the Dodges and Chance Bradstreet
The Dodges and Chance Bradstreet had to decide what the Revolution’s ideals of liberty and rights meant for them.
In 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution, an enslaved fourteen-year-old named Chance came to this house to work for the house’s new owner, Abraham Dodge, and his family. Abraham bought the house after returning from the battlefield in a war for independence from Britain.
Seeking liberty during the turmoil of war and its aftermath involved risk for New Englanders—men and women, black and white—as they sought to broaden the promise of the Revolution in different ways. The outcomes were not at all certain.
It’s 1777 . . . in the midst of the American Revolution
An enslaved fourteen-year-old named Chance has been brought here to work for the house’s new owner, patriot Abraham Dodge, his wife, and teenaged daughter and son. Slavery is legal in Massachusetts, but everything is in flux and talk of liberty is in the air.
What will independence mean for Chance and for the Dodges?
Abraham Dodge, a ship captain and maritime trader, leased Chance from Rev. Isaac Story of Marblehead, the minister who owned him. The twelve-year term of Chance’s lease bound him to this house until he was twenty-seven years old.
What kind of work did Chance likely do?
In the house
- Carry wood
- Make fires
- Empty chamber pots
- Sweep floors and chimneys
- Run errands
In Abraham’s fields
- Plow and plant
- Hoe garden rows
- Harvest crops
- Haul manure
- Chop wood
- Mend fences
On the waterfront
- Push wheelbarrows of fish
- Shovel salt (for preserving cod)
- Tend to fish drying on fish flakes
Although a small percentage of the population, enslaved people were everywhere in New England. They worked as household servants, skilled craftsmen, farm laborers, and sailors—and they lived in close proximity to white colonists, often in the same house.