ca. 1810s

Abiel Smith Fund Folders

City of Boston Archives

Original Record


When Abiel Smith died in 1815, he left stocks and bonds in his will expressly for the support of a “school for the instruction of the people of Colour.” Smith had already supported the school in the early 1800s, helping pay teachers’ salaries and other costs. After his death, he instructed the Selectmen of Boston to manage his fund, and they complied. The total estate Smith left included:

  • 30 shares in the Newburyport Turnpike
  • 20 shares in the Second Turnpike Road in New Hampshire
  • 17½ shares in the Kennebeck Bridge
  • 5 shares in the Springfield Bridge
  • 1 share in the Boston Theatre
  • 1 Share in the Bathing house in Boston
  • $4000 in 3% United States stock

Rather than selling these assets, the Selectmen held on to these stocks and bonds in an account. At regular intervals, profits of the turnpikes, bridges, and other businesses were paid in dividends to the Smith fund. The United States “stock” paid interest. The regular income paid to rent a schoolhouse in the North End in 1818, repair the basement schoolrooms in the African Meeting House, and purchase books and supplies for the students well into the 1840s.

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About Smith Court Stories

This online digital classroom is a collaborative project of the Museum of African American History and Boston African American National Historic Site – a unit of the National Parks of Boston.

Smith Court Stories relates a digitally curated collection of archival documents and archaeological artifacts to lived experiences of African Americans in 19th century Boston. Two historic structures in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood formed the center of this community: The African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith School. The 1806  African Meeting House is the oldest extant black church in the United States of America, and the neighboring 1835 Abiel Smith School is one of the first public school buildings for African American children in the country. Both of these buildings, situated on Smith Court, served as the epicenter for a free black community that led the nation in the fight against slavery and injustice. Smith Court stories will help foster a deeper understanding of the African American experience in 19th century Boston and connect the past with students’ lived experiences.