Thomas Jones was a slave on a plantation near Wilmington, North Carolina. At the age of 9 Jones was purchased by a shopkeeper, and Jones worked as a clerk for many years. Then, Jones fell in love and married another slave Mary Moore in 1829, and he purchased her freedom. He then tried very hard to free her children and managed to do so on all but one, Mary’s son Edward. Jones sent Mary and her children to Brooklyn and attempted to make his own way as a fugitive slave. He was discovered onboard a ship heading North. However, Jones managed to escape using a makeshift raft, which he crafted by hand.
Jones made it all the way to Boston, where he became a preacher. He was given a good enough salary for Mary and her children to come move to Boston from Brooklyn. There he wrote The Experience of Thomas H. Jones Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years. Due to the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Jones had to move to Canada while his family stayed in Massachusetts. 2 years later, in 1852, Mary got word that her last son could be bought for 850 dollars, but it is unknown whether or not the deal was ever transacted. In 1854 Mary bought the Dorsey-Jones house, and Jones was able to live there periodically. They later moved to Worcester and eventually settled down in New Bedford where Jones lived for 23 years before his death.
Basil Dorsey was a slave in Frederick County, Maryland. He was denied freedom, so he and his two brothers fled to freedom. They went to Bristol, Pennsylvania, and Basil worked on the farm of Robert Purvis. However, he was later betrayed on his attempted escape to Thomas Saulers. At the court trial many members of the local African American community rallied for Dorsey. During this trial, Basil Dorsey offered to cut his throat before becoming a slave again. His case was later dismissed.
As a free man again, Basil Dorsey decided to travel to New York and was assisted by David Ruggles and Josh Leavitt. Leavitt’s father then employed Dorsey at his farm. There, Dorsey was married and had three kids. Unfortunately a few months after the third child was born his wife died. Afterwards, Dorsey moved to Florence in 1844. In 1849 he bought a plot of land and began building the Dorsey-Jones house. Dorsey was at potential risk of being recaptured and incarcerated in 1850 due to the Fugitive Slave Act. Luckily he was able to raise enough money to purchase his own freedom with the help of his family and friends. Basil Dorsey was officially a free man in 1850.
Selah Trask purchased the Dorsey-Jones house and lived there in 1852. Dorsey moved to the William Warner house at this time. 2 years later, in 1854, Mary Jones, the wife of a former slave Thomas Jones, purchased the house again.
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