Portsmouth’s story is intertwined with the story of African Americans in our community. This is a good time to highlight some of the stories of members of Portsmouth’s black citizens. Everyone loves stories about how individuals have worked their way from humble circumstances to prominence. Morgan Ayler’s story is a good example. He started life as a Virginia slave, but he had the opportunity to become a successful farmer here in Portsmouth.

Morgan Robert Ayler was born in Virginia in 1825. Records show he traveled through many states but the  records of the U.S. Freedman’s Bank show his residence as Washington, D.C. in 1870.   That is the year Morgan, his wife Matilda and three of his children are listed as residing on the farm of Joseph Macomber off East Main Road in Portsmouth.  Morgan is listed by his middle name of “Robert” and son Edward is listed as “Edmund,” but their ages correspond to the birth dates of Morgan and Edward.  The men are listed as being farm laborers. We will continue to research just how Joseph Macomber brought sixteen former slaves to Portsmouth, but that may be because of his Quaker Faith. Members of the Society of Friends were noted for reaching out to help former slaves after the Civil War.

Joseph Macomber gave Morgan Ayler and others a chance for a good farming in Portsmouth. Morgan moved from being a laborer, to leasing land, to owning his own farm. He won awards for his produce at the Newport County Fair. His family prospered here. You will hear more stories of the family members in future blogs.

More information on the Ayler’s appears in an earlier blog. https://portsmouthhistorynotes.com/2019/02/09/from-slaves-to-portsmouth-farmers-the-aylers/