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Maddox Slaves

Above: Currier & Ives' "A Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi"

There is no question that ownership of slaves in any family history is an uncomfortable issue for descendants of ancestors who owned them.  However, to know who we were, we must know what happened both in the nation and our own family.  Wills, genealogy, and census books give us clues to family involvement in this practice which divided the nation and was one of our greatest national tragedies.

Samuel Maddox was a tobacco planter who had both white indentured servants who gained their freedom later in payment for their passage from England as well as slaves who did not.  The estate mentions individually "1 negro woman and child", "1 woman servant" and "2 men servants" right along with 100 head of livestock, pots, furniture and clothing items.  He willed them to various of his children.

Son John Maddox (1680-1748) also mentioned slaves, leaving to his wife Sarah all of his lands and all of his negroes, with the exception of specific bequests of negroes.  They are referred to in this manner:  "girl Judith, Born 1734, girl Jane, man Robert, girl Elizabeth, girl Yalla, man Ned, Man James, girl Lotty, negro boy called William," etc. His wife Sarah, when she died, willed them similarly to other descendants.  She provided that the mulatto Ann be set free and given various personal items. (Mulatto, in this sense, is an individual whose parentage is both black and white.)  Another, she willed Catherine, daughter of Ann, is to be set free when she reaches the age of 16 and is not to be "put to the hoe" during the interim (in this sense, she was not to be sent to work in the fields, but to be assigned lighter duties.)  Some slaves were domestics, others were field workers.   (Domestics worked inside the house, field workers worked outside and had a harsher life.)  Children of slaves became slaves themselves.

The census of 1790 shows a John Maddox of Pickawaxon, MD as having 24 slaves but most who did hold them, held one or two.  By their ages and gender, most were domestics.  One Maddox freed all his field hands when they reached 31 years of age.  Hurley's book Maddox: A Southern Maryland Family annotates no less than 86 slaves by name, held and passed by one Maddox plantation owner to another.

Illustrations: Above: Joe Crawford, fm Hurley's book.  Below: Advertisement for Beecher's book, fm Chronicle of America. Right: drawing of Kentucky river barge.

Evidence of slave lifestyle in the Maddox family is so far hard to come by.  Robert King Maddox wrote an article in Hurley's book of his recollection of former slave Joe Crawford (b 1830), owned by his great grandfather Charles John Maddox (1819).  Maddox wrote his father remembered Joe well.  Joe knew all about farming and did many of the chores on the farm, as planter, blacksmith, harvester and housework when needed.  The account says that he had been given his freedom at the end of the Civil War.  Like many others of the period, he did not want to leave the household, and was welcomed to stay as long as he wished.  Joe was well known in the area, doing chores for anyone who needed his services.  He died in 1917.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book known to millions before the Civil War, may well have cast characters in her book from three slaves (a man, woman, and small child) owned by George Harris, one of the allied families married into the Kentucky Maddoxes.  (Snow Hill Remembered, Heritage Books, pg 54.) 

We have some evidence, without details, that a Kentucky Maddox lost his life at the hands of  the KKK in the 1930s.  We presume Maddox ancestors were on both sides of the national slavery controversy during the time in American history it was prevalent. Some early branches of the family were comparatively well-to-do and their records were more detailed and showed they owned slaves.  A St. Louis paper wrote about a Maddox Gentleman farmer and treatment of his slaves.  Most other farming Maddoxes were not families of means and most probably struggled through frontier and colonial life without owning them. However, many early Maddoxes we have records about were Southerners and during the Civil War, are recorded as taking up the Confederate cause. 

There are many Afro Americans with the Maddox surname--some of their ancestors are former family slaves and others married into the Maddox family.  It was common for freed slaves to take on the surname of the families who held them.  We are interested in gathering more information on the holding of slaves and their lives from publications, and Americans named Maddox of any color.

            --by B Maddox, Webmaster