Plaque commemorating city’s first Black female land owner Samantha Plantin is ready to go, once the snow melts

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The house on Concord Street that still stands, owned by Samantha Plantin (inset), the daughter of enslaved parents. Photo Courtesy of Stan Garrity.

MANCHESTER, NH – The second in a series of plaques commemorating Manchester’s little-known Black history is just about ready to roll out. 

I’ve met with someone from parks and rec and I let the mayor know the location, outside the Hampshire Plaza. We had to look at the proximity to plows and clearance for snow removal, and I’ve spoken to Brady Sullivan, the property owner. We just have to wait for the snow to be done and we’ll be ready to go,” says local historian Stan Garrity. “There’s a lot of Black history in that location.”  

RELATED STORY ⇒ Black History in Manchester: Plaque retells city woman’s participation in Underground Railroad

This plaque honors the life of Samantha Plantin, believed to be the first Black female landowner in Manchester. Garrity has been researching Plantin’s life, which is an extraordinary story of hard work and achievement.

Plantin was born in about 1827 based on records available. Her mother, who had been enslaved, was freed and came to the “Live Free or Die” state to build a new life. Garrity could not find information on Plantin’s father.

“Once I learned about Samantha Plantin I knew I wanted to get her story out there, due to her amazing accomplishments,” says Garrity. The first plaque, which was placed on Elm Street in Feb. 2022, marks the place where it’s believed the Underground Railroad operated from a home on Manchester Street. It recognizes a white woman who assisted those who were enslaved to find their way to freedom.

Samantha Plantin

“This next plaque commemorates the life of a Black woman who established herself here as a notable citizen and land owner, rising out of a life of poverty,” Garrity says.

Plantin first appears in city records in 1844 working as a “washerwoman,” and as living at Stark Corporation. 

According to his research, Garrity says Plantin’s permanent record coincides with the arrival to Manchester of Andrew T. Foss, a member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (MASS) Business Committee, and pastor of New Boston Baptist Church. He would eventually become a nationally-known abolitionist, and while the paper trail is incomplete, the connections between the Plantins of New Boston and Foss are tangible. 

Samantha Plantin’s devotion to the church became a central theme, not only in her life but also in her hand-written last will and testament. Plantin did not marry or have children, so she had generously given to the church over her lifetime. In the end, she felt the church did not recognize her contributions and willed that whatever was left of her assets, a portion be put toward Black education. She also purchased a “good strong” headstone for her burial at Valley Cemetery, and she paid to have the remains of her mother and grandmother moved and reinterred to be with her there.

He hit the jackpot when someone in New Boston had a photo album that included Plantin’s photograph, and some other information. 

“When she died everything that was left was auctioned off. It must have been a treasure trove of stuff, and probably someone out there has it and doesn’t even know what they have,” Garrity says. “Which is another reason to get the word out. Hopefully, people who have items of interest will come forward so we can tell more of these stories.”

The plaque commemorating Samantha Plantin, Manchester’s first black female land owner, is ready to be erected. Photo Courtesy of Stan Garrity

Garrity says he’s motivated most of all by the need for someone to bring the city’s Black history to the forefront.

“Just take a look outside and see all the different faces in our city now. We have quite an interesting Black history but it’s untold. We have lots of sources of Irish and Greek and French history. It’s time to celebrate Manchester’s Black History,” Garrity says.

Diving in has been a journey of discovery, even for someone like Garrity who considers himself quite a historian. He gathers information from city records and old directories, state and town records, wills and deeds and cemetery records.

“It is out there in bits and pieces. Every day I learn something new, or someone sends me a lead,” Garrity says.

Placing Samantha Plantin’s plaque at 1000 Elm Street is significant in that it’s a section of the city in which there are many stories of Black history in need of telling, Garrity says, who is collecting fodder for future plaques, including Manchester’s 20 Black barbers, and the story of the two Ceasers.

Thanks to a $10,000 Community Activation grant from the city, and a partnership with the Manchester Historic Society, Garrity says the process of getting future plaques completed should go faster. 

“There are always hurdles, but I hope to have another six done by the end of this year,” he says. 

The next plaque will honor Cornelius Thornton, who 15 or 16 years old when he found his freedom thanks to some New Hampshire soldiers willing to break the law of the land at that time and bring him north. 

“Cornelius was enslaved in Virginia and was befriended by New Hampshire soldiers during the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War. And so they brought him back here, illegally, and enrolled him in school. He was a good student but was only here for a short time because he contracted consumption – which is TB – and died,” Garrity says. 

“They had his funeral over at 200 Hanover St. where Samual and John Piper lived – they were the ones who brought him here. It was open doors and all his classmates came to the funeral. He was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery and on his grave it says ‘Born a Slave.’ It’s a pretty cool story,” Garrity says.

Follow along on Black History of Manchester NH’s Facebook page.

Below: Documentation on Samantha Plantin’s life in Manchester:


About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!