Monday, June 19, 2017

Rebecca Garrett 'freed', then retaken 20 years later

Rebecca Garrett's mother was freed by Sarah (Cord) Anderson in her 1805 will.  Later, Rebecca spent about 20 years living free in Baltimore with her freedman husband William Garrett and ten children.  Thomas Anderson and son Isaac reclaimed Rebecca and some of her children in 1849.  She was freed by a Baltimore County court, but on appeal, was returned to the Andersons.

Rebecca was born to 'Beck' a slave of the Cord family and given to Sarah Cord when she was 5 or 6 years old.  Sarah Cord's will of Sept. 10,1805 (2 years before she married Thomas Anderson) gave Beck her freedom four years after Sarah's death (c1819) but did not mention Rebecca.

Rebecca married (probably in the 1820s) and Thomas Anderson "not having constant employment for her, he permitted her to live with her husband, one William Garrett, a free negro. That several years afterwards, said William Garrett being about to remove to the city of Baltimore."  Anderson “agreed to hire her to her husband, and Garrett …promised to pay a certain sum, yearly…” however, agreed that TA could take "her, or any child or children she might afterwards have, from the possession of the said William Garrett, without any previous notice."

The Garretts had a total of 10 children (a few born before the agreement).  Rebecca was captured with 8 of them at 1:00 (AM!) on Feb 18, 1849 by Isaac and several policemen and taken back to Marriottsville. TA stated that he had stopped demanding the yearly payment as the Garrett family was growing larger, and "frequently supplied Rebecca and her children with provisions and whatever else necessary to their support, his farm afforded."  So why did he suddenly reclaim them?  Thomas Anderson "when having heard that one of them was about to escape into Pennsylvania, he did, acting under the advice of counsel, seize and take them into his possession as stated above." 

A petition of freedom was filed on March 8, 1849 for Rebecca Garrett and her children by attorney Benjamin C Presstman in the Baltimore County court.  It stated that since she had been free for so long "with the knowledge of their owner" they were entitled to be free.

The Andersons went to the Court of Appeals in June 1850 which ruled (14 pages) that the Baltimore County court had no standing, since the case must be tried at the county of residence, so the Baltimore County court could not free Rebecca Garrett and her children.

Sadly, I could find no court case held in Howard district/county.  (I searched records at the Md State Archives) Furthermore, a slave listing in 1864 showed Isaac Anderson owned 39 slaves, 10 with the last name of Garrett.

Thomas Anderson (1772-c1859) and Sarah Cord (c1780s-c1819) married on April 6, 1807, had one child Issac and lived on their Marriottsville farm in the Howard district of Anne Arundel County, although the existing home is thought to have been built in the 1820s.  Sarah wrote her will in 1805 (2 years before her marriage), appointed John Cord (sheriff 1809-12, probably her brother) as executor and died c1819 when John Cord sold her slaves.  Isaac Cord Anderson (1809-1870) never married and lived at the home.

Sarah Cord Anderson's will 1805
"Item. My will and desire is, that all my negroes be liberated and set free, and is by this my will liberated and set free from bondage, in the manner and form following: that is to say, that my negro man Tom, my negro man Joshua, and my negro woman Phebe, be free to all intents and purposes, from the date of my decease; 
my negro woman Beck [Rebecca Garrett's mother], and my negro man Basil, to be free at the expiration of four years from the date of my decease
my negro boy Levi, my negro boy David, my negro girl Sewj, my negro girl Mariah, my negro girl Elizabeth, my negro girl Matilda, my negro boy Elias, my negro child William, all and each of them to be free when they arrive at the age of twenty-five years, them and their issue or increase forever."

"Mysterious Disappearance"
 On "Sunday evening" Feb 18, 1849 from 1:00-2:00 am at her home on Salisbury St, near Hartford run in Baltimore, Rebecca Garrett and 8 of her children where taken.

First trial
A Baltimore correspondent of the Tribune relates an interesting incident:— Our County Court was engaged for several days last week in hearing a petition of a colored woman named Rebecca Garrett, and ten children, who claimed their freedom from a man named Isaac Anderson, of Howard District. The woman had been permitted to go at large for a period of twenty years, during which time she had married and raised a family of ten children. Her master then, seeing that she and her family were worth some three or four thousand dollars, claimed them as his property; to be disposed of as he saw proper. Several Quakers, however, took the matter in hand, and employing good counsel contested the case in a court of justice, which resulted in the Judge's charging the jury that if they believed the petitioners had been going at large for a long period, (without limitation,) doing acts inconsistent with slavery, with the knowledge of their owner, they were entitled to their freedom; and so the jury rendered their verdict. The case will be taken to the Court of Appeals by the owner, however. This verdict is a great triumph of justice in Maryland, as it reverses the old accepted law, that a party could let his slaves act as free persons for years, and then, through caprice or avarice, seize them and sell them into bondage. It is one bright spot on the slave stained escutcheon of my native State, and argues a better change of feeling than I could have hoped for.
The Annual Report of the American and Foreign Antislavery Society.  NY: 1851  

Appeal court ruling for Thomas Anderson vs. Rebecca Garrett et al.
The 14 page ruling  HERE

Howard County slave index of 1864
Isaac Cord Anderson's Garrett slaves-

Serena     35    healthy
Betsy       33
Sally        10 unsound
Ruth        30
Louisa     11
Richard     8
Estele        6
Matilda   22  unhealthy
John        26    drafted (Civil War, union)
Joseph     20
Habeas corpus
The Garrett’s “application for a writ of habeas corpus, made by the petitioners against one J. S. Donovan [Baltimore slave trader]…”

Habeas corpus - an order allowing a jailed person to come before a court to determine the reason.  Famously suspended in Maryland by Lincoln during the Civil War.  Previously used in 1772 by Lord Mansfield to free a Jamaican slave brought to the US; and while other fugitive slaves had used it, the most famous is the Supreme Court decision on Dred Scott in 1857.

Joseph S. Donovan - entered the Baltimore to New Orleans slave trade in 1843 and by 1852 sent 2,113 slaves on 65 ships.  In 1858 he erected a new jail/'pen' at Eutaw & Camden and his residence, where he died in April of 1861.

"CASH FOR NEGROES.                 
The undersigned continues, at his old stand, No. 13 CAMDEN ST., to pay the highest price for NEGROES. Persons bringing Negroes by railroad or steamboat will find it very convenient to secure their Negroes, as my Jail is adjoining the Railroad Depot and near the Steamboat Landings. Negroes received for safe keeping. J. S. DONOVAN."
Stowe, Harriet Beecher.  A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, v. 2.  1853
Cash for Blood: The Baltimore to New Orleans Domestic Slave Trade. Bowie, MD: 2002

©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD

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