Cairo Rumney: born 1763; death date unknown.
Pompey Rumney: born 1758; death date unknown.
When the Loyalist evacuation ship, the Alexander, left New York City for the mouth of the St. John River in September 1783, Cairo and Pompey Rumney were among its passengers. Twenty-year-old Cairo was enslaved by Loyalist James Peters. Pompey was a free-born 25-year-old black man, who had been in the employ of Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander-in-chief in charge of supervising the Loyalist evacuation of New York. Peters had appealed to Carleton to release Pompey so that he could join his partner on the voyage. Forty years later, records show that the couple was living in Queens County, New Brunswick, and that both Cairo and Pompey remained attached to the Peters household.
Following his arrival in what would become the colony of New Brunswick in 1784, James Peters acquired land in the parish of Gagetown where he became a prosperous farmer. In his will, probated in 1820, he stated that Cairo Rumney was obliged to serve his wife as long as she remained a widow but, if she remarried, Cairo had two choices. She could either stay in her mistress’s service or serve the Peters’ children. “In consideration of her long and faithful service,” Peters wrote, “it is my will that she be kindly treated and provided with every necessary that may contribute to render her comfortable and happy in her declining years.” In contrast, Peters’ other enslaved servant Len was to be set free after serving Mrs. Peters for a set period of time.
Cairo’s free-born husband, Pompey Rumney, was also included in the will, suggesting that he may have worked on Peters’ farm. Pompey was “to be kindly treated and provided for if required.” Although Rumney was not enslaved, Peters’ obviously felt some indebtedness to Cairo’s husband and provided for him in the settlement of his estate.
The marriage of enslaved and free Blacks was not uncommon in this period. Nor was it uncommon for servants and slaves to be included in the wills of white Loyalists, though their mention was not always expressed in such paternalistic terms as was the case with James Peters’ will. In the context of colonial New Brunswick, where family was the basic economic unit, Cairo may have been less vulnerable in her senior years than Len who, after being given his freedom, was left to his own devices to survive.