Sam

Mason's Assistant

Born: (Not Recorded)
Died: (Not Recorded)

Sam was an African Slave in the community of Salem during the latter half of the 1700s. He was one of the initial slaves in the town of Salem who assisted with the construction of the town. It is most likely he specialized in mason’s work.

The first mention of Sam is in December of 1769 where it is mentioned that “our Negro Sam asks for instruction to learn to read German.” This was considered one of the major first steps for an African to become Christianized in Salem.

In 1775 he is listed as working with (Johann) Blum along with an outside freedman by the name of Cornelius Sale to assist in masonry work. Sam is mentioned the most at assisting masonry work, whether with Brother Blum or others. This seems to have been his building specialty, though it can be gathered he also assisted with other work as well.

In 1780 it is mentioned at length in the Collegium minutes that Samuel was to be married. At the time there was only a single woman who was suitable for him, a tavern worker by the name of Maria. This seems to have offered a problem for the Collegium as a married woman could not work. Also this shows the interconnected nature of the Moravian communities as the Moravians in Salem brought another to fill Maria’s vacancy at the tavern.

Once the two married in December, 1780 they required their own lodging, a luxury given to early slaves in the Moravian community of Salem. The old Brother’s House in Bethabara was chosen as their home. Maria was tasked with keeping the kitchen in the home, while Sam was to maintain the house.

It is mentioned in the Aufseher Collegium that, “The Negro, Sam, has helped for a few years with the constructions…” Despite being more tolerant to their slaves, they were nonetheless not worthy of much note to the town officials except in matters of church. No definite record exists as to which constructions that he assisted on, however it is safe to speculate based on experience, and associates that he had a hand in aiding construction on several of the major buildings between 1769 and 1785. * However, from this mention comes another fact, by 1785 Sam was a salaried worker. The mention comes to the debts he owed, however it is said “since he is going to help this summer again, it was suggested that monthly a certain sum of his salary be kept back so that, by and by, his debts can be paid off.”

Samuel was used in context of town ordinance as well on more than one occasion. In January of 1789 his presence was used to deter community members from buying more slaves instead of taking on apprentices like the system in Salem dictated. In July of that year after several attempts by Sam to sell wood and other goods in order to foster further income, it was made rule that none could buy anything from a slave without the permission of his master except for the freedmen.

Sam continued his mason work for several years in the Salem area while living in Bethabara. In July of 1790 he was put into consideration in aiding the roadmaster of Friedland working on the roads in Wachovia. In August, 1790, the Collegium noted, “there has been little repair of the ways on the whole all during the last season so that all the ways are in a very poor condition. The Negroes Sam and Scott, as well as a few others, have to take care only of a piece of road that gives them little work…”

This is the last mention of Sam in the records. It is not mentioned when he died or where he is buried. Attitudes in Salem were shifting to a more Southern American ideology during these times and it is unsurprising his passing went without mention. However, through his stonework and construction efforts many buildings still stand today in which Samuel had a hand in building.