The question has come up: “Were any Howard County Maryland enslavers compensated for claims made to the government for money after the effects of Emancipation?” The question gets posed when some look at the list of enslavers who placed their names on a list in 1867 that was designed to express their interest in being compensated for the “loss” of the value of those they had held in captivity/enslavement who were liberated. That list is on our website HERE
After hearing from one person who shall remain nameless that they had been told by a person of authority that the answer was “no”, I decided to do a little dig to put it to the test. I already knew the story of a Dorsey that I’d been tracking for a novel in progress, so I knew where to look. The following story involves Mary Moxley, James Walters, George D. Walters, Caroline V. Walters and the Bell children who had been enslaved by them all..
Mary Moxley appeared on the 1840 census, living in Division 3 of Anne Arundel county (was prior to Howard being a separate county). The census taker noted 2 white females between the ages of 60 and 70 in her household, and Mary was one of them. A few years later on June 11, 1846, Mary created her last Will and testament. Mary couldn’t read nor write, so she placed her “X” upon the record you see below. She bequeathed various enslaved persons to her family members as follows:
To her niece Harriett L. Walters: “one negro boy Tom and one negro woman named Lid”
To William G. Walters, son of James Walters, Jr: “a negro boy Henson”
To Caroline V. Walters: “a negro girl named Juay”
To George D. Walters: “a negro girl named Caroline”
There are many people who are of the mistaken belief that only men enslaved persons. That’s simply untrue, and Mary was just one example of many. The 1850 slave schedule for Maryland that has the name “Harriett Walters” contains the details regarding the 27 people she enslaved. James enslaved 6.
The observant reader will notice that there aren’t any last names written for the enslaved people listed in Mary’s will. This was an interesting phenomenon that isn’t discussed enough regarding slavery of this time period. You’ll see that first and last names were noted for her heirs. Did Mary not know the last names of those she enslaved, or did it make it easier to treat them as property to give to her heirs if she didn’t think of them as humans in family units such as her own? The slave schedule entries of 1850 above does the same: depersonalized humans by referring to them only by features used to assign monetary value to them (age, sex and perception of skin color).
So, how is it known that there were enslaved children with the last name “Bell” being enslaved by the Walters family?
For that, another database was consulted. Within the website CivilWarDC.org lies documentation in the form of petitions that were made by Caroline Walters, James Walters, and James on behalf of George D. Walters. Each were making claims for their perceived losses due to the emancipation of those they had enslaved.
Jesse Maria Bell was said to be 18 years old as of 1862. That would have made her about 2 years old when Mary Moxley gave Jesse to Caroline in 1846. Caroline went on to state that Jesse was an “excellent house servant, chamber maid waiter or nurse” and “I am not aware of any bodily or mental defect to detract from her full value as a healthy, trusty, and faithful servant.”
Next is George. George was the son of James Walters. That is known because of the affidavit filed with the petition made on George’s behalf by his father, in which George is referred to as his “infant” son (which means, underage). George was 17 years old when the petition for compensation got filed by his father in 1862. That would have made him about one year old when Mary Moxley gave him a slave.
The claim for compensation was for the loss of the services of Caroline Bell. Written on the claim was “The said negro woman was born at the residence of the affiant, and he has known her ever since.” Also, “He does not know a more valuable woman..”
The thing about Caroline Bell is that she was listed by James to have been almost 17 years old. “Almost” means she was 16. That means that baby George was given a baby girl, Caroline, when Mary made out her will 16 years prior in 1846. It is interesting to see Mr Walters consider his 17 year old son to be a minor, yet 16 year old Caroline to be a “negro woman”.
James also did a claim of his own. In his claim, one gets to see how the enslaved were sometimes lent to other family members (in this case) in another state (DC). This of course was in addition to them being essentially “leased out” by enslavers to others who may not have wanted to have the tax payment that came with owning property. (Yes, enslavers were taxed by the county for their enslaved). James reported having received Margaret from his father (also named James Walters) in 1828. Since she was reported to have been 56 in 1862, that means she was born near 1806 and was 22 when he received her. Alexander and Maria were children of Margaret’s, both whom James considered to be “slaves for life”. All of them were living in DC with James Walters, Sr, with his son’s consent. Margaret was reported to be “No. 1 cook, washer, and ironer”, Alexander “good looking”, and Maria was married.
This 1862 financial claim regarding Margaret is likely one of the first documents acknowledging her existence. No other prior records could be found mentioning her. It is unclear who (if anyone) was paying the tax associated with enslaving her. In 1850, she’d have been 44 and no line contains a person of that age on the listing for James above. His father in DC also didn’t report anyone with that age to authorities.
The same can be said for 1860. The Howard County James Walters reported no one 54 years old, nor did his father in DC.
As for Caroline Bell, perhaps the DC James reported her age wrong (above, he reported an 11 and an 18 year old female in 1860) and he was the one paying the tax.
As for the compensation part, all claimed their enslaved to have high dollar values. That is known because of the report that contains the following info regarding those claims:
- Caroline Walters placed a value on Jesse Bell at $800.
- James Walters collectively valued Margaret, Alexander and Maria at $2200.
- James Walters, on behalf of his son, valued Caroline Bell at $800.
The final valuations were:
- Caroline Walters’ claim for Jesse Bell was ultimately valued at $459.90
- James Walters had his claim valued at $109.30+(what looks like $613.20)+481.80= 1204.30
- James on behalf of George was $481.80 for Caroline Bell.
Nearly one million dollars was paid out to enslavers who filed claims under the DC Compensated Emancipation Act. I’ve read that there were more than 930 petitions filed and approved for enslavers who received pay. The legislation provided that an enslaver would receive “up to $300” for each freed person. Receiving a document showing they had been freed by their enslaver, was a requirement. More on that program can be found HERE
Caroline didn’t show up for the hearing on Thursday October 3, 1862, but James Walters did and he brought along a “Maria Bell”. James was examined about his loyalty to the Union, and Maria was asked about Caroline’s health, etc. The person responsible for the valuation of Caroline and others for the Commissioners was the notorious enslaver, Bernard M. Campbell. Campbell had been responsible for placing a dollar value on many enslaved who had been on auction blocks in Baltimore City as well as those sold to him by estate administrators and others for transportation and enslavement to the Lower South. He would have known the game.
Here is the page showing the payment received by the Walters family. James acknowledged receiving payment for all of their claims.
Did Caroline find her way back to Howard County after the proceedings in DC? YES she did! First, it’s important to show the following…
James Walters placed these names on his Maryland list for purposes of trying to get compensated in 1867. That full list in on this website under “The Enslavers” tab. While the relationship between Lydia Bell (33), Mary Bell (3), Benjamin Bell (9) and Hannah Bell (11) to Caroline isn’t known with certainty, she must have had ties to them that caused her to return.
Caroline Bell’s story has been an absolute pleasure to research and create. Before I get to her coming back to Howard County, something needs to be restated. There was another purpose for showcasing her story here.
James Walters is the person who agreed to release Nicholas Snowden from his enslavement in order to fight in the Civil War as a substitute for someone who didn’t want to. Mr. Walters was to get financially compensated for having agreed to release Nicholas from enslavement in order to enlist. Nicholas’ name doesn’t appear on the 1867 list above, because he had been freed to fight as a member of the USColored Troops before it was created. Here is Nicholas’ paperwork:
I postulate that it’s entirely possible that Caroline Bell knew Nicholas Snowden. George resided with his father. He was listed as continuing to reside with him on the 1860 census, where he is listed to be 15. It would all depend upon exactly when Nicholas started living there, and how much time it overlapped with Caroline also being there before going to DC.
Finally, there’s Caroline Bell’s return to Howard County.
In 1870, she was reported as being the 25 year old cook for the Ellicott City household of the Howard County Register of Wills, Benjamin Dorsey.
The stories she could have told about things seen and heard in that household! Did you catch the nearby household in the census image above?? A cook of a similar age to Caroline, whose name was Susan Jackson, worked for James E. VanSant. VanSant was listed as a “merchant” in 1870, but that would soon change. He was the Mayor of Ellicott City for a term, but lost his bid for re-election in 1875. He then became Ellicott City’s chief of police chief in 1877. The stories Susan could have told! More on VanSant when we look at the Jacob Henson, Jr case, since he factors into it.
Across the County in District 5, Benjamin Bell, reported by James Walters on his 1867 claim form to have been his 9 year old “slave for life”, was living with Waters and his family in 1870 as a farm laborer…right alongside of George D. Walters who used to enslave Caroline.
Wish I could have interviewed them all.
Final Note: There were other Howard Countians who did the same as James Walters did. It was an indication of people who were made to work in DC. Andrew Mercer and John A. Dorsey (prior Orphan’s Court judge) were two easily-recognized names for me due to my interest in them both for another project. Links to records for them both are below.
Andrew Mercer of R’s records can be found HERE
John A Dorsey’s records can be found HERE His petition was marked “after time” (late). He was trying to get paid for two runaways (Nelson and Luther) who had left a year or so before, who he believed to be in DC. Both had been inheritances from he and his wife’s parents.
For more on Vansant, check out the police department museum’s website where you’ll also see his photo. That is HERE