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The renting of the enslaved

Col. John Tilghman (b. 1785 – d. 1866)
MSA SC 5496-37789
Property Owner, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland


John Tilghman was born on March 8, 1785 to Judge James Tilghman and his wife Elizabeth Johns. He married Ann Tilghman, with whom he had three children: Matthew Ward (b. circa 1817), James, and Lloyd (b. circa 1823).1 His second wife, Anna Catherine Tilghman, was a cousin of his deceased first wife. Anna Catherine bore him another three children: John Henry, Mary Elizabeth, and Ann Catherine.2

In 1811, he bought over 450 acres of land from Peregrine Tilghman in Queen Anne’s County, including parts of the tracts called Cheshire and Tilghman’s Recovery. Tilghman lived in or near Poplar Grove, north of Corsica Creek. He owned property on the south side of the creek and later appeared on J.G. Stong’s 1866 map of Queen Anne’s County.3

The Poplar Grove Collection of papers includes many of John Tilghman’s papers, including receipts and letters. Several 1838 letters from the attorney and judge Ezekial Forman Chambers suggest that Tilghman not only conducted business with Chambers, but had also formed a friendship.4 Numerous other business correspondances in the collection reflect Tilghman’s experience as a slave holder. Series 13 contains lists of slaves’ names, receipts for related purchases, and sales of individuals within the region.

However, the most fascinating documents recount Tilghman’s ambitious experiment with renting slaves to plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Beginning as early as 1830, he began to send enslaved blacks from the Eastern Shore through his southern agent, Spencer M. Grayson, a resident of Natchez, MS.5 Grayson had extreme difficulty negotiating costs and provisions with the local plantation owners, Samuel Clement being the one most commonly referred to. Tilghman receives letters from both men, where they air their respective grievances about the other man, including Grayson labeling his rival ” a scoundrel”.6 For his part, Clement claimed that ” Jerry came to my plantation begging me to keep him … for he could not nor want not stay with Mr Grayson.”7 This was undoubtedly a stressful arrangement for John Tilghman, who could do little to settle these local squabbles from his Maryland residence. The last piece of correspondance with Grayson came in 1835, after which Tilghman only rented slaves to planters in adjacent communities.

Excerpts from correspondence between Spencer Grayson aand John Tilghman

February 7, 1833

Capt. Clement is a resident of the State of Louisiana, but has a plantation in this state, Mississippi also, one in Louisiana. Since the passage of the laws in Louisiana in inhibiting the introduction of slaves into that State. I have thought it hazardous to your interests to hire the negroes to Clement, when he ??? the intention of ??? them in Louisiana. He never had my permission at any time to take the slaves into Louisiana, but ??? to the legislation of Louisiana on the subject of slavery, I did not forbid them being taken out of this state, because then I apprehended no danger. Soon after the law prohibiting the further introduction of Negroes into Louisiana had passed, one year hire of the slaves to Clement ??? The negroes were then in Louisiana & upon the application of Clement to hire them again, I thought the law did not apply to negroes in the State at the time the law passed.  In this I was correct to a certain extent.  But upon a more full examination of the law, I find that no slaves but those actually owned by citizens of Louisiana and, there at the time the law passed are exempt from its operation.  More than one month previous to the expiration of the hire of the negroes for the last year [paper torn]I informed Capt Clement of my opinion[paper torn] & ??? him as soon as the time of hireshould end, to deliver the negroes to me.  This he has refused to do and now holds them on the other side of the river in Louisiana against my express order.  Capt Clement has informed me that he has written to you on the subject and expects daily an answer giving him permission to retain the slaves.  That you ??? be aware of the reasons why I have refused to hire the negroes to Clement, I have made the above statement to you.  The conduct of Clement I deem extremely reprehensible and disho[illegible] presuming from the character of the man & knowing him to be capable of any thing, that he may have communicated by letter to you some false and improper statements I beg that you will enclose to me a copy of any letter that he may have written to you on this subject.  His conduct in regard to this transaction is a matter of notoriety here & if any further information is ??? can be easily had.  I intend to take ?considerate? steps to force the delivery to me of the slaves, and, for the future will see that no such man as Clement gets the possession again.  Your early reply to [paper torn is respectfully requested


Sm Grayson

To Col John Tilghman Chestertown Md

I believe that the Captain Clement mention in the letter is Captain Samuel Clement of Mississippi and Louisiana.


Corrine Cora Flamer



When Cora Flamer was born on May 12, 1892, her father, James, was 45, and her mother, Sarah Sparks, was 37. 1900, Cora and her family resided in Queenstown, Queen Anne’s Maryland. Her father James was a farm laborer and her mother Sarah had 15 children and 9 was living at the time. Cora married William Oliver Acree around 1908. 1910 Cora and her family lived in Ridgely Maryland. She had three daughters with William Oliver Acree between 1909 and 1913. Her daughters Mildred I Acree, Mary Grace Acree and Olive Virginia Acree. 1920 Cora and her family lived in Denton Maryland. 1930 Cora and family continue to live in Denton. They own their house, at a value of 500 dollars. Oliver is a barber and Cora is cook for a private home.  February 11 1940 William Oliver Acree had died. Cora was a widow living in Denton by herself. Before 1950 Cora had married Anderson Harry Stanford. November 1951, Cora Stanford said that Norman North, posed as insurance agent, collected $6 from her last July and she never heard from him again. He was arrested. Cora died on July 19, 1972, in Denton, Maryland, at the age of 80, and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery Denton Caroline County Maryland. Lifelong member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church. Senior Choir and head waitress in the Church dining room for many years.

The Ten Percent:Free People of Color

Last night I was listening to Black ProGen Live, a group of professional genealogists who research and document African-American families, they have round tables setting (Webinar presentations) on YouTube. Black ProGen Live stated “That in 1860, there were more than 4 million enslaved people of African descent living in the United States. At the same time, there were nearly 400,000 free people of color (FPOC) living in the U.S.”   I was surprised about the 10 percent, since majority of my relatives on the Eastern Shore were free in 1860. So I went to research how many free people of color were counted in Maryland and then broken down to Caroline, Queen Anne, Dorchester and Talbot counties.

Maryland : 83,942 free people of color

Caroline County: 2,786   Queen Anne: 3,372  Dorchester:4,684  Talbot:2,964

The county with the majority of FPOC was Baltimore with a total of 29,911 FPOC

So Maryland had almost 1/4 of the 10 percent of FPOC living in United States. So here is  a list of my head of household relatives that were free people of color in the Eastern Shore Maryland.

Caroline County:

Matthew Johns and his wife Emily Ann Homer

Henrietta Lockerman

John and Sarah Lockerman

Benedict Wyatt and his wife Clementine Sarah Coker

Jame Flamer and his wife Lurette

Joseph Flamer and his wife Loretta

John Sparks and his wife Mary

Robert Matthews, he lived most of his life  in Caroline county, but in the 1860, he was working Anne  Arundel.

Wilson and Elizabeth Downes

Medford Pritchett and Mary Adeline Clark

Nathan Clark and his wife Mary Cooper

Dorchester County:

William Cephas

Those mention are head of lineages, this does not include children or siblings that are also FPOC

Frederick Douglass

I had plan to post an excerpt  of an article from Casey Cep written in the Aeon Magazine. Majority of the article needed to be posted, to not to diminish the flow of it. My family history tells me that I am related to Frederick Douglass…I have not found the connection as of yet. Since majority of my surname branches of the eastern shore are claiming him as theirs.


Frederick Douglass circa 1879. Photo courtesy National Archives

“I had known about this estate since childhood. Wye House is one of the oldest homes on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and among the most famous plantations in America. Built in the late 18th century, the main house is a grand, two-storey structure that bridges late-Georgian and early-Federalist architecture. Its agricultural fields, orchards, and gardens once sprawled across 42,000 acres. It would be easy to mistake Wye House for Tara, the wind-swept, war-torn estate in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Even now that the property has dwindled to 1,300 acres, the pale-yellow plantation home is still an island in a wild green sea.

Thousands of slaves built this house, cultivated these fields, somehow managed to grow bananas, broccoli, oranges, and even ginger root in the plantation’s orangery, which is still heated and irrigated by the original 18th-century pipes.

Of them all, only one is known to me. For two years, the young Frederick Douglass was a child slave at Wye House.

I know of him because, after years of slavery, he escaped and wrote an autobiography: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). It is a beautiful book that I first read as a cheap paperback with a font so small and margins so narrow that when I try to read that copy again as an adult, it strains my eyes and causes a headache. I read that book the way one reads an adventure story, transfixed by the chapters that carried Douglass far, far away from the Eastern Shore.

Douglass is Talbot County’s most famous native son. Although he became one of the most famous black men in America and a celebrity around the world, Douglass was born in a tiny, now nonexistent village called Tuckahoe. It’s not far from where I was born at Easton Memorial Hospital or where I was raised in a map-dot town called Cordova.

Talbot is one of nine counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, whose western border of meandering shorelines is carved by fresh-water tributaries and the brackish Chesapeake Bay; whose eastern border is formed by the Delaware, and whose northern and southern boundaries are Pennsylvania and the Eastern Shore of Virginia respectively. These counties were settled in the 17th century and divided into plantations, like Wye House, that grew corn, tobacco, and wheat.

More than tragedy or romance, history is filled with irony. Just down the road from Wye House is a small hamlet called Unionville that was settled by former slaves and free blacks who returned to the Eastern Shore after the Civil War. The land was leased to the community by a Quaker family, abolitionists who abhorred their slave-owning neighbours and sent one of their sons to serve as captain of a black regiment in the Union Army. Almost all of the 18 Union soldiers whose names are carved on tombstones in the Unionville Cemetery were first listed as property in inventories at Wye House. These men returned from the War and settled only a few miles from the plantation where they were once slaves.

Take one left off Unionville Road and arrive at Wye House; take another, and arrive at the Hanging Tree. The trunk of this oak tree looks like an outstretched arm bent at the elbow: it rises two-dozen feet in the air, then bends at a perfect right angle before rising another two-dozen feet. As a teenager, I can remember driving to this haunted spot and waiting for midnight when the ghosts of the hanged were supposed to appear. It’s the sort of ritual repeated unthinkingly in an area where Confederate flags still fly on flagpoles, Confederate decals adorn the bumpers and back windows of pickup trucks, and Confederate uniforms and belt buckles hang in ornate frames in living rooms.

Maryland was a border state, but the Eastern Shore has always been secessionist. The Talbot Boys, the regiment from Talbot County that fought for the Confederate States of America, are memorialised with a 13ft statue on the Courthouse Green in Easton. Erected in 1916, the Confederate war memorial features a life-size, youthful standard-bearer who stands vigilant atop a broad granite base. The names carved on the base of that monument are locally familiar, whether or not you know Civil War history; they are the names of streets and towns around the Eastern Shore: Tilghman, Ewing, Goldsborough, Thompson, Wrightson, McDaniel, Tunis, and Lloyd.

By contrast, for much of the 20th century, the only public acknowledgement of Frederick Douglass was a small roadside marker along Maryland Route 328:

Placed by the State Roads Commission, you will miss it if you blink after crossing the bridge over the Tuckahoe River. The village of Tuckahoe no longer exists, so the marker sits by the side of the road without explanation, far from any extant town.

Talbot County’s is the least remarkable of any of the memorials I’ve seen for Douglass. I have found the abolitionist everywhere else: in parks, playgrounds, and schools across the country and around the world. Years ago in Belfast, after taking a cab down the loyalist Shankill Road and back up the republican Falls Road, I looked at the political murals on the Peace Line and saw there a portrait of Douglass, his birth and death dates clearly marked.

To the left it read: ‘Inspired by two Irishmen to escape from slavery Frederick Douglass came to Ireland during the famine. Henceforth he championed the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and Irish freedom.’ To the right it quoted Douglass: ‘Perhaps no class has carried prejudice against colour to a point more dangerous than have the Irish and yet no people have been more relentlessly oppressed on account of race and religion.’

I remember reading those words and wondering how a prophet so honored by the world could be so forgotten by his hometown. I am not surprised by all the places where I have found Douglass around the world; I am saddened that it is so hard to find him in Talbot County.

Talbot County, like so much of America, has an uneasy relationship with its past; and Easton, like so many small towns, has no idea what to do with its uncomfortable history. In 2004, a few locals proposed honoring Douglass with something more than a road sign. They asked the Talbot County Council that Douglass be given a monument on the Courthouse Green like that of the Talbot Boys.

Fred’s Army, as they came to call their group, was told that the Green was reserved for veterans of past wars, the only two statues there being dedicated to the Talbot Boys and to the veterans of the Vietnam War. For weeks, letters to the local newspaper seethed hatred and hurt not cured, much less calmed, in the century since Douglass’s death. Members of the local chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars all spoke against the monument. Members of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People spoke for it.

Letter by letter, speech by speech, the two sides divided in ways uncomfortably similar to those of a century before. Statue supporters challenged any definition of veteran that allowed for a public memorial to the Confederacy but disallowed a monument for Douglass; those opposed to the statue insisted that military service be the sole criteria for public memorials on the Green, and that Douglass would be better honored with a memorial at a school or a library. The opposition called itself patriotic; the supporters of the monument called them racist.

After weeks of debate, the Talbot County Council, in a narrow three-two vote, approved the monument. That vote, in 2004, was followed by years of delay and continued debate over the design, height, and exact placement of Douglass on the Courthouse Green. A policy was created that required so that any new statue on the Green not exceed the dimensions of the other statues, meaning quite literally that Douglass could stand no taller than the Confederate standard bearer.

Finally, in June of 2011, a statue was installed and dedicated. One hand raised mid-oration, Douglass looks as though he could be chastising the Confederate monument. His life-size bronze statue finally offers a challenge to the Talbot Boys. For nearly a century, the Lost Cause was more honored than the Just Cause, a fear Douglass had himself articulated in the years after the Civil War.

At Arlington National Cemetery in 1871, Douglass had observed: ‘We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.’ In 1894, at a Memorial (then ‘Decoration’) Day address in New York, his language was even sharper: ‘Fellow citizens, I am not indifferent to the claims of a generous forgetfulness but whatever else I may forget, I shall never forget the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery.’

Douglass experienced abuse that was worse than any he had ever witnessed, but he also had the profound awakening that led him to escape slavery

Even though the military conflict had ended, the fight for the narrative of the Civil War had not. Douglass lived long enough to see the gains of Reconstruction disappeared; by the time he gave that speech in May 1894, the Supreme Court had already ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. He was right to intimate that racial strife had not ended with emancipation, and that the Lost Cause and the Just Cause would be confused.

For most of my childhood, the two seemed indistinguishable. The legacy of the Civil War was shared sacrifice, whether your family or your state had fought for the North or the South. The Talbot Boys were veterans, not of a partisan cause, but a national conflict, and you bowed your head when you passed them without thinking. You didn’t care that you lived within two hours of the nation’s capital, but you were proud to live south of the Mason-Dixon Line. You visited the Hanging Tree no matter how uncomfortable you found such a ritual.

Such behaviour was not limited to locals or natives: in 2003, the year before the controversy over Douglass’s memorial, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld purchased a vacation home in Talbot County. He bought Mount Misery, the farm where Douglass experienced the most brutal beatings of his life.

While it was at Wye House that Douglass first saw ‘the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery,’ it was at Mount Misery that he experienced it for himself. Owned by Edward Covey, the farm was where slave owners sent their property for ‘breaking’. At Mount Misery, Douglass was subject to abuse worse than any he had ever witnessed, but he also had the profound awakening that led him to escape slavery.

After eight months working under Covey, on a hot summer’s day in August of 1833, Douglass collapsed from heat exhaustion. Covey attempted to punish the slave by beating him with a wooden plank. Douglass escaped and tried to inform his owner of Covey’s gross abuse, but his owner ordered Douglass back to Mount Misery. For two hours on his return, slave driver and slave fought. ‘This battle with Mr Covey,’ Douglass wrote in the autobiography, ‘rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood . . . [it] inspired me again with a determination to be free.’

Less than four years later, Douglass escaped. In September of 1838, he boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland; from there, he took a ferry across the Susquehanna River to catch a second train to Delaware; at Wilmington, he travelled by steamboat to Philadelphia. In less than a day, Douglass was safe in New York, and by the end of the month, he would be married and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Douglass first told his remarkable story at small gatherings of abolitionists around Massachusetts. Within a few months, he was invited to address the state’s Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention. By 1845, he had published his first of three autobiographies, which became an immediate bestseller; that same year, he sailed to England for a two-year speaking tour to promote the cause of abolition.

‘Time Makes All Things Even’ is the title of a chapter in Douglass’s final autobiography. While he worried greatly that the evenness of time would soften the realities of the Civil War, this chapter recounted his four reconciliatory returns to the Eastern Shore as a free man.

The first took him to St Michaels, where he met with his former master, Captain Thomas Auld. Douglass had written Auld an incredible letter many years before, published in an anti-slavery newspaper. ‘I entertain no malice towards you personally,’ Douglass wrote, ‘I am your fellow man, but not your slave.’ By the time of their meeting in June of 1877, Auld was on his deathbed. ‘Tenderly Douglass grasped the palsied hand of Captain Auld,’ The Washington Star reported: ‘addressed him as old master, and manifested emotion creditable alike to his manhood and his heart.’ The second return, in 1878, took Douglass to Easton, where he gave speeches at two black churches and on the Courthouse Green. ‘This visit was made interesting to me,’ he wrote ‘by the fact that 45 years before I had … been dragged to Easton behind horses, with my hands tied, put in jail, and offered for sale.’

The third, six decades after first witnessing ‘the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery’, was a return to Wye House.

The fourth, in March of 1893, fewer than two years before his death, was supposedly to look for possible retirement homes, though Douglass would ultimately die of a heart attack in Washington, DC, and be buried with his wife in Rochester, New York.

 Is the sin of racism erased if we destroy the memorials that preserve it?

All four returns to the Eastern Shore were marked by forgiveness. Douglass’s private journeys are illustrative of the journeys he expected the nation to make through its collective history. He refused to deny the horror of any these places, but equally he would not repudiate any of the individuals connected to them. He met with his former owner Captain Auld; he shook hands and walked with Howard Lloyd, great-grandson of the Colonel Lloyd who had owned Wye House during his enslavement.

Douglass understood that history was not only life, but narrative. Nowhere is this belief — that the stories we tell are what shapes the past — clearer than in the campaign he waged against the narrative of the Lost Cause. Douglass spent the last three decades of his life arguing for sharp distinctions ‘between those who fought to save the Republic and those who fought to destroy it’. A century later, those distinctions had not only faded in Talbot County, but the Lost Cause had overtaken the Just Cause.

So how are we to tell the stories of our past, especially in little towns like Easton? Is the sin of racism erased if we destroy the memorials that preserve it? The United Daughters of the Confederacy alone built hundreds of monuments to the Confederacy: these memorials dot cities and towns around the South, but we cannot destroy them any more than we can erase the history they mark. In Talbot County, that history lives not only in the granite statue for the Talbot Boys, but in the walls of Wye House, the trunk of the Hanging Tree, in place names and family trees. To remember, as Douglass demanded, ‘the difference between those who fought for liberty and those who fought for slavery’ is to remember both sides.

Those who opposed Douglass’s memorial wanted black history to remain invisible, banished to small road signs on rural roads. The other side sought to balance the public symbols of the past by placing a native abolitionist on the green. Now the shame of the Talbot Boys, that young rebel standard-bearer, stands forever opposite the glory of Frederick Douglass, that tall abolitionist poised in triumphant speech.

Without our stories, there is only irony: a rebel soldier and a black abolitionist. With them there is this: the story of the slave who left but returned a free man, and the soldier whose courage was great but whose cause was immoral; the romance of Unionville a little way down the road from the tragedy of the Hanging Tree.”

Published on 28 October 2013