Let Freedom Ring

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In 1770 over 400,000 African-Americans and several thousand Native Americans were held in slavery in a total population of little over 2.1 million. With the American Revolution drawing ever so close and the talk of freedom all around, African-Americans as well as their fellow enslaved peers were more determined than ever to make freedom a reality for themselves and their children. Plato Turner, Cato Howe, Prince Goodwin and Quamony Quash were no different. Quamony Quash was just fifteen when he enlisted in 1775.

--Cox, Clinton: Come all you Brave Soldiers; Blacks in the Revolutionary War. (NY: Scholastic Press, 1999)

The story of the New Guinea Settlement at Parting Ways is not well known in Plymouth, Massachusetts or anywhere else in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or in the U.S.A. Nor is it easily found in books on American history. Unfortunately, the story of the New Guinea Settlement at Parting Ways is easily overshadowed by the other historic attractions in Plymouth: Plymouth Rock, Pilgrim Hall, Mayflower II, and Plimoth Plantation.

The Turner-Burr House: This house burned down in 1908.The Turner-Burr House: This house burned down in 1908.
The story is about four African-American men from Plymouth; Cato Howe, Quamony Quash, Plato Turner and Prince Goodwin, who enlisted and fought in the American Revolutionary War. For their service they were awarded their freedom and, by the Town of Plymouth, rewarded with land. They and their descendants established one of the first free black settlements.

Cato Howe enlisted at the age of twenty-five. He became a private and served in Colonel Bailey's 23rd Continental infantry. Later, Cato was a part of Colonel Theophilus Cotton's regiment of the militia. Cato Howe fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, served three years and was discharged in 1783. On March 12, 1792 Cato was provisionally granted approximately 93 acres of land in the Town of Plymouth on what is now Route 80 (Plympton Road) in West Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Quamony Quash enlisted at the age of seventeen. He served in Colonel Cotton's, and later Colonel Bailey's, regiments. Prince Goodwin enlisted but spent only three months in the military. Plato Turner was twenty-eight when he enlisted and became part of Bider's and Colonel Theophilus Cotton's regiments.

Quamony Quash, Prince Goodwin and Plato Turner were invited by Cato Howe to move onto Parting Ways property. The four men cleared the property and resided there, with the Town of Plymouth's permission until 1824, when Cato Howe died. Although the town authorized the sale of the property in that year, the land wasn't sold and descendants of some of the men lived on the site into the early 20th century, the last remaining dwelling being the "Turner-Burr House" which burned down in 1908. Since the land was never sold it reverted to the Town of Plymouth, the present owner.

James Thurston BurrJames Thurston BurrArchaeological excavations conducted by the late Dr. James Deetz in 1975 and 1976 provided historical evidence, information of the settlement patterns, and more importantly validated the existence and historical importance of this national treasure.

Today the site is also the final resting place of Cato Howe, Quamony Quash, Prince Goodwin and Plato Turner. Parting Ways Cemetery is their permanent home and one day in the future will be the home of the Parting Ways Museum of Afro-American History. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Parting Ways Museum will serve as a repository for documents, artifacts and all relevant materials related to Parting Ways. The Museum will serve as a significant research and learning facility, which will combine and enhance the cultural life of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

~Lynda M. Thomas-Legay
Former President, Parting Ways Museum 2006