Local slavery followed U.S. pattern Practice existed in south of county, researcher finds

February 21, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Much like the country itself, Carroll County was split in the mid-1800s.

The northern part of the county, influenced by settlers from Pennsylvania, generally rejected slavery, while in the south, settlers migrating from the Tidewater regions accepted slavery as the social norm.

Duane Doxzen, 29, a 1994 graduate of Western Maryland College, discovered the historical pattern of slavery in Carroll County while shifting through records as a project volunteer for the Historical Society of Carroll County. He will present a program Feb. 29 in Westminster based on his findings as part of Black History Month.

A history major, Mr. Doxzen spent the past year compiling hundreds of sources and little-known facts that may prove fascinating, if not invaluable, to people researching the family roots of blacks in the county.

"Duane has looked into records that many have never had the chance to see, even though the material is public record and has been here all along," Jay Graybeal, director of the county's Historical Society, said recently. "We are fortunate to have someone with Duane's enthusiasm, interest and academic credentials as a volunteer."

Mr. Doxzen expressed a more modest view of his accomplishments. "I didn't know a lot about the subject and, as I got into it, I found it very interesting," he said.

Researching African-American history is challenging, Mr. Doxzen said, because the information often not obvious and has to be dug out.

In the early history of Carroll County, free blacks were treated as second-class citizens, he said. "Records were not always kept accurately, because the record-keepers often didn't care," he said.

Tracing the history of slaves is even more difficult, even when using such traditional methods as examining birth and marriage records or wills, he said.

Researching land records doesn't help, he said, because slaves were not permitted to own property. "You have to look at chattel records, estate inventories or turn to census or military records to obtain more detailed information," he said.

Mr. Doxzen's research of these records plus other sources such as newspapers, church and cemetery records, enables him to acquire a variety of facts about African-Americans in early Carroll County.

Most of the land was not suitable for agriculture when the county was formed in 1837, he said. The land was mainly undeveloped timberland, and slaves cleared it for farming.

Carroll County was sparsely populated in 1860, just before the Civil War, and had only about 20,000 people, he said. "It was basically a frontier with a few small towns, but it's very interesting to note that there were 1,200 free blacks and 800 slaves.

"That's a significant African-American population -- about 10 percent -- much larger than today's percentage of about 2.5 percent," he said.

The Freedom District portion of the south end of the county alone had 300 slaves just before the Civil War.

Why such a large proportion in a small area?

The southern and eastern areas of the county had a heavy influx of English and Scottish descendants from the Tidewater area who "practiced slavery more routinely," Mr. Doxzen said.

"In fact, George Patterson, the man who owned what is now the Springfield Hospital property, had about 100 slaves. He was probably the largest slave owner in the county back then."

Meanwhile, nonslaveholders from Pennsylvania were settling into the northern and western parts of the county. "People of mostly German descent were moving south and east from Pennsylvania where many were Quakers and had stopped practicing slavery by then," he said.

Mr. Doxzen will share his research into African-American history in Carroll County as speaker for a seminar in Shriver-Weybright Auditorium, 210 E. Main St. in Westminster, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29. Admission is free.

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