HERE IS WHAT HISTORIANS HAVE been able to piece together about the lives of tavern-keepers Joseph and Lucretia Thomas Brown. Lucretia Thomas was born in 1772 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a rough-and-tumble seaport just south of Salem. She was most likely born free, but her parents had been previously enslaved by Continental Navy Captain Samuel Tucker.
When Lucretia was a young woman, she met Joseph Brown, who’d been born into slavery as the son of an African-American mother and a Wampanoag Nation father. Brown had fought in the Marblehead militia as part of the Revolutionary army, which likely led to his emancipation from slavery and his reputation, according to one local memorial, as a “respected citizen” of the seaside town. Together, the couple operated a tavern from the small saltbox-style house they purchased in 1795, perched near a frog pond on Marblehead’s Gingerbread Hill.