The History of Caroline County, Maryland, From Its Beginning, 1920, pp. 141-151


I. Origin

        The period at which slavery was introduced into Maryland is somewhat indefinite but some historians claim Claiborne had negro servants at the time of settlement of Kent Island.
        The Royal African Company, chartered in 1618, whose chief profits came from the importation of negroes into the American Colonies was the first organization for slave trade.  The traffic of this company was greatly encouraged by the King.
        The first record we find of Maryland slaves is that of 1708 when the London Board of Trade wrote to Gov. Seymour concerning slave importation by this company (Royal African).  The Governor in reply stated that Maryland trade was not through the above company but through independent traders or "interlopers," who were licensed.

II.  Growth of Slavery

        From 1700 to 1750 slavery was rapidly on the increase.  Governor Seymour in a letter of 1708 said, "At present the trade seems to run high, there having been between six and seven hundred Negroes imported hither this year."  This increase then changed to a decline which soon became rapid.

III.  Decline of Slavery in Maryland

        Scharf says--
        "In no state of the Union had emancipation so rapidly progressed as in Maryland; and while several of the counties had now (1833) a larger number of slaves than of white inhabitants, yet there were in the state at this time, not only the largest proportion, but actually much the largest number of free colored people of any state in the Union.:
        By comparing the census reports we see as follows:
Years  Whites Slaves Free 
1755  107,108 46,356 -----
1800  216,356 105,635 19,587
1860 516,128 87,188 83,718

        Approximately the change was as follows: 1755 all colored people in Maryland were slaves; in 1800 about one-fifth were free; in 1860 one-half were free.
        Then, too, free Negro property holders were allowed to vote in Maryland until 1851, when it was constitutionally restricted.
        An American Colonization Society was formed in Washington during December 1816, for the purpose of colonizing in Africa free people of color from America.
        In January 1831 Maryland organized an auxiliary for the same purpose.  McSherry says, "It was therefore determined to establish an independent organization in the state and plant a separate colony under the name of 'Maryland in Liberia.'"
        Proving the activity of this body we find that in October 1831 colored immigrants numbering 31 were sent to this colony.  Also the December session of Legislature made an appropriation of $10,000 each year for 26 years, to be used for benefit and transportation to Africa of Negroes.  In 1852 when this act expired the Assembly reenacted the law to be enforced for six years.  Then again, at its expiration in 1858 for four more years.
        To again quote from McSherry,

        "We are, therefore, justified in maintaining that no State did as much as Maryland toward emancipation and improvements of the condition of the African race within her borders.  Her early statutes protected them from cruel treatment and authorized their manumission.  She looked to their gradual and voluntary removal as the only means of solving the difficult problem which their presence involved."
IV. Slavery in Caroline

        Caroline County was active in these matters and her rapidly decreasing slave population shows her attitude.  Even in the days when this section belonged to Dorchester and Queen Anne the slave population was small as compared with other counties.
        In 1712 Queen Anne and Dorchester, which at that time included Caroline County, held comparatively few slaves.  Queen Anne with an entire population of over 3,000 had only 550 while Dorchester with practically the same number of whites held only 387 slaves.
        By the census of 1790 we find the highest number of slaves held by any one man in Caroline County was 57.  The holdings of the majority of the people owning slaves at all varied from one to five Negroes, while those with larger holdings less than fifty families owned more than ten slaves.
        The following table shows the gradual decrease of slaves and the increase of free colored people in Caroline from 1790 to 1840 as well as their number in proportion to whites.
1790 -- Population of Caroline County -- 1840
Years  Slaves Free
White Total
1790 2,057    421 7,023   9,506
1800  1,865    602 6,579   9,226
1810 1,520 1,001 6,932   9,453
1820 1,574 1,390 7,144 10,108
1830 1,171 1,652 6,247   9,070
1840    768 1,727 5,373   7,868

        Slave trade was never carried on to any extent in Caroline County; Marcy Fountain and Patty Cannon probably the best known who "traded" -- that is sold South into Georgia.
        Then as Maryland, and with her Caroline County, was rapidly transporting or manumitting her slaves came the year 1861 and Maryland true to her principles stayed in the Union and her spirit is expressed in a quotation from a prominent Baltimore newspaper of that day--"God forbid that a time should come when our people shall be unwilling to let the flag of the Union float over them."

V. Miscellaneous Court Orders

        An account of the sale of a Negress and her child in here given:

        Know all men by these presents that I Jeremiah .......... of Caroline County, planter, have and in the commission of the summon of sixty pounds of current money to me in hand and before the sealing and delivery of these presents by Isaac .......... the receipt whereof  I do hereby acknowledge, having bargained and sold by these present, do bargain and sell unto the said Isaac .........., one Negro woman lately the property of Samuel ..........., deceased, called Fann; also her child called Rachel to have and to hold said Negroes and each of whom by these presents we bargained and sold unto the said Isaac .........., his executors, administrators, and assigns forever, and the said Jeremiah .........., for myself by executors and administrators or any other person or persons whosoever shall and will forever warrant and defend the same as witness of my hand and seal this sixteenth day of May 1774.
                The following is an account of an unknown master giving freedom to four of his slaves:
        I am in possession of four Negroes names, Sarah, Lucy, Eve and Pompey and being desirous to give then all their liberty in a legal manner therefore do discharge the said Sarah, from my service from that day and date thereof, and Lucy and Eve and Pompey shall be free when they arrive unto the age of twenty and one years of age and doth covenant and agree both for myself and for my heirs executors and administrators. Lucy was born on the fifteenth of August in the year 1768; the said Eve was born on the 27 day of November 1768 and Pompey was born on the 4th day of September in the year of 1772.
        Given under my hand and seal this nineteenth day of March in the year 1774.
        Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of Jacob Boone {seal}
                Various items in regard to slave which were brought up at court are here given:
March 1776

        On petition of Nathaniel Potter's Negro Pompey, slave of the said Nathaniel Potter, is by the Court set levy-free for the future.

November 1776

        On petition of Christopher Driver ordered that he be exempt from the payment of any public tax or levy for his old Negro man Joseph, for the future.

        It was necessary for every colored person even though free to make known to the clerk of the court his or her intention to leave the province for a stated time.
        Joseph Richardson, Esq.,
                Clerk of Caroline County Court.
        I the undersigned, a free Negro of Caroline County, wish to visit the city of Philadelphia for the purpose of seeing my brother.  By an Act of the Assembly, of this State, it is necessary my intention of leaving this State should be known to you.  It is my intention to return here again within three days from this date.
        Given under my hand this 12th day of October 1841.
                                                                                 State of Maryland, Caroline County, to wit:

        Whereas application has been made to me by a colored woman named Mahala Scott for a certificate of her freedom agreeably to the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided by which said Act, free Negroes and Mulattoes are permitted to travel out of this state, upon the obtaining of a certificate of being free born, And whereas also upon the oath of Sarah Williams, of Caroline, that the said colored woman named Mahala Scott, for whom this certificate is made, was free born.  I do therefore grant her said application and hereby certify that she is seventeen years of age, or thereabout, about five feet high, of a complexion nearly black, was born and raised in Caroline County, and has a large scar of a burn across her right wrist, and a scar of a cut on the inside of her right wrist-joint, another scar of a cut on the inside of her eye and no other notable mark or scar that I have discovered.  In testimony whereof I hereunto subscribe my name and affix the public seal of my office this 14th day of March in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and twenty-six.
                                Clerk of Caroline County Court.       Joseph Bell
        Joshua Jump.

        The Clerk would then issue a certificate like the following:

VI. Acts of Assembly

        In 1822 laws regarding slaves were enacted as follows:

        "BE IT ENACTED By the General Assembly of Maryland, That from and after the first day of October, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty two, it shall be the duty of the constables of Worcester and Caroline counties, to arrest and bring before a justice of the peace, any slave  or slaves that may be going at large and bring him,  her or themselves within their respective hundreds, or who may not have a fixed home in the family or on the estate of his, her or their owner, or be hired with his, her or their owner.

          "AND BE IT ENACTED, That in all cases where a slave or slaves shall or may be brought before a justice of the peace under the provision of the first section of this act, if it appear to the satisfaction of the said justice of the peace, that said slave or slaves so arrested and brought before him, were going at large in violation of an Act of Assembly passed in April session seventeen hundred and eighty seven entitled, An Act to prevent the inconveniences arising from slaves being permitted to act as free, and the supplements thereto, or of this Act, he shall forthwith issue an order to the constable who shall or may have brought the said slave or slaves before him, to his such slave or slaves for the entire balance of the year in which they may have been arrested; and for each examination of slave had before him under this acts, a justice of the peace shall be entitled to twenty-five cents, to be levied on the county as part of the county expenses for the ensuing year."

        "BE IT ENACTED, by the General Assembly of Maryland, That all such parts of the act of the Assembly passed at September session, seventeen hundred and twenty-three, chapter fifteen, which directs punishment of negro or other slaves by cropping their ear, be and the same is hereby repealed."

        "AND be it enacted, That for the offense specified in the act thus repealed, punishment by whipping not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, shall be and is hereby substituted."

        The following may serve to show conditions in part:

        In 1858 James Wheeler, a free colored man, living near Denton had acquired some real estate through his industrious efforts and being desirous of leaving same to his children at his death, had to have the Legislatute authorize him to bequeath his property to his children at his death as in the case of white people.  Without this law his children would not have secured his property by will.
        A few interesting extracts from wills probated in Caroline County are given as examples of the provision for slaves by their masters:

Two old negroes named Bacchus and Silvey are to be taken good care of and well treated by my children.  I direct that they shall never be sold or disposed of.

I give and devise to all my negro slaves freedom, liberty and freedom.

I give unto my negro man Essex, two acres of land during his life.

I desire that my son shall receive but one shilling from my estate if he refuse to free all his slaves upon his becoming sixteen years of age.

I give and bequeath to my negro woman, named Esther, her youngest child named Judy, to her forever.

I give unto my negro man Will a donation of five pounds current money per year.

I give unto my son William, old Bet, whose life is to be made comfortable.

CARL - The Last Slave

"Gone are the days, when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away;
Gone from the earth, to a better land I know,
I hear their gentle voices calling Old Black Joe."

        We found him sitting in the twilight, his eyes clear and bright for all his ninety years, yet fills with dreams of the past.  We had met his grandchildren at the door, hastening to some entertainment, and the room was filled with the happy confusion of their outgoing.
        Cheerily he greeted us.  Then by degrees we led him to talk of bygone day,--his days of bondage.  Happily he spoke of the, of his home life, of his master, of tobacco days in Maryland.  Once when questioned he told of the fear of being sold to the cotton plantations in Georgia.  Then his eyes blazed with the fire of youth and his voice took on a different tone.
        Once more his mind turned to the happier vein of thought and told of driving old Massa to church in Greensboro, sitting outside under the rustling green trees, listening to the birds and bees until the service had ended.  "Ah!" he said, "He was a good master."
        Quietly his voiced wandered on telling of plantation life in Caroline County and as the light in the room dimmed slowly, his gray head sank forward and he sat silent, with his hands resting on his cane, dreaming of the past.  We rose and passed out into the darkening night, leaving him there--the last representative of slavery days.

"I'm coming, coming, For my head is bending low,
I hear those gentle voices calling Old Black Joe."
Feb. 21, 1919  -  LAURA COCHRANE,
After a visit to last slave in Greensboro.


        Altho Maryland was a slave state, it is generally known that previous to the Civil War half of her people were opposed to slavery and public sentiment strong against the slave traffic, which, nevertheless, was carried on to some extent along the Maryland and Delaware peninsula.  Chief among the dealers were Patty Cannon, Joe Johnson and Massy [sic] Fountain.
        Patty Cannon and Joe Johnson, her son-in-law, kept a tavern at Johnson's Cross Roads, now Reliance.  The location was ideal for their nefarious purpose, for the house was on the border of Sussex, Dorchester and Caroline counties, twenty miles from a court house and ten from a town of any size.  Under the strangely sloping roof of this hostelry was a concealed garret which served as a pen for captive slaves and free Negroes who had been kidnapped to sell.  Scattered about the counties, Patty Cannon had secret places where her agents collected victims.  The poor Negroes who were luckless enough to fall into her hands were sent to one of those hiding places until taken in charge by a southern trader, who to prevent any trouble arising during their detention and journey handcuffed them together in what was known as a "coffle."
        A force of men was employed to kidnap free Negroes and indeed stories are told of the like disappearance of white people whose complexion resembled that of mulattoes.  "Aunt Patty," as she was commonly called, often assisted in this work and is credited with capturing men single handed, so great was her physical strength.  She is still remembered by a few old people in the county as a short, thick-set woman with black hair and eyes, vivid coloring, and rather handsome in her cold, bold way.
        Joe Johnson was a staunch ally in all Patty's schemes.  After having been captured in Delaware and flogged at the whipping post for some unlawful business, he confined his activities to Maryland.
        Not only were Patty Cannon and Joe Johnson accused of illegal transactions in connection with the slave traffic, but other accusations such as robbing the mails, and killing travelers who stopped at the tavern and were suspected of having considerable money with them.  After years of terrorizing the neighborhood, Patty Cannon was delivered by the Maryland authorities to Delaware officials.  Before the time for her trial, however, she died in Georgetown Jail.  This was suppose to be a great relief to many prominent people throughout the state, as in the course of a court trial they would undoubtedly have been exposed as accomplices in some of her questionable transactions. Joe Johnson made his escape and no definite information was ever found as to his whereabouts.
        Massy Fountain, one of the prominent men in the Bridgetown community about 1820, was also a slave dealer.  Tradition has it that he was one of Patty Cannon's crowd of kidnappers, but we find no proof of this and he was never accused of other crimes of which she was instigator.  Certain it is, however, that he bought and sold slaves.  Maryland slave owners, feeling it a disgrace to deal openly for Negroes, would secretyly bring them to Fountain, who in turn would sell them to southern dealers.  The cellar of the Fountain home was used as quarters for the darkies until convenient for the dealers to move them south.  This being "sold south into Georgia," as the slaves termed it, was the greatest terror of their lives.
        Fountain was a man of considerable means and owned large tracts of land in the county.  He was one of the most influential men in upper Caroline, and greatly feared in political affairs, until his death in 1864.  His grave may still be seen in the Bridgetown church yard, just over the boundary line in Queen Anne's county.

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