Priscilla Gray & Her Descendants, in bondage to Maryland Magruders for 150 years

For at least a year I have been promising to compose a page about Priscilla Gray and her descendants. Priscilla was a mulatta “born of a white woman,” indentured as a servant to Sarah Magruder, widow of Samuel Magruder (d. 1711). Technically, Priscilla was a free woman, because her mother was a free white woman, but long periods of indenture imposed on both mothers and their illegitimate children kept women like Priscilla in virtual slavery for years, sometimes for life.

In 1727 Priscilla was convicted for the same crime her mother had committed–bearing an illegitimate mixed-race child–and sentenced to seven additional years of servitude to Sarah Magruder. Her child was sentenced to 31 years of servitude. It was rare in Prince George’s County, in those years, for a woman to be prosecuted more than once for the crime of “mulatto bastardy.” Priscilla, her daughters, and other women held in bondage by the Magruders and families with whom they intermarried seem to have comprised a majority of the repeat offenders. In all, Priscilla bore seven children and served an additional 35 years of bondage for the “crime” of childbirth. Her daughters–each of whom was held in servitude to the age of 31–suffered the same fate, their terms of service extended with the birth of each child. Some of Priscilla’s daughters and other descendants did manage to survive long enough to obtain their freedom; others not. Slaves named Gray were named and manumitted in Magruder wills right up to 1860, the eve of Emancipation.

There are many gaps in my information on the Gray family. I hope in future to fill some of those gaps; but for now, here is what we know about Priscilla Gray and her legacy. If you are an African American descended from Priscilla, please get in touch, and teach me more about your family’s story.

2 comments on “Priscilla Gray & Her Descendants, in bondage to Maryland Magruders for 150 years

  1. jillgat says:

    Thanks for this wonderfully written new information! I have the sources about Priscilla Gray, but never would have been able to put it together. I hope that you will compile and organize everything on this site into a book someday. It is so valuable. Do you know if the Graysons (Magruder Grayson) were related in any way to the Grays? Jill

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Jill! I know of no link between the Grays and Graysons, and have never made any headway looking for Grayson Magruder’s origins. There was no custom in English-speaking Maryland to name children as if they were Scandinavian–that is, in Maryland “Grayson” would not translate as “Son of a man named Gray.” By the way, I have lost the link to Priscilla’s court case, so if you still have it please send it and I’ll add it to this page.

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