Lost history note on Bishop Wayman’s mother Matilda Wayman, Anna Murray Douglass, Caroline County, Loadman Shields and the fugitive slave case of “Priss”

1850 United States Census, Caroline County (Maryland); NARA Series M432, Roll 288. “Francis Wayman;”

In closely reviewing the field research and historic notes meticulously maintained by Choptank Heritage on Bishop Alexander Walker Wayman (1821 – 1895) I wondered about the extant record of his mother, Matilda Wayman (b. ca. 1797 – 1872).

In recent years an industry of mythomanes have suggested more research need be done, and therefore a fuller recognition occur concerning the consequential life and times of Anna Murray Douglass (1813 – 1882). Little original research has been forthcoming and therefore no fuller historic recognition has occurred in recent years other than repeated sentiment of incomplete myth.

Simply put, there is work to be done and too few workers.

According to Bishop Wayman’s 1881 Recollections, his mother, Matilda, was friendly with Anna Murray and entrusted the future Mrs. Frederick Douglass to watch her children, including the future 7th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Miss Anna Murray, now Mrs. Frederick Douglass, came and kept house for my mother while she was attending this camp-meeting.

My Recollections of African M. E. Ministers, or Forty Years’ Experience in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1881)

Whereas Alexander’s older brother, Charles Henry, was born enslaved in 1812, and Alexander was born free in 1821, we can deduce that their mother, Matilda, attained her freedom sometime between 1812 and 1821.

Reportedly, Matilda and her husband, Francis Wayman, born enslaved in ca. 1787, were both free and well-known within the community, frequently hosting and lodging Black Methodist preachers visiting Caroline County and the region, in the 1820s and 1830s.

Living within the area at this time were the parents and family of Anna Murray. According to Rosetta Douglass Sprague daughter (1839 – 1906), her mother:

… was born in Denton, Caroline County, Maryland, an adjoining county to that in which my father was born. The exact date of her birth is not known. Her parents, Bambarra Murray and Mary, his wife, were slaves, their family consisting, of twelve children, seven of whom were born in slavery and five born in freedom. My mother, the eighth child, escaped by the short period of one month, the fate of her older brothers and sisters, and was the first free child.

My Mother as I Recall Her

Most historians have dated Anna’s birth year to around 1813, around the time of the birth of Bishop Wayman’s older brother Charles Henry, born enslaved in March 1812.

Therefore, within Caroline County around 1812 – 1813, Anna’s mother, Mary, had obtained her freedom whereas freedom had yet to be obtained by Bishop Wayman’s mother, Matilda.

Other than Choptank Heritage’s editor, family genealogists (family historians) of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and a visiting academician who has since gone home, we are unaware of any ongoing public work to discuss these close associations, connections and affiliations between and within the families of the Waymans, Murrays and Baileys, as well as other prominent descendant families.

Why does this matter, you may be asking? It matters because untold public treasury is expended every year to continue to repeat a flat, limited and mythologized history. It matters because school children ask to be taught local history and in return are not told.

His color was black, his voice commanding, deep. | Choptank River Heritage

Although it has now become vogue to ponder the history of Anna Murray and her family – and her community – the detective work has yet to be done, although organizations and staff exist locally, regionally, statewide and nationally to do so. Grants and public monies abound but the history continues to be lost and unrecognized.

How did Anna Murray’s parents obtain their freedom? How did Bishop Wayman’s parents obtain their freedom? From whom did they obtain their freedom? What were the circumstances and/or conditions of their freedom? Do records exist that can answer and/or confirm these questions? Where may these records be? Has anyone ever looked for these records?

These questions led us to a brief obituary for Matilda Wayman circulated in newspapers within communities of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

March 1872. Library of Congress.

According to the obituary, Matilda Wayman had been enslaved to Loadman Shields, who shows up in records within Talbot and Caroline County. A rudimentary search of familiar databases and archives did not reveal substantial information about Shields and his connections to Matilda Wayman.

However, an interesting 1836 newspaper clip from the Public Ledger (Philadelphia) surfaced with mention of Loadman Shields of Caroline County.

According to the report, a “negro women named Priscilla was arrested as a fugitive slave,” and brought before Judge Randall in the Court of Common Pleas.

A deposed witness from Caroline County confirmed that Priscilla was “the slave of Loadman Shields, who now claimed her.” The witness testified to have known the young woman, believed to be in her early 20s, since she was “six or seven years old.”

Reportedly, Shields had hired out Priscilla. Another witness testified to have known Priscilla’s mother, Tilly, who “was also Mr. Shield’s slave.”

Fugitive Slave Case -
“Important Decision of a Slave Case.” September 22, 1836. Public Ledger (Philadelphia), p. 1

An 1816 deed of manumission was admitted to the court “by which Loadman Shields manumitted Tilly, the mother, to be free when she was 30 years old, (she being then 23,) and also manumitted ‘negro girl Priss,’ the present prisoner, ‘aged three years the 1st of December, 1816, to be free when she arrived to the age of 30 years.” Shields sought the court to return the young woman to Caroline County and his service until December 1, 1843, when she would therefore be 30 years old.

Apparently, the young woman “had been claimed on a former occasion” and was subsequently discharged from arrest.

In her second case future Philadelphia mayor Charles Gilpin (1809 – 1891), represented Priscilla arguing that she had been properly previously dismissed thus “it was not lawful to sue a claim for which had already been decided.”

Future Congressman Henry Meyer Phillips (1811 – 1884) represented Shields arguing the Constitutional property rights of slaveowners to “show property and title” and duly “have the fugitive reprimanded.”

Just months before the 1837 incident which would eventually result in the 1843 ruling of the US Supreme Court in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the court delivered a decision in which “the case was compromised.”

How did Priscilla make her way from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Philadelphia? Who assisted her? What route did she take? From whom and/or where did she escape from the Shore to Philadelphia? What happened to Priscilla?

Further information on “Priscilla,” Loadman Shields, comparable fugitive slave cases originating from Caroline County and the impact of this case – or lack thereof – in Maryland and Pennsylvania case law has not yet been sought but there is a $400,000 grant currently dedicated to “mapping” this respective lost history.

Whereas Frederick Bailey’s family members who fled have been focus of scholastic attention and public recognition a more comprehensive examination of the community of Eastern Shore freedom seekers and their families, methodologies, associates and destinations has yet been undertaken.

Despite development of helpful databases the public history is still presented as largely an ephemeral myth which does not instruct the modern scholar and classroom student.


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