Archive for the ‘The South’ Category

“They have sold and have stripped me of everything “

Although the legal status of slavery in the South was untouched by the Revolutionary War the chaos engendered by that conflict made it possible for many slaves to escape, some to join the British with their offer of freedom, others to try to survive on their own. A few masters had manumitted their slaves and there was a small population of free blacks. These were always in danger of being seized by marauding bands or opportunistic individuals and forced back into slavery. The following petition of one Margareta Powell to the governor of Maryland in 1779 illustrates the plight of one such woman and her family.

The Humble Petition of Margareta Powell to his Excellency the Governor of the State of Maryland

Show that your Honor humble petitioner being formerly the property of a certain late John Campbell lastly living near the Fork of Potocktion near Mr.Henry Ridgley’s in the year 1764. My master John Campbell set me free and for to certify the same, I have enclosed a certificate from the gentleman whom my master employed to enter me upon the Records. At the decease of my master he left me part of 200 acres of land and part of the moveable which was left by him for support of myself and my children whom my master had set free altogether for the space of three years before my master decease. My children were free dealers throughout the neighborhood, those that were of age have taken the oath of fidelity and have entered into the service of their country and one of them having a furlong to come to see me. They who have disinherited me have taken and sold him for life time and if the other should come from the camp they threaten to do the same to him—and all the rest of my children and grandchildren throughout the neighborhood. They have sold and have stripped me of everything I had and burned me out of my house and I being old and infirm and unable to help myself I most humbly implore your honor would look into the affair and help the wronged and afflicted and I shall be in duty bound to pray and thank your excellency.
Margareta Powell

The man who claims this right from me and my children is one John Ashton, a Priest—he sold my child to a certain Thomas Snowden residing in the same neighborhood and he has sold them to others about the neighborhood Fork of Potocktion.
Ann Arundal County

It is not known whether Margareta’s petition was successful. The fact that she sought redress is evidence of her courage and determination to preserve her children’s freedom and to keep the family unit together.

Source: Sylvia R. Frey and Marian J. Morton, New World, New Roles: A Documentary History of Women in Pre-Industrial America (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986) p137-38, from: Maryland State Papers, Blue Book IV, 10, Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD.

posted May 19th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Free blacks,Powell, Margareta,Slaves/slavery,The South

“Jenny . . . a good Spinster”

Robert Carter III (1728-1804) was a planter, slaveholder, and iron manufacturer of Nomini Hall plantation, Westmoreland County, Virginia. A letter of Robert Carter to Clement Brooke of the Baltimore Iron Works, 11 November 1776, contains an invoice. Of interest is a reference to Jenny. The abstract below is from notations in the invoice and letter.

220 bushels of Indian Corn and one Negroe Woman named Jenny are on board the Sloop Atwell the cargo mentioned abov to be delivered to you for the use of the Baltimoe [sic] Comp[any]—Pray send me a Copy of the Proceedings of the B-C[ompany] when they resolve that there Shall be an Addition of five negroe Women, to their Stock—

It is customary for me to engage my Negroes from new years day to the 31st of December following—however Geo. Wilkerson, Wool Comber, has relinquished Jenny, who is a good Spinster—Jenny is young & Stout, She has fits, accasionally, [sic] I say Accasionally, becuase her fits never happen but upon her being reprimanded for neglects; nor do those Fits leave behind any visible Effects If Jenny Should prove not to be sound, I will at a future date Send a negroe woman in her Stead— . . . .

In 1791 Carter decided to gradually manumit hundreds of his slaves

From the Robert Carter Papers (Vol. III). (Virginia) Special Collections Library, Duke University. See this SITE online.

posted February 26th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Slaves/slavery,The South

“Pleased, on reflection, to have made this journey”

Henrietta and Robert Liston spent a week in Charleston before beginning the return trek to Philadelphia. (See previous posts here, here, and here). Heading for Camden, South Carolina, they now found it necessary to use the letters of introduction more frequently. Mrs. Liston noted rice and indigo plantations but commented, “Cotton seems in some measure to have succeeded to Indigo, in this part of the Country. The process of Cotton requiring fewer hands, & being less prejudicial to health, & at present, even a more profitable produce.” One night they stayed with Colonel Johann Senf*,

a native of Germany & the superintendent of a Canal, the most considerable work of that kind yet attempted, in America; it is intended to join the Santee river to the Coopers river. . . . we found Col. Sinf [sic] & his Wife [Johanna van Berckel] living on a pretty little Spot, created & Beautified by themselves, it was laid out with peculiar neatness & Taste.

As they traveled north, the roads became worse as did the weather. In the region of the Catawba River, South Carolina, the Listons visited elders of the Catawba Nation**:

The Colonel & a few of the older Men spoke a little bad English, He apologized for the smallness of their numbers saying, the Young Men had not yet come in from hunting. We had, indeed, met some of them selling their Deerskins a hundred miles to the South. On the Colonels fire stood a pot, & there was a hoecake on the hearth; I asked what was in the Pot; he said Deerflesh for breakfast, but did not offer us any.

The travelers had to deal with bad roads, rainy and cold weather, a near drowning in a swollen stream, a sick servant and a “doctor” who also was the local parson and schoolmaster. By the time they crossed the Roanoke River in Virginia, one of the horses was lame and had an eye infection. It is no wonder that once the Listons arrived in Richmond, Virginia, “we were obliged to take places in the Mail Coach, The only mode of conveyance to be found for love or money.”

Seven days later on 7 February, 1798, they arrived home in Philadelphia, having been on the road for just over three months. Once again safely ensconced by her fireside, Mrs. Liston wrote, “Pleased, on reflection, to have made this journey, but feeling that few things could tempt me to repeat it.”

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* Johann (John) Senf (c. 1740-1806), engineer of the Santee Canal, begun in 1793 and opened in 1800.
** The Catawba Nation was confined to a region of 15 square miles around Catawba River, their numbers decimated by small pox and wars with the Cherokee Nation.

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Nonetheless, over the next three years, Henrietta and Robert Liston continued to explore the East Coast as far north as Quebec, and Portland, Maine. Mrs. Liston’s Journals show her to be an intelligent and discerning guide to the country and people of the United States. Her openness to new experiences, her adventurous spirit, and the zest of her language will certainly delight all readers.

Excerpts are taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” in The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook. The illustration is of the ruins of the Santee Canal.

posted December 15th, 2014 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Farming,Liston, Henrietta Marchant,Philadelphia,The South,Travel

“we passed Christmas day very agreeably”

Henrietta and Robert Liston were genuinely curious about the New World. (See previous posts here and here.) In her journals, Henrietta noted facts that she found interesting, described the foods they ate, and was astounded at the natural beauties, particularly the flora, of the countryside. Traveling on the east coast of North America was a challenge but one that the 45-year-old Mrs. Liston and her 55-year-old husband met with aplomb, courage, and even laughter.

The first night after leaving Mr. Jones’s Hospitable roof, we were obliged to take up our quarters, in what was called an Inn, Consisting of one room containing two Beds, one for the family, the other for Strangers; there were two young Men travelling on Horseback, besides several Inferior Guests, & I found that all the Party, except our Servants who were in a ruinous outKitchen, must lodge in this Chamber. . . .
One of the Group around the fire appearing intoxicated, & seemingly disposed to amuse himself with a Pistol, I took the Daughter of the House aside, & declared our readiness to be contented with any place, in order to Sleep in a separate apartment from these Men. She regretted that there was nothing but an empty Garrat, used for keeping Corn, without fire or door, & an open window. it was frost & snow, but we had taken our resolution, & we repaired to an old flat Bed, that happened to be in this miserable Place &, indeed, we were within a very little of being frozen to Death, notwithstanding an Eddadown [Eiderdown] Green silk Bedcover with which we travelled, & it was with some difficulty the Girl, next morning, could prevail on the Savages to let me approach the fire so as to thaw my fingers.

On Christmas eve, the Listons reached Fayetteville:

it is a flourishing Town, upon a Branch of the Capefear River & nearly at the head of the navigation—before the [Revolutionary] War it was called Cross Creek. We were visited by a Scotch Gentleman, named [Robert] Donaldson, with whose family we passed Christmas day very agreeably.

No doubt they were happy to spend the day with a fellow Scot, but Mrs. Liston does not give any details of the festivities. On New Year’s Eve, they arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Two hundred years ago, Christmas and New Year’s Day—unlike today with its frenzied gift buying—were spent quietly at home or in paying social visits to friends; special foods for the occasion would have been served. Perhaps the Donaldsons prepared one of Mrs. Liston’s newly discovered favorites:

our most frequent food, & infinitely the best of its kind, was Pork & Corn bread . . . it was fresh & most excellent meat, . . . always broiled upon the Coals, & when we happened to get a few fryed Eggs to it, it was the best food possible & with Corn bread (no other is known) baked upon a hoe, in general, & call[ed] hoe cake.

(More about the Listons’ travels in the next post.)

Excerpts are taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” in The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook.

posted December 11th, 2014 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Charleston,Food,Holidays,Liston, Henrietta Marchant,The South,Travel

“letters of recommendation to private Houses”

Arriving in Norfolk (see previous post), Henrietta Marchant Liston and her husband enjoyed a few weeks there, where they were royally entertained by local residents and officers of the British Navy. Mrs. Liston’s family members departed for home in Antigua, and Henrietta and Robert set off again in a

light Post Chaise, four good Horses, & one for a Servant, (for to our surprise we found that Norfolk did not afford Carriages or Horses to hire, & the land Carriage to Carolina is so little in use, that no Public Stages are established) having heard only formidable accounts of this journey we . . . hired three free Mulattos, two as Postillions, & one as a riding Servant, these Men know the Country, & could submit to its inconveniences.

There are three roads through the Carolina’s, the High, the Middle, & the Low; we chose to set out by the Middle one, having fewer Ferries & Swamps to engage with, than in the Lower, & we reserved the High one, for our return, in perhaps worse weather.

The post chaise and horses not only carried the Listons and their servants, but also their belongings: clothes for travel and formal visits, their eiderdown quilt and sheets—probably a good idea considering the likelihood of lice and other bugs found in mattresses at inns. The servants carried their own clothing and bedding. Somewhere in this small vehicle were stowed provisions, including a cocoa pot. The Listons quickly established their routine: rising at about 5 A.M., on the road by 6, and traveling some miles before stopping for breakfast. In the early afternoon, they would stop for dinner and, with any luck, find supper and a bed in the evening. While there were many inns or taverns on roads near cities such as Philadelphia, this was not the case in the South.

It is common through the Southern States to have letters of recommendation to private Houses, there being often no Inns, & when there are, the accommodations very wretched. it is not, indeed, an uncommon thing, even without Introduction, to drive up to a Gentleman’s House & to be always well received. We were rather pleased sometimes to avail ourselves of this custom, in order to observe the manner of living of an Independent Country Gentleman in a New Country.

Taverns, as Mrs. Liston carefully pointed out, differed from inns by being the “Houses of little Planters, who, from their own poverty, & for the conveniency of a few travellers, take money for giving what they have to you & your Horses nothing can be found fault with, for nothing can be mended.”

In Halifax, North Carolina, they used one of the letters of recommendation to stay with the planter Willie Jones:

[his] character was singular, & his Politics inimical to the English, He was from Principal a republican, & even thought the authority of the President [John Adams] approached too near the Kingly power. He told us himself of having once refused to receive Gen. Washington, George the first being nearly the same to king as George the third. . . .

The Listons so much enjoyed their visit with Jones and his wife Mary that they stayed an extra day.

(More to come in the next post.)

Henrietta’s commentary is taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” inThe Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook. The 1795 map of North Carolina is from NCSA.

posted December 8th, 2014 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Liston, Henrietta Marchant,The South,Travel

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