Author Archives: Denise Meringolo

Needles in a Haystack

Cabinetmaker by trade, abolitionist by a higher calling.

Cabinetmaker by trade, abolitionist by a higher calling. (Depicted in William Still’s “The Underground Railroad)

Unlike many people in the abolition movement, John Needles left a significant  written record including an autobiography, meeting records, and charter documents of an abolitionist association.  Most of what others wrote about him later, however, was about his superb cabinetmaking.  Thus, while there are definite links between Needles and other more prominent names in abolition, detailed writings about his abolition activities are scant, and most secondary sources lean on a precious few primary sources.

PRIMARY SOURCES

Wright, Edward Needles.  “John Needles (1786-1878): An Autobiography” published in  Quaker History, Volume 58, Number 1, Spring 1969, pp. 3-21, Friends Historical Association. 

Though published by his great-grandson, this autobiography was written by John Needles in 1872.  Though born and raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Needles spent his adult life in Baltimore.    He learned both cabinetmaking and advocacy from his elders.  Concomitant with his Quaker convictions and commitment to simplicity, combined with the perspective provided by the passage of time,  the autobiography is not terribly loaded with details, self-importance, or name dropping.  In the total of 18 pages, Needles does mention witnessing the arrest of Charles Torrey and his acquaintance with William Lloyd Garrison (apparently, he and Garrison did not get along and any sort of partnership did not materialize).   He also briefly mentions  founding the “Anteslavery Society of Maryland” and traveling to Philadelphia  to advocate for abolition. We are left with an impression of a diligent man who felt his greatest responsibility was to others and had a strong desire to do right.

Garrison, William Lloyd.  The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume IV: From Disunionism to the Brink of War, 1850-1860. Edited by Louis Ruchames. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975. 

This volume contains two letters written by Garrison to Needles,  the second one after having received a letter from Needles in response to the first.  In the first letter, Garrison heaps praise upon praise on Needles due to his work to relieve human suffering.  In the second letter, after Needles has done a favor for him, Garrison sends a portrait of himself as a gesture of thanks.   Admittedly, it’s not much, but we are left with at least with a testimony to Needles’ abolitionist work and an idea of why his Quaker sensibilities were not conducive to having a sustained relationship with Garrison.

Mott, Lucretia Coffin.  Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. Edited by Beverly Wilson Palmer.  Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

This compilation contains a reference to a dinner at John Needles house and mentions the wariness of “too much abolition.” (278)  Mott and her party are on their way to Philadelphia thus strengthening the Quaker abolitionist connection to Philadelphia.
Centennial Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Society, for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and for Improving the Condition of the African Race Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of SlaveryGrant, Faires & Rodgers, printers, 1876 (Google ebooks edition).

A retrospective and celebratory account of the society whose name is found in the title.  John Needles’ uncle after whom he was named is shown as an officer for the society in 1789 as further proof of abolition being a family cause.  Also, John Needles, our subject, is mentioned as having sent letters expressing regret at not being able to attend the celebration.  He would have been 90 years old at the time, to that’s not altogether surprising.

SECONDARY SOURCES

Carey, Brycchan and Plank, Geoffrey. Quakers and Abolition. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2014. Project MUSE. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. .

An essay in this collection connects Needles to J.E. Snodgrass of the famous “Mitchell Kidnapping” and the wider Underground Railroad movement.

Byrd, Dana E.  The Paradox of Good Intentions: John Needles, Cabinetmaker in Antebellum Baltimore. Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest Information and Learning Company, 2005

Building on Needles’ autobiography, this Master’s Thesis provides much-needed context and analysis of what it meant to be in the unenviable position of advocating for the abolition of slavery in a state devoted the institution.  Byrd points out numerous paradoxes such as Needles setting up his business only a few blocks from that of Austin Woolfolk (of “CASH FOR NEGROES” fame).    Due to this context, we can understand just what a strong statement Needles was making by using anti-slavery literature to wrap and stuff in the drawers of furniture he shipped to clients in the South.  We learn a bit more about Needles’ connection to Philadelphia — again professional as well as political —  from which he sourced some materials for his craft and engaged in abolition activities with reputed names such as Soujourner Truth.   Several images, including photographs of Needles with members of his family, along with advertisements for Needles’ various businesses and a catalog of furniture stamped by Needles as made by him show that despite leaving a no-frills autobiography,  he was a master of his craft in addition to being a tireless advocate for freedom.

While there are additional sources such as birth, marriage and death records, deeds of property, classified and promotional ads and the like, they generally add only encyclopedic details that do not further our understanding of John Needles as an abolitionist.

 

Adapted from Needles in a Haystack by David B.

George Bond, United States Colored Troop Soldier

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (U.S. Colored Troops Pension File Collection) [MSA SC 4126] ​George Bond. (accessed November 3, 2014).

These pension records contain the most important elements of George Bond’s story. These government documents provide information of Bond’s military service, home addresses, marriage, occupations, injuries, and death. These documents also include the names of the friends of the Bonds, and where they live. This is my main source to create Bond’s story. All of my other sources are basically confirming and expanding the information I learn from this source.

Smith, William Morris, photographer. “[District of Columbia. Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln.]” Photograph. From Library of Congress: Selected Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865. (accessed October 31, 2014).

Although it is not the same company as George Bond, this photograph displays some of his comrades in the 4th Infantry at Fort Lincoln. This will be a good visual to have for the war portion of Bond’s story.

Allison Wilmer, J.H. Jarrett and Geo. W. F. Vernon, History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-5, Volume 2. (Baltimore: Guggenheimer, Weil, & Co., 1899). L20937-2. (accessed October 31, 2014).

This book confirms George Bond’s enlistment and discharge dates, and also describes some of the duties and actions of the 4th Regiment Infantry. This can indicate what type of duties Bond had as a soldier, and perhaps the circumstances of his injury.

Baltimore City. Simon J. Martenet, Martenet’s Atlas of Maryland, 1865, Huntingfield Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-75. (accessed October 31, 2014).

This map is used to find where George Bond lived in the city. I use Google Maps to look up the addresses from the Pension Records and then compare the Google Map to this map. I will probably use this map to help illustrate Bond’s movement within the city.

Maryland. Baltimore (Independent City). 1870 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com. October 31, 2014. 

This document states a previous address for George Bond before he lived on 517 Eden Street as described in the pension records. This also conveys that Ann R. Bond, his wife, could not write. The source also gives their ages as 30, suggesting they were born in approximately 1840.

Maryland. Baltimore (Independent City). 1880 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. Ancestry.com. October 31, 2014. 

 States the new street address of the Bonds family and prooves that they were living with another woman, Adaline Barnes, who was a chamber maid. This document also provides the occupation of all three people and confirms (as indicated in the previous census) that Ann R. Bonds cannot read or write. Also, the document calls Ann’s age into question because this census indicates she is now 42 while the previous census listed her age as 30. This discrepancy suggests that census records and other documents can contain incorrect information. Further, there were other individuals named “George Bond” living in Baltimore, and this might have led to confusion in the census and in the pension records.

Adapted from Annotated Primary Source Bibliography by Sidrah Shayiq

Charles Torrey: Maryland’s Forgotten Abolitionist

Lovejoy, J. C. Memoir of Rev. Charles T. Torrey, Who Died in the Penitentiary of Maryland, Where He Was Confined for Showing Mercy to the Poor. Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1847.

Despite the title, the book is not a proper memoir but a collection of letters and other original writings of Charles Torrey which provide valuable insight into the beliefs and character of an influential if now overlooked member of the abolitionist movement. Torrey is sometimes referred to as the Father of the Underground Railroad because his work moved beyond the “moral suasion” tactics of his colleagues like William Lloyd Garrison; he actively encouraged people to flee from their enslavement and assisted in their escapes. Torrey became well-known for his January 1842 arrest and imprisonment in Annapolis Jail while attempting to report on a slaveholder’s convention held in the city. The memoir includes the detailed narrative of John and Emily Webb from Virginia who fled to Canada along with several of their children. Although their affidavits do not include reference to Torrey, he was imprisoned in Baltimore Jail (401 E. Eager Street) in 1844 in part because of accusations that he participated in the flight of the Webb family. He was also indicted on the charges of having “enticed, persuaded, and assisted” Hannah, Judah (or Judae), and Stephen Gooseberry in their escape from William Heckrotte of Baltimore City. The complete trial transcripts are included in the memoir. Torrey was convicted and sentenced to Maryland State Penitentiary (954 Forrest Street) where he died of tuberculosis.

Republican Daily Argus, 5 June 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” citation, 12 July 2008.

Tavern owner William Heckrotte placed this advertisement offering a $100 reward for the return of the fugitive Gooseberry family. The ad includes a detailed physical description of Hannah and her children, Judea, and Stephen. It also praises Hannah as a “first rate cook, washer, &c.” In a post-script, Heckrotte, whose address is listed as the corner of Charles and Camden Streets, notes, “If the Servants will return to their duty, they shall not be punished in any manner; as I believe they were evil advised in taking the step they did.” This appears to refer to the suspected influence of Charles Torrey. The image of the newspaper clipping can be used for the interactive map.

The same advertisement was printed in the Baltimore Sun on 6 June 1844 and was rerun in the Sun on 10 June 1844 with the reward increased to $150.

“To The Public,” Baltimore Sun, 30 August 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” July 12, 2008.

While imprisoned in the Baltimore City Jail awaiting trial, Charles Torrey published a notice presenting his case to the people of Maryland. Rather than plead his innocence, Torrey constructed a legal argument against prosecution of those who aid fugitives. He compared his actions with those of the United States Navy who freed Americans held captive in Tripoli. The real entities on trial, he contended, were the laws permitting slavery. “Maryland and Virginia must go on trial before the tribunal of the civilized world on this broad issue,” he proclaimed. He had instructed his lawyers to “make no admission, even by way of argument, that it can be a crime to aid God’s children, formed in his image, to escape from slavery. The crime is to make God’s child a slave!” In this manifesto, Charles Torrey demonstrates that there were people even in the mid-nineteenth century arguing not just for abolition but for racial equality.

“Baltimore City Court,” Baltimore Sun, 30 November 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” citation, 12 July 2008.

Transcripts from Charles Torrey’s trial were printed in the Baltimore Sun. On the first day of testimony, Charles Heckrotte, a relative of William, positively identified Charles Torrey as the man he saw conferring with Judah Gooseberry at the property’s gate on Camden Street on a May night about a week before the Gooseberrys escaped. Nicholas Woodward testified that he rented a carriage to Torrey in June 1844 and that the horses had been “very much fatigued” when returned. George Rigdon described the white man and black boy he observed with a carriage and horses matching Woodward’s on a bridge across Den Creek “about 30 miles from Baltimore.” The boy’s appearance and clothing matched the information listed in the runaway advertisement for Stephen Gooseberry. Robert Rigdon, who “[l]ives in Harford county on the Peachbottom Road, the other side of Deer Creek, about a mile and half” saw all four outside his blacksmith shop, which is 12 to 15 miles from Peachbottom and about 33 miles from Baltimore. The group was also seen by George Amos at Peachbottom and Baltimore roads, about four miles north of Deer Creek, and by Benjamin Amos about a mile from Deer Creek. Several of the witnesses also saw Torrey returning by the same route alone. Along with other testimony reported in this article, we should be able to plot a portion of the escape route from Baltimore to Pennsylvania used by Torrey.

“Baltimore City Court,” Baltimore Sun, 2 December 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” citation, 12 July 2008.

This article continues the court records of Charles Torrey’s trial. One of Torrey’s fellow prisoners at Baltimore City Jail, Thomas Southmayd, swore that Torrey confessed to him. According to Southmayd, Torrey met the fugitives at a house of a free black blacksmith behind Greenmount Cemetery (1501 Greenmount Avenue) and was assisted by “an old negro named Nick.” The reported route of the escapees was through Peachbottom to Philadelphia and then to New York.

Baltimore City Court,” Baltimore Sun, 3 December 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” July 12, 2008.

The Baltimore Sun printed the entire text of the prosecutor George R. Richardson’s closing argument against Charles Torrey but did not mention the defense’s statement at all. The newspaper attributes the large crowds who attended the last day of the trial, including Governor-elect Pratt, to the illustrious reputation of the state’s attorney, Mr. Richardson, rather than to any notoriety on the part of the defendant. Richardson instructed the jury that it was not their place to consider the righteousness of slavery; the sole task before them was to deliberate on the evidence presented that Torrey had violated the laws of Maryland. He used the minister’s position as a member of the upper class and of the clergy against him, asserting that his status and faith required him to submit to the authority of the law. Torrey was found guilty on all counts within two hours. Richardson’s unwillingness to defend slavery itself suggests ambivalence to the institution among the public in Maryland. The Governor-elect’s presence indicates the importance of Torrey’s trial in the state. The Sun’s editorial decision to run the entire closing argument of the prosecution and omit the defense entirely speaks volumes about the perspective of the press on the issue of slavery and abolition.

“City Court,” Baltimore Republic and Argus, 28 December 1844. Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), “Rev. Charles T. Torrey (b. Nov. 21, 1813 – d. May 9, 1846)” July 12, 2008.

A short notice in the Baltimore Republic and Argus reveals the failure of Torrey’s appeal and his sentence to the Maryland State Penitentiary for six and a half years. It describes his crime as abduction of the property of Mr. Heckrotte rather than of abetting fugitives. The newspaper continues the assertion that, as Heckrotte’s ad suggested, the Gooseberrys were coerced to flee by Torrey and were not willing actors in the escape.

MARYLAND PENITENTIARY (Prisoners Record), Charles T. Torrey #3756, 1844 MSA S 275-2. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives.

The prison record for Rev. Charles T. Torrey lists his conviction as “Enticing Slaves to run away, 3 Indictments.” His term of imprisonment is listed from December 28, 1844 until April 2, 1851. The entry in the last column for release date records Torrey’s death on May 9, 1846 at 3 o’clock P. M. The scanned image is available online, so we may wish to link to it on our site.

SECRETARY OF STATE (Pardon Papers), Charles T. Torrey, Box 43, Folder 5, MSA S 1031-5. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives.

C. J. Lovejoy, editor of Charles Torrey’s memoir, contended that many of the members of respectable society in both his home state of Massachusetts and in Maryland worked to secure his release even if they did not share Torrey’s commitment to abolition. In addition to consideration of public sympathy for Torrey’s passion, there were grave concerns about his failing health. Two distinguished ministers from Woburn, Massachusetts, who knew Torrey well, wrote to the governor of Maryland on his behalf, attesting to his good character as well as to the respectability of his wife’s family. Reverend Luther Wright and Rev. Joseph Bennett requested his pardon while disclaiming any sympathy for his cause of abolition. Bennett went further to say, “On the contrary, I regard the cause which he has pursued at the South, as grossly scandalous and immoral.” In fact, both honorable men promised to commit Torrey to the Insane Asylum if he refused to abandon his anti-slavery activity. Whether these northern clergymen were truly repulsed by Torrey’s passion and cause, or whether their professions were merely strategic in order to secure Torrey’s release is difficult to determine. Their petitions offer stark evidence of the range of sentiments about slavery at the time.

SECRETARY OF STATE (Pardon Record), Charles T. Torrey, May 9, 1846, page 6, MSA S 1108-2. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives.

Governor Thomas G. Pratt issued a pardon to Charles Torrey on May 9, 1846, declaring “that he be immediately released from imprisonment.” He based his decision for clemency on the recommendation of  “the Judges of Baltimore City Court, by a portion of the Grand Jury of Prince Georges County and by a number of the Citizens of this State” as long as Torrey agreed to compensate the slaveholder for his property and leave the state of Maryland. Governor Pratt’s mercy to the man whose conviction he had witnessed came too late. A note at the bottom of the Pardon Letter states: “I[n] consequence of the death of Torrey on the day this pardon was granted, it was returned to this department [.]” Charles Torrey had died that afternoon of tuberculosis. He had become a martyr to the cause of abolition

Source: Primary Sources for the Map of Slavery in Maryland: Charles Torrey by Susan Philpott

Truman Pratt, founder of Orchard Street Methodist Church

Ancestry.com.1830 United States Federal Census. Baltimore, Maryland, Ward 12, p. 55.

The 1830 census indicated that Pratt was living in Ward 12 of Baltimore City. His household was composed of six free African Americans, probably Pratt and his children. Given that none of the free black female residents listed seem old enough to be his wife, it is likely that he was a widower at this time and had not yet remarried to Matilda Williams.

Ancestry.com.1840 United States Federal Census. Baltimore, Maryland, Ward 10, p. 55.

The 1840 census indicated that Pratt was living in Ward 10 of Baltimore City with four other people in his household. He was employed in manufacture or trade at this time.

Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census. Baltimore, Maryland, Ward 20, p. 29.

The 1850 census indicated that Pratt was living in Ward 20 of Baltimore City. (Between 1840 and 1850, Baltimore City had been gone from being divided into 12 wards to being divided into 20.) It lists his wife’s name as Malara (later records agree that her name was Matilda) and their fourteen-year-old daughter Rebecca.

Ancestry.com 1860 United States Federal Census. Baltimore, Maryland, Ward 20, p. 82.

The 1850 census indicated that Pratt had not moved. Here, his wife is identified as “Matelda.” Their daughter Rebecca is included as is their son Eli and a grandson, Louis Pratt. His occupation is listed as “carter”.

Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Maryland City Directory, 1877.

In the last year of his life, Pratt, or more likely a grandson with the same name, is identified as working as a sawyer. This record indicates Pratt lived on 1 Elder Alley, which was Pratt’s address in 1876 and at the time of his death.

Ancestry.com. Obituaries. Death of a Centenarian: Trueman Pratt.

This obituary provides the most detailed biographical information found about Pratt so far and rests on a biography of Pratt written some years earlier by Magnus Lewis Robinson. The obituary notes that Robinson identified Pratt’s birthday as  March 22, 1775 at Hild’s Light in West River, Anne Arundel County near the Methodist Hope Chapel. Robinson identified Colonel John Howard as his first master and claims that the man bought Pratt for his son but does not identify who sold Pratt to John Edgar Howard. The obituary adds that Pratt stayed with Howard until after the Battle of North Point in the War of 1812, after which Howard sold him to John Roy, the owner of a hardware store on the corner of Baltimore and Holliday Street. Pratt then ran away from Roy, spent several years in Boston, returned to Baltimore, and negotiated his freedom with the help of a Baltimore banker, a Mr. Brice who also had a farm in Anne Arundel county where Pratt worked for several more years until he paid off his debt to Brice. He apparently worked as a shoemaker and a carter and began holding prayer meetings at his house in Baltimore in 1825. In 1837, he gave the first $20 to the building fund for a church building. By the time the church was rebuilt in 1859, its congregation was one of the largest in the city, an indication of its significance to Baltimore’s African American population. This source makes many claims that cannot be verified with other records, perhaps due to missing papers, though it derives its claims from Pratt’s biography, which was written during his lifetime and probably with input from “Father Pratt,” who would have certainly known what happened during his lifetime.

Archives of Maryland Online. Volume 491. “Matchett’s Baltimore Director for 1827,” p. 211.

The Baltimore Directory for 1827 provides geographical information for Pratt. It indicates that he was working as a “cordwaincer,” or leather worker and living at West St. Paul’s Street near Centre Road. This is also the first official record of Pratt living in Baltimore as a free man.

Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Death Record) December 1, 1877. “Trueman Pratt.”

This record tells us that Truman Pratt (here spelled “Trueman Pratt”) died at 1 Elder Alley, which was located close to the Orchard Street Methodist Church, of old age and debility. The certificate provides further geographic information by recording his birthplace as West River, Anne Arundel, MD. His third wife, Matilda, was still alive at the time of his death, as he is described as “married.” The certificate also tells us that he was still employed as a carter at the time of his death and describes his race as “mulatto.” Finally, the certificate states that he was buried on December 4, 1877. Unfortunately, the physician’s handwriting, which identified the place of burial, is illegible.

Baltimore County Court (Land Records) TK 295, 1839, pp. 352-355.

This land record is the formal deed that leased the property on which the black Methodist congregation that had been meeting at Pratt’s house in Baltimore City could build a church for worship. The property, located Orchard and beginning by the corner of the aforementioned street and Elder Alley, had initially belonged to Margaret Moore, widow of Henry Moore and administrator of his estate, but the courts turned it over to Kirkpatrick Ewing and his wife Malvina, who seems to have been the official heiress to the grounds. The couple leased it to Truman Pratt (here referred to as “Trueman Le Pratt”) and two other free black men, Cyrus Moore and Basil Hall. The trio had to pay $80.50 per year, divided into two payments of $40.25 in March and September, in order to retain the building, which was leased to them and their heirs and executive administrators for the next ninety-nine years, upon which the heirs and administrators could renew the lease. If these payments were more than thirty days in arrears, the Ewings and Malvina’s heirs could repossess the property until the tenants paid their rent, plus interest that accumulated due to late payment. Pratt, Moore, and Hall also had to pay $20 to the Ewings for the cost of the suit. This record demonstrates that free black people could legally acquire property to build their churches in Baltimore, but it also shows that they would likely only be able to lease the property and be required to pay a high annual rent.

Baltimore County Court (Land Records) TK 295, 1840, pp. 355-356.

This land record from 7 January 1840 completed the transfer of the Orchard Street property for the chapel to Truman Pratt, Cyrus Moore, and Basil Hall. In addition to affirming Kirkpatrick and Malvina Ewing’s leasing of the property to the three free aforementioned African Americans, the new deed also made Cato Blake, Mark Maybury, and Samuel Elliot trustees and executive administrators of the property, along with Moore, Hall, and Pratt. Furthermore, the deed formally declared that the property would be the site of a Methodist church and could therefore by subject to surveillance by other Methodist preachers and ministers. This record can be used to show that black Methodists were subject to overview by other (probably white) Methodists and that African American worship was taken seriously enough at the time to be worthy of overview.

Church Slave Tunnel ‘Reopens.’” Baltimore Sun. 28 July 1976.

This article connects the Orchard Street Church and Truman Pratt, here identified as a slave who ran away to Boston before returning to Baltimore purchasing his freedom from his final master, to the Underground Railroad. It talks about a set of tunnels discovered underneath the old church and speculates that they might prove that the church was a stop on Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad route.

“Louis Pratt, Father of Douglass High Principle, Dies at Age of 82.” Baltimore Afro-American. 12 February 1938.

This article records the death of Louis Pratt, one of Truman Pratt’s sons. It provides genealogical information about Truman Pratt, here referred to as a reverend.

“Matchett’s Directory for Baltimore.” 1831.

This edition of the Baltimore Directory indicates that Pratt had moved and possibly changed occupations since 1827. Here, he is listed as living on Pierce Street east of Cove and working as a laborer.

“Over a Hundred Years Old.” Baltimore Sun. 24 February 1876.

This source deals with Truman Pratt and Magnus Lewis Robinson, who wrote a brief biographical sketch of the freedman. Robinson, according to the article, credibly supported claims that Pratt, in 1876, was nearing his 101st birthday as he had been born on 22 March 1877 at Hild’s Light near the Methodist church, Hope’s Chapel, in Anne Arundel County. The article confirms that Pratt was owned by John Eager Howard, the Maryland governor and revolutionary war hero and his son, and then by John Roy and a Mr. Brice (who first name remains unconfirmed), from whom he finally purchased his freedom. Pratt also fought in the War of 1812 at the Battle of North Point alongside the younger Howard. The article adds that Pratt was the founder of the Orchard Street Methodist Church and was therefore known as “Father Pratt.” Finally, it affirms that he was, at nearly 101 years of age, blind but still strong and mobile. The article also provides geographical information and lets us know that Pratt lived on 1 Elder Alley in close proximity to the church.

Robinson, Magnus Lewis. ‪Sketch of the Life of Truman Pratt: The Centenarian, Including the History of the Orchard-Street M. E. Church, Baltimore, Md. : Also, an Appendix Containing an Account of the First Colored Methodist Episcopal Conference, with Brief Sketches of Its Members, Father Pratt’s Centennial Tea Party, &c. James Young, 1876.

I have not yet been able to obtain a copy of this brief, 24-page biographical sketch of Truman Pratt, but details from ancestry.com and newspaper articles hint at the contents. Among information already discussed, it reveals that Pratt married three times, first to Nellie Brown in 1795 (d. ~1805), Nellie Smith in 1807, and Matilda Williams in 1835. He had children with Brown and Williams. Additionally, it appears that he escaped from John Roy with the help of one Thomas Watkins, Esq. As I continued my research in more depth, I hope to track down a copy of this elusive text and verify as much of the information presented as possible with other sources.

“Washington Methodist Episcopal Conference.” Baltimore Sun. 16 March 1876.

This article talks about a conference of Methodist bishops that met at the Orchard Street Church to discuss religious issues and to commemorate its founder. The last paragraph notes that “Father” Truman Pratt, at the age of 101, had a seat at this conference. The Washington Methodists’ choice of his church for a meeting spot and his inclusion suggests that, even in his old age, he was a respected member of the black Baltimore and Methodist communities.

 

Adapted from Annotated Bibliography for Truman Pratt, founder of Orchard Street Methodist Church and Possible Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Allyson Schuele

Margaret Morgan, Petition for Freedom

The list of sources that follows are, for the most part, primary documents that I have consulted in my research into the life of Margaret Morgan, an enslaved woman who petitioned for freedom in the 1830s.  A great many of these sources are located in  the Court Records and Archives Departments at The Historical Society of Harford County in Bel Air, MD.  There are two secondary sources on the list as well, books that provide some background information about the now-famous Prigg v. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case that arose from Margaret’s capture and a book containing information about the property on which Margaret was likely born.  Unfortunately none of these sources show what happened to Margaret after the Harford County Court ruled against her in 1837.  It is likely that she was returned to either Margaret Ashmore or to Dr. William McElhiney, a Bel Air man to whom she and her children had been sold prior to her petition for freedom.

Archer, Stevenson and Henry Dorsey (Clerk), “Summons: Margaret, Hester, Lucy, Charles, Elizabeth, Amanda, Margaret, and William J. McElhiney.” Court Record No. 103:15, pg 24. 18 March 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

This summons, issued by Judge Stevenson Archer in March of 1837 calls for Margaret and all of her children, as well as a Dr. William McElhiney to appear before the Court of Harford County. This document indicates that between Margaret’s capture and the court case in August of 1837, she (and her children) were in the possession of Dr. McElhiney. It also lists the county sheriff of the time as John Carsins.

Ashmore, Margaret, “Letter to the Court.” Legal Document. 7 July 1845. Slavery-Manumissions-1840-1849, Folder 4060. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

In this document, written by Margaret Ashmore, of Dubuque County, Iowa Territory, Mrs. Ashmore gives permission to Otho Scott to sell or set free any persons “to whom she is entitled in the state of Maryland” In particular she mentions a boy named Moses, a boy named James, a girl named Ellen, and Ellen’s infant child Sam, whom were in possession of William Day. She also mentions a girl named Susan in the possession of Hannah March.

Baker, H. Robert. Prigg v. Pennsylvania: Slavery, the Supreme Court, and the Ambivalent Constitution. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012.

Although primarily concerned with the legal and constitutional outcomes of the Supreme Court case that arose from the controversy surrounding the kidnapping of Morgan and her children, this book contains an overview of the events prior to the 1842 Supreme Court case.

Bond, William B., “State of Maryland v. Negro Jerry Morgan Indictment.” Court Record No. 114.12.4. 18 August 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

Jerry Morgan, the husband of Margaret Morgan, was charged with assaulting Jacob Forwood on March 25th of 1837. Forwood accused Morgan of aiming a loaded gun at him and threatening to fire it. He was accused of then beating Forwood upon the head, shoulders, and arms and threatening to kill him. The Grand Jury of the State of Maryland for the body of Harford County found him guilty and stated that Morgan had “beat with intent to murder a certain Jacob Forwood” on the 25th of March, 1837. William B. Bond was involved in this case as well, signing the document as the Deputy of the Attorney General of the State of Maryland for Harford County.

Bond, William B., “Negro Margaret + Others v. William J. McElhiney Petition for Habeas corpus.” Court Record No. 103:15, pg 2. 18 March 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

This petition to the judges of the County Court proves that Margaret and her children were in the possession of Dr. William J. McElhiney of Bel Air in 1837. It lists the attorney for the petitioners as a William B. Bond. This document summarizes the events of Margaret’s “arrest” in Pennsylvania by Nathan Bemis and his claim that she and her children were slaves belonging to the estate of the late John Ashmore. It states that Margaret felt that she could prove her freedom to the court. It also lists the names of the persons to be brought before the court: Joseph Prigg, Francis W Nichols, and John Flowers.

Bond, William B., “Negro Margaret + Others v. Margaret Ashmore Administrix for John Ashmore. Petition for Freedom.” Court Record No. 103:15, pgs 4-5. 2 May 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

This is the record of the court case that Margaret brought against Margaret Ashmore. It states that following her capture and return to Harford, she and her children were sold by Nathan Bemis to Dr. McElhiney of Bel Air but that the sale had been rescinded and they believed that they were now to be in the possession of Margaret Ashmore.

Jurors of the Harford County Court, “Verdict in the Case of Negro Margaret + Others v. Margaret Ashmore, Administrix of John Ashmore.” Court Record No. 103:15. 29 August 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

This verdict confirms that the court ruled against Margaret Morgan in her petition for freedom. It provides a list of the jurors for the case: Aquila P. Moore, Harry D. Gough, Richard Mistrager(?), George N. Warden, Barnet Clark, Daniel R Wattens, Thomas L Stump, Aquila Brown, Daniel Bay, Sam Galloway, Henry L. Preston, Josias Bailey.

Bemis, Nathan J., “Margaret Ashmore to Negro Jim Manumission.” Manumission. 22 April 1845. Slavery-Manumissions-1840-1849 #1, Folder 4060. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

In this document, written by Nathan J. Bemis as agent and attorney for Margaret Ashmore, manumits Jim, a thirty year old man in her possession in March of 1849, following his service to Hugh C. Whiteford.

“Deposition of John Flowers.” Court Case 103:15 pg 28. August 1837. Harford County Court Records. The Historical Society of Harford County, Bel Air, MD.

This document, created as proof that Margaret Morgan was the property of Margaret Ashmore, provides some details regarding her early life at Mill Green.

Maryland. Cecil County. 1870 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital images. October 30, 2014. http://ancestry.com.

This Census document lists a Margaret Morgan, 66 years of age, working as a domestic in the household of Samuel Meams. She is listed as having been born in Maryland and being unable to read or write.

Weeks, Christopher. An Architectural History of Harford County, Maryland. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996.

This book contains historical information on Mill Green, the area in which the Ashmore family owned property and where Margaret Morgan was likely born. Of particular interest is the entry on Nathan Bemis’s Mill, which replaced the earlier Ashmore Mill at the site in 1827.

 

 

Adapted from Researching Margaret Morgan by Jacob Bensen

James W.C. Pennington/James “Jim” Pembroke: “The Fugitive Blacksmith”

JamesPenningtonJames W.C. Pennington, born James “Jim” Pembroke (or Pembrook), on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Queen Anne’s County in 1807, was an African American slave, blacksmith, and freedom seeker. He was self-educated and active in abolition and temperance. His journey from slavery to freedom offers a valuable perspectives on the “peculiar institution” and his involvement with a variety of organizations and societies demonstrates the role that African Americans played in educating others about the ideals of freedom.

Archival Sources

Papenfuse, Edward C. et al. “James Tilghman (1743-1809).” A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives in the Archives of Maryland series, 2 Vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979, 1985. 2: 823-4. Accessed November 1, 2014. 

This brief biography appears in the records of  the Maryland State Archives as part of their Archives of Maryland series on James Tilghman (1743-1809), James W.C. Pennington’s first owner. Tilghman died when “Jim” was two years old. A well-known politician in the state of Maryland, James Tilghman held a great amount of property at his death,  including 60 slaves. While this biography does not list the names of individual slaves, it does provide evidence of his wealth and standing within the state. His eldest son, Frisby Tilghman (1773-1847) inherited the entire  estate, including Jim Pembroke, in 1809. Although not explicitly named in this document, Frisby Tilghman’s executorship is described in other documents described here and found in the Maryland State Archives, particularly the Queen Anne’s County Register of Wills from 1810. The Archives of Maryland series is available and searchable online at http://aomol.msa.maryland.gov/.

QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Administration Accounts) James Tilghman, 1810, WHN 4, i,  289-291, MdHR 16,765 MSA C 1335-10. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives via “James Tilghman (1743-1809) MSA SC 3520-1265.” Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Last modified January 29, 2003. Accessed on November 2, 2014

The Administration Accounts of James Tilghman’s estate goes into detail about Tilghman’s wealth, as well as his debts, at the time of his death. This document also names Frisby Tilghman as the executor of his father’s estate, and provids a location for the Tilghman estate in Queens Anne’s County.   “The first account of Frisby Tilghman Administrator of all and singular the Goods, Chattels and personal Estate of James Tilghman late of Queen Anne’s County deceased.  This Accountant charges himself with the amount of the deceaseds Inventory returned on this 1st day of September 1810 amounting to . . . . . . . $22140.82 ½.”

QUEEN ANNE’S COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Inventories) James Tilghman, WHN 7, i, page 9-24, MdHR 126, 738 MSA C1412. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives via “James Tilghman (1743-1809) MSA SC 3520-1265.” Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Last modified January 29, 2003. Accessed on November 2, 2014

The inventories of James Tilghman’s estate provide an even more detailed view of the “Goods, Chattels, and personal Estate of James Tilghman.”  In this document, specifically pages 16-18, Tilghman’s slaves (“Chattels”) are listed by name, age, and value.  Here, we discover Jim was indeed a slave belonging to James Tilghman, as were his mother, Nelly, and his brother, Robert.  Although not stated in this document, other documents described here indicate that Jim’s father, Bazil Pembroke, was a slave owned by another slaveholder on a nearby plantation.

Primary Sources

Runanway Ad for Pennington

“200 Dollars Reward.” Torch Light and Public Advertiser. November 1, 1827. Western Maryland Historical Library.  Accessed November 1, 2014. .  

This newspaper clipping, digitally preserved by Western Maryland’s Historical Library, describes Jim’s escape from Frisby Tilghman’s perspective. Jim ran away from Rockland, Frisby Tilghman’s plantation located outside of Hagerstown (present-day Tilghman/Fairplay) in Washington County, Maryland in the late fall of 1827. Tilghman published this ad offering a $200 reward for Pembroke’s return. Frisby described James as “five feet inches high, very black, square and clumsily made, has a down look, prominent and reddish eyes, and mumbles or talks with his teeth closed, can read, and I believe write, is an excellent blacksmith, and pretty good rough carpenter.”  Frisby placed the advertisement in the Hagerstown Torch Light and Public Advertiser. The notation “tf” indicates he paid to run the ad until Pembroke was found. The advertisement provides some important clues about Pembroke’s. He was educated and skilled—he can read, maybe write, and is a blacksmith and possible rough carpenter. For these reasons, the reward offered by Tilghman is significant. One part of the advertisement raises some questions about:   “Any person who will take up and secure him in the jail of Hagers-town shall receive the above reward.”  Why must James be captured and jailed in Hagerstown for the full reward?  Is it because of Maryland Fugitive Slave Laws?  This question has not yet been answered, but will be as part of the mapping of James’ escape and eventual route of life, if you will, hence answering the questions of why did he go where he went once he escaped and where did he go to avoid capture?

Blakeslee, Joel. “MR. BURLEIGH.” The Charter Oak, October 28, 1847. Accessed November 1, 2014.

The Charter Oak, “An Anti-Slavery Family Newspaper,” was published in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1840s.  In this specific article written for the editor (Mr. Burleigh), on the second page, the author refers to an “interesting address” given by Rev. Mr. Pennington to the Litchfield Co. Anti-Slavery Society in October of 1847. In his address, Pennington, spoke about his “belief that the present design of the southern oligarchy” would ultimately result in the South annexing Mexico and from there stretching to “shake hands with the slaveholders of Brazil” in order to expand their peculiar institution.  The author of the article also noted that Pennington spoke about his life as a slave and a letter he had sent to Frisby Tilghman to inquire about purchasing of his freedom, remarking: he “hoped he had repented of the theft he had committed, (referring to his moving with his body and soul out of Maryland, without liberty.)  Is it possible that a worthy minister of the Gospel is living in such circumstances and perils, in Connecticut?  It is even so.”  The reprinting of Pennington’s remarks at the Litchfield Co. Anti-Slavery Society is a most important source for it provides us the information that Pennington was active in Anti-Slavery societies and that he, at least by 1847 in Connecticut, had possibly revealed or mad known the fact that he was a fugitive slave.  The newspaper, of course, also provides context to 1840s Connecticut and the environment in which Pennington was an active abolitionist and reverend.

Hooker, John. “Rev. Dr. Pennington.” Frederick Douglass’ Paper. June 26, 1851. Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Last modified November 1, 2014.

John Hooker, a parishioner befriended by James W.C. Pennington, wrote a letter for Frederick Douglass’ Paper in June of 1851 about “Rev. Dr. Pennington,” who he said was “in a fair way of becoming a man.”  Although it sheds light onto Pennington’s birth into slavery, his escape, and career, the beginning of Hooker’s letter provides more insight into the divide between the North and the South that ultimately transforms into the divide between whites and blacks.  Hooker discloses that Pennington confided to him that he was a fugitive slave, a fact he had not even disclosed to his wife.  Pennington shares this information with Hooker we are told so that he “might attempt a negotiation with his master for the purchase of his freedom.”  Hooker holds in his hands now the cards to either help “Dr. P.” become a free man (despite Frisby Tilghman’s death) or change his mind and “send him to a sugar plantation.” The opening and subsequent paragraphs on Pennington have an ironic tone that shows the enlightened superiority those who did not own slaves seemed to hold over slaveholders— outlining a marked difference between the North and the South.  However, by the end of the piece, Hooker decides he must go on a walk so that he may “see how it seems to be a slaveholder,” and that Pennington is not yet a man, a “Peer of the Realm,” for “The title to him [Pennington] still rests with me [Hooker].”  This is the marked difference between whites and blacks in the United States—in that whites own blacks and can easily take control of their destiny, for “White people giveth life and taketh it away.”

Pennington, James W.C. 1849. The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States. Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001.

Perhaps the most important primary source for understanding and mapping the life of James W.C. Pennington is his own autobiography, which focuses heavily on his escape from and sentiments about slavery.  Pennington’s The Fugitive Blacksmith was published in 1849—while he was still a fugitive slave; interestingly, the work was published in London, where Pennington was at the time (why he was in London is revealed through many of the secondary sources that all provide at least some semblance of a biographical timeline).  Pennington’s account of slavery in western Maryland also provides a vivid, if not harrowing, picture of slavery.  Included in The Fugitive Blacksmith are two letters Pennington wrote and “are simply introduced to show what the state of my feelings was with reference to slavery at the time they were written.”  The first letter is to Pennington’s father, mother, brothers, and sisters; the second letter is to Colonel Frisby Tilghman.  The Fugitive Blacksmith is most relevant to this work because it was not only written by the fugitive slave in question but also because it provides the framework to Pennington’s life—his birth into slavery, his escape, his career, his initial escape route to freedom, and his continued travels from Pennsylvania to New York to Connecticut to England and then back to the States and then back across the pond and then back to the United States.  Because of his travels, Pennington’s life as a fugitive slave is easily drawn on a map, but this document enriches the locations. His remarkable story and life can be intertwined in the larger narratives of African American education, abolition, temperance, and freedom including the Underground Railroad, fugitive slaves, and the “chattel principle.”

Secondary Sources

Arnold, Tiffany. “With hope of being free, James Pennington fled Rockland estate.” Herald-Mail, April 11, 2011. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Arnold’s article about James Pennington, published in the Herald-Mail on the 150th anniversary of the firing of shots on Fort Sumter, gives a broad overview of Pennington’s life, specifically focusing on his life as a slave and his escape as a “freedom-seeker” to his subsequent education and career.  In one informational packed statement, Arnold writes, in great sum, the major accomplishments of Pennington’s life, and ultimately, what we should remember him for: “He led efforts to desegregate New York City’s public transit system and fought for the right of blacks to vote. He also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Heidelberg and helped the Africans involved in the historic Amistad case form a Christian mission in Sierra Leone.”  Pennington’s life was a remarkable one indeed and his autobiography is a brilliant resource on its own, that according to Dean Herrin, a historian for National Park Service and coordinator of the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies (and author of another secondary source used within this bibliography). Ultimately, Arnold’s article is useful because it provides a summary of Pennington’s life and its recent publish date of April 11, 2011 allows us to see that not only the Civil War, but of the story of the slave and his/her narrative is still relevant to the overall American narrative.

Close, Stacey. “A Voice for Freedom.” Connecticut Explored, Vol. 11, No.1 (Winter 2012/2013). Accessed November 1, 2014. .

Close’s article, specifically its electronic reprint provides historic newspaper images related to Pennington’s life, especially his life in Connecticut.  Connecticut allowed Pennington to become “part of a highly organized and engaged African American community.”  While in Connecticut, Pennington served as pastor at the Talcott Street Congregational Church (Faith Congregational Church) and also helped to establish the North African and South African schools—schools for black children outside of the regular school system that many African American parents complained about.  Close’s article also led us to another primary source—the Charter Oak, an antislavery newspaper published in Connecticut.  Newspapers were very important in the nineteenth-century, seeing as how they provided the public with news and  both locally and throughout the country; naturally then, newspapers and publications were very important to Pennington—as was literacy—we learn from Close’s article that Pennington not only published the Textbook of the Origin and History, Etc. Etc. of the Colored People in 1841, but his autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith, in 1849, as well as writing published articles for the Colored American and briefly published two antislavery newspapers after the decline of the Colored American, The Northern Star and Clarksonian.  Ultimately, Close’s article provides a summary of Pennington’s life as well as insight into his life in Connecticut and his antislavery beliefs.

Hannold, Elizabeth, preparer. “Individual Property/District Maryland Historical Trust, Internal NR-Eligibility Review Form, Rockland, WA-II-102.” Maryland Historical Trust, Inventory of Historic Properties. Accessed November 1, 2014.

This document, prepared by Elizabeth Hannold, is for the Maryland Historical Trust and their internal review form for National Register eligible properties; the property in this document is called “Rockland” and is located in the “Fairplay Vicinity” of Sharpsburg Pike.  This historic home in Washington County, dating to the early 1800s, belonged to the industrious founder of the village of Tilghmanton (Fairplay), Frisby Tilghman.  Frisby was the owner of James W.C. Pennington, born James “Jim” Pembroke.  The information provided in this document, although primarily architectural, does discuss the importance of the property in its relationship to the Rev. Dr. James W.C. Pennington.  Most importantly, the Review Form provides context to the area of Rockland and Western Maryland so that we may better visualize and thus discuss, the map of Pennington’s life.

Herrin, Dean. “From Slave to Abolitionist: James W.C. Pennington of Washington County, Maryland.” Paper presented at the Millennium Crossroads Conference, Frederick Community College, Frederick, MD, September 30, 2001. Last modified November 1, 2014.

Herrin’s paper on Pennington provides wonderful information synthesizing not only the life and map of Pennington, but also the larger issues of slavery and specifically, slavery in “the mid-Maryland region.”  Herrin states that “Jim Pembroke’s [Pennington’s “slave name”] is one of the great slave narratives of American history,” and that his “life as an abolitionist and a public figure is well known,” but “few have examined his early years in Maryland.”  Yet his story is of utmost importance because it “tells us so much about slavery and early African American history in mid-Maryland, as well as aspects of the cultural world of the ante-bellum white planter class in the region.”  Throughout Herrin’s paper are pieces of Pennington’s life and how they reveal larger narratives about slavery.  Ultimately, Herrin’s paper is useful because it provides a context to Pennington’s life that also pleads: “Slavery is not an easy topic to study, yet it is a significant if tragic part of our history in the mid-Maryland region, and by studying such people as James W.C. Pennington and Frisby Tilghman, we will start to fill in that mosaic that is our complex past. Pennington’s story is only one of many. We need to discover the others.”

Read, Madeleine. “Summary [of James W. C. Pennington, 1807-1870: The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States.” Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Last modified November 1, 2014.

Read’s summary of Pennington’s work is just that—a summary of Pennington’s autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith.  Read’s summary is useful because it provides the basic content of Pennington’s work in the order in which it appears in the book.

Taylor, Yuval, ed. “James W.C. Pennington: The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States.” In I Was Born a Slave: An Anthology of Classic Slave Narratives, edited by Yuval Taylor, 103-158. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999.

Yuval’s edited anthology of classic slave narratives provides not only a reprinted copy of The Fugitive Blacksmith, but also provides a summary of The Fugitive Blacksmith and puts the book into the context of both Pennington’s life and the institution of American slavery when it was published in 1849.  Ultimately Yuval’s work is useful because it provides context and a reprint of Pennington’s The Fugitive Blacksmith.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground. “Rockland (Washington County.)” Accessed November 1, 2014.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground (TJTHG) is a National Heritage Area and “is a non-profit, four-state partnership dedicated to raising awareness of the unparalleled American heritage in the region running from Gettysburg, PA., through Maryland and Harpers Ferry, W.VA., to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.”  Washington County, being part of this National Heritage Area, is discussed in various articles on TJTHG website. Of utmost importance to us is the article in the African American Heritage section on Rockland.  Rockland was the home of Frisby Tilghman, Pennington’s slave-owner; it is also where Pennington lived from about 1810 till his escape in 1827.  TJTHG’s article on Rockland provides context to not only Pennington’s home but also discusses Pennington himself and his life and career.

Adapted from James W.C. Pennington/James “Jim” Pembroke: “The Fugitive Blacksmith” –Annotated Bibliography by Heidi Carbaugh and Megan Hardy

James W. C. Pennington, “The Fugitive Blacksmith”

JamesPennington

Image Credit:  James W.C. Pennington, 1833 from The Connecticut Magazine, vol. IX, 1905 

James W.C. Pennington (born James “Jim” Pembroke (or Pembrook), on the Eastern shore of Maryland in Queen Anne’s County in 1807) was an African American man who wore many hats. He was a slave, a blacksmith, and a fugitive. He was also self-educated, an abolitionist, a member of temperance societies, well-traveled, and well-published. His life provides an interesting perspective on the peculiar institution and his journeys offer insight into the processes of escape and freedom.

Jim Pembroke and his mother, Nelly, were owned by James Tilghman of Queen Anne’s County in Maryland.  When Pembroke was just two, James Tilghman died, leaving his estate to be administered by his eldest living son, Frisby Tilghman.  Nelly and her two sons, James and Robert, were sent to Frisby Tilghman’s plantation, Rockland, in Washington County in 1810.  Frisby purchased Jim’s father, Bazil Pembroke, from a plantation near his father’s on the eastern shore.

According to a national Register eligibility form produced by and for the Maryland Historical Trust, Col. Frisby Tilghman came to Washington County “sometime before 1800. He purchased 200 acres of land called ‘Widow’s Mite’ in April of 1800 which he named ‘Rockland.’ The property, which grew to nearly a thousand acres, remained in the Tilghman family until 1850. He also founded the village of Tilghmanton [also known as Fairplay], located about a mile south of Rockland, as a community for the poor.”  Jim Pembroke would live on this massive plantation until his escape in the fall of 1827.

In 1815-1816, Jim was apprenticed to a blacksmith. Skilled slaves were more valuable to their owners. During this period, a Methodist minister began to hold camp meetings near Rockland, hoping to convert enslaved people and, according to Pembroke, address “words of comfort to the slaves.” For this the minister, Reverand Jacob Gruber, was arrested and tried for encouraging slaves to rebel. It was this event and Gruber’s subsequent trial that led Pembroke to contemplate escape. (see Herrin, paper presented at the Millennium Crossroads Conference, p. 5  and Pennington, The Fugitive Blacksmith, p. 68).

Nearly ten years later, on October 28, 1827, Pembroke left Rockland as though he was going to visit his brother outside of Hagerstown, but the trip was a ruse. Runanway Ad for PenningtonMax Grivno explained in Gleanings of Freedom: Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860 that “the Mason-Dixon Line may have figured prominently on maps and in slaves’ imaginations, but it was invisible to those on the ground.”  Indeed, Pennington wrote in his The Fugitive Blacksmith, that he was confused as to the direction he should go to escape to freedom: “But a still more trying question was, how can I expect to succeed, I have no knowledge of distance or direction. I know that Pennsylvania is a free state, but I know not where its soil begins, or where that of Maryland ends? Indeed, at this time there was no safety in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York, for a fugitive, except in lurking-places, or under the care of judicious friends, who could be entrusted not only with liberty, but also with life itself.” (Pennington, The Fugitive Blacksmith, p. 13)

Regardless, Pembroke’s escape was successful, and he remained mobile.

By 1828-29, Jim Pembroke, had was living in Brooklyn, New York, and he had changed his name to James William Charles (W.C.) Pennington.

Around 1840, he moved to Hartford, Connecticut. In 1841 he founded and served as the first president of the Union Missionary Society (later known as the American Missionary Association); he published a book, Textbook of the Origin and History, Etc. Etc. of the Colored People; and he was named delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention and first Peace Congress.  For this conference, he traveled to England, returning home by 1844.

By 1848 Pennington had moved back to New York.

1849 was an important year for Pennington. He returned to England, and, while there, he published his narrative The Fugitive Blacksmith; or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States.  In that same year he received an honorary doctorate in divinity degree from the University of Heidelberg, after having previously taken classes in the subject at Yale, where he was denied an opportunity to earn a degree.  Yet, in 1849 Pennington was legally still a slave. He had never been freed by his owner, Frisby Tilghman, who had died 1847. His freedom was put in great risk by the 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a federal crime to knowingly harbor a fugitive.

Recognizing the threat, a group of Scottish abolitionists raised money to buy Pennington’s freedom.  It is worth noting that in 1846 Pennington had attempted to buy his own freedom, as well as that of his parents.  However, Tilghman was unwilling to negotiate the price and rejected the $1,500 had saved. By 1850, the executor of Frisby Tilghman’s estate made it publicly known that James W.C. Pennington’s freedom could be purchased for $150.

By 1856 Pennington was back in Connecticut, where he spent the vast amount of his time traveling and delivering sermons to various ministries.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Pennington returned to England, where he spent his time editing and eventually publishing the narrative of J.H. Banks, a fugitive slave from Alabama.  Still in England in 1862, Pennington was arrested and jailed for, of all things, stealing a copy of the Pope’s translation of the Odyssey.

Pennington eventually returned to the States, where upon he left the Presbyterian Church and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  For the remaining years of his life Pennington traversed over the country, no longer fearful of being made a slave again, preaching in at least three major congregations: Natchez, Mississippi, Portland, Maine, and Jacksonville, Florida, where he founded both a school and church.

Pennington passed away in 1870.  He lived a remarkable life and left behind a record that is rare in the slave population, yet for all he had accomplished and for all he had done, there was one thing that always weighed on his mind: the equality of African Americans in the United States, after all to Pennington, “There is one sin that slavery committed against me, which I never can forgive. It robbed me of my education; the injury is irreparable.” (Pennington, The Fugitive Blacksmith, p. 56)

Source: The Life & Times of “The Fugitive Blacksmith” James W.C. Pennington

Slavery & American Memory

In 1839, John “Jack” Saunders, a slave belonging to Jacob Waltz of Washington County, Maryland fled from slavery, and may have made it into Pennsylvania; however, Jack was caught later in the year and forced to face the Maryland Justice System.  Jack was to be forced to an out-of-state sale; however, Waltz petitioned the Governor and Jack was granted a pardon.  This seemed to have turned some gears in Jack’s mind where he was emboldened by the feasibility of escaping the “peculiar institution.”  Jack again escaped in 1840.  He was caught in Frederick County.  The facts of his life are not known beyond this point, except that his capture in-state saved him from being sold South.

These are simply facts; there is no interpretation, no narrative.

Why is slavery so contested in American history and memory?  Is it because it was morally wrong?  Is it because it is so complex and affected the lives of not only blacks but whites as well?  Is it because it deals with Americans identities?  Does the American public even know enough about slavery to hold an intellectual dialogue on slavery?  These questions loom before us as many historical sites – local, state, and federal – attempt to interpret the “peculiar institution.”  As Ira Berlin states in his article “Coming to Terms with Slavery” in Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, what Americans need “are not only new debates about slavery and race but also a new education . . .The simple truth,” he states “is that most Americans know little about the three-hundred-year history of slavery in mainland North America with respect to peoples of African descent and almost nothing of its effect on the majority of white Americans.”(4)  This is but one major issue public historians face when attempting to present and convey slavery to the public.

Slavery, at its core, complicates the identity of Americans – how can a nation espouse its founding of freedom and liberty while at the same time admit to enslaving another people?  Slavery is, of course, not a uniquely American institution; it has been practiced all over the world.  As James Horton wrote, in the same aforementioned book, “history matters.  It provides our national and our personal identity.  It structures our relationships, and it defines the terms of our debates.”(36)  Horton goes on to emphasize the role of the public historian in all this hullabaloo – “History must be taught not only in the academy but in the variety of nonacademic settings where Americans go to learn.  Here is where the role of the public historian, in charge of telling the complex and contradictory national story in public places, becomes crucial.” (36)

Reconciling the American narrative  would require that we, as Americans, rewrite the major narrative of American history and memory so as to develop an inclusive story of all the human experiences of slavery.  One of the reasons Americans have such a difficult time talking about slavery is because slavery itself needs to be acknowledged as part of the American identity.

Another issue public historians face concerning the presentation of slavery in a public place is that slavery is difficult to generalize, and in fact it should not be generalized.  “The lives of slaves, like those of all men and women, changed over time and differed from place to place.  Thus slavery was not one thing but many.” (Berlin 7)

So then how do we present and interpret slavery to the public?  Then additionally, how do we engage the public?  I do not have the answer; rather, I can only make suggestions.  I think we need to give Americans a visual of how widespread slavery actually was on the continent – it was not a Southern phenomenon.  This of course requires maps – maps that show slave escape routes, maps that show where slaves lived.  It would also be beneficial to present all the narratives that relate to slavery; most Americans think slavery and they think “African American history;” well, I have news, it’s also white history.  It will be a long road to accomplish incorporating slavery into the American narrative.

Adapted from Slavery & American Memory by Heidi Carbaugh

Sam Meads: Aiding and Abetting Fugitives

Sam Meads had been “arrested for aiding and abetting an escape of four, to be tried in Baltimore.”  Digging through Baltimore Sun Archives, land records for Baltimore County and court documents of Baltimore City we have been able to construct a portion of the environment of slavery and freedom in which Sam operated.  Exact details of his life, outside of his arrest and trial, are yet to be discovered, but we have a somewhat clear picture of Samuel Meads the man.

Our original Google search for Sam Meeds, even though this in itself is not a primary document, found the arrest report printed in the Baltimore Sun.

Newspapers.com, Online home to millions of historical newspapers, 2014

This article offered us places to start out research.  It provided names of the arresting officers, the judge Sam was brought before, names for the attorney’s, how the four slaves escaped the city and where “just beyond BelAir.”  It told us that the trial was postponed to collect more evidence and that his bail was increased from $300 to $1,000.  This led us to the Maryland State Archive criminal dockets for Baltimore City and County.

Baltimore City Jail (City Criminal Docket) 1842-1844, C2057, December 1842, 1104, MSA C2057-6, MdHR#: 6662.

This criminal document for the hearing of “Samuel Meeds, col’d,” 1842-1844, C2057, confirmed information printed in the Baltimore Sun.  The arresting Officers name, Keller, appeared along with that of Justice Barnard, and minor specifics stating Samuel was “aiding and enticing 4 slaves to abscond from their masters.”  It also reiterated that the trial was postponed until Dec 16/42.  Other important information was an alternative spelling of Sam’s last name and that he was described as colored.

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Saturday December 3, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

Since we only had a secondary source for Sam Meads arrest, the Baltimore Sun Newspaper collection housed in the UMBC Albin O Kuhn Library, Special Collections provided us with the primary source.  Here we were able to locate the original arrest report printed on December 3, 1842.

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Saturday December 17, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

Using the postponement date provided in the City Criminal docket we were able to locate a newspaper report regarding the re-examination of the Sam Mead case.  This provided us with more critical information as to how to proceed in our research.  Here we found the names of the slave owners: Mr. Uriah Carpenter, Mrs. McSweeny, Mr. W. Whitman and Mr. William Reese.  Now we could try to connect these people to particular slaves and possible areas within the city.  If we could find evidence they were aquatinted with each other this could open new avenues to question and search.

Baltimore Sun Collection, “Runaway Advertisements, Mary Turner”, Ledger: May, 1842-Dec. 1842, Tuesday December 8, and Wednesday December 9, 1842, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

Searching through the December issue of the Baltimore Sun newspaper I also located two runaway advertisements for Mary Turner or Mary Smalls posted by Uriah Carpenter.  The advertisement provided a description of Mary with signs of possible abuse in the past.  It also provided and address for Carpenter in Baltimore “the corner of Sharp and Hill Streets.”  Since it was indicated in the lower corner of the advertisement that it should be printed 3 times and I only found two printings, this suggest Mary may have been returned to her owner having only escaped for a short time.

Baltimore Sun Collection, Ledger: Jan, 1843-April 1843, Monday March 6, 1843, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, AOK, Special Collections.

This Newspaper report on the outcome of Sam Meads Trial is a valuable source for it also provides new information for our story.  Here Samuel Meads is described as a free mulato.  If this is truly the case he may have also owned property in Baltimore, however I have not located any conformation of this within the Land Records for Baltimore County.  The article also provides the names of the escaped slaves and the full names of their owners with an alternative spelling for Caroline (McCeny) McSweeny.  Here too Mary is referred to as Mary Smallwood, a new alias for her.  The article reports that “two of the fugitives… appeared to testify against him,” which indicates that half, if not all, had been apprehended at the time of his trial.  Since we now know that the trial verdict was reported to the Baltimore Sun on Saturday, March 4, 1843 we can go back to the Maryland State Archives Criminal dockets and locate these original records.  Meads also appears to have been known sufficiently in the community for his acquaintances to provide a strong enough alibi to have him acquitted.

Maryland Land Records

We used these land records to denote possible connections that may have existed between Uriah Carpenter and William Reese.  It appears these two men owned property along the same street within the city.  On page 71 of the Baltimore County land records Book: TK 258 records for 1836, Uriah Carpenter is recorded as leasing property at the corner of Sharp St. and Hill St. for 99.9 years.  William Reese also appears on page 256 in the land records Book: TK 261 as leasing land at the W. side of Sharp St. and Lee St. which places them within two blocks of each other.  Due to their close proximity, Mary Turner/Smalls and Harriet Cooper could have maintained some form of contact.  William Reese also shows up in the land records as mortgaging property with what looks to be a brother along the S side of Water & High Streets, possibly a business venture. Unfortunately we were not able to find any information in the Baltimore County land records for Caroline McSweeny (her husband may have died) or Whitfield Whitman.

To access the links below you will need to login to Mdlandrec.net

Baltimore Land Records Uriah Carpenter, 1836-1838, Book: TK 258, folio 71 – MSA CE 66-308.

Baltimore Land Records William Reese, 1836-1838, Book: TK 261, folio 256/257, MSA CE 66-311

Baltimore Land Records William Reese & John L Reese, 1836-1838, Book: TK 270 folio 301/303, MSA CE 66-320

Adapted from Research Summary and Annotated Bibliography by Robin K. Martin and Kymberly Peters

Freedom Seeker, Daniel Hawkins

Baltimore City Jail's Runaway Slave Docket from the year 1851.  Accessed at the  Maryland State Archives 10/25/2014.

Baltimore City Jail’s Runaway Slave Docketfrom the year 1851. Accessed at the Maryland State Archives 10/25/2014.

Primary source documents regarding the history of the enslaved person Daniel Hawkins are rather limited, but the ability to trace his story through these documents appears to be promising.  Each of these sources requires further research and at this moment this bibliography is a mere introduction into the possibilities that each source offers to contribute to the narrative of Hawkins.  Initially, the only information concerning Hawkins was provided in the list of primary case studies from the Maryland State Archives (MSA).  The background of Hawkins reads “Daniel Hawkins (claimed by William M. Risteau of Baltimore County, Hawkins was sent back to Baltimore).”

Runaway Slave Docket 1851:  I began my research into Daniel Hawkins through the use of the Maryland State Archive’s Legacy of Slavery in Maryland database.  In this database I found the transcription of the entry of Daniel Hawkins into Baltimore City Jail’s Runaway Slave Docket from July 22, 1851.  Although on the list of primary case studies from the MSA it states that Hawkins was claimed by William M. Risteau, from viewing the actual Runaway Slave Docket in the archives it appears that Hawkins was owned by an Ann D. Risteau, who may have been William M. Risteau’s sister-in-law.  The Runaway Slave Docket also lists an enslaved woman by the name of Louisa Tilman, who was the only other runaway slave placed in the Baltimore City Jail on the same day as Hawkins.  Could this entry indicate that Tilman and Hawkins were running together?  Further, a note in the record on August 13th, 1851, indicates “the body of Louisa” was released. There is no other record for a person named Louisa Tilman. Does this indicate that Tilman died during her imprisonment? Or was this a standard way to list the release of a slave? The other statements of release are not worded in this manner.

Daniel Hawkins' statement of release,  Baltimore City Jail Runaway  Slave Docket, 1851

Daniel Hawkins’ statement of release,Baltimore City Jail Runaway Slave Docket, 1851

Hawkins’ statement of release reads “Recorded July 25/51 from W. H. Counselman Warden/Daniel Hawkins/Charles Willisman agent for B. M. Campbell.”  The fact that Hawkins was released to B. M. Campbell, a slave dealer, and not his owner may prove to be of great significance.

The Baltimore Weekly Sun 1850-1851:  Following my research using the Runaway Slave Docket from 1851, I began to read through the scanned copies of the The Baltimore Weekly Sun from 1850-1851 in the hopes of finding a runaway slave advertisement for Daniel Hawkins.  I noticed that there was a dramatic decrease in runaway slave advertisements following the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act on September 18, 1850.  In fact,  it was the lack of runaway slave ads that I noticed first compared to the number present in the The Baltimore Weekly Sun the previous months and that realization prompted me to verify the date that the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in order to make a connection between the two.  This puts the escape of Hawkins from his owner in the context of the Fugitive Slave Act.  Unfortunately, The Baltimore Weekly Sun was unavailable in the database in which I was searching from January 1851 – August 1851, the months in which Hawkins most likely escaped and his owners would have run advertisements for his capture.

“Wants Negroes,” advertisement  from B.M. and W.J. Campbell,  The Baltimore Weekly Sun,  Nov. 2, 1850

“Wants Negroes,” advertisement from B.M. and W.J. Campbell,The Baltimore Weekly Sun,Nov. 2, 1850

However, beneath the section reserved for runaway slave advertisements in each weekly edition of the The Baltimore Weekly Sun were the advertisements of B. M. Campbell seeking to purchase slaves.  Is it possible that following his escape, Hawkins’ owner sold him to B. M. Campbell?  This would be an important connection to make in the narrative of Hawkins.  Further research into B. M. Campbell may be useful in providing insight into how Campbell participated in the buying and selling of slaves and to which locations Campbell sold the enslaved people whom he purchased.

1850 Census Record:  The 1850 census record, available on Ancestry.com, provides information on both William M. Risteau and his brother Thomas Risteau (whose wife Ann is listed as the owner of Hawkins on the Baltimore City Jail Runaway Slave Docket).  Information gathered from the census includes family members of both the Baltimore County Risteau brothers, their occupations (farmers), and their real estate holdings.  Information concerning their sibling relationship was gathered through further searching on the Ancestry.com website for their family tree.  This information is useful in determining the type of work that Hawkins may have been required to perform on the farm of his owners and the census records may be helpful if further research into the Risteau land holdings is required.

Slave Assessment Records:  The Slave Assessment Records available in the Legacy of Slavery database are useful in assessing how many slaves the Risteau family owned and are available for the year 1840.  The Slave Assessment Record lists the ages and genders of the slaves held.  This might also provide a minuscule amount of information regarding the lifestyle that Hawkins may have led while enslaved by the Risteaus.

FedCases Fugitive Slave Record:  When the name “Risteau” is searched in the Legacy of Slavery database, document information concerning a petition and court case filed by William M. Risteau from June to September 1850 in regard to a fugitive slave named Daniel Hawkins.  Could Hawkins have been on the run for over a year before he was captured? If he had escaped for such a great length of time, how far from Baltimore County was he able to travel?  Hopefully, exploring this document at the archives will help to answer these questions.

The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims:  An internet search for “Daniel Hawkins” returned a document from The Project Gutenberg titled, Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 18: The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims, published in 1856.  This document was published to denounce the Fugitive Slave Act and record accounts of the victims of the law.  In this document a Daniel Hawkins is listed as one of the victims of the Fugitive Slave Law: “DANIEL HAWKINS, of Lancaster County, Penn., (July, 1851,) was brought before Commissioner Ingraham, Philadelphia, and by him delivered to his claimant, and he was taken into slavery.”  The Daniel Hawkins listed in this tract was found in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in July of 1851, the same month that the Baltimore Hawkins was entered into Baltimore City Jail.  Did Hawkins escape to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania before he was found and returned to Baltimore?

Summary:  It is my hope that these primary sources will lead to a more complete profile of Daniel Hawkins, his enslavement, and his escape from slavery.  If these primary sources are actually connected as they appear to be so far, we may be able to follow Hawkins from his enslavement in Baltimore County, to Pennsylvania as a freedom seeker, and back to Baltimore City as a captured victim of the Fugitive Slave Act.  Perhaps more research into B. M. Campbell and his dealings in slavery will provide more information on Hawkins’ experiences after his release from Baltimore City Jail into Campbell’s custody.

Source: Daniel Hawkins: Annotated Primary Sources by Rachel Rettaliata