African American Story

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“Voices of the Indiantown”  

NHPA has produced a 25 minute documentary film with video interviews of those who grew up in the Indiantown area around Handsell who were the children of Sharecroppers.  Families with the names of Pinder, Jackson, Chase, Robinson have stories to tell of what life was like growing up in rural Dorchester County in the early to mid-20th century during a time of segregation.  These stories tell of the schools and churches attended and chore and jobs done on the farm that lead to further education and professional careers in adulthood.  NHPA is proud of this endeavor to capture these voices from the past to ensure they are heard in the future!

The film was shown in four counties on the Eastern Shore in February and March.  If your school, church, library or museum is interested in having a screening of the film, please contact us at

Wicomico County residents can check the schedule for PAC 14 Public Access Television for a schedule of screenings.

Would you like to purchase a copy of this documentary film?   You can reserve a copy by submitting $20 (included shipping and handling) to NHPA using the Order Form!


Listen to the 1240 WCEM AM Radio Broadcast of the Dr. Kay Show aired Thursday January 23, 2014 about

 the new documentary VOICES OF INDIANTOWN:






“Fred and I just wanted to say how terrific we think the film is—Kudos to all who made the film possible–it is a credit to Handsell and all of the participants”.  
—Lexine Lowe and Fred Pomeroy,  Feburary 10, 2014
“NHPA documentary is strikingly poignant…the film is entrancing”
—Susan M. Bautz, Dorchester Banner, February 12,2014
“I just viewed the ‘Voices of Indiantown’ video and must say I was blown away.
 What an awesome job was done in documenting and weaving together interviews with vintage photos.  I might add that the untouched photos added authenticity to the telling.  
 My family left Indiantown when I was very young and my memory of life there is faint, but I can attest to the fact that the same value system  and sense of community in the face of harsh realities permeated  African American life throughout the broader area and I dare say the entire county.
 This is a story that needed to be told, especially in the this age of self-absorption, apathy  and alienation,  and it was done so with such grace and elegance.   
 Please extent my thanks to everyone involved in the project”.
Ruth Robinson, March 25, 2014
“We’re still talking about the Voices of Indiantown video!  It had quite an impact.  I think the parallels between Banneker’s life and the Voices lives are remarkable and the lessons universal”. 
Justine Schaeffer, Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum, Catonsville, MD,   August 21, 2014
Indiantown families gather to discuss the making of the film.

Indiantown families gather to discuss the making of the film.



The NHPA African American Steering Committee at a meeting to plan for the Oral History of the Indiantown.  Shirley Jackson, Chair.

The NHPA African American Steering Committee at a meeting to plan for the Oral History of the Indiantown. Shirley Jackson, Chair.


NHPA thanks the Nathan Foundation and the Maryland Humanities Council for the grant funding to complete this project!

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You can help in the post-production of the Video by sending any size donation to the

Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, Inc

in care of Miriam Zijp, NHPA Membership Chair

712 Hills Point Road, Cambridge, MD 21613

                                                                                                    (Mark your check with a notation “for African American Projects”)

NHPA continues in the research of the history and genealogy of the African American families who lived and worked at Handsell

It is clear that from the very early days on, both white and black families, enslaved and free, lived together at Handsell in the Indiantown in a plantation community.  Later in the 19th century free blacks continued working on the farms side by side with enslaved people.  Many of the slaves and freemen were related and their descendants continued to reside on Indiantown Road through the 1950’s.  One of NHPA trustees, Shirley Jackson is one of those who grew up in the area.  NHPA is  fortunate to have several photographs contributed by living family members.  All structures that you see in these old photographs, including former slave houses, sheds and barns have been demolished, except for ‘Handsell’.

Lenora Pinder is seen here with her children in the 1950’s just behind the present Handsell house.

These families – Pinder, Jackson, Pinkett, Chase, Jolley and others – are coming together through the NHPA to reunite and share stories and happy memories of growing up in the “Indiantown”, as they called it.  Contact us if you are a descendant of one of these families.   


What Research Can Teach Us!

Uncovering data from historic documents such as death inventories, manumission papers, deeds and Wills can provide important information to reveal the story of those descendant from the Indiantown community.
Comparing names and ages of listed persons helps to indentify not only a specific individual but sometimes family connections as well.  This following timeline, with just a few excerpts from NHPA’s research to date,  shows  examples of what can be learned from this kind of study.

1749 – As the sole survivor(s) of her parents, Ann Billings Steele inherited several slaves.  One was a young girl named Nell.

1776 – According to the Maryland Colonial Census, Henry Steele (and his wife Ann Billings) lived in the Nanticoke District of Dorchester County with his family and 91 slaves.

1782 – When Henry Steele died, three slaves were treated by (medical ) Dr. Gordon who charged debits to Henry Steele’s estate: Negro Isaac, Negro Man and Negro child.

1803 –  James Steele signs the first of several annual agreements with Overseer Levin Simons at his farm in the Indiantown: (which states):
“Levin Simmons agrees to continue in the employment of James Steele as Overseer during the present year at his plantation in the Indian Town…also that he will see that a Negro woman intended to be kept mostly at spinning does follow and perform her business as she ought.”
Other slaves listed to assist Simmons on the farm were Stephon, Bill, Jim, John, Dick, Hicks, old Dido, young Dido, Lucy and Mary.

1803 – On January 20, 1803 Isaac Steele grants freedom to Negro Levi, with a receipt for $36.50 “in full balance for his freedom”.

1810 – Levin Simmons, overseer, is listed as living in the Vienna District with family and 27 slaves.  John C. Henry, James Steele’s son-in-law, is also living in the Indiantown with two other females and 52 slaves.  Both Henry and Steele owned parts of the ‘Handsell’ tract.

1814 – In Deed 3 ER 114, James Steele releases from slavery and forever manumits William, age 28, son of Sarah for $1.  Witnessed and sworn by Richard Pattison and John C. Henry.

1814 – Charles Jackson, born a slave in 1814 is the paternal ancestor of the Jackson family who lived and worked on the Indiantown farms into the 1950’s.  Who owned Charles is still a mystery, but we know he was freed by 1860 and that was some apparent relationship to the Steele/Henry family.

1837 – Handsell was sold to John Sheehe of Dorchester County, who rebuilt the brick house.  The 1840 Census indicates he lived in the Vienna District with his family.  Also listed in his household were 3 free black males.

1837 – Journal of medical Dr. Hodson states “treated Susan, daughter of Charles Jackson”.

1850 – The 1850 Federal Census lists John Nevett Steele, white, widower, living in the Indiantown with his three sons.  He lived in a house just up and across the road from Handsell.  Also listed in the household were Charity Jackson, age 37, “mulatto” and her daughter Fanny, age 8 months.  The 1850 Slave Schedules also lists 26 slaves owned by Steele.

1850 – The 1850 Slave Schedule lists a free black man Thomas Pinder as a slave owner.  He owned one female, age 45 and two girls ages 8 and 6.  It is assumed that these were his wife and two daughters.  During this time it was not unusual for a free black man to keep his family enslaved as a way of protecting them from being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south.

1854 – After his death, slaves of John N. Steele, “of Indiantown” were transferred to “James B. Steele, son of James Steele of Henry…do grant bargain and sell unto the said James Steele…the following negroes to wit Joshua, Lucy, Daniel, Marshall, Hooper, Moses, Charles Littleton, Henry, John Nace, Mary, Elizabeth and her three children, Sarah and her three children, Jack Wesley and another, Margaret and her Son Isaac, Maria and Nancy her Child and Lilly all being Slaves for life…”

1859 – Handsell was sold to John Thompson who is listed in the 1860 Census, age 73,  farmer.  The 1860 Slave Schedule listed John Thompson as the owner of 10 slaves.  His mother-in-law, living with the Thompsons, was also a slave owner.   During this time the underground railroad was most active.
Harriet Tubman is known to have used the Nanticoke River and/or the Marshy Hope Creek as a route to the north.

1860 – Federal Census listed Charles Jackson, Rachel and their 9 children as living in Vienna area.

1870 – In the Federal Census, Rachel Jackson, age 16 is listed as the “house servant” in the home of the Samuel Thompson family at Handsell.

6 comments on “African American Story

  1. I am working on a book based on the diaries and letters of a John C. Henry who was first a Capt. in the Maryland Guard during the Civil War. He resigned and later joined the Confederate army where he served as a private until the end of the war. Would the John C. Henry in the text above be his father? What do you know about the John C. Henry of Civil War era?

    I am looking forward to your event this weekend and hope to find out as much as possible. Thank you for any information you may have.

    I am also hoping to find out how to search records of slaves owned by Alexander Bradford Harrison who owned Clay’s Hope in Talbot County. I have published a book about slave Eliza Benson who was born at Clay’s Hope and would like to learn the stories of her many siblings. I know first names and birth order and will bring that information with me on Saturday.

    Thanks again!

    • handsell says:


      We will look forward to meeting you on Saturday, and thank you for you interest in NHPA and the Jamboree. I have most of the Henry geneology and will try and find the time to look your John C. up on our records. If not this week, then after the Jamboree!
      Look for me on Saturday–I’ll be in period dress with a large straw hat. thanks, Midge Ingersoll

  2. Marion & Inge says:

    Midge, greetings from the Lawnside Stills. We just celebrated our 143 reunion. I will be getting in touch with you very soon, would like to know if you have any more information connecting the “Steele’s” with the “Still’s”
    Love you, Marion P. Still-Buck

  3. mary wood says:

    The Emory family of Q.A.County owned a farm, Indiantown, on the Chester River, outside Centreville. Their descendants the James Wood family still live there. They feel the farm was named for Ozzinie indians – many arrow heads found along the shore.

  4. Elaine Palmer McGill says:

    I was surprised to stumble upon this today and immediately ordered a copy of the video. I am a direct descendant of many of the families from this area including the Chases, Pinders and related to the Jacksons, Jollys, and Pinketts! My grandparents were Perry and Molock but as an avid genealogist, I have discovered just how far our ancestral roots lie. Thanks for what you are doing to preserve our past.

  5. Sarah Pinder Kidd says:

    Hi, Serverline A Pinder don’t know very much about my Pinder families however my father is Curtis Pinder of Maryland and my uncles are Grayson and Leroy Pinder all of eastern shore Maryland, Cambridge areas I’ve been trying to locate other family members. It would be greatly appreciated to get more information. My email

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