The Foxes, McDonalds, and Washingtons, 1850-1865
The following three accounts reflect three different degrees of relations between the enslaved and the enslaver. The Washington family were lifelong supporters of the American Colonization Society and the education of African Americans. The Johnson family was close to the Washingtons to the 20th century. The letter from Georgiana Washington, who was a servant at Cedar Lawn, before a breakup of the estate forced her sale to a new owner in New Orleans, indicates her literacy supported by the Washington family, descendants of the General’s brother, Samuel.
The Dandridge and Fox families have also been close through time. A chance encounter in recent decades by a Fox family member who was a chaplain at John’s Hopkins’ University Hospital in Baltimore and a member of the white Dandridge family resulted in their visiting together the Bower, the Dandridge ancestral home. Stephen Dandridge and succeeding generations depended from 1870 through the early 1970s on three generations of Shepherdstown’s prominent black family, the Washingtons. Mrs. Bertha Fox Jones’ use of the phrase “brood woman,” indicates a systemic creating “of wealth” in the form of newborn, enslaved children. Doug Taylor, whose descendants lived in Front Royal, said before his death that at least one large slaveowner there maintained a separate family with an enslaved black woman in a series of cabins along the river there. As they grew up, Taylor said the owner sent some of them to England to be educated.
The Drews and McDonalds worked for the Lucases for many years. But the Gothic account given by Norman McDonald, as told him by his grandmother, shows there were “bad apples” too. – ED.
(This letter was found in the Henry Shepherd house in Shepherdstown and was reprinted
in “West Virginia and Regional History Collection Newsletter,” Vol. 3, No. 1, West Virginia University Library, Spring, 1987, pp. 3 and 4.)
“Mrs. Mary Ellen Lucas
Care of Richard Johnson
Harpers Ferry Va.
“New Orleans June 8, 1860
“My dear Miss Mary Ellen Lucas
“I have taken this present opportunity to write to you a few lines and to tell you where I am. I am now in New Orleans. When I first left home the first place I arrived at was Baltimore. I was then placed in the jail for safe keeping in which I staid for two weeks. I left Baltimore on a monday and arrived at New Orleans on the following Sunday. Their I was put in the trader-yard, I am not certain how long I staid there, but it was not long. I was sold to Judge Kennedy whom I like very much for my master. I am washing and ironing. I like to wash and iron very much an is very hot in New Orleans but I am now nearly climated and the heat does not go so hard with me as it did. I would be perfectly happy if I could see you all some times
“My little brother Brent was taken from me six months ago and I have not seen or heard from since. My dear miss Mary Ellen give my very best love to your grandmother - and tell her I hope she has got over the grief of their taken Buckhannan away from her and I hope he is a good boy and goes to school and learns his lessons very well Oh my dear Miss Mary Ellen how I wish you all would come and live in New Orleans and I could see you often but as there is no hope for that I wish you would send me your likeness if you cannot do that send me a peice of your’s [hair] -Mr Roberts Buckhanannan's and Miss Tenas’s and my dear mother’s.
“Give my best love to Mr Robert Buchannan Miss Tenas your grandmother Mrs Sarah Lucas and her family Miss Virginia Miss Evangelina and all her family Miss Punch Miss betty and tell her I want to see her very much indeed. Sally was sold six hundred miles above me on the coast and she is sold as a cook and she is very proud of her new situation Kiss all I have mentioned in my letter Give my love to all I have mentioned in my letter and all I have forgotten to mention good by
“Your affectionate servant
“Give my love to Mr John and My dear Mother you cannot tell how I have longed to see you pleas send me a peice of your hair for I have nothing to remember you by except the white skirt and sack which you gave me some time ago give my best love to aunt Die and to Aunt Wymarie and tell them I wish them all the good luck in the world give my love to Maria [Lorn] and tell her I have herde from her cousin Basil Robertson and he is a clerk on a steam boat as a clerk and sais he would not come back to virginia if he could. Tell Charles Morgan I have not forgotten him and I have seen Mr. Melvin’s Margaret and she sends her best love to him and said she has a child which she has named after him. Give my best love to my grand-mother and to uncle charles. Tell goodbye and kiss them for me. I hope my dear mother you have not forgotten me your affectionate daughter.
Interview with Bertha Fox Jones, May, 2002
(See J.E.B. Stuart at the Bower)
(“Grandmother Mary” is actually Mrs. Jones great-grandmother, although people customarily shorten it.)
“Now getting back – as I said our people was at the Bower, you see, we learned that. And all we know is that grandmother’s first name was Mary – that’s all we know, was Mary. In Virginia, they decided that they were gonna’ stop buyin’ slaves having them shipped over here because they come over here on all those boats all tied, they get sick and everything, so that many of them would die. So they said: ‘We will take so many of these women and we will just have children.’ Called ‘em brood women. Let them bear the children here. And they picked her (Mary) for one, but she refused it. So of course you don’t tell your masters what you’re not gonna do. Uncle Dewey Fox (aged 100, who was a true grandson of Mary Fox, and received this account from his father - ED) said the last they saw of their Mother she was in a wagon with one horse pullin’ it, tied in there and they were beatin’ her. So these four were left in the cabinet (“cabin”- ED). Up on the Bower there’s a house that’s called the Fox’s house, so that’s where they were. . . Somebody - I heard this from Uncle Dewey because he spoke for black history month down here at Summit Point - he said somebody told the mistress as she was looking out the window: ‘There were four little Foxes in that cabinet.’ She (the mistress of the house) got the market basket ‘cause she thought they were talking about animals. And they were these little Negro children. So of course she told the master. So he said: ‘Well just bring ‘em on up here and he put ‘em in the kitchen. And they would take a tub, like foot tub, put bread in it, milk, pour milk in there and they ate with the cats and dogs under the kitchen table. One was named Umford, one was named Benjamin, one was named Steve, one was named John, and a girl named Mary, that she (the mistress) named after her mother. (1870 Jefferson County Census Records show a “Mary Fox” was born in 1856. - ED). Sometimes the mistress would wipe their mouths with fat so it looked like they ate when they hadn’t, she didn’t always like them in the main house. But by being at the big house they learned to talk, they learned to read, they learned things. When you’re around, you pick up things. They were not back there in the field somewhere. Benjamin became a preacher in Virginia, one of them became a cook, the other, I think we would say, like a butler. If you saw ‘Roots’ he was like ‘Chicken John.’ And as I said the girl they lost trace of her; and Steve, last thing they know, he went to Ohio.
“My grandfather was John Fox. The Underground railroad ran right through there that B&O track (in the Jefferson Orchard, Route 9, and Fox Glen vicinity - ED) – and that train would go up there and stop somewhere but those train cars would be down below where Stewarts (Jefferson Orchard) have their fruit orchard and Bardane and that was all thickets and growed up. They would stop there. There was no big road there then. Grandfather would go there and take the hay, straw, whatever, off of the slave, water ‘em, feed ‘em and cover ‘em up, and, see, as soon as they got in Pennsylvania they were free.
Grandfather John say he bought the oxen and cut lumber and if you would read the history of St. Paul’s Church (an African-American church in Kearneysville on route 9), it was John Fox, my grandfather. Three or four men bought that piece of land where that church is and John Fox gave a lot of that lumber. So that is why my daddy always stuck to that church. John Fox lived and he married a girl from Kearneysville. Her last name be Washingtons.”
There is a large metal collar fitting the description given by Mr. McDonald, which Doug Bast of Boonsboro purchased from the Lucas family earlier in the 20th century and is displayed in his museum on Main Street. A review of the Census Records suggests that Mr. McDonald is actually referring not to Vince Lucas, who was not a farmer and too young to have been in this account. The overseer may have been Vince Lucas’ father, Sheriff Robert A. Lucas, who farmed and lived from 1815 to 1883. – ED.
“That's the story my grandma told when she was over here. She wasn't nothin’ but a girl when she worked here. Morare Drew McDonald. His name was Vince Lucas -- he was the overseer and owner -- buying the slaves and things, you see. A man ran away and Lucas went after him on his horse. When he brought him back, Mr. Lucas put a metal collar on him. It was a metal band around his neck and had two spurs, and grandma said, behind his ears so he couldn't turn his head. You'd have to turn your whole body. So they left it on him until the summertime and they worked sores around his ears and flies going, and maggots got in it. And the law made him take it off of him. So I think he took him (the black man with the collar - ED) to an old blacksmith shop down the hill here, they took him down to the blacksmith shop, lay his head on the anvil took - and cut it off, this band around his neck. This was punishment in the first place because the feller left, you see. And he left and he (Lucas) went after him, took off of him on a horse. Grandmother told me this. So the law told him (Lucas) not to let the horse run with the man on foot and tied to the horse. So when he got his horse outside of Charles Town, he hit his horse. There was a dirt road, there was no road there like there is now, lots of rocks and things. And he hit the horse and the horse started runnin.’ A rope was tied to the stirrup on his saddle and it jerked the man and he fell down. And when this fella got there (to Cold Spring) he was dead. He drug him to death.
“So Grandma was six years old when she was over there (about 1860). She worked in the kitchen. She was a Drew, Morare Drew, she had two brothers Uncle Ben and Uncle Henry. She had sisters, Aunt Ellen and Aunt Lucy, both married a Robinson in Shepherdstown. And Aunt Bett. She’s (Morare) been dead more than forty years. She was 84 when she died.
“Later here in the house and Mr. Lucas got sick. And laying in the bed. Grandma went up to him and his arm dropped off his shoulder, his arm just dropped off on the floor. When you get real old your skin gets like paper sometimes. And Grandma said: “What’s your arm doin’ laying on the floor? I didn’t know you had a bad arm.” She was goin’ to pick it up and put it in the bed. And he said “Leave it be. It dropped off in hell.” That’s all he said. And she walked out the room. This was just before he died. I guess he knowed he’d done so much stuff that wasn’t right that there wasn’t no place in Heaven for him. People know when they’ve done the wrong thing. He had a goatee. They used to have a picture of him. My grandmother kept a picture of him in her trunk. Her sister took her trunk. Where it went from there, I don’t know. He had a Bible with all our names in it and everything.
“And he used to take a fella, a black fella, and beat him and he used put him the basement and there were wooden plugs on the floor, sharpened. The plugs were just close enough together where he couldn’t put his feet between them. And there was only enough room for you to stay standin’ only on the sides of your feet. He couldn’t move around any. So he left him in there one night. My grandmother used to tell us these stories all the time.”