Bidwell Lore – Margaret Hull and Agrippa’s Military Pension

Portrait of Agrippa Hull, unknown artist, unknown date. Acc# 47.002. Courtesy of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives. Painted from an 1845 daguerreotype taken by Anson Clark in West Stockbridge, also in the collection of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.

Agrippa’s Military Pension
Rick Wilcox, 2022

Further to our story from last week about Agrippa’s land holdings and mortgage, we have the below from Lion Miles.

“From 1801 to 1817 Agrippa owned a home lot of 2 ½ acres near Konkapot Brook and a farm of 9 ¼ acres on Cherry Hill Road, where he seemed to have raised cattle and grain. During the same period he had the responsibility of caring from his mother and various indigent people in Stockbridge.[1] Possibly looking for a profit-making investment, Agrippa purchased 70 acres of land on credit from Abraham Bennet of Newtown, Connecticut, in 1817. The land is in a hilly part of Stockbridge and suitable only for timber and a gravel pit, which still exists. Bennet initially asked $1000 for the property but soon reduced the price to $700 and accepted a mortgage for that amount. [2] Agrippa paid the debt when due in 1824 and then mortgaged all his property in town, amounting to about 84 acres to the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company for $350, to be paid off in five years with interest. He met his obligation in 1832 and paid off the debt. But apparently still in need of money, he immediately mortgaged the original 70 acres to Horatio Byington for $350. When the debt was released the next year, Agrippa sold 60 of the original acres to Asahel Byington for $450. [3] When Hull died in 1848, he owned only about 24 acres, which he left to his wife Margaret.” [4]

We also have the following story about Agrippa from the book One Minute a Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom:

            “Agrippa Hull was what we might call, for lack of a better term, an everyman. In town, he knew everyone, went everywhere, and did everything. As a Black man in post-Revolutionary New England, he needed to be an everyman when it came to work and making money, in order to survive. He was perhaps the first individual to engage in what two centuries later, in the mid 1990s, was known as the ‘Berkshire Shuffle’ – the necessity of working two or three jobs at a time and switching jobs in order to survive in the 21st century-tourist-driven Berkshire economy, where secure well-paying jobs were scarce. In addition to serving as a valet and butler in the Sedgwick household, he took on borders and was reimbursed for his expenses by the town (which was responsible for taking care of those who were poor or sick) [see THIS post from 2022 about the Warning Out list that shows the fees Agrippa collected], collected at times a military pension, farmed, boarded horses, bought and sold land, and ran a catering business with Margaret. She baked and also brewed root beer, and he managed the business affairs.” [5]        

After Agrippa’s death in 1848, his wife Margaret (Peggy) moved back to Goodrich Street, as it may have been a more manageable piece of property. Peggy’s Brook, aka Konkapot Brook, aka Taupaugoh Brook, for most of its length was narrow enough to just step across in my misspent youth.  Road changes in 1954 that created a bypass of Goodrich Street, as well as the introduction of railroad tracks, greatly altered the flow of the brook. Of course, this was also aided by the 80-year cycle of the local beaver population.

As you may remember from an earlier post in this series, Agrippa served for more than six years in the military during the Revolutionary War, first enlisting in 1777. From a statement showing the Names, Ranks, &c of persons residing in the State of Massachusetts, who had received the benefits of the act of Congress passed 15th May 1828, Agrippa Hull, as a private, received $96.00 as an annual allowance for a total of $720 for his time serving with the Massachusetts 2nd Regiment. He received that on July 14, 1828. It was also noted that Agrippa received a pension for the time period from October 1, 1818, to May 1, 1820, a total of $178.13. That pension was suspended by an act on May 1, 1820.

During my research, I came across information about a brief in the case of Margaret Hull, who wanted to claim her husband’s pension on February 3, 1853. It took some time for this to happen. Agrippa was considered a pensioner under the Act of May 15, 1828. Margaret was able to prove her marriage via town records. During the processing of the claim, a deposition was given by Ralph Deming, Margaret’s second husband, and provided an account of his time with Agrippa. In the deposition, Ralph confirmed that he was well acquainted with Agrippa and that he was with Agrippa during his last sickness. Ralph testified that Agrippa died in Stockbridge on May 31, 1848. He also said he saw the body of Agrippa Hull after his death and was present at the funeral on the day after his death. He added that he wed Margaret Hull, the widow of said Agrippa Hull, and that he had known said Margaret and Agrippa Hull for forty years.  In his testimony he said:

 “That the said Margaret Hull now is & since the death of said Agrippa Hull has been the widow of said Agrippa Hull. Ralph Deming.” The deposition was sworn to J.E. Field, Justice of the Peace on May 11, 1853.

The deposition received the following reply the next day:
“Commonwealth of Massachusetts Berkshire SS I Charles Sedgwick Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth for the District of Berkshire do certify that Jonathan E. Field Esqr. before whom the foregoing disposition of Ralph Deming was taken at the time of its taking a Justice of the Peace aforesaid was duly commissioned acquainted and with the [illegible] of said J.E. Field [fold in paper makes a sentence illegible] hereunto set my hand & affixed the seal of said Court this twelfth day of May 1853. Charles Sedgwick. Send the Certificate to J.E. Field Stockbridge, Mass.”

Then in August J.E. Field reached out to the pension office again with the following:
“Stockbridge Aug 4 1853. My Dear Sir, I [illegible] you & additional efforts on the case of Margaret Hull. I can furnish any amount you deem you desire. If this is sufficient please send me Pension Certificate. The widow needs it. I sent some 6 or 8 months ago certificates for a land warrant for Elisha Cummins. Beyond the acknowledgement I have not heard from it. I am thus PM Attest, J.E. Field.”

The Pension Office replied a little later in August with the following:
“Sir, Please certify the times to which pension was last paid (if in your power) the date of his death. Very respectfully your obedient servant. S Cole, for the Commission. Hon. F. Bush present.” Agrippa Hull, Aot. 1818 $8 p month Paid to 4th March 1820, then dropped from the Roll.

Finally, the appropriate papers were filed and the Pension office recorded the following:
“Received of James L. Edwards the Discharge of Agrippa Hull, upon which a pension has been granted. Said Discharge signed by Gen. Washington & Dated June 1783. C Vandervent.
            1631 Margaret Hull, widow of Agrippa Hull, Let J.E. Field Recd. Act. 3d Feb 1853
 Proxy WIDOW, &C file No. 760 Margaret Hull Widow of Agrippa Hull, Pen Rev. War, Act: Feb 3, 1853.”
Index Vol A, Page 354 [6]

Next week we will share more about Agrippa’s military pension and the work he did before he died to prove that he qualified for it.

1. Court of Common Pleas, Book 11, pp 292, 324; Stockbridge Selectmen’s Book, 1792-1827.
2. Book 59, pp 142, 242 Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield.
3. Book 78, p 559, Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield.
4. Berkshire Probate Court, Docket 7171. Agrippa Hull’s Landholdings, Lion Miles, undated. Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives, Agrippa Hull collection. (The will indicated Peggy received 28 acres.).
5. One Minute a Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom, 2010, Emily Piper & David Levinson, Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, pp 106 , 107.
6. Agrippa Hull Collection, Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.