Sarah “Sally” Bradford, the widow of Capt. Gershom Bradford and matriarch of the Bradford family on Tremont Street in Duxbury, died on October 10, 1861 at the age of 89. Her obituary appeared eight days later in the antislavery newspaper, The Liberator. In the short article, written by Charles K. Whipple, Sally is described as “a very old friend of the Anti-Slavery cause.” Along with her husband and daughters, she was one of the “earliest to embrace, and the most steadfast to hold, and the most diligent to diffuse the truths taught be the pioneers of abolitionism.” Indeed, this description of Sally is accurate, as the numerous letters and documents the Bradfords left behind bear out. With only one to two percent of the population in favor of emancipating Southern slaves, the Bradfords defied many of their friends and neighbors by actively supporting abolition. They circulated petitions to be sent to the State and Federal governments, raised money, attended conventions, disseminated literature and held offices in both the Old Colony and Duxbury Anti-Slavery Societies.
Within the obituary extolling the virtues of Sarah Bradford and her family, the author mentions something else – the Bradford House. It is described as “a center of reformatory action, and a chosen resting place, not only of anti-slavery, but various other departments of unpopular truths.” These words help us imagine the Bradford House as it must have been in the antebellum period, a place where the issues of the day were debated, ideas were discussed and the door was always open.
During this time the Bradford House accommodated a number of anti-slavery agents as they traveled and lectured on the South Shore. When free black abolitionist, Charles Lenox Remond, visited Duxbury in March, 1844 he remarked, “the kindness, goodness and hospitality of Capt. Bradford’s family will not be forgotten by us soon.” At least four other agents, including Abby Kelley Foster and Charles C. Burleigh, also spent spent time at the Bradford House. There may have been many more. A letter written to Lucia A. Bradford seems to suggest that the Bradford House was the de facto stopping place, i.e. “I see by the Liberator that the Old Colony Society were to have a meeting today in Plymouth…and that Sally Holley [abolitionist lecturer] is to be with you on the twelfth. I suppose she will stay at our house…”
There is much more to a house than walls, windows and doors. It is a place where events, both great and small, happen and lives are lived. The Liberator called Sally Bradford a “keeper of home.” Today, the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society is the keeper of that same home and is privileged to tell its history.
To learn more about the Bradford House, please visit http://www.duxburyhistory.org. The house is located at 931 Tremont Street, Duxbury, MA.