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:

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

County Students Making History

On the last day of Volunteer Appreciation Month, I wanted to take the time to express my appreciation for a particular set of volunteers for our nonprofit: the 32 high school students who are working to transcribe an 1867 historical Howard County record that historians such as myself rely heavily upon to do the work we do in and for the county.

The students are spread out between two county high schools (Atholton and Howard), and I gave a virtual presentation to a group of students a few weeks ago to introduce them to what we do, what the record shows, how people like me use it, and how their help will help the county and researchers. One of the teachers wrote to send their appreciation for helping their students be part of local history, and another expressed that their students were excited (which excited ME to learn since students don’t always get excited about HISTORY).

This is a joint initiative between our nonprofit and the Maryland State Archives (which I thank for their assistance and resources), and while I could have had adults or colleagues do the work, it was my preference to engage the next generation in this local history. I wanted it to be HCC students, or HCPSS students. Transcribing helps to make them searchable, and EASILY findable for researchers both in and outside of the county. As many have heard me say, I want ALL of the info from the time period we focus on (slavery-pre 1930) to live freely online, so that it can be accessed with absolutely NO impediments, no needed registrations, and no restrictions whatsoever. Phase 1 is the transcription work, which will be followed by teaching them to how to trace a person of their choice from that record. This will help our nonprofit’s goal of attempting to trace the entire community of free and enslaved Blacks and Mulattos who lived in the county…to see where they went over time (stayed or moved away).

Just for today, I wanted to personally acknowledge these students as they persevere through the deciphering of 1867 HANDWRITING (which was probably a shock all its own!) When we finish, I’ll provide info to the community about the project along with feedback from the students. I can’t wait for you to see! The record represents the first time that enslaved county ancestors were named in a compiled government record/list. The work it takes to put together the sorts of stories that some of you have read from my local history posts, is made harder by the time it takes to sort through records in which the names of people weren’t used. I rely on many types of records, most are at the Maryland State Archives, but this one is particularly symbolic and it was time it be made searchable. Please join me in thanking the students for their service..

P.S. I found an opinion piece in Atholton’s student newspaper that I wanted to share. Written this past Black History Month by a student, it was great to see what some students had to say about history. Our local county history has many ordinary extraordinary people who helped to build and maintain many of the historic structures that we still see and some people glorify today. I can’t tell you if the students in this article are on the current transcription team or not (privacy), but I think their generation has an interest that warms my team’s heart to see! I’m sure Howard HS has thoughts, but I couldn’t find it easily in their newsletters. 

https://atholtonnews.com/2022/03/03/black-history-month-is-good-but-not-perfect/

Marlena

Newly-Discovered Ellicott City Black History

The event we had last night on February 10, 2022 to publicly launch the research findings of our Ellicott City Black History RoundtableEllicott City Black History Roundtable on the accurate history and age of the “Thomas Isaac” log cabin and its intersection with the historic African American church (St. Luke’s A.M.E.) was a success! We had 77 virtual attendees, and 56 in-person attendees. Much was disclosed in two short hours. We originally formed in order to answer questions regarding the login cabin once called “Merryman Cabin” and the likely age of its construction. Along the way, we discovered some surprises that shocked just about everyone who attended!

Some of the highlights were:

  • We found documentation of self-employed African Americans who worked in Ellicott’s Mills in the early 1840s. One was a Black male who purchased his freedom from Andrew Ellicott, Jr. for $200 in the early 1840s.
  • We found documentation of African Americans who owned land in Ellicott’s Mills in the 1830s and beyond. One of them, a self-employed Black man who had been born Free,  bought property in 1831. Another bought property there in 1834. One worked for a manufacturing company for 40 years, and was given company stock upon the death of the company president.
  • A Mulatto male and his family owned the property where the log cabin was located (bought in 1851), and likely built it for his family. His name was Levi Gillis. They lived there for nearly a decade, and sold it to Thomas Isaac in 1860. Thomas Isaac never resided on the property, and we found no evidence that it existed in the 1700s. It is historically significant to the African American community.
  • The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning named the cabin for Thomas Isaac.
  • St. Luke A.M.E. church (as it is now called), a historical Black church is THE oldest church in Ellicott City. It is still operational, and should be recognized for its significance with its accurate history. There is possibly an earlier structure associated with their history, and DPZ files started by Alice Murdoh (HO-766) should be located by the county government and analyzed by researchers so that it can be completed. There is little to no African American representation in the county Historical Inventory, particularly for Ellicott City. That doesn’t have to continue to be so, as there is now research.

Our full report is 181 pages, complete with supporting images to show what our Truth Lab team examined when making our conclusions. We are having that publication protected by copyright. It will be released in 2 weeks or less. Our nonprofit has submitted an Intent To Apply document to seek grant funding to do community activities around the uncovered history in our report. We are aware that our findings on the cabin materially diverge from those found in the Public Spaces Commission’s report. County personnel declined to participate with our Roundtable, but did opt to contribute in the Commission’s writeup on the cabin. The community should decide what should happen to the name of the cabin. We are unaware of the existence of any deliberative process for naming or changing names on county buildings that involves the community. It might be time to create one.

Chains of Title that we created can be accessed here, and we already made contact with Maryland Historical Trust about having  HO-64 for the lab cabin updated with accurate information. One document is for the original 1860 church property that served as their church home until it was sold to an African American woman named Mary Ridout.

Deeds12.5 perches.pdf

This is the Chain of Title for the land involving Levi Gillis. It stops with Thomas Isaac. This is where the cabin was located. Neither Isaiah Mercer Sr nor Jr  ever owned this land.

Deeds cabin property p1.pdf

This is the Chain of Title for the Isaac descendants up to the Staton and Cross families, both African American. Fanny Stanton donated the cabin to Historic Ellicott City, Inc., who turned it over to the county.

Deeds cabin property pt2.pdf

A visual overlay our researcher created to help us keep everyone straight about who owned what, is here and we intend to ask the county to corroborate:

A 27 page intro with our conclusions and information regarding the original 1860 church trustees can be found by clicking this link:

Early Ellicott City Black history

This property, and the Merryman area, are subjects of inquiry for us because of the lynching of Nicholas Snowden that happened nearby. In addition, the Jacob Henson, Jr. family was associated with St. Luke’s A.M.E. And finally, additional lynching activity was found to be likely associated with the cabin, which you can read in the 27 page document.

If anyone is interested in helping us do this research (there’s lots of it) reach out to me. Our organization is a nonprofit organization, just like Howard County Historical Society, Inc. is.

“This is the work” (as one of our Board members often says.) Stay tuned for more! This is the beginning of our reconciliation work involving this history. We are happy that it has already reached one other descendant who is featured in our full report.

Marlena Jareaux, President

Marlena@hocoltr.org