Great Barrington slave bill of sale to go on display


GREAT BARRINGTON -- A rare document from the town’s pre-Revolutionary past has been purchased by the Great Barrington Historical Society, and the administration plans to put it on public display.

Fundraising for a bill of sale for Pompi, a slave of about eight years, written in about 1765, was recently completed, according to Deborah U. Opperman, executive director of the Historical Society.

The organization raised about $1,400 in about 21Ž2 months to purchase the document from a local antiques dealer.

Opperman said the Historical Society also acquired several pages of an 18th-century ledger, one of which mentions the Pompi transaction.

"It’s a pretty amazing thing to see," she said. "It’s one thing to see a record of the sale of buttons or clothing. But then you come to this entry that details the sale of a human being."

According to the document, which is quite legible, Wheeler needed someone to help with the domestic chores. Hence his purchase of young Pompi.

The irony is that the bill of sale delivers the young slave to Truman Wheeler, one of the most prominent landowners in town. The Great Barrington Historical Society headquarters is on the Truman Wheeler farm. There is no doubt in the minds of the members of the Historical Society that Pompi trod the property on which their Society is located 249 years ago.

Opperman said the document will need some restoration work before it goes on public display. But she said that town residents and visitors will eventually be able to see it.

"We believe there is no sense in having interesting artifacts unless you can show them to the public," she said.

Great Barrington Historical Society offers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in July and August free tours of the Wheeler Farmstead. To learn more, visit or call (413) 591-8702.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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