Old Bets (c. 1772 – 1849) was known as an old settler along the Tuckahoe.
Delivering children for generations and vending sweet potatoes, fishing nets and shad in the towns of Cordova, Denton, Hillsboro, Queen Anne, Starr, Thomasville, Williston Mill and nearby mill towns the maternal grandmother of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass held command and respect equally among the families and community whom served as officers alongside General George Washington and General Marquis de Lafayette, as well as those who served Washington, Lafayette and other historic American revolutionaries as trusted confidants, body servants and aide-de-camps.
The revolution that was and is America is due revolutionaries.
Frederick Bailey was raised up around Black American patriotic revolutionaries. These men knew George Washington and his officer corps, as well they knew Old Bets and her family.
To describe the Tuckahoe community as a “backwater,” as Yale professor David Blight does and did while touring throughout the country’s universities, libraries and historical societies is not only harmful, and in conflict with the historical legacy and documented record of the community which raised the subject of his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, but it is scholastically disgraceful, thoughtless and blasphemous.
The same year Frederick was born Congress passed the Revolutionary War Pension Act of 1818, granting lifetime pensions to surviving members of the Continental Army who served at least nine months and were in need of assistance from their country.
The next year, within a week or so of Frederick’s 1-year birthday, Thomas Carney of Caroline County walked through the doors of the courthouse to affirm his Constitutional right to a pension for his service to his country and state.
According to Carney’s pension application:
On this 24th day of February 1819, before me, the subscriber Chief Judge of the Second Judicial District of Maryland, personally appeared Thomas Carney aged about Sixty years, resident in Caroline County and the said State, who, being by me first duly sworn, according to law, doth, on his oath, make the following declaration, in order to obtain the provision made by the late act of Congress, entitled “An act to provide for certain persons engaged in the land and naval service of the United States in the revolutionary war:”
[T]hat he, the said Thomas Carney enlisted for the term of three years in the Spring as he thinks of 1777 in Caroline County in the State of Maryland in the Company commanded by Captain John Hawkins of the Regiment commanded by Colonel William Richardson in the line of the State of Maryland, on the Continental Establishment; that he continued to serve in said corps, or in the service of the United States, until he enlisted for the war at the close of which he was discharged from service at Annapolis in the State aforesaid, , that he was in the battles of Brandywine [September 11, 1777], Germantown [October 4, 1777], White Plains [October 28, 1776], Monmouth [June 28, 1778], Camden [August 15-16, 1780], Guilford Court House [March 15, 1781], Ninety Six [May 22-June 19, 1781], and of Eutaw Springs [September 8, 1781] and that he is in reduced circumstances, and stands in need of the assistance of his country for support.
Local Revolutionary War hero General Perry Benson affirmed Carney’s patriotic service.
Carney was awarded his rightful pension, as well as other Black American Patriots of the Tuckahoe.
Old Bets knew the community and the community knew Old Bets.
Among the elders and leaders of the Black community of the Tuckahoe, Old Bets knew these patriots and these patriots knew her – and her grandson.
Instilled with an entrepreneurial intellect and the gift of gab from his grandmother, Frederick Bailey recognized the status and movement of his grandmother among the white and Black communities of the Tuckahoe from the preachers to pensioners of the Revolution.
Among the informal ranks of the Caroline County Black Chamber of Commerce of the 1820s Old Bets was regarded and respected among other Black American vendors, tradesmen and tradeswoman -enslaved, indentured and Free.
Within this service economy James Due was a shoe cobbler.
Extant records and meeting minutes of the Caroline County Black Chamber of Commerce of the 1820s have yet to be discovered but we are confident there would be notations of the conversations and possible business interactions between Old Bets and Honorable James Due.
Frederick Bailey would have been and was right there. They all knew Old Bets’ grandson. Just ask Daniel Lloyd, the governor’s son.
None of this research nor history is contained within a solar system of David Blight’s speculative and scandal-mongering drivel. Master Douglassonian Dickson J. Preston gives hints and clues but never goes where he could have and/or where his research was inevitably going.
Nobody knows. We do.
The history of the Tuckahoe abides.