The Nanticoke Preservation Alliance’s NEW Oral History Project will be complete by February 2014!!
NHPA has begun oral audio and video interviews of those still living who grew up in the Indiantown area around Handsell who were the children of Sharecroppers. Families with the names of Pinder, Jackson, Chase, Jolley 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 hopes to capture these voices from the past to ensure they are heard in the future!
WE NOW HAVE a SAMPLE of this PROJECT on YOU TUBE – WATCH IT NOW
Thanks to a grant by the Maryland Humanities Council we are well on our way to completing this project by February of 2014.
You can help in the 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’.
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 familes. email@example.com
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.
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.
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. 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.