At the age of 18, Horton Howard was the executor of the estate of his grandmother, Frances Horton. His inventory of the estate lists many items that were utilitarian in their day, including 1 watering pot, 4 tin pans, 1 pair of shears, 2 grind stones, 1 Hachet [sic], 4 hoes, and 1 lantern.
Some items have long since gone out of style or use – 4 chamber pots, 1 sidesaddle, 2 wheat riddles (strainers or separators), 1 churn, and 1 old riding chair. The riding chair was a small carriage with 2 large wheels, carrying a sitting chair mounted on a small sleigh-like platform. Carriages were taxed by the number of wheels, the riding chair could be pulled by a single horse, and this carriage was easier to drive over narrow and bumpy country roads.
There are also many items indicating comfort and an appreciation of the finer things in life. 9 Queen China cups and saucers, 1 punch strainer, 8 blue & white bowls, 2 looking glasses, 26 sitting chairs and 2 wine glasses.
Only 2 wine glasses? And 26 sitting chairs? I’m intrigued by the juxtaposition of 26 chairs and only 2 wine glasses. Can we assume she once had more and didn’t bother replacing them as she grew old? Or did she hold large meetings at which serving wine was not appropriate?
A friend who follows this blog asked me why Horton Howard and other Quakers would have had difficulty in freeing their slaves. Why couldn’t they make such decisions about their own property? This is a complex issue – requiring a longer and more technical bit of writing than most of my blog post.
The southern states relied heavily on slave labor for necessary agricultural work. Once the slave was purchased, the cost of maintaining the slave was minimal. Freeing of slaves led to many fears among slaveholders: fear of economic disruption from losing their labor pool, fear that freed slaves would be a bad influence on remaining slaves – perhaps encouraging them to want freedom, and fear that the freed slaves (who had been denied education and therefore had limited skills) would become a burden on the state, counties or local governments.
So how did the North Carolina slaveholders protect their interests? Laws of 1715 and 1723 prohibited manumission of slaves except for meritorious service as approved by a county court. Slaves appropriately freed had to leave the state within 6 months, and any former slave returning to the state could be taken up and sold into slavery to the highest bidder.
The Quaker population, meanwhile, grew increasingly opposed to slavery and found ways to work around these laws. Some of them deeded their slaves to a local Meeting, with one or more of their members appointed as Trustees. The slaves then lived in virtual freedom, they might receive wages for their work or obtain work on their own, until their legal freedom could be obtained.
In 1777 addition restrictions prohibited a slave owner from allowing slaves to hire themselves out, thus preventing the slaves from accumulating funds to buy themselves out of slavery. Any slave transgressing this law could be taken up and put to hard work for the benefit of the county for as much as 20 days. This would have made the Quaker trust ownership of slaves less advantageous.
That is enough information for now – I will write more on this subject later.
My writing is taking a slight detour. Much as I want to finish researching Mary Howard and tell her story, it makes much sense to start with her father. Horton’s father, Bartholomew was a wealthy plantation owner who married a Quaker woman, Ruth Stanton. Batholomew died when Horton was about 15 years old, leaving an estate that included 20 slaves. Five years later, in the 1790 census, there were 26 slaves in the entry with Horton Howard as head of house. The Quakers were increasingly uncomfortable with the institution of slavery, and not easily able to free them under the laws of North Carolina. Horton was part of a small group who explored the Northwest Territory where slavery was prohibited in the territory’s charter. The men reported that is was also a favorable place to settle in terms of agriculture; wildlife for hunting; and clean, abundant water. Horton lead the first group of Quakers to settle in a new land, and spent the next 30 years trying to recreate the wealth that he’d abandoned with this move.
In keeping with the holiday theme this week, here is another excerpt of a letter mentioning Christmas from Mary Howard to her sister Sarah.
Bridgeport January 2nd 1870
….I should like to know how all your little ones, and big ones too, are getting along and how you enjoyed the holidays. We had a very pleasant time here. Edward came home on Christmas morning and stayed three days – much to our satisfaction. We had a letter the day before saying he was not coming, so we invited half a dozen neighbors to help eat the turkey – which we would not have done, if we had known he was coming. It would be so much pleasanter to have him all to ourselves. In the evening we had a grand display of fire works (quite astonishing considering the size of the building) caused by the burning of the dining saloon, just across the platform from the passenger depot, which was saved with difficulty. Fortunately, it was a calm night and no further damage was done – except to toll house, which when it caught fire, was pushed over into the river to save the bridge. Edward appears well satisfied with his situation, and likes Columbus better than any place he has ever lived in.
December 20, 1868 – Mary Affleck writes about 6 weeks after her sister Sarah’s visit:
I think Harriet is rather more cheerful than she was when you were here, and appears to take considerable interest in proposing an entertainment to be given in the church to the children of the Sabbath School, on Christmas Eve, and Johnnie has been very busy stringing popcorn to ornament the Christmas tree. This morning I heard him anxiously inquire if five days would be long, his mother having told him there were just five days till Christmas. He is expecting Santa Claus to bring him a drum, and I have no doubt the days will seem long enough to him, I suppose your little folks are also anticipating a happy time, and hope they may not be disappointed…
Harriet’s lack of cheer is not explained, but may have been partly from the death of her daughter Mary Howard Patterson a few years earlier. I wonder if she had also been hoping for another child during this period. “Johnnie: (or John Gladstone Patterson) was born in in 1862 and she did not have her younger son George Edward until 1870.