Tracing Ancestors from the P.G. County Slave Statistics, part 2: Lewis Magruder, Edward Magruder, Thomas B. Beall, & Henry Phillips

Two months ago I posted confirmation that Susannah Beall Magruder, who in 1828 married Henry Phillips, was the daughter of Fielder Magruder Sr., making her the only sister of Fielder Jr., Lewis, Edward E., and William T. Magruder.

The addition of Phillips to this family brought additional depth to the through-lines of enslaved families from the 1867-68 Slave Statistics back to four Magruder probate records of the 1840s and 1850s. An Enslaved Community: Tracing Ancestors from 1867-68 Slave Statistics in P.G. County, Part 2, published today, includes two brothers, Lewis and Edward E. Magruder; their brother-in-law, Henry Phillips; and Thomas Birch Beall, the husband of one of their cousins, Jane Beall Magruder.

My project is to identify the multiple pathways by which an enslaved person might have become the property of a particular Magruder or related slaveholder in the statistics, with the hope of helping descendants push their family trees back another generation.

The four men in this family acquired slaves from the estates of four Magruders who died between 1840 and 1852.

Fielder Magruder Sr. (d. 1840) and Matilda Magruder (d. 1849) were the parents of Lewis, Edward E. and Susannah B. Magruder.

Fielder’s brother, Edward Magruder Sr. (d. 1842), was the father of Jane Beall Magruder; Oliver B. Magruder, who died young in 1852, was her brother and Edward’s son.

The records known as the Slave Statistics were created after the Maryland legislature passed a resolution asking the Federal government to reimburse the “loyal citizens” of Maryland for the loss of their enslaved laborers. That ship had sailed, but it’s lucky for us that many slaveholders were optimistic enough to visit the county court and “declare” their lost laborers, including in most cases their full names, with ages as of 1864, when Maryland’s new constitution abolished slavery in the state.

The Slave Statistics are incomplete–filing was voluntary, and open only to those who had been loyal to the Union–but they comprise the single most important source for linking ancestors to their last enslavers in Prince George’s County.

An Enslaved Community: Tracing Ancestors from 1867-68 Slave Statistics in P.G. County, Part 2 includes a downloadable database of everyone I have been able to identify who was enslaved by this small extended family, with a second page showing the most likely connections from probate records to the 1867-68 lists. Most are surnamed Semmes, Wright, Crawford, Edmondson, and Brown. One man, William Magruder, is likely the son of one of the white Magruder men.

I’ve provided links to most of my sources, including the original 1867-68 declarations and Magruder family probate records.

Susannah B. Magruder Phillips, an overlooked daughter (or two?)

For Magruders seeking white ancestors, or folks with a DNA match that fizzles out when you look at the published genealogies, here’s a wee discovery. An upcoming post will include how this and related discoveries may impact the search for enslaved ancestors in Prince George’s County, Washington, D.C., and possibly even Baltimore.

Fielder Magruder Sr. (1780-1840, s/o Haswell Magruder & Charity Beall) and his wife Matilda Magruder (~1789-1839, d/o Dr. Jeffrey Magruder of Montgomery County) are commonly reported to have four sons—Fielder Jr., Edward E., Lewis, and William T. (who was killed at Gettysburg), but no daughters. Both Fielder and Matilda died intestate, eliminating the most common source for verifying parentage.

Sales from Fielder Sr.’s estate turned up the name Henry Phillips, so I looked at land records for him, and discovered that his wife, Susannah B. Phillips, was Fielder’s daughter. A marriage record for 1828 confirmed her maiden name as Susannah B. Magruder.

The key deed is from 1846, clearly stating that Susannah B. Phillips is the daughter of the late Fielder Magruder. This deed, and another from 1844, record the sale of land by Henry and Susannah to her brother Lewis, and refer to the parcels as land that was distributed to Susannah by the court, at the division of Fielder’s property. So far, this deed is the only record I’ve found that states that she was Fielder’s daughter.

Find this deed in Prince George’s County Court (Land Records), Liber JBB 4, p.768, which you can access on MdLandRec.net. You’ll need to create an account, but it’s free. If you need help getting started searching that site, click my Contact tab & shoot me a line. (Please do not request help by commenting on this post.)

What a handy illustration of why you should read and compare all the sources you can find. I haven’t made an exhaustive search for Susannah, so maybe there is something I’ve missed? Let me know, and please include your sources.

Some have proposed another sister, Ida Magruder, living with Fielder Magruder Jr. and his wife, Ann Truman Greenfield Young, in 1850 and 1860. The entries for her age are inconsistent, but would place her birth in 1822 or 1825. I have looked at her only superficially, but it is a confusing case.

Some identify her as both Fielder Jr.’s sister and the Ida Magruder who married Jeffrey Phillips in 1864, and have identified Jeffrey as the son of Henry and Susannah B. Phillips. This would mean Ida married her nephew, when she was 39-42 years old and he was 29. However unlikely, it’s not impossible. Others, however, have identified the Ida who married Jeffrey as the daughter of Matilda Magruder’s brother Lewis.

Neither the 1850 nor the 1860 census recorded each person’s relationship to the head of household, so it has only been assumed that Ida is Fielder Jr.’s sister. If this Ida is actually his cousin, daughter of his uncle Lewis, his mother’s brother, her marriage would look far less strange.

It is unclear if all census records for Ida Phillips are for the same woman, or same couple. In 1870, we have an Ida born about 1828, and just five years older than her husband Jeffrey, a farmer in Bladensburg born about 1833. His personal property is recorded as just $560, with no real estate. In 1880, this or another Ida Phillips is born around 1830, and ten years older than her husband Jefferson, a farmer in Marlboro born about 1840. Values for property were not recorded in that census year, so can’t be compared. The Ancestry transcription says this Ida and her parents all were born in Pennsylvania. The census image clearly says Henry and his parents were from Pennsylvania, with faint ditto marks for Ida and her parents. If that is accurate, this is almost certainly a different couple. Notice, too, the creeping birthdates. It’s plausible that because she was older than her husband Ida sometimes misrepresented her age, but we would need some hard evidence to reconcile the Pennsylvania births with origins in the Magruder and Phillips families we’ve been looking at.

Have you done a thorough search to identify Ida and her husband? I’d like to say start with the probate records of Matilda’s brother Lewis, looking for the name Jeffrey Phillips. However, Lewis and his wife, Rebecca Duvall (also a Magruder descendant), appear to have died before Ida’s marriage. You could start with records left by their children, siblings of the Montgomery County Ida.

Magruders & allies in P.G. County

I have been doing a lot of research lately, focusing on Magruders in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on those they intermarried with, & on those they enslaved. Though I don’t usually focus on genealogy, per se, I’ll post anything I find that seems to correct a common error, fill in a gap, disambiguate a confusion, or open up a new line of inquiry into old questions. If you want to add something, or argue for a different interpretation, it’s probably best to contact me, rather than simply post a comment. In any case, please include the sources you are relying on. I’d love to engage, but can’t do much with unsupported assertions. First posted 8 Oct 2022.

The Alabama Black McGruders, published at last!

Thirteen months ago I announced that this greatly expanded book by and about the Alabama Black McGruders was nearing publication. Ha ha! But this time it’s happening–available for purchase today on Amazon.

The Alabama Black McGruders tells the story of Charles McGruder Sr. (1829-c.1900) and his parents, Ned and Mariah McGruder. The enslaved black grandson of Ninian Offutt Magruder (1744-1803), a white enslaver, Charles was born in Alabama on the plantation of his white aunt, Eleanor Magruder Wynne. Through a series of events, Charles came to be exploited as a breeding slave and, according to oral history, fathered 100 children.

During the Reconstruction era, Charles and his last wife, Rachel Hill (1845-1933), acquired ownership of land, possibly with help from his white cousin, Osmun Appling Wynne (1804-1877), and established a McGruder homestead where Charles gathered many of his children. They, in turn, established family and community networks of solidarity that allowed them to withstand the rigors of KKK terror and Jim Crow oppression. Now scattered throughout the U.S., and abroad, the Alabama Black McGruders have preserved their oral history, expanded it through research, and maintained their family identity.

In addition to the story of Ned, Mariah, Charles, and Charles’s children, you will meet numerous descendants and learn of their contributions to American arts, education, government, law, science, medicine, and business. The narrative is augmented by nearly 200 pages of archival records, photographs, and newspaper clippings.

J.R. Rothstein, a family member and the principal author, has worked with a team of family historians and genealogists, other researchers, and editors, to craft and document this narrative of the family through multiple generations. I am honored to have worked on the manuscript, in a role that evolved into lead editor and chief nag, taking hundreds of hours over the past year and a half.

The current price of $19.99 for this hardback book of more than 500 pages won’t last–J.R. will need to raise the price considerably to break even–so order your copy now (and maybe another for your local library or historical society). At the moment the shipping time is long, but that may improve as more copies are purchased.

The Alabama Black McGruders…who may be your family, too

It is with great excitement that I announce publication of The Alabama Black McGruders: The Life and Ancestry of Charles McGruder Sr. by J.R. Rothstein. I congratulate Mr. Rothstein, and am proud to host this remarkable history on Magruder’s Landing.

A great-great-great grandson of Charles McGruder Sr., Mr. Rothstein has worked for years to piece together written records, oral histories, and DNA evidence to create both a plausible narrative of his life and origins and an open-sided platform for further research, debate, and community. Though born into slavery and suffering some of its most demeaning aspects, Charles McGruder Sr. and his wives succeeded in establishing a strong sense of family and a legacy of achievement that survives among many of their descendants.

The story presented here is by no means complete. One power of this document is Mr. Rothstein’s careful distinction between what’s known, what’s believed, what’s contested, and what’s possible. Don’t skip the footnotes! Often, that’s where the debate, the dilemmas, and the possible next steps may be found.

At every juncture, others are invited to step up into the unanswered questions and continue the work Mr. Rothstein has begun. (You will find his email in the history’s introduction and at its conclusion, and should feel free to use it.) Seven collaborators are acknowledged in the introduction, and the stories of many more are quoted in the text; still others, both black and white, generously shared their DNA. So this is, already, a community endeavor, and, as Mr. Rothstein has said to me, an American story.

From the introduction:

Charles Magruder was born a slave in North (or South) Carolina in 1822. According to some accounts, Charles would eventually sire over a hundred children, including fifty-two sons. Many of these children had large families of their own who had large families of their own. Hundreds, if not thousands, of his descendants, sometimes referred to as the “Black McGruders of Alabama,” would go on to populate Alabama and its adjacent territories during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This account, using DNA, oral history, and the written record, attempts to reconstruct the origins of this family and preserve the events of Charles’ life.

Mr. Rothstein goes on to state that this history is relevant only to McGruder descendants whose ancestors were held in slavery by the Magruder-Wynne families of Hale and Greene Counties, Alabama. This may be so; but taking into account Charles McGruder Sr.’s large number of descendants and the subsequent movement of African Americans out of the deep south into northern and midwestern states, it is likely that many black-identified McGruder descendants will be able to link their ancestors to this family tree. You will note in the document that many spellings of the name evolved, including MaGruder, McGruder, Mccruder, Mcgruda, McGouder, Mcruder, and Mcgruter. So pay attention! This could be your family.

Charles’ large number of children resulted from his use as a “breeder,” moved from plantation to plantation in order to sire more slaves–a practice that became increasingly common after the importation of slaves was abolished and, simultaneously, what we now call the Deep South–Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana–was opened for American settlement by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Throughout the first half of the 19th c., every kind of domestic slave trade increased, including the movement of at least a million enslaved people from the Upper south–Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina–into the new territories, where the cotton gin and other mechanical and financial innovations made industrial-scale production both profitable and pitiless.

In Charles McGruder Sr.’s family, we see, for example, a movement from the Carolinas to Alabama. The parents of one of Charles’ wives, Rachel Hill, probably were born in Virginia, then taken farther south either by the white family who held them in bondage or by professional slave traders. Rachel’s birthplace is uncertain, so it’s possible that she, as a child, made this arduous journey along with her parents.

Here is Charles McGruder Sr.’s line, as it can be traced from Alexander Magruder, the Immigrant:

Alexander the Immigrant > Samuel Magruder + Sarah [surname debated] > Ninian Beall Magruder + Elizabeth Brewer > John Magruder + Jane Offutt > Ninian Offut Maguder + unknown enslaved woman > Ned McGruder + Mariah [surname unknown] > Charles McGruder Sr.

Charles was born on the estate of Eleanor Magruder Wynne. Her father, Ninian Offutt Magruder, had passed Ned McGruder to Eleanor in his will. Most likely, she was Ned’s half-sister and Charles’ aunt.

This is the truth of family in the days of slavery. In our times, let’s allow the Magruder/McGruder family story to take on new breadth and inclusiveness, literally new life.

Congratulations, again, to Mr. Rothstein and to all who made his achievement possible.

The Alabama Black McGruders: The Life and Ancestry of Charles McGruder Sr.

& don’t forget the Magruder/McGruder Facebook groups:

Magruder / McGruder Family Genealogy

African American Magruder/McGruders (and descendants and relatives)

& other resources linked in the sidebar of this page…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review of Trafficke…and what came next

I am happy and impressed when anyone takes the time to actually read Trafficke, much less review it. I was exceptionally pleased when I learned Jon Curley had reviewed it on Galatea Resurrects, an outstanding venue for engagements with poetry books and projects. Jon brings great historical depth to his review, and writes more eloquently than I do about why and how the method and poetics of Trafficke matters. I was so pleased by his words that it took me a couple of times through to realize that our family’s 200 years of slave holding–the book’s ultimate ethical challenge–was never mentioned. Take a look at the Galatea page now and read the ensuing comments and discussion. Sean Pears (a brilliant young writer now working on a PhD in Poetics) took the lead; Karen Branan chimed in; Jon responded with generosity and insight; and I added my thoughts. Taken together, this is an outstanding way to review a book and to keep bringing hard truths to consciousness. We all have to learn, and sometimes we have to learn in public. I’m grateful to Jon, Sean, & Karen, and to Galatea Resurrects for providing the forum. http://galatearesurrection26.blogspot.com/…/trafficke-by-su…

Plantations as Complex Historic Places

…the most recent post from Our Folks’ Tales, Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s blog “dedicated to telling the stories of enslaved people, free people of color, and the descendants of these individuals.” You’ll also find there good pages of links for African American history and genealogy. I’ve added this blog to the links on this site. I also left a long comment in response to this entry re: plantations, and invite you also to share your thoughts. More conversation on this topic is currently happening on the Coming to the Table Facebook group.

 

Book launch! The Ties That Bind: From Slavery to Freedom

I am thrilled to announce publication of James Bacon’s The Ties That Bind: From Slavery to Freedom–a book long in the making, shaped with skill, determination, and love.

In 1857, William Bowie, an enslaved man and skilled carpenter, was manumitted by the will of Roderick M. McGregor, of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Roderick’s birth name was Magruder, but in 1820 his father, John Smith Magruder, petitioned the state legislature to change the surname of his children to McGregor. Because Maryland law, by that time, forbade the manumission of slaves, Roderick’s will instructed his executor (his brother Nathaniel M. McGregor) to take William Bowie, his wife Matilda, and four of their children–Thomas, Nathaniel, Margaret, and Boston–to Washington DC, where they were to be hired out to work for a year, thereafter to have their freedom, a house, and a horse and cart. Once that was done, William Bowie received in cash the balance of the $500 Roderick McGregor had allotted to his welfare.

At that time, all members of the Bowie family were illiterate and had lived their entire lives in slavery. In 1913, just fifty-five years later, William A. Bowie, eldest son of Nathaniel Bowie, co-founded with John W. Lewis the Industrial Savings Bank, the most sound and successful black-owned bank in Washington, D.C.

And that is only one of the remarkable stories told in this book. From the Bowie family come tales of flight and capture, separation and reunion, Civil War service and multiple aliases, successful businesses and long marriages. On the other side of his family, James Bacon is descended from some of New Jersey’s earliest black property-owners, and important conductors on the Underground Railroad.

I have corresponded with James Bacon almost from the inception of this web site, and know him to be a dogged and thorough researcher. As you read this book, remember that behind every paragraph lie years of searching and careful recording; of corroboration and double-checking; of searching for graves and for documents; of squinting through miles of microfilm, then embracing the dazzling new world of online genealogy. Thanks to such efforts, The Ties That Bind: From Slavery to Freedom is, in itself, a reunion of the lost and the loved.

Just one footnote, for readers of the American Clan Gregor Society yearbooks… You may have read in an early article by C.C. Magruder, about the descendants of John Magruder of Dunblane (a grandson of Alexander Magruder the Immigrant, and Roderick McGregor’s great-grandfather), that Roderick freed all his slaves. This is far from true. He freed only William and Matilda Bowie, along with four of their children. Also to his credit, he had earlier purchased Matilda from a distant Maryland plantation in order to reunite her with William. However, the rest of the Bowie family, along with many others, remained in bondage, and an unusually large number of enslaved men are known to have run away from Roderick’s Prince George’s County plantations over the years. When recaptured, some of those men were sold, as were (apparently) several women or girls for whom there is no record of running away. These included two sisters in the Bowie family, who were not reunited with their siblings, nor with each other, for upwards of sixty years.

So while we celebrate the rise of the Bowies and other families, and while we give thanks for moments of conscience or expedience that led to the isolated acts of manumission that helped them on their way, let’s not forget the wider context of enslavement: an economic system entirely dependent on the institutionalization and social acceptance of crimes against humanity.

On this site, you can read about William & Matilda Bowie, Runaways from Roderick McGregor, Interrelations among these families, as well as the wills and estate inventories of Roderick McGregor and his father, John Smith Magruder. All these pages will be updated, as time allows, in response to publication of The Ties That Bind.

The Ties That Bind: From Slavery to Freedom is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. Buy it! Read it! 

Welcome Karen Branan to the Magruder fold!

At the end of 2014, in a meeting of the DC chapter of Coming to the Table, I met Karen Branan, a retired investigative journalist. My book Trafficke was in production; Karen was negotiating a contract and putting last touches on her book, The Family Tree. We realized immediately that we were in some way related, through the Beall family who, like the Magruders, were among the first arrivants to Colonial Maryland. We next realized that though our foci were different, each of us had been investigating for decades our ancestors’ culpability in slavery and white supremacy.

Today, I finally did my homework and discovered that Karen, too, is a Magruder descendant. My line runs from Samuel Magruder, Alexander’s grandson, born in what was then Calvert County MD, about 1687. Karen is descended from Samuel’s sister, Verlinda Magruder, born 1693, who married John Beall, son of Alexander Beall and Elizabeth Coombs. Samuel and Verlinda’s parents were the well-documented Samuel Magruder and his wife Sarah (also believed to have been in some way related to Ninian Beall, though we’re pretty sure now that she was not his daughter). I have at least one more Beall in my line–Charity Beall, who married Haswell Magruder in 1762–but haven’t yet figured out if that ties me more closely to Karen’s family.

So now you have one more reason to drop by Karen’s web site and read about The Family Tree: a lynching in Georgia, a legacy of secrets, and my search for the truth at karenbranan.com.  One truth Karen discovered is that she is related not only to white men involved in the lynching, but also to one of the four black victims. On her site, you’ll find links to thoughtful and enthusiastic reviews and to several radio conversations. The Family Tree is available in hardback, as an e-book (Kindle or Nook), and as an audio book (CD or streaming). Karen is working hard to promote the book–more accurately, to use her book to promote conversation and action. Check out her scheduled appearances in numerous states. Invite her to yours!