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‘The Deepest, Darkest Corner of History’
Frozen Love by Vincent C. Spiotti in Muzzleoader Magazine, November/December 2016

Joseph Whipple, brother of Continental Army General William Whipple had been the tax Collector for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the owner of a large household staff of servants, decided to move inland when war broke out with England. He also found it necessary to release all of his servants but one, Nancy Barton, a beautiful girl who the Whipple’s loved like a daughter and expressed an interest in adopting.

The author of this muzzleloader entry does not seem to understand the dynamics of servitude and refers to Nancy as an employee. She was, however, only an employee in the last stages of her relationship with the Whipples. When released, a servant might be hired on for a task-by-task basis and might be called a “hired man” or an employee. We might want to consider that the English term employee derives from the French “to use.”

Nancy was of above average intelligence and witty. Once, a laborer, named Wiggins, who Whipple had once employed and released for drunkenness, brought some Indian friends to the Whipple Homestead and planned on taking the Whipples captive and giving them to the British in Canada. Nancy, however, played along as a friendly girl and got the entire gang so drunk that they passed out, which enabled her to release the Whipples from their basement prison and turn the tables on the drunks.

Nancy—incorrectly identified as still being a servant in this article—had saved money in hopes of starting her own life. Despite the offer of the Whipples to steer her through society as an adopted daughter, she fell in love with a skilled and smooth-talking hired hand by the name of Kit Farleigh. It is of great interest that Joseph Whipple had turned his back on the business of holding servants at all and also kept a house in the nearby town of Lancaster in which his cast-off servants lived, ailing and in old age, with no income. After moving from Portsmouth, he employed hired hands and looked after his former property. If one could go back in time to speak with this good Christian landowner—one of the few—this writer thinks we might be treated to a talk with a real emancipationist.

Not liking this Kit fellow and suspecting he coveted Nancy’s money and not her love, Mister Whipple sent Nancy off to care for his former servants in late autumn. But Nancy had already made plans to leave with Kit and marry. Towards this end she foolishly gave him her saving for safekeeping and as she did her nursing in Lancaster he left. On her return, unable to believe he would leave her, she went off on her own to follow him through Crawford Notch, never to be heard of a again, until hunters found her frozen to death beneath a tree where she had huddled in a blizzard. This moment was immortalized by the artist Samuel Adams Drake in his 1882 illustration The Heart of the White Mountains.

Of Kit Farleigh, if that was his a real name, nothing is known. He was an army deserter, most likely, in an age when a man without money or a freedom pass could be jailed and sold for seven years for the crime of walking the earth.

As for Nancy, something about her servitude, her years before her release and retention as a hired maid, must have placed a yearning for freedom in her soul that outshone any of the comfort or safety offered by life spent with the kind Whipples.

And what of the acrimonious Wiggins, a free man embittered toward a man of the landed class, no doubt based on his living of a youth as a bought and sold commodity. Rather than sainted martyrs, many a servant man emerged from a youth of slavery as embittered and dysfunctional as any modern man having spent his formative years in corrections facilities.

But to this researcher, as sad as Nancy’s plight was, her woe pales in comparison to the cast-off servants whom the Whipples released into a closed labor market, as they kept the ‘pick of the litter.” Even the wealthy did not have a lot of cash and the cost of a day’s free labor was more than ten times the cost of the labor of a servant one owned. In this way, the cruel practice of putting an old negro slave in an unheated hut in the winter woods to starve or die of exposure was preceded in the fate of cast-off servants, who were now too old to find employment in a world where an employee cost more than ten servants by the day.

As we look into the cruelly shackled lives of our servant forbearers—for the vast majority of modern humans had slave ancestors—we might want to consider one of the servant’s or slave’s greatest fears, that her master would no longer have any need of her.

Perhaps Nancy’s nursing assignment brought home to her that she too, was ultimately disposable in a debt-based world and that somewhere over that mountain waited that man who had promised to take her away from life as she knew it.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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