“Chloe Russel, A Woman of Colour of the State of Massachusetts, Commonly Termed The Old Witch or Black Interpreter”, The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book, 1827.
Courtesy of the Early Black Boston Digital Almanac, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, 2022.
“…if you dream you are in company with a young man, whose person and conversation is pleasing to you, you may depend that you will one day become the wife of some agreeable companion…”
– Chloe Russel, Exeter Massachusetts, 1824
Georgianna (Georgia) Jaques (c. 1807 – post 1884) was a fortune teller, who in 1871 offered a valued service to the citizens of Fredericton. Her business was listed in Fredericton’s 1871 Lovel Directory as located on Regent Street. Born in New Brunswick in circa 1807, Georgiana was the widow of Richard Jaques (Jacques). In 1871 she was the only fortune teller in the city who actually advertised her services, although there were others of African descent in the area who also possessed abilities to predict the future. For example, a member of the Wheary family who lived near the Mouth of Keswick is remembered for having the “gift” of “second sight,” as well as the ability to communicate telepathically with others across geographical distances. It was also said that Fredericton’s Great Fire of 1850 was foretold by a member of the city’s Black community.
Fortune telling was a special skill that was passed down through generations of Africans. Although stolen from their homelands by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans found ways to maintain their cultural traditions. So, even though slaveowners like Caleb Jones in Nashwaaksis, or George Harding in Maugerville, may have tried to strip their slaves of African culture and religion, the traditions of Africa were preserved none the less—passed down from mother to daughter, or father to son—through the gifts of fortune telling and prediction.
One such method of prediction is recorded in the 1827 publication, The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book, written by Chloe Russel, a “person of colour” who lived in Massachusetts. Like Georgianna, Chloe Russel was gifted with the ability to predict the future, and well versed in the skills of “Astrology, Physiognomy, and Palmistry”:
“A Method by which a Young Lady
May Know Whether She is Ever to Marry”
“In the full of the moon, write the name of any man on a piece of clean paper, fold it in the form of a heart, get a gill of red wine and dip it in it, then drink the wine in three draughs just as you are going to bed, put the paper under your pillow and let matrimony be your thoughts until you fall asleep- if you dream you are in company with a young man, whose person and conversation is pleasing to you, you may depend that you will one day become the wife of some agreeable companion-but if you dream that you are disgusted with the appearance and conversation of the young man, you may safely calculate on dying an old maid.”
By 1881, Georgianna Jacques had given up her business and was now a resident of the Fredericton Almshouse (a home for those who needed a place to live). She did not stay there for very long though, because by 1884 she was recorded in the guest book as having left: “Mrs Jaques… Went to Philadelphia PA”. That same year she appeared in the Philadelphia city directory, as living at 930 Locust Street in Philadelphia. Georgianna’s story is a reminder of the strong connections to African culture that existed in Fredericton and were passed down from mother to child.