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The Remarkable Life and Tragic Fate of Timothy Blanchard

Published Tuesday May 16, 2023

Author JerriAnne Boggis, Black Heritage Trail of NH

The Remarkable Life and Tragic Fate of Timothy Blanchard

Timothy Blanchard, born in Wilton in 1791, the eighth of ten children, was not yet 21 when his father, George Blanchard, turned over to him management of his veterinary practice and land holdings.

Although his father was still alive at the time of the 1820 federal census, “Timo Blanchard” was listed as head of the household of six, including a number of “free people other than Indians.” Blanchard property had for many years served as a place of refuge for a small rural community of free African Americans.

At least three of George Blanchard’s children attended public school in Milford – Timothy and two of his younger sisters. That was unusual for Blacks. As an adult, Timothy leased land for construction of a schoolhouse, eventually called the P.F. Shedd School.

Blanchard married a white Milford woman, Dorcas Hood, about two weeks before his father died in 1824. They began a family, and Blanchard took up buying and selling land as well as opening a cooperage (barrel building shop) on the farm. The Panic of 1837 may have hurt him, as it did many land speculators. That same year, he sold his farm to Mary and Peter Shedd of Massachusetts.

Although he moved his operations to another location, Blanchard started putting up parcels of land for collateral loans, apparently in an attempt to cover outstanding debts.

Two days after his forty-eighth birthday, October 3, 1839, Timothy Blanchard died from an unknown cause. He left behind a pregnant widow and five children — George Walter, 14; Tim, Jr., 12; Sara Malysa, 9; Elizabeth, 5; and James, about a year old.

Milford farmer Moses Foster, Jr. was appointed guardian of all the children except the oldest.

Since Blanchard died without a will, the court also appointed Foster and two other Milford men to take an inventory of the estate. The inventory takes up most of three double-columned ledger pages and indicates, despite financial troubles, the family had lived comfortably.

That relative comfort soon disappeared. Foster started selling off portions of the remaining landholdings to support the family. According to records, thirteen acres went to Foster himself.

The family home remained in the hands of the administrators, although Dorcas Blanchard received her dower rights in the family homestead. Her allowed use of parts of the property was noted in detail, including “…the privilege of passing and repassing to and from said woodlot without intruding in crops of grain; also the privilege of using the barn floor for threshing and cutting hay and harvesting grain; also the privilege of using the well of water and passing to and from it by the west end of the house standing on the north side of road.”

The funds to support the children soon ran out, possibly due to the administrators’ negligence, greed, or deliberate mismanagement.

Dorcas Blanchard soon married a much younger farmer, Luther Elliot, from the nearby town of Mason. He did not welcome her mixed-race children. Although the record is silent, it seems that Dorcas abandoned her six children, the youngest barely a toddler.

The two oldest sons are noted in the 1850 census as working as farm laborers for their Milford grandfather Joseph Hood. The two daughters were adopted by their aunts in Salem, Massachusetts. It’s unclear what happened to the two youngest Blanchard children.

Jerrianne Boggis is an author and executive director of The Black Heritage Trail of NH. 

This article is part of an ongoing series aimed at highlighting and honoring the stories of notable Black historical figures and families who helped shape NH and Maine. These stories were originally collected by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire for a project with the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire. Stories are being shared with the partners in The Granite State News Collaborative."

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