Organizations Against Slavery There is no currently known documentary evidence of abolition groups that were composed of Prince Georgians. However, this does not mean that they did not exist. In Maryland there were groups against slavery operating at various times in the state's history but never represented much of a threat to the institution of slavery. These groups were mainly in Baltimore but there were also groups located in other areas of the state. The Maryland Colonization Society is included in this section although its mission cannot be construed as being against slavery so much as a perceived solution to Maryland's free black population.
The Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others, Unlawfully Held in Bondage This society was formed before September 8, 1789 in Baltimore. The officers included Philip Rogers, James Carey, Joseph Townsend, David Brown, Zebulon Hollingsworth, and Archibald Robinson. Samuel Chase and Luther Martin served as honorary counselors. Their dues were 10 shillings paid annually and no person holding a slave (except the honorary counselors) could be admitted to the society.
The first battle of the society came in its attempt to help free someone that they felt was unlawfully held. Not only did this attempt fail, but the society was roundly criticized by the legislature for attempting to intervene in the case: ... therefore resolved, that the Society for the abolition of slavery established in Baltimore-Town, is altogether unnecessary, their conduct, as disclosed in the case of the Messieurs Dorsey, already became oppressive, and subversive of the rights of our citizens, and the principles of their association, as submitted to the house, repugnant to the laws and constitution of the State."
While the number of members was not mentioned the society was said to be composed of Quakers, Methodists, Episcopalians, Dutch Lutherans, Dutch Calvinists, Presbyterians and Baptist: citizens born in the U.S. or coming to the U.S. before the revolution.
By 1792 they were sending memorials to the Congress in Philadelphia over the slave trade. Maryland was a prime area for refitting boats to engage in slave trading. At this point there were societies (independent) formed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
The society remained active throughout the 1790's in Maryland with three chapters: Baltimore, Choptank, and Chestertown. The American Anti-Slavery Society that met yearly in Philadelphia received delegates from the Maryland branches. The Maryland society reported that it had prepared a memorial for the assembly but did not feel that the assembly would accept it.
By 1797 the society had 231 members in the Maryland chapter and 25 members in the Choptank chapter. The Choptank chapter was formed in 1790 and had liberated over 60 slaves through suits against unlawful holders of slaves. The Maryland society described the condition of blacks in Maryland as:
"The condition of blacks from the information this society has received is greatly ameliorated, and some few of the free are enabled to provide for themselves without manual labor - moral conduct equal to that of the whites in like circumstances - minute information not yet obtained."
The society reports of the existence of a school that it founded for blacks (undoubtedly in Baltimore) and said that they planned to keep it open next year. Even in Alexandria, Virginia the society there had formed a Sunday school with 108 in attendance.
By 1801 there were no delegates in attendance from Maryland. However, the convention condemned the "horrid practice of kidnapping is persisted in especially in Maryland, in direct violation of the dearest rights of Humanity, and in bold defiance of Law, and moral Justice."
In 1804 the national society changed its name to the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and Improving the Condition of the African Race. It still had contact people in Baltimore but the local society had ceased to exist.
The experience of the society in Alexandria which had also ceased to function may be an indication of what happened in part to the Maryland society. At the 1804 national conference Alexandria had sent a written report to the proceedings. The society listed three reasons why the society had died: 1. admission of slave-holders into the organization at formation. 2. law in Virginia imposing a penalty of $100 on any person who assisted a slave in establishing his claim to freedom. 3. rising of People Of Colour, at Richmond under General Gabriel (this directly resulted in the closing of the Alexandria school).
Small abolition groups were to be found throughout the state during the first half of the 19th century. These societies were extremely unpopular and could find no "middle ground" to occupy between the Garrison abolitionists and the slaveholders. The Deer Creek Anti-Slavery Society of Hartford County sent a memorial to the Assembly in 1827-28 for the response that colonization was enough. It is probable that the abolitionists of this period were either members of the Quaker religion or Maryland's own remnant of the Nicholite religion which had heavily influenced the Choptank chapter in the 1790's.
The Baltimore Society for the Protection of Free People of Color The Baltimore society existed from 1827 through 1829. It was concerned with the kidnapping of free blacks and instituted several lawsuits throughout the eastern shore to obtain the release of blacks held in slavery illegally.
Thomas Matthews, Joseph Davenport, William Barlett, and Samuel Wilson served as officers of this organization. In 1828 they directly associated themselves with abolition groups by sending delegates to the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and Improving the condition of the African Race that was held in Baltimore in November of 1828. However, throughout 1829 attendance dwindled away and the society ceased to exist by the end of 1829.
The Maryland Colonization Society Maryland's official answer to the problem of slavery was founding, the Colonization society to assist in the removal of freed blacks. This resulted in thousands of freed Maryland blacks being sent to the colonies being formed in Liberia. Maryland society leaders included Francis Scott Key, C.C. Harper, John E. Howard and J.H.B. Latrobe.
The Society got its initial push as the result of the Southampton Insurrection in 1831 (Nat Turner!). The Maryland legislature appropriated $200,000 in $20,000 annual installments for 10 years. Before this time the society had only sent 196 people to Liberia from 1820 to 1830.
With the state funding the Maryland society pursued an independent course chartering its own settlement at Cape Palmas in Liberia. The society was viewed as harmless by not requesting the abolition of slavery and helpful by removing freed slaves (which also increased the value of slaves for the slaveholder). Slaves were reduced to the choice of bondage or exile.
Clerks of the county courts were expected to provide the colonization society with list of manumitted slaves. If the newly freed person refused to go to Liberia, the state had the authority to expel them from Maryland. Another alternative for freed persons who did not want to leave Maryland because of family ties was to declare themselves a slave again. Prince George's was required to pay the sum of $512.65 a year to meet its contribution to this project. The bill of 1831 also required a census to be taken of all free blacks to determine their age and sex.
Prince George's County and the Underground Railroad The "Underground Railroad" was an active force in Prince George's County in the years before the Civil War. With the B & O railroad running through Prince George's from the District of Columbia to points north a natural route seems to have been laid out.
William Still reports the stories of slaves escaping from Prince George's County in the Underground Railroad Records a book published in 1872 containing the records of the station in Philadelphia. While there are several hundred pages of records they are not a complete list and basically cover the time period of the 1850's.
In Baltimore they may have stayed at the homes of the black conductors William Watkins, Daniel Hubbard, Jonah Kelly, Jacob and Hannah Leaverton, Elisha Tyson or William Hardcastle. In Delaware at Thomas Garrett's house Isaac Flint, Benjamin, Thomas, or William Webb, John Hunn or Joseph Walker. Jacob Bigelow served as the general manager of the railroad from Washington to Philadelphia. In Baltimore two unnamed market women who sold vegetables were agents that started fugitives to Philadelphia.
These men and women of the underground railroad worked with considerable personal risk to themselves and their property. Thomas Garrett paid heavy fines. Some were tarred and feathered by their community. Many were sent to jail for long prison terms. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed it became dangerous to be even a member of the Vigilance Committee as they were automatically supposed to be breaking the law.
Henry Some escapes were unsuccessful as the following November 5, 1851 escape listed in the Upper Marlboro's Planter's Advocate:
The United States Deputy Marshall arrested Henry,the fugitive slave of Dr. Duvall of Prince George's county, Maryland in Columbia, last night, and brought him here for examination before Commissioner McAllister.
The proceedings were summary. The owner and two witnesses swore to his identity. The commissioner delivered the fugitive at once to the claimant, who drove off with him in a close carriage. There was no disposition manifested for a violation of the law, nor did the case produce the least excitement.
Tom Matthews One of the first Prince George's runaways listed in Mr. Still's book was Tom Matthews. It came with an ad clipping from an unnamed paper.
HEAVY REWARD Three Hundred Dollars Reward.---Ran away from the subscriber, residing near Bladensburg, Prince George's county, Maryland on Saturday night, the 22d of March, 1856, my negro man, Tom Matthews, aged about 25 years, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, dark copper color, full suit of bushy hair, broad face, with high cheek bones, broad and square shoulders, stands and walks very erect, though quite a sluggard in action, except in a dance, at which he is hard to beat. He wore away a black coat and brown pantaloons. I will give the above regard if taken and brought home, or secured in jail, so that I get him. E.A. Jones, near Bladensburg, MD
The ad is followed by this explanation:
As Mr. Jones may be unaware which way his man Tom traveled, this item may inform him that his name was entered on the Underground Rail Road book April 4th, 1856, at which date he appeared to be in good health and full of hope for a safe sojourn in Canada. He was destitute, of course, just as anybody else would have been, if robbers had stripped him of every dollar of his earnings; but he felt pretty sure, that he could take care of himself in her Majesty's dominion.
The Committee, encouraged by his efforts, reached him a helping hand and sent him on to swell the goodly number in the promised land--Canada.
William Brown The next escape from Prince George's listed by Mr. Still was a William Brown. He seems to have had little help in his escape and he took over 5 weeks to reach Philadelphia.
In the trying circumstances in which William found himself, dark as everything looked, he could not consent to return to his master, as he felt persuaded, that if he did, there would be no rest on earth for him. He well remembered, that, because he had resisted being flogged (being high spirited), his master had declined to sell him for the express purpose of making an example of him--as a warning to the other slaves on the place. William was as much opposed to being thus made use of as he was to being flogged. His reflections and his stout heart enabled him to endure when he did succeed, the triumph was unspeakably joyous. Doubtless, he had thought a great deal during this time, and being an intelligent fugitive, he interested the Committee greatly.
The man that he escaped from was called William Elliott, a farmer, living in Prince George's county, Md. William Elliott claimed the right to flog and used it too. William, however, gave him the character of being among the moderate slave-holders of that part of the country. This was certainly a charitable view. William was of a chestnut color, well made, and would have commanded, under the "hammer," a high price, if his apparent intelligence had not damaged him. He left his father, grandmother, four sisters and two brothers, all living where he fled them.
Benjamin Ducket The third traveler came from Bell Mountain in Prince George's. Still relates his story as follows:
Benjamin Ducket came from Bell Mountain, Prince George's Co., Maryland. He stated to the Committee that he escaped from one Sicke Perry, a farmer. Of his particular master he spoke thus: "He was one of the baddest men about Prince George; he would both fight and kill up."
These characteristics of the master developed in Ben very strong desires to get beyond his reach. In fact, his master's conduct was the sole cause of his seeking the Underground Rail Road. At the time that he came to Philadelphia, he was recorded as twenty-three years of age, chestnut color, medium size, and wide awake. He left his father, mother, two brothers, and three sisters, owned by Marcus Devoe.
Jim Belle The next escape came from the Upper Marlboro area along with a newspaper clipping:
"Jim Belle" $100 Reward.--Ran away from the subscriber on Saturday night, Negro Man JIM BELLE. Him is about five feet ten inches high, black color, about 26 years of age: has a down look; speaks slow when spoken to; he has large, thick lips, and a mustache. He was formerly owned by Edward Stansburg, late of Baltimore county, and purchased by Edward Worthington, near Reisterstown, in Baltimore county, at the late Stansbury's sale, who sold him to B.M. and W.L. Campbell, of Baltimore city, of whom I purchased Jim on the 13th of June last. His wife lives with her mother, Ann Robertson, in Corn Alley, between Lee and Hill streets, Baltimore city, where he has other relations, and where he is making his way. I will give the above reward, no matter where taken, so he is brought home or secured in jail so I get him again. Zachariah Berry. of W., near Upper Marlboro, Prince George's county, Md.
Mr. Zachariah Berry, who manifested so much interest in Jim, may be until this hour in ignorance of the cause of his running off without asking leave, etc. Jim stated, that he was once sold and flogged unmercifully simply for calling his master "Mr.," instead of master, and he alleged that this was the secret of his eyes being opened and his mind nerved to take advantage of the Underground Rail Road.
While it may not now do Zachariah Berry much good to learn this secret, it may, nevertheless, be of some interest to those who were of near kin to Jim to glean even so small a ray of light. Nace Shaw
The following traveler arrived in a group of four with his compatriots escaping from Alexandria and D.C. $150 Reward.--Ran away from the subscriber, living near Upper Marlboro', Prince George's County, Md., on the 11th day of September, 1858, a negro man, "Nace," who calls himself "Nace Shaw;" is forty-five years of age, about five feet 8 or 9 inches high, of a copper color, full suit of hair, except a bald place upon the top of his head. He has a mother living in Washington city, on South B street, No. 212 Island.
I will pay the above reward no matter where taken, if secured in jail so that I get him again. SARAH ANN TALBURTT.
Nace, advertised by Miss Sarah Ann Talburtt, was a remarkably good-natured looking piece of merchandise. He gave a very interesting account of his so called mistress, how he came to leaver her, etc. Said Nace: "My mistress was an old maid, and lived on a farm. I was her foreman on the farm. She lived near Marlborough Forest, in Prince George's county, Md., about twelve miles from Washington; she was a member of the Episcopal Church. She fed well, and quarrelled a caution, from Monday morning till Saturday night, not only with the slaves, but among the inmates of the big house. My mistress had three sisters, all old maids living with her, and a niece besides; their names were Rebecca, Rachel, Caroline, and Sarah Ann, and a more disagreeable family of old maids could not be found in a year's time. To arise in the morning before my mistress, Sarah Ann, was impossible." Then, without making it appear that he or other of the slaves had been badly treated under Miss Talburtt, he entered upon the cause of escape, and said; "I left simply because I wanted a chance for my life; I wanted to die a free man if it pleased God to have it so." His wife and a grown-up son he was obliged to leave, as no opportunity offered to bring them away with him.
Adam Smith The next fugitive was reported by an ad in the Baltimore Sun:
$300 Reward.--Ran away from the subscriber, near Beltsville, Prince George's county, Md., on Saturday night, the 22d of August, 1857, Negro Man, Adam Smith, aged about 30. Height 5 feet 4 or 5 inches; black bushy hair, and well dressed. He has a mother living at Mr. Hamilton's, on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
I will give the above reward if taken in a free State; $50 if taken in the District of Columbia or counties of Montgomery and Prince George's, or $100 if taken elsewhere and secured so that I get him. Isaac Scaggs.
With his fellow-passengers, George and Thomas, he greatly enjoyed the hospitalities of the Underground Rail Road in the city of Brotherly Love, and had a very high idea of Canada, as he anticipated becoming a British subject at an early day. The story which Adam related concerning his master and his reasons for escaping ran thus:
"My master was a very easy man, but would work you hard and never allow you any chance night or day; he was a farmer, about fifty, stout, full face, a real country ruffian; member of no church, a great drinker and gambler; will sell a slave as quick as any other slave-holder. He had a great deal of cash, but did not rank high in society. His wife was very severe; hated a colored man to have any comfort in the world. They had eight adult and nine young slaves."
Adam left because he "didn't like the treatment." Twice he had been placed on the auction-block. He was a married man and left a wife and one child.
Joseph Thomas and William Oliver The last mention of Prince George's County in Still's collection were the short stories of Joseph Thomas and William Oliver:
Joseph Thomas was doing the work of a so-called master in Prince George's county, Maryland. For some cause or other the alarm of the auction-block was sounded in his ears, which at first distracted him greatly; upon sober reflection it worked greatly to his advantage. It set him to thinking seriously on the subject of immediate emancipation, and what a miserable hard lot of it he should have through life if he did not "pick up" courage and resolution to get beyond the terror of slaveholders; so under these reflections he found his nerves gathering strength, his fears leaving him, and he was ready to venture on the Underground Rail Road. He came through without any serious difficulty. He left his father and mother, Shadrach and Lucinda Thomas.
William Oliver, a dark, well-made, young man with the best of country manners, fled from Mrs. Marshall, a lady living in Prince George's county, Maryland. William had recently been in the habit of hiring his time at the rate of ten dollars per month, and find himself everything. The privilege of living in Georgetown had been vouchsafed him, and he preferred this locality to his country situation. Upon the whole he said he had been treated pretty well. He was, nevertheless, afraid that times were growing "very critical," and as he had a pretty good chance, he thought he had better make use of it, and his arrangements were wisely made. He had reached his twenty-sixth year, and was apparently well settled. He left one child, Jane Oliver, owned by Mrs. Marshall.
The records of the Underground Rail Road would not be as boldly kept after John Brown's raid in 1859. The correspondence of John Brown including names and places were part of the record captured by Federal forces. After the raid abolitionist were attacked not only in the south but as far north as Boston.
Friends' Association in Aid of Freedmen Five days after the Maryland emancipation of slaves on November 5, 1864 people, mostly Friends (Quakers), formed the Friends' Association in Aid of Freedmen for relief of freedmen. This organization functioned from 1864-1867. It included four women among its charter members including Elizabeth Graham, Hennetta Norris, Rebecca Turner, and Martha Tyson. An auxiliary association was formed in Hartford County.
It made urgent appeals for clothing, food, shelter, and work for the newly freed slaves. It petitioned the state government to provide assistance if the Federal government did not rapidly move the Freedmen's Bureau into Maryland. By March 1, 1865 they received an invitation from Lt. O'Brian of St. Mary's Government Farm to attend the opening of a school for children. They also coordinated relief efforts from local groups such as the Asbury Church (col') and the New England Freedmen Association to coordinate finding homes for freedmen from Washington.
By November of 1865 they had helped over 2,000 people, provided 2,000 pieces of clothing, and $3,000 in material aid. By 1867 they were financially exhausted and their role had been taken over by other groups. The final $300 and furniture were turned over to the Orphans of Colored Soldiers and Friendless Colored Children of Baltimore.
Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People The Constitution of the Baltimore Association described its objectives as the moral and educational improvement of the colored people. The original organizing body of the Association was the Baltimore Friends (Quakers). The first meeting of the Association occurred on 12 December 1864. This group was instrumental in setting up schools in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. The first school opened by the Baltimore Association was opened 9 January 1865 at Calvert and Saratoga Streets in Baltimore.
Another group that paralleled the Baltimore Association was the Maryland Union Commission that also counted Rev. Israel as its corresponding secretary. One of its concerns was with the transportation of refugees back to the south. By May 17, 1865 they had made formal request of the Bureau for transportation allowance.
The Maryland Union Commission and the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People both claimed to be branches of the American Freedmen's Union Commission yet for some reason maintained different offices.
The Baltimore Association was anxious for the involvement of the Bureau in education. They hoped for the bureau to provide material aid. Their mission was hampered by the absence of state funding. Only Washington and Dorchester Counties provided their share of the taxes raised from blacks in the state school fund. Teachers were supplied from New England, New York and the Pennsylvania Branches of the American Freedmen's Union Commission. Baltimore provided the board and incidental expenses according to their agreements with local communities for opening schools. They also employed a limited amount of teachers. The government provided lumber which was used to construct over 26 new school houses in 1866.
In 1868 the Association became certain that the Bureau was preparing to withdraw from Maryland and sent a petition to General O.O. Howard advising against such a move. Their concern prompted a two prong attack: desire to look after the welfare of freedmen and the educational goals of the bureau. While the apprenticeship cases of the past had largely been won through the decision of Chief Justice Chase, the school work had reached the crisis stage. The association challenged the Bureau to help in achieving the goal of state supported education or at least wait until the freedmen could support themselves. The signers of the petition were R. Janney, A. Sterling Jr., Tho. W. Coomer, Geo. A. Rofie, George Cole, W. H. Carson, Jos M. Cushing, William B. Huyll, Arthur Clarke, Edwin Johnson, Hugh L. Bond, John Needles, William Prince, Cyrus Dickson, R. Stockett Mathews, William McKein, W. Stockbridge, Jesse Tyson, Francis King, and William Daniel, members of the Baltimore Association.
After the schools were taken over by the City of Baltimore, the Association became overextended and suffered severe financial difficulties. R.M. Janney, the Baltimore Association's Superintendent of Schools and an agent of the Bureau, who had been doing field inspection work, was called back and field work was stopped. It was kept alive by the New England Branch which channeled its funds through the Baltimore Association. The Baltimore Association died shortly before the Bureau in 1870.
The Baltimore Association was responsible in part for schools in Prince George's assisting the school in Muirkirk by channeling funds of the New England Association through its accounts and in the construction of the schools at Nottingham, Woodville, and Oxon Hill.
Freedmen's Bureau The decision to move the Bureau into Maryland was not made until after Sept 12th, 1865 with a request from the Headquarters, Middle Military Department in Baltimore for assistance. The Freedmen's Bureau was established by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865. General O.O. Howard was asked by President Lincoln to serve as the Commissioner and was appointed to the position by President Andrew Johnson in May of 1865. The Bureau was extend twice over the veto of President Johnson. By 1868 the only functions remaining of the Bureau were education and claims.
For Prince George's County the major influence of the Bureau was through the assistant District of Columbia commissioners. Col. John Eaton was the first commissioner for the D.C. area, then Gen. J.C. Fullerton from Dec, 1865 till Feb. 1866, Gen C.H. Howard (O.O. Howard's brother) until December 1868 when the assistant commissioner position was terminated. Bvt Maj. David G. Swaim supervised the local area functions till Oct 1869.
In Prince George's the Bureau worked on several problems, including indentured youth, through the Orphan's Court, labor disputes, pension claims, violence against freedmen, education, and marriage relationships. The Bureau also assisted in relocating freedmen to the north. By August of 1870 all functions of the Bureau ceased to exist in Prince George's.