In 1786, Benjamin Wheaton bought land in Brattleboro. He was not the only black person living in Brattleboro then, but he was the first to own property in town. All the others lived with, and worked for, white families as farm laborers or domestic servants. In 1791, he took the Freeman's Oath, Vermont's prerequisite for voting. He also owned a share in the Brattleboro Library. In 1806, he purchased land adjoining his property. He died in March of that year, presumably from smallpox. Having no heirs, the town bought his land which was, according to the deed, "to be used by the town of Brattleboro forever as a road, common, or green and for no other purpose." Today, this land, on Western Avenue, is known as the West Brattleboro Common.
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Pictured Above: West Brattleboro Common, 1896 photo courtesy of Brattleboro Historical Society