“He is a person of very ill fame”: New-England Runaways, 1755-1768


Author: Boyle, Joseph Lee
Publication Date: 2021
Pages: viii, 410 pp.
ISBN: 9780806359182

Item #: 8153 Categories: , , ,


This work marks Joseph Lee Boyle’s second volume of colonial New England runaways, as identified in contemporary newspaper ads. (The first volume covered the period 1704-1754.) The majority of the individuals in this compilation are runaway servants and slaves, but a number are runaway apprentices and military deserters, with horse thieves, counterfeiters, burglars, jail breakers, an occasional murderer, supposedly errant spouses, and other lowlifes represented.

Some, though not all, of Mr. Boyle’s runaways are well described. For example, Deserter Benjamin Furrow was missing the thumb of his left hand; John Nicholas “has a large scar on the forehead between him eyes, which he says was made with a cutlass”; and John Rimner was “marked and scarred very much with the King’s Evil under his Chin and on his Neck.”

In compiling the present work, Mr. Boyle examined 25 newspapers from New England to Maryland. Each ad conveys a number of details about the runaway and his/her master, including names and aliases of the runaway, physical description, personality quirks if any, location in New England (including the future states of Vermont and Maine), and where to contact the advertiser. In all, this book contains about 1,500 runaway ads and names over 3,000 persons with connections to colonial New England.

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