Posts Tagged US Marshal
A note on steamboats & 1878 visit of United States Marshal of the District of Columbia Frederick (Bailey) Douglass to Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington
Within recent weeks we have begun compiling nearly a decade of research notes and recollected thousands of conversations with community members concerning the lost history of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass of Washington City by way of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and George Washington of Virginia, the founding father of America.
One of the most evident examples of the lifelong sentiment Douglass held for Washington are the half-dozen or so visits he made to Mount Vernon, in both private and a public capacity, while living in Washington City following the Civil War.
While serving as United States Marshal of the District of Columbia in the administration of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes Frederick Douglass joined an assemblage, on the steamer Mary Washington, to Mount Vernon in June 1878 attached to the annual meeting of the council of vice regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.
A man of modern conveyances, Douglass was a frequent and extensive traveler on steam ships around waterways in and around Washington City, Baltimore, Annapolis, Maryland’s Eastern Shore and tidewater regions of Virginia for the last thirty years of his life. This history has been lost and is unknown today in all existing scholarship on Frederick Douglass.
Traveling up and down, back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay by way of area rivers and tributaries from the Potomac to the Choptank to the Patapsco to the Chester to the Elizabeth to the Wye to the James to the Severn to the Miles, Frederick Douglass was a most conspicuous presence on any ship he boarded.
Although not infrequently the recipient of discrimination on steamships in antebellum America and during voyages across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean, it was widely reported that captains of the Chesapeake steam fleet welcomed Douglass aboard, often inviting him and his company into the captain’s quarters.
According to a section of Tindall’s Standard History of Washington City on local steamboat companies and their specific operations, including the Mount Vernon line:
The steamer W. W. Corcoran commenced making trips to Mount Vernon about 187, and continued to do so until re- placed by the Charles Macalester in 1890. She was burned at her dock in September, 1891.
About 1876, and for some years after, the Arrow, a small fast steamer, also took excursions to Mount Vernon.
The Mary Washington, a flat-bottomed steamer, equipped with a centerboard, was operated by E. S. Randall as an excursion boat to White House and Occoquon from about 1873 to 1882.
Further background on the Mary Washington and Mount Vernon’s line of steam boats can be gleaned from the indispensable writings of “The Rambler” in the Washington Star.
In 1920 the Rambler turned his rambling attention to steamers; specifically a series of “Rambles” featuring “Famous Old Passenger Craft of Historic Water Route – Phantom Ships as They Pass in the Night – The Mary Washington.”
The Rambler wrote:
Somehow or others, as the talk in the harbor office turned to old boats of the Potomac river, the first one mentioned was the Mary Washington and the first of the river captains mentioned was the Mary‘s first commander, Capt. Gregg.
Although it is perfectly proper to class the Mary Washington with the old Potomac steamboats, she was not so very old even when she passed away. Yet she was a famous boat and nearly every Washingtonian traveled on her. For years she was an excursion carrier to the popular river resorts, and the feature which endears her in the memory of so many Washington men and women is that they danced merrily on her decks. She was a dancing boat. Her decks were broad and smooth and the music furnished by the many bands that served on her was said to be always good
Thousands of people who are following these lines danced on the Mary Washington, which as the years went by came to be affectionately called “the Old Mary.” The Mary was not built to be an excursion steamer. She was built for business, and as the Rambler’s memory serves him, she was built at the instance of the Potomac Fruit Growers’ Association, an organization of Virginians that was quite active in the 70’s.
The Mary was built on Accotink creek, below the village of Accotink, in 1874.
The Rambler finds this paragraph in The Star of Saturday, June 6, 1874: “The new steamboat Martha Washington was launched at Accotink, Va., on Thursday morning and towed up to Alexandria, where she is to receive her engines.”
She seemed to have been named the Martha Washington at her launching, for that name occurs several times in the chronicles, but in a month after she was given to the river she was called the Mary Washington.
About the time of the Philadelphia centennial – that is, in 1876 – the Mary Washington came under the ownership of Capt. L.L. Blake, and by agreement with the Mount Vernon regents the Mary Washington become one of the Mount Vernon steamboats, the other being the Arrow, which was still commanded by Frank Hollingshead.
Col. Joseph C. McKibbin entered into partnership with Capt. Blake and they bought Marshall Hall, and for some time the Mary Washington was the Mount Vernon and Marshall Hall steamboat.
The Mary Washington was the steamer Douglass took to Mount Vernon in 1878 piloted by Captain Levi Lowell Blake.
(Douglass knew many prominent men who had once been affiliated with steamboats, not the least of the likes of Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens and P. B. S. Pinchback.)
The Baltimore Sun reported on the 1878 excursion of Frederick Douglass to the home of George Washington, writing:
A very large number of persons accompanied the invited guests to Mt. Vernon, on board the Mary Washington, Capt. L. L. Blake, to whose untiring courtesy very much of the success attending it is owing,
Among the party was Mr. W. W. Corcoran of the board of visitors, after whom the new boat of the association will be named; the Governors of Virginia and West Virginia, with large delegations from their States of ladies and gentlemen; Mr. Rogers, private secretary to President Hayes; Fred. Douglass, Marshal of the District; Judge Chas. B Ball, of Leesburg, Va.; ex-Lieut. Governor Thomas, president of the board of visitors; Col. B. P. Nolan and ex-Congressman Sweat, of Maine.
The council will adjourn to-morrow.
In 1869 Frederick (Bailey) Douglass took the Arrow to Mount Vernon. Over nearly 30 years Douglass visited Mount Vernon several times.
Note, article & research registered with United States Copyright Office; Library of Congress.
Authorship: JHM & JLM
Brief Note on Frederick Douglass & Lynching pertaining to the Maryland Lynching Truth & Reconciliation Commission, Maryland Lynching Memorial Project and the Equal Justice Initiative (Feb 11, 2020)
As the state of Maryland continues the work of its Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission with plans for its first formal public hearings underway we must insist a recognition and discussion of “Frederick Douglass and Lynching” is part of the ecosystem.
Foremost, “The Lessons of the Hour” (1894) was the last major pamphlet of Dr. Douglass during his half-century public career. Throughout the 1890s Douglass advocated within local communities and at the highest levels of the government for anti-lynching laws and prosecution of extra-judicial killings. In concert with Maryland activists Douglass pressed this issue and claims.
Secondly, while serving as Marshal of the District of Columbia, Frederick Douglass played a significant role in averting a lynch mob in Washington City in February 1880.
Earlier that month Douglass spoke in Salisbury in Wicomico County on the Lower Eastern Shore.
In 1931 Matthew Williams was murdered by a lynch mob in that same space. Two years later Maryland would suffer its last murder by lynch mob with George Armwood’s death in Princess Anne in 1933.
It has been our experience in the past year or so surveying meetings of the existing Maryland Lynching Truth & Reconciliation Commission, as well the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project, that Douglass and the issue of lynching is not a thought, afterthought nor warranting a mention.
Organizations and folks who are either raising funds off this history and/or who are supported with funds from the public treasury and/or who are on the public time clock in their capacity as commissioners have a greater responsibility than to be careless with citations, scholastically thoughtless and in general ahistorical.
Muller, John. “Lynching Averted in Washington City,” Ghosts of DC. November 9, 2012
Lost History: Frederick Douglass in Queen Anne’s County (Sun., October 20, 2019 @ 1:30 PM, Centreville Branch of the Queen Anne’s County Library)
Join local history enthusiasts and community leaders for a debut presentation detailing the previously unknown history of Marshal Frederick Douglass visiting and speaking to more than 500 hundred people in Centreville, Maryland.
Arriving in Queenstown, Queen Anne’s County, by steamboat from Baltimore, the visit of Marshal Douglass to Centreville drew visitors from nearby Talbot, Caroline and Kent counties.
Learn more about the lost local history from internationally known Douglassonian John Muller, who has previously presented on the lost and unknown history of visits Douglass made to Cambridge in Dorchester County and Denton in Caroline County.
Q&A following the presentation.
Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass & Higher Education: University of Rochester Edition, Pt. 3 [Rev. Dr. Heman Lincoln Wayland, college president, recalls introducing Douglass to “three presidents of American colleges,” specifically Dr. Martin B. Anderson of University of Rochester]
Address of Rev. Dr. H. L. WAYLAND,
Delivered at The Memorial Meeting,
Held at the Academy Of Music, Philadelphia, Pa.,
on Evening of April 15, 1895.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I cannot look upon the eminent citizen whose name is in every heart this evening, simply as a public man. To me, he was a valuable personal friend.
Forty-two years ago, while I was residing in Rochester, I made his acquaintance, and was captivated by his brilliant and admirable qualities. I had the opportunity of rendering him some slight service, which he, with characteristic generosity, estimated at far more than its real worth.
I had the honor of introducing him to three presidents of American colleges, a circumstance to which he often alluded with pleasure.
In 1854 he was invited to give the annual literary address before what was then Western Reserve College, at Hudson, Ohio, which has since been removed to Cleveland, and largely endowed, and which now bears the name of Adelbert College. It was the first time such an invitation had been given to him, or, I imagine, to any colored man. He naturally felt a good deal of hesitation. I urged him to accept the service. He did so, and, thinking that for a college occasion, something of a scientific turn would be demanded, he selected as his subject “The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered.”
When he had read what was within his reach on the subject, I asked permission of Dr. Martin B. Anderson, then president of the University of Rochester, an eminent and widely read student of ethnology, to bring Mr. Douglass to his house, that the latter might have the benefit of his great stores of information. The president kindly welcomed him, loaned him books, and afforded him the yet more invaluable inspiration of his personal encouragement.
The address went off well, although Mr. Douglass was fettered by the use of manuscript, to which he was unaccustomed, and probably was not unconscious of his academic audience. He subsequently expressed the opinion that he would nave done better to have spoken upon his great theme, and to have let himself out. One incident in regard to the address I recall. He quoted the opinion of some ethnologist, who claimed that the negro was radically differentiated from the other races, by his small, thin, weak voice. Mr. Douglass made no comment, but simply declaimed this extract from the author in a voice of thunder that made the rafters ring.
Later I was living in Worcester, the heart of the Commonwealth, a community more true to liberty than any other city in America. I fully agree with the sentiments that I have heard uttered by Theodore Parker, that, if you tie a rope ten miles long to the steeple of the Old South Church in Worcester, and use it as a radius, you will include within that circle a higher average, intellectually and morally, than anywhere else on the earth.
Just after the crime of the Dred-Scott decision, I arranged a lecture for Mr. Douglass in the Worcester City Hall, and, for the first time in his history, he was introduced by the Mayor of the city, who presided.
After the lecture, there was a little supper, at which, in addition to Mr. Douglass, the guest of honor, there were present John Brown of Ossawatamie, later of Harper’s Ferry; Hon. Eli Thayer, then Member of Congress; Hon. W. W. Rice, later Member of Congress; Hon. J. N. Walker, present Member of Congress, and other citizens.
Pardon me for these details, which I do not enter into from any personal motive, but simply to introduce an incident which took place twenty years later, while Mr. Douglass was Marshal of the District of Columbia. I called upon him in his office.
His son came into the room, and Mr. Douglass said, “My son, this is Mr. Wayland. Mr. Wayland was a friend to your father at a time when your father needed a friend very much.”
The recollection of these few words, touching in their simplicity, I prize greatly at this hour.
It would be very pleasant to spend the time which your courtesy allows me in eulogizing the virtues of Mr. Douglass. There is little need to speak of his eloquence. Coming upon the platform in a day when Curtis and Sumner and Phillips were speaking, he occupied no second place.
Forty years ago, John G. Palfrey, formerly a professor in Harvard University, from his place in the popular branch of Congress, spoke of Mr. Douglass as speaking and writing the English language “in a manner of which any member might be proud.”
He had the qualifications of a great orator. Eloquence comes from the heart It is true of the orator, as of the poet:
“Men are cradled into poetry by wrong;
They learn in suffering, what they teach in song.”
In order to be eloquent, there must be a great cause, a great experience, a great agony. I can but think it a wonderful adjustment of Providence that in Mr. Douglass were united the burning experience, with the gift of speech. I seem to hear him now, as, looking back to the former condition of himself and those associated with him, he exclaimed, “Oh, the depth, the depth!”
The utterance of these words cost him twenty years of slavery and a half century of sympathy.
Along with his eloquence and his brilliancy, Mr. Douglass united a wisdom, a good sense, a good taste, that never allowed him to go astray. I recall no public man who has made fewer mistakes.
His wisdom, together with his mental independence, was illustrated by his relations to Mr. Garrison and others of the old abolition leaders. They held that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document; that it was, in their own often-quoted language (which I think was printed every week on the first page of the Liberator), “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” They refused to act under the Constitution.
They abjured the exercise of the franchise. They set at naught force and trusted only to moral appeal. But they did use words infinitely sharper than the sword. Mr. Douglass’ early associations were with these men, who are to be honored for their bravery and their fidelity. But in the course of time, with enlarging wisdom, he found himself differing from them, and he was forced to protest against their fundamental principle and against their methods and spirit. He declared that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document, and that it contained resources for the universal establishment of liberty.
Time passed. Under the forms of the Constitution, the great emancipator was elected. A President, constitutionally chosen, signed the Proclamation of Emancipation, and, through the armies of the United States, and under its flag, slavery was annihilated.
A striking feature in the character of Mr. Douglass was the absence of bitterness. He warred against a system, not against man. That was a very touching episode, his visit, late in life, to his old master, from whom, fifty years before, he had run away.
Mr. Douglass had a broad humanity. His sympathies were not confined to the advocacy of any single cause, or the championship of any single class or sex. His voice was enlisted for all who suffered wrong.
It would be pleasant to dwell at length upon the character of our honored friend. But I think we should do injustice to the occasion, if we did not draw from the life that has closed, one or two lessons.
Especially here is an example in inspiration, for the young. I do not know in all history a parallel. Here is a lad — born a slave, not merely a serf, of the same race and color of the master, and belonging to the soil; but bearing upon his brow the indelible problem of his servitude, and of the defenselessness of his mother; liable to be brought to the block at a moment’s notice; knowing law only by the burdens it imposed and the wrongs it inflicted. To teach him the five letters which spell the name of the Redeemer of mankind is a penal offence.
He has no property, no rights, no future. In childhood he sleeps on the floor, in a tow bag, which but partly covers him. He wears by day a single tow garment, and he picks out of the dust the grains of corn which the chickens have left.
You heard him say, not long ago, in this city: “The slave looked at his body, and they told him it belonged to his master; and they told him that his soul belonged to God, and so he had nothing.”
He bore on his own body the marks of the lash, and could not have protected his own sister, his own mother, his own wife, from the vilest profanation. Robbed of everything else, he has a soul, a will, a mind; he has a sense of right and wrong, he has something in him, which, like the magnetic needle, eagerly quivers toward the North, and he dreams of the polar star.
After he had made his way to a land where slavery was forbidden, he was yet under the ban. White workmen would not labor by his side; in the steamboat, in the cars, in the place of amusement, not seldom in the house of worship, be saw or heard or felt the words, “No niggers allowed here!”
This was the man who, later, was the friend of Lincoln, and of Grant and of Sumner; who was chosen elector-at-large for the Empire State; who repeatedly sailed upon national ships, sent upon errands of honor by the nation; who ranked among the authors and orators of America; who was a welcome guest in many of the oldest and proudest homes of Great Britain and of Europe; who, but the other day, was borne to his grave amid universal reverence; whose body lay in state in the city of Rochester, where for a score of years he had resided. The story of his youth, of his manhood, of his age, unite in saying to every young man: “Nothing is impossible to him who wills.” “Would you be held in honor? Make yourself worthy of honor!”
And out of this life, there grows a lesson for every one of us.
We shall have conflicts, obstacles, enemies; and the higher our aims, the more generous our purposes, so much the more formidable the adversaries. We have to contend against the saloon, against the gambling-hell, against the spoils system, against the fraudulent vote, against ignorance, against superstition, against oppression, against race prejudice, against the lynching mob. Not seldom the conflict seems difficult, and success is invisible.
We look at his history; we see the changes and the conquests which were compassed by the duration of a single life; we see the system of slavery, which for generations ruled the country absolutely, and which seemed more enduring than Gibraltar, now a dishonored fact in ancient history. We see an army of dark-hued children going daily to their schools.
We see the colored adorning almost every station and every profession, and we realize that despair, that doubt, is a crime, which not humanity, and hardly God, can forgive.
Officer of the Recorder of Deeds,
District of Columbia
Washington, D.C., May 23d, 1881.
Hon. Charles Devens:
My dear Sir:
I thank you very sincerely for your kind and valued letter of congratulations after my confirmation as Register of Deeds and especially for the good word you were pleased to speak for me to the President of the United States. That word would no doubt have earned my retention in the office of U.S. Marshal, but for the President’s preference for a personal friend. My present office is even better suited to my tastes than the Marshalship and is sufficiently [illegible.] Allow me to express my pleasure that Massachusetts continues to honor you with [illegible] responsible position. I shall look back with satisfaction to the four years I served under you as Marshal and you were Attorney General of the United States.
Very truly yours,
Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress; 1881, Jan. – Jun. (Series: General Correspondence): Image 39 of 61
Available for $749.00 on Ebay here!
*Douglass purchased Cedar Hill for $6.700 just weeks before.*
Available for $749.00 on Ebay here!
Frederick Douglass gives lecture for “benefit of a home for friendless women and girls” [Evening Star, 23 April, 1878, p. 4]
Marshal Frederick Douglass delivered an address last evening at the opening of the national bazaar at the Kindergarten hall for benefit of a home for friendless women and girls.
“Condensed Locals,” Evening Star, 23 April, 1878, p. 4
In the late 19th century, while Frederick Douglass lived in Anacostia, scores of notable men and women came to Cedar Hill. In conversation Monday with Mr. Donet D. Graves, Esq. about his ancestor James Wormley, I learned of a dinner Douglass held hosting officials from Liberia.
For Douglassonian scholars this should be of some intrigue because Douglass was forceful in his denunciation of “colonization” efforts throughout his life. Without getting too much into the specific history of Liberia or “colonization” efforts both nationally and in the District, I only learned a couple years ago that there was such a concentration of black Marylanders in Liberia that there was a republic named “Maryland” in Liberia. Maps of Africa from the late 18th century – early 19th century regularly reflect this. Today there is a county in Liberia named Maryland.
Without further delay, here’s the brief news item.
MARSHALL DOUGLASS entertained at dinner at his residence, at Uniontown, yesterday afternoon. Dr. E. W. Blyden, minister of Liberia to England, and Hon. John H. Smythe, U.S. minister resident to Liberia, at which dinner were also present Senator Bruce, Prof. Greener, L. H. Douglass, Robert Parker, James Wormley, Fred. Douglass, jr., and Charles Douglass.
Evening Star. 25 June 1880, p. 1 Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Thank you to Donet D. Graves, Esq., a gentleman and scholar, for this helpful lead.