Literary Jaffrey: Amos Fortune and Willa Cather
Jaffrey was the longtime home of literacy advocate Amos Fortune in the final third of his life and a writing respite for author Willa Cather where she wrote some of her greatest novels. As such, the small town sets an indelible tone, historically and culturally, for the value of reading and writing, spanning three centuries of US history. Five literary stops can be visited and enjoyed in less than a halfday.
Amos Fortune, From Slavery to Inspirational Champion of Reading
Amos Fortune (1710-1801) was born in Africa and enslaved as a teenager in Massachusetts, becoming a free man when he was approximately 60 years old. Though not known to be an author, he was reputed to be highly literate, an advocate of reading, and of exemplary character. He settled in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where he helped found the Jaffrey Social Library in 1795 and was an active member of the First Church of Jaffrey, which formally established itself as a congregation in 1780.
“Amos Fortune was a full member of the First Church in Jaffrey, regularly attending the Sunday services led by Reverend Ainsworth. He also helped found the Jaffrey Social Library, whose members met Saturday evenings to collect and discuss books dealing with history and travel,” according to https://amosfortune.com.
References for the above information can be found here:
Places Connected to Amos Fortune
Jaffrey offers several places connected to the life of Amos Fortune. They include Amos Fortune Road, where he lived with his family, First Church of Jaffrey, Jaffrey Public Library, and a gravestone at Jaffrey Historical Center.
Watch this video about the Amos Fortune Collection exhibited at the Jaffrey Public Library here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv8RRqRiQBA.
Read about First Church of Jaffrey here: https://firstchurchinjaffrey.org.
Willa Cather, Inspired by Jaffrey
Willa Cather (1873-1947) wrote My Antonia and other works while living at the Shattuck Inn in Jaffrey. Unfortunately, the Shattuck Inn burned down in 1909. Read more history about her experience there here: https://cather.unl.edu/community/tours/jaffrey.
Our pages about ongoing places associated with Willa Cather that are open to the public are here:
Literary Jaffrey Gravestones
Gravestones of both Amos Fortune and Willa Cather can be found at the Old Burial Ground behind the Jaffrey Meetinghouse.
The full New Hampshire Author Adventures Trail appears below.