Jubal Martin’s Farm

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

There is a lot we don’t know about Jubal Martin. He may have been born in Exeter – or maybe not. There doesn’t seem to be a record of his birth in New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts. The first written record we have is his name, recorded as “Jubil Martin, negro man” on the roster of Captain Stephen Clark’s Company in 1775. This small group of men guarded Piscataqua Harbour for one month at the very beginning of the war. Martin doesn’t appear on any other Revolutionary War veterans’ lists. At the time of his death in 1825, he was said to be 69 years old, which would give him a birth year of 1756 and would make him 19 years old at the time of his brief military service. After that, we hear nothing about Jubal Martin until he purchases land in Exeter in 1809.

Exeter had a sizeable Black population after the American Revolution. Formerly enslaved veterans who’d served three years in the continental army received their freedom automatically. And, although there were still enslaved people living in town, many people were freed under the heady influence of the Declaration of Independence. We haven’t been able to uncover Jubal Martin’s status. His lack of military service seems to indicate that he didn’t need to fight for freedom, but whether he was free-born or manumitted we simply do not know. The records don’t seem to exist. As hard as it is for a historian to accept, it was possible for people to be born, married and deceased without a written record. Many of the known African American families in Exeter lacked this type of documentation rendering their part in Exeter’s story nearly invisible.

But Jubal Martin was not ordinary. Most of Exeter’s Black population found it difficult to rise above subsistence level economically. Jubal Martin, in 1809, paid $999.00 cash in hand – an extraordinary amount of money for anyone at the time – to Charlotte Hamilton to purchase his farm just off Epping Road on the border with Brentwood. His purchase included 66 acres of land and partial ownership of a farmhouse and barns. Over the next decade, Martin would increase his holdings to 80 acres of land, renting other pieces as he needed. He first appears on the Exeter census in 1820, at which time he’s listed as the head of the household that included two women of color - perhaps a wife and daughter – and an unknown white man, who was most likely a hired hand.

We find out more about Martin and his family only after his death. The Rockingham Gazette noted his death had occurred “In this town, Mr. Jubal Martin, a respectable colored man, aged 69.” Decades later, some of Exeter’s white residents would recall that Jubal Martin owned a “small farm” off Epping Road. After his death, it was disclosed that Martin had died intestate, that is, without any type of will. This created a huge problem for his heirs, but is helpful for our distant need for his story. His estate had to go to probate court, all his possessions had to be appraised and listed and his heirs listed. We discover his wife, named Patience Martin, petitioned the court for her dower rights. She signed the request with an “X.” We never find the signature of their daughter, Mary, but having grown up near an Exeter school house, she may have had more education than her mother. Martin’s estate included his land, valued at $199.65 and buildings worth $800.00. He had a yoke of oxen and a yoke of steers 3 years old. There were also two cows and 2 calves, 2 ½ tons of “good hay” and 4 tons of “mean hay.” His house was furnished with “6 fan back chairs” “bed and bedding” “1 grate coat” and “1 long coat.” Oddly missing are any household goods – perhaps these were considered his wife’s property. His house, when purchased, was subdivided. Patience, upon settlement of the estate, was granted only partial occupancy, “including the right of passage and repassage to and from it by and through the front entry,” and “the use of one undivided half of the kitchen and oven and one undivided half of the scullery for all such purposes as kitchens and scullerys are commonly used.” Her request included land that could generate rental payments and she was granted 22 acres. The remainder of the estate, estimated at a value worth $2000.00 in total, was auctioned to pay lingering debt that including taxes, probate and lawyer fees.

Patience Martin remained on the homestead for the remainder of her life. She died in 1858. The Exeter News-Letter noted her passing, “In this town, Patience, relict of the late Jubal Martin, (colored) aged about 95.” After her death, Mary tried to live in their home, but eventually sold the land and without any income, entered the Rockingham County Farm as a pauper. She died there in 1871, the last member of the family of Jubal Martin.

As Exeter updates its roads and lanes to avoid confusing duplicate names, tiny Pine Road where Jubal Martin lived, will be renamed in his honor at the request of its current residents. Jubal Martin’s days of invisibility will be over. Barbara Rimkunas is curator of the Exeter Historical Society. Support the Exeter Historical Society by becoming a member! Join online at: www.exeterhistory.org


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