Family histories of childhood friends

This morning I caught this moving story on NPR about an archaeological dig taking place on a former slave plantation in Talbot County, Maryland, not far from the town where I used to live. Thousands of slaves inhabited Wye House Farm across the Chesapeake Bay from the 1650s onward. Many of the Maryland slaves joined the Union Army during the Civil War and then came back to the old plantation to farm their own parcels of land and to build their own churches and schools. Today, ancestors of the slaveholders and ancestors of the slaves live down the road from each other. They are all watching the archaeological dig with great interest.

Harriet Lowery, a local resident and descendant of Wye House slaves, wholeheartedly supports the dig. She says (and the written quote doesn’t do her words  justice – you have to listen to the broadcast):

It’s very hard for us to find out our roots a lot of times and so to see something so real – to hear about something so real – gave me a sense of pride…it gave me a feeling of being in touch with my ancestors.

NPR journalist John Ydstie writes that:

Lowery has been tracing her family history in the area, hoping to find some small consolation that the lives of her ancestors contained some joy.

In his memoirs, Douglass recounts the killing of a slave named Demby — likely one of Lowery’s ancestors — by an overseer at Wye House Farm named Gore. Douglass wrote that Gore whipped Demby, who ran to the river to soothe his wounds. He refused to come out, and Gore shot him.

Lowery says she was deeply touched by a few small beads and pieces of pottery excavated on the Long Green and brought to St. Stephens for display.

“It was amazing to me that they had a necklace or earring. And there was one particular bowl … it reminded me of a bowl my mother had,” Lowery said. “It’s comforting to me to know at least there were some peaceful times.”

You can read more Maryland slave narratives here.

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