Last week we featured an artifact from The Briers, an estate in Olney. The Briers – originally called Silent Retreat – was built in 1854, and was situated off Route 108 (see map at bottom of post). The owner, Josiah Waters Jones, Sr. (1810-1896), was a prosperous farmer; the 1860 census shows that his real estate at that time was worth $10,000 and his personal property worth $20,000. He did not marry until 1864, so the 1860 census shows him alone in his household.

Except that he wasn’t alone. The 1860 Slave Schedule, enumerated separately, shows that Jones claimed ownership of thirteen people, and that his estate included two “slave houses.” This brings us to today’s artifact: a small wooden bench, believed to have been “used by slaves at the Briers as substitute for chairs at the kitchen or cabin table.” (Quoted from our original 1960s catalog card.)  It was donated in 1962 by Mrs. JW (Margaret) Jones, Jr., and can be seen in the Beall-Dawson House in our upstairs slave quarters room.

The seat top measures 8″ x 40″, and the bench is 14″ tall. One leg is a turned and finished piece, and the other three are unfinished, still covered in bark; presumably one kind was a replacement for the other, though it’s not clear which is which. The construction is simple, but it is sturdy and made with some care.  The center of the top is worn smooth, though there are some cut-marks that look like it was used as a cutting board or work surface; it has suffered water damage, chips and scratches, and other signs that this is a utilitarian piece of furniture over 150 years old.

The 1860 Slave Schedule does not, with few exceptions, provide names; instead, only the person’s age, sex and “color” are noted. Mr. Jones’ list includes black females aged 70, 34, 16, and 3, and black males aged 68, 45, 40, 33, 24, 16, 14 and 1. The 13th individual is listed as a 60 year old mulatto male, marked as a “fugitive from the state.”

Fortunately there are other sources to help us give identities to at least a few of these unnamed individuals, some or all of whom may have used this bench. (Indeed, one of them probably made it). Though a name is only part of a person’s story and identity, it can be an important part – and it was a part often denied to enslaved people, at least in the records left by whites.  Using names whenever possible can help to make history human and knowable on a very basic level.  (For a fantastic example of work being done in this area, visit the Virginia Historical Society’s “Unknown No Longer” project.)

In 1867, Maryland commenced a “Slave Census” which listed, by owner (now ex-), those individuals enslaved in 1864 at the time of Maryland’s emancipation. From this, we see that in 1864 The Briers was home to: David Dorsey, 60; Edward Williams, 49; George Thomas, 35; Peter J. Williams, 32; Thomas Williams, 30; Tilghman Debtor, 19; Samuel Debtor, 17; Mary [no surname given], 17; Martha Debtor, 12; Elias Debtor, 8; and Anne Debtor, 2. Tilghman and Samuel Debtor are noted as having enlisted in the Union Army, for which Mr. Jones received $100 compensation each. David Dorsey is, perhaps, the “capable slave Uncle Dave, blacksmith and wheelwright” described by historian Roger Brooke Farquhar in the early 1960s. (For anyone playing along at home with their own copy of Farquhar’s book, Old Homes and History, please note that The Briers is filed under T for “The.”) In the 1870 census, Martha and Elias Detter (Debtor) are “domestic servants” in the Jones household, while David Dorsey and Edward Williams, “farm laborers,” live in their own households in the Olney area.  I have not been able to trace the other people in the County records.

As for the building(s) in which this bench was used, no photos of cabins or “slave houses” at The Briers exist that I’m aware of. Farquhar states that “Josiah Waters Jones, Sr., built in 1853 before the brick house was built, a stone slave quarters.”  The Briers gave way to suburbia in 1962; the house and all the remaining outbuildings were torn down.  It was not entirely forgotten, however.  Streets in the new neighborhood of Olney Mill were named after Montgomery County estates, including “Briars Road” (they spelled it wrong, but oh well), and according to a photo feature in the Washington Star (Jan 10, 1966), the “historic-looking” but entirely fake mill at the entrance to Olney Mill “has been built of stone salvaged from slave quarters, stables and a blacksmith shop found on the Briers.”

Since evidence suggests that at least one cabin was built of stone, The Briers’ quarters may have looked something like this one, at Mt. Carmel in Dickerson.  1936 photo from the HABS collection, Library of Congress.

Interested in the unique challenges of 19th century African-American genealogy? Our own Sween Research Library has many resources, in the form of both printed works and knowledgeable staff and volunteers.  Help can also be found through our Genealogy Club. Other online resources include www.ancestry.com (a membership-based site), www.mdslavery.net, and www.familysearch.org

Above: a detail from G.M. Hopkins’ 1879 Atlas of Montgomery County (with my notes), showing the intersection of the Washington & Brookeville Turnpike (Route 97) and the Laytonsville-Sandy Spring Road (Route 108). For further locational assistance, the “Chas. H. Brooke residence” at the top is Falling Green, currently the home of the Olney Boys & Girls Club.

The Devotional Family Bible (Vol. II), Rev. Alexander Fletcher, D.D.

All too often, the stories and histories of enslaved African Americans have been lost. In the case of the men, women and children enslaved by the Beall family, most of their stories – both before and after emancipation – are unknown to us at the Historical Society. Thanks to legal documents like deeds, wills, census and tax records, and inventories, researchers have been able to learn the names of 81 enslaved people who were owned at one time by the Bealls.  In most cases, only their names are known to us.

Known to us is the key phrase. All of these people (a full list of the known names can be found at the bottom of this post) had individual lives, stories, and experiences, known to (and important to) their families and descendants. The Historical Society is fortunate in that some descendants have offered to share their histories with us, to help us better tell the story of life in the Beall-Dawson House, in Rockville, and by extension in Montgomery County as a whole. Here is one of those stories.

Lucinda Jackson Moore (1822-1898) was born into slavery to Flora Jackson, an enslaved African American woman owned by Upton Beall. Upton’s widow Jane purchased Lucy (as she was usually called) from her late husband’s estate in 1827, and gave the young girl to her daughter Margaret Beall; Lucy, five years younger than Margaret, worked as Margaret’s maid.  Lucy probably went with Margaret to Georgetown when the latter attended Miss Lydia English’s Seminary as a teenager.

Lucy Jackson married William Henry Moore in 1855, while she was still enslaved. They had five children: William Henry Jr., James Richard, John Lewis, George, and Harriet Augusta. The four boys were born into slavery, and like their mother were owned by Margaret Beall (Harriet, the youngest, was born in 1868). By 1855 Lucy had been hired out by Margaret Beall to a family in Georgetown, where she worked as a laundress and housekeeper (this was a common practice in the area; the Beall sisters hired out a number of their slaves).

Large family Bibles like this one often include space to record important dates and histories. The Moore family noted the births of Lucy and William Henry Moore's five children on this page. Another page contains deaths including that of George, the youngest son, who died July 7, 1862, only a few months after he had been freed.

On April 16, 1862, Congress passed “An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,” abolishing slavery in Washington. The Act also provided monetary compensation to slaveholders who were “loyal to the United States.” Because Margaret and her sisters hired out many of their enslaved people in Georgetown, they were subject to the Act. Margaret Beall received $1,900 for Lucy Jackson Moore and her four young children. In her petition to receive payment for the family, Margaret Beall described Lucy as a “mulatto woman about five feet five inches… [she] is an excellent house servant, first rate cook, ironer and washer, honest and industrious, valued at one thousand dollars.” Seventeen other people, working in D.C. and owned jointly by all three Beall sisters, were also emancipated in 1862. (The remainder of the Beall slaves were freed on November 1st, 1864, when slavery was abolished in Maryland.)

After she attained her freedom, Lucy continued to work as a laundress in Washington, DC, where she died in 1898. Family stories remember her as being of a delicate appearance that belied her strength and determination.

We know most of these details thanks to Lucy Moore’s descendants, who provided us with copies of Margaret Beall’s petition for reimbursement and of five-year-old Richard Moore’s freedom papers, which “certif[ied] that the bearer thereof. . . was manumitted and set free,” as well as written reminiscences and stories from her life. Sonia Bontemps donated a pair of silver spoons that were given to Lucy by Margaret Beall upon her manumission, and Sylvia Walls donated the Moore family Bible, shown here. These documents and artifacts not only fill in some details, such as names and ages, they also make those details personal and relatable. Lucy Jackson Moore was more than just a name written on a list of Upton Beall’s property, and her story did not end after she was freed.

Historical Society researchers have been able to identify over 80 people who were enslaved for all or part of their lives by the Bealls between 1812 and 1864.  Although in many cases all we know is their first name, that’s still better than “anonymous” or “unknown.”  History is always personal to someone (if you ask me, it should be personal to all of us), and names can serve as a small reminder of that fact.

Walter. Richard. Jacob. Robert. Charles, a trained blacksmith. John. Dennis. William. “Little” Dick. Mayse. Jinney. Polly and her daughter Caroline. Flora Jackson and her daughters Lucy and Mary Ann. Hessy and her daughter Rebecca. Margaret. Ann. Ellen (known as Nelly). Eliza. Sophy Clements. Margery and her daughter Mary. Charity. Molly and her daughter Massey. Becky. Tracy. Sisters Harriet and Louisa Smith. A younger Hessy. Edward Wood. Jesse. Morris (or Maurice).  A younger Charles. Charlotte Plowden and her child. Henny. Cicely Talbott. Rose. Frank. John Henson. William Hatton. Romeo. Hillary. Mariah and her daughters Mag and Catherine. John. Henry and Theresa Tyler. Catharine (Kitty) Smith. Alfred Ross. Julia. Mary Simms. William T. Gabriel Smith. William. Robert. Cornelius. William A. Sarah. Julia. Janet. Laura. Alice. Lucy. Jane. Amelia. Lavinia. Isabella Smith. Charles Plowden. Ann Marie Tyler. Siblings Jennie, Bell, Margery, Billy, Mary Jane and Charles Smith.