Monday, June 13, 2016

To Whom He Was Hired

From: Richmond Daily Dispatch, December 3, 1859.

A couple of posts back I shared an advertisement about three young men who ran away from various tobacco factories in Richmond and were captured in Staunton in 1861. Two years previously Thomas ran away from his hirer, tobacco factory owner George D. Harwood. From the information contained in the advertisement, it appears that P. B. Jones, who was the administrator for the estate of the deceased Samuel Pleasants, had placed Thomas in the charge of Harwood. Perhaps Thomas thought the urban setting of Richmond provided him a better opportunity for escape than his rural Culpeper County home and thus made his attempt there.

George D. Harwood is noted as being a forty-two year old tobacconist in the 1860 census. Harwood owned $18,000 in real estate and $15,000 in personal property. He lived with his wife Elizabeth and their six children. Harwood owned two female slaves (one twenty eight years old and one ten years old--probably a mother and daughter), who likely did domestic duties at this Henrico County residence. Harwood is also noted as owning eight male slaves in Richmond proper that worked at his factory. However, what is especially interesting about Harwood's listing in the 1860 slave schedules is that it shows the slaves he was hiring from other owners. There are forty-eight individuals, apparently all male, that worked in Harwood's employment. While their several masters are noted, none are marked as being owned by Samuel Pleasants or P.B. Jones. Two were owned by a W. W. Jones, but neither of who matches Thomas's age.

Did Thomas eventually make his way to freedom before the Civil War? Or was he recaptured and sold off to some distant location? Did Thomas take his freedom during the Civil War as a soldier in a United States Colored Troops regiment? Or did he bide his time on a farm, plantation or factory until the Yankees came?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

For Not Having a Copy of His Register

From December 15, 1860, edition of the Petersburg Daily Express.

Here's yet another situation that I have previously not encountered. A free man of color, named Ned Harris, was was arrested for not having his free papers in Nottoway County. Harris was jailed for the offense and was then he hired out to Richard Epes to pay his incarceration fees. Harris, probably disgusted with the punishment, ran away, thus prompting Epes to offer a $10 reward.

Two men named Richard Epes show for Nottoway County in 1860. One was a thirty-five year old county clerk who had no real estate or personal property values listed. The other was a wealthy forty-five farmer ($40,000 in real estate, $91,067 in personal property). I suppose a case could be made for either man being the hiring Richard Epes in the advertisement. Being a clerk in the county's government would seemingly allow him to have access to the knowledge that Harris was available for hire. The farming Epes would likely have need of additional labor. Regardless, Ned Harris, by virtue of being African American was subjected to a punishment that whites of the time would never have faced.

Interestingly the advertisement provides a description of Harris, but did not estimate an age for the man.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Runaways! Three Runaways in Jail.

The advertisement above, which ran in the October 8, 1861 edition of the Staunton Spectator has several interesting features.

It was not unusual for captured runaway advertisements to list more than one individual. Often when a group of slaves traveling together were arrested, they were listed together. However, it was not that these three were grouped in one advertisement that caught my attention. A more fascinating aspect were their ages. John Henry Williams was guessed by the jailer to be "about thirteen old;" Fielding Lewis, "about twelve;" as was Joseph Henry Smith. From my experience such young runaways were quite rare. The vast majority of those I normally find listed are in their late teens, twenties, and into their thirties.

Looking to corroborate some of the information through census information, I was unable to locate much 1860 census information on the various individuals that the runaways provided as owners and employers. For example, I did not find William Warren (Fredericksburg), the alleged owner John Henry Williams. Or, his employer Gibron Miles. There were too many John Hollidays in Maryland to determine which one may have been the owner of Fielding Lewis, and I could not find a Fitzhugh Mayo in Richmond that was positively in tobacco work. However, I did find Joseph Henry Smith's employer, Thomas Beale, who was indeed a tobacconist.

Another intriguing feature of the advertisement is that each of the young men worked at a tobacco factory in Richmond. Even more interesting is that they were all apparently working in different factories. Being that these fellows were all about the same age and all were hired to do factory work in the Capital City, it might be that they met each other in their urban workaday world movements, identified with each other's situations, and decided to runaway from their labor situations together.

Urban hired slaves often were allowed to find their own living spaces and lived in what some historians have referred to as "quasi-freedom." If these young men existed in such an environment, it appears that it was not free enough from them and thus they attempted a move to find true freedom. One wonders if they were eventually claimed by their owners or employers and ended up back in their tobacco factory work world until emancipated.