Do Ghostly Lovers Search for Each Other in Miller Brewery Caves on Warm Spring Nights?

by Kathy Warnes

Frederick Miller

Frederick Miller – Wikimedia Commons

The story goes that on warm spring nights ghostly lovers still search for each other in the caves at Miller Brewery in Milwaukee.

Over a hundred years ago when life was slower and somehow more mysterious, workers at the Miller Brewery on State Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were whispering stories to each other about a ghost who haunted the cooling caves.

The workers glanced over their shoulders fearfully as they went about their business of producing beer for thirsty Milwaukeeans. Some of them swore they felt damp hands on their shoulders.

Frederick Miller Buys a Brewery

The caves were shadowy passageways from the past to the present. In 1850, the Best brothers dug the first cave in the State Street hillside when they built the Watertown Plank Road Brewery.

Frederick Miller bought the brewery five years after the Best brothers started digging their cooling caves. Born in Germany in 1824, Frederick had worked in the Royal Brewing Company at Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern, German. In 1850, when he was 26 years old, Frederick came to the United States with his family. He wanted to open his own brewery and Milwaukee seemed to be the ideal place because of the large population of Germans who brought their love of beer with them when they immigrated.

By 1855, Frederick Miller had enough backing and funds to buy his brewery. He purchased the Plank Road Brewery from Charles Best and his father for $8,000. The Plank Road Brewery was located in the Menomonee Valley, several miles west of Milwaukee. The brewery stood far out of the city, but near to good water sources including the Menomonee River and close to surrounding farms where the grains and other raw materials needed to make beer were grown.

Frederick Miller stood to make a good profit on his beer. After all, beer sold for $5.00 a barrel to the Milwaukee saloons and other businesses that bought it. Thirsty customers paid from three to five cents a glass for Frederick’s beer in Milwaukee saloons.

Frederick Miller Opens a Boarding House for his Workers and a Beer Garden

The remote location of his brewery motivated Frederick Miller to open a boarding house next to the brew house for his single employees. His workers ate their meals in the family house which stood on top of the hill overlooking the brewery. The workers earned their meals and lodging as well as between $480 and $1,300 a year for working for Frederick Miller.

In an 1879 letter to German relatives, Frederick Miller described the kind of meals he served to his employees. They started working at 4 a.m., so he served a six o’clock breakfast which included coffee, bread, beef steak or some other roasted meat, potatoes, eggs and butter. A nine o’clock lunch consisted of meat, cheese, bread and pickles. The midday meal at noon included soup, the choice of two meats, vegetables, and cake. The 6 o’clock evening meal consisted of meat, salad, eggs, tea and cakes.

Frederick Miller introduced several innovations into his new brewery business, including a German beer garden and refurbished caves. He created a beer garden that drew crowds for bowling dancing, family and fine lunches and old fashioned good fellowship. In another letter to his German relatives he wrote, “You can perceive that people in America, especially where Germans are located, also know how to live.”

He also featured good music at his beer garden, both the classics and popular tunes. Many a work worn Milwaukee citizen refreshed his spirit by thumping his glass of good beer on the table at the Miller beer garden and lustily bellowing, “Du, Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen.” “Du, Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen,”a German folk song that originated in northern Germany around 1820, was one of the most popular songs that wafted on the winds of the Menomonee River Valley on a Sunday afternoon. Families also enjoyed birthday and christening celebrations at the Miller Beer Garden.

Frederick Miller Renovates the Best Caves

The Bests had begun to install a system of storing beer in caves which provided cool, undisturbed places for aging after the beer was brewed. The Bests had a good idea, but their caves were small and poorly maintained. Frederick Miller decided to improve the Best system of caves. He built brick caves that amounted to 600 feet of tunnels, 15 feet wide and 12 to 15 feet high, with a capacity of 12,000 barrels. The caves were as cold and clammy as a ghostly hand and formed a natural icebox for the huge beer casks placed along the walls.

Dark spooky caves seem to attract ghosts and the Miller caves produced their own homegrown ghosts. Two of the Miller caves own ghosts achieved lasting fame because of the Romeo and Juliet ending of their romance.

Two Ghostly Lovers Desperately Search for Each Other

On a long ago spring day, a young brewery worker’s smile shone warm and sweet and his sweetheart’s face blushed bright as the wildflowers growing on the hillsides around Frederick Miller’s brewery. The couple had a secret meeting place. Every Saturday night they met at the mouth of a Miller Brewery cave where it opened on the hillside at the rear of the brewery. They strolled through the cool vaults and passed pleasant moments under the lantern light in the shelter of the huge casks.

One Saturday night before his shift was over, the young man had an accident. Some brewery workers testified that he missed his footing on the stairway in one of the caves. However it happened, the young man fell and struck his head. His fellow workers took him home, unconscious.

Unaware of her lover’s accident, the young woman waited for him at their meeting place. After several anxious hours of waiting, she finally went home and her parents told her about the accident. She rushed to her young man’s bedside, but he died several days later without regaining consciousness.

Before the winter snows melted from the hills above the caves, the girl died too. The doctor spoke of lung trouble, but the brewery workers spoke knowingly of the girl’s broken heart.

Shortly after the deaths of the young couple rumors began to circulate around the brewery. Workers insisted they saw the spirit of the girl searching the dark corners of the cave for her lover. Some of them reported that they had seen her lover lingering in their meeting place and some said they had heard him calling her name.

The ghosts searched for each other fruitlessly and freely until about 1887, when the Miller Brewery introduced mechanical refrigeration and the use of the caves began to taper off. By 1906, the brewery had completed the last of the four refrigerator buildings or stock houses, which had a capacity of more than 200 barrels. The caves were abandoned that year.

For over 40 years, the ghostly lovers searched for each other through the caves, abandoned empty reminders of past glories that remained closed and almost forgotten.

Modern Miller Brewery Officials Remodel the Caves and Resurrect the Ghosts?

After Frederick Miller died of cancer in 1888, his sons Ernest, Emil, and Frederick A. and their brother-in-law Carl took over the brewery and incorporated it as the Frederick Miller Brewing Company. They increased the Miller Brewery’s production to 500,000 barrels.

Then in 1952, brewery officials decided to open a portion of the caves to remodel them for a museum and to use as a starting place for tours of the brewery. The remodeling was completed in August 1953. Today’s Cave Museum utilizes about one-third of the original caves, but brewery tours still depart from them. Do modern tour takers feel a ghostly hand on their shoulders and a plaintive voice calling a long lost lovers name?

On balmy spring nights when the lights from the brewery dance over the Menomonee River Valley, do the lovers still search for each other?


Gurda, John. Miller Time: A History of Miller Brewing Company, 1855-2005. Miller Publications, 150th Anniversary Edition, 2005.

John, Tim. The Miller Beer Barons: The Frederick Miller Family and the Brewery. Badger Books, 2005.


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Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year!



Christmas is a time for fact and fiction and here some fictional Christmas stories and some factual stories about some of the songs we sing at Christmas time.

Christmas Cheer

Is There a Santa Claus? – Virginia O’Hanlon and Francis P. Church

by Kathy Warnes

Eight year old Virginia O’Hanon wrote the New York Sun a letter asking if Santa Claus really existed.  Editorial writer Francis P. Church answered her letter and their nineteenth century correspondence still resonates in twenty first century Christmas celebrations.

Virginia O’Hanlon Asks The New York Sun About Santa Claus

Some Christmases come with high unemployment rates, losses of loved ones, and loneliness. For some people Christmas brings more care than celebrations. An unnamed Grandpa Scrooge on a recent news broadcast emphasized his feelings by shouting to his grandchildren, “No, Virginia,” there is no Santa Claus!” His rant invoked images of the wistful child, nose pressed against the department store window, experiencing the toys second hand. In many ways, the centuries have distorted Santa Claus, modeled after the good St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, into a symbol of materialism and greed instead of the Christmas spirit of love, goodness, and peace. It’s not always easy to believe in the Spirit of Christmas among a world of doubters.

The Virginia of the grandfather’s rant, eight-year-old Laura Virginia O’Hanlon had the same problem in 1897. The daughter of Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant in Manhattan, Virginia had her doubts about Santa Claus, because some of her friends denied that he existed. She asked Dr. O’Hanlon if Santa really did exist and he suggested that she write to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper of the day, assuring her that if she saw the answer in The Sun, “it’s so.”

Following her father’s advice, Virginia wrote a short letter to the New York Sun. It read:  “Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says ‘if you see it in the Sun, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

Editor Frank Church Answers Virginia O’Hanlon’s Letter

“Is There A Santa Claus?” was published on September 21, 1897, more than three months before the Christmas holiday. Francis Pharcellus Church, one of the Sun’s editors, answered Virginia’s letter and addressed some of the philosophical issues behind it. He had been a war correspondent during the Civil War at a time when much of society had seen and experienced great suffering and as a result, felt a lack of hope and faith.

Yet, Frank Church had enough faith and hope left to reply: “Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been afflicted by the skepticism of a skeptical age.”  He added a few sentences about the narrow human imagination and then he said, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”

The New York Sun ran Frank Church’s editorial in September, three months before Christmas. The editors put the editorial in the third of three columns of editorials, buried among such items as “British Ships in American Waters,” and stories about the improvements on the chainless bicycle for 1898. The Sun’s rivals in New York didn’t comment on the editorial and even the Sun mostly ignored it for the next ten years. The people who read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” found it moving and every year at Christmas requests to reprint the letter and editorial poured into the New York Sun. Over a century later, it still is the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any English language newspaper and the year 2010 marks the 113 anniversary of the letter and editorial reply.

Some people have doubted that Virginia really wrote the letter, questioning if she would refer to children her own age as “my little friends.”  Virginia’s family saved the original copy of the letter and in 1998, Kathleen Guzman, of the Antiques Roadshow authenticated the letter and appraised it at between $20,000-$30,000.

The Real Virginia O’Hanlon and Francis P. Church

Laura Virginia O’Hanlon was born July 20, 1889, in Manhattan. In the 1910s, she married Edward Douglas, but he deserted her shortly before their daughter Laura’s birth. Virginia earned her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910, a Master’s degree in Education from Columbia University in 1912, and a doctorate from Fordham University. In 1912, she began her career as a teacher in the New York City School system, and became a junior principal in 1935. She retired in 1959, and died on May 13, 1971, in a nursing home in Valatie, New York. Her grave is at the Chatham Rural Cemetery in Chatham, New York.

All through her life, Virginia received letters about her letter to the New York Sun and when she answered them, she included Frank Church’s editorial. She credited the editorial with influencing her life positively.

Francis P. Church, was born on February 22, 1839, in Rochester, New York and he graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1859. In 1863, he and his brother, William Conant Church, founded the Army and Navy Journal and in 1866, Galaxy Magazine. William founded the New York Sun and Frank worked on the paper. In 1897, he wrote his famous editorial, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” and earned Christmas history immortality.

He died at age 67 in New York City, and he is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

“Yes, Virginia, “ Still Has Meaning in the Twenty First Century

Historians and other people have tried to explain the popularity of “Yes, Virginia.” The editorial reminds people of their own past Christmases and it stirs memories of the magic of childhood Christmases. The editorial is a bridge to a time when the television and the Internet didn’t exist and it illustrates that despite technological changes, people still have the same hopes and dreams. It is an example of inspiring, quality journalism, and perhaps, most importantly it has a positive, inspiring message. There is enough hope in it to convince ranting grandfathers wise enough to read it that the Spirit of Christmas isn’t found in things or the lack of them, but in hearts.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!”


Church, Francis P. “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. The Classic Edition. Running Press Kid, 2004

“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” DVD.


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Thanksgiving is a Changing Holiday


First Thanksgiving – Wikimedia Commons

by Kathy Warnes

For many Americans, the tradition for celebrating a Thanksgiving of family, turkey dinners, football and special thanks for blessings goes back to 1621 William Bradford and the Pilgrims and Indians. They are more likely to recall making Pilgrim hats and eating pumpkin pie instead of Timucua Indians bringing squash and Spaniards in helmets serving cocido.

The Grinch Expands Thanksgiving Traditions

The Pilgrims weren’t the first to throw a Thanksgiving feast in America, according to Dr. Michael Gannon of the University of Florida. In 1965, Dr. Gannon published a book called,The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-1870. In his book Dr. Gannon presents his exhaustive research into the career of Pedro Menendez De Aviles and his role in a Thanksgiving festival in St. Augustine.

“I would be inclined to focus on September 8, 1565, when, 420 years ago, Pedro Menendez De Aviles held a service, attended by Indians, at which he gave thanks for the founding of St. Augustine, “Gannon said.”This was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land,” Dr. Gannon told an Associated Press reporter in 1985 in an interview about his book.

A group of irate New Englanders called Professor Gannon “the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving,” but most people disagreed with him or simply ignored his evidence. Time didn’t erode his research and evidence which has survived intact into the Twenty-first century.

Pedro Menendez De Aviles and the Timucua Indians Share the First Thanksgiving

According to Dr. Gannon, on September 8, 1565, about fifty years before the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles and the Timucua Indians shared America’s real first Thanksgiving.

On that September day, Menendez stepped ashore in St. Augustine, claimed Florida for the Spanish crown, and eventually founded the first North American city of St. Augustine. Then he participated in a special Mass of Thanksgiving that Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoze Grajales celebrated.

After being declared governor and celebrating Mass, Menendez invited the Timucua Indians to join the Spaniards in a Thanksgiving feast. The Spanish probably contributed cocido, a rich stew made with pork and Timucua most likely brought wild turkey, venison, and perhaps alligator meat. They definitely brought corns, beans, and squash.

French Huguenots in Florida Celebrated Thanksgiving in 1564

On June 30, 1564, French Huguenot colonists conducted a thanksgiving ceremony in a settlement near present day Jacksonville, Florida. Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, a French Huguenot explorer, founded the French colony of Fort Caroline located in modern Jacksonville, Florida.

He recorded an account of the thanksgiving ceremony. “On the morrow about the break of day, I commanded a trumpet to be sounded, that being assembled we might give God thankes for our favourable and happie arrivall. Then wee sang a Psalme of thanksgiving unto God, beseeching him that it would please him of his grace to continue his accustomed goodness toward his poore servaunts, and ayde us in all our enterprises that all might turne to his glory and the advancement of our king.”

The next year Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his men wiped out the Fort Caroline settlement.

Coronado Celebrated Thanksgiving Even Before Menendez and the Huguenots

Spanish Explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s records show that he and his men and the friendly Teyas Indians celebrated thanksgiving on Ascention Thursday, May 23, 1541. The Teyas Indians looked on as Friar Juan de Padilla performed the Mass. Reports of the Mass state that the Indians were more baffled by the Mass and the feast than hostile or friendly.

Coronado and his men had left Mexico seeking the Seven Cities of Cibola, but instead they found themselves on the Staked Plains, with no cities or trees and scarce water. They wandered in circles for days and when they finally found Palo Duro Canyon and the friendly Teyas Indians who lived there. They were probably more thankful for their blessings than the Pilgrims were in the century after them.

Native Americans Were the First to Hold Thanksgiving Feasts

Native Americans held Thanksgiving festivals before Europeans ever set foot in America.The Wampanoag Indians, later allies of the Pilgrims, held six thanksgiving festivals during the year.

Native Americans thanked the living things around them- animals and crops- for sacrificing themselves for food and clothing. They didn’t worship the animals and crops, but they thanked them. In their Thanksgiving feasts they thanked the Great Spirit for food, shelter, and clothes. The celebrations included dancing, singing, drumming circles and games.

English Settlers and Indians Give Thanks

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers came to Berkeley Plantation, now Charles City, Virginia. The group’s charter specified that their arrival day, December 4, 1619, would be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. Captain John Woodleaf conducted the service. “Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god.”

Besides the 1619 service, the colonists may have held services in 1620 and 1621 before the colony was wiped out in 1622. The service was limited to the Berkeley settlement.

The Pilgrim Thanksgiving, 1621

The Pilgrim Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621, between September 21 and November 11th.

The original account of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving comes from a letter from Edward Winslow in Plymouth, dated December 21, 1621 to George Morton in England. It was printed in Mourt’s Relation, London, 1662. Winslow reports that the spring before the Pilgrims had planted twenty acres of Indian corn and sowed six acres of barley and peas. They learned from the Indians how to manure the ground with herrings or alewives which were plentiful. The corn did well, but the barley and peas not so well.

They took in the harvest and Governor Bradford sent four men fowling and they killed enough to feed a large group. The Indians helped and with the kind Massaosit and 90 men they entertained and feasted for three days. They killed five deer and brought them to Plimouth Plantation and gave them to the Governor, the Captain and others.

For three days the Pilgrims and the Indians feasted on venison, roast duck, goose and turkey, clams, eels, corn bread, hasty pudding leaks, water cress, wild plums and dried berries. They washed everything down with wine made of wild grapes.

Presidential Proclamations and Thanksgivings Past

In 1789, George Washington named Thursday, November 26th as a day of thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation issued with the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, named the last Thursday of every November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

Responding to the appeals of U.S. retailers still trying to recover from the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1939 proclamation moved Thanksgiving up a week to increase the shopping days before Christmas. When he issued the proclamation with the new date, uproar spread throughout the country, but his proclamation prevailed.

Thanksgiving Present

Present day Thanksgiving features more technology and football than in the past, but the tradition of family gatherings and parties continues the spirit of the original Thanksgiving festivities. The centerpiece of Thanksgiving is still being thankful.


Colman, Penny. Thanksgiving: The True Story. Henry Holt & Company, First Edition, 2008

Gannon, Michael. The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-1870, University Press of Florida, 1st Edition, 1965.

Gioia, Robyn. America’s Real First Thanksgiving. Pineapple Press, 1st Edition, 2007

Grace, Catherine O’Neill. 1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004.


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Captain Bill Driver and “Old Glory”


Wikimedia Commons


by Kathy Warnes

William Driver was born on March 17, 1803, in Salem, Massachusetts, but his rolling gait became a familiar sight on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee where he died in 1886. He lived a life filled with adventure and he deeply loved the Union, enough to defy the members of his family who equally loved the Confederacy. The flag that he called “Old Glory” has been the center of both controversy and unity.

William Driver Goes to Sea

One Sunday in 1817, fourteen-year-old William Driver was supposed to be on his way to Sunday School in his home town of Salem, Massachusetts. Instead, he went down to the harbor. By sheer determination and persuasion, he talked himself into the position of cabin boy and was on the high seas by nightfall. Eight years later, Bill sailed back into Salem harbor as captain of his own ship, The Seawood.

Captain Driver Acquires “Old Glory”

In 1827, Bill married Martha Silsbee Babbage and they eventually had three children.A version of the story of how Captain Driver acquired his flag goes that the women of Salem including his mother, sewed him a flag with 24 stars . As he was about to sail out of Salem, Massachusetts, harbor, the sailors aboard his ship, the whaler Charles Doggett, hoisted the flag to the mast head of his ship. “There goes Old Glory,” Captain Driver exclaimed and from that moment on “Old Glory” accompanied him on all of his voyages.

Captain Driver made his longest voyage in 1831-1832, when he sailed the Charles Doggett to the South Pacific. During a port of call at Tahiti, he met some of the descendants of the H.M.S. Bounty crew. They had moved to Tahiti from Pitcairn Island where the mutineers who had taken control of the Bounty had marooned them. They wanted to leave Tahiti, so they asked Captain Bill Driver to give them passage back to Pitcairn Island. During the return passed, Captain Driver slept on the deck of the Charles Doggett so the women and children could sleep in the bunks below. Altogether, “Old Glory” and Captain Driver sailed twice around the world and once around the continent of Australia.

Captain Driver, His Children, and “Old Glory” Move to Tennessee

In 1837, Captain Driver’s wife Martha died and he quit the sea to take care of his children. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where several of his brothers lived, taking his belongings, his three children and “Old Glory” with him. In 1838, Captain Driver married Sarah Jane Parks in Nashville and eventually they had eight children.
On every patriotic occasion in town, Bill Driver proudly flew Old Glory from his front porch. By 1860, Captain Driver felt that “Old Glory” looked as frayed as he felt on some days. The versions of the story differ as to what he did to revitalize “Old Glory.” One version of the story says that he replaced the original with another flag. Another version says that he had his wife Sarah Jane and his daughter Mary Jane take the flag apart, cut off the raveled and frayed seams, replace the old stars and add new ones to make a total of 34 – the correct number for 1860.

Captain Driver Remains a Loyal Union Man

When Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, Captain Driver remained a loyal Yankee, even though his sons joined the “Boys in Gray.” When Union flags in town were mysteriously torn and burned, Captain Driver decided to protect “Old Glory” and the flag disappeared from his front porch. Confederate troops in Nashville searched the Captain’s house for “Old Glory” several times, but never found it.

Finally, when Brigadier General Nelson’s wing of the Union troops marched victoriously into Nashville on February 25, 1862, Captain Driver marched alongside them. He hurried into his house and emerged carrying an old quilt. There, between its folds, nestled “Old Glory”. Escorted by Union soldiers Captain Driver marched to the Tennessee Capitol building with “Old Glory” in his arms. He climbed to the dome and triumphantly hoisted his flag to the top.

The New York Times story reports that same night a heavy wind came up and Captain Driver took down the original flag the next morning and sent up a new flag in its place. He gave this second flag to the Sixth Ohio Regiment when it left Nashville for home. The soldiers put the flag in the rear of a baggage wagon where a mule discovered it and ate it!

Despite Differences, “Old Glory” Is the Symbol of All Americans

Captain Bill Driver died in 1886, and he is buried in City Cemetery in Nashville under a marker that he designed himself- a ship’s anchor leaning against a vine covered tree. Captain Driver’s family disputed who owned the original “Old Glory”. Family records indicate that Captain Diver’s daughter, Mary Jane Roland and her cousin Harriet Ruth Waters Cooke bitterly disputed who possessed the original “Old Glory.” The New York Times version of the story says that Harriet Ruth Waters Cooke, a cousin of the family, had the flag and she in turn presented it to the Essex Institute at Salem, Massachusetts.

Other versions of the story say that Captain Bill Driver gave “Old Glory” to his daughter Mrs. Mary Jane Roland in 1873.  He handed “Old Glory” to his daughter Mary Jane and said, “Cherish it as I have cherished it for it has been my friend and protector around the world.”  In turn, Mary Jane gave “Old Glory” to President Warren G. Harding in 1922. President Harding presented it to the Smithsonian Institution and it remains there today.

Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee. William Driver Papers. 1803-1886.

Alan Bostick. March 19, 2006. “See the flag that few around the world.” The Tennmessean, Life section, p. 5.

So Proudly We Hail: the History of the United States Flag”, by Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong and Commodore Byron McCandless, with the editorial assistance of Harold D. Langley, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981. PP. 204-205.

“Old Glory: The True Story”, by Mary J. Driver Roland, daughter of Captain William Driver. Printed for the author, 1918.

“The Driver Family Descendants of Robert and Phebe Driver” (Harriet Ruth (Waters) Cooke, pub. 1889:

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The Phantom Plowman – A Spring Ghost Story from Pennsylvania


By Kathy Warnes

One night in March 1886, Albert Cooper, a young farm hand from Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, went courting. As he walked home from his pretty maiden’s house, his thoughts remained back on the porch swing with her. On this evening carrying the scents of spring, amorous Albert Cooper didn’t think much about the history or geography of Lower Merion Township, especially after he saw the ghostly farmer plowing his field.

Lower Merion Township

Farm fields had not always been a part of Lower Merion Township. Before European immigrants settled there, dense forests that sheltered creatures including bears, cougars, wolves, otters, beavers, weasels, turkeys, woodland bison, and bald eagles covered the Township. When the Europeans arrived, they gradually cleared the forests for farm fields and settlements.

The northwestern corner of Lower Merion Township is tucked between Upper Merion and the River Schuykill to the north. Philadelphia borders it to the south, the Schuykill River from the east, and Delware County from the west. In 1886, the Township measured about six miles long and 4 ½ miles wide and it contained about 15,360 acres of land. The soil, a rich loam, helped farmers grow abundant crops of corn, wheat, beans, and other vegetables as well as potatoes, apples, and peaches.

According to township historian William Buck, so many Welsh immigrants from Merioneth, Wales, settled in this section of Montgomery County that it was called Merion Township and divided into Upper an Lower Merion. These pioneer families included names like Holland, Pennock, Robert, Woods, Humphreys, Ellis, and Jones. William Buck writes that William Penn granted land to the pioneer settlers and many of them belonged to the Society of Friends. Shortly after arriving in Lower Merion, they arranged to have meetings for public worship.

Valley Forge is located within Merion Township and during the Revolutionary War, George Washington and his Army’s stay at Valley Forge and the British occupation of Philadelphia from September 1777 to June 1778 made the Township an active  place for both sides. The pioneers of Lower Merion suffered severely from British raids during the Revolutionary War, but only one person from Merion was accused of treason. Bryn Mawr, Welsh for “great hills,” is also found within Lower Merion Township, and in 1886 already featured “a modern female college..”

In 1880, Lower Merion had a population of 6,287 people.The population was about to increase by one farmer.

After An Evening of Courting, Albert Cooper Sees a Phantom Farmer

Hurrying home, Albert Cooper was not thinking about the history, geography, or population of Lower Merion Township, if he ever knew them in the first place. He sped along the woodland path, anxious to get home and dream about his lady love.

As he came to the end of the path that  followed an old forest for miles and emerged from the trees, Albert Cooper heard someone say “Woah!” to a team of invisible horses. Quickly he stopped in mid stride, and looked around for several moments, trying to discover what farmer he knew was plowing his fields at night. His eyes strained to make out the shape of the night plowing farmer and his horses, but he couldn’t see anything. Albert sighed.  His imagination had to be working overtime. After all, the woods were dark and he had been courting! He moved down the path once again, toward home and his soft pillow. He sighed. The pretty maiden had told him that she would use her pillow to dream about him.


“Woah!” Albert heard the same farmer commanding his horses; this time the creaking of their harnesses and their whinnies sounded directly in front of him. The first phase of the new moon occured on March 7, 1886, and Albert watched this new moon creep over the dark tree tops, bathing them in misty light. The shadow of the phantom farmer and his horses and plow blotted out most of the moonlight like an eclipse. Albert could see the farmer gripping the plow with two powerful hands guiding a pair of spirited horses that were hitched to it. The horses trotted quickly with their heads held high and their eyes flashing fire.

Albert stared and stared to make sure his imagination mixed with love sickness hadn’t gotten the best of him. He closed his eyes and opened them. The phantom farmer and his horses were still there.  Albert shivered in time with the jangling of the harnesses. He had just started to run when suddenly the farmer and his horses and plow vanished. Shaking with terror, Albert raced to the safety of his home and bed. He didn’t even wonder if the phantom farmer would spend the night plowing.

The Phantom Farmer Had His Choice of Plows and Crops

The phantom farmer plowed his field at both a good and bad time for farmers, assuming that he hailed from the Nineteenth Century.  New inventions helped farmers meet some of the farming challenges in the late 1800s. John Deere had invented a steel plow capable of slicing through tough sod in 1838 and James Oliver had improved it in 1868. Windmills especially adapted to the plains pumped water from deep wells to the surface and barbed wire allowed farmers to fence in land and livestock. Reapers made harvesting crops easier and threshers helped farmers separate grain or seed from straw. Farmers doubled their production of wheat from 1860 to 1890.


During the last years of the Nineteenth Century, the price of farm crops fell drastically, and farmers believed that low produce prices caused their economic problems. The United States Department of Agriculture reported that wheat prices fell from $1.06 a bushel to 63 cents a bushel, corn from 43 cents to 30 cents a bushel, and cotton from 15 cents a pound to six cents a pound between 1870 and 1897.

American technological advances in farming equipment and methods and increases in farm land and increases in yields per acre stimulated the overproduction that lowered farm prices. Newly created agricultural colleges also contributed to these improvements and their consequences. Could the phantom plowman be a symbol of farming past, present, and future? A prophet? A messenger from the past?

Albert Cooper, the Evening After the Courtship and the Ghost

The next morning Albert Cooper may have cast uneasy glances at the fields surrounding the farm where he worked. Had the phantom plowman followed him home with his horses and plow alongside him? As he went about his farm chores the next day, Albert Cooper probably wondered if he had dreamed the events of the night before and if he had really seen a phantom farmer plowing the field with two horses. After supper he decided to visit Silas Brown’s corner grocery and try out his story on his friends.

Albert told his story to the store loungers sitting around the pot bellied stove in Silas Brown’s corner store. The store loungers scoffed and told Albert to “reform” his story. When Albert insisted that he was telling the truth about the phantom farmer and his horses, a heated discussion flared up and several of the loungers accused Albert Cooper of “drawing the long bow,” which meant exaggerating or lying. Finally, the store loungers decided to visit the scene of the plowing to see if Albert Cooper had been telling the truth or a tall story.

Seven Men Sitting Shivering on a Wooden Rail Fence

Seven men and Albert Cooper sat on the wooden rail fence listening and watching for the phantom plowman. Albert heard them first, the same sounds from the night before. First the phantom farmer halted the horses, and then the creak of the harnesses and their whinnying. Albert and the seven store loungers were so frightened that they had to wrap their legs around the wooden fence rails to keep from falling off when they saw the phantom farmer. He didn’t wear any hat, so his long white hair streamed alongside his long white beard in the wind. The only visible part of the farmer’s face were his glistening eyes which were at least seven feet from the ground, making the ghostly farmer taller than the average human. A phosphorescent glow blurred the outlines of his body as he leaned forward on the plow and guided his steadily moving horses.

The store loungers and Albert thought the plow appeared to be as skeletal as the farmer, but soft, moist earth flew behind it like waves behind a Delaware River steamer. The phantom plowman drew closer and the horses with erect and tossing heads, seemed to breathe fire. The men heard their hoof beats as clearly as a dinner bell. At the corner of the field, the phantom plowman gave them the command to turn and they turned obediently and passed in front of the frightened fence sitters once again. All of the store hangers jumped off the fence and ran home to tell their story.

The Phantom Plowman Finishes Plowing the Field

The next morning, the seven fence sitters, Albert Cooper, and other curious folk went to the field to see if they could find any trace of the phantom plowman. As they reached the field, one of the men said, “I’ll be durned if the thing doesn’t plow sure enough.”

Everyone stared and gasped in astonishment. One half of the field had been plowed with furrows less broad as an ordinary plowman would create, but they were neater , deeper, and straighter than a mortal plowman could manage.

A few days later, the same group of onlookers went out to examine the field again. This time they discovered that the phantom farmer had completed his plowing. The field resembled a brown wavy lake flowing to the horizon. One of the men owned the field and he solemnly swore that he had not plowed an inch of ground in his field. The phantom farmer had plowed the entire field.

Multiple Albert Coopers and Silas Browns appear in the 1880 and 1890s census waiting for the dedicated historian and genealogist to find the ones that witnessed the phantom plowman. The phantom plowman and his horses and plow haunt that particular field in Lower Merion Township, waiting for the fancies of young people to turn to courting journeys and the March new moon to signal that it is time to start plowing again.



Buck, William J. Edited by Theodore W. Bean. History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Cocke, Stephanie Hetos. The Gilded Age Estates of Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania: A History and Preservation Plan. 1987. University of Pennsylvania LibrariesEverts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1884. Part I, Lower Merion.

Hunsicker, Clifton S. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania A History. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York & Chicago, 1923.

Jones, Dick, ed. The First 300: the amazing and rich history of Lower Merion. Ardmore, PA: The Lower Merion Historical Society, 2000.

Biographical Annals of Montgomery County Pennsylvania. Volume I. 1904

Brooklyn Eagle. A Phantom Plowman. Terrified Farmers Watched Him as He Turned up the Soil Perfectly. March 10, 1889. Page 10.

St. Louis Globe Democrat. The Phantom Plowman. March 10, 1889.

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Titanic Headlines, Titanic Questions

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

By Kathy Warnes

From its launching on May 31, 1911, until it slipped under the North Atlantic waves during its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic’s size and technological charisma overshadowed the other news events of its day. Newspapers announced its sinking with screaming black headlines, printed lengthy lists of survivors, featured stories about the passengers who perished, especially the wealthy and famous, and inadvertently revealed some of the prejudices and fissures in the society around them, especially feelings about suffrage and the place of women in society.

The Titanic overshadowed the news of troubles between the United States and Mexico that the Oakland Tribune reported with the headline “War with Mexico Near.” It also reported the stories headlined “Bloodshed is Feared in Chicago,” and “Bombs Explode Wrecking New York Store.” The same day that the Titanic hit the iceberg, April 14, 1912, the Washington Post reported that Julia Lathrop of Chicago, an associate in the work of Jane Addams at Hull House, a member of the Illinois Board of Charities, and a graduate and trustee of Vassar College was appointed by President Taft as Chief of the New Children’s Bureau in the Department of Commerce and Labor. Miss Lathrop was the first woman to be made a bureau chief under the government.

Most newspapers reported the death of Clara Barton who died on April 13, 1912. Clara Barton is best known for her work as a teacher, humanitarian, and founder of the Red Cross, but she also ardently supported suffrage. A friend of Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton  spoke at many suffrage conventions, including the first National Women’s Suffrage Convention in 1869 in Washington D.C. She also attended the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Conventions in 1893, 1902, 1904, and 1906. In 1909, she served on an honorary Advisory Committee of the National Committee on the Petition to Congress for woman suffrage. In the years she couldn’t attend the women’s rights conventions, she sent letters of support which the organizers read to the audience.

The Suffragettes in Lifeboat Number 6

Two days after Clara Barton’s death, suffragettes aboard the Titanic reacted more personally than politically as they decided their course of action. Avowed suffragettes aboard the Titanic included Helen Churchill Candee, mother and daughter Mrs. Edith Martha Bowerman Chibnall and Elsie Bowerman, and Margaret Brown, soon to become “the Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Helen Churchill Candee of Lifeboat Number 6, had many talents. After spending her childhood in Connecticut, she married Edward Candee of Norwalk and they had two children, Edith and Harold. An abusive husband, Edward Candee finally abandoned his family and Helen supported herself and her children by writing for magazines like Scribner’s and The Ladies’ Home Journal.

Initially Helen Candee wrote about etiquette and household management, but she expanded her repertoire to include child care, education, Oklahoma Territory, and women’s rights. Her first book, How Women May Earn a Living, a best seller, established her credentials as a strong feminist and her second book, An Oklahoma Romance., a novel about Oklahoma brought her national recognition and Oklahoma Territory promising possibilities for settlement and statehood.

After moving to Washington D.C., Helen Candee became one of the first professional interior decorators, with a clientele that included Secretary of War Henry Stimson, President Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and First Lady Helen Herron Taft. Helen Candee maintained a long term friendship with the first lady despite the clash of her liberal views with ultra-conservative Helen Taft.

Helen Candee publicly supported the Washington chapter of the National Woman Suffrage Association and helped plan its meetings and rallies. She developed a love of traveling and during a trip to Italy she received word that her son Harry had been injured in an accident. She quickly booked a passage on the Titanic to return home.

Based on her memoir, Helen Candee was the inspiration for the scene in James Cameron’s 1997 movie Titanic where Rose, played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack stand on the bow of the Titanic. Held tightly in Jack’s arms, Rose exalts, “I’m Flying!”   Helen wrote in her Titanic memoir about her own secret visits to the Titanic’s bow with Hugh Woolner, a British art dealer. She memorialized a solitary visit to the bow by writing.”As I stood at the bow alone and absorbed her spirit….she was a monarch of the seas as her bow cut into the waves…How grand she was, how Titanic…”

While getting into Lifeboat 6, Helen slipped and fell and broke her ankle, a fracture severe enough for her to spend the next year walking with a cane. The broken ankle didn’t stop Helen from joining the Votes for Women march down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill in March 1913.

Suffragettes Mrs. Edith Martha Bowerman Chibnall and her daughter Elsie Bowerman were also occupants of Lifeboat 6. They were both members of the Women’s Social and Political Union and they had been involved in two protests in Parliament Square in London in 1910 when police and Suffragettes had clashed violently and the police had made many arrests. Edith had been injured during the second protest and her husband had left her because of her involvement with the suffragettes. Elsie recovered from her Titanic experience and eventually became the first female barrister at the Old Bailey.

Perhaps Margaret Brown is the best known occupant of Titanic Lifeboat 6. Born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal Missouri on July 18, 1867, at age 18 Margaret moved to Leadville, Colorado with her sister and took a job in a department store. She married James Joseph Brown, who Margaret called J.J., an ambitious, self-educated man on September 1, 1886, and the Browns eventually had two children. Margaret noted that she had married a poor man for love instead of being dazzled by a rich man’s money, but the Brown family became very wealthy when J.J.’s engineering efforts were pivotal in producing a substantial ore seam at the Little Jonny Mine which his employer, the Ibex Mining Company owned. The Ibex Mining Company gave J.J. 12,500 shares of stock and a seat on the board.

In Leadville, Margaret initially became involved in women’s suffrage and she helped to create the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The Browns moved to Denver in 1894, and Margaret became a charter member of the Denver Woman’s Club and guided it in its mission of improving women’s lives by continuing education and philanthropy. Margaret became a society lady, learned about the arts and became fluent in French, German, and Russian. After 23 years of marriage, Margaret and J.J. separated in 1909, and Margaret received a house and allowance to continue her travels and social work.

As the Titanic sank, Margaret helped others board the lifeboats and finally a crewman picked her up bodily and threw her into Lifeboat 6. Journalists later writing the Titanic’s story daubed her the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” because she operated the tiller in Lifeboat No. 6 and over the protests of Quartermaster Robert Hitchens, the crewman in charge of the boat, she convinced the women beside her to row, arguing that it would keep them warm even though it was strictly against social etiquette. She also tried to convince Quartermaster Hitchens to turn around and search for more survivors. In the 1997 movie Titanic, Margaret Brown is shown urging the Quartermaster to return to look for survivors, but it did not validate her as the reason for the return. In fact, the scene shows the Quartermaster telling Margaret in no uncertain terms to be quiet.

The Birkenhead Drill and the Titanic Lifeboats – Women and Children First

The crew of the Titanic followed the maritime tradition of women and children to be saved first, a tradition that originated with the wreck of one of the first ironed hulled ships built for the Royal Navy. The HM Birkenhead had been designed as a frigate, but the Navy converted her to a troopship before commissioning her. On February 26, 1852, while transporting 480 British soldiers and 26 women and children, the Birkenhead wrecked on the outskirts on Cape Town, South Africa. There weren’t enough lifeboats to hold everyone so the soldiers stepped back and allowed the women and children to get into the lifeboats first. Only 193 of the 643 people aboard the Birkenhead survived, and the soldier’s chivalry established the “women and children first” tradition when abandoning ship.  The women and children first principle came to be known as  “The Birkenhead Drill”, and English poet Rudyard Kipling reinforced the idea in his poem called Soldier an’ Sailor Too.….”But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew, An’ they do it, the Jollies – ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies – soldier an’ sailor too!”

Most of the Titanic crew followed the Birkenhead Drill, insisting that women and children enter the lifeboats. The Oakland California Tribune of Wednesday, April 17, 1912 announced in bold black headlines that “All Women Saved from the Titanic Flashes Wireless.” According to the Lima, Ohio News of April 19, 1912, “Women are Literally Torn from their Husbands and Thrown into Life Boats.”

Despite the efforts of the Titanic crew, not all of the women on the Titanic were saved. Four first class women passengers died, thirteen second class women, and 89 third class women passengers perished. Some women chose to stay with their husbands. Ida Straus, wife of department store millionaire Isadore Straus said, “I have lived with him for 50 years – I won’t leave him now,” and she sat in a deck chair beside her husband as the Titanic settled  into the Atlantic.

After that frigid April Monday morning when the Titanic slipped beneath the waves taking 1,502 people with it, the Birkenhead Drill rule of the sea that had also seemed unsinkable, began to founder. The loss of the Titanic affected two important civil rights movements in the America of 1912, the woman’s suffrage movement and the black civil rights movement. The 1912 American feminists and suffragettes argued that male protection came with the heavy price of disenfranchisement and loss of female integrity and autonomy. It took courage to advocate this view and when the Titanic sank, feminists had to consider another perspective of full equality. Did full equality mean equal risking of life with men in dangerous times and how could female emancipation and the Birkenhead Drill be reconciled?

Choosing integrity over ideology, radical suffragettes denounced the Titanic’s Birkenhead Drill. Dr. Anna Shaw of Boston spoke out against it and in England, Millicent Murby in a speech to the Cambridge University Fabian Society warned women that they “must consider very carefully whether it is worthwhile to let men assume the entire burden of physical sacrifice in times of danger.”

The New York Times stirred up controversy on April 21, 1912 when it reported a story from London, England, headlined “Suffragettes Deny Chivalry on the Titanic.” A reporter asked Sylvia Pankhurst, a militant suffragette, that if chivalry was really dead as the suffragettes claimed why were so many women on the Titanic saved?

She answered that she did not want to detract from the gallantry that the men of the Titanic had displayed, but the universal rule of the sea was that women and children would be saved and the Titanic was not so the only ship to follow this rule, so the men of the Titanic had not displayed exceptional gallantry.

Although other suffragettes agreed with Sylvia Pankhurst, her comments caused a backlash and the London Daily Mail collected $35,000 to aid the victims of the Titanic and their families, with Queen Alexandra, four princesses, and several American society women contributing.

The Enduring Wake of Titanic Lifeboat No. 6

Titanic survivors chose Margaret Brown to represent them in presenting Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia with a loving cup to thank him for his rescue.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown ran for the United States Senate, and she successfully merged her public speaking talents with her Titanic experiences. She acted according to her independent, suffragette personality when she helped row Lifeboat No. 6, but she did not attribute her survival to the “women and children first” maritime mantra of the time. In fact, she addressed the issue of women’s equality more directly than any of her fellow suffragettes.

Beginning with acknowledging the real gallantry shown by the men who died on Titanic, and that chivalry motivated them, Molly Brown then expanded her remarks into new horizons.  She said that the Birkenhead Drill was ‘tragically immoral’ and that men shouldn’t be expected to die like that. It should, she maintained, never have been required by law or custom. Molly Brown transformed the issues of chivalry and women’s suffrage and feminism from gender into human rights far ahead of her suffragette beliefs and her historical era.

The Titanic had barely settled into her watery grave, when Harriet Quimby became the first woman pilot to cross the English Channel on April 16, 1912.

Women rights and human rights progressed in the 73 years from the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, to its discovery on September 1, 1985. American women won the right to vote in 1920 and women in the United Kingdom between 1918 and 1928. Twentieth and Twenty first century humanity reverberated with the cultural shocks of two world wars and the nuclear and technological eras as 1912 society had reverberated with the sinking of the Titanic and end of the age of innocence, belief in unfettered progress, and invulnerable human invention.

Controversy still swirls around the Titanic, even at her 13,000 feet depth. On September 9, 1985, Dr. Robert Ballard, leader of the expedition that discovered her, said,  The Titanic itself lies in 13,000 feet of water on a gently sloping alpine-like countryside overlooking a small canyon below. Its bow faces north and the ship sits upright on the bottom. Its mighty stacks point upward. . . . It is quiet and peaceful and a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest. May it forever remain that way and may God bless these found souls“.

The Titanic has not been allowed to rest.  Since Dr. Robert Ballard and his expedition discovered her resting place, salvage companies and private individuals have visited her. One company has retrieved hundreds of artifacts which have been displayed around the world to crowds of people. Dr. Ballard thinks that the fragile Titanic is in danger of being destroyed by modern salvage equipment and treasure hunters and he believes that the resting place of the Titanic is a graveyard that should be honored as such.

The ending of the 1997 movie Titanic shows an aged Rose dying and returning to the intact 1912 Titanic and all of the people involved in her story, including Jack. Although Rose was a feminist in her own right, refusing to settle for the life her mother had planned for her and choosing not to stay with an abusive man, she is a fictional character. Helen Candee , Molly Brown, and the rest of the suffragettes who realized that women’s right to vote and be independent persons meant human rights for everyone were real people who were fortunate enough to survive the sinking of the Titanic. Can’t those who rest with the Titanic have the right to a grave undisturbed by the sounds of salvage operations and treasure hunting submarines?


Titanic Survivor:  Life Boat No. 6 Helen Churchill Candee- In Memory of Titanic Survivor in the 100th Titanic Anniversary 2012(100th Anniversary Titanic Series) Kindle Edition. Pierre Beaumont, author; Helen Churchill Candee, author.

Helen Churchill Candee, “Sealed Orders,” Collier’s Weekly, May 4, 1912.

Iverson, Kirsten. Molly Brown:  Unraveling the Myth. Johnson Books, 2011.

Lord, Walter.  A Night to Remember. Macmillan, 2005.

Oates, Stephen.  Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War.  Free Press, 1995.

Wade, Wyn Craig Wade. The Titanic:  End of a Dream. Penguin, 1992.

Robert Ballard and the Titanic

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Freedom Fighters George and Harry Washington


George Washington-Wikimedia Commons


by Kathy Warnes

General George Washington and his former slave, Harry Washington, were both convinced that the Enlightenment ideas of the dignity and worth of the individual and individual freedom were worth fighting and dying to preserve. Both Washingtons fought for individual freedom with very different results in their individual lives. Although Harry Washington left a more documented life than most Black Loyalists, dates and events in his story often conflict. Much of the information about Harry is gleaned from Virginia records, the records of George Washington and Mt. Vernon, and the Book of Negroes.

Throughout his life and even after he became President of the United States, George Washington displayed the paradox of his era – slavery and freedom existing side by side. He waxed indignant enough about perceived British violations of the rights of colonists as freemen to fight a war against them, yet he denied the same rights to black people.  He actively bought and sold slaves and hired slave catchers and other emissaries to recapture them when they ran away. He signed the 1793 fugitive slave law and played a freedom chess game with a female slave, Oney Judge, who had fled to New Hampshire to avoid being recaptured and taken back to Mount Vernon.

George Washington Buys Harry Washington

Harry Washington’s life took a circular course. His birth name is lost to history, because he was documented with the name that he acquired after becoming George Washington’s property. Harry was born on the Gambia River in West Africa around the year 1740, and slave traders sold him into slavery around the year 1760, perhaps as part of the shipments of slaves sent to the South Potomac region in 1760 and 1761.

A plantation owner from the Lower Potomac River, Daniel Tebbs, initially bought Harry, but in 1763 Harry had a new owner. George Washington  purchased Harry from the estate of Daniel Tebbs and included him in a group of slaves that he contributed to the Dismal Swamp Company, an organization he had formed to drain 40,000 acres the Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia. Included in the group were a woman named Nan and a sixteen year old boy named Toney that the scant documentary evidence suggests might have been his wife and son. Battling mosquitoes, brush, and oppressive heat, Harry Washington helped his fellow slaves dig a three feet deep, ten feet wide canal to drain into a lake five miles in the distance.

Harry Washington Trains Horses and Works at the Ferry Plantation

Two years later in 1765, both Harry and Nan were taken to Mt. Vernon, George’s Washington’s plantation, which further indicated that they might have been a couple. They appeared on George Washington’s  1766 list of taxable property, although Toney did not because children below sixteen years of age weren’t listed as titheables.

Even if they were a couple, Harry and Nan was separated, because Harry worked in or around the house and Nan worked at Muddy Hole, one Mt. Vernon’s outlaying farms. According to plantation records, Harry was considered to be a valuable horse trainer, and he probably helped take care of George Washington’s horses.

In July, 1770, Harry and Nan were still working in different places. Harry appeared to be working as a ‘house servant’ at Mt. Vernon and Nan still worked at the “Muddy Hole” farm. Harry toiled as a “house servant” until 1771, when his name appeared on a list of slave laborers working to build a mill at Ferry Plantation, the most distant Mt. Vernon farm.

Harry Washington and his fellow slaves performed the duties of their servitude caught in a volcano of rhetoric and ideas that erupted into the American Revolution. His master, George Washington wrote of British disrespect of the rights of their colonial citizens and George Washington’s colleagues, including Thomas Jefferson, wrote about the natural rights of men to be free to decide their own destinies.  Harry Washington must have pondered words like dignity and freedom and bondage as he went about his daily tasks with very little control over his own destiny.

It appeared that Harry Washington had taken his destiny in his own hands when he ran away on July 29, 1771, compelling George Washington to shell out one pound and sixteen shillings in advertisements to recover Harry.  Within a matter of weeks, Harry was once again working at the Ferry Plantation where he remained until 1773, when he was returned to house service. By November 1775, he performed the daily chore of grooming his master George Washington’s horses in the Mount Vernon, Virginia, stables.

Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore, Issues a Proclamation

In 1775, John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia issued a proclamation offering freedom to any slaves willing to join his Majesty’s troops to smash the American rebellion. In December of 1775, George Washington who was then commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts received a report that the proclamation had motivated his own slaves. Washington’s cousin wrote from Mount Vernon that all of them would “leave us if they believed they could make their escape. Liberty is sweet.”

The date that Harry Washington joined Lord Dunmore is disputed, but the logbook of the HMS Roebuck, the lead ship in the fleet of Lord Dumore, recorded Harry as joining in 1776. Eight of Lord Dunmore’s fleet of British ships ventured up the Potomac River to take on fresh water, and a small craft coming down from Fairfax County joined them. Three of General Washington’s servants were aboard the boat, including Harry Washington who became one of the 500-600 runaway slaves who responded to Dunmore’s Proclamation.

For part of the war Harry Washington served with an unarmed company called the Ethiopian Regiment or the Black Pioneers who were directed to: “Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Nuisances being thrown into the Streets.”

British General Sir Henry Clinton commanded the Black Pioneers as they moved from New York to Philadelphia, and then to Charleston, South Carolina. In 1781, Corporal Washington commanded a company of Black Pioneers attached to the Royal Artillery Department in Charleston. By 1783, the tides of the Revolution had turned against the British, and although he returned to New York for a time, Harry Washington was anxious to leave New York before General George Washington recaptured both the city and his person.

Article Seven of the Treaty of Paris

In November 1782, the newly independent Americans and the British hammered out a treaty to end the American Revolution in Paris, France. John Adams, one of the American negotiators, noted that on the last day, Henry Laurens, who had joined the American negotiating team while the Commissioners were finalizing the Treaty of Paris at the house of the chief British negotiator Richard Oswald, insisted on including an additional provision to Article Seven. The additional provision said that the British were prohibited from “carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants.”

John Jay, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams himself hadn’t thought it was necessary to include a clause about runaway Negroes, and later John Jay said that he was surprised that the British had agreed to the additional condition that Henry Laurens had inserted. The Laurens addition caused the British massive headaches  and the Black Loyalists massive heartaches and disruptions in their lives.

The British Deal with Defeat and Fearful Black Loyalists

The defeated British were faced with the dual problem of making good on their promises of liberty to the Black and White Loyalists and honoring The Treaty of Paris. Since they had not quelled the American rebellion, the British promise of freedom to runaway American slaves left a huge question mark about their futures hanging in the air. During the Revolutionary War, almost 100,000 former slaves ran away from their masters and those that had not died in battle, perished from smallpox, typhoid or other diseases, or already had been dragged back into slavery were in a vulnerable position.

In 1782, the British government appointed Sir Guy Carleton as the commander-in-chief of the British forces to replace Sir Henry Clinton, instructing Sir Guy Carleton to recognize the independence of the 13 Colonies. In 1783, at Newburgh, New York, General George Washington of the newly freed Colonies negotiated with him for the return of Colonial property, “especially the Negroes.”

Sir Guy Carleton knew that there were many Black and White Loyalists who wanted to flee the newly independent colonies and needed a place to live. He especially appreciated the plight of the Black Loyalists who had to leave the Colonies immediately or be returned to slavery. Sir Guy suggested the unsettled land in Nova Scotia and many Loyalists, both black and white, decided they would try settling in Nova Scotia.

General George Washington, generally seen as unflappable, became increasingly upset with Sir Guy Carleton and other British officials when they refused to immediately return Black Royalists, black soldiers, and black laborers, all of whom he considered runaway slaves.  In a letter to Virginia governor Benjamin Harrison dated April 30, 1783, General Washington allowed his frustration to boil over when he wrote about a list of his slaves he was trying to recover and the recovery of escaped slaves in general,   “ But I have but little expectation that many will be recovered; several of my own are with the Enemy but I scarce ever bestowed a thought on them; they have so many doors through which they can escape from New York, that scarce anything but an inclination to return, or voluntarily surrender of themselves will restore many to their former Masters, even supposing every disposition on the part of the Enemy to deliver them..  “

After the British and the Americans signed the Treaty of Paris, arranging travel for the Loyalists who wanted to leave the Colonies proved to be a daunting task. The British and the Americans disagreed about the distinction between free Negroes and slaves. Sir Guy Carleton decided that the Black Loyalists who had gained their freedom previous to the Treaty were not property of any kind and the Treaty did not apply to them.

The Americans disagreed, but they were willing to agree to the Royalist interpretation when Sir Guy Carleton promised compensation. Sir Guy set up a board of enquiry to hear disputes about freedom offers from the proclamation. The officials of the board also recorded the names and former owners of all freed slaves that the British evacuated so that the British could compensate their old masters. This record came to be called Carleton’s Book of Negroes. In conjunction with Sir Guy Carleton’s plan, Brigadier General Samuel Birch issued certificates of freedom to all qualified Black Royalists, allowing them to travel wherever they chose, including Nova Scotia.

By the time the British retreated to Canada, over 100,000 Loyalists had left the United States to settle in Canada, with more than 30,000 Black Loyalists settling in the Maritime Provinces, and the rest in Upper and Lower Canada.  Many of the Black Loyalists settled in Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, along the Saint John River Valley in New Brunswick and along the St. Lawrence River. Some people accepted them as legitimate pioneer settlers, but others didn’t treat them as citizens entitled to the rights and privileges of full citizenship.

Black Loyalist Harry Washington Emigrated to Nova Scotia

In July 1783, Harry Washington and more than 200 other black men, women, and children departed New York City on a ship called L’Abondance. Harry’s fellow passengers were mainly followers of a preacher named Moses Wilkinson, or “Daddy Moses.”   In reality only in his thirties, Daddy Moses appeared to be an old man because he had contracted smallpox in 1776, and the disease had left him blind and crippled.

Fleeing from his owner Suffolk merchant Mills Wilkinson of Nansemond, Virginia, Moses was one of the first groups of Wilkinson slaves defecting to Lord Dunmore in December 1775. In fact, nearly two thirds of the Nova Scotia settlers hailed from Virginia, the next largest group from South Carolina, and a smaller number from Maryland, Georgia, and North Carolina. Thomas Jefferson, the architect of American liberties, called them “fugitives.”

The L’Aondance safely landed its passengers in Nova Scotia, and “Daddy Moses” and his congregation soon founded a community at Birchtown, Nova Scotia, which they named after Samuel Birch. The July 1784 Muster at Birchtown listed Harry Washington, 44, laborer, and his wife, Jenny, aged 24. Jenny traveled to Nova Scotia aboard the Clinton with her two small children. Other sources list Harry Washington as single, but marrying a woman named Sarah after he arrived in Nova Scotia.

When the new settlers arrived, there was little to eat, the planting season had passed, and the thin topsoil didn’t support many crops. Harry had to immediately hire himself out under contract to his white neighbors in Shelburne so that he and his family would survive. Most of the time arrangements like Harry’s did not favor black laborers. White Loyalist settlers considered them cheap labor and sometimes didn’t pay them at all.

As the years passed, conditions in Nova Scotia did not improve for Harry Washington and his family. The British military had promised land and provisions for the first year, but the Crown underfunded the settlements and the authorities ultimately favored white Loyalists, especially white Loyalists from the South who had resettled with their slaves. When the British government allocated land, it usually gave the blacks settlers smaller parcels of land on poor, rocky soil and attempted to force the settlers to pay quit rents on their land, an attempt the settlers successfully resisted.

Some black refugees were still waiting for their land three years after they had arrived in Nova Scotia. Many of the Black Loyalists were from warm Southern climates and added Nova Scotia’s cold, wet weather to their last of tribulations. Black Loyalists were barred from voting or serving on juries and they faced enormous competition just to survive from day to day.

The situation in Nova Scotia became so dire for the Black Loyalists that in 1791, they decided to send an emissary to England. They deputized Thomas Peters, a runaway from North Carolina and a former Sergeant in the Black Pioneers during the Revolutionary War. In his petition to King George III, Thomas Peters requested that the Black Royalists in Nova Scotia be resettled or if they chose to remain in Nova Scotia, they would receive the allotment of land that they had been promised. Responding to the petition of the Black Royalists, Prime Minister William Pitt‘s government agreed to pay the expenses of black settlers wishing to relocate from Nova Scotia.

John Clarkson Accompanied the Black Royalists to Sierra Leone

Thrilled at the prospect of new settlers in their colony on Africa’s west coast, the Sierra Leone Company with British philanthropist, politician, and abolitionist William Wilberforce at the helm, offered free grants of land with to any of the Black Royalists of Nova Scotia who wanted to emigrate. The Company offered twenty acres for every man, ten for every woman and five for every child. The land came with “certain charges and obligations,” and even though the Black Royalists and other settlers didn’t realize it until they were trying to settle in their new homes, the Sierra Leone Company had an imperialist philosophy which would clash fatally with the Black Royalists desire for freedom.

William Wilberforce represented another irony in the story of Harry Washington. He advocated freedom for black people, but he and his Sierra Leone Company seemed unwilling to grant black settlers in Sierra Leone self determination. The company adopted a policy of encouraging only black settlers to emigrate there, but they put the few white employees in charge and appointed white governors.

The Sierra Leone Company appointed John Clarkson, a young naval officer and Abolitionist, as agent to oversee the Black Royalist move from Nova Scotia. Hundreds of people, including Harry Washington, attended a meeting in Birchtown, at Daddy Moses’ church to listen to John Clarkson explain what the Sierra Leone Company meant by “subject to certain charges and obligations.” According to Clarkson, the conditions didn’t mean an annual rent would be charged on Sierra Leone land, but instead it was just “a kind of tax for charitable purposes like the maintenance of their poor, the care of the sick, and the education of their children.”

Harry Washington and his fellow settlers believed John Clarkson and he rejoiced in Clarkson’s assurances that in Sierra Leone they would be able to vote and serve on juries. Discrimination between black and white settlers would not exist, according to Clarkson. Harry Washington and a large group of Black Royalists decided to go to Sierra Leone, a decision that forced Harry to abandon his freehold land. The British kept a list of settlers relocating from Birchtown to Sierra Leone where Harry was described as a farmer, age fifty, and traveling with his wife Jenny. Harry forfeited two town lots, a house and forty acres, but he kept an axe, saw, pickaxe, three hoes, two muskets and some pieces of furniture with him.

John Clarkson’s persuasive powers convinced approximately half of the black refugees in Nova Scotia to pursue their dreams of freedom and economic opportunity in Sierra Leone. Working with Black Loyalist leader Thomas Peters, John Clarkson addressed the practicalities of resettlement.  The British government relocated about 1,200 black settlers at a cost of 15,500 pounds.

William Wilberforce, the director of the Sierra Leone Company, tragically misinterpreted the will and mettle of the black setters when he decided to refer to them as Africans, thinking this was a respectable title and a valid way of thinking about the new settlers. He wasn’t quite as magnanimous in awarding them their freedom.  According to John Clarkson’s Journal, the Black Royalists “had strange notions…as to their civil rights.”

Exercising their right of independent thought, the black settlers saw themselves as free British subjects like John Clarkson and they intended to build new lives and a new community in Sierra Leone.  The conflicting perspectives of the Sierra Leone Company and the new black settlers of Sierra Leone would play themselves out against the sometimes hostile landscape of Sierra Leone itself.

The Black Royalists Arrived in Sierra Leone

The hopeful black settlers left Nova Scotia in fifteen British ships late in 1791, and after surviving a stormy winter voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, the fifteen ship flotilla arrived in Sierra Leone in March 1792. The black settlers from Nova Scotia established Freetown and John Clarkson stayed to help them in their initial pioneering efforts, serving as Governor from August 1792 until December 1792. The pioneer black settlers became known as the Nova Scotian Settlers.

The Atlantic voyage was only the first in many battles facing the settlers. Alexander Falconbridge, a British surgeon who lived and died in Sierra Leone, criticized the “premature, hair-brained and ill-digested scheme” of introducing a multitude of settlers into a “largely untamed and disease ridden wilderness.”

The settlers survived clearing elephant grass and jungle growth and building their houses in their new settlement called Freetown. They also battled gorillas, leopards, and poisonous snakes. The next obstacle they faced was the power struggle between two of their leaders, Thomas Peters and John Clarkson. Caught in the middle, the Sierra Leone settlers began to feel that the Sierra Leone Company was treating them as badly as the British had in Nova Scotia and the Americans who had enslaved them.

As in Nova Scotia, the weather in Sierra Leone presented another challenge to the immigrants. Monsoon rains arrived in April and produced one of the wettest that local residents could remember. Without adequate shelter from the rain, nearly everyone developed malaria. Many people died every day and were quickly buried. Provisions that the company ships brought from England spoiled and the sultry air reeked with the smell of rotting food.

John Clarkson had a more serious problem than the weather. Backed by Thomas Peters, the settlers continued to challenge him with their “strange notions as to their civil rights.” They wanted more self determination, and demanded to elect their own representatives to preserve order and resolve disputes. John Clarkson conceded that they could elect black juries to hear disputes but only after they submitted their choices to him. By this time, Thomas Peters had died, thoroughly disillusioned with white man’s justice.

By late July 1792, the settlers were agitated because the survey for the farm lots that the Sierra Leone Company had promised had not materialized. All their hard work had produced huts built on small town lots wrestled from the jungle, and the only way they survived was two days a week work for the company that it paid in credit at the company store. Their discontent continued in August and they protested to John Clarkson who had been appointed the first governor of Freetown by this time.

Again, John Clarkson had to tap into his persuasive powers to convince the settlers to accept only one-fifth of the land that the Sierra Leone Company had promised them. Clarkson had to face another vital issue when the Company directors decided not to allow the settlers to claim land along the Sierra Leone River. Settlers had to have access to the River because water was the only means of transportation and communication in Sierra Leone. The settlers furiously rejected the directive, because white men in Nova Scotia had done the same thing to them, building wharves along the waterfront and charging money for access. They emphasized that they had not crossed the ocean to deal with the same discrimination.

Seeking to pacify the agitated settlers, John Clarkson rescinded the Sierra Leone Company’s directive about the waterfront, and he also agreed to allow settlers to elect a tithingman for every ten families and a hundred for every hundred.  He didn’t tell the settlers that the Sierra Leone Company directors had demanded a quit rent payment of two shillings an acre on the land the settlers were granted, convincing himself that the company would honor his promises as governor.

John Clarkson went on leave in December 1792, and never returned to Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Company dismissed him in May 1793, and replaced him with William Dawes and then authoritarian Zachary Macaulay. By 1796, settlers sent heartfelt letters to John Clarkson begging him to return and rescue them from Governor Macaulay who had threatened to enforce a huge quit rent, a hundred times higher than the one demanded of them in Nova Scotia.

Harry Washington Persevered for Freedom

Since he had sailed away from George Washington and Mt. Vernon over twenty years earlier, Harry Washington had been determined to overcome the indignities of slavery and to earn land of his own. He also was determined to support his own family so well that his wife and children wouldn’t have to work as they had as slaves. For a short time after their arrival in Sierra Leone, Harry had swallowed his pride and worked for credit to buy goods at the company store instead of cash while he waited for the Company to give him his land allotment that would allow him to be independent.

By 1796, Harry Washington and twenty nine other settlers had turned their mountain lots into farms and were producing crops to trade, including coffee, pepper, and ginger as well as rice, cassava and yams. The quit rent that the Sierra Leone Company had decided to impose hung over his life like an axe.

In early January, 1797, the settlers held a meeting to determine how to get rid of the Sierra Leone Company’s quit rent, well aware that the rent condemned them to perpetual tenancy. For his part, the governor warned that the slightest murmur of rebellion would cause the Company to discontinue any service to them. In his journal, Governor Macaulay wrote that the white men in Sierra Leone were the “natural advisers” of the black settlers.

In an eerie repetition of the tax disputes between the British King George III and the American Colonies, Harry Washington and his fellow settlers considered themselves British subjects and expected the equal rights of British subjects living in a British colony. Three of the elected Tithingmen presented a petition to the King’s representative on the West African coast, asking the King to rescind the quit rent. The petition was turned over to Governor Macaulay who ignored it, but advised the Sierra Leone Company not to collect the rent for the short term.

For a brief but peaceful time in early 1798, a  relaxed and industrious calm settled over Sierra Leone, especially with Governor Macaulay preparing to leave for England.  Then the Sierra Company directors issued an edict stating that the quit rent had to be paid. Outgoing Governor Macaulay informed the settlers that the Company had drawn up new titles including the quit rent conditions and they had to apply for the new titles by December 15, 1798. Every family except about a dozen refused, even though they knew that their children could no longer attend the Company school.

Harry Washington, by now a successful farmer, learned that his land had been listed as reallocated under a new grant register that left off the names of the people who refused to pay the tax. The Sierra Leone colony seethed with discontent. In a later report Governor Macaulay’s replacement, 23 year old Governor Thomas Ludlam, wrote that after the quit rent controversy, “the colony had no peace.”

After Governor Macaulay left in April 1799, the Sierra Leone colony settlers acted independently and elected a judge and two justices of the peace and the elected Hundreds and Tithingmen formed a makeshift bicameral parliament that passed laws governing the daily management of the Freetown and the Granville Town, the other Sierra Leone Company settlement. The settlers considered themselves to be independent settlers of the Colony. They didn’t know that the Sierra Leone Company had appointed former governor Zachary Macaulay the permanent Secretary of the Company and that he had applied to the British Parliament for a royal charter giving the Sierra Leone Company formal jurisdiction over the Sierra Leone colony. Once granted a royal charter, the directors of the Sierra Leone Company would no longer have to worry about the elections and “assumption” of the colonists.

Thomas Ludlam Takes Over as Governor

While the Sierra Leone Company applied for a royal charter, it also negotiated to bring approximately 500 Maroon warriors from Jamaica to settle in Sierra Leone. The British had not defeated the Maroons in the Maroon War of 1795, but the Maroons had accepted a treaty offer from the British commander that the colonial government had later repudiated. The British deported the Maroons to Nova Scotia, but the climate of Nova Scotia didn’t agree with the Maroons any more than it had with the Black Royalists, and the Maroon chiefs petitioned the British government for a better place to live. The British government quickly accepted the Sierra Leone Company’s offer of settlement land for the Maroons and gave them money to fortify Government House in Freetown and garrison a detachment of soldiers in the colony.

When Thomas Ludlam officially took over as governor of Sierra Leone in November 1799, he didn’t tell the settlers about the impending arrival of the Maroon warriors. Instead, he removed the restrictions that defying the quit rents had placed on the settler’s children attending school, and then he removed the rent itself. The son of a mathematician, Governor Ludlam had worked the sums proving that the quit rent forced the settlers to pay the full value of their land every twenty years. He didn’t collect any rent money and he argued that it never could be collected.

Governor Ludlam also informed the settlers that the Sierra Leone Company would not permit or acknowledge their judicial appointments. He called a meeting on May 20, 1800, to explain why he had to reject their appointments, presenting the British argument that a judge had to be literate and versed in English law. He added that under the royal charter that the Sierra Leone Company was drawing up in England, the King would make all decisions and if the settlers didn’t accept his decisions, they would be tried for treason. He didn’t mention that the Company was sending a detachment of soldiers to Freetown for its protection and to uphold the charter and he also didn’t tell them that over 500 Maroons with a reputation for aggressive fighting, were scheduled to arrive in the Sierra Leone Colony within a few months.

The Sierra Leone settlers decided they had to move immediately for independence. On September 3, 1800, almost all of the heads of the black families in Freetown gathered to create a new code of laws for trading practices, animal care and farming practices and domestic and social behavior. They decided that the governor’s authority extended only to the Sierra Leone  Company’s business.

A few weeks later, Governor Thomas Ludlam heard disturbing stories of meetings “of a most seditious and dangerous nature.” Calling a meeting of his own at his house with all of the Sierra Leone Company employees, thirty loyal settlers, and all of the African seamen from the Company ships, he told them he would “form a strong guard and assist the civil power in the execution of its warrants.”

That night he displayed a new code of laws and the next day a crowd of curious people gathered around the display. A group of settlers gathered in one of the houses to discuss the new laws. The inexperienced and frightened young governor sprang into action, sending a group of loyal black setters that he had deputized and armed as marshals to arrest several men on charges of treason. Just as the meeting ended, the marshals broke into the house.

The marshals managed to arrest three men, but about forty escaped from Freetown and established camp by the bridge on the road to Granville Town near Harry Washington’s farm. Some accounts say that Harry joined them at their camp, and others say that the men went to his farmhouse and drew him into their ranks. The next day Governor Ludlam posted rewards for the supposed traitors and the Sierra Leone Company portrayed the men as dangerous rebels who wanted to kill the company employees and the loyal settlers.

The “dangerous rebels” were all middle aged and they had some guns, but no ammunition. On September28 or 29, they stole powder and shot from a farm and a gun and some powder from the governor’s farm probably to hunt game for food. Sixty year old Harry Washington was not a young, hot headed rebel, and perhaps with the wisdom of his years but not enough insight into the character of his adversaries, he believed they would listen to reason.

Governor Ludlam’s Military Tribunal Finds the Rebels Guilty

On September 30, 1800, the large British transport ship Asia carrying over 500 Maroons and 47 soldiers from the Twenty-Fourth Regiment anchored in Freetown harbor. The Maroon chiefs called on Governor Ludlam the next day to discuss their land grants and found all of the Sierra Leone Company employees huddled together and protected by an armed guard. Governor Ludlam told the Maroons that the rebellion would put their promised land grants in jeopardy. He didn’t tell the Maroons that the “rebellion” was a dispute over the rights of settlers between the Sierra Leone Company and exiles from Nova Scotia, like themselves According to Ludlam’s diary, the Maroon chiefs offered to hunt the rebels.

After the Maroons had helped to hunt down and capture the rebels, Governor Ludlam presented them with the land grant agreement and they refused to sign it. When the Maroons found out about the quit rent, they opposed it with as much vigor as the Black Royalists did.

Thanks to the martial vigor of the Maroons, within a week of the rebellion Governor Ludlam had 31 men in custody, but he still did not have the charter of justice from the King that would authorize him to try the rebels on criminal charges. Desiring to avoid paying for the upkeep of his prisoners, he established a military tribunal composed of an officer from the Asia and two officers from the Twenty-Fourth Regiment. The court martial convened on October 10, 1800, trying each of the prisoners for “open and unprovoked rebellion.”

Six of the settlers were sent to the British slave fort of Goree for life. Harry Washington and 23 of his companions were banished across the Sierra Leone River to the Bullom Shore. The directors of the Sierra Leone Company felt fully justified in endorsing the Tribunal’s actions, rejoicing that Sierra Leone had gotten rid of the upstart rebels with outlandish notions about their rights as free men.

Harry Washington spent the rest of his life away from the Sierra Leone colony that he had fought so hard to create, dying on the Bullom Shore within a few years of his exile. The American Revolution had refined and defined Harry Washington and his struggles for freedom. The fact that he fought again for the same freedom twenty years after fighting in the American Revolution might have surprised his former master George Washington who didn’t seem to understand the drive for freedom in black as well as white hearts, but it shouldn’t have surprised him at all.


W.W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 7. Charlottesville, 1990.

Burnside, Madeline & Rosemarie Robotham, Spirits of the Passage: The Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Seventeenth Century, New York NY, Simon & Schuster Editions, 1997.

Egerton, Douglas R. Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Jasanoff, Maya. Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World.Alfred Knopf, 2011.

Kaplan, Sidney, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution 1770-1800, Washington DC, New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1973.

Pybus, Cassandra. Epic Journeys of Freedom:  Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty. Beacon Press, 2007.

Royster, Charles. The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company: A Story of George Washington’s Times. New York, 1999.

Schama, Simon.  Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution New York: Ecco, 2006

Walker, James W. St. G.  The Black Loyalists: The Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierrra Leone, 1783-1870. University of Toronto Press, 1992


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