The Setting of the Freeman Headstones


On Wednesday the 5th of October the restored Freeman headstones were set in the Freeman family burial plot in Gloucester’s West Parish Bray Cemetery (375 Essex Ave.), a city-owned cemetery.  These stones mark the only known surviving graves of free African Americans who lived in Gloucester during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Each of the Freeman stones is signed by its stone carver.  One restored marble headstone pays respect to the free Black man Robert Freeman, a prosperous and respected landowner and farmer of West Parish and Robert’s two wives, Rhoda and Lucretia who were Black and free women.  Rhoda Freeman died in 1829, Lucretia Freeman died in 1851 and Robert Freeman died in 1854.

The other restored marble headstone marks the passing of Robert and Rhoda’s son, Robert Freeman, Junior, a landowner and mariner.  He died in 1860 leaving behind a wife and children.

The house and surrounding land of what is now known in Gloucester as the Wellspring House (302 Essex Ave) was the Freeman’s family home for at least 130 years.

Under the direction of the DPW Director Mike Hale, the City has significantly increased its commitment to the maintenance and preservation of the city-owned cemeteries.  The mission of the city-owned Cemeteries Advisory Committee (CCAC), a subset of the Gloucester DPW, is to preserve, rehabilitate, and restore the many threatened historical grave sites as well as the public landscapes in Gloucester's city-owned cemeteries.

CCAC and Wellspring House partnered in applying and receiving a grant from New England Biolabs Social Justice Philanthropy Team in 2021, which paid for the headstones’ restoration. Wellspring House has also established an initiative to research and compile the full history of the Freeman family (more to come on this!) 

Restoration of the two Freeman gravestones and their burial site establishes a permanent physical tribute to the accomplishments of a respected and prosperous African American family who lived in West Parish Gloucester for over 130 years. 

~Submitted by Laurie Moon-Schmorrow

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