Over the past ten years of my genealogical research, I have discovered many interesting things about my ancestors.
As a child I had not known, for instance, that I had a large number of ancestors who settled in colonial Virginia, North Carolina, and many other southern states. My paternal grandparents died when I was quite young, and my maternal grandfather never talked about his family. As far as I knew, my family was from Iowa, California and Washington state, and never set foot in the south!
When I started researching, I discovered that some of my southern ancestors did own slaves, but --surprisingly--a significant number did not. Some families, such as the BRUTONs, gave up the practice of slavery early on. Many, such as the FRAZIERs, were Quakers, and either never owned slaves or gave up the practice before 1800. Several from that family belonged to Quaker congregations that were involved in the Underground Railroad, and eventually moved from North Carolina to Indiana and Iowa.
But I also found that a few of my families in Virginia and Missouri continued to hold slaves until the bitter end of the Civil War.
Only recently did I discover that there were several slaveowners in my family tree who did not live in the south. Some of them, because of religion & location, were quite unexpected. Here are a few.
1) SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN (Van Arsdale) born April 18, 1726 NY, died March 17, 1795 Bucks Co Pennsylvania; married ELSJE KROESEN. He is listed as a slave holder in 1782 and 1790 tax records in Bucks Co PA. I have not found a will, but I did find this reference in a book entitled "The American Past: A Survey of American History" by Joseph R Conlin, publ 2010, p 163:
A PENNSYLVANIA SLAVE OWNER
There were plenty of slaves in the North, but few Northerners owned large numbers of Africans. Most commonly, northern farmers (and city people) owned only two, three, perhaps five slaves. The absence of an influential social class with a great deal of money invested in slaves was a major reason why abolition was easy in the northern states.
Simon Vanarsdalen of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a prosperous farmer but by no means a wealthy grandee, owned a large number of slaves by northern standards. Exactly how many is unknown, but when he died in 1770 (note: most likely this is date he wrote will, not actual death date; records show he died 1795, and he was in tax lists 1782 and 1790), he bequeathed "Black Eve", "Black Cuff", "Black Henry" and "my negro wench called Poll or Mary" to his children with instructions that they inherit "the remainder of my negroes after the death of my wife".
Ten years later, any of Vanarsdalen's slaves who were 28 years of age were freed by Pennsylvania's emancipation laws. (Conlin, p 163)
(Jan 2013 Errata: I now know that this reference is to the father of SIMON SIMONSE VAN ARSDALEN: SIMON JANSE VAN ARSDALEN who married JANNETJE ROMEYN. His will dated 1795 Bucks Co PA lists all the slaves mentioned above. )
2) MICHAEL STUMP I born about 1715 Schoharie, NY; died 1768 Hampshire Co Virginia; married ANNA CATHARINA NEFF born Nov 27, 1716 Michelfield, Baden, Germany. Very few of my German or Swiss ancestors owned slaves. Thus I was very surprised to find the following two paragraphs in his will dated 1767 Hampshire Co VA:
Item: and as for my Personal Estate and Negroes I bequeath in manner Following that is to say I give to my son GEORGE one Negroe Named SAMPSON.
Item: I also give to my son LEONARD one Negroe Named DICK and all the residue of my Personal Estate not before mentioned with one Negroe Named SAM to be Equaly Divided Between my said Chilldren Except the twenty Pounds Left to my grandson which said twenty Pounds to be Deducted or taken off his Fathers Share of my Estate and to be aplyed to the use aforesaid.
3) FREDERICK WILLIAM SHRIVER born Feb 4, 1744 in probably Anne Arundel Co, Maryland; died Feb 27, 1820 Creagerstown, Frederick Co, Maryland; married 1st) MARIA ELISABETH BIERLE born April 16, 1758 Lancaster Co PA, and 2nd) ELIZABETH SEESMAN. He had three sons by his first wife, and no other children by his second wife. His youngest son was likely my ggg grandfather LEWIS SHRIVER born about 1790 who married SUSANNAH LUCKHART in Maryland, and died in Ross Co Ohio.
While researching in census records, I discovered that in the 1790 and 1800 census, this family was listed with one slave in the household. I have not yet found a will or other records to verify it. This is the only other German or Swiss ancestor I have found--so far--that owned a slave.
4) ALEXANDER WALKER born about 1775 Rockbridge Co Virginia, died between 1830-1840 in Clark Co, Indiana**; married JANE TILFORD or TELFORD born March 19, 1777 Rockbridge Co Virginia. This family migrated from Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana, where they can be found in the 1820 and 1830 census in Washington twp, Clark Co Indiana. 1820 census shows 4 male slaves in the household, and 1830 census shows 6 slaves and at least a couple of free persons of color (census difficult to read). I have not yet found a will or other records to verify this.
**(Note: Several researchers, including published sources, have indicated that this particular ALEXANDER WALKER died 1838 in McDonough Co IL, but so far I have not found any evidence of this. So far I have only found one of his daughters who moved there: SARAH SALLIE WALKER who married ALEXANDER PROVINE There were several with the name ALEXANDER WALKER from this very large family, so it is possible this was a case of mistaken identity. However, the family of ALEXANDER WALKER who married MARGARET PEGGY COMBS did migrate there. This couple would have been aunt & uncle to ALEXANDER WALKER who married JANE/JEAN TELFORD. A younger ALEXANDER WALKER b abt 1826 also lived in McDonough Co IL.)
5) JAMES OTWELL born about 1772 in Sussex Co Delaware; died Jan 18, 1827 in Guilford Co North Carolina; married ELEANOR REYNOLDS, whose family were devout Quakers, and had migrated from Chester Co PA to Guilford Co NC. Here is an excerpt from a biography of his son Curtis Otwell, published in the early 1900s, from the book "History of Darke County, Ohio":
--CURTIS OTWELL, physician and surgeon, Greenville, was born in Guilford Co North Carolina March 19, 1806; his father JAMES OTWELL was a native of Sussex Co Delaware, and his mother ELEANOR REYNOLDS of Guilford County; she was of Scotch-Irish parentage, and the descendant of a Quaker who came to this county with William Penn. JAMES OTWELL was a slaveholder, but emancipated his slaves near the beginning of the present century (1800).
6) DAVID LAWRENCE born about 1650 in New Hampshire; died 1710 in Exeter, Rockingham Co New Hampshire; married MARY TAYLOR, who was born Oct 26, 1667 in New Hampshire.
--My will is that my two sons WILLIAM and JOSEPH shall pay my just debts, legacies and funeral charges, and then the rest and residue of my whole estate both real and personal shall be equally divided among them; only their mother shall have the use of the Negro during life and then return to them to be equally divided between them.
This was the most surprising of all. I had read that slavery did exist in New England, but had never seen it documented in records.
Have a great day!
© Betty Tartas 2011