Manchester’s ‘neglected’ Black history to be showcased in new project

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Sign proposed to stand at Elm and Manchester streets.

MANCHESTER, NH – A new project spearheaded by a local historian and former Manchester fire captain will teach residents about the Queen City’s often overlooked Black history. 

Stan Garrity, a commissioner in the Manchester Heritage Commission for the past three years, has taken it upon himself to research as much as he can find about the history of Black residents, Black slaves, and those who helped conduct escaped slaves to freedom over 160 years ago.

“The goal is to get some historical markers around town to mark this,” Garrity said.

One of the first historical markers to be approved and funded is about Ann Bamford, an Irish immigrant and widow who, while living with her daughter Ellen and son-in-law Warren Green at a home on 44 Manchester St., made a huge impact. 

According to Garrity’s research, Bamford gave refuge to 42 escaped slaves between 1842 and 1858 as a part of the Underground Railroad, the secret network of abolitionists and former slaves that hid and delivered escaped slaves to freedom. Garrity said Bamford and the Greens would hide the freedom-seekers sometimes for days at a time before they likely moved on to other safe houses which have been lost to history, perhaps in Hooksett or Concord. 

Due to the secrecy of the network, much information about who was involved in the Underground Railroad is still unknown. 

Garrity was first informed about Bamford through an old news article a fellow historian pointed him to, printed on Oct. 20, 1902, in the Manchester Mirror and Manchester American newspapers. Garrity then researched for primary and secondary sources that confirmed as much of what the article claimed as he could.

“So I had to confirm everything that was in that newspaper article, which I was able to do,” Garrity said.

The historical marker sign will be installed at the corner of Manchester and Elm streets. It will describe the story of Bamford, with a QR code that will link readers to all of Garrity’s source materials online. 

In a letter of support for the project to city officials, Manchester Historic Association Research and Facilities Manager Daniel Peters said Garrity followed best practices when researching the subject. 

“I am proud to have worked with Stan in support of telling one of the neglected histories of Mancehster, NH’s ethnic communities,” Peters said.

Garrity declined to speculate as to why this area of Manchester history has been neglected over the years, but he said there are many stories to find if folks look for them.

The home which served as a safe house for the Black people escaping bondage is no longer there. Garrity said it was located where a parking garage now sits behind the 110 Grill on Elm Street. 

Bamford emigrated from Ireland to Canada with her husband and came to New Hampshire from Canada, where she had children and became a widow. Warren Green was a Civil War veteran. 

The people hiding in her house were bound for Canada, since slavery was still legal in New Hampshire until the legislature criminalized it and granted suffrage to Black men in 1857. The Thirteenth Amendment would be passed seven years later.

Bamford lived to see the New Hampshire law passed, and died in 1863, after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. She is buried at the Piscataquog Cemetery in Manchester.

“So her work was done,” Garrity said.

In February, Garrity’s research was used to celebrate Fannie Lee Roper, the first Black woman to graduate from Manchester high schools.

After the Bamford sign, Garrity hopes to have his next project focus on Cornelius Thornton, 1841-1865, a young Black man who was smuggled to freedom in New Hampshire by two Civil War soldiers as a boy.