Bilinda – a Free Black Woman

In honor of African-American history month, we have a will and inventory for a woman named Bilinda, of Moreland Township.  At the beginning of the will, she describes herself as a “free Black woman.”  Unfortunately, we only a photocopy of the will, originally written in 1813.  The location of the originals is unknown.

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The photocopies are difficult to read, but Bilinda lists her daughters Hannah and Mary as heirs, leaving them all her clothing.  The rest of her estate is divided in thirds, one part going to each of the daughters and one part to a son whose name appears to be “Cuffe.”


Bilinda passed away about 3 years after writing the will in 1816.  Her inventory tells us a little more about her life.


Bilinda (recorded here as “Blinda”) left a significant estate of over $1200, much of that was from the estate of her son Thomas.  Looking over the list of her possessions, we see she owned a spinning wheel and several bags and chests of linen. Perhaps she did piecework or took in sewing.

It would be wonderful to know more about Bilinda and her family, for example, the neither the will not the inventory give her last name. Was she born free?  Does she have descendants still living in the county?  In a way, this document helps reveal how little we know about the experience of African-Americans in early Montgomery County.



  1. I read with great interest the will of Belinda. My great grand parents, Edwin Pendleton Thornton and Mary Jane Thornton, his wife lived in Dresher PA on Susquehanna Road. I believe they settled there in the early 20’s. They were the only African American homeowners in Dresher, even up to the 1950’s when the family moved from the property.

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