Aaron Nazro, of the “Colored Military Corps”

Aaron Nazro, of the “Colored Military Corps”

By Cliff McCarthy

A curious item in the Springfield Republican of 17 December 1831 drew some attention:

“MARRIED — In this town, Thanksgiving eve, Mr. John White, of Hartford, to Miss Lucretia Nazro, daughter of Colonel Nazro, of the colored military corps of this town.”[1]

Who was “Colonel” Nazro and what was the “colored military corps”? The news of a Black military organization in Springfield came as a surprise. While we still lack information about this organization, we have uncovered new information regarding Lucretia’s father that tells an interesting story. Yet, that story raises even more mysteries. 

Was “Colonel” Nazro of African descent? He undoubtedly was, but it was highly unusual for the newspapers of that time to print the marriage notices of Black families; he must have had some standing or importance in the Springfield community.

Curiously, this was not Lucretia Nazro’s first marriage proposal. A year earlier the following item appeared in Springfield’s vital records:

“William Lewis of Somers Conn. enters his intentions of Marriage with Lucretia Nazro of this town, the 13th of Apr. 1830. Notif’n posted Apr. 18th. Wm. Bliss, T[own] Clerk. [left margin] Banns forbidden by Aaron Nazro.”[2]

“Banns forbidden”? What happened?

The U.S. Census for that year shows Aaron Nazro, age 36-55, enumerated as a “free colored person” and head of household in Springfield. With him were one “free colored female, 55+,” one “free colored female, 24-36,” and two “free colored females, 10-24”.[3] This would seem to be Aaron, either his mother or mother-in-law, his wife, and two daughters. His second daughter, Charlotte, was married to Henry Corban in Springfield’s First Church in 1834.[4]

Nazro is such an unusual name that it would seem to be easy to trace. In fact, there was only one other Nazro family in Massachusetts during that period – the white family of John Nazro, who ran a general store in Worcester for decades. We have not been able to document any connection between these families.

The earliest record found so far of Aaron Nazro comes from Worcester court documents in 1799. In that proceeding, Aaron was described as a minor over 14 years of age whose mother was Anna Nazro, a widow of Barre, Mass. Aaron was allowed to choose his guardian and he selected Eleazer Dexter, a white man of prominence in Hardwick, Mass. A month later, Eleazer Dexter posted a $2000 bond and accepted guardianship of Aaron, who was described as the son of Francis Nazro, late of Petersham, Mass.[5]

Records show that a Francis Mazro of Petersham married Anne Frederick of Athol in April 1784.[6] Could this be the same Francis Mazro (or Massarou) who, during the Revolutionary War, was “servant to Gen. [Robert] Howe” of North Carolina?[7] More information is needed.

On the day after Christmas in 1799, only a few months after Aaron left her household, it appears that his mother Anna Nazro re-married to a man named Cromwell Oliver at Barre.[8]

Eleazer Dexter was born in 1765, making him about 34 when he became guardian of Aaron Nazro. He was the son of Samuel Dexter who had answered the call to march to Cambridge in 1775 and was captain of a company of patriots stationed at Roxbury. After the war, Samuel was involved in Shays’ Rebellion. Eleazer was married and the father of eleven children.[9] In the 1800 U.S. Census, Eleazer (mistakenly listed as “Ebenr. Dexter”) is listed as head of a household of nine white people and one “free person of color” – almost certainly Aaron Nazro.[10]

At Hardwick in March of 1808, Aaron Nazro married Dilla (or Delia) Day, but within a year Delia died at age 23. She was described in the church records as “colored.”[11] Aaron remarried to Eliza Prentis in 1817. Both were listed as “persons of color” from Barre.[12]

In the 1820 U.S. Census, Aaron Nazro (enumerated as “Saron Narro”) appears in Barre as the head of a household of free people of color – himself, his wife, two daughters and a son. He is listed as “engaged in manufacturing.”[13]

During the years 1826 & 1827, Aaron’s name appears in several account books for merchants in Belchertown, Mass. In some of these records, Aaron purchased leather goods and apparently paid for them with finished shoes.[14] In examining these entries, local historian Dennis Picard relates that many store keepers ran this kind of operation in the early 19th century. A central shop measured out the materials needed and gave them to workers who actually make the shoes and brought back the finished product. Dennis noted that in these records, “he is getting credit for the labor ‘shoemaking’, not ‘X number of thick shoes@ $1.42 each’, so he is being credited for the labor costs, not the product. I find this really, really interesting.”[15]

Also in 1827, Aaron Nazro and Robert Frazier, both people of color, were paid $14 from the Belchertown Selectmen’s “Pauper’s Account.” There is no explanation for what service they provided to the town.[16]

By 1830, Aaron and his family were living in Springfield. That is where, as noted in the beginning, his daughters Lucretia and Charlotte, were married. He owned land in Springfield which he mortgaged in 1834 and sold in 1836. This property was described as “the lands and tenements I own which are now occupied by me Situate on Factory Street in said Springfield consisting of about fifteen acres of land with the buildings thereon.”[17]

Aaron Nazro died on 18 March 1837 in Springfield.[18] A month later the following correspondence to the Overseers of the Poor in Springfield was recorded in the “Pauper Accounts Letter Book” in Belchertown:

“Yours of 1st instant has been duly received notifying us that Aaron Nazro and Eliza Nazro his Wife colored persons have recently died in Springfield under such Circumstances as to require aid from the Town as paupers previous to their Deaths which was furnished them and charged to us. In reply we say that Aaron Nazro and Eliza Nazro his wife have never gained legal Settlement in the Town of Belchertown…”[19]

With that correspondence, Belchertown’s Overseers of the Poor declined to pay Springfield for aid provided to Aaron and Eliza Nazro. As noted earlier, the Nazros probably lived in Belchertown during 1826-7, so this would seem to be incorrect – a sad ending to an interesting life.

 Cliff McCarthy, Archivist at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History and at the Stone House Museum in Belchertown, is also Vice-President of the Pioneer Valley History Network.

[1]“Married”, Springfield Republican, 17 December 1831, p. 3.

[2] Stott, Clifford L., Vital Records of Springfield, Massachusetts to 1850, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 2003.

[3]1830 U.S. Census for Aaron Nazro, (Springfield, Hampden Co., MA).

[4] Stott, Clifford L., Vital Records of Springfield, Massachusetts to 1850, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 2003, p. 1913.

[5]“Worcester County, Mass.: Probate File Papers, 1731-1881,”available online at AmericanAncestors.org.

[6] Vital records for Petersham, Mass. (intentions) and Athol, Mass. (marriage).

[7] Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 10. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston, MA: Wright & Potter Printing, 1896-1908.

[8]Vital Records of Barre, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849”, available online at Ancestry.com.

[9] Paige, Lucius, History of Hardwick, Massachusetts, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1883, pgs. 362-363.

[10]1800 U.S. Census for Ebenr.[sic] Dexter, (Hardwick, Worcester Co., MA).

[11]Vital Records of Hardwick, Massachusetts to the Year 1850; also “Vital Records of Barre, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849”, available online at Ancestry.com.

[12] Barre Town Records, “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001” available online at FamilySearch.org. 

[13]1820 U.S. Census for Saron Narro [sic], (Barre, Worcester Co., MA).

[14] Account books of an unidentified merchant, Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA, Box 031, Book 03 and Box 116, Book 03.

[15] Email, Dennis Picard to Cliff McCarthy, 31 August 2021.

[16]“Memorandum Book Kept by the Selectmen of Belchertown,” Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA.

[17] Deed from Aaron Nazro to David A. Bush, Hampden Co Registry of Deeds, Book 94, Page 138 and Deed from Aaron Nazro to James W. Crooks, Hampden Co. Registry of Deeds, Book 89, Page 561.

[18] Stott, Clifford L., Vital Records of Springfield, Massachusetts to 1850, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 2003.

[19]“Pauper Accounts & Letter Book, 1829-1867,” Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *