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An “Indian of Barnstable”

Little is known about Jerusha Will, an Indigenous woman who appears in the baptismal and burial records of Old North in 1743. What records do reveal, however, paints a poignant picture.

On May 9, 1743, Jerusha Will, from Barnstable, Massachusetts, received the sacrament of baptism. It is unclear whether her baptism occurred at the church or whether it was a deathbed baptism, because only two weeks later, on May 23, 1743, her burial is recorded in the church register. 

What brought Jerusha Will to become part of Old North’s community, if only for days? Was it the efforts of Dr. Timothy Cutler, the first rector, who was passionate about converting people of color to the Anglican faith? 

We will never know, but further research offered one other fact. During those last weeks of Jerusha Will’s life, she stayed in the home of the Humphries family, a free Black family who were members of the Old North congregation. Did they meet at Old North before Jerusha Will’s final illness? Was their friendship and faith the reason she accepted baptism? If nothing else, we know that Jerusha Will did not die alone, but rather with members of her community around her.