Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Peter Tumber (Tumbo) Revolutionary War Veteran and former Slave

February marks "Black History Month," though history has no month as evidenced by the ongoing research on Peter Tumber. CHS would like to see a grave marker for the Tumber family, including honoring Peter Tumber as a Revolutionary War veteran. However we need more information in order to secure a marker. 

If you have any information on Peter Tumber (Tumbo) or his family, please send it to CHS, PO Box 472, Cavendish VT 05142 or e-mail or call 802-226-7807.

In 2016, Margo Caulfield wrote the story Safe at Last in Cavendish based on factual information about Cavendish's abolitionist history as well as stories told of a former runaway slave.  The story resulted in Margo, Sandy Stearns and Linda Welch all doing research for records that could verify who Peter Tumber was, where he lived, where he is buried and what aspects of his story might still exist. Below is the result of this investigation to date.

Sandy and Margo were able to verify the following:
• Peter Tumbo (referred to in legal documents as Peter Tumber) purchased land from Lake and Zilpah Coffeen in 1805. In 1823 this land was transferred to Cavendish. Source: Cavendish Town Records

• On Jan 30, 1832, Peter Tumbo, “colored man”, aged 106 died in Cavendish, VT. Source: “The Vermont Watchman & State Gazette” as well as “The Liberator,” an abolitionist newspaper printed from 1831-1865.

• In 1850, Charlotte Tumber filed a petition with the US Government for her father’s pension. Could this have been for service in the Revolutionary War? From subsequent documentation found by Linda Welch, it does appear that he was a veteran. Source: Cavendish Town Records & Pension Clam for Prince Robinson and his wife Ann.

• Estimated to have been born in 1804 in Windsor, VT, Charlotte Tumber was born to Peter and Philasta Source: Charlotte’s Death Certificate from Reading, VT

• According to records from the Dedham Historical Society & Museum’s, “The Diary of Nathaniel Ames of Dedham Massachusetts 1758-1822, a Peter Tumbo or Tumber worked for Dr. Ames. A “Free Negro of Roxbury” as Dr. Ames subtitled him on his ledger account: married at Dedham (1780) Phyllis Vaughn: multiple children were delivered by Dr. Ames, according to his ledger, but most of said birth are (curiously) recorded in neither Dedham nor Roxbury: Peter’s medical account runs from 1781 to 1795 and payment were made in ditching, cutting wood, mowing, planting, weeding corn, “dressin 11 lb. of flax,” etc. The Dedham Board of Selectmen issued a warrant 3/25/1795 to have him, his wife and his children warned out.” This same Peter Tumbo (Tumber) appears to have served in the Continental Army for three years, mustering out of Dedham, MA. Boston Globe “Recalling Black Role in Revolution”

• According to Mary Churchill, the author of “Cemeteries of Cavendish, Vermont 1776-1976 Bicentennial Project,” her father Walton Green, related the following information “In the Coffeen Cemetery are buried Capt. John Coffeen and wife and several others. 2 others are Charlotte Tumbo, an escaped slave who first settled on the road through the Densmore (Cady) back pasture, and her sister are buried thereTo date, we have been unable to locate a death certificate for Peter Tumber or his wife and no information about the burials of any of the Tumber family. 

In May 2016, Linda Welch sent the following information from:
The Revolutionary War pension claim of Prince Robinson and his wife Ann, which provides more information about Peter Tumber.

Prince Robinson was a private in Capt. John Wait's Co. Col. Green's Reg't. "The Black Regiment." the Regiment was "cut up" at Crumpond / Crampton and was transferred into a White Regiment commanded by Colonel Olney of Rhode Island. Prince was placed on the pension rolls in 1802. 

Applied at Rutland 10 April 1819. "Prince Robinson, a Negro. He rec'd wounds in the war. He had lived in Rutland for 6 yrs. previous to this Burlington, Vt. For 4 yrs. past he was totally blind. He was inscribed on the roll of Vermont at $5 per month to commence 1 Jan. 1803, increased to $8 per month by law of 24 April 1816.  Attorney James Cheney, Esq., Rutland, Vt.  

Ann Robinson, his widow applied 21 Jan. 1840 (aged 100 yrs.) She declared she was the widow of Prince Robinson who served as a soldier until the end of the War.  She married Prince Robinson at Flushing, Long Island, NY but could not remember the date. Prince Robinson d. in Rutland 29 March, 1830. 

Affidavit:  "I, Charlotte T. Tumbers of Cavendish, aged 33 years on 18 Jan. 1837. (She made her affidavit before Judge Calvin French of Proctorsville 7 July 1837.) "I am the youngest daughter of Peter Tumber and Phillis Tumber, deceased. I have known and been acquainted for many years with Prince Robinson, a Black man, late of Rutland and with his wife now is Widow Anna Robinson, now living in Rutland.

That my father and mother were both Black people; and I have often heard both, my father and Prince say that they were African-born and had been imported and sold as slaves in this Country before the Revolutionary War.

My father was last a slave to a Quaker by the name of Tripp, who gave my father his freedom when he supposed Tumber had arrived to the age of twenty-one year, which was soon after the war, and then he went to reside in Roxbury, Mass. [He married in Roxbury, Charlotte’s mother Philesta “ Philllis” Vaughan 24 Feb. 1780].

 I have often heard my parents say that Prince and his wife moved into Cavendish with them about 42 years ago (1795). Prince was lawfully married to Anna, his present widow, also a Black woman, during the Revolutionary War and I have always understood it was on Long Island. I have heard my father tell a great deal about a Mr. Clark, a justice of the Peace, who was said to have married Prince and Anna, that he knew Mr. Clark.

I have often heard both Prince and Ann tell the same story, that they were married while Prince was in the Army by the same Justice of the Peace, Mr. Clark. I have many times heard a great deal more from both of them about their service in the war. I have also heard Prince relate that he was to be free when the war closed, and that he was freed accordingly. I have no doubt that my father related the story of Prince and Anna's marriage from his knowledge of the fact; as he was always an upright and conscientious man, and would never assent anything that he did not know or believe to be true." [She signed her own name, which was very unusual for a Back woman in 1837]: Charlotte T. Tumber." 

Affidavit of Josiah French of Cavendish, 15 Sept. 1837: "I, Josiah French of Cavendish.. aged 72 yrs.  "I was acquainted with Peter Tumber, deceased for about 40 yrs. previous to his death which took place five or six years ago and during all the above time said Tumber was an inhabitant of the Town of Cavendish, and as I believe he was reputed to be a man of good moral character, and sustained a good reputation for truth and veracity. He was a very industrious man and had acquired a small property consisting of a farm of about 50 acres. He was a man of good natural abilities and intelligent for one of his grade. He was believed to have been a soldier in the American Army of the Revolution.  I further testify and say that I am acquainted with Charlotte T. Tumber, daughter of Peter Tumber and Phillis Tumber, have been acquainted with her for fifteen or twenty years. She has the reputation of a very honest person and a person of truth and veracity, sustaining a good moral character as for as I am informed. —Josiah French (before Calvin French, Justice). —

Affidavit of Jabez Proctor of Cavendish:,  "I, Jabez Proctor of Cavendish, aged fifty-seven years, do depose and testify: I was acquainted with Peter Tumber for about forty years previous to his death which took place five or six years ago and that he was during said period, a resident of Cavendish aforesaid. His general reputation for truth and veracity was good. His uniform moral character was considered good and he was not reputed as being in the habit of embellishing stories. I have understood from him and I should think from others, that he was a soldier in the American Army of the Revolutionary War.

Said Tumber did not draw a pension to my knowledge, having died near the passage of the Act of Congress of 7 June 1832, and could not, I suppose draw under the Act of March 18, 1818 in consequence of having acquired by industry, a small farm of about 50 acres of land and some stock and other property. He was an intelligent man for one in his grade and respected. I also further testify and say that for a number of years I have been somewhat acquainted with Charlotte T. Tumber and that so far as I am informed, she sustains a good moral character and was reputed as being a person of truth and veracity and further this deponent saith not. —Jabez Proctor (before Judge Calvin French).

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