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John Oscar Burleigh


John Oscar Burleigh was the oldest surviving son of Rinaldo and Lydia Burleigh. He left relatively few ciphers, but did engage in Abolitionist activity in eastern Connecticut during the Canterbury Academy time (1833-34). He worked with Samuel J. May and served as the secretary pro tem for the Plainfield Anti-Slavery Society.[i] By 1837 he had moved forty miles north of Plainfield, to Oxford in Worcester county, Massachusetts, where he married Evelina Moore (1817-1882). The wedding record lists him as a draughtsman, but he moved into teaching, working in Oxford, Brookline and Grafton, and living briefly in East Douglas. [ii]


Although this happened after his demise, John’s son Charles Hartwell Burleigh served in the Union Army continuously from 1862 to the war’s end. For a time, Charles Burleigh served in the Massachusetts 51st, likely under Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a noted Abolitionist.


[i] May, Samuel Joseph. “Letter to the Editor,” The Liberator 18 January 1834; Plainfield, Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society.  1834.  First Annual Report of the Plainfield Anti-Slavery Society.  Plainfield CT: Plainfield Anti-Slavery Society. (from Cornell University May Anti-Slavery Collection)

[ii] Densmore, Lyman Willard,. Handbook of Hartwell genealogy, 1636-1887 : an account of the descendants of William Hartwell of Concord, Mass., and allied families of Bellows, Cummings, Gibson, Hill, Johnson, Jones, Kendall .... Boston: Geo. W. Crosby & Co., 1983. [accessed via, 7/22/21], p. 94; Charles Nutt, History of Worcester and its People, Vol. 3 Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1919), p. 177

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Family Relations

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