Archaeologists Uncovered Long-Lost Homestead of King Pompey

Long-lost homestead of King Pompey unearthed by archaeologists
Long-lost homestead of King Pompey unearthed by archaeologists. Credit: Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Archaeologists from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and a historian from Northeastern University have discovered what they believe to be the long-lost homestead of King Pompey.

He was an African who was once enslaved but gained his freedom. Later, he became one of the first Blacks to own property in colonial New England, according to UNH.

“We are thrilled,” said Meghan Howey, professor of anthropology and director of the University of New Hampshire’s Center for the Humanities. “I’m extremely confident this is a foundation from the 1700s and everything that points to this being the home of King Pompey is very compelling.”

“King Pompey was an esteemed leader in the Black community but his home and property have always been a mystery,” said Kabria Baumgartner, dean’s associate professor of history and Africana studies at Northeastern University.

“I spend a lot of time in archives looking at written materials, so to be on site and see this revealed has been exciting,” Kabria Baumgartner further stated.

King Pompey lived there with his wife over 260 years ago

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University teamed up and pooled their resources to uncover what they think is Pompey Mansfield’s homestead. They focused their efforts on the Saugus River, where Pompey lived with his wife Phylis (also known as Phebe) more than 260 years ago.

Historical records describe him as a respected leader in the community. He purchased land, erected a stone house in Lynn, and held gatherings on “Black Election Day” for both free and enslaved Black individuals from the area.

To locate the homestead, the archaeological team, including Alyssa Moreau and historian Diane Fiske from UNH’s Great Bay Archaeological Survey, spent months examining public records, deeds, and genealogical records.

They compared old maps with modern LIDAR maps and cross-checked them with probate records and historical newspapers. This thorough research helped them identify key landmarks and narrow down the exact area, according to UNH.

Foundation made of river rocks found

In a trench dug four feet deep, the team found a foundation made of river rocks just as it was described in historical records. They dug through newer layers of foundations built in later times to reach the ones from the 1700s.

Underneath layers of trash, concrete, and mortar, they discovered a layer of small, smooth stones taken from the nearby river. These stones were carefully shaped and stacked together. This was a common way for people with few resources to build homes back then.

“The big find was the handmade pebble foundation without quarry rock,” said Howey “That showed determination and ingenuity. And then the compelling match of the historical descriptions, the bend in the river, marshy meadow, oak trees. While not everything in history is written down, or even written down correctly, when it comes to what people leave behind, they don’t edit their trash.”

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