Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dean Herrin's Research

The following information has been generously shared by Dean Herrin, the National Park Service Coordinator of the Catoctin Center for Regional Studeies at Frederick Community College in Frederick Maryland.

Basil Dorsey Chronology as it Relates to Maryland

c. 1808- Ephraim Costly born, presumably on Sabrett Sollers’ farm in Libertytown, MD.

- date estimated from Ephraim’s age listed in the 1834 inventory of Sabrett

Sollers’ estate, and from age given in Dorsey’s manumission by George Griscom in 1851.

- parents were supposedly slaves of Sabrett Sollers; according to the National Enquirer, Aug. 17, 1837, in a letter from “W.H.J.” about Dorsey’s court hearing in Doylestown, the writer says that the lawyer for Dorsey’s former owner, Thomas E. Sollers, said in his opening statement to the judge that he would prove, among other things, that “the father and mother of the prisoner [Dorsey] were the slaves of old Captain Solders [sic.].”

1834, July 17 – Sabrett Sollers (1772-1834) dies.

Source: Obituary in Fredericktown Herald, Aug. 2, 1834.

1834, August 16 – Inventory of Sabrett Sollers’ estate; the 23 slaves listed included an Ephraim, age 26, and a Louisa, age 22. Both were valued at $300 each.

Source: Maryland State Archives [I have to find the exact source, which I have misplaced.]

1834, Sept. 9 – Account of sale of Sabrett Sollers’ estate; 18 slaves were sold to 10 different purchasers:

Thomas E. Sollers (Sabrett’s son) purchased Ephraim (for $300) and three others

Richard Coale purchased Louisa (for $300), and one other (a boy, Jack)

[Among the 18 slaves listed, no one else had the names Ephraim or Louisa]

Source: Maryland State Archives, MSA C745, Frederick County Register of Wills (Accounts of Sale), [volume for 1833-35], p.410.

1836 – Basil and three brothers escape and eventually find their way to Philadelphia and Robert Purvis.

1837, July - Sollers and slave-catchers hear of the Dorsey brothers whereabouts from a brother-in-law of Basil’s, and capture Thomas in Phil., and Basil on Purvis’ farm in Bensalem. Purvis is able to take the other two to his brother’s house, who drives them to a safe house in NJ, and from there the brothers are transported to Canada.

1837, Aug. 1 – Dorsey released from custody based on claimants’ inability to prove that slavery was legal in Maryland.

1838, Nov. 7 – Louisa dies in Charlemont, MA

1851, May 14 – Deed of Sale (for $150) from Thomas E. Sollers, selling Basil Dorsey to George Griscom, a lawyer from Philadelphia, who then manumits Dorsey.

Source: Northampton Courier, May 20 and Aug. 5, 1851.

Some Questions:

Who were Dorsey’s parents?

- Ephraim and his brothers were “reputed to be the children of their master,” Sabrett Sollers, according to Purvis in Smedley, 1883, p. 356; Dorsey’s deed of sale in 1851 referred to him as “mulatto”

In The National Enquirer, Aug. 17, 1837, in a letter from “W.H.J.” about Dorsey’s court hearing in Doylestown, the writer says that the lawyer for Dorsey’s former owner, Thomas E. Sollers, said in his opening statement to the judge that he would prove, among other things, that “the father and mother of the prisoner [Dorsey] were the slaves of old Captain Solders [sic.],” and that Thomas E. Sollers had purchased Dorsey from his father’s estate. This was part of the lawyer’s case to prove that Dorsey was indeed a slave of Thomas E. Sollers.

Hampshire Gazette, April 2, 1867 – in a story on Basil Dorsey, the writer states that Dorsey’s “grandfather was an Englishman, who married a colored woman in Maryland.”

When did Dorsey escape from Maryland?

In Davis (1876 & 1905), he states that Dorsey had escaped from Sollers three years before his capture and hearing in 1837 (which would place the escape in 1834).

In the administration accounts for Sabrett Sollers’ estate, dated Sept. 21, 1835, and with Thomas E. Sollers as the administrator, among the entries are the following:

“For [current money] paid Jas. L. Wagner for going after runaway

slaves, belonging to the estate per [acct. & rect.] appears 10.00

“For [current money] pd. Daniel Sweadner for searching after runaway

slaves & for crying (?) sale 3 days per [acct. & rect.] appears 30.00

These “runaway slaves” may have been slaves other than Dorsey and his brothers, of course. It is also possible that these are debts of the estate incurred before Sabrett Sollers death.

Hampshire Gazette, April 2, 1867 – this bio of Dorsey places the escape as May 14, 1836.

Robert Purvis, in his account published in Smedley in 1883, says that Basil and his three brothers “arrived in Philadelphia in the summer of 1836.” (p.356)

Why did he escape?

Hampshire Gazette, April 2, 1867 – according to this biography of Dorsey, Thomas Sollers agreed to sell Dorsey his freedom for $350. Richard Cole (sic) agreed to be Dorsey’s “bondsman” for the $350. But Sollers refused, “declaring that he could get $500.” “This act of treachery so enraged Cole that he advised Dorsey to his legs and try their virtue.” [This is the same Richard Coale, a neighboring farmer, who purchased “Louisa” from the Sabrett Sollers’ estate in 1834.]

Purvis in Smedley, 1883, p. 356, says that Dorsey and his brothers had been promised their freedom [supposedly by Sabrett Sollers], but this not being the case after Sabrett died, they fled.

What do we know about his wife, Louisa?

A “Louisa” was purchased from Sabrett Sollers’ estate in 1834 by neighboring farmer Richard Coale, the same man who tried to help Dorsey obtain his freedom and who ultimately advised Dorsey to escape. “Louisa” was also earlier listed on the estate’s inventory, age 22 in 1834. [see above]

Grave marker in MA states that Louisa died Nov. 7, 1838, age 24 years

Davis (1876 & 1905) states that Louisa and Dorsey’s “two small children” were present for his hearing in Doylestown.

Hampshire Gazette, April 2, 1867 – also states that Louisa and the children joined Dorsey in PA in August 1837 and that Louisa was “a free woman.”

Purvis in Smedley, 1883, p. 356 – Basil was married, with two children. Louisa was a free woman. After Purvis took Basil to work on his farm in Bucks County, Purvis writes that “by a previous arrangement with her brother-in-law, likewise free, they [Louisa and the children] were brought to Philadelphia, where I met them and took them to my house.” [his house in Philadelphia or Bucks County?]

Why did Ephraim Costly adopt the name Basil Dorsey?

For what it’s worth, Costly’s owner, Sabrett Sollers, was married to Mary Dorsey, and Sabrett’s mother’s maiden name was also Dorsey. Sabrett also had a brother named Basil Sollers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Escape From Slavery

The following account of Basil Dorsey's escape
slavery was written by Robert Purvis, a
antislavery activist, in a letter to
R.C. Smedley.
Smedley was researching the
Underground Railroad, and
published the letter
in his 1883
History of the Underground
Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring

Counties of Pennsylvania

"Among the hundreds of cases, which came under my
notice, none excited my interest more deeply than that
of four brothers, who came from Frederick County,
Maryland, and arrived in Philadelphia in the summer
of 1836. They were finely developed and handsome
young men, reputed to be the children of their master,
and after his death, finding themselves slaves when
they had been promised their freedom, they took 'French
Leave' and arrived safely in Philadelphia, under the
assumed Christian names of Basil, Thomas, Charles and
William, and retaining the surname of Dorsey. I took
three of the brothers to my farm in Bucks County -
Thomas preferring to live in the city. I succeeded in
securing places with some of* the neighboring farmers
for Charles and William, Basil remaining in my employ.
The latter was a married man, having a wife and two
children whom he left in Maryland. She was a free
woman and by a previous arrangement with her brother
in-law likewise free, they were brought to Philadelphia,
where I met them and took them to my house. This man
proved afterwards to be a false and treacherous villain.
He opened a correspondence with the son of their old
master, who bought these men at the settlement of his
father's estate and bad become their owner. By a
well-arranged plan, with the assistance of a notorious
slave-catcher, they were enabled to surprise and capture
Thomas, who was hurried before, one of the judges of the
court and sent back to slavery. He was carried to
Baltimore and imprisoned with the view of shipping him
thence to the New Orleans market. By the timely efforts
of his friends in Philadelphia money was raised, and the
sum of one thousand dollars paid for his freedom. He
afterwards became the popular caterer of Philadelphia,
and died a few years ago, leaving a handsome competence
to his family. Immediately following the capture of
Thomas, by the direction of the, brother-in-law, they
went to Bristol and secured the services of a constable
by the name of Brown, who repaired with the claimant and
his friends to Doylestown and obtained warrants from
Judge Fox for the arrest of the three, brothers. Basil,
while ploughing at some distance from the house, was
overpowered after a severe struggle by the slave-holder
and his friends, placed in a carriage and taken to
Bristol, three miles distant, where he was thrown into a
cell used for criminals. I had just returned from the city
and was in the act of eating my supper, when a neighbor's
son came in great excitement to tell me that Basil bad been
carried off. I sprang from the table and hastening in the
direction where I knew the man had been working, learned
from the farmers assembled there the particulars of this
outrage with the added information that be had been taken
to Bristol. Burning with indignation, hatless as I was, I
hurried thither, where I found the captors and the captive.

"An excited crowd of people was gathered about the market
house, whom 1 addressed, and succeeded; 11 enlisting their
sympathies in behalf of the poor victim. After a parley
with the slaveholder, it was agreed that we should meet
there at seven o'clock in the morning and start thence for
the purpose of appearing before Judge Fox, at Doylestown.
Availing myself of the kind offer of a friend, I was
driven rapidly home for the purpose of securing the safety
of Basil's brothers. I was rejoiced to find them already
there. They had heard of Basil's capture and were pursued
by a part of those men led by Brown, who had taken him.
These men had halted in a field near my residence,
evidently deliberating how to proceed. By my advice,
Charles, in whose hands I placed a double-barreled gun
heavily charged, walked out in front of the house and
defied them. The slave-catchers, thinking doubtless
discretion the better part of valor, instantly departed.
Under the cover of the darkness I was enabled to convey
the two men to my Brother Joseph's farm, about two miles
distant, and that night he drove forty miles and left
them in New Jersey at the house of a friend. There they
remained safely until an opportunity offered to send them
to Canada. The next morning about six o'clock I was on
my way to Bristol. Before reaching there I met a woman
who informed me that at five o'clock a wagon passed her
house and she heard Basil cry out, 'Go tell Mr. Purvis
they are taking me off.' The object of the movement was
to deceive me in regard to time and enable them to appear
before Judge Fox, and by ex-parte testimony have the case
closed and the victim delivered into their custody. Upon
receiving this information I hastened home and quickly
harnessing a fleet trotting horse pursued them. I left
instructions that Basil's wife and children should
follow in another carriage. By good fortune I came upon
the fugitive kidnappers about four miles from Doylestown,
where they had stopped for breakfast. I immediately drove
to the residence of William H. Johnson, the noted
abolitionist, who instantly took hold of the matter,
and went out to spread the news far and wide among the
anti-slavery people. I arrived in Doylestown fully an
hour before Basil was brought by his captors who were
of course amazingly surprised to see me. I at once
secured the services of the ablest lawyer in the town,
Mr. Ross, the father of the late Judge Ross, who urged
the postponement of the case upon Basil's oath of
having free papers left in the hands of a friend
living in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

"Doubtless the judge was deeply impressed by the
appearance in the court-room of the delicate and
beautiful wife and the young children clinging to
the husband and father, who, looking the picture of
despair sat with the evidence in his torn and soiled
garments of the terrible conflict through which he
had passed. The claimant obtained legal services
in the person of a Mr. Griffith, a young lawyer.
Notwithstanding the urgency of their council to have
the case immediately decided, the judge postponed it
for two weeks.

"This was all I expected to obtain. My duty lay
clearly before me, and I resolved that no effort
should be spared to secure Basil's freedom. With
this view, I strove to arouse the colored people to
rescue him in the event of his being remanded to his
captors. The plan adopted was to assemble in squads
about the three leading roads of the town and use
means adequate for the purpose of liberating him.
Most fortunately, however, by an unexpected turn of
events, a resort to these desperate measures was
rendered unnecessary. Desiring to make use of every
available means to secure the liberty of this worthy
mail, I called upon that eminent lawyer and
philanthropist, David Paul Brown, and asked him
if he would not appear in behalf of the defense. He
promptly responded to my request, saying, 'I am
always ready to defend the liberty of any human
being.' I then tendered him a fee of fifty dollars,
which he at once refused. "I shall not now," he said,
nor have I ever accepted fee or reward, other than
the approval of my conscience, and I respectfully
decline receiving you[r] money, I shall be there;"
and turning to his barber he asked: 'Will you get me
up so that I can go in the stage coach which leaves
at four o'clock in the morning?'

"The day of trial came and the slave-holder was
there, bringing with him additional proof in the
persons of his neighbors to swear as to the
identity of the man. Armed with the bill of
sale, the victory seemed an easy one. The claimant
at one time was willing to take five hundred dollars
for his slave, which we agreed to give, yielding to
the earnest entreaty of Basil, although it was in
violation of our principles, as we have always denied
the right of property in man. He advanced his price
to eight hundred dollars at Doylestown, and when that
was agreed to declined taking less than one thousand
dollars. Basil then said, 'No more offers if the
decision goes against me. I will cut my throat in
the court-house; I will not go back to slavery.' I
applauded his resolution; horrible as it might be,
it seemed better than his return to a living death.
There for the first time I unfolded our plans for his
liberation. The case was called promptly at the hour
agreed upon, and Mr. Griffith spreading out his bill
of sale and pointing to his witnesses the friends of
the claimant who had come for the purpose of
identifying this man as his property, opened his
case with an air of the utmost confidence in the
result. Mr. Brown in his turn quickly rose and
the magnetism of his presence was felt by the crowded
courtroom, nine-tenths of who were doubtless in
sympathy with the poor slave. He commenced by saying,
'I desire to test this case by raising every objection,
and may it please your honor these gentlemen, who hail
from Liberty, Frederic County, Md., are here according
to law to secure their "pound of flesh," and it is my
duty to see that they shall not get "one drop of blood."
As a preliminary question I demand authority to show
that Maryland is a slave state.'

"Mr. Griffith, with a self-satisfied air, remarked:
'Why, Mr. Brown, everybody knows Maryland is a slave

"'Sir, everybody is nobody,' was the quick retort of
his opponent.

"The judge entertained the objection, and Mr. Griffith
went out and soon returned with a book containing a
compilation of the laws of Maryland. The book was not
considered authority, and poor Mr. Griffith, confused
and disconcerted, requested Mr. Brown to have the case
postponed until afternoon.

"'Do you make that request,' inquired his adversary,
'on the ground of ignorance of the law?'

"Mr. Griffith in an appealing tone said: 'Mr. Brown,
I am a young man and this is my first case; I pray you
do not press your objections; give me some time, for
should I fail in this case, it would be ruinous to my
future prospects.'

"Laying his hand on the young lawyer's shoulder, Mr.
Brown replied, 'Then, my dear sir, you will have
the consolation of having done a good deed, though
you did not intend it." The judge was prompt in
dismissing the ease, saying that he would not furnish
another warrant, but the might secure his rearrest by
obtaining one front a magistrate Profiting by this
suggestion, Griffith and his clients hastily left the
court-room. I was equally prompt; having previously
ordered my horse and buggy to be brought in front of
the courthouse, I took hold of Basil and hurried him
towards the door. In the excitement which prevailed,
a colored man, who was outside, seeing me hustling
Basil before me, and thinking lie had been remanded
to slavery and I was his master, raised a heavy stick
and was about to strike me, when a friendly hand
interposed, and saved me from the blow. We were no
sooner seated in the vehicle than the slave-catchers,
armed with a magistrate's warrant, came rushing upon
us. As they were about to seize the horse, a stroke
of the whip on the young and excited animal, caused
him to rear and dash ahead. A round of hearty
applause from the sympathizing crowd served as an
additional impetus to urge us onward. After running
the horse about two miles, I came upon a party of
colored men who were to assist in rescuing the slave.
Resting a short time, I pursued my journey to
Philadelphia, a distance of twenty-six miles, and
drove directly to my mother's house, where Basil was
safely lodged. I afterwards accompanied him to New
York, and placed him in the hands of Joshua Leavitt,
the editor of The Emancipator, who sent him to
Connecticut to find employment on his father's farm.
He remained there some time and then removed with his
family to Northampton, where he worked for Mr. Benson,
a brother-in-law of William Lloyd Garrison. Mr. Dorsey
died a few years ago, a highly esteemed and
respectable citizen, leaving a widow and a number
of children."

Thomas Dorsey

Basil Dorsey's brother, Thomas Dorsey, also attempted to escape from slavery. He was caught and returned, but friends raised the money to purchase his freedom. He went on to become a prominent caterer in Philadelphia. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about him in The Philadelphia Negro, 1820-1896.

from Chapter IV, 11. The Guild of the Caterers, 1840-1870.

Finally came the triumvirate Jones, Dorsey and Minton, who ruled the fashionable world from 1845-1875. Of these Dorsey was the most unique character; with little education but great refinement of manner, he became a man of real weight in the community, and associated with many eminent men. "He had the sway of an imperial dictator. When a Democrat asked his menial service he refused, because 'he could not wait on a party of persons who were disloyal to the government, and Lincoln'--pointing to the picture in his reception rooms--'was the government.' " 17

17 See in PhiladelphiaTmes, October 17, 1896, the following notes by "Megargee:" Dorsey was one of the triumvirate of colored caterers—the other two being Henry Jones and Henry Minton--who some years ago might have been said to rule the social world of Philadelphia through its stomach. Time was when lobster salad, chicken croquettes, deviled crabs and terrapin composed the edible display at every big Philadelphia gathering, and none of those dishes were thought to be perfectly prepared unless they came from the hands of one of the three men named. Without making any invidious comparisons between those who were such masters of the gastronomic art, it can fairly be said that outside of his kitchen, Thomas J. Dorsey outranked the others. Although without schooling, he possessed a naturally refined instinct that led him to surround himself with both men and things of an elevating character. It was his proudest boast that at his table, in his Locust street residence, there had sat Charles Sumner, William Lloyd Garrison, John W. Forney, William D. Kelley and Fred Douglass. . . . Yet Thomas Dorsey had been a slave; had been held in bondage by a Maryland planter. Nor did he escape from his fetters until he had reached a man's estate. He fled to this city, but was apprehended and returned to his master. During his brief stay in Philadelphia, however, he made friends, and these raised a fund of sufficient proportion to purchase his freedom. As a caterer he quickly achieved both fame and fortune. His experience of the horrors of slavery had instilled him with an undying reverence for those champions of his down-trodden race, the old-time Abolitionists. He took a prominent part in all efforts to elevate his people, and in that way he came in close contact with Sumner, Garrison, Forney and others.

Thomas Dorsey and Frederick Douglass

Du Bois mentions that Thomas Dorsey was acquainted with Frederick Douglass, and Douglass in fact mentions their friendship in his post-war memoir. This must have been a significant friendship, since Douglass also describes attending Lincoln's second inaugural with Dorsey's wife, and it is therefore likely that Thomas was also there: "I was standing in the crowd by the side of Mrs. Thomas J. Dorsey, when Mr. Lincoln touched Mr. Johnson and pointed me out to him." She also accompanied him to one of the inaugural balls afterward ("I decided to go, and sought in vain for some one of my own color to accompany me... It was finally arranged that Mrs. Dorsey should bear me company, so together we joined in the grand procession of citizens from all parts of the country, and moved slowly towards the executive mansion"), where soldiers standing guard attempted to turn them away until Douglass insisted that they check with President Lincoln himself, who, upon recognizing Douglass, "exclaimed, so that all around could hear him, 'Here comes my friend Douglass.'" (from: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, pub. 1893)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Basil Dorsey is buried in Park Street Cemetery, Florence, Massachusetts.

Dorsey-Jones House

Dorsey built this house, on Nonotuck Street in Florence, in 1849 or 1850. He sold it in 1852, moving to another house nearby. Thomas H. Jones, a nationally renowned fugitive slave and anti-slavery activist, bought the house in 1858, living there until 1859. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Meeting called to discuss Fugitive Slave Law - Northampton Courier, 10/22/1850

Northampton Courier, 10/29/1850


The citizens of Northampton, without distinction of party or sect, assembled in their spacious Town Hall on Wednesday evening last. The hall was well filled. Hon. William Clark was chosen Chairman, and Wm. Tyler and Seth Hunt Secretaries. The call for the meeting, signed by several fugitives, having been read by Mr. Tyler, the Chair called for resolutions, when C.P. Huntington, Esq. Read a letter, which he had previously received, from two or three of the fugitives in Northampton, requesting him to prepare resolutions for the consideration of the meeting, and to offer some remarks on the subject which the meeting was called to consider. Mr. Huntington read some of the provisions of the fugitive law, and commented upon their atrocious character with great severity and with striking effect. He did not believe the fugitive was in any more danger in Massachusetts now than under the law of ’93. He did not believe a fugitive could be delivered up in this State. We have the habeas corpus in Massachusetts, and Congress can’t deprive us of it. Try that before you try pistols. He counseled the black man not to arm himself until the law had been tested in this State, -- not till a fugitive has been delivered over to the man-stealers. [We should counsel different from this. It is wisdom, we believe, to fasten the door before the horse is stolen, instead of afterwards.]

As an expression of his views on the subject, Mr. Huntington submitted the following resolutions:

Resolved, That the late Fugitive Slave Act is not only at war with the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and our Republican Constitutions, but barbarous, despotic, and desperately wicked in its purpose, and provisions.

Resolved, That the principles of Freedom have sufficient root in the soil, the institutions, and laws of Massachusetts, and in the souls of her citizens, to protect all persons of all conditions in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property; and that these principles should be especially applied to the extermination of men-hunters, men-stealers, and men-sellers, if any such should appear, according to the most approved legal mode.

Resolved, That we tender to all persons alarmed for their safety by the enactment of this Law, our earnest sympathies and assistance; assuring them that we will use our best efforts to effect its speedy repeal, and all legitimate means to prevent the enforcement of its unprecedented and cruel measures within our borders.

Mr. Lyman Parsons then took the floor, but gave way to Rev. Rufus Ellis, who addressed to the meeting a noble speech, full of high-toned sentiments. The conclusions at which Mr. Ellis had arrived in regard to the duty of Christians in relation to this law, are, we believe, such as will be approved by a majority of conscientious people. Those who have, or appear to have, no consciences in this matter, will of course take a different view of the subject. Mr. Ellis’s remarks were received by the meeting with marked evidences of approval. We are happy in being able to give a full report of his remarks.

Mr. Huntington’s resolutions were then passed unanimously.

Rev. J.N. Mars, a colored clergyman from Springfield, addressed the meeting in a speech which engaged the undivided attention and elicited the warm approbation of the audience. He remarked that he had read the infamous law often, and the oftener he read it, the blacker it appeared to him. “I have it with me,” said he, holding up a large sheet containing the fugitive law enclosed in heavy black lines, -- “dressed in mourning; and I would to God I could preach its funeral sermon.” (Great cheering.) While the Congress were coming to a conclusion in relation to this bill, he was coming to a conclusion also; and when they had made up their minds to pass it, he had made up his mind that if a p[oor] panting fugitive came to his door, he should come in. If the man-stealer came after him, he resolved that he should NOT come in. He was aware that in doing this he should break the law, but he must obey his conscience. If the man-stealer wants the thousand dollars fine, he may have it, if he can find it! If he wants a thousand dollars for his slave, he may have that, too, if he can find it. And if they wanted him to stay six months in jail, why he could do that; -- but the poor fugitive he would not surrender.

Mr. Mars said he had never been a slave, having been born in Connecticut; but from what he had seen and heard in relation to the practical operations of Slavery, he detested and abhorred the “institution,” and declared that he “wouldn’t be a slave no how.” He had always called himself a peace man, and always meant to be one. He would have peace at all events. If a slave-hunter should come to his door after his slave, he would throw him out – he would have peace!

Mr. Mars counseled the fugitives to remain here. He would not run till he had one battle with the man-hunters. His speech raised the feelings of the meeting somewhat above the tone of Mr. Huntington’s resolutions, and had there been a test of the feeling then it would have been in spirit similar to that of the following resolution, passed at the recent fugitive slave meeting in Faneuil Hall: --

Resolved, That, constitution or no constitution, law or no law, we will not allow a Fugitive Slave to be taken from Massachusetts.

Mr. Wm. Parker of Bensonville, here commenced speaking, and being an ultra Garrisonian believer, he soon came down upon the clergy and the churches, -- not, however, until he had given Daniel Webster and Prof. Stuart a “side-winder,” greatly to our own delight. His attack upon the clergy very naturally created a disturbance, and cries of “down! down!” fell thick around poor Parker’s ears, who several times attempted to go on; but it was of no use, -- “down” he must go. The meeting here, amid disorder and confusion, was dissolved. Parker’s course was unwise and unjustifiable; but had it not been for indiscretion on the other side, we think there would have been no serious disturbance of the meeting, and the audience would have had the benefit of the remarks of several gentlemen who were present and were prepared to speak.

(Transcribed by Marc Ferguson)

Description of Dorsey by A.G. Hill

from: “Florence the ["Mecca" crossed out] Sanctuary of the Colored Race”

by A.G. Hill

Basil Dorsey an intelligent and genial man came here early and after the [cannot make out word – perhaps “dissolution”] of the community became the teamster for the cotton mill which succeeded the silk mill and community [?] occupation, and later transformed into a braid mill. He married his second wife, daughter of A[?] Jones and raised a large family. He occupied the house at the foot of the junction of West and South Streets now in the possession of Mr. Coughlin. He brought the cotton bales from the Northampton railroad station and took thither the finished cloth for shipment to the outer world. He had a powerful pair of lungs and on the road from Northampton with a load of bales, he would commence yelling at the eastern slope of Nonotuck St. when the people at the mill would open doors and prepare to receive his load. He had two sons by his first wife, Robert & John. Robert was a strong healthy young man with a good common school education. He became a stone mason and contractor, removed to New York as a contractor, bought a freight steamer for his work and finally died there. His brother John, of a different makeup, slender and dandyish became a barber and died later of consumption leaving a widow and son who afterwards died of the same trouble. I became guardian of the younger John and took care of him until he died.

[From an unpublished manuscript in a private collection. Used by permission of the owner; transcribed by Marc Ferguson.]