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!
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about some of the remarks made by the group of 30+ county high schoolers that I’ve engaged to transcribe a 1867 county historical document/list with the assistance of their two motivated teachers..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!!
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
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.
On the Howard County Police Department’s Facebook page, a post was made the other day about the male who was being sought relative to the accusation that two 14-year old girls made about him. The original report by the police page included “..are alerting the public and releasing a photo of a man who approached two 14-year-old girls today around 9 a.m. near the Swansfield Pool in Columbia and offered them money for sex acts.” Noticeably missing was the word “allegedly.” Once caught, the language for the update changed to “.. the man who was reported to have offered two girls money for sex..” I suppose that’s fair, if you understand that the definition of “reported” is “described by people although there is no proof yet.” I don’t think most people know that though.
The public comments being made are surprising, particularly for someone like me who is the public face of the organization tasked with facilitating the discussions of historical lynchings in the county. One wonders if we’ve really come as far as we’d like to think we have as a society. It’s one thing to write things like the following about the girls “.. They may be saving others from a more torturous experience,” though that still presumes that the man did as was alleged and that whatever the encounter was, it was in fact torturous. Some of the comments with many “likes” crossed a line. I refuse to name names, because I don’t find that to be helpful, but some of the comments were:
“.. he needs to meet the business end of a baseball bat.”
“This how you end up in ICU”
Commenters called him a “scumbag,” a POS, and called for his “public castration” or featured an image of something being sliced. Then there was “Nothing a guillotine won’t fix” and suggestions to “beat senseless,” that he “looks like a bad guy.” One person used the opportunity to liken his image to a person in the public eye, while the majority of commenters gave kudos to the young girls and the police.
A lone voice with no likes commented: “Is there any proof that he said this to these girls other then a photo of him? False allegations are a thing..” I wish to give kudos to the person who wrote that, because it emphasizes something quite important.
When the General Assembly announced there would be public hearings across the state where lynchings happened, I made the announcement that a group had formed in order to examine the county’s lynching history. The public comments were surprising then also, largely because of WHO was saying them. I captured them with screenshots, because I knew it represented the thoughts of people who were willing to be publicly vocal about them. A few were from people with positions of perceived authority, and one in particular I want to share stands out because he is a retired county police officer. He essentially wrote that (I’m paraphrasing): Nicholas Snowden was hung by a mob who stormed the jail because he raped someone…for this we need a group? My response was “Yes. Because what you wrote above doesn’t include all of the facts, and there are inaccuracies.”
In our inquiry so far, we pushed out to the community that Nicholas Snowden had been lynched by a mob who stormed the jail in the middle of the night, but that his actual case docket revealed that he hadn’t had a trial nor had he been recorded to have an attorney. That’s hugely significant, but I fear that the prevailing thought in the county is one of act first and ask questions later. Still. And that makes me wonder on this Sunday afternoon about the work ahead of for our organization, and what kind of meaningful reconciliation we will really be able to do in the county. I wonder because of the comments I’m reading, but also with those I’m not seeing.
You don’t have to know who Edmund Burke is to be able to appreciate the phrase attributed to him: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’m betting that in the situation of the man photographed whose image was shared more than 1000 times now on social media, there are people who think that the evil was quashed by good men (and females.) The public comments suggest that he has already been adjudged to be guilty, and publicly sentenced. That’s reminiscent of what happened to Nicholas Snowden, who entered his plea of Not Guilty in 1885. I attach the docket entry for his case for the reader’s consumption, and two others before his that show something important: their pleas of Not Guilty, and the outcome of the same. What is it in people that makes Nicholas Snowden not worthy of receiving the benefit of the doubt that he also could have received an outcome of Not Guilty, had a lynch mob not taken matters into their own hands and decided otherwise? It is the year 2022, and I ask the same about the man who has been arrested? Is it now Guilty, Until Proven Innocent?
History provides an opportunity to evaluate how far we’ve come as a society and community, which is what makes our work to showcase the time period of county Black history we examine critically important. The facts about events are important to unearth, and they take TIME and patience to uncover. They also take a community willing to listen, and willing to learn. I feel compelled to showcase one other person’s comment/statement that they made when sharing the Facebook post, because it’s an important one that I knew would be lost in the hysteria:
“It’s a independent living for special needs men in grandbanks By the second steps.”
Grand Banks is a street name, FYI. That changes things for me, and I wonder if it at least changes things for some so that folks will at least see the value to waiting before rushing to judgment. What does that say about us when we don’t know the value of waiting? I sure hope there are more people in the county willing to do that for our truth & reconciliation work, than there are that rush to judgment. I just can’t publicly see them, but maybe you’re out there privately. We’re going to need you…
Also, I’m aware that some are commenting about his status as having been in the court system recently and previously. A look there reveals a recent case where his competency was questioned and answered. “Defendant Found Incompetent to Stand Trial.” Again I write…that changes things for me. Does it for YOU?
P.S. those asking about supporting us…we welcome community volunteers and donations! You can donate by texting
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Warfield was a medical doctor, and on the 1860 census he was reported to have $10,000 worth of real estate and $3500 of personal property. Those humans he was enslaving were part of that “property”. He reported to the tax authority to be enslaving 10, but by the war’s end he would put his name on a list where he reported to have been enslaving 16 by 1864. Among them were Caroline Parker, 36, listed along with six children who Warfield reported to have had the last name “Parker”.
Dr. Evan W. Warfield was reportedly a grandson of Charles A.Warfield, of Peggy Stewart affair fame. From at least as far back as the Declaration of Independence, the Warfields relied upon the enslavement of others in order to be able to prosper as they did. Many know the Warfield name. Many historians haven’t looked closely at people like Caroline, perhaps because Power, Possessions and Social Standing are what we are taught to idolize and are encouraged to emulate in this country. I wonder if there aren’t more people who would like to know about Caroline and her husband.
Evan was a medical doctor in his mid 30s with a wife in her 30s and 4 young children. The 1860 census taker saw or was told that the children in Evan’s household were Gustavus (10), Louisa (7), Mary (5), and the boy named after his father, Evan (1). Caroline’s children (reported in Warfield’s list) and their approximate 1860 ages were: Fanny (8), Dennis (6), Rachel (4), John Wesley (2), and Maria who was just born. Two years later, Caroline would give birth to a boy who was also likely named after his father: Joseph Parker. Caroline’s husband was very likely the free man (36, Mulatto) who was recorded to also be living on the plantation as a laborer. That dynamic wasn’t an uncommon one.
The reader is encouraged to imagine what that would have been like for Joseph Parker on that plantation. Details like how Joseph met Caroline can only be imagined, but some things are known. Joseph wasn’t recorded in the 1850 household for Evan, who was 25 and living with his father Dr. Gustavus Warfield.
In 1850, Joseph was recorded as being a 26 year old carpenter who was living in James Parker’s household (likely his older sibling who was noted by the census taker to be able to read or write)…who was also free and a carpenter. James and his wife Mary got certificates of freedom in 1859 for themselves and their son, also named Joseph. The circumstances of THEIR freedom was that James had been born free, while his wife Mary and son Joseph had been set free by a William R. Warfield in 1846. Read that again, because that is the reality (and hope) that Joseph would have been operating from while he worked as a free man on the plantation where his wife and children were being enslaved.
In 1860, James Parker and his wife Mary were recorded as living in the household of Dennis and Eliza Parker. They were likely his parents. Information could not be found for how far back Dennis goes in Maryland history. Information was located for Eliza Parker. In 1832, she requested and received a certificate of freedom. She was listed to be 30 years old, 5ft 2 in, yellow complexion with long black hair, and born free. She and Dennis were recorded as being Mulatto in 1860, and Dennis with real estate in District 4.
An 1854 deed was located involving the purchase of land by Eliza, Joseph, Margaret and John Parker from Allen Bowie Davis and his 2nd wife Hester of Montgomery County. It is believed that Joseph, Margaret and John were Dennis and Eliza’s adult children.
Fast-forward to the Civil War. The newspaper reported on May 24, 1864 that James Parker got drafted for the war. So did Evan W. Warfield. James was older than 45 by then (too old to serve), but the younger James was possibly eligible. It appears that Joseph fought in the war in the US Colored Troops. He’d have certainly had motivation to want to put an end to the enslavement of his wife and children. Unfortunately in July of 1871, Caroline submitted a claim for the $300 bounty as his widow.
By 1870, Caroline Parker was recorded as living with her sons John Wesley, Joseph and James in the Henry Mathews household in District 4. Fanny (then 17) was living in D4 in Aaron Chadwick’s household as a servant. Dennis (then 15) was recorded as working for Evan Warfield. Charles Parker (19) was also there, likely the same one that had been recorded as free and 8 years old in Dennis Parker’s 1860 household. Rachel (then 13) was recorded in the household of George and Matilda Snowden. (Matilda had also been enslaved by Dr. Warfield). Maria Parker couldn’t be found in the 1870-1880 Howard census. Dennis Parker was recorded to be 79, but Eliza was no longer in the household (likely deceased). John Wesley Parker, son of Dennis and Eliza, was recorded to be nearby, with his wife Mary and children.
A little about Caroline, or a lot (depending upon how you view it)…she bought land in 1872. The purchase price was the same amount as the $300 pension claim. In the corner of the deed, it was noted that it had been delivered to “Wm. H. Mathews”. She did it again in 1873, purchasing from Alan Bowie Davis and his wife. You wouldn’t know that by looking at the 1880 census where Caroline is listed to be in the William H. Mathews household simply as “sister” (likely, William’s, who in 1870 was referred to as just “Henry” by the census taker). He had also been enslaved by Evan Warfield.
Henry would become well-known in the county as being one of the Trustees named on the 1867 Mount Gregory purchase deed (the building formerly known as the defunct Warfield Academy). The Trustees aimed to make a large school there, which got reported to the Freedman’s Bureau. James Parker was also a Trustee, along with George Snowden who was Matilda’s husband. George (45, Black) had been working as a free man in 1860 at Alex Warfield’s property also awaiting freedom for his wife and children (Lloyd, Caroline and Lorenzo). He had been drafted also in 1864, but was likely too old to serve.
Caroline was recorded on the 1900 census, a 72 year old widow, along with several of her grandchildren and a boarder from Kentucky. She was listed to be the owner (“O”) of her home, free of any mortgage. “F” designated free, while “M” was mortgaged.
In 1903, a deed was executed between her descendants for the transfer of her land holdings. It involved the 2 pieces of land she had acquired. The party names make it quite possible that they were her children, who had been once listed as being enslaved.
Fannie White, widow (12 years old as of 1864)
Dannis Parker, of Chester, PA (10 years old as of 1864)
Rachel Barrett, wife to Joseph Barrett (8 years old as of 1864)
John W. Parker, married to Mary (6 years old as of 1864)
Maria Tillman, wife to Ezekiel Tillman (4 years old as of 1864)
They transferred the properties to Joseph A. Parker and his wife Addie L. Parker. It referenced two parcels, one with 8 acres of land and the other with 11.5 acres.
Maryland put a new state Constitution into place, effective November 1, 1864. Article 24 of the Constitution of 1864 stated: “That hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves, are hereby declared free.” When that Constitution went into effect and slavery got abolished, Caroline and her children’s names saw the light of day for the first time which enabled me to find and see them. By 1867, Evan and others wishing to be financially compensated for their perceived losses due to the November 1st emancipation of Caroline and others, placed their names on the list you saw above.
Dr. Evan W. Warfield, died in 1904. In 1850 at the age of 25, he reported to be enslaving his first human… a 10 year old female child. His father had many, of various ages up to 80 years old.
Today in Howard County, MD history: the story of what was happening on one Cooksville plantation on or near ”Shipley’s Adventure”. The year was 1861 and the Civil War had started. According to a publication of the Howard County Genealogical Society*, Union recruiting for the local military unit called the Patapsco Guards began in mid-September in Ellicott Mills. Mr. Nathan Shipley reported to authorities to have been enslaving 10 souls in 1860, with the ages you can see on this image.
This is what Nathan Sr’s 1860 household was comprised of, according to the census taker (the older children had households of their own):
On October 14, 1861, Nathan Sr. placed “Elijah” and “Dennis” into the Howard County jail “for safekeeping”, possibly telling authorities that he suspected they were trying to run away from his plantation. Nathan’s birthday would be 2 days later on the 16th (if the FindAGrave.com info is correct on that. I asked them to add one daughter (Eliza Warfield) which they did today, and others are missing).
Nathan had a wife, Maria, and at least 8 children total. They were: Napoleon, Henry, Oliver, Eliza (married to Azel Warfield), Kitty (married to Elijah Hilton) and Mary (married to Jacob Fredericks). Another son, Joshua, was about 33 years old at this point in 1861. And another son, Nathan Shipley, Jr., was a 30 year old school teacher living in the Lisbon area. Both Joshua and Nathan were listed on the 1862 Civil War Enrollment Ledger for Howard County, in what was the 4th District.
On February 12, 1863, Nathan Shipley, Sr. made out his Last Will and Testament. To his wife Maria, he was leaving almost everything he owned, which included the 133 acre plantation where they lived. In addition, he was leaving her ”Matilda and her two children namely, James and Ruth, all slaves for life, to keep or dispose of them as she may see fitt.”
Nathan knew, of course, what was happening in the country. He leaves behind a window into his thoughts with the following passage in his will: “And whereas in consequence of the vexed question in regard to slave property, has rendered that class of property to be of little value I hereby fully authorize my Executor and Executrix herein after named to exercise their own judgment in regard to my servant-man named Jeremiah to sell or hire-out said Jeremiah which ever they may find it the most advantage to my estate, and my old servant George I desire he shall go at liberty and receive the reward of his own wages, preferring at the same time he shall be kept in the employment of someone member of my family at reasonable wages..”
In May of 1864, the Sun published the list of men drafted to fight in the war. James Johnson, “slave of Joshua Shipley”, was among them. In what can only be called irony, in September of 1864, the same newspaper published the name of “Joshua Shipley” in the (then) District 4 list of drafted men. Unless there was another Joshua Shipley in D4, he provided a surgeon’s certificate at registration that was supposed to exempt him from being drafted.
The name “James Johnson” was very common during the Civil War and in the US Colored Troops. It is uncertain if he fought in the war. Joshua Shipley placed James’ name and age of 37 on the list of the enslaved that he wished to be compensated for due to the abolishment of slavery, without noting any enlistment for him. Jeremiah hadn’t been sold and was in the 39th regiment of the USCT, according to Joshua, who reported having received $100 compensation from the government due to the enlistment while enslaved. His full name was Jeremiah Dorsey, and he reported to be 30 when he mustered in to Company E on March 29, 1864. He would get promoted to Sergeant.
“George” from Nathan Sr’s will may have been the 48 year old male that he reported to have been enslaving to the 1860 authorities. Without a last name, it’s nearly impossible to learn what happened to him. The same can be written for Matilda and her 2 children. Same for “Elijah” and “Dennis” who had been jailed to keep from running away.
Sgt. Jeremiah Dorsey married Charlotte Dorsey. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t make it back home to her because he died October 29, 1864 in the City of Philadelphia. He got buried the next day at Lebanon Cemetery, an African American cemetery. Nathan Shipley, Sr. died March 3, 1865 at the age of 67. He is reportedly buried at the McKendree Cemetery not far from Bushy Park Elementary School as is his wife Maria, who died in 1884.
Interesting note: Summit House Hospital in Philadelphia, PA was a large hospital. Sgt. Dorsey was admitted there on September 9, 1864 after being transferred from City Point Hospital. This photo is also from his service record:
Someone else local to Howard County was transferred to Summit House Hospital while Jeremiah was there. Pvt. Nicholas Snowden was transferred on September 29 from Satterlee, a month before Jeremiah died. Click the link below to read more about Satterlee, and to see a drawing of it!
In Jeremiah’s widow’s pension request records, we learn that they got married June 4, 1854 by Reverend Waters at Hood’s Mill, Carroll County. They had 4 children, the youngest (a girl named Georgina), was born in 1862:
You have just read some of the life story of Sgt Jeremiah Dorsey, who was 6 foot 2 inches tall, had hazel eyes, and a mulatto complexion. Hopefully, the story will enable you to imagine Jeremiah possibly walking from his enslaver’s place (Cooksville) to that of his wife and children (Sykesville) nearby. Local Howard County Maryland history. Thanks to Wayne Davis, for supplying the Fold3 file on Jeremiah!
*publication noted above is: Patriots and Pioneers of Howard County, Maryland: The Civil War Enrollment and Draft of 1862 in Howard County, by Joseph Nichols, Jr. and Richard W. Bush (2001, reprinted 2004. Published by The Howard County Genealogical Society, Inc.)
Each Christmas for more than 20 years now, I have been fortunate to celebrate it as a mother. Once my son graduated from Hammond High, he spent time away while at the University of Maryland but returned home for the holidays to celebrate. A recent “Facebook memory” appeared in my account that contained the photo of him when he was about 10 with his HC Parks & Rec trophy for tennis, and my immediate thought was that even now, I still see “my baby” in him. I’m sure I’m not in the minority when I write that there’s very little I won’t do for my son. This Christmas was a little different for me, in more ways than just COVID-19 related. Due to the work our group is doing, I ran across a story that weighed on my mind this Christmas. It’s a story from many Christmases ago in Howard County, and it involves a woman and mother named Caroline.
Caroline and her husband Joseph were living in district 3 of Howard County in 1860. She was 38 years old, and had 4 kids living at home with her and her husband. Joseph, John, Susan, and Kate were their names. Joseph was the oldest at 11, and Kate was the youngest at 2. They were a free Black family.
Maryland apprenticeship laws from 1819 were still in place that permitted the children of free negroes to be bound out as apprentices by the local Orphan’s Court if anyone reported their suspicion that they believed a negro child was “not at service or learning a trade, or employed in the service of their parents”. If bound out as an apprentice that way, the master or mistress could be required to teach the child to read or write, or give the child money at the end of their indenture period for what was called “freedom dues”. On April 6,1861, Joseph and Caroline struck their own deal with Francis McAvoy for the service of their son Joseph for $100 paid up front to them. They agreed that Joseph would work for Mr. McAvoy until he turned 25.
This was before the start of the Civil War (April 12, 1861), but after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated President (March 4, 1861). Howard County voters weren’t keen on Lincoln or his ideals, having cast only ONE vote for him in the election.
I will never know for certain all that Caroline Anderson personally did in response to the Civil War, states seceding from the Union, and the Compensated Emancipation Act that took effect in neighboring DC in 1862 (but not in Maryland). What I do know is that she was sitting in jail Christmas 1863, having been indicted on charges of enticing the apprentices of George Ellicott to run away from him. ELLICOTT… a name that is usually globally associated with the Quaker faith and antislavery. George had been noted to be an enslaver in 1850.
He wasn’t the only Ellicott who was an enslaver, since Andrew Ellicott, Jr also indulged in enslavement. Here, he set 43 year old Jacob Madden free, for the price of $200.
In the years to come, I hope that the work that our group does helps to tear down global assumptions made about people that society of the past has uplifted as well as those that haven’t enjoyed the privilege of being exalted. Society can benefit by having more people who take time to consider and realize the individual stories and circumstances of people (past, present and in the future) before judging them. George very likely knew Francis McAvoy, because it appears that they both attended St. Paul Catholic Church in Ellicott City. McAvoy was baptized there, and a George Ellicott appeared on the registry (likely the father, George II, since his son was only an infant child’s that time).
Was it the father or the son who was associated with the case involving Caroline who was sitting in jail on Christmas? George Sr. had been enslaving two young girls, ages 12 and 15 in 1850, according to the census image above.
60 years old by the 1860 census, George Sr. lived with his family and 12 year old son George, as well as 2 mulatto “servant” children (George Dyson, 10, and Laura Dyson, 12) in district 2 of the county. So, it wasn’t the younger George Ellicott associated with legal proceedings against Caroline. It isn’t known if the 2 servant children were the ones who Caroline allegedly enticed to run away from George.
Caroline got released on what is now referred to as bail in the amount of $100 the day after Christmas. Joshua B. Davis posted the security for her appearance, and the State’s Attorney agreed to her release.
Here is the cover of the VERY old book I found Caroline and others in, down at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis this past September.
I don’t know (yet, thanks to COVID-19 closing things again) what happened in her case when she went back to court in March 1864 as the Civil War still continued. I only know that her son John (16) and daughter Susan (18) were listed as living with George Ellicott Jr (then 22 with a wife and son they named George) in Montgomery County in 1870 when the war had been over years ago. I can only imagine why, and I hope it wasn’t a punishment of some sort for Caroline.
I think it’s quite natural to encounter stories like this and ponder about what you’d do if it were you. The reader can probably accurately guess whether this author would have been like Caroline, in jail on Christmas of 1863. I raised my glass this holiday and toasted to finding this part of her story, and to the year ahead working with and in the community to unveil more.
NOTE: Caroline’s children weren’t the only ones to face Orphan’s Court proceedings regarding being bound out to another family. As an example, the Howard County sheriff was told to summon Rachel Ann Bell to the Orphan’s Court in order to testify as to why she shouldn’t be bound out as an apprentice to John Forsyth. The date was November 1, 1864, and Rachel Ann was listed to be the “former slave” of Forsyth’s.
The sheriff was told to do the same to Edward P. Butler, also listed as a “former slave”. November 1st was the day that Maryland’s new state constitution banning slavery went into effect.
Rachel was only 16 years old when the Orphan’s Court summoned her to come. Richard was only 7. This is known because of the information Forsyth gave to Howard County’s Commissioner when he placed his name on the list of those wishing to be compensated for the loss of those they had enslaved being freed. (See the image on page 45)
When I moved from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Howard County in 2010, my children were in the 3rd and 1st grades. I was excited to find a community that was so diverse that the elementary school had no racial majority. This was a radical departure from the nearly all-white community in which we had lived on Cape Cod. While the middle and high schools my children attended were also highly integrated, I noticed as they advanced through the grades that there was mounting academic and social segregation.
I stepped forward to be a Troop Leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop when the girls were rising 9th graders. It was a fantastic group of girls that had been together since elementary school. The racial make-up reflected the diversity of our community: African American, African, Indian, Korean, and white. This was the fall of 2014, which was a time of a growing racial unrest sparked by the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many other Black people. We had a lot of conversations about racism that year, and the girls decided to do a group project in which they conducted a survey to understand attitudes about racism. The data they collected pointed to a harsh reality of the world we live in: many respondents who self-identified as white did not acknowledge that racism was an issue. At the beginning of their high school careers, this was shocking to most of the girls, and they wrestled to understand how it could be and what they could do about it. By their senior year, the litany of racist comments and behaviors they had observed or experienced during high school was a long one.
In 2017 The Baltimore Sun published an article about racial segregation in the Howard County Public School System. Although Howard County is among the most integrated in Maryland, enrollment data showed that advanced classes were disproportionately White, while grade-level and remedial classes were disproportionately Black. The article was grounded in data the Sun had collected and analyzed, and it focused on two high school students, Mikey Peterson, who is Black, and Eli Sauerwalt, who is White. Their different experiences at the same high school, and the way those experiences impacted them, highlighted the real harm that the system was perpetuating. I know Mikey, and I felt an intense mix of emotions when I read the story. I was so proud of him for his bravery, and I was so sad that this had happened to him. Nearly four years later, I remember that Sun article – not because of the research and data analyses – but because of the stories.
When I read the Sun article, I understood the inequities to be a legacy of our nation’s white supremacist roots. This is true, and yet… we have our own unique history in Howard County. What are the forgotten stories that help explain the current state of racial disparities in our schools? How much wisdom have we collectively lost because we systematically choose – over and over again – not to honor and value the lives and vibrant communities of Black and Brown people?
Historians wield enormous power. They interpret the meaning of events and circumstances by selecting which facts to include and whose perspective informs the narrative. The culture of white supremacy on which our nation was constructed has shaped the stories we learn about our history. This must change.
Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative have issued an insistent call to remember our nation’s history of sanctioned violence. More than 4,400 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950. While the sheer magnitude of these atrocities is unfathomable, learning the stories of those whose lives were violently ended connects us to their humanity, and perhaps to our own.
Three men, who experienced lynching or near-lynching in Howard County, lived rich and meaningful lives:
Rev. Hezekiah Brown’s story highlights our long history of choosing not to equitably educate Black children in Howard County. The present-day inequities written about in The Baltimore Sun are not new. They are connected to stories – mostly forgotten – from our past.
I feel so grateful to be part of the founding group of Howard County Lynching Truth & Reconciliation.
The most recent HCLTR posting about Hezekiah Brown illuminated the ongoing terror campaign in white Howard County society, preserving the illusion that subjugating African Americans was a justified way of life, appealing to invented fears of violence toward white Americans. The Baltimore American newspaper reported the lynching of Reverend Hezekiah Brown after he was allegedly intimate with a white woman named Fannie Schultz, “excised an undue influence over her”, and “carried her to a colored minister” where they were married. Truth be told, Reverend Brown was not married to Fannie. Her son attended the school where he taught. Rev. Brown taught at the Asbury Chapel, and he later became the Principal of the Ellicott City Colored school. He was most certainly not lynched. A fact that could have been easily confirmed with simple research strategies, but maybe that wasn’t the point. (Personally, I think that the way the news was reported back at this time was part of the problem. The state’s attorney for HC sent someone to investigate after the story broke. I suspect that’s what led to the retraction. One wonders if a retraction would have happened had it not been a situation involving what was a crime.)The Baltimore Sun printed a story two days later revealing that Reverend Brown had not been lynched and the Baltimore American subsequently retracted the article, but not until after their original lynching story had been picked up by newspapers in other states. So why is this important? Fear. Fear and the justification for white violence ensuring subjugation. An ongoing terror campaign to keep the “us vs. them” alive and well in Howard County, keeping the door wide open for justified violence and oppression against the African American citizens in Howard County.
So where does this fit into the Howard County I grew up in and where I am proud to live and work to this day? I feel blessed to be one of the first kids to move into Columbia, to be a member of the first kindergarten class at Bryant Woods and to graduate from Wilde Lake High School. My commitment to this community continued professionally and personally. I was fortunate to work in Howard County as a police officer and then as an employee of the public school system. For me it was a personal dedication to the philosophy of diversity and equity in community work that was the foundation of my life. I continued to engage with the Columbia dream with my children, who also attended from kindergarten through high school in the Columbia schools. Columbia has been the linchpin around which my life has turned and I recognize how important it is to me.
When this project started, I recognized the importance of truth and reconciliation as a part of the Columbia philosophy. In the late 1960s, Columbia was designed by James Rouse as a controversial community that attempted to make a small dent in the “us vs. them” by bringing together people of different faiths, different race and ethnicity, different socioeconomic status; to try to get rid of the “railroad track divide” typically seen in most American towns where neighborhoods were divided and people didn’t dare cross those “tracks” out of fear of retribution. What I notice now in Howard County is the resurgence and desire to rebuild those “railroad tracks”, to divide, to feed the fear behind the “us vs. them”. It’s what I see when house values vary widely just a few streets over. It’s what I see when people will go to great lengths to keep their children out of certain schools because they have worked hard to keep their children out of schools with “those kinds of people”. The perspective that there are not enough seats at the table and that success is only achieved through the calculated and systematic oppression of many other people.
Howard County has a history that affects each one of us today, whether we know it to be able to acknowledge it, or not. Facing these truths and tearing down the gates designed to keep people as less than is an important part of being a member of the Howard County community. My spiritual community in Columbia has a saying, “Love over Fear”. They are my quirky, loving, rule bending, accepting community that told me as a child that I was loved and I was enough just as I am. This community, that is mostly white, strives to acknowledge the role it plays in historical injustice and to try to right those wrongs through words and deeds, because if it hurts the heart of one it hurts all our hearts. Recently our community struggled with the name of the building where we worship. The building was named after the Olivers who owned slaves in Howard County. This was not a commonly known fact until members of the group began the process of reckoning with our history. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic we struggled with our response to this knowledge of the building’s history, working through a group process via Zoom We ultimately decided to change the name of the building where we worship because we are a community based on love and acceptance, and because what we do matters. We still have a long way to go and we continue to work together to find ways to remove barriers so that all are welcome in our spiritual family. For me, I try to bring that love with me everyday and when I feel fear welling up, I ask myself to begin again with love.