The Slaves of My Lady’s Manor: The Sparks Family.


The following post attempts to trace the lives of former slaves owned by Josiah Sparks (1752).  Most remain anonymous.  Subsequent to this effort is a cursory examination of slavery in the area known as My Lady’s Manor of upper Baltimore County, Maryland. In 1850 there were approximately 1,968 slaves in the 2nd District of Baltimore County.

The Fugate House

Benjamin R. Fischler wrote a report, An Investigation into the History of the Fugate House, A Stone Ruin on the Marshall Farm along Troyer Road in Baltimore County, Maryland.  The Fugate House stood on Josiah Sparks’s property.  The house has previously been called the Fugate Slave House or the Sparks Slave House.  However, the Fugate family never housed slaves there.  The Sparks may have housed slaves there but there is no definitive proof.  Fischler’s research has revealed that if slaves were housed there it was most likely when a neighboring family, the Holmes, purchased land nearby and may have rented the house as seasonal slave quarters.  Fischler’s report was published by the Manor Conservancy.


Josiah Sparks Jr., a wealthy farmer in My Lady’s Manor, died in 1846. In his will he divides his household. Among his possession are nine slaves:

“My coulored woman Marenda. I leave to go free when I am no more. My black man Joshua, I leave to go free when I am no more. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Ruthy Pierce one black girl till she is 25 years of age and then to go free named Nelly to serve her till she is 25 years old and then to go free. I give and bequeath to Ellen Sparks wife of Frances Sparks one black girl named Sarah Ann to serve her till she is 25 years old and then to go free. I give and bequeath unto Aaron my son one black boy named James and one black girl named Elisabeth, to serve him till they are 25 years old and then they are to go free. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Maze three black boys by name Nelson, John and Thomas to serve her till she is 25 years old and then they are to go free, the black boy Nelson to be taken by my son Frances when he arrives at 18 years of age and he is to pay the said Sarah Maze twenty dollars per year till he is 25 years old.” (Josiah Sparks’s Will 92)

In the Maryland Archives are Certificates of Freedom for Joshua and Marenda.  It should be noted that although I assume the Joshua in the will is the Joshua Johnson in the 1850 census based on name, age, and proximity to the Sparks family this is not a definitive link.  Many of the connections rely on circumstantial evidence.

Joshua Johnson (1816) freed 1846:


and Marenda (1814) freed 1846:

DSC02325 Marenda (1814) freed 1846

  • Marenda may possibly be enumerated in the household of Charles B. Gorsuch in the 1850 census for District 1 Baltimore County as Marinda Shaw (1810).


Josiah wrote his will in November of 1843,when he was about 90 years old.  Joshua Johnson had land surveyed in August 1844, and purchased it in 1845 (BCLR: AWB 365: pg 516).  Josiah died in January of 1846; Joshua reported the land purchase in May of 1846. Initially this presents an obstacle to linking Joshua of the will to the Joshua Johnson of My Lady’s Manor.  But according to Ben Fischler, while illegal, sale of land to slaves did happen when the white parties involved agreed to the sale (Personal Email 25 May 2015).  Joshua may have waited to report the land purchase to avoid any prying.  Moving forward on the presumption that they are the same man the deed reveals important details about the relationship between the two men.  If Joshua eventually learned that he was to be manumitted at the death of Josiah, he had started making preparations and looking for a plot of land for his family.  The years between 1843 and 1846 must have tried Joshua’s patience for Josiah’s death.

The deed also shows that Joshua was a wage laborer to some extent.  Wage labor for slaves was more common in Maryland as it was used as a deterrent against the free side of the Pennsylvania border (Grivno 24-25).  Josiah either hired Joshua out and gave Joshua a small percentage, or Joshua found his own work, maybe as a cobbler, and gave Josiah the larger share of the payment.  In any case, Joshua managed to save 64 dollars for the price of the eight acres, and whatever the cost of surveying conducted by John B. Henderson.  Such an amount must have been saved over the course of several years.

Joshua’s family fortunately possessed some stability; perhaps evidence of an attempt to reunite broken families.

  • In the 1850 Census Joshua’s children are George age 10 (1840), Rachel age 5 (1845), Hesta age 2 (1848).  His wife is Pelitia or Penelope (1816).  Elizabeth Mirn[sp] or Moore age 88 (1762) also lives with the family
    • Listed close by is Zebedee Annis age 52 (1798). He is a shoe maker, and Joshua would be listed as a shoemaker in 1860.  There may be a familial link or it may simply be neighbors sharing a trade.
    • With Zebedee are Henrietta age 52 (1798), James age 14 (1836), Mary Williams age 11 (1849).  Zebedee was a free man since at least 1840 where he is enumerated with one male 10-24, two male children under ten, a female 36-54(Henrietta), a female 24-35, and a female child under 10.  In 1860, Besides his wife, James (1837) and Jane (1845) live with him.  In 1870, the last year Zebedee is enumerated, Henrietta still lives with him, a Rachel Shively (1848) lives with him with children: Charles P (1858), Annie (1862), Frederick D (1865) and Mary E (1868).  This Rachel could be Joshua’s daughter Rachel (1845) strengthening a familial tie to Zebedee and the Joshua/Pelitia household.
  • In 1860 the following are enumerated with Joshua- Age 43 (1817)–Listed as Mulatto–Shoe Maker:
    • Pelitia– Age 44 (1816), James age 23 (1837), Elizabeth age 22 (1838), Alfred age 20 (1840), Joshua age 16 (1844), Jane age 15 (1845), Hennetta age 13 (1847), Rosana age 9 (1851), Nicholas age 8 (1852), Eliza age 8 (1854), Mary age 8 months (Jan 1860).
    • A George Jonston is listed next who is Joshua’s father, age 78 (1782), listed as a day laborer
      • with George are Rachel age 60 (1800), James age 11 (1849), Mary age 9 (1851)
  • In the 1870 census Joshua is listed as a farmer next to the household of Mathew Sparks (1817).
    • with him are Penelope (1815), Joshua T (1845), Nicholas T (1853), Eliza E (1854), Mary A (1860)


Nelson Gray (1831) (Sarah, Francis) freed 1856

Nelson Gray’s family appears to have suffered the tragic vagaries of death and collapse.

  • Nelson Gray (1831) In 1860 he is listed as a free man working for Francis.
  • The 1870 census shows Nelson, living in Baltimore City, married to Emily and with two children: Joshua(1862) and Emily(1863) His occupation is a porter.
  • In the directories there is an Emma or alternatively Eleanor Gray at 11 Edward as a laundress/seamstress with Nelson Gray.
  • In 1873 they moved to 91 Sterling: in 1875 170 n. Spring. Between 1875 and 1880, Emily dies.
  • In 1880, Nelson is a widowed “Huckster” living as a boarder with no relations.
  • The 1881 is the last directory record which mentions Nelson. He would have been around 50.

The following are the names of the enslaved with their approximate birth date, who they were willed to in the Sparks family, and their approximate emancipation date. Sarah Ann Smith (1835)–(Francis) freed 1860–In 1860 she is working for Francis as a free woman.  James (1827)–(Aaron) freed 1852– Elizabeth (1831) –(Aaron) freed 1856 John (1837-1842) –(Sarah Maze or Mays) freed 1862+ Thomas (1837-1842)–(Sarah Maze or Mays) freed 1862+ Nelly (1834)- (Ruth Pierce)–freed 1859

  • In 1830 Josiah is enumerated with 8 slaves: one male under 10, two between 10 and 23: three females under 10, one female between 10 and 23, one female between 24 and 35.
  • In 1840 one male under 10[John/Thomas?], two males 10-24[James,Nelson], one female under 10[Sarah], two 10-24[Elizabeth,Nelly], and one 26 under 54[Marenda?].



Laban Sparks (1782): nephew to Josiah Sparks through Thomas (1758)

  • In 1830 one slave was enumerated
    • 1 female 10-23 years of age
  • On 13 April 1839 Laban ran an advertisement in the Baltimore Sun for an escaped slave by the name of John Howard (1816).


  • In 1840 three Freed persons were enumerated
    • 1 male under 10 years of age
    • 1 male 10-23 years of age
    • 1 female 24-35 years of age
  • In 1850 Laban is enumerated with two slaves:
    • Male (1837) and a Male (1837)
  • In 1860 five slaves were enumerated
    • Male (1840), Female (1840), Male (1845), Male (1848), Male (1860)
  • In 1870 Shadrack Sparks, Laban’s son, is enumerated with:
    • Charles Howard (1842) and Miranda Howard (1845)

Aaron Sparks, a grandson to Josiah through Thomas

Enumerated with two slaves in 1850

  • Male (1820)
  • Female (1845) who, at only five years of age, is marked as a fugitive.

Francis Sparks

Again from Schweninger’s compilation we find this petition: “Francis Sparks vs. Elizabeth Given petition 27 August 1862 Apprentice was ‘incorigible, and of ill behavior, to the evil example of other children belonging to your petitioner, and your Petitioner is therefore desirous of being rid of her’; asked that indentures be canceled” (BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS, MSA SC 4239-18-83).


I am obviously indebted to the Legacy of Slavery Project of the Maryland Archives and Dr. Loren Schweninger.   I am very grateful to Ben Fischler for contacting me and sharing his research.  I recommend finding a copy of his published report.


BALTIMORE COUNTY COURT (Land Records) AWB 365, p. 0516, MSA_CE66_415. Joshua Johnson. 8 December 1845.

BALTIMORE CITY REGISTER OF WILLS (Certificates of Freedom) 1844-1849.  Joshua. MSA C3085-4-44. Annapolis, MD. 26 June 1847.

BALTIMORE CITY REGISTER OF WILLS (Certificates of Freedom) 1844-1849. Marenda. C3085-4-45. Annapolis, MD. 26 June 1847.

BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Petitions and Orders) MSA T1206-449. MSA SC 4239-18-83. Annapolis, MD.

BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Petitions and Orders). MSA T1206-449. MSA SC 4239-18-85.  Annapolis, MD.

BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Petitions and Orders) MSA T1206-449. MSA SC 4239-18-90. Annapolis, MD.

BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS. MSA CM188-26. Annapolis, MD. William Curtis. 26 May 1863.

Baltimore Sun. 16 April 1839. Legacy of Slavery Project

Baltimore Sun. 13 June 1840. Legacy of Slavery Project

Baltimore Sun. 2 June 1855. Legacy of Slavery Project

Grivno, Max. “There Slavery Cannot Dwell”: Agriculture and Labor in Northern Maryland, 1790-1860. Dissertation. College Park, Md: University of Maryland, 2007. Print. (Later published as Gleanings of Freedom: Free and Slave Labor along the Mason-Dixon Line, 1790-1860)

Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser. 1782 October 22. Legacy of Slavery Project.

Oakland Farm House. Maryland Historical Trust Inventory. Site No. BA-120. MSA. Annapolis, MD

Pearce, John B. Accommodations Docket. 18 May 1850. Legacy of Slavery Project.

Perdue, John. Accommodations Docket. 20 September 1849. Legacy of Slavery Project.

Schweninger, Loren. compiler. “Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks: Petitions to Maryland.” Web. <;

Simms, Maria. MSA C2064 Baltimore City & County Jail (Runaway Docket), 1832 – 1836, 2/72/4/19. 21 April 1834. Legacy of Slavery Project.

Slade, Thomas. Baltimore County Wills 1838-1840 vol 17. pg 142. MSA. Annapolis, MD. 22 November 1838.

Sparks, Josiah. Baltimore County Wills 1845-1847. MSA CM188-21. vol 21. pgs 91-93. MSA. Annapolis, MD. 19 January 1846.

United States Census, 1850, Baltimore county, part of, Baltimore, Maryland, United States; NARA microfilm publication M432. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850 ,” Baltimore county, Baltimore, Maryland, United States; NARA microfilm publication M432, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

United States Census, 1860, Election Dist No 10, Baltimore, Maryland, United States; NARA microfilm publication M653, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

United States Census, 1870, Maryland, United States; NARA microfilm publication M593. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

Waters, Henry. MSA C2065-1 Baltimore City Jail (Runaway Docket), 1854 – 1864, 2/72/4/21. 1851 March 13. Legacy of Slavery Project.

Williams, Peter. MSA C 2064-2 Baltimore City and County Jail (Runaway Docket), 1836 – 18502/72/4/20. 15 April 1837. Legacy of Slavery Project.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s