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The site is along the Saugus River and was found by referencing historical documents including deeds and maps. Historical accounts document that King Pompey’s home was along a river in a serene and peaceful setting. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

SCIENCE & TECH: Long-Lost Home of King Pompey Unearthed in New Hampshire Dig

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Archaeologists from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and a historian from Northeastern University have collaborated to reveal what they believe is the long-lost homestead of King Pompey. Pompey was an enslaved African who gained his freedom and became one of the first Black property owners in colonial New England. Pompey Mansfield’s home has been a historical enigma. The discovery, located on the banks of the Saugus River, could provide a profound glimpse into the life of this esteemed community leader.

“We are thrilled,” expressed Meghan Howey, professor of anthropology at UNH. “I’m extremely confident this is a foundation from the 1700s and everything that points to this being the home of King Pompey is very compelling.”, records a release by University of New Hampshire.

The site is along the Saugus River and was found by referencing historical documents including deeds and maps. Historical accounts document that King Pompey’s home was along a river in a serene and peaceful setting. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University)

Piecing Together the Past

Kabria Baumgartner, dean’s associate professor of history and Africana studies at Northeastern University, reflected on the significance of the find, according to their report:

“King Pompey was an esteemed leader in the Black community, but his home and property have always been a mystery. To be on site and see this revealed has been exciting.”

The research team, including an archaeologist, Alyssa Moreau and community historian Diane Fiske with UNH’s Great Bay Archaeological Survey, spent months meticulously examining public records, deeds, and genealogical records. They used historical maps, contemporary LIDAR-derived topographic maps, probate records, and historical newspapers to pinpoint the location.

The archeological team from both the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University at the dig site along the Saugus River. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University)

The archeological team from both the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University at the dig site along the Saugus River. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University)

The Significance of Black Election Day

Historical accounts depict King Pompey as a prominent figure who purchased land, built a stone house in Lynn, and hosted free and enslaved Blacks on “Black Election Day,” also known as “Negro Election Day.”

This annual event, marked by dancing and singing based on West African traditions, was a significant celebration for Black communities in colonial New England. It coincided with the day white men voted for their leaders, and the highlight was the election and crowning of a Black king who played a crucial role in community matters.

The archaeological team uncovered a foundation made of river rocks, consistent with historical descriptions. They excavated through various layers, including trash, concrete, and mortar, to reach the 1700s structure. The discovery of a handmade pebble foundation without quarry rock demonstrated resourcefulness and aligns with the limited resources available to Pompey.

Kabria Baumgartner, dean’s associate professor of history and Africana studies, works on the site of what archeologists believe is the home of King Pompey. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University)

Kabria Baumgartner, dean’s associate professor of history and Africana studies, works on the site of what archeologists believe is the home of King Pompey. (Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University)

A Glimpse into King Pompey’s World

Baumgartner shared her excitement about the discovery. “It’s rare for me to get a chance to be on the site of a discovery, and thanks to Meghan and her team’s archaeological work, we get a better sense of King Pompey’s world. It was just as described, serene and peaceful.”

The researchers hope to collaborate with the National Park Service to establish a historical marker honoring King Pompey and to create exhibits that share the story and significance of Black Election Day. The project was funded by the New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) and Northeastern University.

The University of New Hampshire, a Carnegie Classification R1 institution, continues to inspire innovation and transform lives through its top-ranked programs and significant research partnerships, further exploring and defining the frontiers of land, sea, and space.

Top image: Members of the multi-institutional team at the dig site of what is believed to be the home of King Pompey.    Source: Mathew Modoono/Northeastern University

By Gary Manners





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