Friday, November 27, 2009

REGISTERED IN THE CHANCERY OF HEAVEN: The Marriage of Nelson Talbot Gant and Anna Maria Hughes

Whether with “Bible,” “broomstick,” or simply “bargain,” slave marriage was a sacred contract. Yet you don’t have to read many books on slavery, or slave narratives, to see that slave unions were frequently and repeatedly broken, either by slave owner or slave. What follows is how the validity of one slave marriage was upheld in a Virginia court of law.

Historians have long debated the notion of slave marriages. There was no law defining it and none forbidding it. The dominant legal system, of course, did not recognize the legitimacy of slave marriages, while some churches, as well as many in the slave community itself, considered such marriages binding. In addition to being the subject of many academic treatises, the debate has extended to the Internet. On one such online discussion forum, one member challenged others to provide a citation – any citation — that “documents where a court of law in any colony from Maryland and Delaware south . . . at any time, recognized a slave union as a legally binding contract, not only on the man and woman involved, but on their owner or owners.” Alternatively, he wrote, he would “settle for a case where a Christian minister … married a slave couple and was able to force the owner or owners to recognize the legally binding nature of the relationship, or convince a court to so rule.”i

Perhaps the case of Nelson Talbot Gant and his wife Anna Maria Hughes can serve as that example.

WHAT GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER . . .”

Nelson Talbot Gant was a former Virginia slave who upon his death in 1905 was called the most remarkable colored citizen of Muskingum County, Ohio.ii Those who are familiar with the story of N. T. Gant and who have visited his grave can’t help but be impressed by the grand monument that sits atop the grave of a man who had risen from slavery and poverty to a position of freedom, honor, and wealth within his adopted hometown. Some would think the marble obelisk a fitting symbol of the love and respect his family and community had this man who was called “one of the most remarkable men in [Zanesville’s] history [who] stood and will stand in a class by himself.iii

But they would be wrong – about the memorial that is. It stands not as a monument to honor the man but rather, it is this man’s enduring testament of a love for the woman who stood by his side through many trials and tribulations; it is his testament to the woman with whom he credits with “setting him on the Christian path” and with whom he had asked to “travel down life’s pathway with him, hand in hand, to rejoice with him when success greeted his efforts, and to sympathize with him when misfortunes came...iv” This woman, was Anna Maria Hughes, a “dark mulattov” with whom he had tied the marriage knot and it was said, bore him 12 children.vi The monument also serves as a reminder of the events that set them both on the road to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

Nelson Talbot Gant was born May 10, 1822 (although some records indicate alternative birth years of 1821 and 1823vii). His descendants have carried down a story of his birth in which Nelson was the half-white son of his owner and who was orphaned when his slave mother died giving birth to him.viii He allegedly was raised by Eve or Edith Gant,ix one of the two slave matriarchs on John Nixon’s farms. Nelson (or Talbot as he was called) grew to manhood on the largest of the farms called Woodburn Estate, located about three miles west of Leesburg, Virginia. Oral history maintains that Talbot had a special relationship with Mr. Nixon, possibly that of father and son.x Whatever the relationship, Talbot served in the capacity of body servant or valet to his master. It was probably with this proximity to John Nixon that Talbot would learn the sound business judgment and principles that would guide his future successes.

Anna Maria Hughes – or Maria as she was known – was born about 1826.xi When only two or three years old, she was among a group of slaves gifted by Sarah Elizabeth “Betsy” McCarty Russellxii to her three daughters Eliza, Sarah Elizabeth, and C.A.E. Jane Russell. Maria was raised in Leesburg among such prominent neighbors as the clerk of the Loudoun County court, several ministers, the state’s Commonwealth attorney, and a host of other attorneys, including John Janney, the Quaker lawyer who would later preside over the Virginia Secession Convention.xiii

The Rev. Bishop Daniel Payne, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, noted that Talbot had come to the church as an adult but that Maria had come by her faith early.xiv In her teens, perhaps as young as 12, Maria had been allowed to attend the Colored Sunday School of the Leesburg Methodist Church under the leadership of Deacon Samuel Gover, later a minister of the gospel.xv Her classmate, and likely friend, was Winifred Jane Gant of Woodburn and apparent daughter of Eve Gant.xvi It is very likely that it was through Winifred that Talbot met Mariaxvii.

In 1843, despite their condition – slavery – and the limitations imposed on formal slave relationships, Talbot and Maria were married. Although no formal record of the marriage or marriage banns has been found, the couple marked May 11 as their anniversary.xviii Living in the heart of Leesburg, Maria was a house servant who, like other house slaves close to their masters or mistress’, may have been favored with a wedding in the “big house” with “dress up clothing” and a “regular preacher.” However, it is doubtful that the couple celebrated their marriage by “jumping the broom” because the wedding was solemnized by a Methodist ministerxix, possibly the Rev. Samuel Gover, Maria’s Sunday school teacherxx. It was reported that the ceremony was held in the home of Maria’s owner, xxi although no record, oral or written, has been found that describes the wedding or whether a reception followed. However, it is possible that the event may have been celebrated in a manner similar to the 1862 slave marriage of the future Bishop Lucius Henry Holsey and Harriet Turner of Georgia:

"The Bishop's wife and daughters had provided for the occasion a splendid repast of good things to eat. The table, richly spread, with turkey, ham, cake, and many other good things, extended nearly the whole length of the spacious dining hall. 'The house girls' and ''the house boys' and the most prominent persons of color were invited to the wedding of the colored 'swells.' The ladies composing the Bishop's family dressed my bride in the gayest and most artistic style, with red flowers and scarlet sashes predominating in the brilliant trail."xxii

However celebrated, Talbot’s and Maria’s 1843 marriage, solemnized by a minister with the consent of both owners, would later come to play an important part in Talbot’s fight for his life and Maria’s bid for freedom.


LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER”

In September 1845, Talbot was freed by the will of John Nixon.xxiii Despite Virginia’s 1806 law that declared that any freed slave remaining in the Commonwealth more than 12 months after receiving his freedom shall forfeit that right and may be apprehended and sold,xxiv Talbot vowed to stay in Virginia until he could buy Maria’s freedom and take her with him. In July1846, the Potomac Furnace advertised for “one hundred wood choppers.xxv” Talbot may have answered that call, because according to various published sources, Talbot entered into a contract to cut 500 cords of wood at 40 cents a cord.xxvi But despite his best efforts, Talbot did not acquire any wealth. The 1846 personal property tax records for Loudoun County list Talbot without any personal or real property.xxvii Subsequent tax records for 1848, 1849, and 1850 report the same condition.xxviii

In early September 1846, twelve months after his manumission, Talbot was forced to leave Virginia. For reasons that will remain unknown, Talbot did not take advantage of an 1837 amendment to the 1806 Virginia law whereby any slave emancipated since May 1, 1806 could apply to the local court for permission to remain in Virginia.”xxix Given the climate of the times, perhaps Talbot dared not wait for the orderly process of the Loudoun Court where he would have to provide satisfactory proof that he was “of good character, peaceable, orderly, industrious, and not addicted to drunkenness, gaming or other vice.” Nor could he wait while a notice was posted for two months at the court house door and then wait for 3/4 of the justices to agree to permit him to remain within the Commonwealth.

Not wanting to leave without his wife of three years, Talbot pleaded with Maria’s owner, telling her that he “could not live in the West without the person who was more dear to him than all the world.”xxx The Russell sisters refused to free Maria. Unable to pay, Talbot reluctantly left Virginia, but not without first pledging to Maria that he would soon return for her.xxxi

Upon leaving Virginia, Talbot apparently began making his way to Zanesville – a logical choice because that was where most of the other 21 Nixon slaves had been relocated after their 1845 manumission.xxxii It is believed that Talbot took the National Road through Cumberland, Maryland, across the low ridge known as Negro Mountain because of the many slaves and free Negroes living there, and traveled east of Catoctin Mountain into Washington County, Pennsylvania. He stopped near Chambersburgh, Pennsylvania where he met Dr. Julius LeMoyne and his wife Madeline, conductors on the Underground Railroad.xxxiii, Although it is not known what brought Talbot and the LeMoynes together, Talbot’s 1847 letter to the doctor indicates a friendship of sorts had been struck between them. Although no record has been found of a relationship between the LeMoynes and Talbot’s benefactors in Loudoun, Samuel McPherson Janney, Loudoun teacher and Quaker anti-slavery advocate, provided in his 1881 memoirs evidence of a lesser studied Underground Railroad through Loudoun into Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. In his memoir, Janney wrote repeatedly of visiting Friends Meetings in southwestern Pennsylvaniaxxxiv in the spring 1845 and meeting “a considerable number of blacks” he knew.xxxv

It is presumed that Talbot then detoured north from Chambersburg to Pittsburgh where he met several people friendly to his plight, and with their assistance returned through Chambersburgh and “from thence directly back to Loudoun my old home”xxxvi – all within 6 weeks because records indicate that by October 10, 1846, Talbot and Maria both were sitting in a Washington, D.C. jail.xxxvii

When Talbot returned to Loudoun in early October 1846, arrangements had been made to spirit Maria out of Leesburg without the knowledge of her mistress. According to the decades-later account featured in the Zanesville [Ohio] Courier, Maria had been at the home of Loudoun County Clerk of the Court, Charles G. Eskridge, who dutifully but belatedly informed Miss Russell that Maria had “eloped from his home three days ago.xxxviii” The couple met in “Washington City,” D.C. where they were directed to the home of a “colored man” who gave them comfort, shelter — and betrayal.xxxix Talbot and Maria were arrested and jailed in Washington where Maria spent 8 days before being taken back to Leesburg; Talbot was in jail 13 daysxl awaiting his first trial. That short trial was canceled when Virginia Governor William Smith demanded Talbot’s return back to Leesburg for trial there.xli Maria then spent 22 days in the Leesburg jail where “every effort known to the master to make the slave confess” was being used to make her say that she had been induced by her lover to run away.xlii Those efforts failed; Maria told anyone who would listen that she had run away and that Talbot had followed her. xliii

Talbot sat more than a month in the Leesburg jail. He faced sale and transportation to the Southern states or prison. A 1798 Virginia criminal code declared that the punishment for stealing any Negro slave is confinement to the penitentiary.xliv Talbot’s second trial, scheduled for Loudoun’s November 1846 monthly court, was postponed when the local Commonwealth Attorney, Burr William Harrison (neighbor to Miss Russell and Mr. Eskridge), was unable to get witnesses to come to Leesburg.xlv The prosecutor’s third attempt to try Talbot on December 9, 1846, would prove to be pivotal. For that trial, he had three lawyers,xlvi among them Maria’s former neighbor John Janney. The defense first made an impassioned plea that Talbot’s actions were rooted in his love for Maria: "This man has been united in holy wedlock to a woman for whom he has evinced the strongest feelings of attachment. . . Their vows have been registered in the Chancery of Heaven; and shall we attempt to set the laws of man above the Divine law, by separating those whom God hath joined? . . . But if it were possible for the prisoner at the bar to step forth in the complexion and lineaments of the Anglo-Saxon race, there is not a man on that bench, nor in this assembly, who would not applaud the deed for which he now stands arraigned as a felon.”xlvii

Unsuccessful on that argument, the defense then opposed the prosecutor’s attempt to compel Maria to speak against Talbot, arguing: “In this case . . . the objections to receiving her testimony [are] unusually strong. She not only stands related to the prisoner at the bar as his wife, but she is a slave, under the power and control of her mistress. Suppose that mistress should say to her, if you do not give evidence to convict your husband, I will sell you to the traders, and you will be carried to the Southern States. I do not say that the mistress would use such a threat, but we know it is in her power, and we know, too, how great is the dread these people have of being sold to the Southern traders. Taking these considerations into view, I trust the court will not allow her evidence to be taken.”xlviii

Prosecutor Harrison objected and insisted that Maria was a “good and competent witness against the prisoner,” adding that it was a matter of every day practice to admit the evidence of Negro women slaves against those men they “termed” their husbands. Mr. Harrison argued that Maria was under control of the law that regards slaves not as persons but as property. It would, Harrison said, be “manifestly absurd” to recognize a relationship of this kind which interferes with the legal rights of the master, and contradicts all the laws which are made for the security of his property.xlix No doubt drawing on precedents from other states,l Harrison took the position that there is no lawful marriage for slaves, nor can they make a contract that their owners cannot annul.li

This last point was ably answered by Attorney Janney. He took the position that Maria and Talbot had been lawfully married with the consent of both owners.lii They were, he claimed, united in matrimony by a minister of the gospel in a marriage that, if not registered in the chancery of law, was most assuredly “registered in the chancery of Heaven.” Janney continued: “The opinion expressed by the prosecutor, that slaves cannot be married according to law, would tend to the general corruption of morals and the most enormous abuses. Can it be possible, that the whole colored population of Virginia are living in a state of concubinage? No; it is the intention of the law to promote public morals, and not to degrade them . . . Maria is the lawful wife of the prisoner; and it is a point well established, that in a case like this, the testimony of a wife cannot be taken either for or against her husband. The reason is obvious: it would present so great an inducement to perjury that no court would be justifiable in subjecting a human being to so strong a temptation.”liii

The court agreed and Maria was not compelled to testify. Talbot was acquittedliv after the court rejected the testimony of a second witness.lv

MORE THAN THE USUAL HAZARDS OF MATRIMONY”

Within two months of the trial, the sisters Russell agreed to release Maria from bondage. Maria’s manumission, recorded Valentine’s Day 1847, is made in the name of “Ann Maria Gant, wife of Talbut Gant,”lvi an open acknowledgement of Maria and Talbot’s clearly legal relationship. Talbot’s friends helped him raise $500 of the $775 purchase price – almost double the value placed on her by the court two months previouslylvii. Talbot borrowed the remainder from Mr. Thomas Nichols, for whom he and Maria would work until 1850 to repay the monies borrowedlviii. Nichols, along with John Janney, was the co-executor of John Nixon’s will.lix John Janney also was cousin to Samuel McPherson Janney, with whom Talbot and Maria would live until 1850.lx

Talbot’s and Maria’s tribulations did not end there. While working to repay his benefactors, Talbot was indicted by the Grand Jury for remaining in the state more than 12 months after regaining his freedom.lxi He was required to appear before the court to answer the indictment. But it appears that the court was unsuccessful in serving the bill of indictment because for every Quarter term that the court met, the case was continued to the next term of the Grand Jury.lxii During this time, Talbot may have been under the de facto protection of Samuel McPherson Janney, with whom he was “enumerated” during the annual personal property tax assessments for 1848, 1849, and 1850lxiii. In the June 1850 term of the court, the Grand Jury indictment against Talbot was dismissedlxiv and the certificate of freedom for 20-month old freeborn daughter, Mary E. J. Gant, was registered.lxv

Sometime after 9 June 1850, Talbot, Maria, and daughter Mary, left Loudoun and began to make their way to Zanesville, Ohio where old family and friends awaited.lxvi It appears they arrived in the full blush of falllxvii, with 50 cents in their pocket.lxviii Their arrival in Muskingum County, Ohio no doubt was delayed due to promises they made — the young family may have stopped in Washington County, Pennsylvania to visit with the LeMoynes and other friends along the way.lxix Once in Ohio, Talbot and Maria settled in Falls Township, just outside the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio, where they prospered and raised and educated a family. Together, they made many new friends, among them the Rev. Bishop Daniel Paynelxx, Mr. Frederick Douglasslxxi, and an old Irish woman who had not forgotten the kindness that Maria had lavished on her in her time of needlxxii.

When Maria died on October 11, 1877 in Yorktown, Virginia, more than 30 years had passed since those early tests to the strength of their love and marriage. Talbot had Maria’s body brought back to Zanesville where she was buried at the top of Gant Circle in Woodlawn Cemetery. Within a few days of his death on July 14, 1905, Talbot was interred next to Maria. There exist today few enduring monuments to love. India’s Taj Mahal is perhaps the most famous, built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal. On a much less grander scale sits the white marble obelisk Talbot had erected atop Gant Circle to mark the final resting place of his beloved Maria.

CONCLUSION

Slave couples planning to marry had more than the usual hazards of matrimony to face. As one former slave stated, “God made marriage, but de white man made de law.”lxxiii In slavery, as in every other aspect of human interaction, laws are commonly illustrated, or even extended, by court decisions. But decisions such as the one in the case of Nelson Talbot Gant and Anna Maria Hughes do not seem to have reflected the prevailing opinion in the slaveholding community or to have served in any important sense as a precedent in future cases. There is no record of the case being cited as precedent in later cases. Rather, it simply appears as an interesting but not very significant aberration of what was common legal practice.lxxiv


ENDNOTES

i Chesson, Michael; e-mail dated March 12, 1996. “Slave Marriages, “H-South Network, an electronic discussion group dedicated to the scholarly exploration of southern history.

ii “Nelson T. Gant rose from slavery to become wealthy, respected,” Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio, Saturday, February 10, 1996, page 6A.

iii Ibid.

ivA Scrap of History,” The Courier, Thursday, August 16, 1888, page 2; Zanesville, Ohio.

v Record of Free Negroes, Loudoun County, Virginia. Certificate number 1406, dated 14 February, 1847. Page 51

vi Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County, Ohio, Embracing an Authentic and Comprehensive Account of the Chief Events in the History of the County and a Record of the Lives of Many of the Most Worthy Families and Individuals, Chicago, Illinois. The Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1892. Page 462

vii Record of Free Negroes, Loudoun County, Virginia, Certificate number 1333, dated 9 September 1845, page 25. Talbot’s manumission supports a birth year of 1822, as do a biographical sketch published in the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County for 1892 [see previous note]. Other references, such as newspaper articles and historical biographies, cite a birth year of 1821, while several documents infer a birth year of 1823. An examination of the U.S. federal population censuses for Muskingum County, Ohio reflect this difference. For example, the 1860 return implies a birth year of 1823 while the returns for 1870 through 1900 imply a birth year of 1821, respectively.

viii. “Oral Interview with Margarette Goss Winn,” 26 July 1982, by Victoria J. Robinson, Alexandria, Virginia. Notes in possession of author. Ms. Winn, Talbot and Maria’s great-granddaughter, spoke of how Talbot’s unnamed mother had died alone in childbirth on the path leading from her slave quarters to her Master’s home.

ix At ages 53 and 70, respectively, Eve Gant and Sarah Anderson, are presumed to have presided over two of the three distinct family groupings among the Nixon slaves. In 1847, both women received deeds to land in Muskingum County, Ohio, in accordance with the provisions outlined in slave owner John Nixon’s, recorded in Loudoun County, Virginia, 8 September 1845.

x Oral Interview with Margarette Goss Winn, Ibid.

xi Loudoun County Record of Free Negroes, Certificate number 1406, Ibid. The clerk describes Ann Maria as 19, indicating a birth year of 1826. The 1829 deed of gift from Sarah Russell to her daughters [see Note 12] in which Anna Maria is described not as an infant but rather as “Maria, a girl” also supports a birth year of 1825 or 1826. However, the 1870 U.S. Population Census for Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio states that Ann M. Gant was a 41-year old mulatto female, indicating a birth year of 1828 or 1829. The 1860 census, taken 14 July 1860, indicates a similar birth year. Yet her gravestone says she was born in 1823. However, if Maria was born as late as 1829, she only would have been 13 at her 1843 marriage. It is more probable she was at least 16, supporting a birth year of 1826.

xii Deed Book, Loudoun County, Virginia, Volume 3S, page 130. Deed of gift dated 5 June 1829, Sarah M. Russell to her daughters Eliza, Sarah E., and C.A.E. Jane Russell. Sarah M. was the wife of John Russell and the daughter of Thaddeus and Sarah Elizabeth (Richardson) McCarty.

xiii 1850 U.S. Population Census, Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, page 349. Neighbors included Burr Harrison, Commonwealth Attorney; John Janney, Lawyer; Charles Eskridge, County Clerk; and George Adie and William Evans, Ministers.

xiv “Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Anna Maria Gant by Bishop Payne,” The Christian Recorder, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 11, 1878; page 2, column 6.

xv Leesburg Methodist Church Minutes, Returns of the Leesburg Station for the Conference Year Ending March 1843. The minutes show that the students in Coloured Class No. __ included Anna Maria Hughes and Winifred Jane Gant. The Deacon was Samuel Gover. The returns for 1844 show that Winifred Gant and Anna M. Hughes were in attendance in Colored Class No. 3. Samuel Gover is listed among the Methodist ministers serving Loudoun County in 1843.

xvi Record of Free Negroes. Loudoun County, Virginia, 9 September 1845, pages 25-32. It is widely believed that the seven Gant slaves (excluding Nelson) freed on that date were the children of Eve Gant. Most of them were enumerated in George and Eve Gant’s household in 1850 census for Monroe Township, Muskingum County, Ohio.

xvii Woodburn Estate, formerly Milbourne, home farm of John Nixon, was located near Hughes’ Store, three miles west of Leesburg, Virginia.

xviii Lewis, Zanesville and Muskingum County, Ibid

xix “An Interesting Case and an Important Decision,” The National Era, (Washington, D.C.,) 7 January 1847. Vol. I, No. 1, page 4. Martin Luther King Library, Washington, D.C. This article discusses the case of “The Commonwealth of Virginia versus Talbott,” as it was reported in the Loudoun (Va.) Chronicle of December 25, 1846. The case had been tried at the December 1846 term of the Loudoun County court. Extant copies of the Chronicle for December 1846 have not been found.

xx National Era, Ibid

xxi National Era, Ibid.

xxii Georgia in Black And White: Explorations in the Race Relations of a Southern State, 1865-1950. John C. Inscoe, ed., The University of Georgia Press, 1994. p. 109

xxiii Will of John Nixon, Virginia Will Book, Loudoun County, volume 2B, recorded 8 September 1845. Also, certificate 1333 in the Record of Free Negroes states that Talbot was “emancipated by the last will and testament of John Nixon, dec’d.”

xxiv Shepherd, Virginia Statutes at Large, III, 252; Chapter 63, passed January 25, 1806; in effect May 1, 1806.

xxv The Washingtonian Newspaper, 11 July 1846, page 6t. Microfilm of original at Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia.

xxvi Lewis, Thomas W., Zanesville and Muskingum County, Ohio: A History of the Indians Who Trod this Section Ere the White Man Came; of the Making of City and County by the Heroic Pioneers, and the Growth of Local Civilization During Six Score Fruitful Years, Volume II, Chicago, Illinois. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1927, page 530.

xxvii Personal Property Tax Records, Loudoun County, Virginia, June 1846.

xxviii Loudoun County Personal Property Tax Lists: 1848B Second District, Ghant, Tolbert (free negro) residing with Janney, Samuel M. & son John and Janney, Francis; 1849A Second District, Ghant, Nelson residing with Janney, Samuel M. & son John; and 1850B Second District, Ghant, T. M. (free negro) residing with Janney, Sam’l M.

xxix Acts of the Virginia Legislature, Chapter 70, passed 1837. Compiled by June Purcell Guild in Black Laws of Virginia, published 1932. 1995 edition. Page 139.

xxx A Scrap of History, Ibid.

xxxi Interview with Margarette Goss Winn, Ibid.

xxxii Loudoun County, Virginia Will Book, Administrations, 1846. The second proviso of John Nixon’s will stipulated that his 22 slaves would be relocated to a free state upon their manumission. In July 1846, Executor Thomas Nichols was reimbursed for travel expenses related to relocating approximately 17 slaves. Talbot was not among those relocated at that time.

xxxiii National Historic Landmark Nomination for the F. Julius LeMoyne House; U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Park Service.

xxxiv Memoirs of Samuel M. Janney: Late of Lincoln, Loudoun County, Va.: A Minister in the Religious Society of Friends (Written by Himself). Philadelphia: Friends' Book Association, 1881., pages 92-93.

xxxv A Chronology of Important Events in African American History, by Mr. Eugene Scheel. February 1999, revised April 2004. Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia. See also Memoirs of Samuel M. Janney, page 93.

xxxvi Nelson Talbourt Gant to F. Julius LeMoyne, June 6, 1847. Papers of F. J. LeMoyne, Box A24, Folder 1, Washington County Historical Society. Washington, Pennsylvania. Various biographers of prominent Muskingum County residents offer a variation to this timeline, claiming that Talbot had traveled to Zanesville where he had met with abolitionists living in the Putnam area of Zanesville who had given him the money to purchase his wife’s freedom. Although Talbot could have made the round trip from Loudoun to Zanesville within 6 weeks, no record has been found supporting Zanesville historians’ belief that Talbot had traveled to Zanesville before 1847 or had met with the Putnam abolitionists before returning to Loudoun County for Maria. In his letter, Talbot also wrote about help he had received from “many friends in Pittsburgh” among them, Dr. Martin Delaney, who later would serve as a major in the Union Army and who would be among the first black students to attend Harvard Medical School.

xxxvii Letter from Gant to LeMoyne, Ibid.

xxxviii Scrap of History, Ibid. Mr. Eskridge was the Clerk of the Court for Loudoun County who one year earlier had recorded the manumission of the Nixon slaves.

xxxix Letter from Gant to Dr. LeMoyne, Ibid.

xl Ibid.

xli The National Era, Ibid. Because of jurisdiction changes at this time for Washington D.C., it has proven difficult to locate an order of extradition. The area now encompassing Arlington County and the City of Alexandria was retroceded to Virginia by an act of the United States Congress on July 9, 1846. However, the return was not effective until early 1847. There are gaps in some of the records produced during this time.

xlii Ibid

xliii Letter from Gant to LeMoyne, Ibid.

xliv Guild, Black Laws of Virginia, Ibid. page 161.

xlv The National Era, Ibid.

xlvi Talbot’s two other attorneys were Robert P. Swann of Loudoun County, and J.S. Carper. Robert Swann continued to advocate for Talbot as late as 1848, where, at a court held for Loudoun County on the 14th day of August in the year 1848, Attorney Robt P. Swann, Esq., submitted for Talbot an application to renew the certificate of freedom that had been lost [Loudoun County, Virginia Court Minute Book, Volume II, August Court, 1848; page 126].

xlvii The National Era, Ibid.

xlviii Ibid. Also, in his 1847 letter of the LeMoynes, Talbot wrote about attempts to coerce Maria to bear witness against Talbot.

xlix Ibid.

l For example, the opinion of Judge Matthews, case of Girod v Lewis, May term, 1819; Martin's Louisiana Reports, Volume 6, page 559. “It is clear that slaves have no legal capacity to assent to any contract. With the consent of their master they may marry, and their moral power to agree to such a contract or connection cannot be doubted; but while in a state of slavery it cannot produce any civil effect, because slaves are deprived of all civil rights.”

li National Era, Ibid

lii Letter from Gant to LeMoyne and National Era, Ibid. Talbot’s summary of his attorneys arguments match the reporting of the case in the National Era.

liii The National Era, Ibid.

liv Court Order Book, Loudoun County, Virginia, Volume II, December Monthly Court, 1846; page 209.

lv The National Era, Ibid. The Era quotes the Loudoun Chronicle as reporting: "The next witness called was a jet-black negro, who appeared in some trepidation at the prospect before him. The witness was discharged when the prosecuting attorney could not confirm that it was Talbot he had seen in the early morning hours after Maria’s departure.”

lvi Loudoun County Record of Free Negroes, Certificate number 1406, Ibid

lvii Loudoun County Court Order Book, December 1846; Ibid. Maria is stated to have a value of four hundred dollars.

lviii Gant Letter to LeMoyne, Ibid.

lix Will of John Nixon, Ibid

lx Loudoun County Personal Property Tax Lists. See Note 62.

lxi Loudoun County Court Order Book, August 16, 1848; page 132

lxii Loudoun County Court Order Book, November 16, 1848, page 169; March 14, 1849, page 200; June 13, 1849, page 237; August 15, 1849, page 267; November 14, 1849, page 306; March 12, 1850, page 348.

lxiii Loudoun County Personal Property Tax Lists for 1848-1849, Ibid.

lxiv Loudoun County Court Order Book, June 9, 1850; Volume 12, page 10

lxv Loudoun County Court Order Book, Ibid, page 12.

lxvi According to the 1850 U.S. Federal population census for Muskingum County, Ohio, most of the Nixon slaves manumitted with N.T. Gant were living in Muskingum County, Ohio, after having been relocated according to the provisions of the last will and testament of John Nixon.

lxvii Although it appears that the family left Loudoun County sometime after the June 9, 1850 court, it is likely that they arrived in Zanesville sometime after September but before November because the family has not been found in the 1850 census returns for Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, or Washington, D.C. Although the official enumeration day of the 1850 census was 1 June 1850, the actual census day for the part of Loudoun County in which Thomas Nichols and Samuel Janney resided was early September. A sample of returns for communities along the family’s presumed route to Zanesville show census dates ranging from early July (Washington, D.C.) to late-August (Zanesville) to November (Washington County, Pennsylvania).

lxviii Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County, Ohio, Ibid.

lxix Letter from Gant to LeMoyne, Ibid. Talbot wrote that “I hope it will not be too long before we reach a land of Freedom where we . . . intend calling on you.”

lxx Rev. Daniel A. Payne [1811-1893] was a family friend. At the time that Payne wrote Maria’s obituary, Nelson was a Trustee of Wilberforce University, from which he resigned when Payne was dismissed for issue. Talbot had been appointed as a representative of the African Methodist Episcopal contingent to the 1881 Ecumenical Methodist Conference in London, which was headed by Bishop Payne. Nelson’s son NT Gant Jr. wrote and published a eulogy upon Payne’s death in 1893, an event of which he was most proud, as evidenced by his response to an alumni inquiry from Oberlin University.

lxxi Lewis, Zanesville and Muskingum County, Ibid. Also, the Christian Recorder, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, contains various references to Frederick Douglas’ visits to Zanesville and the Gant home.

lxxii Biographical Sketch, The Christian Recorder. Ibid.

lxxiii “Jump the Broomstick,” The Negro in Virginia, page 95. Compiled by the Workers of the Writers” Program of the Works Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. John F. Blair, Publisher, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 1994.

lxxiv Despite a Georgia court ruling in an 1864 murder case (William vs. State, Cat. III, p. 89) that “the marriage relation or what passes with them for that is recognized,” and the same rules of evidence must obtain in their trials for whites” prevailing rulings like that of Howard vs. Howard (N.C. 1858, Cat. II, p. 221), in which the court ruled that “the relationship between slaves is essentially different from that of man and wife joined in legal wedlock . . . With slaves, it may be dissolved at the pleasure of either party, or by the sale of one or both, depending upon the caprice or necessity of the owners.”

3 comments:

True Lewis said...

Scared me after all that if the Slave was Sold so was the marriage dissolved. Lovely Story. The Citations were wonderful! Very Powerful

Paula Jackson said...

Oh My Goodness what a story!!
Had me on the edge of my seat. Hurry for Talbot and Maria!! They are together in God's house now.
I mean it I so enjoyed this looking forward to reading more.

Thank you Thank You!!

Teresa Vega said...

I enjoyed your post. Excellent documentation.