Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Slave Records, 1788-1825

Finding aid created by
Mary H. Parsons and Philip Heslip, March 2010

Summary Information
Title: Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, slave records
Creator: Graydon, Alexander 1752-1818, Fahenstock, Obediah, 1770-1840, and Boas, Jacob, 1786-1815
Inclusive dates: 1788-1825
Extent: 1 volume, 8 loose items
Abstract:
The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Slave Records is a register of black and mulatto children born in Dauphin County between 1780 and 1825. The volume contains approximately 170 bound slave records giving each child's name, date of birth, sex, race, as well as owner's name, occupation, and place of residency.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1934. M-230.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Slave Records, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


History

Emancipation in Pennsylvania : On March 1, 1780, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a law for the gradual emancipation of slaves born in Pennsylvania. Any slave born before March 1, 1780, would be a slave for life. Any child born to a slave mother after March 1, 1780, was not a slave, but rather an indentured servant until age 28. Slave owners were required by law to register their "slaves for life" by Nov. 1, 1780. If not registered by that date, the slaves would be declared free. Eight years later, on March 29, 1788, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a second act concerning the gradual emancipation of slaves. The new law closed loopholes in the 1780 bill, such as the practice of taking a pregnant slave to another state to give birth, thus making that child a slave for life. It required that slave owners register all slave-born children and stipulated that members of slave families could not be separated by a distance of more than 10 miles, without the consent of the slave family. The bill contained enforcement measures (fines and imprisonment), and required that all slave owners register any child born to a slave mother after March 1, 1780, with the "Clerk of Peace" for that county, by April 1, 1789. Failure to register a child within 6 months of his or her birth made the child automatically free.

The Dauphin Slave Records : Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Slave Records is a registry of slave births containing the names of 197 children, registered during a thirty-seven-year period, between Oct. 13, 1788, and June 6, 1825. The first 12 pages contain entries for children who were born during the decade before required registration, and the next 35 pages contain the names of children born after April 1, 1789.

Five different clerks or "prothonotaries" kept the register:

  • Alexander Graydon (1752-1818): from October 1788-August 1799
  • Joshua Elder: from March 1800-January 1809
  • Jacob Boas (1786-1815): from March 1809-October 1815
  • John Mchesney: from October 1816-February 1821
  • Obediah Fahnestock (1770-1840): from February 27, 1824-June 6, 1825

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Slave Records is a register of the names of black and mulatto children born in Dauphin County between 1780 and 1825. The volume contains approximately 170 bound slave records, with 7 loose copies, a memorial for John Ewing, and a printed notice in the book’s front cover.

The ledger contains a seven-page index at the front, followed by 49 pages of entries, with three to four entries per page. Glued inside the front cover is a printed copy of the March 29, 1788, law regarding the registration of the children of slaves -- An act to explain and amend an act, entitled, "An act for the gradual abolition of slavery." The ledger contains 6 officially embossed copies of entries copied in the volume, and an undated letter with a tribute to a lawyer named John Ewing, who died at the age of 40. The content of this letter is highly religious and laudatory.

The volume lists 105 female children and 92 male children. Only 17 of the 197 children have recorded surnames. Of the 97 different slave owners most of them (76%) registered only one or two children. Only 7% of owners registered more than four. Notable slave owners include John Andre Hanna, a Revolutionary War general and U.S. congressman; Cornelius Cox, a Revolutionary War colonel and elector from Pennsylvania in the 1792 presidential election [he voted for Washington]; and Mordecai McKinney, whose son defended numerous fugitive slaves in Pennsylvania in the 1850's. For a complete list of slave owners see the Additional Descriptive Data section below.

The register lists the names, birthdates, and owners of 197 children born to slaves in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in the 45-year period between 1780 and 1825. The registrar often recorded estimated ages of those born prior to April 1, 1789, but for those born after that date, he noted exact birthdates. In one case, the record shows the actual hour of birth. The racial designations are Negro, Mulatto, Negro or Mulatto, and colored child. In only one case is a parent named:

"Be it remembered that on the Seventeenth day of April A.D. 1819 William N. Irvine, Esq. Attorney at Law...maketh return on Oath that a female Mullatto child was born by his Negro Servant Ann, on the seventeenth day of November 1818 and that the said female child is called Harriet, is now living and has been supported by the said William and is of the age of 5 months and twenty-nine days."

The children born after the 1780 act for Pennsylvania's gradual abolition of slavery became free men and women in 1808. The last child registered (Eve, a Mulatto, born June 6, 1825) would have been able to obtain her freedom in June of 1853. Covering a 45-year period, this volume demonstrates that abolition of slavery in Pennsylvania was a gradual process.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • African Americans--Legal status, laws, etc.--Pennsylvania.
    • Dauphin County (Pa.)
    • Indentured servants--Pennsylvania.
    • Racially mixed children.
    • Registers of births, etc.--Pennsylvania--Dauphin County.
    • Slave records.
    • Slaveholders.
    • Slavery--Pennsylvania--History.
    • Slaves--Emancipation--United States.
    Genre Terms:
    • Registers (lists)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Dauphin County, Pennsylvania slave records,  1788-1825 [series]
     
    Loose Documents [subseries]
     
     October 30, 1788
     
     November 5, 1789
     
     February 6, 1790
     
     May 18, 1790
     
     May 9, 1791
     
     June 3, 1791
     
     January 9, 1794 (memorandum)
     
    Memorial for John Ewing
     
    Dates of records for bound pages: [subseries]
     
     October 30, 1788
     
     November 21, 1788
     
     November 22, 1788
     
     November 24, 1788
     
     December 24, 1788
     
     January 30, 1789
     
     February 20, 1789
     
     February 21, 1789
     
     March 5, 1789
     
     March 10, 1789
     
     March 11, 1789
     
     March 14, 1789
     
     March 17, 1789
     
     March 18, 1789
     
     March 19, 1789
     
     March 20, 1789
     
     March 21, 1789
     
     March 25, 1789
     
     March 30, 1789
     
     March 31, 1789
     
     April 1, 1789
     
     May 20, 1789
     
     November 5, 1789
     
     February 26, 1790
     
     May 17, 1790
     
     May 18, 1790
     
     June 24, 1790
     
     February 19, 1791
     
     April 25, 1791
     
     May 9, 1791
     
     May 20, 1791
     
     June 6, 1791
     
     June 17, 1791
     
     June 23, 1791
     
     August 3, 1791
     
     September 30, 1791
     
     December 1, 1791
     
     January 28, 1792
     
     March 16, 1792
     
     July 17, 1792
     
     December 1, 1792
     
     February 18, 1793
     
     May 18, 1793
     
     June 4, 1793
     
     November 27, 1793
     
     January 9, 1794
     
     January 29, 1794
     
     February 6, 1794
     
     September 24, 1794
     
     December 8, 1794
     
     January 5, 1795
     
     April 7, 1795
     
     September 16, 1795
     
     November 11, 1795
     
     November 25, 1795
     
     December 3, 1795
     
     December 7, 1795
     
     March 19, 1796
     
     June 20, 1796
     
     September 16, 1796
     
     October 20, 1796
     
     October 28, 1796
     
     November 29, 1796
     
     March 16, 1797
     
     September 29, 1797
     
     December 13, 1797
     
     January 15, 1798
     
     June 14, 1798
     
     August 25, 1798
     
     September 20, 1798
     
     October 8, 1798
     
     October 20, 1798
     
     November 19, 1798
     
     December 11, 1798
     
     February 1, 1799
     
     February 16, 1799
     
     May 11, 1799
     
     August 23, 1799
     
     March 12, 1800
     
     March 15, 1800
     
     April 11, 1800
     
     September 26, 1800
     
     October 6, 1800
     
     March 12, 1801
     
     March 16, 1801
     
     June 9, 1801
     
     June 11, 1801
     
     October 3, 1801
     
     October 6, 1801
     
     November 19, 1801
     
     December 11, 1801
     
     April 20, 1802
     
     August 5, 1802
     
     November 16, 1802
     
     March 15, 1803
     
     May 13, 1803
     
     October 4, 1803
     
     December 16, 1803
     
     December 17, 1803
     
     January 1804
     
     March 1804
     
     April 1804
     
     August 1804
     
     September 1804
     
     November 1804
     
     February 1805
     
     February 1805
     
     June 1805
     
     July 1805
     
     October 1805
     
     December 1805
     
     February 1806
     
     June 1806
     
     June 1806
     
     June 1806
     
     December 1806
     
     December 1806
     
     February 1807
     
     May 1807
     
     September 1807
     
     November 1807
     
     January 1808
     
     February 1808
     
     April 1808
     
     June 1808
     
     July 1808
     
     January 1809
     
     March 1809
     
     March 1809
     
     July 1809
     
     December 1809
     
     October 1809
     
     January 1812
     
     February 1812
     
     March 1813
     
     March 1813
     
     January 1814
     
     May 1814
     
     January 1815
     
     June 1815
     
     July 1815
     
     July 1815
     
     September 1815
     
     October 1816
     
     February 1818
     
     April 1819
     
     April 1819
     
     November 1820
     
     February 1821
     
     February 1824
     
     February 1825
     
     August 1825
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Slave children in ledger with surnames:

    • Butler, Charles, b. December 14, 1805
    • Craig, Lucy, b. September 9, 1801
    • Craig, James, b. December 25, 1803
    • Craig, Hetty, b. September 6, 1806
    • Craig, Eliza, b. August 25, 1809
    • Hall, Mary, b. November 21, 1808
    • Hoofnagle, George, b. January 7, 1825
    • Jackson, Simon M., b. October 21, 1814
    • Jenkins, Polly, b. December 21, 1802
    • Jenkins, Jack, b. April 1, 1805
    • Lemons, Dinah, b. January 13, 1801
    • Martin, Thomas, b. c. June 6, 1800
    • Martin, Robert, b. December 1801
    • Martin, John, b. in August 1805
    • Murry, Maria, b. December 4, 1808
    • Star, Luce, b. February 17, 1806
    • Steward, John, b. April 24, 1809
    Bibliography

    An act to explain and amend an act, entitled, "An act for the gradual abolition of slavery." Philadelphia: Printed by T. Bradford, 1788.

    Index of owners' names in Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania, Slave Records [1782-1825]
    Ainsworth, John.
    • 7
    Allen, Joseph.
    • 10
    Andrews, Hugh.
    • 6, 14
    Awl, Jacob.
    • 6, 16
    Awl, Nancy [for her mother Sarah Awl].
    • 40
    Bender, Adam.
    • 32
    Boal [Bole], Robert.
    • 8, 29, 33, 39
    Boyer, Michael.
    • 45
    Bradley, Daniel.
    • 1, 16
    Brenizer, George.
    • 36
    Brisben, James.
    • 35
    Burd, Elizabeth.
    • 24
    Burd, James Esq.
    • 1, 13
    Burd, Joseph.
    • 30
    Byers, James.
    • 6
    Caldwell, James.
    • 37
    Campbell, Margaret.
    • 8
    Campbell, William.
    • 20
    Capp, John.
    • 46, 47
    Carson, John.
    • 10, 12, 16, 20, 23, 32, 34, 38 (two entries on this page)
    Carson, Mrs. [wife of John Carson].
    • 12, and a loose receipt February 6, 1790
    Chambers, Arthur.
    • 19
    Cook, Jacob Esq.
    • 1, 12, 15
    Cowden, James.
    • 3, 16, 20, 23
    Cox, Cornelius.
    • 4, 13, 17, 21, 24, 26, 27, 29
    Cox, Esther.
    • 32
    Cox, John B.
    • 34, 45
    Crabb, William.
    • 14, 19
    Crean, George.
    • 4
    Crean, Martha.
    • 28
    Crouch, James.
    • 2
    Dearmond, Richard.
    • 8
    Dedwiler, David.
    • 40
    Dorrance, Henry B.
    • 48
    Elder, David.
    • 25
    Elder, John.
    • 40
    Elder, Joshua.
    • 15, 18, 43, 47, 48
    Elder, Thomas.
    • 35, 38
    Ferguson, David.
    • 24, 41
    Frazer, William.
    • 24, 29
    Gibe, Peter, Jr.
    • 41
    Gilchrist, John, Jr.
    • 3
    Goodman, Simon.
    • 43
    Grim, David.
    • 9
    Grubb, Curtis (executors).
    • 3, 13, 15
    Hamilton, Jane.
    • 36
    Hanna, John Andre.
    • 2, 12, and a loose receipt November 5, 1789
    Harbison, Adam.
    • 11
    Harris, Robert.
    • 48
    Hayes, Patrick.
    • 9, 28, 31, 36, 37, 39, 44
    Hays, Robert.
    • 13
    Hiester, Daniel Esq.
    • 14 and a loose receipt May 9, 1791
    Hunt, Benjamin.
    • 21, 25
    Hunt, Elizabeth.
    • 25
    Irvine, William.
    • 48
    Job, Mary.
    • 11
    Kapp, Michael.
    • 5
    Kean, John.
    • 47
    Keefer, Andrew.
    • 7
    Kelker, Rudolph Jr. [Curtis Grubb estate executor]
    • 27, and a loose memorandum, July 22, 1793
    Kelso, John.
    • 23, 27
    Kerr, William.
    • 10
    Kittera, John Wilkes [Curtis Grubb estate executor]
    • 13, 15, and loose receipts May 18, 1790, and June 23, 1791
    Lee, Andrew.
    • 25, 31, 33
    McAlister, Archibald:.
    • 5, 14, 18, 22 (twice), 25, 28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 41, 42
    McClare, Jonathan.
    • 2
    McKee, Isabella.
    • 46
    McKee, James.
    • 7
    McKinney, Mordecai.
    • 22
    Montgomery, David.
    • 28, 32
    Neidig, John.
    • 42
    Noble, John.
    • 44
    Patton, David.
    • 22, 26
    Patton, Elizabeth.
    • 12
    Ritchey, David.
    • 4, 17, 21
    Rogers, Robert.
    • 45
    Scott, James.
    • 1 and a loose receipt October 13, 1788
    Scott, Mary.
    • 45
    Sherer , John.
    • 10
    Simpson, Nathaniel.
    • 25
    Sinclair, Samuel [Curtis Grubb estate executor]
    • 3
    Stephenson, Stephen.
    • 5
    Stewart, Samuel.
    • 26
    Stoner, Samuel.
    • 42
    Sturgeon, Jeremiah.
    • 38
    Sturgeon, Margaret.
    • 33
    Sturgeon, Samuel.
    • 26
    Wallace, Benjamin.
    • 23, 31
    Waugh, Alexander McClure.
    • 27, 30
    Weidman, John.
    • 30
    White, William.
    • 11
    Whitehill, George.
    • 44
    Wiggins, Elizabeth.
    • 35
    Wilson, James.
    • 29
    Wilson, Sarah.
    • 34
    Wood, William.
    • 17, 21
    Work, Joseph [Jacob Cook estate executor]
    • 15
    Young, John.
    • 9, 15