top of page

Sambo Freeman

Planes are not known for Sambo Freeman, but his inclusion is important based on his association with early black planemakers Cesar Chelor and Jethro Jones.


Tom Whalen provides a summary write-up for Sambo.

Also included are period documents.

Sambo (Zambo) Freeman


Thomas Whalen


 Sambo Freeman’s name has been bounced around by plane collectors for years, in association with Caesar Chelor and plane making in Wrentham Ma. My research could not find any conclusive information that they worked together. 

 Zambo, a black man (his given name) was born into slavery in 1717, likely in Medway Ma. He was a slave to William and Bethia Burgess of Medway. 

 The Reverend Timothy Dickson, in his diary account: Zambo was baptized the same day with a slave by the name of London on September 16, 1739. Dickson states “I baptized London and Zambo, negroes, the former, ye negro of Jasper Adams ye later ye negro of William Burgess of Medway.”  

  Sambo was sold to John Adams of Wrentham Ma. Sambo purchased his freedom from Adams for 140 shillings in 1754, he was a free man. Sambo chose the sur-name “Freeman” as an expression of his newfound freedom. 

The Reverend Dickson and Sambo maintained a close relationship for over 50 years.  

1754 is the first mention of Sambo being a freeman in Wrentham. Sambo was a carpenter by trade, it is quite possible that Sambo and Caesar Chelor knew each other, a working relationship has yet to be established. 

 In 1756 Sambo returned to Medway, establishing himself a house carpenter. Another free Black man named Jethro Jones, a plane maker was living in Medway, I assume that Jethro was his friend. 

 In 1754 hostilities broke out between France and Great Britain, over territory in the British colonies. The British declared war in 1756, within 2 years the American colonies were involved in the war. The Town of Medway called out for troops, on May 23, 1758, Sambo Freeman and Jethro Jones enlisted in the war. Freeman and Jones were released from active duty in 1759. 

 On September 26, 1767, Sambo married Eleanor Oxford from Framingham in Holliston Ma. here they would raise five children. Sambo and Eleanor would call Holliston home for the rest of their lives. In Holliston Sambo enjoyed the reputation of being a master carpenter and was respected by its residents. 

Sambo Freeman was a free black man, throughout his life he advocated for those who were oppressed and enslaved. In 1773 Sambo Freeman along with slaves Peter Bests, Felix Holbrook’s and Chester Joie signed a series of slave partitions and presented it to the Massachusetts Provincial Legislature and Governor. In the petitions there were calls for allowing people to work for their freedom, to be treated with respect, and to return to Africa if they desired. 

 The Governor and Legislature never enacted any the slaves demands. 

 We take note in America’s 1790 census for the Town of Holliston, Sambo and 6 family members are the only people in town listed under “all other free persons”. 

 In 1797 Sambo was in failing health, his friend of many years, Reverend Timothy Dickinson was by his bedside, Sambo’s last days on earth were recorded in Dickinson’s Diary. 

Friday September 29, 1797, I visited and prayed with Sambo Freeman, an old negro 

He talked like a Christian; he said this is my last sickness. 

 Saturday September 29, 1797, in my study, Sambo died today at 11 am, 

Monday October 2, 1797, the negros have today paid a great respect to Sambo’s character, they buried him with great decency. 

Sambo Freeman died on September 30, 1797, at the age of 80. 

1762 Wrentham tax list; Cesar Chelor and Sambo Freeman

Sambo Freeman Holliston deed 1768

1772 Holliston town records with Sambo Freeman and Jethro Jones

1773 Signed Declaration

1797 Will for Sambo Freeman

1799 Probate Ad

bottom of page