An Af-Am McGruder family tree

Thanks to Jill Magruder Gatwood for sending this link. Ned Wynne McGruder and Maria McGruder were born in slavery at the turn of the 19th century. This family tree was created by two of their descendants, Wilmar McGruder and Kevin McGruder, from census records, family stories, and other sources. Check it out, and celebrate!

Ned Wynne McGruder & Maria McGruder family tree

And check out all that’s new on African American Magruder Descendants on Facebook.

Conditions of Indenture in Alexander’s Time

Page numbers are from Russell Menard’s Economy and Society in Early Colonial Maryland (Garland Publishing, 1985), unless otherwise noted. See Sources for more. 

  • Most indentured servants in 17th c. Maryland were young men and boys. A 22 year-old immigrant would live about 18-23 years (pp 68, 135). As a man already in his early 40’s on arrival, Alexander Magruder was a great exception.
  • Most were probably from “middling” families–yeomen, husbandmen, artisans. They differed from free settlers primarily in being unable to pay their own passage. (pp 68, 71)
  • In later generations, more came from the lower classes.
  • Alexander and others transported as prisoners of war were the exception, not the rule, as were transported criminals.
  • Few had formal education and only about half could write their name. It is possible that some could read who could not write. The colony’s public affairs were conducted orally. Alexander Magruder appears to have been fully literate. (p 58)
  • Servants probably worked 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, as specified by English law. (p 69)
  • Servants could be sold, and faced severe punishment for running away (p 69). Historians’ analyses of how many ran away–and where and why–vary.
  • Servants’ rights included adequate food, clothing, and shelter, Sundays off, and the right to protest ill-treatment in the courts. They were subject to corporal punishment. Surviving records indicate few cases of abuse, though some cases that do survive are extreme. (p 69)
  • No actual documents of indentures survive. A model document from the 1635 promotional publication A Relation of Maryland, specifies that the master was to pay the servant’s passage, provide food, lodging, clothing, and other necessities. At the expiration the indenture, he was to provide clothing, food for a year, and 50 acres of land. (Menard p 69, or read the document in Narratives of Early Maryland p 99)
  • By a 1640 act of the Maryland Assembly, at the end of his term a servant was entitled by law to “one good cloth suite of Keirsey or Broadcloth a Shift of white linen one pair of Stockins and Shoes two hoes one axe 3 barrels of Corne and fifty acres of land five whereof at least to be plantable.” (p 70)
  • Masters did not give their servants 50 acres of their own land, but only a “headright” to 50 acres of uncleared, unimproved land–typically valued at a mere 100 pounds of tobacco. To make use of his headright, a man newly “come out of his time” had to locate the 50 acres, pay a surveyor, and then a clerk’s fee to register his ownership (p 70). Headrights could be, and often were, sold. Most who entered indenture never acquired land.
  • The usual term of service was 5 years, but shorter terms could be assigned to someone with artisan skills. Earlier release also could be purchased, and such arrangements sometimes obligated the servant to continue providing some services to his former master. (p 70-71) See my page on Alexander for my beliefs about why he served a much shorter term.
  • In the first generation, only about half of indentured servants survived their indenture. Most who died, died of disease–cholera in summer, pneumonia in winter. The death rate among newly arrived settlers was only a little lower than the catastrophic death rate among Natives.
  • “Seasoning” was the period after arrival, when a settler faced a high likelihood of death. Seasoned men were more valuable as servants, having proved their ability to survive.
  • Edmund S. Morgan has argued that the high mortality rate increased opportunities for those who did survive. Menard finds too little evidence to support this theory. (p 177)
  • In any case, those who did survive indenture could expect to become substantial members of society. Once this early generation secured their places in the food chain, opportunities for later arrivals narrowed.
  • Menard studied 137 indentured servants who arrived in Maryland between 1648 and 1652. Just over half appeared later in the records as free men–though 5 of those died soon after completing their indenture, and another 11 vanished from the records soon after. Of the 56 remaining, most became small, land-holding planters, holding on average between 50 and 400 acres. (p 174)
  • Alexander Magruder is named by Menard as one of just 3 in this group who owned more than 1000 acres when they died. (p 174-75)
  • Around half of those who did not acquire land nevertheless established families and participated in local government. (p 175)

The effects of small slaveholding in Maryland

From Barbara Jean Fields’ Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century–some context on the problem of tracing African-American family members in Maryland.

Though almost anyone would select slave trading as the villain of almost any piece, small-scale slaveholding does not seem as obviously type-cast for the role of villainy. Nevertheless, much of the suffering incidental to slavery in Maryland resulted, directly or indirectly, from the small size of slaveholdings, a characteristic that had become steadily more marked over the years from the Revolution to the Civil War. Few holdings in Maryland would have rated the name “plantation” in the eyes of slaveholders from the lower South… (p 25)

Despite Fields’ claim that this was a growing phenomenon in the early years of the Republic, Russell Menard describes very similar patterns in the late 17th c. In the period 1658-1710, nearly half of all slaveholders owned only one or two people, and only 15 out of the 300 surveyed owned more than 20. “More than half of the slaves lived on plantations with ten or fewer blacks, nearly a third on estates with five or fewer…making isolation and loneliness a prominent fact of life for Africans in the Chesapeake colonies.” Evidence suggests that some slaves in this early period, especially those who were married, had more autonomy in their daily lives than was common in later periods. (Economy and Society in Early Colonial Maryland, pp 266-69)

Back to Fields:

The most common slaveholding in Maryland by 1860 was one slave; half the slaveholders owned fewer than three slaves, three-fourths fewer than eight, and 90 percent fewer than fifteen slaves. (p 24)

Small holdings divided family members among several owners, exacerbating the potential trauma of sale and attacking the integrity of family life even when the question of sale…did not arise. Husbands and wives might live apart…seeing each other only when granted permission… What went for husbands and wives also went for parents and children, and doubly so for  grandparents and grandchildren, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. (p 26)

The desire to be reunited with family members figured prominently in escapes, as owners made clear when advertising…[For example], the purchaser of Barbary Williams, a fifty-year-old woman who escaped soon after being sold by her deceased owner’s estate, mentioned five different neighborhoods to which the fugitive might have gone seeking relatives, including her husband. (p 26)

The division of family members among a number of small slaveholders multiplied…the danger of a family’s disruption by the financial mischance or simple human mortality of an owner. Small slaveholders were more vulnerable than planters to the financial reverse that might require the liquidation of slave property. Slaves with families parceled out among several such owners must have lived in permanent apprehension of disaster, especially since the evidence of that disaster’s having befallen others lay constantly before them. From the death of an owner slaves had more to fear, furthermore, than the possibility of sale. For every slave sold upon the death of an owner, many others must have been simply sent elsewhere–to the residence of an heir, for example–where old attachments would be sundered as surely as if a sale had taken place. (p 26-27)

Here is one painful example from early Magruder history: in 1734, Sarah Beall Magruder (wife of Samuel Magruder, son of Alexander the immigrant) left her nine slaves to nine different heirs in eight households.

Wills of John Read Magruder Sr. & Jr. (& of George Lee)

Today I published info from the wills of John Read Magruder Sr (d 1811) & Jr (d 1831) under Slavery’s Legacy. Buried in there is some detail from the will of George Lee, a close family friend. There are no surnames in the lists of slaves from the two Magruder estates. The surname Gillam appears in Lee’s will, and all three documents include some family relationships among the slaves. Lee gave immediate freedom to a “yellow woman” named Letty and her son Carter, and freedom after ten years to Letty’s “yellow girl” Anna.

Af-Am Magruders in P.G. Co. Slave Statistics added

Today I did some rearranging–placing the page Af-Am Magruders on the menu bar and starting some sub-pages to be grouped there. On Af-Am Magruders in Prince George’s County Slave Statistics 1867 (catchy title, eh?) I’ve listed all the Magruders in a transcription of the original registers for the county, and added notes where I have other information (or plausible speculation). Links there will take you to the online sources at the Maryland Archives.

The George Washington “Wash” Magruder page is now also part of this group.