Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Yarrow Mamout: A Body Buried at 3324 Dent Place?

This portrait, dated 1819, hangs in the Atwater Kent Museum in Philadelphia. A second portrait depicted a somewhat older ordinary elderly African American man hangs in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Public Library. It is dated 1822.
Why would the portraits of a seemingly ordinary looking elderly Africa American man exist much less be displayed at two well known locations? The answer to that is that the man depicted, Yarrow Mamout is far from ordinary.
The story of Yarrow Mamout begins in Guinea, West Africa in 1736, long before he became famous for sitting for portraits in the early 19th century or well-known for his skills as a brick maker, basket weaver, ship loading,  or even before he gained extensive knowledge of real estate, finance, law, and investments in bank stock (Johnston 2012:51). . Though much is not known about his life before he was sold into slavery at sixteen, Johnston’s (2012:7) research has suggested that Yarrow was a member of the Fulani tribe, a nomadic people originally from what is now Mali, who converted to Islam. Fulani tradition typically mandates that families consult with an Islamic holy man for guidance in choosing a newborn’s name. Following these naming traditions Yarrow, spelled Yero in Islam, was a name given to a woman’s fourth child, while Mamout, spelled Mamadou in Islam, was typically given to a boy born on a Monday ( Johnston 2012:8).  Yarrow had a sister, known in America as Hannah, free Hannah, or Hannah Peale, who was enslaved around the same time he was in 1752.
                Although the circumstances surrounding Yarrow’s subsequent capture and enslavement are unknown, Johnston (2012) suggests that they could have been similar to those of two other Muslim boys who were captured in Futa Jallon. One of these boys was Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who was educated in the Quran and able to read and write in Arabic. His father gave him two slaves to sell to Captain Stephan Pike aboard the slave ship Arabella that was anchored in the Gambia River (Johnston 2012:9). Unfortunately, Captain Pike did not offer Diallo enough money and he broke negotiations and exchanged the slaves for cattle in a nearby village. Sending the servants who accompanied him home, Diallo was captured while visiting a friend by the Mandingo people and sold to Captain Pike. Although Captain Pike allowed Diallo to write his father for help, he set sail for Annapolis, Maryland before he received a response. Diallo would later return to Africa before being captured by the French for helping the British and dying in a French prison somewhere in West Africa (Johnston 2012: 11). Despite these missing pieces, Yarrow arrived in Annapolis, Maryland on board the Elijah on June 4, 1752. Yarrow was purchased by Samuel Beall, a wealthy planter from Montgomery County, Maryland, and eventually became his body servant, accompanying him throughout the day (Johnston 2012:48). Beall was active in his community and served in a variety of capacities including, being a member of the Captain George Beall Troop of Horse, a militia group who fought Native Americans and armed men; inspector of the Bladensburg Tobacco Inspection Warehouse; as sheriff, justice of the peace, and part owner in the Frederick Forge, a major iron-making facility in Washington County, Maryland (Johnston 2012:36).  Most of Yarrow’s early years with Beall were spent on one of Beall’s properties near Takoma Park Maryland, called the Charles and William tract, which contained 1,100 acres in the slave quarters or at Beall’s water mill on The Gift property in Rock Creek (Johnston 2012:48). During this period he was estranged from relatives, friends, his sister, and others who spoke his language and understood his faith. After becoming Beall’s body servant, Yarrow was put in a position where he could be in the know and be known by some of Washington’s most important men. In 1770, Beall sold the Charles and Williams tract and moved his family and slaves to a 264- acre tract called Kelly’s Purchase a few miles north of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Following Beall’s death in 1777, Yarrow was bequeathed to his son Isaac, but eventually became the property of Beall’s other son Brooke (Johnston 2012:59). Around 1788 or 1789, a year or two after Yarrow’s son Aquilla was born to a slave woman on a neighboring farm, Brooke Beall moved his family and slaves to Georgetown, where Yarrow was loaned out several times.
                Yarrow’s freedom came in 1796 with the condition that if Yarrow made bricks for Beall’s new house in Upper Georgetown that he would be freed. Unfortunately, Beall died before he could free Yarrow, but Beall’s widow, Margaret, kept his promise. According to Yarrow and Margaret, Yarrow’s freedom was made for the purest of reasons- a reward for a good and faithful servant (Johnston 2013:73). Before Beall died, Yarrow purchased his son, Aquilla’s, freedom for £20 or £37 from Ann Chambers on February 4, 1796 (Johnston 2012: 73 & 123). Yarrow officially received his manumission papers several months later on August 22nd. Four years later Yarrow purchased the property at 3324 Dent Place in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. from Francis Deakins on February 8, 1800. That same year the 1800 census listed Yarrow and another person (most likely Aquilla) as living on the Dent Place property, which was valued at $30 according to the 1800-1830 Tax Assessments (Johnston 2012: 73). In 1803, Yarrow transferred the property deed to Aquilla, who at that time was 15, so that it could not be seized by creditors (Johnston 2012: 127). By 1815, the property was assessed at $200 and noted a small frame structure. Though the original deed has been either lost or destroyed, a deed book kept by the Recorder of Deeds exists and is housed at the National Archives.  It was believed that Yarrow was literate in Arabic because he signed in name in Arabic on the deed (Johnston 2012:74).
                Apart from Johnston’s book, the earliest narrative mention of Yarrow appears in David Warden’s A Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia, which was published in 1816 and was intended to describe the capital to Europeans (Johnston 2006). In this narrative, Warden recounts what General John Mason of Analostan Island, George Mason’s son, told him about Yarrow on a visit to Georgetown in 1811. According to Mason, Yarrow had acquired a savings of $100, which he gave to a merchant for safe keeping. Yarrow’s savings were lost for the first time when the merchant died insolvent.  Despite being in this mid-seventies, Yarrow returned to work, laboring for fixed wages by day and weaving nets and baskets to sell by night. After saving another $100, Yarrow gave the money to another merchant with the same result after the merchant went bankrupt (Johnston 2012: 75). Returning to work a third time and saving $200, Yarrow took the advice of a friend and purchased shares at the Columbia (Bank of Georgetown) in his name. The interest from savings allowed him to live out the remainder of his life comfortably (Johnston 2012: 76).
                Yarrow met Charles Wilson Peale in 1819 during Peale’s visit to the city to paint President James Monroe for the collection of presidential portraits at Peale’s Museum in Philadelphia. During his time with Yarrow, Peale recorded his interaction with Yarrow in his diary (Johnston 2012: 92). Johnston speculates that Peale was interested in Yarrow for two reasons. The first is that Yarrow was rumored to be 140 years old and Peale, who had studied longevity and at one time believed that humans could live to be 200, decided that  he needed to meet this person who could prove his theory was true (Johnston 2006). Though Peale later revised his estimation of Yarrow’s age, it was still 53 years too old for Yarrow, who was 83 at the time of Peale’s painting.  The second reason Johnston speculates that Peale was interested in Yarrow is that, Peale who had once owned slaves and had come to oppose slavery, may have been hoping for an opportunity to paint a prosperous African American to make a point about racial equality (Johnston 2006). Three years after sitting for Peale’s painting, Yarrow sat once again for a portrait, this time for local artist James Alexander Simpson. This is the portrait that hangs in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Public Library. Peale’s painting hangs in Atwater Kent Museum in Philadelphia and depicts a somewhat younger, livelier Yarrow (Johnston 2006).
                Yarrow Mamout died on January 19th, 1823. Hearing of Yarrow’s death, Peale wrote Yarrow’s obituary and sent it to newspapers, including the Gettysburg Complier. The obituary reads:
Died—at Georgetown on the 19th ultimo, Negro Yarrow, aged (according to [Peale’s] account 136 years. He was interred in the corner of his garden, the spot where he usually resorted to is known to all that knew him, that he was industrious, honest, and moral—in the early part of his life he met with several losses by loaning money, which he never got, but he preserved in industry and economy, and accumulated some Bank stock and a house and lot, on which he lived comfortably in his old age—Yarrow was never known to eat of swine, nor drunk ardent spirits.” (Johnston 2006).
 Following Yarrow’s death, tax records indicate that the property at 3324 Dent Place passed to his heirs. Aquilla or another heir continued paying taxes on the property until 1832, the same year that Aquilla died (Johnston 2012:130).  The property stayed in Aquilla’s name until 1838, when the city of Georgetown auctioned it off to recovered unpaid taxes of $100 (Johnston 2006). In 1843, Nancy Hillman of Frederick, Maryland, filed a lawsuit in the District to collect an unpaid loan that Yarrow made to a merchant in 1821 to help buy a two story brick dwelling and store house with extensive back buildings on what is now Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown (Johnston 2006). Hillman claimed to be Yarrow’s niece and his only surviving heir and in 1850 she was awarded $451 in unpaid principal and interest on the loan. A year later she died with no heirs—a copy of her will which was filed with the Frederick County probate court indicates that her entire estate was left to two lawyers (Johnston 2006).
A Possible Burial?
In 2012, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, the City Archaeologist for the District of Columbia, was notified by James Johnston, a lawyer from Bethesda, Maryland who authored From Slave Ship to Harvard, that Yarrow's body was buried in his back yard. Since then she, the Historic Preservation Office and Howard University have decided to establish a partnership to conduct archaeological investigations on the property despite a lack of resources and a clear legal mandate to conduct investigations on private property. As of yet, archaeological investigations have not begun, though there is hope that they will begin before the property is sold and development begins.

Johnston, James
2012       From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family. New York: Fordham University Press.
2006       Mamout Yarrow: The Man in the Knit Cap. Washington Post 5 February: W16. Washington, D.C.
Stay tuned... Up next: Seattle, Washington & SHA

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mia L. Carey, M.A.

Well, I could apologize for not posting in a while...but I've been busy. I promise 2015 will see many more blog updates about my progress. So here are my top six updates since my last post.

1. Most importantly: I received my Master's Degree from the University of Florida last month. After eight months of tireless work my thesis was completed with minimal edits, mostly rearranging some pages adding and deleting tables. I presented by M.A. committee with a roughly a 130 page " publishable paper" and an additional 30 page appendix in October and defended successfully on November 18th. We discussed what my next steps were for getting the "paper" ready for a journal ( hopefully H.A.).

2. I found myself engaged in a community archaeology project. This fall I took a class with Dr. Peter Schmidt and he required us to write a research paper based on our engagement with a community. Since I had no active research or research prospects in Florida, I received permission from Dr. Ruth Trocolli at the DC Historic Preservation Office to discuss what we had been attempting to do with the Yarrow Mamout project at 3324 Dent Place. There will be a separate post on this due to its significance and it's potential to become my dissertation project =].

3. I presented two posters on the preliminary results of my thesis at the South Eastern Conference on Historical Sites Archaeology and the Eastern States Archaeology Federation.

4. This semester I'm presenting an oral presentation at the SHA conference in Seattle on the completed analysis and presenting my community archaeology paper in a cemetery session at the Mid-Atlantic Archaeology Conference in Ocean City in March.

5. I'm entering my community archaeology paper into a $1,000 paper contest in D.C.

6. People are reading my blog posts and seeking my advice! Thanks so much for the support!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Making Connections

My mother then turned to him and cried,"Oh master, do not take me from my child!" Without making any reply, he gave her two or three blows on the shoulders with his raw-hide, snatched me from her arms, handed me to my master, and seizing her by one arm, dragged her back towards the place of sale. My master then quickened the pace of his horse; and as we advanced the cries of my poor parents became more and more indistinct-- at any length they died away in the distance, and I never again heard the voice of my poor mother. Young as I was, the horrors of that day sank deeply into my heat, and even at this time, though half a century has elapsed, the terrors of the scene return with painful vividness upon my memory. Frightened at the sight of the cruelties inflicted upon my poor mother, I forgot my own sorrows at parting from her and clung to my new master, as an angel and saviour, when compared with the hardened fiend into whose power she had fallen.
- Excerpt from Fifty Years in Chains, or, The Life of An American Slave (1858), By Charles Ball

How is it that a third generation slave from Calvert County, Maryland is remembered two hundred years after his death in the history of the nation's second war of independence, a war that solidified the destiny of a young nation and inspired the national anthem?

Let's back up a moment...

During a long and bitter battle with France, the British restricted American trade, forced recruitment of American seamen, and provided military support to Native Americans who were resisting American expansion into the west. As a result, the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18th, 1812. Many of the initial battles were fought along the U.S./ British Canadian border until Great Britain defeated Napoleon in Europe in 1814 and was able to focus its attention on the war in North America, especially the Chesapeake Campaign. The Chesapeake Campaign is significant  for several reasons: The British targeted the Chesapeake region because it was viewed as a center of trade, commerce, and was home to the U.S. government; during this campaign the British liberated nearly 4,000 enslaved African American and recruited hundreds of others into the military; and we are introduced to Charles Ball.

In the excerpt, you'll recall that Ball was sold. This sale occurred in 1805 and took Ball south to work on plantations for a Georgia trader. Several years later Ball would escape and make the journey back to Maryland where he would be forever fearful of being taken back to the south. Ball declared himself a free man and worked for local farmers until war broke out; it is possible that Charles Ball was not his given name but rather an assumed name he took on to avoid being taken back south. In December of 1813, Ball would enlist in the navy (the War of 1812 being the first time Congress authorized African American participation in the Navy) under Commodore Joshua Barney and serve as a seaman and cook for the Chesapeake Flotilla.  Ball participated in the Battle of St. Leonard's Creek and the Battle of Bladensburg.

His history/memoir is hailed as a fascinating realistic account of the life of slaves and slave owners in the 19th century, even describing it as "one long wast, barren desert of cheerless, hopeless, lifeless slavery; to be varied only by the pangs of hunger, and the stings of the lash." 

What's the connection?...

As you'll recall Ball was a THIRD generation slave. His grandfather was a strong African man from a royal lineage who was stolen and sold into slavery, arriving first in Calvert County ca. 1730. By the time Ball's father was born slavery had become a racialized, legislated inheritance in Maryland. Ball's memoir is significant because he mentions that his father lived within a few miles of his grandfather and was enslaved by a avaricious, penurious member of the Hantz (Hance) family. The Hance family owned a 250 acre tract of land in Calvert County, known as Overton, which happens to have a late 18th, early 19th century archaeological site known as Chapline Place (18CV344). 

The faunal remains from the site has been analyzed and is currently being interpreted by none other than myself....

Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day of Archaeology 2014

"Day" of Archaeology
This annual, 24 hour international online event was inspired by the Day of Digital Humanities and presents an opportunity for archaeologists and those in related fields to write blog posts about their work.
This event, which was organized by a voluntary committee of archaeologists based in the UK, US, and Spain, has spurred archaeologists around the world to organize events for people of all ages to learn about what archaeologists really do.
In 2012, Dr. Alexandra Jones, of Archaeology in the Community, Inc. decided to host a Day of Archaeology festival at local D.C. parks where the public could meet archaeologists and participate in archaeological activities.

Tibia or not Tibia Zooarchaeologist
This year as part of my tenure as a District Leadership Program intern for the Historic Preservation Office in D.C. I was tasked with getting our activities together. My experiences as a zooarchaeologist and the constant barrage of questions about whether I studied dinosaurs inspired me to design a kid-family friendly activity to teach people about this unique sub-field.
The poster I designed for Day of Archaeology 2014

Designing an activity to teach young children about zooarchaeology was not easy. It took several days, several e-mails, and several conversations with the City Archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, and the Asst. City Archaeologist, Charde Reid for me to be able to condense my knowledge into a workable activity. In the end, I came up with three stations: 1) What is this?: Can you Guess the Animal; 2) Bone Modifications; 3) What is my use? In each activity I laid out a variety of animal bones and  had the kids try to guess whether or not the animal was a mammal, bird, fish, etc. and if they were really good which species the bone could have came from; guess if they could identify human bone modifications and taphonomic processes; and whether the bone was used as a food, tool, or toy.  The first and third station seemed to be the most popular due to the presence of elk bones I had picked up off the side of the road in New Mexico in 2011 and their ability to touch reproduction Native American artifacts such as a hide scraper, deer bone rattle, and a ball and cup type game with a bone needle and sacrum. I also designed a "Meet Our Artifacts" display case with some of the bone artifacts recovered from various archaeological sites in the city.
Meet Our Artifacts: Top Left: Bone & Shell Buttons, Center Left: Ivory Needle Threader and Spool, Bottom Left: Bone Needle. Top Center: Bone Toothbrush handle, Bottom Center: Bone Handled Iron-Fork/Knife. Top Right: Bone & Wood Domino, Center Right: Bone Chess Piece, Bottom Right: Bone Fish Hook.

None of the other archaeologists had anything similar for their activities which was good. The turnout, compliments, and just excitement about the activity was amazing. I had a lot of people come up and want to talk to me about my research, doing outreach activities, or just to say thank you. All of the hard work I put in to making this activity something fun and enjoyable for people of all ages seemed to really pay off. I couldn't be more proud and I'm looking forward to speaking with all of the people who either took my business card or wrote down my information.

The War of 1812
In addition to the zooarch activity I also designed a display case and poster for the War of 1812 Bicentennial of the Battle of Bladensburg. The Virtual Curation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University made replicas of artifacts discovered on the DC/Maryland border of the battle and we were able to display those.
This poster and display case may be used for an exhibit for the War of 1812 Bicentennial

Designing this activity and the posters was an amazing opportunity for me to showcase my knowledge and love for history & archaeology. Being put on the spot about my research and to have little girls, including my sisters, enjoy playing with bones was the highlight of the whole experience. I'm hoping once I finish my thesis that I will be able to do outreach events similar to this, though on a much smaller scale. I do want to thank everyone who came out and supported me!! 

Until next time :)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer 2014 Plans

Alright y'all time for a new post....

I'll keep it light this time and just share my summer plans and my summer reading list.

Summer Plans

By far the most important task on my to do list is finishing my thesis. Have a working title, but I think I'm going to rewrite the introduction. The identification is complete as of May 27th (YAY!!), so now its time to work on analyzing the data and writing the discussion section. Some pretty boring stuff right now generating the charts BUT this is probably the easiest part of any analysis, at least to me.

D I S T R I C T   L E A D E R S H I P   P R O G R A M
I was accepted into the summer cohort of the District of Columbia's District Leadership Program, a 12 week government internship that focuses on preparing the future leaders of the District. Being that I LOVE DC, I LOVE ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORIC PRESERVATION, and I LOVE the staff in the DC SHPO office it seems like a great opportunity for me to network, grow personally & professionally, and just enjoy being back in the city. If all goes well, I should have a dissertation site or sites narrowed down and some good contacts at the Smithsonian.

Through the internship I'll be working in Georgetown at the site of Yarrow Mamout, a Muslim slave who was able to eventually purchase property in D.C.; accessioning new/ old collections at the SHPO office,  and community outreach. Be on the look out for future posts about the Day of Archaeology event we're hosting in July and the highlights of the Phase I investigation.

G E T T I N G   M Y   M O T O R C Y C L E   L I C E N S E
This is the tricky one. It's something I've wanted for a while and I'll finally have the extra money to get it done. Though I am an adult, I would like to get my father's blessing before just up and buying a bike (he's worried about my safety and any obstacles preventing me from getting those three letters behind my name.

Other than these, I'll just be enjoying life, preparing abstracts for conferences, and learning as much as I can. I've picked out a few books below that I'm hoping to get a chance to read. 

Summer Reading List
  • From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family x James Johnston
  • Black Hunger: Soul Food and America x Doris Dewitt
  • Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860 x Larry Koge

6:20 am comes quick! Peace & Love.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Land of Lost Bones

These last two months have been hectic so here's a quick research update:

My Current Research: The samples I thought I was going to receive from New Orleans were and still are caught up in the politics of the Louisiana state government. Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

Thankfully, though, to Shayla Monroe and Kate Birmingham, who I am forever indebted too, I was able to get into contact with Rebecca Morehouse at the Maryland Archaeological Conservatory Laboratory in St. Leonard, Maryland. After literally a week of back and forth emails I was able to drive up and select four samples from the MAC Lab.

 I have the faunal remains from a late 18th and early 19th century plantation in Calvert County, MD; from a the Calvert County residence of a free African American woman who occupied the site between 1839 and 1868; from a post bellum African American slave and tenant dwelling site in St. Mary's County, and a post bellum, early 20th century African American slave cabin site in Calvert County.

I really haven't spent a lot of time focusing on how to place these samples in a context that links them all together since they are spread over a century, but since Maryland occupied a unique space geographically and ideologically in the 18th and 19th centuries it will probably deal with that aspect.

As far as the samples... I've had them about a month now and I've identified, counted, and weighed around 1,000 bones from cows, pigs, cotton tail rabbits, raccoons, opossums, rats/mice, squirrels, fish, turtles, chickens, turkeys, sharks, sand dollars, and some UID species. Here are some of the more unique elements that I've come across  two of my samples that are almost ready to be curated.

Fossilized fish
Rabbit mandible
Cow vertebrae

UID shark's tooth
UID bird's beak
Cow molars
Fossilized  sand dollar

One faunal sample approx. 300 individual bones

This process has not been a quick one and it has proven that taking a year off between working with samples probably wasn't the best idea.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Making Plans B- Z

I remember being 16 years old and sitting down one day to plan my life. College, the perfect career, purchasing  my first home by 30, and having a nice car. Eight years later I want to strangle my 16 year old self.  My little plan worked until I decided to pick up and leave everything I had ever known to start grad school in Florida.

Getting here hasn't been the problem. Getting the grades I'm accustomed to getting hasn't been the problem. Getting the work done hasn't been the problem. Finding time to raise a half-puppy, half-old man Labrador hasn't been the problem. Finding a way to balance personal relationships and graduate school hasn't been the problem.

Well...what's the problem?

The problem is that I never realized that I had to alter the plan my 16 year old self made to fit the reality that is grad school. Everything up until this point had been easy as pie. Double majoring a year and a half before graduating Howard was a walk in the park ( and honestly it was no different that one major would have been). Now here I am 56 credits into my program without a research project to call my own, though it hasn't been a lack of trying.

Seven months ago I thought I had the perfect project lined up, all I thought I needed to do was call CEO of Company A, CEO of Company A would call Staff Member B, Staff Member B would pack up and ship my samples and I'd have a whole semester to analyze and write my publishable paper. By May 2014 I would graduate, spend the summer interning, and I'd return in the fall to begin the doctoral phase of my stint at Florida.

IS THIS HAPPENING?!?! you ask....well....NO....far from it.

It's been seven months of sporadic emails, finding out that FEMA was involved, having to send a dissertation proposal, coming close to having a mental and emotional break down, wanting  to pack up and move back home. I honestly was ready to throw in the towel  when I found out that my sample was no where close to being shipped, my graduation date was being pushed back to probably the fall, and I needed desperately to search around for a sample of my own.

Unfortunately, as much as I would love to give a happy update about finding a sample and beginning my analysis, that part of the story is still unfolding.

My point in writing this post is simple. Grad school, at least from my experience, is a period of uncertainty. Involving so many players in your story means that not everything is going to fall exactly into place as you would like it. Make Plan A and keep on going. You never know when someone isn't going to return your emails or calls, when a government agency will step in, or when things are going to start getting better.

Ask for help if you need it. I was too stubborn to admit that I needed help, not just with my research issue but emotionally as well, but I'm thankful for all of the amazing people who have been there to support and love me.


Until next time...