Abijah Prince

Abijah Prince is not listed in the 1791 VT census, but he was living in Guilford with his wife Lucy (Terry) Prince and their children at that time.  Abijah Prince was born in Connecticut in 1706, and was a servant in the family of Rev. Benjamin Doolittle, first settled minister in Northfield, MA, after whose death he was for some time in the service of Captain Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield.  In 1764, with his wife, Lucy, he settled on Lot No. 187 in Guilford.  The lot was given to ‘Bijah by Col. David Field of Deerfield, MA, who was one of the original proprietors of Guilford.  After the settlement they remained several years, but after a time returned to Guilford, where he died on 19 Jan. 1794, age 88 years.

Abijah and Lucy had six children:  the oldest, Caesar, born in 1756, came to Guilford in 1776, and was admitted to full communion in the Congregational Church at the old White Meeting House.  He removed to Sunderland, VT, where he died.  Duruxa, the second child, born 1758, died insane in Sunderland.  Drusella, born 1760, was a poetess, and died in 1854; Festus, born 1763, could play upon any musical instrument without instruction.  He went to New York and afterward to Dorset, VT where he died in 1818.  Tatnai, born 1765, lived with Capt. E. Hunt at Northfield, MA.  Abijah, born 1769, settled near Ballstown, NY.  Above information from Official History of Guilford, Vermont, 1678-1961, edited by Broad Brook Grange No. 151 (1961).

Lucy (Terry) Prince is best known as the author of the first poem composed by an African American woman.  She was born about 1724 and was stolen from Africa as an infant and sold to Ebenezer Wells of Deerfield, MA.  She was baptized during the Great Awakening, and at the age of 20, she was “admitted to the fellowship of the church.”  Although she was a poet, only one of her poems, a ballad called “Bars Fight,” has survived.

In 1756, Lucy Terry married Abijah Prince, a prosperous free black man who purchased her freedom.  She died in 1821 at the age of 97.

She was well known for her speaking ability and according to her 1821 obituary, “the fluency of her speech captivated all around her.”  She used her skills a number of times in defense of her family’s rights and property.  One time she argued a case in the Vermont Supreme Court against two of the leading lawyers in the state, and won.  Samuel Chase, the presiding justice of the Court, said that her argument was better than he’d heard from any Vermont lawyer.  Africans in America, Part 2, found online at www.pbs.org.

There are several other online articles about Abijah and Lucy Terry Prince, especially Lucy.