Seymour Burr (1754/1762–1837) was an African-American slave in the Connecticut Colony in the North American British Colonies and United States. Owned by the brother of Colonel Aaron Burr, who was also named Seymour, he was known only as Seymour (sometimes spelled Seymore) until he escaped and used the surname Burr to enlist in the British Army in the early days of the American Revolution. The British promised the personal freedom of any African-American slave who enlisted or escaped to fight against the Continental Army, and Burr wanted more than anything to be free. However, he was quickly captured and forcibly returned to his owner.
His owner, fearing that Seymour would escape again, offered him a different bargain: if Seymour would pay his owner the enlistment bounty given to him by the British and serve instead in the Continental Army, he would be given his freedom at the end of his military service.
It is alleged that he fought at Bunker Hill and Fort Catskill, and suffered through the long winter, at Valley Forge. However Massachusetts Archives show, that only that on the fifth of April 1781, Seymour enlisted in the 7th Massachusetts Regiment, led by Colonel John Brooks.
Freedom and Marriage
After his service he was given the freedom he wanted. Then in 1805 he married a widow, Mary (Will) Wilbore, daughter of Nuff Will and Sarah Moho (Mohho), a Native American woman of the Ponkapoag tribe, and settled in what is now Canton, Massachusetts. In marrying her, he inherited the 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land owned by her previous husband, Jacob Wilbor. He also collected a government pension for his military service. The couple had two daughters: Polly (Burr) Croud and Sally (Sarah). Both of his daughters died in Cambridge, Mass. Several descendants of Seymour Burr still live in Boston, Mass.
There is conflicting information regarding his birth. Some citations list him as born in Connecticut, possibly of mixed-race parentage, others claim he was born in Guinea, Africa, captured at age seven, and was possibly of royal birth. His enlistment documents list his age as both 20 and 28, which places his birth in either 1754 or 1762.
Seymour Burr died on February 17, 1837, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Canton Corner, Canton, Mass., or at the graveyard at Burr Lane, Canton, Mass. His obituary was printed in the Liberator (Boston, MA), Feb. 25, 1837, p. 35: DIED—In Canton, 17th inst. Mr. Semore Burr, (a colored man) aged 98. He was a soldier during the whole of the Revolutionary war. His widow died in 1852 at the age of 101
- Huntoon, Daniel T. V. (1893). History of the Town of Canton, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. University Press. pp. 28–31; 623 (list of Rev War soldiers).
- Endicott, Frederic (Editor) (1896). The Record of the Births; Marriages and Deaths and Intentions of Marriage in the town of Stoughton from 1727 to 1800 and in the Town of Canton from 1797 to 1845 Proceeded by the Records of the South Precinct of Dorchester from 1715 to 1727. William Bense. p. 208 (Burr death record).
- Nell, William Cooper; Stowe, Harriet Beecher (1855). The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution. Boston: Robert F. Wallcut.