Brister Freeman Family Home Site

Brister Freeman was enslaved in Concord for the first 30 or so years of his life. After taking his freedom in the late 1770s, he purchased an acre of “old field” in Walden Woods. Other formerly enslaved people followed and Walden Woods became one of three black enclaves that sprung up in Concord following gradual emancipation in Massachusetts.

Brister Freeman’s burial site is neither marked nor known. In commemoration of his life, the Drinking Gourd Project placed a boulder marking the Freeman Family home site in 2011.

Down the road on the right hand, on Brister’s Hill, lived Brister Freeman… there were grow still the apple trees which Brister planted and
tended…”
Thoreau. Walden (1854)

Brister Freeman stone marker

Look near the boulder for the now moss-clad ditch fence that extends easterly from Walden Street for approximately 170 feet before turning and extending north for the same distance. Local scholars believe Freeman may have erected the fence as a means of penning farm animals.

Please do not walk, stand on, or otherwise disturb the ditch fence. It may well be one of the few remaining visible marks made by the formerly enslaved on the local landscape.

Henry David Thoreau wrote about Freeman and other formerly enslaved inhabitants of Walden Woods in Walden (1854). Thoreau surveyed “Brister’s Lot” in 1857 as part of his Walden Pond Woodlot surveys. For the full story, read Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts by Elise Lemire (2009).

Walden Woods Bench (Photo by Tom Hersey)

In May 2013, the Walden Woods Project placed Concord’s second Toni Morrison Society Bench by the Road to honor the town’s slavery survivors. Elise Lemire says in her book Black Walden, “An appropriately marked bench here would be an invitation to recall all that Brister Freeman and Concord’s other slaves endured as well as all they were able to achieve.”