Slaves of Margaret Barber


Margaret Barber, who lived at North View, on property now occupied by the U.S. Naval Observatory, was the widow of Cornelius Barber. Both husband and wife had been children of slave-owning families, and had 11 slaves in the 1850 census slave roll.


Cornelius Barber also had slaves on his farm in St. Mary’s County:

TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS REWARD.––Left the subscriber’s farm, in St. Mary’s county, Maryland, on Tuesday, the 7th instant, my negro man BOB. He is a blacksmith, and well known in Charles and St. Mary’s counties; and it is supposed that he is lurking somewhere in the former of these, wher he has a large number of connexions. If not there, he has made his way to Westmoreland county, Virginia, his wife and his chidren being owned by Mr. James Payne, of that county.

I will give $25 for the delivery of the said negro, (if caught in Maryland), at my residence, near Georgetown, or secured in jail so I can get him again; or $60 if caught out of the State.

He is about 45 years of age, in height 5 feet 10½ inches, and robust; very black, with a remarkably fine set of teeth; his hair somewhat gray; clothing not known.



(Intelligencer, January 20, 1846)



Margaret Barber inherited slaves from her mother, Margaret Adlum, who died in 1852:

Susan Carroll––bought by Mrs. Adlum circa 1849, and to be free at age 44––and her children;

Peter and Ellen Jenkins, who were to get their freedom at age 60 and 50, respectively. Peter and Ellen were not to be sold, and $1000 was bequeathed to Margaret Barber to be placed at interest for their benefit.

(Margaret Adlum, 1852, District of Columbia Wills, Box 21;  in 1862, Peter and Ellen Jenkins, although now 65 and 60, were still slaves.)



At least two Barber/Adlum slaves were buried in Holy Rood Cemetery:

Caroline, age 18 months, a slave to Mr. Barber, daughter of David, and of Mary Jenkins, a slave to Major Adlum, Free range for col’d people, T.C. upper graveyard, August 22, 1835.

Harriet, property of Mrs. Adlum, daughter of Ellen Jenkins, free range for col’d. [T.C. upper graveyard] July 11, 1840.



Margaret Barber’s Property in 1855

John [Thomas], 30, $500

Chapman [Toyer], 36, $500

Mortimer [Briscoe], 30, $600

Andrew [Yates], 14, $500

Jane [Yates], 26, $500

Judah [Yates], 23, $500

Eliza [Toyer], 10, $250

Josiah, 8, $250

Jonah, 6, $200

Dick [i.e., Richard Williams], 18, $600

Resin [Yates], 26, $600

John [Chapman], 26, $600

Sam [Yates], 16, $500

Kitty [Silas], 27, $500

Ann [Shorter], 20, $500

Betty [Briscoe], 9, $300

Sam, 5, $200

George, 4, $200

Townley [Yates], 15, $400

Joseph [Toyer], 17, $550

Henry [Toyer], 20, $600

Susan [Carroll], 26, $500

Linney, 40, $300

Mary [Brown], 12, $300

Ally, 10, $250

Milly [Briscoe], 4, $150

Sally, 1, $50

Dennis [Carroll], 1, $50


70 acres, $3,500

improvements, $16,500

furniture, $2,000

three horses, $300

mule, $100

three cows, $45

two carriages, $500


(Assessments, January-February 1855, General Assessment Books for the County of Washington, 1855-1864 and 1868-1879, Entry 193, Record Group 351, Records of the Government of the District of Columbia, National Archives and Records Administration. Research by Tim Dennee and the Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery, “Enslaved Persons in the 1855-1862 Tax Assessments of Washington County, DC”.)




In 1858 Margaret Barber manumitted Ann Shorter, age 23, and children Robert, born September 1855, and Harriet, born July 18, 1858, and sold them to Mary Fenwick for $500: Ann to serve for 15 years before being free at age 38, children to serve until they are 25, then to be returned to Barber to serve her for 5 years, and then be free at age 30. (DC Liber JAS154 (1858) f.394/336;  Ann Shorter appears in the 1870 Georgetown census, with her husband Abram Shorter, and son Robert.)

(The Manumission of Ann Shorter and Her Children)



Runaway slave: Matthew, committed 26 April, 1859 for safekeeping by John A. Barber, released 3 May 1859 to Henry Birch.

( Someone else’s slave? Matthew does not appear in Barber’s 1862 Emancipation schedule;  District Of Columbia Runaway And Fugitive Slave Cases 1848-1863, Jerry M. Hynson, 1999)



At the taking of the 1860 census the slave roll shows that one Barber slave was employed by Morris Adler, who lived on Wisconsin Avenue above R Street.



After Emancipation, two of Margaret Barber’s former slaves were buried at Mt. Pleasant Plains/Young Men’s Cemetery (Walter Pierce Park):

Ellen Jenkins (widow), a nurse, age 80, born in Maryland circa 1802, who had lived in the District of Columbia since she was ten years old (1812), died September 27, 1882 at 1327 Stanton Alley, between 13th, 14th, K & L Streets, NW.

Brown, Mary (widow), age 40, born in the District of Columbia, died February 28, 1886, at 1613 12th Street, NW.

(Information courtesy of Mary Belcher, Walter Pierce Park Archeology Project)



Emancipation, 1862


“All the slaves in the South think they will be freed soon, even those in this neighborhood.” (Lt. Benjamin F. Fisher, U.S. Signal Corps, from Red Hill, Georgetown D.C., October 6, 1861)

According to Margaret Barber’s 1862 Manumission Record, five of her slaves took affairs into their own hands when the Civil War started;  “since the United States troops came here, [they] absented themselves and went off, and are believed still to be in some of the Companies, and in their service”. The five absconded slaves were: Mortimer Briscoe, Townley Yates, Resin Yates, Andrew Yates, and William Cylass. (As four of them were hired out slaves, the places they absented themselves from were not necessarily Margaret Barber’s property.)

Under the District of Columbia Emancipation Act of 1862, Margaret Barber claimed compensation for 34 slaves, making her the second largest slave owner in the District of Columbia (after G.W. Young, at Giesboro, who had 68). While that number might conjure an image of Barber as the mistress of a small plantation, her petition reveals an entirely different picture: of the 23 adult slaves in her possession, only 5 worked in the Barber household, and only one––Richard Williams––was a farm hand.  By contrast, 17 slaves were hired out, earning Barber approximately $1600 annually.

Evaluation was done by an experienced Baltimore slave trader, but Congress only appropriated half as much as needed, so the valuations were prorated accordingly. Barber valued her slaves at $25,000 (i.e. $750 each), but got $9000 ($270 each). (Petition 366, M.T. acct. 158-299).



Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862–1863

Margaret Barber, compensation petition, May 22, 1862:




Slaves of Margaret Barber, 1862

Some sense of what portion of Mrs. Barber’s income might have derived from agriculture is apparent in the 1862 records of Emancipation, where she listed the valuable skills of the slaves for whose loss she wanted to be compensated: of eleven men described as “good farm hands,” ten were profitably “hired out” to work on someone else’s farm.

By hiring out ten men as farmhands, and seven women as cooks and house servants, she earned an annual income of $1632––circa $40,000 in 2020 dollars.  (Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862–1863)




Briscoe, Mortimer (39), first rate farm hand, [hired out for] wages $120.00

(absconded, 1861)

Briscoe, Betty (16), house servant, at home

Briscoe, Milly (11), house servant, at home

Briscoe, Margaret (2)


Brown, Mary (20), house servant, at home


Carroll, Susan (36), seamstress & house servant, at home

(to serve till 44 years of age – 8 years to serve)

Carroll, Dennis (7)

Carroll, Ann Maria  (3)

Carroll, William (2)


Chapman, John (34), first rate farm hand, wages $120.00


Jenkins, Peter (65), a number one farm hand, hires for $70 a year

Jenkins, Ellen (60), Good Cook, wages $82 a year

Jenkins, Mary (58), Good Cook, wages $72 a year


Silas, Kitty  (37), a no. 1 cook & Laundress, at home

Cylass, William (14)

(absconded 1861)

Silas, Gilbert (8), at house

Silas, William (5), at house

Silas, Phillip (8), at house


Thomas, John (41), Coachman and farm hand, wages $120.00


Toyer, Sarah (51), Good laundress, wages $72.00 a year

Toyer, Chapman (45), A good farm hand, wages $100.00 a year

Toyer, Henry (25), Farm Hand, wages $120.00

Toyer, Joseph (24), Farm Hand, wages $120.00

Toyer, Louisa (23), Good Cook, wages $72.00

Toyer, Daniel (4 )

Toyer, Eliza (18), Good House Servant, wages [?]


Yates, Jane (36), Number One Cook

Yates, Resin (33), first rate farm hand, hostler, wages $120.00

(absconded, 1861)

Yates, Judah (31), House Servant, wages $72.00

Yates, Townley (24), first rate farm hand, good Currier, wages $120.00

(absconded, 1861)

Yates, Samuel (24), House Servant

Yates, Andrew (20), first rate farm hand, good currier, wages $120.00

(absconded, 1861)


Young, Mary (59), good cook, $ 60.00 a year


Williams, Richard (25), Shoemaker, Carpenter, first rate farm hand, at home




Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves

in the District of Columbia, 1862-1863

Petition 366

(National Archives)

To the Commissioners under the act of Congress Approved the 16th of April 1862, entitled “An Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia”.

Your Petitioner Margaret C. Barber, of Washington County, in said District by this petition in writing, represents and states that she is a person loyal to the United States, who, at the time of the passage of the said act of Congress, held a claim to the service or labor against thirty three persons of African descent of the names of:

Peter Jenkins, Mary Jenkins, Ellen Jenkins, Susan Carroll, Dennis Carroll, Ann Maria Carroll, Wm Carroll, Rich. Williams, Chapman Toyer, Sarah Toyer, Mary Young, Kitty Silas, Gilbert Silas, Wm. Silas, Phillip Silas, Samuel Yates, Judah Yates, John Thomas, Henry Toyer, Joseph Toyer, Louisa Toyer, Daniel Toyer, Eliza Toyer, Jane Yates, Mary Brown, Becky Briscoe, Milly Briscoe, Marg. Briscoe, John Chapman, Mortimer Briscoe, Towley Yates, Resin Yates, and Andrew Yates for and during the lives of said persons:

Except as to Susan Carroll who was to serve for a term of years viz until she should attain forty four years of age, eight years of which she had to serve at the passage of said act, she then thirty six years of age;

And that by said act of Congress said persons were discharged and freed of and from all claim of your petitioner to such service or labor that at the time of said discharge said persons were of the ages and personal description following, as specified in the statement or schedule here to annexed, and marked with her initials M.C. B., being also with the value, added thereto, of the statement or schedule filed in the Clerk Office of this District pendant to the ninth section of said act, to wit, that your petitioner acquired her claim to the aforesaid service or labor of the said persons in the manner; to wit:

Said Peter Jenkins, Mary Jenkins, Ellen Jenkins, Susan Carroll, Dennis Carroll, Ann Maria Carroll, Wm. Carroll and Richard Williams, the eight negroes first entered on said statement or schedule from her late father, Major John Adlum and her mother Margaret Adlum, both deceased, under their respective Wills dated 29 February 1836 and 14 August 1850 and on the settlement and distribution of their estates; and all the persons mentioned in said schedule from her late husband Cornelius Barber by his will dated 23 August 1853; all of which wills are recorded in the Orphans Court of this County, where all parties resided and died.

Said persons were always held by, and in the possession of her and her father, mother and husband respectively in their lives, and have been held by your petitioners, and been in her possession since their respective deaths as slaves as above stated.

That your petitioner’s claim to the service or labor of the said persons was at the time of said discharge there from of the value of twenty three thousand and four hundred dollars in money or thereabouts, according to the prices which have been paid in cast for similar negroes by those dealing in them, as she is informed and believes; but as many of these were old family servants, or the descendants of such and brought up in her, her husbands, and her parents families and her own since their deaths, and were well behaved and orderly servants; she was averse to making such a deposition of them.

The value of each according to her estimate and belief, is stated in said schedule hereto annexed. Leaving out for the present those on said list marked No. 4. 9. 12. 18. 21. 25. and 30, to be spoken of hereafter, all others, named in said list, are strong, healthy and honest negroes, and free from any moral, mental or bodily infirmity or defect .

As to the others, and their infirmities and defects, she states, that Susan Carroll (No. 4) and Mary Brown (No. 25) are delicate and cannot bear out door work and exposure.

Chapman Toyer (no.9) broke his leg, but is entirely recovered and can work out doors as before the accident.

Kitty Silas (No.12) is rather deaf.

Samuel Yates (No.16) is deformed having a curved spine.

John Thomas ( No. 18 ) has three fingers on his left hand injured by a corn sheller and lost two joints of his little finger, one joint of his third finger and his second finger stiffen; but he can drive the Carriage and work as well as before.

Louisa Toyer (No. 21 was sickly about nine months ago but is well and healthy now.

Mortimer Briscoe (No.30) had one of his toes frost bitten, but is otherwise sound.

Rich. Williams (no.8), John Thomas (No. 18) and Resin Yates (No. 32) on two occasions were concerned in taking some meat from the meat house and some chickens. These three are remarkably strong, healthy and capable Negroes.

And as to them and all others, your petitioner knows of no other infirmity or defect; moral or bodily accept such as named and believes no other to exist. Some of these defects are slight, and do not materially impair the value or usefulness of the negro.

Some of them have been employed in her own family as servants as marked on the list and for these wages could not stated.

The others have been hired out, and usually stayed at their places and have brought good wages to the estate being stated on the list. They were valuable servants.

The incident of the meat and chickens are about nine years ago. Since then they have been quite correct, but she deem it right to remain wary.

Your petitioner hereby declares that she bears true and faithful allegiance to the Government of the United States and that she has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion in any way given aid or comfort thereto.

And your petitioner further states and alleges that she has not brought said persons into the District of Columbia since passage of said act of Congress; and that the time of the passage thereof said persons were held in service or labor .

Your petitioner further states that her claim to the service or labor of said persons does not originate by virtue of any transfer heretofore made by any person who has in any manner aided or sustained the present rebellion against the Government of the United States.

And your petitioner prays the said Commissioners to investigate and determine the validity of her said claim to the service or labor of said persons herein set forth ; and if the same be found valid that they appraise and apportion the value of said claim in money, and report the same to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, in conformity to the provisions of said act of Congress.

(Signed by)     M. C. Barber



(Margaret Barber, compensation petition, May 22, 1862:



Carlton Fletcher

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