Friday, January 25, 2013

Slave-owners in my Tree

Recently Cousin Lisa asked me if we had any slave owners in our family. Having such deep New York roots one might think that, no, we couldn't have possibly owned slaved; New York is a northern state. You might be surprised though to learn that New York did indeed uphold the institution of slavery until 1827. In 1799 New York State passed an act that gradually emancipated slaves but all slavery was not abolished in the state until 1827.

On the side of the family that Cousin Lisa and I share I have not found slave owners. However, that is the side where I just found my American Revolutionary patriots so I would not be surprised if I find some slave owners on that side too. In the 1700s slavery was ubiquitous.

In any case, several years ago a researching cousin shared with me a transcription of the will of my 7th great grandfather, Uriah Bedell (1733-1815). I was very young at the time; only a few years into my research. Maybe I was 18 at the time; I am not sure. I am sure I was devastated though. There among the shares of land and endowment to the Presbyterian Church of Hempstead, Long Island were his "negro-boy" Tone and "slave-girl" Freelove. I was DEVASTATED! 

The only solace I could take was that he clearly states that when each of these people reach the age of 23 it was Uriah's will that they would be set free. Additionally, it was not my ancestor who inherited a slave; although that provided little comfort. I am descended from his daughter Phebe Smith who is named in the will though.



I can not wrap my modern-day, liberal mind around the fact that anyone ever thought owning people was an okay thing to do. I don't care if it was a desirable show of wealth or a acceptable necessity of the time, how could anyone have thought that slavery was OK - - ever? I don't get it. Especially this man so pious in his behavior that he leaves a huge sum of money to the church at which he was a deacon. It just befuddles me.

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