Person

Barzillai Lew

Quick Facts

The following is from the 2004 National Park Service study Patriots of Color researched and prepared by George Quintal:

 

Barzillai Lew was born in Groton (MA) on 5 November 1743, the son of Primus and Margaret (_______) Lew.I His father moved the family from Groton to Dracut when Barzillai was about two years old.II Barzillai (pronounced bar-zeal-ya) grew to be “big and strong with an extraordinary talent as a musician.”III

For thirty-eight weeks in 1760, he served in Capt. Thomas Farrington’s company in the French and Indian War.IV ‘After the death of his stepmother in 1763, Barzillai Lew of Groton chose Francis Blood of Concord, Massachusetts, as his guardian. According to the town records of Chelmsford, Barzillai lived there from 1772 to 1776. He was on the Chelmsford tax list in 1775.’V Just before the Revolutionary War started, he ‘was living in that part of Lowell now known as Pawtucketville … and ‘was a free man … always called “Zeal.”’ He ‘lived on what is now called Totman Street … for nearly a century known as “the Old Zeal Road” … where he owned a farm.’VI

He enlisted in the eight months’ service from Chelmsford on 6 May 1775, in Capt. John Ford’s company in Col. Ebenezer Bridge’s 27th regiment. A 15 June 1775 descriptive toll lists him as a ‘negro’ and as:VII

age: 30
stature: 6 ft.
occupation: cooper
rank: fifer

Nell stated that he was ‘at the battle of Bunker Hill.’VIII His name appears on the 1 August 1775 muster roll and on a 25 September 1775 company return.IX

He remained in Capt. John Ford’s company from 5 February 1776 to 1 April 1776. As the American attack on Canada crumbled, the call went out for reinforcements for the Northern Department. He responded by reenlisting in Capt. Ford’s company, which marched from Chelmsford on 25 July 1776. His name appears on a 28 August 1776 receipt for mileage and a 1 October 1776 receipt for wages, both ‘dated Ticonderoga.’ His unit served at Ticonderoga during the time of the defeat of the American fleet on Lake Champlain under Gen. Benedict Arnold. With the British threat over for the season, most of the Americans were discharged. His discharge was at Albany on 1 January 1777.X

He engaged on 3 November 1777 as a Fifer with Capt. Joseph Bradley Varnum’s Dracut company of volunteers. They marched from home the next day but were discharged on 7 November 1777 after having traveled 40 miles.

The 1790 census of Dracut lists him as head in a household of fourteen free people of color.XI

He died 18 January 1822 in Dracut,XII at the age of 78. He is buried in the Clay Pit Cemetery in Lowell.XIII

He married Dinah Bowman.XIV He had purchased her, circa 1767 for $400,XV from Maj. Abraham Blood. She ‘was a mulatto and almost white.’XVI Their children ‘all possessed a natural talent for music, and most of them could play any kind of wind or stringed instrument – the girls as well as the boys. They formed a complete band, and furnished music on all first-class occasions in this vicinity, and were called frequently to Boston and even as far away as Portland [ME].’XVII The thirteen children of Barzillai and Dinah were:

  • Zadock
    • b. 29 April 1768 in DracutXVII
    • mint. Sarah {Salley} Brister on 16 February 1794 in DracutXIX
    • d. 5 May 1826 in DracutXX
  • Amy
    • b. 8 December 1771 in ChelmsfordXXI
    • m. Peleg Gardner on 12 December 1792 in DracutXXII
    • d. March 1796XXIII
  • Zirviah
    • b. 26 June 1773 in ChelmsfordXXIV
    • m. Frances Davis on 11 August 1796 in DracutXXV
    • d. 28 May 1826 in LancasterXXVI
  • Euebra
    • b. 26 April 1775 in ChelmsfordXXVII
    • d. 3 March 1826XXVIII
  • Barzillai Jr.XXIX
    • b. 4 February 1777 in DracutXXX
    • m. (1) Dorcas Brister on 30 September 1801 in DracutXXXI
      (2) Sarah _____XXXII
      (3) Nancy Riley on 3 September 1823 in AndoverXXXIII
      (4) Eliza ____XXXIV
    • d. 22 February 1861XXXV
  • Peter
    • b. 28 January 1779 in DracutXXXVI
    • m. Mary _____XXXVII
    • d. 22 July 1817XXXVIII in BostonXXXIX
  • Reophas
    • b. 21 August 1780 in DracutXL
  • EriXLI
    • b. 21 March 1782 in DracutXLII
    • d. 6 January 1818XLIII
  • Dinah
    • b. 25 January 1784 in DracutXLIV
    • m. Moses Freeman on 17 October 1808 in DracutXLV
    • d. ca. 1870XLVI
  • ZimriXLVII
    • b. 27 November 1785 in DracutXLVIII
    • m. Mahala Freeman on 31 August 1811 in DracutXLIX
    • d. 9 April 1847 in DracutL
  • Phebe
    • b. 20 April 1788 in DracutLI
    • m. Frederic Hoyt on 18 November 1812 in DracutLII
    • d. 7 December 1853LIII
  • LucyLIV
    • b. 7 May 1790 in DracutLV
    • m. Thomas DaltonLVI
    • d. 12 April 1865 in CharlestownLVII
  • Adrastus
    • b. 23 December 1793 in DracutLVIII
    • m. Hannah ______LIX
    • d. 6 September 1819LX

 

Footnotes:

  1. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Groton, Births, 271; listed as ‘Zelah’ under ‘NEGROS.’ Coburn, Silas R. History of Dracut Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 332 states that his father was a negro servant to Capt. Boyden and that his mother was a mulatto and former servant to Samuel Scripture, at the time of their marriage in 1742. Franklin A. Dorman has done an extensive genealogy of this family in [Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1973 (1974)].
  2. Coburn, Silas R. History of Dracut Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 332.
  3. Mayo, Martha. “Profiles in Courage: African –Americans in Lowell” (1993), 3.
  4. Coburn, Silas R. History of Dracut Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 332.
  5. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1973 (1974), 272-3.
  6. Hurd, Hamilton. The History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (1890), 2:310.
  7. Secretary of Commonwealth. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (1896-1908), 9:725, listed as Lew.’ Also 2-CD Family Tree MakerTM set “Military Records: Revolutionary War.”
  8. Nell, William C. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855), 21.
  9. Secretary of Commonwealth. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (1896-1908), 9:725, listed as Lew.’ Also 2-CD Family Tree MakerTM set “Military Records: Revolutionary War.”
  10. Ibid.
  11. United States Census, National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 29 (1790-1850). Index. 1790, Massachusetts, Dracut, 140.
  12. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Dracut, Deaths, 87; referencing records of the Pawtucket Church.
  13. This cemetery was visited in August 2000. It is hidden deep in the woods behind the Brunswick Lowell Bowling Lanes on Pawtucket Road just west of Townsend Avenue. The cemetery was deeply overgrown with brambles and contained just a few overturned stones (none found for Barzillai Lew). Townspeople are hoping that business development in the old movie drive-in lot adjacent will spur and effort to rejuvenate the cemetery, which had been cleaned up during the Bicentennial but later vandalized.
  14. According to widow’s pension: United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Rolls 1553, Pension #W20461; she died 1 January 1837 at Andover per Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Andover, Deaths, 490.
  15. Mayo, Martha. “Profiles in Courage: African –Americans in Lowell” (1993), 3.
  16. Hurd, Hamilton. The History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (1890), 2:310.
  17. Hurd, Hamilton. The History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (1890), 2:311.
  18. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  19. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Dracut, Marriages, 209.
  20. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Dracut, Deaths, 286. Mayo, Martha. “Profiles in Courage: African –Americans in Lowell” (1993), 3 states that he died ‘without a will and his property is sold at auction.’
  21. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  22. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Dracut, Marriages, 209.
  23. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  24. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  25. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns. Dracut, Marriages, 208.
  26. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  27. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  28. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  29. Hurd, Hamilton. The History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (1890), 2:311 states: he ‘was almost white, was well educated, and became a man of some property and consequence … he owned the largest library in town and rode in his coach … was tall and dignified in appearance, had a handsome face with fine features, possessed a commanding appearance and was remarkably intelligent, refined and pleasing in his address. Had it not been for the social degradation to which the race to which he belonged had been reduced, he would have been chosen to the first offices in his town, if not in the State.’
  30. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  31. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Dracut, Marriages, 207.
  32. Proven by the fact that Barzillai Jr. and Sarah had two children who both died young; see Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Andover, Deaths.
  33. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Andover, Marriages, 218.
  34. Gravestone record, North Parish Cemetery, North Andover (MA); discovered Summer 2001 and again on 27 February 2002.
  35. Ibid.
  36. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  37. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 274.
  38. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  39. Columbian Centinel, Deaths
  40. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075; also states “Prest at sea & Carried on board a British Ship of War in 1808 unknown whether alive or not in 1820.”
  41. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 274-5 states: ‘Eri was the first Lew to appear in the Boston city directory where he was listed in 1816 as living on May Street. He held office in the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Boston at the same time as his brother Peter. He was installed as Senior Warden on 24 June 1816 and served as Junior Warden from 24 December 1817 until his death.’
  42. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  43. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  44. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  45. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Dracut, Marriages, 207.
  46. Coburn, Silas R. History of Dracut Massachusetts … (1922), 334.
  47. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 281 states: Zimri’s son, also named Zimri, “enlisted first in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Volunteers, but he was held over at Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts, and assigned to Co. F of the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Volunteers on 11 January 1865” and later died in the service.
  48. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  49. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Dracut, Marriages, 208.
  50. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Dracut, Deaths, 286; listed as ‘Zinni.’ Mayo, Martha. “Profiles in Courage: African-American in Lowell” (1993), 3 states that he died in a tragic train accident in Lowell on Fast Day.’
  51. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  52. Vital Records to 1850. Births, Marriages and Deaths. Vols for most Massachusetts towns, Dracut, Marriages, 207.
  53. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  54. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 290 states that Lucy’s grandson Cornelius Henson served in the 54th
  55. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  56. “Lew Family Records” manuscript at Center for Lowell History, Lowell (MA).
  57. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 283.
  58. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.
  59. Dorman, Franklin A. Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts 1742-1998 (1998), 284.
  60. United States Revolutionary War Pensions, MARA, Record Group 15, Series M804. 2670 rolls. Frame 1075.

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Last updated: August 10, 2021