a high value or that facilities for tracking runaways were scanty; for it is stated that his former owners never heard of him afterward. In some unexplained way the title to this piece of movable property was later on vested in Moses Ames, one of the original and immortal "Seven." Tradition says that the new master, Ames, treaded [sic] Limbo unkindly, and that Col. Samuel Osgood compassionately bought him, the consideration being a yoke of oxen. Mr. Osgood subsequently sold him to his son, Lieut. James Osgood, "for five shillings lawful money." Mr. James R. Osgood, the well-known publisher, discovered a few years ago, among his grandfather's papers, the bill of sale of Limbo, dated Oct. 4, 1790. Mr. Osgood has heliotyped this interesting document. This last sale was a mere form to hand him down to another generation, and thus keep the title in the family. In his later years, Limbo was kindly cared for by "Aunt Nabby" Osgood, the kind-hearted hostess of the Oxford House. He died December 12, 1828, and rests in an honored grave. His humble tombstone may still be seen in the old cemetery at Fryeburg Village, with the following inscription. The tablet was not erected until several years after his death, which may account for the error in its date, proved by other records:

LIMBO.
A Native of Africa.
Lies here.
He was, while living, an honest man.
the noblest work of God.
Died Nov., 1829.
aged 90.

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