How Massachusetts Ended Slavery, Part Nine

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Elizabeth Freeman lived with the Sedgwicks for the rest of her life and they wrote down a version of her travails. Quock Walker had no such dedicated biographer. Documents refer to him as Quok, Quarco, Quack, Quork, Quaco, and Quarko. His parents may have called him Kwaku or something similar. He first appears in our records courtesy of this document:

Rutland District, May 4th, 1754

Sold this day to a Mr. James Caldwell of said District, the County of Worcester, & Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, a certain negro man named Mingo, about twenty Years of Age, and also one negro wench named Dinah, about nineteen years of age, with child Quaco, about nine months old-all sound and well for the Sum of One hundred & eight pounds, lawful money, recd. to my full satisfaction: which Negroes, I the subscriber to warrant and defend against all claims whatsoever as witness my hand

Zedekiah Stone.

If the enslavers of the eighteenth century trafficked in lives the same as those of the nineteenth, and I don’t know a reason to think otherwise, then baby Quock likely changed hands with his mother. Their enslaver died in 1763. He didn’t leave a will behind, so the court divided his estate between Caldwell’s widow, Isabell, and John Murray. Murray also served as a witness on the bill of sale above and had guardianship of the Caldwell children. The estate inventory worked up for the division included a ten-year-old enslaved boy, Quock. He went with the third of the worldly goods transmitted to the Isabell. She remarried, to a Nathan Jennison who acquired property rights to Quock and all the other things his wife owned as a consequence of their marriage. The Enlightenment era patriarchy had scarce patience for such modern notions as married women possessing rights independent of their husbands.

In April of 1781, twenty-eight-year-old Quock stole himself from Jennison and went to John and Seth Caldwell, for whom he began to work. We don’t know for sure, but probably he knew them from growing up under the same roof. In that event, the younger Caldwells may have remembered a promise that their father and mother made to Quock to free him at a certain point, now passed. They might also have disputed the settlement of their father’s estate back in the day and thought they had rights to Quock rather than their mother. Either way, Walker went to them and received shelter.

There Jennison found him ten days later, on April 13. That day, according to a legal summons that resulted:

the said Nathaniel [Jennison] … with force & arms on the said Quok, then and there in our presence being, did make an assault, and then and there with force & arms aforesaid, seized the said Quok and threw him down and struck him several violent blows upon his back and arm with the handle of a whip, and did him then and there imprison-and other enormities the said Quok the said Nathaniel did then and there against the peace of the law.

One comment on “How Massachusetts Ended Slavery, Part Nine

  1. […] Murray was Rutland’s leading gentleman, which meant he had a hand in a lot of legal matters. In 1754, he witnessed this bill of sale, quoted here: […]

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