Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, a ship reached Galveston Bay, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. If you’re thinking, Wait a minute, didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation take effect in January 1863? And didn’t the war end in April of 1865? you are correct. After the Proclamation some enslavers had fled to the remote Southern stronghold of Texas, where they held out with thousands of captive slaves until the arrival of 2,000 Union soldiers put an end to their fantasy of some frontier survival of the Confederacy. That’s why we celebrate the final end of slavery on this day, and why it has also become a celebration of blackness, of culture, and of the true complexity of African American history.

In observance of this Juneteenth, I want to call out the names of the last people I know to have been enslaved by my direct Magruder ancestors in Maryland.

John, a man. Rachel, a woman. Kitty, a woman, & Kitty’s infant child. Christy, a woman. Henry, William, George, Elias, & Lemuel, boys. Louisa, Dorothy, Martha, & Caroline, girls.

These people are named in the inventory of the estate of my third great-grandfather, Edward Magruder, who died in Prince George’s County in 1842. I have not been able to trace them further. With the exception of Kitty’s unnamed infant they are not grouped by family, and no ages are given.

It is possible John was the husband of Rachel, Kitty, or Christy. In the 1840 census, the household also included a free man or boy of color, aged 10-23. If a man, he could have been the husband of one of the women and father of some of the children. If a boy, he could have been the son of Edward Magruder.

Caroline’s assessed value was but $20, so she was either an infant or unwell. She appears last on the list, so it’s possible to theorize that the children are listed in descending order of age, as was often done. However, their assessed values do not correspondingly decrease; they appear in clusters. So it is possible to use assessed value of each child to theorize three family groups. Henry, Louisa, & William are listed first, with decreasing values from $350 to $150. George, Dorothy, Elias, & Lemuel come next, valued at $175 down to $100. Martha at $150 and Caroline at $20 come last. Dollar values on human beings are repulsive, but useful in the search for patterns and information. If they stoke your anger, good. Let’s stay angry.

John, the only man listed, was valued at $400, Rachel and Christy at $300, and Kitty with her infant together at $350. It is worth noting that Henry, listed as a boy, is valued more highly than the women, which strongly suggests he was near adulthood and/or an apprenticed tradesman.

That’s all I know, and all I can guess at. I have not yet found them in estate records of Edward’s children, but am relatively certain they did not pass to my direct ancestor, who was the youngest child of Edward’s second marriage.

John, Rachel, Kitty, Christy, Henry, Louisa, William, George, Dorothy, Elias, Lemuel, Martha, & Caroline: I am still looking for you. It’s not much, but it’s all I can do for you. To your descendants I owe much greater responsibilities, and like to think some of them are out in the streets right now, 155 years after the original Juneteenth, celebrating you and themselves, and fighting for a meaningful freedom.

The Dodson Family

From Magruder wills, census records, Registrations of Free Negroes, and other sources, I have been trying to construct relationships among various free, enslaved, and newly emancipated Dodsons in Prince George’s County and Washington DC. from the late 18th c to Emancipation. If you are an Af-Am Dodson or descendant and have information, questions, or theories, please get in touch. Even if you just want to say “Hey, I’m a descendant!” I’d like to hear from you. Please use the CONTACT tab or click here to contact me directly. This works much better for me that trying to follow up on comments.

New life at Magruder’s Landing!

As you may have noticed, things have been slow on the landing for a while, as I was going through some major life changes. Behind the scenes, I have been corresponding with some folks looking for their family members, but not much has been happening here on the dock. I think the dust has settled now–I’m retired, I’ve moved, my 6th book has been published and the 7th is underway. Retirement + Covid19 = more time than I ever could have imagined while teaching. So, I think it’s safe to say: I’m back.

If you have requested specific help from me and not received a reply, please resend your request USING THE CONTACT TAB. It is very hard for me to pick up the strands of your search from a comment on the website. I’ll remind you that I am not a genealogist & can’t do your basic research for you, such as searching online records, nor is there a place on this site for ongoing genealogical discussions. What I can offer are general suggestions about the sources you might consult and, once in a while, advice on where and how your search may have gone astray. In addition, if you are African American and think your family has Magruder ties, of blood or history, I will do my best to connect what you have dug up so far with my resources.

‘Wha’s Like Us’ & ‘Magruders in America’ available again

Don McGruther & Sue Emerson have re-released their popular book & CD set, full of information about McGruthers/McGruders/Magruders in Scotland & America. Don attended last spring’s Southern Maryland Genealogy & History Fair, where people got pretty excited to get their hands on this info. Nearly every family represented at the fair had intermarried with Magruders in Maryland–not surprising, since Alexander arrived in the colony about 20 years after its founding. For his book, Wha’s Like Us, Scottish researcher Don McGruther combed historical records for every trace of our family name from its 14th c (& maybe even 13th c) origins up to the 19th c. The book includes Alexander the Immigrant’s antecedents, as well as much more info & context. The book is sold as a package with Sue Emerson’s CD, in searchable PDF format, Magruders In America, a heroic attempt to trace every documented descendant of Alexander down to nearly the present day. The CD has two documents on it, Magruders In America and Updates which amount to about 1,700 pages each, or 3.3 million words. If interested in purchasing the set, please contact Sue Emerson at fossilsue(at)comcast.net.

2nd Annual Southern MD Genealogy & History Fair

Hey Magruders, McGruders, McGruthers, McGrews, & all… On June 29, descendants of perhaps 100 southern Maryland families will converge on the La Plata campus of the University of Southern MD. It looks like a group of us, both African American & white, will be taking part, and we want you to join us. None of us attended last year’s event (at least no one I’ve been in touch with) but we think it could be a great way for some of us to meet face-to-face and see what we can learn from each other. Duncan McGruther plans to fly over from Scotland, with all his research info on Alexander McGruder/Magruder’s origins. Many others will have their family trees, their research, and their questions.

Registration is $25, and your payment and registration must be in by June 1. The chief organizer is Wanda Simmons of the organization Southern Maryland Families. (They do not appear to have a web site.) I don’t want to publish Wanda’s email here, but if you click the Contact tab at the top of this page and send me a message I will either put you in touch with Wanda or just forward the info to you directly. (Wanda has been swamped with correspondence, so the latter might be better.) You can also check out the thread about this on the Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy Group on Facebook.

There are also plans–talked of, but not yet firm–for Magruders/McGruders to have our own informal gathering either the day before or the day after the fair (June 28 or June 30). I’m sure folks will want to visit the site of Magruder’s Landing and tobacco warehouse, and other sites. If you want to seriously explore, plan on at least one extra day.

If you are not a Magruder by name, but are connected through the legacy of slavery, please also consider attending. The more we share, the more we’ll learn.

And: anyone living in southern Maryland, please reach out with advice on hotels, restaurants, meeting places, and all.

More soon, and hope to meet you in June.

Joe Tichy, 1924-2016

For those of you with American Clan Gregor Society connections, I wanted to let you know that my father, Joe Tichy, passed away in September. Joe wasn’t a Magruder, though it was hard at times to remember that. On his mother’s side, he came from Tennessee/Georgia hill folk. On his father’s side, he was a second generation Bohemian-American whose grandmother never learned English. When he married my mother–Margaret “Peggy” Bubb, 10th generation descendant of Alexander Magruder–he had no idea he was also getting hitched to a Scottish-American identity that had already endured for three hundred years and was not ready to quit. In the end he surrendered, acquired a kilt he couldn’t afford, and became Assistant Chieftain (which translates as business manager or executive director) of the American Clan Gregor Society. He held that position for 28 years, during which he transformed the society from an old-fashioned, Washington D.C.-based family club to a wealthy nonprofit with an active national membership. Though the ACGS is a different beast now–due in part to changing times, and in part to people like me who have realized we Magruders aren’t even MacGregors–in my parents’ day it was solid and stolid, full of formal and “respectable” people devoted to their Scottish heritage and the idea of kinship…just occasionally letting their hair down enough to have a good time. (Were any of you at the Gathering–I can’t remember where or when–when the pipe band got into the hotel elevator, 2 a.m…guests on all floors madly phoning the manager to complain…in vain…because the manager was in there with the pipers, riding up and down for…was it an hour? God help their ear drums!)

I don’t know if free whisky for the pipe band was traditional or one of Joe’s brighter ideas, but here’s a tale I know belongs just to him. It’s from page 160 of my book, Trafficke.

Baltimore, 1967, the annual gathering of the American Clan Gregor Society, flawed only by the unpracticed hands of office staff called in to serve the Saturday banquet—climax of the weekend, evening dress only—when the regular wait-staff go on strike. My father, who will later remind me of this night, assumes it’s a union problem, but doesn’t ask. He’s not a Magruder, though married to one, and holds no sway. Jump to 1976, and my father, handsome in his new kilt, has been running the Gathering for four years. In the cocktail hour before the banquet, he’s checking details, admiring the centerpieces, the flags, and the large banner of the Fiery Cross, hung, as always, behind the head table. But there’s a wee problem. The wait-staff, all black, refuse to work in the banquet hall so long as that banner is there. My father asks to speak to them, and with (I am sure) great charm and tact, explains the history of the Fiery Cross, its legendary use as a symbol to call the clan to arms—men running picturesquely over the heather, house to house and glen to glen, carrying hand-sized pitch-pine torches in the shape of a double-armed cross. See? It’s there on the banquet program, too, above a few lines from Sir Walter Scott. Nothing at all to do with the KKK. He is sure of this, and sure that his explanation has put their minds at ease. Nevertheless, he takes down the banner, mentions it to no one; and neither at the banquet nor afterwards does anyone remark on its absence. My father runs the Gatherings for more than twenty years, and the banner is never seen again.

OK, yeah, it was naïve on his part to believe there was no connection–however twisted–between Scottish clans and the Klan: that was the whole point of putting this story in Trafficke, so readers could see what my father couldn’t. Looking back now, I can see other reasons this story got under my skin, how it sums Joe up in so many ways. He didn’t know much of the relevant history–and he certainly wasn’t a civil rights activist–he was just a guy with a banquet to run. And a problem. Now, he could have just taken the banner away and got on with the evening. Or he could have insisted it stay, that the meaning of a burning cross in the ill-defined past of the Scottish Highlands trumped its meaning in America. That is what he told the waiters, after all. But he didn’t do either of those things. He accepted that the banner had different meanings for different people, and he talked to them about it. He tried to make them, and himself, more comfortable. Did it matter? Were any of those black waiters one whit happier after his explanation? Who knows. If they were, it was probably not due to what he said, but simply that he made the effort to turn a confrontation into a conversation.

For those of you who knew him, you’ll be happy to hear that he kept his gift of gab, and his famous sense of humor, to the end.

Trafficke is here!

trafficke-cover

One day long ago, when the world and I were young, I sat down to write what I thought might turn into a 10 or 15 page sequence of poems about Alexander Magruder. I had three questions: who was he? what was he? and what, in 1652, was Maryland? Twenty years later, here is the result: 177 pages of historical narrative, prose poetry, and verse. When an interviewer asked me why I embarked on this tremendous journey, I wrote back: That’s like asking Frodo Baggins why he left the Shire! No one can predict where a path will lead.

Following my original three questions led me into deep darkness and strange light; to libraries and archives, farms and graveyards; to Scotland eight times; to new friends, new cousins, and kind strangers; to a theory about how and when and why American Magruders came to believe (and have so fiercely clung to) the idea that we are part of Clan Gregor; and to very hard truths about our Magruder legacy in the American south.

Fair warning! Trafficke is not your typical book of family history or genealogy. You may want to read an excerpt before parting with your hard-earned dollars. Find an excerpt at Apartment Poetry 5; or at Evening Will Come, where it appears with a short statement about other poets whose work influenced the inception of Trafficke.

From the book’s back cover:

“If ignorance     is innocence / all is true    all is false.” Thus Trafficke plows under the surface of our collective amnesia and unearths a family past–beginning in Reformation Scotland, ending in slavery’s abolition in Maryland–that is our American past. History and myth, treachery and self-preservation, prose and verse collide and change places, caught in the dialectic eddies and splinters of Tichy’s luminous formal invention. This is a work of piercing lyric intelligence and fearless heart. Trafficke changes all the rules. — Peter Streckfus

To help Trafficke become a small press best-seller, please purchase a copy at Small Press Distribution.

Or, if you would like a signed copy, contact me through this site.

For more about the book and its making, visit its very own Traffickeblog.