NPS Hampton NHS
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  • John and Sarah Willis

    John Willis was purchased in June 1775, one of eleven men and two women sold to Captain Ridgely from Captain Thomas Spencer's ship 'Elizabeth' from Bristol. A convict, Willis had been judged guilty of stealing chickens and transported from England the same year. He signed, with his mark, a receipt for his freedom dues on June 25, 1782. The mark showed that Willis was illiterate.

    John Willis was a weaver on the staff at the Northhampton Furnace. He produced cloth and stayed at Hampton after his term of indenture was over. A 'List of Hirelings at the Northampton Furnace enrolled on June 18, 1786' describes free families working at the furnace. Willis's family consisted of himself, age 40, his wife Sarah, age 38, and Sarah's son John Cook, age 8. Sarah contributed substantially to the family income by sewing. The Willises seem to have worked at Hampton into the 1790s.

    Go to Ironworks, Iron Chains to learn about the transition from indentured labor to enslaved labor at Hampton and the transition of the Lower House to the Overseer's House.