Documenting Duxbury’s Black Heritage: 35 Pine Hill Lane

On May 17, 1843, Mary Cushman wrote her husband, Capt. David Cushman, “Mr. W is building a new house for Black Bill & Frank (by the way, Frank has got him a wife) it stands or rather it is going to stand back of the Widow Peterson’s.” The house Mary Cushman was referring to is the double house at 35 Pine Hill Lane. 

35 Pine Hill Lane, Duxbury, MA. Built by Gershom B. Weston in 1843

“Mr. W” was Gershom Bradford Weston, easily one of the wealthiest men town. He was the son of Ezra “King Caesar” Weston, II and in 1843 was the co-owner of the Weston fleet of merchant vessels, along with his two brothers. Gershom’s estate was on St. George Street and included a grand house that would one day be known as the Wright Estate (torn down in the 1960s to make was for Duxbury High School). Weston employed a number of staff, including African Americans, Bill Sherburne (coach driver) and Frank Pride. It was for them that he built a house on his property. The house remained as part of the Weston and later, Wright, estates before being separated out in the mid-20th century.

Frank Pride, c. 1890

Frank Pride, Jr. (1818-1896) was born in Salem, MA, the son of Frank Pride, a sailor from Kingston, and Mary Munson of Salem. On April 2, 1843 he married his first wife, Ann Benson of Framingham – it is Ann that Mary Cushman is referring to in her letter. Although no death record has been found for her, she must have passed prior to 1849, when Frank married his second wife, an Irish immigrant named Bridget Galvin. Frank and Bridget later purchased their own cottage on Powder Point Ave. There is only one account that mentions the Pride’s interracial marriage, in a reminiscence of her childhood in Duxbury, Mary Chilton Steele wrote, “the strangeness of a marriage between a white woman and a colored man never seemed to have received comment or notice.” They had no children. Frank appears as a farmer or farm laborer on most census records.

William H. Sherburne (1814-1862) was born in Charlestown,MA. In 1843 he was already married to Hannah Fuller (1821-1845) and his second child was on the way. Hannah was another member of Duxbury’s black community- she was the daughter of David Fuller and Hannah Williams. Prior to her marriage she had worked for the Ford family, the owners of Ford’s Store, where she helped take care of their children. After William and Hannah married, they built their own home own home at 1112 Tremont Street, but sold that property in 1842. Sadly, Hannah died in 1845 of consumption at age 23, leaving William with two little daughters, Hannah and Ann. She is buried behind what was then the Methodist Church on Washington Street. Her epitaph reads, “my husband and my children dear, I now can leave without a tear.” William remarried in 1849, perhaps a cousin of his first wife, Mary Ann Williams, and had three more children. 

A sad occurrence happened to the Sherburne family in 1856 (they may not longer have been living at 35 Pine Hill at the time). According to Ruth Ann Ford, “[Hannah] married William [Sherburne] the black coachman of Gershom B. Weston who lived not far away. She lived several years then died of consumption, like so many of her people, leaving two little children. It is sad to remember the dreadful fate of the little girl who was burned to death, having been left in the house with a fire by a step mother whom we feared was not kind to these children. This little Annie is sorrowful remembrance to me as I watched her lingering between life and death in her agony.”

The Boston Herald reported on Friday, Feb. 1, 1856,
“On Monday night about 10 o’clock, Miss Sherburne, daughter of W. H. Sherburne, of Duxbury, after retiring for the night got up and went to the closet for some food, and while there accidentaly caught her night clothes on fire and was burnt so badly, that she died about six hours.” 

It is quite possible that David Fuller (1788-1870), the father of the aforementioned Hannah Fuller Sherburne, also resided for a time at 35 Pine Hill. The 1850 Cenus Record shows him living next door to Gershom B. Weston, which would have been the right location for the house. David Fuller (1788-1870) was married to his third wife, Sylvia Prince, at that point. There is more to be said about Sylvia Prince in a future post.