The Missing Historic Oakdale Story

I wasn’t going to say anything, but now I need to. A blog post was made about the Oakdale Decorator Show, which I’ll link to at the end of this post. It eludes to missing history and mentions our nonprofit, so it seemed wise to write a few things. I had a feeling something was coming.

HISTORY

Albert G. Warfield, was 21 years old when Oakdale was built. His father, Joshua Warfield, owned Cherry Grove (HO-1) and is thought to have been the one who built Oakdale in 1838 for Joshua. Let’s examine the possibility that Albert built Oakdale, since that is what is written in the showcase program.

First, he didn’t get married until 1842. In his father Joshua’s will of 1846, Albert was bequeathed 10 people his father had been enslaving that were already noted to be in Albert’s possession by then. I know this part of this family’s history very well, and have the names of almost everyone that Joshua had been enslaving at that point. There are more than 50 names, and there isn’t room to list them all here. Some of them:

His son Nicholas received 13 people, already in his possession.

His daughter Eveline (or Everline) received 11, already in her possession.

His son Albert received 10, already in his possession.

His daughter Kitty received 11, already in her possession.

His granddaughter Rachel Riggs was to receive Delilah’s youngest daughter.

His grandson Joshua Riggs was to receive Fanny’s youngest boy.

His granddaughter Everline Riggs was to receive Matilda’s daughter.

His grandson Joshua Warfield was to receive Let’s youngest son, Clagget. Clagget was 6 at the time, and I’ll tell you later how that’s known.

So, let’s go with the story that Albert, 21 in 1838, was responsible for building Oakdale. With what resources and labor? I ask that question because I read a lot of emphasis being placed upon this belief about Oakdale: “It’s subsequent evolution embodies the distinctive characteristics of a grand country estate of a man of business.. run on the profits of modern business rather than those of the farming..”

??? So, folks are skipping the ENTIRE slavery and plantation part then??? Not entirely unexpected in Howard County.

I asked a question last week of a fellow historian/presenter who I won’t name here. I asked him if it’s been his experience in the county that people do or do not know the county’s history involving slavery. I already knew my answer, but was curious as to what his would be. He responded that most don’t and are surprised when they do learn. We agree on that!

I received an anonymous email before the showcase began, and I’m including it here since it doesn’t identify anyone except me. It’s someone’s opinion, and they are entitled to it.

As a historian whose specialty is this time period in county history, I understood why I was being asked to say something about the event. A number of people also called me about it. My response was then and essentially remains “I respect the right of all county nonprofits to do as they wish to raise funds and in this case to help the owner of Gov. Warfield’s plantation home to sell it. Every history nonprofit has their choices, and we only have ONE government/public history entity in the county: Recreation and Parks.” I could see that scouts and students participated so far in this event, and while I wish that the focus was accurate inclusive history, I believe that to be a choice for all private nonprofits. One of the most recognizable history nonprofits, the Howard County Historical Society, Inc, contributed to the history writeup for the Ed Warfield History Room, mentioning the brick work and “master craftsman” of the 1838 structure. I’m glad that they did.

This history nonprofit (HCLTR) asks the question: Did Samuel or his dad assist in the building of Oakdale? How about Allen or his dad? Don’t know who they are? Let me tell you, because someone should in order to give them their humanity as these stories do. Allen Bowie was reported to have been born around the year 1824. That would have made him around 14 years old when Oakdale was being built in 1838. Samuel Hall was born around the year 1826, making him 12 when Oakdale was being built. Depending upon if the 1838 date was the start or finish would help determine if Samuel and Allen would have themselves been part of the construction crew. I’m sure you saw nothing about either of them if you’ve already gone to the decorator show, but historians who examine primary source documents would know about them.

Many readers are probably scratching their heads thinking, “..but NO.. it’s been said that Edwin’s father was against slavery.” Where does that come from? From the  decision to elevate the following words from his obituary (he died nearly 30 years after the Civil War in 1891):

Records show something different. “Slave for life” means just how it sounds with no ambiguity, and this information was placed on the 1867 list of county enslavers wishing to be financially compensated after slavery was abolished. If Albert had been intending to set anyone free at age 40, “life” wouldn’t have been written in the “slave for” column. Eliza was already 46. Understand that some enslavers put their names on this list, and some didn’t. Albert G. Warfield reported having received $100 in compensation for his loss of Samuel’s labor, who was part of the 39th regiment of the US Colored Troops.

Albert’s father had bequeathed “Allen” to him, as well as “Eliza” and others in 1846. I can see their names on the 1867 slave for life list. Samuel, who would have otherwise been enslaved for life by Albert G. Warfield, went into company E at the age of 39. Here is part of the record for Samuel’s military service:

Perhaps the reader will think of and try to imagine these people if you opt to visit Oakdale and peer out one of the many windows overlooking the grounds that were once plantation fields with the ancestors of the people shown above working them. And FYI, you can think about Jesse also, who ran away from Joshua’s daughter Everline. Everline was living in Montgomery County with her husband Elisha Riggs in 1846. Placing so much emphasis on buildings and museum objects, though they do tell stories, makes it so easy to disregard the history of the PEOPLE who lived throughout the county (building it and helping people to prosper with legacies we see at places like Oakdale). Governor Edwin Warfield wasn’t born when his grandfather was formalizing arrangements for the future homes for those he was enslaving, but it’s a good bet that from the year of his birth in 1848 and forward he was exposed to it. The picture of the Oakdale reunion that circulates shows many of the same people who Albert wanted compensation for:

Warner Cook

Remus Cook

Henny Bond

Laura Bond, Henny’s daughter

Susan Garner

George Garner

And another person was Clagett Bowie who, at the age of six, was given to Joshua N. Warfield (a one year old child himself). Joshua was a few years older than Edwin.

It looks like the show started with several elected officials in attendance lending their names to support. This photo shows the applicable building dates for all to see. I just wonder how many of them knew to ask about Samuel or any of the others I’ve mentioned, and if so, did they?

Marlena Jareaux

P.S. Today’s blog post that sparked this is found below. And you now know why she made the suggestion that she did about a choice in donating…

Click Here

*Added after the original post* This is from the inventory form completed about Joshua’s nearby property: info about his enslaved, including Sam.

And here is Clagett Bowie… and Joshua’s compensation attempt:

EVENT ALERT

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, our organization will be hosting a hybrid event we are calling The Underground Railroad and a Log House in Ellicott’s Mills: The Findings. 

You can read more about it on Eventbrite, but here is a part of the writeup you will find there:

..it is the expanded talk about the history of the log house (including who likely built it), and the nearby community of Black and Mulatto citizens who lived among the Ellicotts during the time when slavery was close to everyone. We will also discuss the two year period of 1861-1863 (during Civil War) in which there were about 30 enslaved and free Black and Mulatto people jailed in the Ellicott’s Mills district for activities surrounding slavery, and briefly touch upon our nonprofit’s submission of an application to the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, anchored by this research. This announcement is timely, since it is National Preservation Month!

TO EVENT REGISTRATION

IT TAKES A HOWARD COUNTY VILLAGE

I’m betting (okay, hoping) that there are people like me who believe that we teach our children, but that they also teach us things. I’ve been taught things by my own child, as well as the children of others. Most of the reader of this spent time in high school, so you likely remember that adults weren’t always able to hold your attention during those years. Reaching a teen isn’t always easy when it comes to doing extra things, nor some adults for that matter. Let me tell you about some of the remarks made by the group of 30+ county high schoolers that I’ve engaged to transcribe a 1867 county historical document/list with the assistance of their two motivated teachers..

“..I was wondering if you could assign any more pages to me?”
“..I would like to do more.”
“I was wondering if I could have more to transcribe?”

Be still my heart!!
You…
Want…
More??

While we have another one of these county transcription projects in the works and coming soon, it’s not ready for these students but how I wish it was! I suggested they help me by helping their classmates with this phase of the work, so that we can all move to the next phase where I teach them about searching in records for a person’s name they’ve transcribed. Did I tell you that it’s handwritten? An important thing to note, because students today are not as fluent in the nuances of cursive handwriting as my peers and I had to be because we didn’t have ChromeBooks, etc. I’ll try to figure out later what age I was when I got my first PC. They’re certainly learning the nuances now! Check it out, when the letter C was fancy:

I must write “thank goodness for computers,” and here is why: having these records be in PDF format and on a screen with the ability to zoom in on the image helps tremendously! Case and point is this image that has a name that stumps us…do YOU know the spelling of the one in the middle?

The two social studies teachers as well as yours truly have been transformed into pseudo spelling teachers in this process!

And, while I’m asking you things, do you know of a student who draws/illustrates who may be interested in designing an image for the cover of our upcoming book/publication regarding the research and early Ellicott City Black History findings related to the log cabin in Ellicott’s City on Main Street? We wish to pay a student a $60 stipend for taking some images and finessing them into a collage type design for that cover. Here are three of a few images that contain elements that I want used to inspire that cover (images are from a recent trip to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture). Of course the cabin will be in it too!


If you know someone, please have them email me at marlena (at) hocoltr.org with a sample of their work so I can get a sense of their style. The student will get acknowledged as being the creator of the final image, and they would have to be okay with granting us an unlimited and exclusive license to use the image for the publication and in our marketing of the image for purposes of selling the book. Feel free to share this post freely. To our recent donors, those funds are going towards this and the publication expenses (as well as our annual insurance bill being invoiced to us). Thanks again!

Comment on social media with your guess about the name in that image! The students will be surprised with whatever the truth ends up being.

And to the students and the reader of this post: the letter S is causing trouble by making everyone think that what should be “Moses” is “Mofes” and “Jesse” is “Jefse” which the result of something in history. It looks like this, though I assure you that the handwriting is dramatically different!


Medial S or Swash S is what it’s called, and there’s a short writeup on WHY for your consumption: HERE

Thanks, Marlena Jareaux

the original post done on the work with the students can be found by clicking County Students Making History