The Massachusetts Howe Family–Slaves?
I have been tracking family history and writing family stories for eight years now, and have added 5000 names to my family tree. All that time, I have been wondering when the slave-holding ancestors and slaves would show up.
It is true that when we visited Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury Massachusetts, we heard that during the time one of our ancestors ran the inn, a black man lived “upstairs.” The story told is that he was a dwarf, and was very attached to Ezekial, and turned down an opportunity to leave.
According to a book called Tavern Signs of America by Helene Smith, the man, Portsmouth, was 33 years old when he was purchased by Ezekial Howe in 1773. And in 1779, an unnamed “garl” was purchased for £200. Since I have not seen bills of sale or personal property tax records or text of Ezekial Howe’s will, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of those specifics.
Stout Family Members Held Slaves
However, when it came to my research on the Stout family of New Jersey, both concrete evidence and circumstantial evidence made it clear that several of the Stouts owned slaves. The main evidence came from their wills, where it is sad to see the enslaved evaluated in inventories along with beds, cows, and clothing.
Some of the descendants of Richard Stout, the pioneer, migrated to the South and I was not surprised they owned slaves. But I was at first surprised at the number of New Jersey dwellers who listed people among their “belongings” in the 17th and early18th century.
Of course, the Dutch who settled New Netherlands were sea farers and traders. And besides their colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America, they settled in the Caribbean and were active in the triangular trade of slaves from Africa, molasses from the islands of the Caribbean and rum from American colonies.
At least one direct ancestor and several close relatives owned people and I suspect that some of the seafaring Stouts engaged in the slave trade. While it is not comfortable to realize that I am part of the culture of enslavement, it is part of my family history, and part of the story I tell.
The Culture of Enslavement in New Jersey
An excellent article in Salon covers the whole subject of New Jersey’s slave culture, if you want to know more about how it started so early and endured so long.
A page for the historic New Jersey site, the Durrand Hadden House, presents detailed information about the slave trade in New Jersey with some interesting facts about the laws affecting slavery. One of the laws makes it clear that the colonists held American Indian slaves as well as Negro slaves. The subject of enslavement of indigenous people remains largely untold, and I do not have enough information to talk about the Stout’s possible involvement.
New York and New Jersey, both originally parts of New Netherlands, were the top two slave-holding states in the North prior to the Civil War.
New Jersey was the last northern state to mandate the freeing of slaves, in 1804. Even then, the law did not take full effect for another twenty years.
New Jersey was the last Northern State to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment even after it had become law in 1866.
In 1745, 4000 enslaved blacks lived in New Jersey and 75% of them came from four counties, including Middlesex, Essex and Somerset where many Stouts lived.
Several of the Stout wills give instructions to free the enslaved person listed. It seems that when my ancestors freed their slaves they paid a steep price. Starting in 1714, owners must pay a manumission fee to the government if they wanted to free an enslaved person. The £200 bond would be worth $56,000 today. Plus they were required to pay £20 per year to the freed person. Presumably that served as a guarantee that the freed person would not become a burden on the general revenue of the state.
People Counted as Property
Isaac Stout (1740-1823), my 5th great-grandfather. Clover Hill, New Jersey, Hunterdon County. It is not clear that these two people were enslaved.
Sarah Ann Bodene. Isaac’s will mentions a Sarah Ann Bodene and instructs that she be given sufficient cloth to make a dress from wool which is already in the works. She is not specifically designated as a slave, and it is rare that the enslaved were identified with surnames, so she may have been a servant.
Ben. Ben, a black man is given permission to go in search of a place. Does this mean he was a free black man, or did it mean he was an enslaved man freed by Isaac’s death?
Richard Stout, Cpt. (1678-1749) Grandson of Richard Stout. My 1st cousin 8 times removed. This Richard was a plantation owner and shoemaker. Source: Middleton, Monmouth Co. Will dated Dec 28, 1749, abstract from New Jersey records shown on his Find a Grave site. Despite the fact he had several children to whom he might have willed his slaves, he chose to set them free.
Negro Harry and Bess his wife to be set at liberty and have use of the field adjoining Samuel Tilton for life.
Negro Prince to be free.
Negro woman Nanny to be free.
Jonathan Stout (1665-1722) 7th great grand uncle. Hopewell, Hunterdon, New Jersey.
From New Jersey Probate recordes. Inventory After Death, March 24, 1722. Total inventory £362.2.10. Unfortunately the inventory does not mention names, and gives no information as to what became of them.
Two Negro girls (£20)
1 Negro man (£35)
A Very Large Number of Slaves for New Jersey Family
Jedidiah Higgins (1691-1772)/husband of Hannah Stout daughter of Jonathan Stout above, making her my 1st cousin 8x removed. Source: New Jersey Abstracts of Wills, Monmouth County, New Jersey. Buried in Kingston, Middlesex County, New Jersey. Enslaved: Six adults and Four children.
Negro wench Dinah (to wife Hannah)
Negro Wench Dorothy (To daughter Ann Dawson who dies before Jedidiah, so goes to Ann’s daughters.)
Negro Wench Katherine to daughter Mary Stout
Negro Wench Susannah to daughter Rachel Stout
Negroes Margaret and Silas to son Jonathan
Negro Girl Catherine to wife
Negro boy Santo to wife
Negro boy Cesar to wife
Negro boy Peter to wife
Two Stout descendants in the South.
Sarah Stout, daughter of Freegift, my 6th great-grandfather, married Ephraim Oliphant (1717-1785). They moved from New Jersey to Loudoun County, Virginia. Source: Index of Tithables of Loudoun County VA and to Slaveholders and Slaves 1758-1786. (Ephraim Oliphant also ran an ad for a runaway servant in a Philadelphia paper in 1751. However, the description says the person has light skin with blue eyes and thin hair–in other words, probably white.)
Slave named Tom
Benjamin Merrill (1731-1771) Benjamin Merrill, son of a grand daughter of Richard and Penelope Stout, my 2nd cousin 7x removed. Source: 1759 North Carolina tax roll.
Jemima Smith Merrill Butner (1728-1801) Widow of Benjamin Merrill. Source: Her will, May 7, 1801, proved February 1803 in North Carolina.
Negro woman, Hagar (to my daughter Nancy)
Negro girl, Rose (to my daughter Ellien
Negro boy, James (to my son Andrew)
Negro boy, David (to my son Jonathan)
This has not been a comprehensive list, I am sure. I just noted enslavers and enslaved as I came across them, and will add to this list as I discover more.
If you have been researching your Stout ancestors and have specific names of enslaved to add to this list, please do leave comments below.
The Slave Name Roll Project
A blogger named Schalene Dagutis, who blogs at Tangled Roots and Trees, began collecting names of the enslaved from other genealogy bloggers in 2015. Although she has stopped actively cataloguing those names, people still submit their finds to the Slave Name Roll Project.
In addition to wills and tax records, some states, like Virginia, have lists of slaves and slave owners. I also discovered that New Jersey Marriage Records 1670-1965 (I found it at Ancestry), starting on page 229 shows the Hunterdon County marriages of “Slaves and Negroes.” I did not explore further, but this treasure trove lists the names of those enslaved people getting married and the owners and location.
The National Archives has a good guide to researching slaves in federal records.
A new academic project aims to consolidate all the databases that might help name slaves. It is described here.
We almost never hear about slavery in the northern states. It’s so important to know our whole history. Thanks for sharing these disturbing facts.