Collect Day #4 AMOS FORTUNE
O God of true justice and peace: we remember today your free servant Amos Fortune who paid for his freedom from enslavement and then contributed much to the community of Jaffrey in founding a library and supporting public education and the maintenance of the church; may we boldly confess the gifts of all citizens woven into a beautiful fabric from all races that enrich our lives and open our minds to the truth of your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Day #4, February 17, 2018
(circa 1700 – 1801)
Amos Fortune is described as an exemplary citizen of New England. Born in Africa in the early 1700s, Fortune was brought to the colonies to be an enslaved servant became the property of Ichabod Richardson, a tanner in Woburn of Massachusetts-bay. An unsigned “freedom paper” dated December 20, 1763 promised Amos his freedom at the end of four years of service, but it is not a promise stated in Richardson’s will upon his death in 1768 and it was not honored by Richardson’s heirs. Amos later negotiated a price for his freedom and made his final payment in 1770 at the age of 60.
Fortune bought land and with the help of his former owner built a house for himself and his first wife Lily Twombly, whose freedom he had purchased from Josiah Bowers. Sadly, Lily died within a year. On November 9, 1779 Fortune purchased the freedom of Violate and they married the next day. Two years later they moved to Jaffrey NH where Fortune established a successful tannery and took on at least two apprentices, serving clients in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In 1785 Amos and Violate adopted a daughter, Celyndia. In 1789 Fortune purchased 25 acres on the Tyler Brook where he built their house and a tannery barn, both still standing in Jaffrey.
Fortune and the Rev. Laban Ainsworth became good friends and co-founders of the Jaffrey Social Library, whose members met Saturday evenings to collect and discuss books dealing with history and travel. Fortune was a full member of the First Church in Jaffrey. In his will he left a “handsome present” to the church and another to support the town Schoolhouse Number 7. Today, that fund is called the Amos Fortune Fund to support projects including public speaking contests and special publications. The Jaffrey Public Library administers the Fund, using the income to develop and distribute educational materials about Amos Fortune.
Archival documents attest to Fortune’s literacy, professional skills, community position, and financial success. The Rev. Laban Ainsworth wrote the epitaphs on Amos’ and Violate’s headstones when they passed away a year apart. He wrote, “to the memory of Amos Fortune, who was born free in Africa, a slave in America, he purchased Liberty, professed Christianity, lived reputably, and died hopefully, November 17, 1801, AEt. 91.” And of Violate Anisworth wrote, “to the memory of Violate, by sale the slave of Amos Fortune, by marriage his wife, by her fidelity, his friend and solace, she died his widow, September 13, 1802, AEt. 73.”