The Remarkable Story of Cuff Slocum

The Remarkable Story of Cuff Slocum[1]   

 By David C. Cole

Cuff Slocum until now has been known for essentially one thing, being the father of Paul Cuffe. This has earned him a few lines in articles about his famous son and a few pages in the more extended biographies of Paul Cuffe.  These note that he had been brought to New England as a young slave, gained his freedom somehow, married a Native American woman and, together with her, conceived and raised ten children, one of whom was Paul Cuffe.

This paper represents a first attempt to explore various sources of information – some old and some new – and to present a more complete and accurate story of Cuff Slocum.  We seek to demonstrate why he should receive much greater recognition for his remarkable accomplishments. In many respects he provided a launching pad for his son, Paul, and his daughter, Mary. Mary became the wife of Michael Wainer, Paul Cuffe’s long-term partner. They together had five sons who became captains on Cuffe/Wainer ships.

We still know essentially nothing about Cuff Slocum’s early life in Africa except that his first name (a version of the name Kofi) indicates that he was from the Ashanti area of West Africa and that he was brought to Newport on a slave ship. But after he arrived in North America the picture changes. Three deeds and a will provide critical reference points for this story, but there is much more to be gleaned from his own records, the records of those with whom he interacted as well as various studies that give insight into the conditions of the times and places in which he lived. All of these provide us with a fascinating and inspiring story.

The first recorded document about Cuff Slocum is the bill of sale in 1742 transferring his ownership as a slave from Ebenezer Slocum to John Slocum, Dartmouth, Massachusetts residents. The next records are the registration of Cuff’s intentions to marry Ruth Moses in 1746 and their marriage in 1747. The Dartmouth Vital Records record the birth of their first child, David in 1747 in Dartmouth, but there are no official records beyond that. Cuff Family records, however, show the date, but not the place, of the births of the other eight children born between 1748 and 1766. Other evidence suggests that the second son, Jonathan was born in Dartmouth and that the other eight children were born on Cuttyhunk Island off the South Coast of Massachusetts.

A property deed from the office of the Town Clerk of Glocester, Rhode Island records that in 1762 Cuff and Ruth purchased a 156-acre property in northwest Rhode Island from Nicholas Lapham of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  Another deed registered in Bristol County, Massachusetts in 1766 records Cuff’s purchase of a 120-acre farm in Dartmouth from David Brownell, also of Dartmouth. Finally, Cuff Slocum’s will declares that John Slocum set him free. He therein bequeaths his Glocester property to his two older sons, David and Jonathan, and his Dartmouth farm to his two younger sons, John and Paul.

We have three other important sources of information about Cuff Slocum. The first is a mention of him in the first biography about his son Paul Cuffe written in 1807.[2]The second is an Exercise Book that belonged to Cuff Slocum in which he and others made notes and scribbles about events in his life and that of his family.[3]The third item is a statement written by Ruth Cuffe, daughter of David Cuffe, in 1851 that records a story she had heard a half century before relating the circumstances surrounding her grandfather’s gaining his freedom and of his later marriage to Ruth Moses.[4]Finally, there are more recent publications that provide information on the conditions of the times and places where Cuff Slocum and his family lived that give useful background and supplements to this story.

The Deed of Sale and Becoming a Free Man

The deed of sale entered into between Ebenezer Slocum and John Slocum, his nephew, on 17 February 1742, in the town of Dartmouth, transferred the ownership of “a certain negro man of about 25 years of age named Cuffe” from Ebenezer to John Slocum for a price of £150.[5]

Ebenezer Slocum was a grandson of Giles Slocum, an early settler and large property owner in Dartmouth. Ebenezer is believed to have bought Cuffe in Newport, Rhode Island in about 1728, the same year that he married Bathsheba Hull in Newport and took her to live at his farm in Dartmouth. Bathsheba Hull was the great-granddaughter of Mary Dyer who was hanged on Boston Common in 1660 for preaching heresy as a Friend (Quaker.) Her grandfather on her father’s side, Joseph Hull, was a prominent minister of the Society of Friends. There is no record as to whether Bathsheba Hull Slocum took a special interest in her young house servant but it does not seem unreasonable to speculate that she may have taught him both English and elements of religion. She may also have supported his transfer to her husband’s nephew with the understanding that John Slocum would eventually set Cuff free. We do know that within three years John Slocum granted Cuffe his freedom and that may well have been his intention all along.

There is a statement at the beginning of Cuff Slocum’s will as follows: “I Cuf Slocum formerly a cervant of John Slocum and thence by him sett free and now a free man” that makes clear it was John Slocum who freed him. It also suggests that John Slocum may have treated him more like a servant than a slave.  The statement in his will does not provide any further information as to what the steps were that led to his freedom.


Our hypothesis is that John Slocum attributed earnings or value of work to Cuff at a rate of £50 per year so that after three years this would match his purchase price. This would be consistent with the  statement by a granddaughter of Cuff Slocum, Ruth Cuffe, recounting a story that had been told to her many years before about how her grandfather was freed.[6]In it she stated, “when grandfather Cuffe had worked long enough to pay for himself then his master freed him.”

Ruth’s narrative supports the following conclusions about the freeing of Cuff Slocum:

  • At the time of Cuff’s purchase in 1742, his new owner, John Slocum, not some Mr. Hull as related by Ruth, purchased Cuff with the intention of freeing him after he had worked for a sufficient period of time to, in effect, pay off his purchase price. There is no record of what this rate of payment was or when the period started and ended, but given that Cuff was purchased in February 1742, and that he took actions, mentioned below, indicating that he was a free man in 1745, it seems reasonable to conclude that he worked off his purchase price over a period of three years at a rate of 50 pounds per year.
  • The identity of the “squire” who drew up a paper recognizing Cuff’s freedom, is not known for sure, but it appears to be a cousin of John Slocum by the name of Holder Slocum. Captain Holder Slocum owned a large homestead farm in Dartmouth at that time and in 1751 acquired possession of the three western islands of the Elizabeth Island chain – Pasque, Nashawena and Cuttyhunk. As described below, Cuff Slocum and his family worked for Holder Slocum on Cuttyhunk for an extended period. It seems reasonable to assume that he was the one who drew up the paper granting Cuff his freedom and then immediately hired him.[7]
  • According to Ruth Cuffe’s testimony, his former owner, John Slocum, at the time of his becoming a free man advised Cuff “to live a steady life and to take good care of his money that he was going to work for and save it so as to get him a home sometime or other.” As described below, Cuff took that advice to heart.


Marriage of Cuff Slocum and Ruth Moses


On January 31, 1745 intentions of marriage between Cuffe Slocum and Ruth Moses, both of Dartmouth, were entered with the Town Clerk of Dartmouth, Benjamin Akin.[8]On July 7th, 1747, Cuffe(e) Slocum, a negro man, and Ruth Moses, an Indian woman, both of Dartmouth, were married by Phillip Taber, a minister in Dartmouth.[9]

While the dates of the births of the children Cuff and Ruth Slocum are clear from various family records, the location of their births are less certain. The first son, David, is reported to have been born in Dartmouth on 15 Nov. 1747.[10]Jonathan is believed to have also been born in Dartmouth, 12 Nov. 1748. Their third child, Sarah, is believed to have been born February 5th1751 on Cuttyhunk and that the family moved from Dartmouth to Cuttyhunk Island the most westerly of the Elizabeth Islands between 1748 and 1751. Their next seven children, including son Paul Cuffe, were all believed to have been born on Cuttyhunk between 1753 and 1766.[11]

Living on Cuttyhunk

 Cuff and Ruth Slocum and their growing family lived on the island of Cuttyhunk from sometime in 1750-51 to the spring of 1767 when they moved to a newly purchased farm “on the main” in Dartmouth. An obvious question arises as to what they were doing on Cuttyhunk?  Earlier biographers have suggested that they had a farm and were growing crops for themselves and for sale, or that they moved to Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard where Cuff was doing various odd jobs.[12]

After reviewing the literature about the history of Cuttyhunk and the other Elizabeth Islands, and more broadly on rural life in New England in the mid-18thcentury, I have concluded that they were mainly engaged in looking after flocks of sheep (and some other livestock) that were brought from Dartmouth to these western Elizabeth Islands for grazing from mid-spring to mid-fall from various farms.[13]

Cuff Slocum’s home on Cuttyhunk overlooking the harbor

They either built a small house or moved into an existing house on Cuttyhunk.  They probably had a small garden for raising their own food and fiber. Cuff, subsequently joined by his sons, spent the days looking after the livestock during the milder months, and would have fished, hunted game and harvested firewood during the winter. The mother, subsequently joined by her daughters, tended the garden, prepared the food and spun both wool and flax into yarn and clothing and looked after the younger children.

As mentioned previously, Holder Slocum acquired the western Elizabeth Islands in 1751 about the same time that the Cuff Slocum family moved to Cuttyhunk, so Cuff and his family were working for Holder Slocum. They were probably not only taking care of his livestock but also that of his relatives and neighboring farmers in Dartmouth who paid him for such grazing rights. An example of such charges is the record that his son, Christopher Slocum, in 1773, levied a charge of £60 on the estate of his mother, Rebecca Slocum, after she died, for grazing 284 sheep on Cuttyhunk for three years.[14]

Cuff Slocum’s Exercise Book and Book of Accounts found in Paul Cuffe’s Papers contains a record that he and one of his sons, probably David, the eldest, also worked on helping to build a house on Cuttyhunk for Rebecca Slocum in 1764. They were each paid 3 shillings per day for this work. This fact provides an indicator of the going rate of compensation for them. If we assume that Cuff was credited for working six days a week for 52 weeks per year for Holder Slocum at 3 shillings per day, this would translate into £47 and 8 shillings per year or rounded up to £50 per year.

Cuff Slocum (father of Paul Cuffe) writing book, 18th century. Cuff Slocum bought his freedom in 1745. After gaining his freedom , he married Ruth Moses an Native American. They settled on Cuttyhunk, where Paul Cuffe was born in 1759.
Reproduced from original in collection of New Bedford Free Public Library

Over the period of 16 years from 1751 to 1767 that he was living and working on Cuttyhunk, Cuff Slocum might have earned a total of about £800. Living expenses were presumably not very great as the family probably produced most of their own food and clothing and did not have to pay for their housing. These earnings provided the funding for Cuff and Ruth Slocum to purchase two large farms on the mainland in the 1760s.

Purchasing Two Large Properties

 In 1762 Cuff Slocum purchased a 156-acre property in the village of Glocester in the northwest corner of Rhode Island for £90 from Nicholas Lapham, a resident of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.[15]This property was some 40 miles from his subsequent farm in Dartmouth, as the crow flies, and a much longer journey by pathways and on horseback or foot. It is not clear why Cuff Slocum purchased this property. Perhaps it was to be a property owner and that this was a relatively low price for land. It appears that Cuff never engaged in any farming or woodcutting activities on this property and he may never even have visited it.

In his will, Cuff bequeathed the Glocester property to his two older sons, David and Jonathan. In 1776, four years after their father’s death, these two brothers recorded a division of this property into two segments with David receiving the western parcel of 85 acres and Jonathan the eastern parcel of 71 acres. Jonathan sold his parcel to Jirah Wilcox soon thereafter. While there is no record of the transaction, Wilcox is listed as an abutting property owner on the deed whereby David sold his parcel March 27, 1778 to Jethro Lapham of Glocester. This tract was described in the deed as ‘wild and unimproved.’[16]This indicates there was no farming activity or buildings on this property prior to its purchase by Cuff Slocum nor did he or his sons make improvements on it.

 In 1766, Cuff and Ruth Slocum purchased a second property from David Brownell for 650 Spanish milled silver dollars. At the then prevailing exchange rate of 3 ¼ silver dollars to the pound, this was roughly equal to £200 pounds.[17]Interestingly, David Brownell had purchased the same property one year previously from Solomon Southwick for 326 Spanish milled silver dollars, indicating he made a considerable profit at the expense of the Cuff and Ruth Slocum. The total cost of the two properties was nearly £300 or roughly 40% of Cuff Slocum’s probable earnings over the 15 years that he worked for Holder Slocum on Cuttyhunk.

This Dartmouth farm was located along the south side of what was referred to in the deeds as “a country road” but is now known as Old County Road, a well-travelled route in early times from New Bedford to Newport. In 1766 this area was all part of the Town of Dartmouth. When the Town of Westport was divided off from the Town of Dartmouth in 1787, the boundary line was drawn along what is now known as Fisher Road and the eastern boundary of the Cuff Slocum farm was roughly along that road.

A family cemetery, now known as the Howard Cemetery, that was later located in the northeast corner of the farm and is believed to contain the graves of many descendants of Cuff and Ruth Slocum, has been cut off from the original farm by the rerouting of Fisher Road in 1988 that left the cemetery on the southeast corner of the intersection of Fisher Road and Old County Road and within the Town of Dartmouth.

The acreage of the farm is uncertain. In the deed from Brownell to Slocum it is stated as 120 acres more or less. Later it was depicted in a map of “Cuff Slocum’s Farm” drawn up by S. Smith on 12 April 1769 as containing 116 acres and three-quarters.[18]The date of construction of the original house is also uncertain, but it probably was built during the period that Enos Gifford owned the property from 1736 to 1763.[19]

At the time that he purchased the farm in 1766, Cuff Slocum also entered into an agreement with David Brownell to provide shingles to re-shingle the north and south sides of the house, further suggesting that the house had been in existence long enough to require re-shingling.[20]It is likely that the land around the house and out-buildings had been at least partially cleared and farmed by the time Cuff Slocum and family moved in and an orchard existed on the farm property.

Enos Gifford had previously granted two approximately 100-acres properties to his two daughters, Rachel Gifford Wilbour and Dorcas Gifford Manchester. These two properties were to the south of the Cuff Slocum farm, with Rachel’s abutting the south boundary of his farm, and Dorcas’ abutting the south boundary of Rachel’s property.[21]

The Cuff Slocum farm was about 0.8 mile east of the Head of Westport, the first significant settlement area in the late 17thcentury in what became the Town of Westport. Jonathan Soule was the abutter to the west.[22]The brother of this neighbor, James Soule, was later to be appointed as executor of Cuff Slocum’s will. Enos Gifford and Phillip Allen were the abutters to the east. Both of them were descendants of early Dartmouth settlers who had bought land from the original proprietors in the 1670s and 1680s.

The original house on Old County Road appears to have been replaced by a newer structure in the latter half of the 19thcentury.[23]Eric Gradoia examined the house and suggested there was evidence that an ell was brought from some other property and subsequently added to the east side of the 19thcentury main house. The house at 761 Old County Road is recorded in the Westport Historic Inventory  as probably having belonged at one time to Cuff Slocum.[24]It would be more accurate to say that this property was the site of the original house that Cuff Slocum acquired in 1766 but the original structure has been replaced.


Moving to the Farm in Dartmouth

 The Cuff Slocum family moved from Cuttyhunk to the new farm in the spring of 1767 in time to plant the crops for the coming growing season. They probably sailed across Buzzards Bay in a shallop carrying their household belongings with them. These goods undoubtedly contained spinning wheels and other instruments for spinning wool and flax into thread for making their clothing. When they arrived at their new home, they had a sizeable load of new shingles that Cuff had contracted to buy from David Brownell for delivery in March 1767, so presumably one of their first tasks was to re-shingle the two ends of the house. This is an indicator that the house was at least 20 years old.

Cuff Slocum and his sons undertook to manage this new farm that was very different from the shepherding that they had been doing on the islands, but probably similar to the kind of farm work that Cuff Slocum had done for Ebenezer and Holder Slocum some years before. They may have hired oxen for plowing of their fields and then seeded their crops largely with hoes and hand planting.[25] Meanwhile the mother and older daughters continued to care for the household chores of fabricating clothing, preparing the food and caring for the younger daughters. They also had an orchard on the farm and there is some indication that they may have made cider and sold some of the fruit.[26]


1771-72 Cuff Slocum’s Will and Passing

 In November 1771, Cuff and Ruth Slocum’s oldest son, David, married a woman from Freetown named Hope Page who was probably a Native American.[27]The following year their second son, Jonathan, married Hepzibah Occouch whose father was a Wampanoag from Gay Head. Their second daughter, Mary, married Michael Wainer (Micah Quabbin) a Wampanoag from Dartmouth. Thus, all three of these children married persons of Native American ancestry, replicating the pattern of their parents.

Cuff Slocum died in the spring of 1772 between the marriage of his first son and the next two marriages of his children. There are no records of any obituaries following his death and we can only speculate that he was probably buried in what is now called the Howard Cemetery at the northeast corner of his farm. But his will, signed and witnessed on 15 August 1771, gives us some significant insights into his state of mind and his relationships with his immediate family members and neighbors. Because it is the only document that provides a definitive statement of Cuff Slocum’s views on a number of important matters near the end of his life, a transcript is appended to this essay, and important aspects are discussed here.

The will begins with an exuberant statement. “I Cuf Slocum formerly a cervant of John Slocum and since by him set free and now a free man in the Township of Dartmouth…in New England, farmer by trade, being in my declining years but through the mercies of almighty God suffered to retain a reasonable understanding, perfect memory & thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore knowing that it is for all men appointed once to die, do for the preventing of future trouble in my family make & ordain this my last will & testament that is to say I give and recommend my soul into the hands of almighty God my master and merciful creator whence I had my first being, and my body I commit to the earth therein to be decently buried at the discretion of my executor herein after named.


This statement celebrates his freedom and recognizes the person who played the key role in achieving that freedom.  It also expresses a strong devotion to God and appreciation for such worldly estate it has pleased God to bless him with. Perhaps a reflection of the influences of both Bathsheba Slocum and his wife, Ruth Moses, whose family were Christians. Finally it states his profession as a farmer.


The will reveals different treatment of his daughter, Sarah, from that of his other five daughters. Where all other family members – wife, daughters and sons – are always characterized as “well-beloved,” Sarah is not. And where the other five daughters are all to receive bequests of £3 each, Sarah is to receive only five shillings or a quarter of a pound. At the time of drawing up his will, Sarah, the eldest daughter and first child born on Cuttyhunk in 1752, would have been nineteen years old. We are left to wonder what caused her father to single her out in this way.


An interesting aspect of the will is that the two older boys, David and Jonathan, were bequeathed the property in Rhode Island that was far away and undeveloped, and the two younger sons, John and Paul, along with their mother, were bequeathed the home farm or homestead on which they were living. David had recently married and Jonathan was to marry soon after his father died. Perhaps Cuff Slocum thought that they were ready to venture forth and take on the challenges of that distant property, whereas John, aged 14, and Paul at 12, when the will was drawn up, were still living at home and best positioned to share with their mother the responsibilities of managing the farm. Still it is somewhat remarkable that their father saw fit to charge them with such major responsibilities at such young ages. On the other hand, their mother may have provided significant leadership and cohesion for the family of which those two younger boys were a part.

One topic about which there has been considerable speculation relates to the transition from using the last name of Slocum to that of Cuf or Cuffe. In the will Cuf starts out by naming himself as Cuf Slocum. He then identifies his wife as Ruth Cuf, alias Ruth Slocum, and then proceeds to identify all his children by the last name of Cuf that transitions into Cufe and he ultimately ends by signing the document as Cufe Slocum. Thus, by 1771, he was using the last name of Cuf or Cufe for all his family members and the name Slocum only for himself. Various authors writing about Paul Cuffe have suggested that it was he who made the decision to adopt the last name of Cuffe, but Cuf’s will indicates that by the time Paul was only 12, his father had already made that transition. Whether the change in last name was a choice made by Cuff Slocum or was requested or recommended by one of the Slocums is still unclear, but it was at least made early on and was a decision in which Paul may not have had much say.

Cuff appointed James Soule as executor of his will. James Soule was the younger brother of Jonathan Soule who was listed as the abutter to the west of Cuff Slocum’s farm when Cuff purchased it in 1766. Jonathan and James were the sons of Nathaniel Soule who owned property on the west bank of the East Branch of the Acoaxet River that later came into the ownership of Cuff Slocum’s daughter, Mary, and her husband, Michael Wainer.  James Soule, hatter, was called Cuff’s “well beloved friend” in the will. Jonathan Soule was one of three persons appointed to conduct the inventory of Cuff Slocum’s personal possessions after he died. All these Soules were descendants of George Soule who had sailed into Plymouth 150 years previously on the Mayflower. The linking up of a former slave some 25 years after gaining his freedom with a well-beloved neighbor and Mayflower descendant is worth noting.

The inventory of Cuff Slocum’s personal possessions, other than his two farm properties, was conducted by Jonathan Sowle, William Howland and Benjamin Gifford. They estimated the total value of those possessions at 86 pounds, 6 shillings and they included 2 oxen, 1 cow, 11 sheep, 6 swine, 4 geese, 5 fowls clothing, bedding, farm implements, lumber and household furniture. If we use the £290 purchase prices of his two farms at the time he purchased them, then the total value of his estate would have been £376, a significant economic achievement for a man who had been “free” for just 27 years or one-half of his life.

But of much greater significance were the children that he fathered who made such a lasting impact on the world. His, and his wife’s lives of hard work and religious commitment which earned them friendship and respect among both the Anglo and Native American communities were reflected in their children. And Paul Cuffe’s later efforts to end slavery and improve the lives of Africans in Africa and the Western Hemisphere undoubtedly had some origins in his father’s experience.

Appendix; Transcription of Cuf Slocum’s Will:[28]

In the Name of God Amen: I Cuf Slocum formerly a cervant to John Slocum and since by him sett free and Now a free man in the Township of Dartmouth in the County of Bristol in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England, farmer by trade, being in my declining years but through the mercies of almighty god suffered to retain a reasonable understanding, perfect memory & thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore knowing that it is for all men appointed once to die, do for the preventing future trouble in my family made & ordain this my last will & testament that is to say principally and first of all I give, I give & recommend my soul into the hands of almighty god my master and merciful creator whence I had my first being & my body I commit to the earth therein to be decently buried and the discretion of my executor herein after named. And touchng all such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give devise & dispose of the same in the following manner and form:


In primius, I giveth & bequeath unto my well beloved wife Ruth Cuf, Alius Ruth Slocum the use & improvement of one third part of my homestead farm in Dartmouth where I now live together with the right to use and improvement of any one of my rooms which she shall chuse in my now dwelling house for & during the period she shall remain my widow. I give her my said wife that bed & bedding which she generally lodgeth in and upon. All the rest of my household goods I leave in the hands of my said wife for and during the time she shall remain my widow & worn out in my said wife’s service, I give unto my five daughters, namely Mary Cuf, Feare Cuf, Lydia Cuf, Ruth Cuf and Freelove Cuf to be equally divided to & amongst them my said five daughters.


Item: I give & bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Cuf, the sum of five shillings to be paid unto her within one year after my decease in lawful money by my son Jonathan Cuf.


Item: I give & bequeath unto my two well beloved sons, Namely David Cuf and Jonathan Cuf, all that of my farm which I bought of Nicholace Lapham and said farm lyeth in the Township Gochester in the colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations in New England reference being had to my deed of conveyance which I hold the same but for a more particular example demonstration of the particular bounds & quantity of said farm all which I give to them my two said sons to be equally devided between them their & each of their heirs and assigns for ever two or three different persons by them chosen to devide the same as aforesaid.


Item: I give & and bequeath unto my beloved daughter the sum of three pounds in lawful money meaning my daughter Mary Cufe and to be paid unto her in lawful money of the province above aforesaid by my son David Cufe within one year after my decease.


Item: I give and bequeath unto my well beloved Daughter Lidia Cufe the sum of three pounds to be given unto her by said daughter Lidia Cufe in lawful money of the province afore said by my son David Cufe within two years after my decease.


Item: I give and bequeath unto my beloved daughter Ruth Cufe the sum of three pounds to be paid unto her my said saughter Ruth in lawful money of the province aforesaid by my son Jonathan Cufe within two years after my decease.


Item: I give and bequeath to my well beloved daughter Freelove Cufe the sum of three pounds in lawful money of the province aforesaid to be paid unto her by my son David Cufe within three years after my decease and in lawful money.


Item: My mind and will is that I do will & order that if either of my five daughters Namely Mary Cufe, Feare Cufe, Lidia Cufe, Ruth Cufe & Freelove Cufe should be sick & want house room then I therefore  that they or either of them my said five daughters shall have a privilege in my stone bedroom to live which is built in my now dwelling house where I now live for and during the time they or either of them shall live unmarried and no longer.


Item: I give and bequeath unto my two well beloved sons Namely John Cufe and Paul Cufe all my homested farm where I now live together with all the houseings & buildings on the farm to be & remain unto them & to each of them during their natural lives, then to their & each of their sons lawfully begotten and each of their bodies forever to their linages & they my two sons are to come into the possession of two thirds of my said homested farm at my decease & and the other third my two said sons are to posess at the time their mother, my wife, shall sease to be my widow. Moreover I give unto my two said sons, viz. John Cufe and Paul Cufe all my husbandry eutencels of what nature or kinde forever together with all my live stock of every sort and kinde that I have. I also give unto them my two said sons, viz. John Cufe and Paul Cufe all my wearing apparel of every sort and kind whatsoever, my husbandry eutencils all my livestock and all my wearing apparel. I give unto my two sons, viz. John Cufe and Paul Cufe to be equeally divided between them my aforesaid sons. I also give unto my son Paul Cufe my fuze gun.


Item: my mind and will is that I so will and order my two said sons namely John Cufe and Paul Cufe to provide and keep one cow for their mother, meaning my afore mentioned wife so that she may be reasonably supplied with milk for her own use and comfort during the time she shall remain my widow.


Item: I give unto my son John Cufe my bed and bedding to be that bed of mine with a blue and white striped ticken. I give unto my son Paul Cufe my bed and bedding that he commonly sleeps on.


Item of this my last will & testament I do nominate, constitute and appoint, make and ordain my well beloved friend Neighbor James Soule the hatter to be the executor of this my last will and testament desiring him as a friend in all love to take a prudent care to see the same duly a

& truly fulfilled according to the true intent & meaning hereof and I do hereby utterly disallow, rebucke & disoune all & every other testaments wills legacies and bequests & executors by me in any way before danme willed and bequested. Ratifying and confirming thes & no other to be my last will & testament. In witness whereof I have here unto set my hand & seal this fifteenth day of August in the seventh year of his lord Majesty and in anno Domini, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-one. Signed sealed and … by the said Cufe Slocum wlth this the afore written to be his last will and testament in the presence of the subscribers:


Benjamin Earl

Constant Hart                                                                         Cufe Slocum (his own signature)

Ephraim Sanford


Date written at the bottom: June 29th, 1772


[1]I am indebted to Betty Slade and Richard Gifford for their many contributions to this paper.

[2]Paul Cuffe Papers, item 815.Cuffe Collection: Manuscript and printed material relating to Paul Cuffe, his relatives and friends from the New Bedford Free Public Library,accessible on the <Westport.ma.com> website under the subhead Historical Documents. Hereafter referred to as PCPs.

[3]Ibid. Items 81-103.

[4]Ruth Cuffe’s statement is presented and analyzed in an accompanying paper by David C. Cole entitled: “Ruth Cuffe’s Testimonial about Her Grandfather’s Freedom,” available on the <paulcuffe.org> website.

[5]A copy of the bill of sale is available on the <paulcuffe.org> website in the Documents section.

[6]See paper on Ruth Cuffe’s Statement.

[7]The book by Alice Forbes Howland, Three Islands: Pasque, Nashawena, Penikese,1964, has the following statement: “…in 1751 Holder (Slocum) also acquired all the land on Nashawena, Cuttyhunk and Penikese.”(p.60).

[8]Intentions of Marriage.   Paul Cuffe Manuscript Collection (PCMC), New Bedford Free Public Library (NBFPL), Book 1, Frames 79-102.

[9]Records of Town of Dartmouth, Marriages, 1667-1787 and Deaths, 1687-1781, p. 48.

[10]Pierce and Segel, Vol. II, p.197.

[11]None of the children other than David appear in the vital records of either Dartmouth or Chilmark, so there is no specific record as to where they were born, but other records of the family seem to indicate that they were living on Cuttyhunk from sometime in 1750-51 until they moved to Dartmouth in 1767,

[12]See Salvador, George. The Black Yankee. (1969), p. 12. And Thomas, Lamont. Rise to Be a People.(1986). P.5.

[13]See especially Howland, Ibid., and Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983.

[14]See the inventory of the estate of Rebecca Slocum, Probate records for Bristol County, Taunton, MA. Items 1054-1094

[15]Deed recorded in Town of Glocester, Rhode Island. Registry of Deeds Book 7, P. 252. April 7, 1762. The deed was originally drawn up in Dartmouth, MA before Benjamin Akin, Justice of the Peace.TheLapham family was among the early settlers in Dartmouth and were staunch Quakers. Nicholas Lapham was probably a friend of Holder Slocum and John Slocum who were both involved in the process of Cuff Slocum gaining his freedom.

[16]Information on these transactions of property in Glocester, R.I. was obtained from the Glocester town historian.

[17]During the colonial period, British authorities adopted a “mercantilist” trade policy designed to restrict the outflow of their coinage. This policy was applied also to the North American colonies which resulted in a shortage of English money in the colonies. As a substitute the colonies made use of the Spanish Milled Silver Dollar that was minted in Mexico and other Spanish colonies in South America. Colonial authorities sought to maintain a stable exchange rate between the English Pound and the Spanish Dollar but this proved difficult and the exchange rates fluctuated over time and differed in the several colonies. See Jordan, Louis. “Colonial Currency” at the following website: https://coins.nd.edu/ColCurrency/CurrencyText/Contents.html

[18]PCPs, Scrap Book, P. 10.

[19]Enos Gifford purchased this and other adjoining properties from his father Christopher Gifford for £1,000 in 1736 (New Bedford Registry of Deeds [NBRD]) Book 4, P. 136. He sold this 120-acre property to Solomon Southwick of Newport, RI, for 500 Spanish milled dollars on April 3, 1763 (NBRD, Book 7, P. 251) and Solomon Southwick sold the same property to David Brownell for 326 Spanish milled dollars on February 5, 1765 (NBRD, Book 8, P. 142.

[20]The agreement to supply shingles to re-shingle the house is recorded in the PCMC Book 1, p. 8.

[21]1759, Enos Gifford to Rachel Wilbour, Bristol County Registry of Deeds (BCRD), Book 47, P. 240. Enos Gifford to Dorcas Manchester, (BCRD, Book 5. P. 537.)

[22]It is probable that this Jonathan Soule, born in Dartmouth 10 December 1710, and died there on 17 October 1779, was a grandson of an original Mayflower settler, George Soule, who had also been one of the original proprietors who acquired large tracts of land along the South Coast from the Wampanoags in 1652. Source: Sprague, Waldo Chamberlain, “The Dartmouth Branch of the Soule Family,” in The American Genealogist, Volume, 39, #12 (January 1963).

[23]Gradoia, Eric, “Remarks on the Cuffe Slocum house, 761 Old County Road, Westport, Massachusetts.” Report prepared for the Westport Historical Society in 2016.

[24]See also Wertz, Richard, The Head of Westport: A Brief History and a Walking Tour Guide to Its Historic Houses. Westport Historical Commission, Revised edition from 2009, P. 34.

[25]A plan for crop planting was drawn up by John Slocum in 1780 showing a pattern for planting seeds four feet apart in mounds or 160 mounds per acre. This may have been for corn fields. See PCMC, item 18.

[26]In modern times there is a very popular fruit farm – Dartmouth Orchards – one mile to east on Old County Road.

[27]Pierce, Andrew, and Segel, Jerome. Wampanoag Families of Martha’s VineyardHeritage Books, 2016, p.197.

[28]Bristol County Probate Records, Vol. 22-23, 1771-1775, Item 125-126, pp. 225-227.

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