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Amos Fortune

Amos Fortune was a prominent tanner, bookbinder, and philanthropist who bought his freedom in colonial New England as an African-American man. Fortune became highly educated in English and the bookbinding trade during his enslavement in Boston. A former slave, Fortune became a successful businessperson in both Woburn and Jaffrey.  Amos Fortune came to Jaffrey to establish himself as a tanner. His first home and tannery were at the foot of the hill west of the Common on land set aside for the minister, a position that had not yet been filled. A year later Laban Ainsworth, who was to become Fortune’s good friend, was called to be Jaffrey’s first minister. 

Amos Fortune stayed on the Ainsworth property until 1789 when he purchased 25 acres on the Tyler Brook along the road to Sharon. The house and barn he built are still standing, and the road is now called Amos Fortune Road.  Upon his death in 1801, he bequeathed $233 to the town of Jaffrey for educational programs, and $100 to the church to purchase “a handsome gift,” making him the town’s first benefactor. His contribution to the town for educational purposes established the Amos Fortune Fund, which to this day funds literary contests in local schools. The Amos Fortune Forum also honors him today by hosting a Lecture Series each summer featuring distinguished guest speakers.

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