Basil Dorsey: Involvement on UGRR in Florence

Lot #12 of Bensonville Village Lots

Lot #12 of Bensonville Village Lots

On our forth focused research endeavor, the class brought attentions back to David Ruggles, which we did not previously touch based in depth. Given the fact that we used “David Ruggles” as our Twitter account name, it is explicit that he played a key role in the UGRR. Therefore, while waiting for John Hooker’s letters, and other resources to come in, we worked on the relations with David Ruggles as Mr. Sullivan provided us with the website of the David Ruggles Center in Florence, Massachusetts, which we will go for a tour in the near future.

From the experience of investigating John Hooker’s history, I chose to research on Basil Dorsey, who was also an abolitionist. What was special about Dorsey was that he was being enslaved, and as he gained his freedom, he started on supporting the Underground Railroad. After some online research, I found an article, written by Steve Strimmer, which provided a great deal of brief but important information regarding Dorsey. This included Dorsey’s early life, where he met a benefactor who bought his freedom, and over many twists and turns, Dorsey got to meet David Ruggles in New York, then moving to Massachusetts with the help of Ruggles and before finally settling in Florence, MA.

bill of sale basil dorsey

The Bill of Sale Of Basil Dorsey (Friends Intelligencer 55 by Edward Magill)

The article also explained that Dorsey appeared in the 1850 federal census so we should certainly make good use of our communication skills and seek for these records. There were also other readings suggested, for sure it will be beneficial if we can look into those resources as well. Last but not least, it was shown in one of the sites Mr. Sullivan sent us that Dorsey had a house in Florence in sheltering runaway slaves. I think exploring this historical site will give us more clues about Dorsey and Ruggles. I am sure Strimmer, being our tour guide, could answer much more parts of Dorsey’s later life, especially about his house.



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