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Luther Jotham: A Journey for Country and Community

On paper, Luther Jotham's Revolutionary War service record reads like a typical service record of a Minute Man from rural Massachusetts in 1775. Volunteering to serve at a minute's notice in case of an emergency, Jotham trained weekly with his neighbors in battle tactics. On April 19, 1775, when the alarm sounded at Lexington and Concord, Jotham joined his company of Bridgewater Minute Men in defense of their community.

Luther Jotham, however, differed from most Minute Men. As a free man of color, Massachusetts law excluded men like Jotham from participating in militia training days in peacetime. Yet in the midst of a looming emergency, he volunteered to protect his neighbors. Following the April 19 alarm, Jotham ultimately signed up to serve on four different occasions during the Revolutionary War.

When he returned to Bridgewater, Jotham worked to establish himself as a yeoman—a man who farmed his own land. Eventually he moved to Maine to better establish himself and his family as farmers. Though able to support his family for some time, like so many other Revolutionary War veterans, Jotham later struggled to make ends meet in the country he helped fight for. Turning to the United States for a pension, his application gives us a glimpse into the life of one patriot of color in his struggle for community, country, and financial independence.

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Contributed by Danielle Rose, Digital Public History Intern

Luther Jotham

c. 1751 - June 22, 1832

Explore Luther Jotham's life as one of America's first Black veterans of the Revolutionary War.

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Luther Jotham

c. 1751 - June 22, 1832

Explore Luther Jotham's life as one of America's first Black veterans of the Revolutionary War.

Drawing of a town with two large buildings in the background and several people walking in the forefront. Trees are also interspersed throughout.The Jotham family lived in the small, rural town of Middleborough. (Credit: Thomas Weston, History of the town of Middleboro)

Circa 1751: Plymouth County, Massachusetts

Born sometime around 1751, Luther Jotham grew up as a free person of color in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Little is known about his parents, but we know he had a younger brother named Calvin, who also later served in the Revolutionary War. Due to the lack of historical records, we can only speculate about the Jotham family’s experiences while living in Middleborough. As the minority in a small, rural town, Black residents had limited opportunities, both economically and socially.[1] Those able to find employment often worked in domestic service, maritime trades, or farming.[2] Many, like the Jotham family, had to be willing to adapt to establish a place within their communities. At some point before the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Jotham’s family relocated to Bridgewater, Massachusetts. There is little evidence to suggest why they moved, but many young, propertyless men in rural Massachusetts often relocated in search of work as farm hands. This move to Bridgewater, though, became more permanent with Jotham’s decision to serve as a Minute Man for that community.

Drawing of a powder horn and its strap wrapped around a musket. The words "musket and powderhorn" are typed below the drawing.Luther Jotham likely used this equipment while training as a Minute Man. (Credit: Thomas Weston, History of the town of Middleboro)

Early 1770s: Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts

In response to the destruction of the tea aboard three ships in Boston Harbor in December 1773, British troops occupied Boston in 1774. British authorities also closed Boston Harbor to commerce and replaced most leadership in government with crown appointed loyalists. By the fall of 1774, tensions with the British military intensified, and most towns responded by forming Minute Man companies as an emergency defense force. Comprised purely of volunteers—including free men of color—who could be ready “at a minute’s warning,” these companies trained weekly and paid men one shilling for each half day of training.[3] Though we do not know for certain, it is possible that the salary influenced Luther Jotham’s decision to become a Minute Man. Such earnings would allow him to provide for himself.

Jotham might have considered other social benefits when he volunteered. Military service often brought a higher social standing and respectable reputation. According to historian John Hannigan, “people of color in Massachusetts benefited from a colonial military tradition that…made little distinction for racial or ethnic origins.”[4] For men of color, joining a military community helped forge a more equal status with their white counterparts.

Scan of document with list of handwritten names. "Jotham, Luther" is highlighted.Luther Jotham's name appears on the muster roll for the march to Marshfield on April 19, 1775. (Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

January-April 1775: Marshfield, Plymouth County, Massachusetts

In January 1775, British General Thomas Gage sent a company of troops called the “Queen’s Guard” to Marshfield, Massachusetts. A number of families loyal to the British Crown lived in Marshfield, branding it a “Tory Town” by those who opposed the royal government. The loyalists “joyfully received” and “comfortably accommodated” the Queen’s Guard when they arrived under the pretenses of preserving the peace.[5] With British troops now stationed in both Boston and Marshfield, nearby Minute Man companies, including Jotham’s, likely felt uneasy over the potential threat to their communities.

When General Gage ordered his Boston-based troops to march to Concord on the evening of April 18, 1775, the action sparked alarm throughout the countryside. By morning, thousands of Minute Men from the surrounding area answered the alarm, many exchanging gunfire with British troops throughout the day.

Fearing a similar conflict, Colonel Theophilus Cotton of the Plymouth County militia decided to attack the Queen’s Guard in Marshfield and called upon men from nearby towns to join. As a member of Captain Josiah Hayden’s Bridgewater minute company, Luther Jotham participated in the march to Marshfield, fully prepared to fight. According to James Thacher in History of the Town of Plymouth:

When arrived at Marshfield, their numbers had increased to near one thousand men, collected from the different towns, burning with the feelings of revenge: they might have surrounded and captured the whole company before they could get to their vessels, but were restrained by Col. Cotton, who it is said had received no orders for the attack.[6]

This gave the Queen’s Guard, and any loyalists under their protection, just enough time to evacuate before any fighting could start. Although Jotham did not actually engage in battle in this instance, his participation in the march to Marshfield demonstrated his willingness to defend his community from the British soldiers that he considered a threat to his home.

Black and white drawing of landscape and a single soldier standing in the middle. A building is on the right and trees are interspersed throughout. The words "upper fort" are capitalized on the bottom.The forts in Roxbury helped in preventing the British from escaping Boston during the siege. (Credit: Francis S. Drake, The Town of Roxbury)

August-December 1775: Roxbury, Massachusetts

Shortly after the events at Lexington and Concord, the colonists quickly assembled a New England army comprised of militiamen and short-term volunteers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and surrounded the British army that occupied Boston. After terrible fighting at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, the siege slowed to a standoff for the next several months.

The battle, however, seemed to motivate more men to join the revolutionary cause. Fourteen-year-old Bridgewater resident Hezekiah Packard claimed to have heard “the roaring of the cannon” on Bunker Hill from his neighbor’s farmland. As he later recalled, “it seemed to electrify the whole community.”[7] Several young men, including Packard, quickly enlisted to fight.

About two months later, on August 1, 1775, Luther Jotham enlisted as a private in Josiah Hayden’s company in the Plymouth County regiment of militia, stationed in Roxbury. Emboldened to help defend his home state, he served for a term of five months.[8]

The Fort Hill area in Roxbury housed several thousand soldiers, as well as the forts that guarded Boston Neck, a thin strip of land that served as the only land route between Boston and Roxbury. This occupation greatly affected the town of Roxbury. Most British Loyalists evacuated the town months prior, so the army converted some of their homes into military sites, including headquarters for the general and an army hospital.

Historian and clergyman Jeremy Belknap described the destruction:

Nothing struck me with more horror than the present condition of Roxbury. That once busy, crowded street is now occupied only by a picket-guard. The houses are deserted, the windows taken out, and many shot-holes visible. Some have been burnt, and others pulled down to make room for the fortifications. A wall of earth is carried across the street to Williams’s old house, where there is a formidable fort mounted with cannon.[9]

Jotham’s records do not tell us his precise location or role while stationed in Roxbury. However, we can assume that he witnessed, and likely participated in, the wreckage while helping to defend the area.

Black and white form, titled "Form of Inlistment."Jotham likely signed an enlistment form similar to this one when he answered Washington's call for additional militia. (Credit: Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Volume LI Part 2)

January-March 21, 1776: Roxbury, Massachusetts

Luther Jotham, like most men in Massachusetts who served during 1775, signed on to a term of service that concluded at the end of the year. With his service completed, records indicate Jotham returned home to Bridgewater. Because many, like Jotham, did not reenlist as Continental Soldiers in the new year, General George Washington expressed concern over a shortage of troops. Washington needed an army of 20,000 men, but only had about half. He therefore requested that Massachusetts raise additional regiments of militia to serve short terms to help fill the shortage.[10] Jotham answered this call for additional militia in late January 1776.

There are a number of potential reasons why Jotham continued his military career as a militiaman rather than a professional Continental Soldier. In 1776, Congress extended enlistment periods from one-year to three-year terms. Did this long-term commitment influence Jotham’s decision to serve only a few months at a time? Furthermore, serving in the war as a militiaman meant that Jotham fought alongside his fellow Bridgewater soldiers. Did a sense of loyalty to his community play a role as well?

With his new militia unit—Captain Mitchell’s company in Colonel Simeon Cary’s regiment—Luther Jotham returned to his station in Roxbury.[11] This time, Jotham’s service directly supported new plans to dislodge the British army out of Boston once and for all.

Black and white map of Boston, Roxbury, and Dorchester Heights.Jotham's unit held guard over the harbor before the British fleet sailed to New York. (Credit: Digital Commonwealth)

March 21-April 1, 1776: Dorchester Heights, Massachusetts

While General Washington struggled to field a strong enough army to surround Boston in the winter of 1775-76, he ordered Colonel Henry Knox to fetch badly needed artillery from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. After much struggle over rivers and mountains, Knox returned with 59 additional pieces of artillery.[12]

On the night of March 4, 1776, after careful planning, soldiers stealthily marched from Roxbury to Dorchester Heights with pre-made fortifications and cannon. They impressively fortified the area in a single night. As Continental General Heath later stated, “Perhaps there never was so much work done in so short a space of time.”[13]

After the successful fortification, the British made plans to attack the colonial forces at Dorchester. However, a strong storm prevented them from doing so. British General Howe ultimately decided to withdraw his troops from Boston. On March 17, about 9,000 British soldiers and 1,100 Loyalists sailed out of Boston, marking the end of the eleven-month Siege.

The British fleet, however, waited over a week on the edge of Boston Harbor for a favorable wind to sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Washington needed to ensure the British would not return to Boston. At the same time, he also needed to send enough soldiers to the next likely site of battle: New York. Therefore, on March 21, Washington ordered Col. Cary’s regiment “to march this Afternoon and relieve the Troops upon Dorchester Heights, where those regiments are to remain in Garrison, until further orders.”[14] As a member of Col. Cary’s regiment, we can assume that Jotham marched with his unit from Roxbury up the steep hill to Dorchester Heights that afternoon and remained there, holding guard over Boston Harbor as the British fleet still lay in sight. By April 1, after faithfully completing his second term of service, it appears that Jotham returned home to Bridgewater—but only for a short time.

Black and white drawing of men engaged in battle with muskets. A man on a horse is in the lower right corner. Hills and smoke, with smaller figures, are featured in the background.The American colonists successfully retaliated after a surprise British attack at Harlem Heights. (Credit: New York Public Library)

September 16, 1776: Harlem Heights, Manhattan, New York

In the summer of 1776, Washington needed as many men as possible to resist an imminent invasion of New York by the British Army. Jotham once again enlisted as a militiaman rather than Continental soldier. He rejoined Colonel Simeon Cary’s regiment of Massachusetts militia for a term scheduled to end in December and marched for New York by way of Connecticut.[15]

Beginning on August 27, Howe’s army of British and Hessian soldiers—German mercenaries hired by the British government—overwhelmed Washington’s army. By September, the less experienced colonial soldiers suffered several major losses and began to feel defeated and humiliated. Men deserted in large numbers, and those who stayed lived in camps with unsanitary conditions.[16] Washington eventually decided to withdraw some of his troops from New York City. As his soldiers began to evacuate, the British launched a surprise attack near Harlem Heights. Washington quickly ordered a counterattack, and sent units, including Cary’s regiment, to repulse the British advance. Jotham experienced his first battle here, fighting for several hours.[17] The British retreated, shocked by the colonists’ successful retaliation efforts. Although Washington did not consider the win a major victory, referring to it only as “a pretty sharp skirmish,” his soldiers deemed it a major triumph that lifted their spirits.[18]

Map of the terrain of White Plains, New York with red and blue markings.A depiction of the Battle of White Plains between the American and British forces, represented by blue and red markings, respectively. (Credit: New York Public Library)

October 28, 1776: White Plains, New York

Despite the minor victory at Harlem Heights, the Continental Army remained at risk of being trapped if they stayed in Manhattan. Washington decided to move his troops northward to White Plains, New York. He believed the low hills in the area could be strategically advantageous if they had to defend themselves against another British attack. By mid-October, colonial units, including Luther Jotham’s regiment, began their journey to White Plains. The British, however, slowly followed.

On October 28, the two armies engaged in the highly anticipated battle. As planned, the Americans anchored themselves near the hills, hoping to ward off the enemy. Despite their best efforts, they became overwhelmed after the arrival of the Hessian forces. The Americans retreated, marking another stunning defeat for Washington.[19]

Afterwards, a portion of the remaining troops stayed in White Plains, while other groups either crossed the Hudson River to Newark, New Jersey or traveled northward to Peekskill, New York. In his pension application, Jotham could not recall if he remained in White Plains or moved on to Peekskill at that point. Regardless, he faithfully completed his term of service on December 1, 1776 and returned home to Bridgewater.[20]

Drawing of a battle of Rhode Island. Buildings are in the front right. Mountains with military units are in the background.No fighting occurred during Jotham's mission in Rhode Island. However, the colonists and the British engaged in battle there the following year. (Credit: Library of Congress)

October 1777: Tiverton, Rhode Island

In October 1777, Luther Jotham enlisted for his fourth and final term of enlistment during the Revolutionary War. He served in Captain Nathan Snow’s company, in Colonel Hawes’ regiment, and joined a “secret expedition” to Rhode Island.[21]

At the time, the British occupied Newport, located on Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island. This expedition, led by Major-General Joseph Spencer from Connecticut, served as the first attempt to expel the British enemy from the area. About 9,000 men from various New England militias, including Luther Jotham, prepared for the mission while stationed at Tiverton Heights Fort, located across the river from Aquidneck Island. Unfortunately, the mission failed. As stated in Proceedings of the Rhode Island Historical Society, “owing to the incompleteness of preparations and a violent storm of several days’ duration, the plan was frustrated, and the expedition abandoned.”[22]

Some historians believe that General Washington and the Continental Congress had ulterior motives for the expedition. They argue that Washington and Congress had little confidence that Spencer would successfully drive the British out of Newport. Instead, they hoped that the military presence in Rhode Island would prevent the British from sending reinforcements to Saratoga, New York, where another much more significant battle took place around the same time. Even though the Rhode Island expedition failed, the Battle of Saratoga ended with an American victory on October 17, 1777. Spencer sent the militias home shortly after the win, and Jotham returned to Massachusetts.[23] Since Jotham’s name does not appear on any muster rolls dated after his time in Rhode Island, and there are no further statements about service in his later pension application, it appears that Jotham concluded his wartime service with this last mission in Rhode Island.

Map of North Bridgewater with a circular area highlighted in the middle.Luther Jotham likely purchased land in this area of North Bridgewater. (Credit: Digital Commonwealth)

1778-1800s: West Shares, North Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Events in Jotham’s life shortly after he returned home to Bridgewater give some clues as to why he stopped actively serving in the militia. Upon his return, Jotham married his first wife, Mary, and they soon afterward had three children together: Lorania, Lucy, and Nathan.[24]

In January 1779, Jotham purchased about 15 acres of land for 320 pounds. With his newly purchased land came a change in status as well. In the first deed for the 1779 purchase, Jotham is listed as a “labourer,” implying that he made a living by working on other people’s farms.[25] However, all subsequent property records describe him as a “yeoman:” a man who farmed his own land.[26] As such, land ownership gave Jotham a newfound independence, as well as the ability to better take care of his family.

Scan of historical document with "Luther Jotham" line highlighted.The 1790 census shows that Jotham remained in Bridgewater, despite receiving a "warning out" notice the year prior. (Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

1780s: West Shares, North Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Land ownership, while a major accomplishment for Jotham, also led to struggles common for most yeomen in Massachusetts. In late 1787, Jotham’s neighbor, Thomas Packard, sued him for cutting down trees on land that Packard claimed belonged to him. The court ruled in Packard’s favor and ordered Jotham to give up several acres of his land in lieu of paying a fine.[27] However, it does not seem that this dispute completely soured relations between the neighbors. Jotham later purchased land from Packard in the 1790s, allowing Jotham to expand both his farmland and livelihood.[28]

Luther Jotham also faced discrimination as a Black veteran residing in a small town with such a small Black population.[29] In November 1789, his family, along with scores of other working class families living in Bridgewater, received “warning out” notifications from the town selectmen.[30] The practice of "warning out” allowed New England towns to regulate those who might need financial support through poor relief funds. Newcomers, paupers, and unemployed persons often received notice of their ineligibility for town support, and therefore needed to prove their ability to financially support themselves. Though not a formal eviction notice, these notifications often pressured people to leave town and settle elsewhere.[31] Jotham’s receipt of a warning out notification is odd, considering his long-term residency in Bridgewater, service as a Minute Man, and land ownership. Sadly, it demonstrates his inability to be seen as a member of the community he bravely fought to defend during the war. Nevertheless, Jotham must have been able to prove financial stability, because he remained in Bridgewater for another decade, as noted by the town's census records for 1790 and 1800.[32]

Scan of handwritten document, with one line highlighted.

The Bridgewater selectmen records listing those who received a “warning out” notice, including Luther and Calvin Jotham. (Credit: New England Historical Genealogical Society)

Drawing of a church building with a small group of people in the foreground. Typed caption below states: "FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH (Centre Village). Second Edifice -- Erected in 1762; taken down in 1827."Jotham's family belonged to the Fourth Church of Christ, later renamed the First Congregational Church, before leaving in 1784. (Credit: Bradford Kingman, History of North Bridgewater)

1784: East Stoughton, Massachusetts

Similar to other Christian families at the time, the Jothams became members of their local church. Located in North Bridgewater, the Fourth Church of Christ allowed people of color into its congregation but became a place of controversy in the 1780s. In 1784, several church members left the Fourth Church because they no longer wanted to pay the mandatory ministerial tax. This group, which included Luther Jotham and his brother and fellow Revolutionary War veteran, Calvin, joined the Baptist Church in East Stoughton, located just a few miles away.[33] In March 1789, the Fourth Church of Christ built an indoor balcony for its members of color. Prior to this, Black churchgoers sat in segregated sections on the same floor as the White members.[34] This new seating arrangement, later described by abolitionist and historian William Cooper Nell as “the spirit of colorphobia, then rampant in New England,” caused more members to leave for the East Stoughton Baptist Church.[35]

Scan of newspaper article.Jotham purchased 20 acres of land in Vassalboro, Maine. (Credit: American Advocate)

Early 1800s: Vassalboro, Kennebec County, Maine

In the early 1800s, Luther Jotham and his family moved to Vassalboro, Maine. Although we do not know his reasons for moving, according to Bradford Kingman’s History of North Bridgewater, many other Black residents gradually left town.[36] Did they eventually tire of the “colorphobia” they unjustly experienced? In Jotham’s case specifically, did he believe Maine would provide more opportunities for him and his family?

We do not have much information on the bulk of Jotham’s experiences while living in Maine. However, we do know that he had enough money to purchase 20 acres of land and can therefore assume he continued working as a yeoman.[37]

Unfortunately, it seems as though Jotham’s ability to support himself and his family dwindled over time. In 1818, the United States government passed a bill that provided a lifetime pension for all Revolutionary War veterans who could prove that they required “assistance from [their] country” due to “reduced circumstances in life.”[38] To do so, they had to list all their property and wages. Though it helped their cases, the act of describing their poverty proved to be humiliating for many.

At 69 years old, Jotham applied to receive compensation for his service in a war he fought in over 40 years prior. The items listed in his application include a house, small hut, a few tools and household items, and several animals, including one cow, three sheep, and one pig. Regarding his yearly wages, Jotham stated: “My income does not exceed five dollars a year. I am by occupation a labouring man but from age and infirmity unable to do but little.”[39] Approved in 1820, Jotham received a yearly pension of $96 until he died.

Scan of handwritten list of items from a pension application.

A list of Luther Jotham's possessions at the time of his veteran's pension application in 1820. (Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Sadly, Luther Jotham also suffered great loss within his family. At some point while living in Vassalboro, his first wife, Mary, and their three children died. He married his second wife, Reliance Squibbs, in 1816, and they had two children: Mary Anne and Orlando. By the time Luther appeared before a judge to receive his veteran’s pension in May 1820, Reliance had died.[40] According to a statement by fellow Vassalboro resident Nathan Mower, Mary Anne and Orlando also passed away, though we are not sure when.[41]

Luther married his third wife, Rhoda, on December 20, 1821, and they had at least three children.[42] Jotham seemed well connected to other Black families living in Vassalboro and the surrounding area. His pension application includes many testimonies from friends and acquaintances who vouched for his military service.

A scan of a court record in the State of Maine.Jotham's age may have influenced his newly appointed guardianship in 1827. (Credit: Maine, County Probate Records, 1760-1979)

August 1827: Vassalboro, Kennebec County, Maine

In August 1827, at the age of 76, Luther Jotham became a person non compos, meaning “of unsound mind.” An Overseer of the Poor in Vassalboro requested he be appointed a legal guardian under the claim that he could no longer take care of himself. Jotham’s appointed guardian, Abijah Newhall, received the power to make decisions regarding Luther and his property.[43]

Overseers of the Poor, which can be considered precursors to social workers, managed and distributed resources to those in need, including the poor, orphans, the elderly, and people with disabilities. While this usually meant providing small amounts of aid in the form of money, food, or other supplies, sometimes Overseers sent people to live in poorhouses. These local officials often belonged to the middle or upper class and took advantage of those in need in some cases.[44]

Unfortunately, we do not know the details of Luther Jotham’s need for a legal guardian. It is possible his age influenced the decision. However, it does bring about questions as to how he, an honorable Revolutionary War veteran, ended up in such a situation.

Scan of a black and white document.Rhoda Jotham's widow's pension application gives us great insight into Luther Jotham's reputation as a Revolutionary War veteran. (Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

June 22, 1832: Talbot Cemetery, China, Kennebec County, Maine

At some point after receiving a legal guardian, Luther and his family moved to China, Maine, located just a few miles away from Vassalboro. He passed away in his home on June 22, 1832, at the age of 81. He is buried in Talbot Cemetery in the town of China.[45]

In 1860—almost 30 years after Luther Jotham’s death—his third wife, Rhoda, applied for a widow’s pension at age 73. In her application, she stated that Luther “was a soldier of the Revolution, who served as she believes, at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and elsewhere...”[46] Luther’s original pension application in 1820 makes no mention of Bunker Hill, and after searching through muster rolls, we have determined that his participation in this event is highly unlikely. Still, it is interesting that Rhoda included this claim in her application. She likely knew Jotham served in or near Boston during the War. Did she possibly conflate the two events?

Despite this discrepancy, Rhoda’s application tells us that Luther’s reputation within his community as a Revolutionary War veteran endured well after his death. One of the testimonies in her application stated that Luther “was well known and reputed as a revolutionary soldier” while living in Maine.[47] Her application also demonstrates how Jotham’s legacy lasted well into the Civil War era, a time in which people of color actively worked to prove their patriotism and contributions to a country that grievously denied them of their rights.

Like many of his fellow soldiers, Jotham attempted to build a better life for himself in the new nation he helped fight for. Though respected for his service by those who knew him personally, his honorable status as a Revolutionary War veteran did not make him invulnerable to the “colorphobia” that plagued many in his community. Although a landowner that supported his families for a time, Jotham eventually became in need of financial assistance, forcing him to apply for a veteran’s war pension. Luther Jotham’s story is just one of many post-war experiences of ordinary soldiers who later struggled to support themselves, despite the valiant sacrifices they made while serving this country in its fight for liberty and democracy.

Drawing of soldiers lined up in uniform.

Footnotes:

[1] Middleborough had a Black population of less than one percent during the 1750s. J.H. Benton, Jr., Early Census Making in Massachusetts 1643-1765 with a Reproduction of The Lost Census of 1765 and Document Relating Thereto (Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed, 1905), 91. Via Familysearch.org.

[2] “The Lives of Individual African Americans in America before 1783,” Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/features/endofslavery/life.

[3] “The Militia and Minute Men of 1775,” Minute Man National Historical Park, https://www.nps.gov/mima/learn/historyculture/the-militia-and-minute-men-of-1775.htm.

[4] John Hannigan, “Independence or Freedom,” Minute Man National Historical Park, https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/john-hannigan-patriots-of-color-paper-5.htm.

[5] Justin Winsor, History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts: With Genealogical Registers (Boston: Crosby & Nichols, 1849), 127. Archive.org.

[6] James Thacher, History of the Town of Plymouth, from its first settlement in 1620 to the present time: with a concise history of the aborigines of New England and their wars with the English (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1835), 207. Archive.org.

[7] Bradford Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts: From its first settlement to the present time, with family registers (Boston: 1866), 146. Archive.org.

[8] A Muster Roll of Capt. Josiah Hayden’s Company in regiment of foot in the continental army Encampt at Roxbury, Muster/Payrolls and Various Papers (1763-1808) of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 69, Image 15, October 6, 1775, via FamilySearch.org. Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 39, via Fold3.com.

[9] Francis S. Drake, The town of Roxbury: its memorable persons and places, its history and antiquities, with numerous illustrations of its old landmarks and noted personages (Roxbury: 1878), 80. Archive.org.

[10] “To George Washington from John Hancock, 8 December 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-02-02-0465. “General Orders, 1 January 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-03-02-0001.

[11] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 37 and 39, via Fold3.com. Payment Roll of Capt. Elisha Mitchell’s Company in Col. Cary’s Regiment, Muster/Payrolls and Various Papers (1763-1808) of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 36, Image 242, April 2, 1776, via FamilySearch.org.

[12] Mary Stockwell, “Siege of Boston,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/siege-of-boston/.

[13] David G. McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006), 93. Archive.org. “Dorchester Heights,” Boston National Historical Park, https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/dohe.htm.

[14] “General Orders, 21 March 1776,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-03-02-0372.

[15] Roll for Capt. James Allen’s Company, Muster/Payrolls and Various Papers (1763-1808) of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 55, Image 395, August 1776, via FamilySearch.org.

[16] Harry Schenawolf, “Battle of Harlem Heights Sept. 16, 1776: Americans Gave the British a Good Drubbing,” Revolutionary War Journal, January 15, 2014. https://www.revolutionarywarjournal.com/battle-of-harlem-heights/.

[17] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 23, via Fold3.com.

[18] McCullough, 1776, 219.

[19] McCullough, 1776, 232-234; Joseph C. Scott, “Battle of White Plains,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/battle-of-white-plains/.

[20] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 23, via Fold3.com.

[21] Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War: A compilation from the archives (Boston: Wright and Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1896), Vol. 8, 1008. Via Archive.org. A Pay Roll of Capt. Nathan Snow’s Company in Col. Hawes Reg on the Secret Expedition in October 1777, Muster/Payrolls and Various Papers (1763-1808) of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 22, Image 342, August 1776, via FamilySearch.org.

[22] Rhode Island Historical Society, Proceedings of the Rhode Island Historical Society (Providence: 1872), 89, Archive.org.

[23] Ibid. “The Battle of Rhode Island,” Tiverton Historical Society, http://www.tivertonhistorical.org/tiverton-stories/the-battle-of-rhode-island/.

[24] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 32, via Fold3.com.

[25] According to property records, Jotham continued to purchase and sell several acres of land in Bridgewater over the next two decades. Luther Jotham Deed, Book 65, page 230, August 31, 1786. Accessed via Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.

[26] Luther Jotham Deed, Book 66, page 252, June 12, 1787. Accessed via Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.

[27] Thomas Packard v. Luther Jotham, Plymouth County, MA: Plymouth Court Records, 1686-1859. Vol. 10, page 90. Via AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society. Luther Jotham Dis Exon, Book 68, page 113, May 22, 1788. Accessed via Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.

[28] Luther Jotham Deed, Book 88, page 270, February 23, 1801. Accessed via Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.

[29] People of color made up only 1.5% of Bridgewater’s entire population. George R. Price, “The Easton family of southeast Massachusetts: The dynamics surrounding five generations of human rights activism 1753-1935” (2006). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers, page viii. https://scholarworks.umt.edu/etd/9598.

[30] Bridgewater Massachusetts Selectmen’s Records, 1703-1863, 9-10. Courtesy of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

[31] Josiah Henry Benton, Warning out in New England 1656-1817 (Boston: W.B. Clarke Company, 1911), 55. Archive.org. Sheilagh Doerfler, "Warnings Out," Vita Brevis, June 20, 2017, https://vitabrevis.americanancestors.org/2017/06/warnings-out/.

[32] 1790 U.S. Census, Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, digital image s.v. “Luther Jotham,” via AncestryLibrary.com. 1800 U.S. Census, Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, digital image s.v. “Luther Jotham,” via AncestryLibrary.com.

[33] Price, “The Easton family of southeast Massachusetts,” 52, 81.

[34] Ibid, 49.

[35] William Cooper Nell, The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution: With Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Persons (Boston: Robert F. Wallcut, 1855), 33. Archive.org

[36] Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, 318.

[37] Kennebec County, Maine, Record of Deeds 1817-1820, Vol. 28, page 215. Via Familysearch.org.

[38] Prior to this, only men disabled during service qualified for a pension. The 1818 Act expanded the lifetime pension to all men who served in the Continental Army or Navy and showed the need for financial assistance. Michael Barbieri, “Good and Sufficient Testimony: The Development of the Revolutionary War Pension Plan,” Journal of the American Revolution (August 26, 2021), https://allthingsliberty.com/2021/08/good-and-sufficient-testimony-the-development-of-the-revolutionary-war-pension-plan/.

[39] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 18, via Fold3.com.

[40] Ibid, page 18.

[41] Ibid, page 55.

[42] Ibid, page 32.

[43] Kennebec County, Maine, Probate Estate Files 1779-1915, File no. J5, via Familysearch.org.

[44] David Wagner, “Poor Relief and the Almshouse,” Social Welfare History Project, https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/issues/poor-relief-almshouse/.

[45] Find A Grave, Luther Jotham (1751-1832), Memorial no. 174230453, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/174230453/luther-jotham.

[46] Luther Jotham, Pension No. W. 9911, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. NARA M804, page 5, via Fold3.com.

[47] Ibid, page 28.

Boston National Historical Park

Last updated: April 11, 2022