Once-Forgotten Revolutionary Fighters Were Also Slaves & Later Free, But Marginalized
Parting Ways community was the home of four African-American Revolutionary War veterans: Prince Goodwin, Cato Howe, Quamony Quash, and Plato Turner, who were most or all slaves during that war. Quamony Quash served in the war from 1780-1783, but was not emancipated by Theophilus Cotton until 1781. Quash’s parents and more of Turner’s family also lived there.
Parting Ways is named for the fork in the road leading from Plymouth to either Plympton or Carver. In 1792 the Town of Plymouth granted approximately 94 acres those four former slaves and veterans of our independence – in return for clearing the land. The early community apparently grew to 106 acres. The place was, in fact called New Guinea at that time, which James Deetz notes is a common racial tag applied to African-American freeperson communities. According to Hutchins-Keim, the location was earlier occupied by Euro-Americans in the Fuller family.
Cato Howe enlisted as a private in Colonel John Bailey’s regiment and fought under Colonel Prescott at the iconic Battle of Bunker Hill, but there is little record of him even so. African-Americans in Massachusetts lived as “chattel and property” of Euro-American owners, without rights of any kind. Slavery was the status of 572 African-American soldiers and veterans, leaving one to wonder at the depth of their patriotism.
From 1783 to 1792, there are no records yet found about Howe, but on March 12 of that year, Plymouth council granted land “about 20 rods wide and about a mile and a half long on the easterly side of the sheep pasture, to such persons as will clear the same in the term of three years.” Howe, Goodwin, Turner and Quamany took up that task.
Here, the question of Quamony’s origins must be called forth. Quamany Quash is a name that escapes documentation on origin so far. Quamany/Quamony/Quameny/ Quaman is a surname that attaches to mostly African-American individuals as far as my searches have found; people in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York, (Cherokee) Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts from Revolutionary times until the late 1800s. More than one person first or last name of Quamony served in the Revolutionary War. Quaman may be a separate name as opposed to a cognate of Quamony, but it is grouped by genealogists. The Quaman surname clearly clusters around Indigenous communities.
Another person named Quash and noted as a slave appears in records in the North Quabbin area of Western Massachusetts. Quamany fits a form applied historically to some Indigenous Lenape names, where the ending “-manend” is changed to “many” as in Tamanend = Tamany. This person may or may not be of mixed Indigenous and African origin, a question that has also been raised in regard to Crispus Attucks, another Revolutionary hero of possibly mixed origin.
Yoruba Legacy Materializes at Turner-Burr House
James Deetz investigation and report at University of Illinois -
At The Turner-Burr house, the footprint of Yoruba legacy appears to manifest. The cellar was designed according to the African custom of 12-foot-square modules, Deetz said. The above-ground areas of the home, meanwhile, displayed quintessential New England features, including a 16-foot-square dimension.
Compare the floor plans of the houses appearing at the head of this article:
The first, at right, is the floor plan of a contemporaneous Yoruba house of present-day Nigeria; middle is a Shotgun house in Haiti; left is the Turner-Burr house foundation. By contrast, typical contemporaneous Anglo-American house has a central hall-and-parlor floor plan.
We could perhaps learn a great deal more if we preserved and studied more historically black communities of this period. Detailed studies of diet and social life can tell us more about legacy connections. Preservation of these spaces are needed to provide a physical archive and experience.
The lives of veteran former slave freepersons at New Guinea-come-Parting Ways was not easy. There were few options available to non-Whites, a situation that has persisted until recently.
From the Deetz investigation come details of Howe’s material life - read more at:
https://www.ethicarch.org/today-in-ma under "Black History (and Archaeology): "New Guinea - Parting Ways" and Blacks Who Freed America."