Dover Street, a main thoroughfare through the town of Easton from its earliest days, forms the northern boundary of The Hill Community. Free black people made their homes and founded businesses near this intersection before 1800, many decades before the Civil War started.
Once they had gained their freedom, former enslaved people often supported themselves with the trades they had learned while enslaved. Though many worked as domestics or farm hands, others were midwives, carpenters, blacksmiths, and bakers. This section continues to be The Hill’s commercial corridor today.
One landowner, Abraham Gustis, was freed from slavery on March 25, 1793, when he reached age 21. He bought the freedom of his wife Frances for £25 and immediately manumitted her. Brister Nichols was freed on January 1, 1778. By 1798, he had purchased Lot 56 for £7.15. He purchased another half acre that included houses and tenants outside of Easton in 1798. Hatmaker Zarah Hall was freed in 1795, lived on Dover Street with his wife Leah, where they often housed young apprentices who were training as hatmakers.