Monday, February 13, 2017

Margaret Jane Blake bought her freedom, her life in a book

"Margy" Blake (1811-1880) was the daughter of Charlotte and Perry Blake - he was a free African-American and a Marine during the War of 1812.  She was born a slave of Jesse and Sarah Levering and looked after one of their daughters, Sarah Levering. Blake bought her freedom in the 1850s, and was the subject of a book by Levering in 1897. Although Jesse Levering had a successful business in Baltimore, he died suddenly of cholera when Sarah was 7 years old, and his widow moved her young family to Ellicott City, and Margaret was sent to work for other families.

Before and after she bought her freedom, Blake worked for other families including Baltimore businessman Walter Booth Brooks. When Brooks's daughter Eleanor ("Nellie" 1852-1922) married in 1873 Blake was part of the wedding procession, after which Blake moved to Chicago with Eleanor and William McCormick (1851-1941). During a return visit to Baltimore seven years later, Margaret fell ill and eventually died at the Baltimore Infirmary on March 10, 1880. More at docSouth

Jesse Levering (1773-1832) owned a home in Baltimore, a business "Jesse Levering and Sons," married twice and had 15 children.  He married a second time to a Levering cousin, Sarah Brown (1782-1847) in 1803 and she had 11 children, including Sarah Rebecca Levering (1825-1906).  He died of cholera in 1832, and they moved to Ellicott City in 1841 where her mother died six years later, then Sara moved to Hartford County.  It was in Hartford County where Blake registered her freedom and where "Dingley Dell" farm was located - the recipient of the funds from the booklet.

 "The proceeds from the sale of this booklet will be appropriated to the improvement of "Dingley Dell," the farm upon which the Presbytery of Baltimore proposes to establish a manual labor school for the benefit of the Afro-American citizens, as they prefer being called"

Sarah Rebecca Levering wrote a book which contained her recollection of Margaret Blake's life 17 years after Blake died when Levering was over 70.  Recent books which have used the info from the 1897 book have confused many of the details; including the book Finding Charity's Folk: enslaved and free black women in Maryland by Jessica Millward, 2015.

To read online:  Memoirs of Margaret Jane Blake of Baltimore Maryland and Selections in Prose and Verse. by Sarah R. Levering, Phila: 1897  HERE
©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD

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