Cyrus Bustill

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Cyrus Bustill (February 2, 1732 – 1806) was an African-American brewer and baker, abolitionist and community leader.

He was a notable business owner in the African-American community in Philadelphia and a founding member of the Free African Society in the city.

Bustill was born in Burlington, New Jersey on February 2, 1732. His parents were Samuel Bustill, a lawyer and Quaker, and Parthenia, an enslaved woman of African descent whom he owned. On the death of his father in 1742, Bustill's new owner was his father's widow Grace Bustill, who later sold him to a local baker, Thomas Prior (sometimes spelled Pryor), another Quaker, with the understanding that Bustill would be taken on as an apprentice so he could earn the money to buy his own freedom.[1][2] Bustill learned the bakery trade with Prior.

There are differing accounts of how Bustill became liberated. Some sources that Bustill purchased his freedom in 1774 with money earned from his apprenticeship.[1] Other sources suggest that Prior liberated Bustill in 1769, meaning Bustill may be among the 104 enslaved Africans manumitted by Quakers listed in the Burlington Quarterly Meeting of Friends between 1763 and 1796.[3]

In 1791, Bustill was recorded as owning twelve acres in the black settlement of Guineatown (Guinea was a common term for a black person) between the Abington and Cheltenham townships in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.[4][3]

Bustill married Elizabeth Morey (1746–1827), a woman of Native American and European descent.[5] Their children include Grace Douglass, David Bustill, and Mary Bustill.

He is considered the founder of the prominent Robeson-Bustill family, his descendants include Paul Robeson (1898 – 1976), David Bustill Bowser (1820 – 1900) Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806 – 1882), Robert Douglass, Jr. (1809 – 1887) and Gertrude Bustill Mossell (1855 – 1948).[6]

Cyrus Bustill died in 1806.[2]


  1. ^ a b Temple, Brian (2014). Philadelphia Quakers and the Antislavery Movement. McFarland. ISBN 9780786494071.
  2. ^ a b Bustill, Cyrus (1998). "I speak to those who are in slavery". In Foner, Philip Sheldon; Branham, Robert J. Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 9780817309060.
  3. ^ a b Scott Sr., Donald (2009). Remembering Cheltenham Township. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781625842893.
  4. ^ Blockson, Charles L.; Fry, Ron (1977). Black Genealogy. Black Classic Press. ISBN 9780933121539.
  5. ^ Winch, Julie (2000). The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia. The Penn State University Press. ISBN 0271043024.
  6. ^ "BUSTILL-Bowser-Asbury Family" (2015), Manuscript Division, Paper 24, p. 2.