Coachman's Quarters

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Coachman's Quarters

According to his great-great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth Norwood Thompson, on December 4th,  1865,  Jesse Ruffin drove to the signing of 13th Amendment as an enslaved person and returned as a free man. The next day, he etched the date into a brick to commemorate the occasion. 

Jesse Ruffin lived in the “Coachman’s Quarters” on Hillsborough property owned by the man who enslaved him, NC Supreme Court Justice Thomas Carter Ruffin. Jesse Ruffin was a coachman, transported goods and brought dispatches for Judge Ruffin.

In 1829, Judge Ruffin wrote the “State v. Mann” decision, which gave whites complete control over those they enslaved. But, on that December day in 1865, Jesse Ruffin was delivering the judge to witness the signing of the amendment to formally end slavery in the United States.

When he was in Hillsborough, Jesse Ruffin likely worked in the now restored Burnside Barn and stayed in the nearby Coachman’s Quarters. He also married Rebecca Norwood, who was enslaved across the Eno River by the Norwood family. Together, they had eight children.

The Ruffin family moved in 1829 to a property about 20 miles west of Hillsborough – separating Jesse Ruffin and his family. After emancipation, he and Rebecca Norwood lived on land deeded to her in 1868 by her former enslavers.

“I think that he wrote (on the brick). It was important to him, and he wanted the people to know, you were freed on this day. … I’m sure, back in those days, he probably didn’t have paper and pen where he could write it on. And he knew that if he wrote it in the brick, that it would last for a while. It kind of makes me feel proud.” – Emma Snelling