In Bondage, on the Heights



Enslaved Persons on Mt. St. Albans and The Highlands, c. 1817-1862

A paper presented at the Washington National Cathedral’s program

“They Knew This Land”

by Mark Auslander

(Michigan State University)

October 27, 2019



This essay explores in a preliminary fashion the lives of enslaved people who labored and resided on the grounds that later become the National Cathedral and, nearby, the Sidwell Friends middle and upper schools. [i] The first stones of the National Cathedral were laid in 1907, more than four decades after the 13th Amendment  to the U.S. Constitution ended involuntary servitude. Yet the history of the Cathedral grounds and its environs, like so much of the District of Columbia landscape, is bound up in a largely forgotten local history of chattel slavery. The land bequests that ultimately made possible the Cathedral emerged out of a social network centered on the slave-owning descendants of Joseph Nourse, an important figure in the early Republic. Several enslaved families lived and labored on the lands now known as Cathedral Heights, and their unpaid work helped establish the wealth of the white Nourse-Dulany extended family circle that funded St. Albans Church before the Civil War and the rest of the inherited land upon which the entire Cathedral would later be constructed.  A cogent argument can thus be made that the labor of enslaved families owned by the Nourse-Dulanys helped make possible the ultimate creation of the Cathedral, just as it indirectly contributed to the current infrastructure of Sidwell Friends.


Background: Slavery on the Heights

After the establishment of the Federal City in 1790, the area that became known as Georgetown Heights (and now sometimes referred to as Cathedral Heights) was subject to increasing land speculation and the establishment of small to moderate farms by white families. A number of these families brought enslaved people with them or purchased slaves for farm and domestic labor.  Some of these white landowners realized significant income by renting out their slaves to farms and businesses elsewhere in the District. By 1860, Carleton Fletcher notes, fifteen white families in the area owned about 120 slaves.

It should be noted the slave-owning families we discuss below, the Nourses, Dulanys, and Buseys, were not the most substantial slaveowners in the neighborhood. Their close acquaintances included Mary Ann Clark, who is 1860 owned 16 slaves, Charles Homiler (17 slaves), and Margaret Barber, who owned 23 slaves on the property now occupied by the Naval Observatory.

The area now known as Mount Albans, consisting of the current tract of the National Cathedral and its immediate environs,  was bound up in the history of chattel slavery from the late 18th century until 1862, when emancipation finally came to the District of Columbia. In the early decades of this history, it is difficult to determine which, if any, enslaved persons, physically worked the land or provided other forms of labor for its white residents. However, the enormous economic wealth generated by the slavery system underpinned the real estate holdings of most of the white owners; in this sense, the land as a form of capital may be said to bear the traces of enslavement.

The tract of land now occupied by the Cathedral was primarily patented under the named, “Pretty Prospect,”  in 1795 by Benjamin Stoddert (the future first Secretary of the US Navy) and his business partners Uriah Forrest, and William Deakins Jr. in 1795. Stoddert had been asked by the newly elected George Washington to buy up, discretely, land in the projected national capital area before land speculation would render real estate costs prohibitive for the new government. As they pursued this task, Stoddert and his partners simultaneously pursued land speculation on their own. (Their joint venture would go bankrupt in 1797).  In 1800, Benjamin Stoddert owned eleven slaves, and Uriah Forrest owned ten slaves. William Deakin died in 1789; his assessed wealth included nine slaves. (In 1790 his father William Deakins in Prince George’s County is recorded as owning four slaves.)

In the aftermath of the bankruptcy, the land that would become Mount Alban was acquired by Uriah Forest’s wife’s brother, the wealthy Maryland planter and Georgetown merchant John Rousby Plater, who held 15 slaves in 1800 and whose slaveholding increased during the early 19th century. (During the war of 1812, at least 48 enslaved persons on his plantation in Prince George’s County were liberated by the Royal Navy; some were resettled in Nova Scotia and the Caribbean.) Adjacent land, including the plantation of Weston, was acquired by Plater’s brother, Thomas Plater, of Georgetown, who in 1800 owned ten slaves.  It seems possible that  some the Plater slaves worked the land in question during late 19th and early 19th century; in any event the wealth generated by their labor certainly helped anchor the extensive real estate transactions pursued by the Plater brothers during these years.

The land then appears to have passed to Walter Story Chandler, who owned at least three slaves, Robb and Hestor (purchased in 1807 from Basil D. Beall, who had inherited them from his father in law Henry Townsend) and the enslaved man Henny, whom he emancipated,  in 1807. The land was then sold to Richard Harrison, Auditor of the Treasury, who reportedly built a house on it, and owned the property until 1817. It is not clear if any enslaved people were held on the Harrison farm during this period.


Joseph Nourse: 1817-1840

The first group of enslaved persons whom we can be confident resided on the future grounds of the Cathedral were owned by Joseph Nourse (1754 -1841), who served as Registrar of the U.S. Treasury under every U.S. President from George Washington through John Quincy Adams. (Nourse and his relatives and allies were forced out of government after the Andrew Jackson administration came to power,)

Through the Nourse family papers and associated records we have reasonably good documentation of the enslaved people he and his descendants owned. At the time Nourse relocated with the John Adams administration from Philadelphia to the new national capital in the District of Columbia in 1800, he brought with him at least four enslaved persons, Jane (the principal house servant), Dinah, Juba and Bacchus Motts. (Nourse manumitted Motts in 1807, although Moss continued to work for him.)  In 1804 Nourse acquired the Georgetown property known as the Jackson house of Cedar Hill (now known as Dumbarton House). While in this property, he owned in addition to Dinah, Jane, Juba and Bachus, the slaves Frank (his personal manservant), Fran, Peter,Betsy, Will, Polly and Daniel.

In 1817, Nourse acquired the land that would later be the site of the National Cathedral, as well as a property the family named the Highlands, the later location of Sidwell Friends School; both tracts were property in the elevated reaches of unincorporated Washington County, north of Georgetown  (within the District of Columbia, but not yet within Washington City) from his colleague, Treasury  Auditor Richard Harrison, who is said to have built a small farm house on the property. (As noted above,  I do not know if Harrison held any enslaved people on this property.)  The purchased properties were formerly part of the tract known as Pretty Prospects, and some part of the tract known as Lucky Discovery.

Nourse, a deeply religious man, named the Harrison farm, “Mount Albans,” in honor of Alban, the first recorded British Christian martyr. Not insignificantly, Alban is believed to have been beheaded by the Romans at Verulamium, on a hill that serves as a present day site of St. Albans Cathedral. Nourse is reputed to have hoped that a comparable grand place of Christian worship would be someday built upon his land, overlooking the new national capital.

It is unclear how many of these enslaved people held at the Jackson House Cedar Hill  were taken from upper Georgetown to Mount Alban and the Highlands  in 1817. In 1820, Joseph Nourse owned eight slaves at Mt. Albans:


Slaves – Males – Under 14:  3

Slaves – Males – 14 thru 25:  1

Slaves – Males – 45 and over:  1

Slaves – Females – Under 14:  1

Slaves – Females – 26 thru 44:  1

Slaves – Females – 45 and over:  1


Also residing in his household were two free boys of color under age 14, and one free girl of color under 14.


The 1827 Slave Purchase

In 1827, while living at Mount Albans, Nourse purchased six slaves from Walter Brook Beale (descended from the prominent Brook family on his mother’s side):  the thirty-five year old enslaved woman Ann, and her five children, William, Lee, Samuel, Ann, and Nathan.

These may have been intended as a gift to his son Charles Josephus Nourse and Charles’ new bride Rebecca Wistar Morris (1793-1885) of Philadephia.


The 1830 census records Joseph Nourse as having nine slaves at Mt. Albans, as follows:

Slaves – Males – Under 10:  1

Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23:  2

Slaves – Males – 36 thru 54:  1

Slaves – Females – Under 10:  1

Slaves – Females – 10 thru 23:  2

Slaves – Females – 24 thru 35:  1

Slaves – Females – 36 thru 54:1


In 1830, Charles Nourse at the Highlands is listed as owning seven slaves:

Slaves – Males – Under 10:     1

Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23:   2

Slaves – Males – 24 thru 35:   2

Slaves – Males – 36 thru 54:   1

Slaves – Females – 36 thru 54: 1.


Perhaps,the female aged 36-54  in the Charles Josephus Nourse household is the elder Ann, and some  of the three males under age 24 are Ann’s male children. It is possible that the Ann’s daughter Ann and at least one of her sons were residing a mile away at Mount Albans.


In Search of Ann’s Children and Descendants

What became of Ann’s five children, enumerated in the 1827 bill of sale? William apparently surfaces in the 1850 census, living at The Highlands (the future location of Sidwell Friends) as William Brooks, a free man of color, a coachman employed in the household of Charles Josephus Nourse, the eldest son and principal heir of Joseph Nourse, who died in 1841.  William Brooks must have been freed at some point between 1827 and 1850, although I have found no documentation of this. It seems likely that William’s last name “Brooks” was derived through his mother’s earlier connection with the white Brook family, the maternal family of Walter Brook Beale, who had sold Ann, William and the other children in 1827 to Joseph Nourse.

As we have seen, by the late 1820s, Charles Josephus Nourse, the son of Joseph Nourse, was residing in a house he had built  called “The Highlands” (now known as Zartman House, the present Sidwell Friends upper school administration building), about a half mile northwest of Mount Albans.   After Charles Josephus Nourse died in 1851, his widow Rebecca Nourse held several enslaved persons, including Sarah , wife of the free man of color William Brooks, and their five children.

The precise legal status William Brook’s wife and children in the Nourse household at The Highlands in the early 1860s is somewhat ambiguous.  As noted above, in the 1850 census, William Brooks, born about 1825, is listed as a free man of color, working as a coachman in the Highlands household.  In the 1850 census at Highlands, four slaves are also listed, without names:  a twenty five year  female mulatto, a twenty year old black woman, a three year old girl, and a one and a half year old girl.  The first of these would appear correspond with a free woman of color who  is  listed in the 1860 census: 25 year old, Sarah Brooks, listed as a cook. In addition the apparent children of William and Sarah Brooks are listed in 1860:  the 11 year old boy Theadora (sic) Brooks, nine year old William Brooks, seven year old David Brooks, four year old Margaret Brooks, and one year old John Brooks.  The fact that these persons are all listed by name would normally indicate they are free persons of color

However, two years later, immediately after Congress passed the Compensated Emancipation act, granting freedom to enslaved persons residing in the District of Columbia, William Brooks filed court papers requested compensation for having manumitted his slaves, listed as Sarah Brooks, 34 years old; Theodore Brooks, 15; Wm. H. Brooks, 11; Abraham Brooks, 9; Margaret Brooks, 6; John Brooks; and 6 month old Rachel Brook. It is not clear where Abraham was residing at the time of the 1860 census.

Presumably, Rebecca Nourse had at some point transferred to William Brooks legal ownership to his wife and children, and the Brooks family decided to apply for the compensation emancipation in order to raise needed income, even if the whole family have been conceived of as free as early as 1860. We have a hint that the adult couple may have had a moment of confusion as to who precisely was free at that moment in 1862; next to the signature of William Brooks, we can perceive the signature of Sarah Brooks, crossed out. [ii]


The 1862 petition by William Brooks seeking compensation for emancipating his wife and children: Sarah Brooks has signed her name, which has then been crossed out. (National Archives)


What became of William Brooks’ siblings? Like his brother William, Lee may have been freed and kept the surname Brooks.  He possibly became Lee Brooks, listed as a free man of color in the 1850 census residing in Harford,  Maryland (about 70 miles northeast of the District)  as a laborer, age 26  born around 1824, married to Rebecca, age 24, with four children.

Similarly, it may be that Williams’ brother Samuel was emancipated before the Civil War. A free man of color “Samuel Books” , born around 1818, is listed in the 1860 census  as a labor residing in Hagerstown, Maryland, about sixty miles from the District of Columbia line. Of possible significance, his household includes an apparent grandson named William.[iii]

William Brooks’ brother Nathan, however, evidently remained enslaved elsewhere in the neighborhood. The 1862 Compensated Emancipation records for the District of Columbia note that a “Nathan Brooks,”  butcher, born 1824, was purchased around 1849 by the well to do butcher Henry Kengla (1812-1903)  from Peter Posey. Henry Kengla’s extensive properties were primarily just down the hill from Mt. Albans, and the Nourses would certainly have known him, although he probably was not in their social circle as such.

Nathan attempted at least one escape to freedom; the records of the  D.C. Jail, where recaptured runaway slaves were often housed, record that Nathan Brooks, was committed August 3, 1858 as a runaway slave by John W. Gross. Released September 14, to Charles Kenley. (Hynson, Jerry M., District Of Columbia Runaway And Fugitive Slave Cases 1848-1863, Willow Bend Books, 1999).

Peter Posey had purchased in 1837, from the heirs of Samuel Busey, a 300 acre plantation, which he named “Springfield.” in Bethesda, running along present-day River Road, about two miles northwest from Kengla’s main property, which later became a substantial part of Glover-Archibald Park. In 1860 Posey owned 12 slaves.  (The son of Samuel Busey, Dr. Samuel Busey would two decades later purchase “Belvoir,” discussed below, on the grounds of Mt. Albans.)  [iv]

After Emancipation the two brothers, William and Nathan Brooks, seem to have found their way back to one another. The 1870 census records Nathan Brooks (p. 66), born 1826, married and residing in Tenleytown, about fourteen households away from William Brooks (p. 64). Both families are, reasonably near the Highlands, where it appears at least some of the Brooks were employed by the Nourses.

I am unsure of the fates of the senior Ann or her daughter Ann after they were purchased by Joseph Nourse.[v]


Rev. ten Broeck and Mt Albans, 1841-50

After the death of Joseph Nourse in 1841, the Nourse family faced mounting financial challenges. After failed attempts to rent out the 35 acre Mt. Albans property it was sold in 1846. The  property was acquired by a Rev. Spencer and “several Baltimore gentlemen” to establish  St. John’s Institute at Mount Alban, a church school for boys. It appears that several surviving members of the Nourse household, including Joseph’s widow Maria Bull Nourse, relocated to the home of Charles Josephus Nourse at The Highlands, half a mile north up the Rockville Turnpike (present day Wisconsin Avenue.)  Perhaps, the remaining enslaved people in the estate of Joseph Nourse were transferred with them to the Highlands.

During the period of the St. John Institute, it appears that there was at least one enslaved person on the Mt. Albans property. In the 1850 slave schedule, principal of the Institute, Rev. Anthony ten Broeck, is listed as owning one slave, a 30 year old black female.  Rev. ten Broeck had come down from Orange, New Jersey in 1847 and relocated in 1853 to Pennsylvania, and later settled in New Jersey, where he spent the rest of his life and career.

Where did this enslaved woman come from and what became of her? Perhaps Rev. ten Broeck purchased her upon arriving in the District of Columbia, as a servant for the school, and then sold her again when he departed for Pennsylvania in 1853. Another scenario is the Reverend acquired her through the family of his second wife Rhoda Ann (Brown), who had been born in Montgomery, Alabama; her father Nathaniel Gorham Brown appears to have been an Alabama slaveowner.

Another possibility is that this enslaved 30 year old woman had been the property of Rev. ten Broeck in New Jersey. The Dutch-descended ten Boecks were fairly prominent slaveowners in the Hudson Valley in the late 18th century.  The 1790 census record eighteen ten Broeck households in New York state owning slaves, among the two slaveowning ten Broecks in the town of Claverack, where Rev. ten Broeck was born. The 1840 census, it is interesting to note, lists in Claverack an entirely black free family of 12 individuals, headed by a free man of color named Anthony ten Broeck, who was perhaps a distant (if unacknowledged) relation of Rev. ten Broeck.

New York State and New Jersey both practiced gradual abolition in the early decades of the 19th century. Yet, whereas New York entirely eliminated the status of enslavement by the late 1820s, loopholes allowing for continuing legal and de facto enslavement in New Jersey through the Civil War, slavery only being fully abolished in 1865. It is thus not beyond the realm of possibility that Rev. ten Broeck, born in 1815, had retained this enslaved woman, perhaps the previous property of his father in New York state, transported her to New Jersey, and later brought her down in the late 1840s to the District of Columbia, where slavery continued to be fully legal. (I have not been able to locate documents confirming this speculative scenario.)


The Dulany Slaves, 1854-1862

The daughter of Charles Josephus Nourse, Caroline (“Cass”) Rebecca Nourse, married the US naval officer Bladen Tasker Dulany. She seems to have resided primarily on his property in Farquier county Virginia, where he owned 10 slaves in 1840 and 25 slaves in 1850. In the early 1850s, the St John Church Institute at Mt. Albans failed and the property entered into rather complicated legal and financial proceedings. It was purchased in 1854 by Bladen Dulany, who had recently attained the rank of Commodore, thus allowing his wife Caroline Nourse Dulany (the granddaughter of Joseph Nourse)  to reside on the old Nourse family property.

Bladen Dulany served as the commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, based in Valparaiso Chile, until returning to Mount Albans in the summer of 1855. When the Commodore died in  December 1856,  Mt. Albans passed to his widow Caroline Dulany, who continued to reside their until her death in 1893, with some sojourns in Philadelphia,to her Farquier County, Virginia property, and with her son in law in Prince William country, Virginia.  (She appears to have been suspected of Confederate sympathies by her pro-Union neighbors in Washington DC, and at times felt it advisable to spend time outside of the District.)

During the 1850s, the Dulanys appear to have moved some of their slaves from their Farquier County Virginia property up to the Mount Albans farm in the District of Columbia. The 1860 slave schedule records the following  nine slaves at Mount Albans, under the control of Caroline Nourse Dulany:


Age 30            Female            Mulatto

Age 15            Female            Black

Age 15            Female            Mulatto

Age12             Female            Mulatto

Age 10            female             mulatto

Age     9          Female            Mulatto

Age     7          Female            Mulatto

Age     6          Female            Mulatto

Age     2          Male                Mulatto


It appears that most of these were the children of the 30 year old “mulatto” women, who was first on the list. This is consistent with Caroline Dulany’s petition for compensated emancipation two years later, in 1862 which lists the following newly liberated persons:


    Said Fanny (Brown)  was thirty two years of age—a mulatto about five feet four inches in height—b. 1840

Said Mary (Brown) was seventeen years of age—a dark mulatto about five feet two inches in height.

Said Sarah (Brown) was fourteen years of age—a dark mulatto about four feet six inches in height

Said Louisa  (Brown) was ten years of age—a dark mulatto—about four feet two inches in height

Said Lucy  (Brown) was eight years of age—a dark mulatto about four feet in height—

Said Walter  (Brown) was four years of age—a dark mulatto—about four feet in height   b. 1858

Said Rose  (Brown) was two year of age—a mulatto about three feet in height.  b. 1860

Said Winnefred  (Mead) was seventeen years of age of a black color—about five feet four inches in height—


In her petition, Caroline Dulany attests that all of these slaves were the property of her husband Bladen Dulany, which would presumably mean that they came from his Virginia plantations and were not part of the earlier Nourse estate.

I am not sure what became of these individuals after emancipation. However, it is intriguing that eight years later, in the 1870 census, Caroline Dulany  had in her employ and residing at Mt. Albans  a black family by the name of Brooks, the same family name as the former slaves at Highlands, the household of her parents:


Fanny Brooks,   33

Malinda Brooks,   10

Danl Brooks,   7

Christiana Brooks,   4


Fanny and Malinda brooks are clearly the same people listed eight years earlier in the 1862 compensated emancipation petition filed by Emily W. Farquhar of Georgetown:


Fanny Brooks,  24,   b.  1838

Frank,  5,   b. 1857

Melinda,  3,   b. 1859


In the petition, Emily explains she inherited Fanny from the Georgetown carpenter Anthony Smith in 1859, and that Smith had owned Fanny since she was eight years old, that is to say since about 1846.

Ten years later, in 1880, Fanny and her family are still together with three new additions, having moved into Washington City, at 453 O street Alley:


Fanny Brooks,   51

Malinda Brooks,  25

Daniel Brooks,  23

Christiana Brooks,  20

Sarah Brooks,  7

Anna Brooks,  5

Fanny Brooks,  3


Caroline Dulany was at that point residing with her son in law Thomas Chew, in Prince William County, Virginia, although she would later return to reside at Mt. Albans. Living in the household were five African Americans, evidently servants. Perhaps some of them had been enslaved by the Dulanys prior to emancipation.

Is it entirely coincidental  that this family at post-Civil War Mt St. Albans is named “Brooks,” the same name as the enslaved  family held by Charles Josephus and Rebecca Nourse, Caroline’s parents, at the Highlands, just a half mile up the road?  Might the unidentified husband of Fanny Brooks have been a brother or relative of William Brooks?


Slavery on the Dr. Samuel Clagett Busey Farm (“Belvoir”): 1859-1862

In 1858, Dr. Samuel Clagget Busey, a prominent Washington DC physician, acquired a 29 acre  tract of land from the old Nourse property, on the north eastern corner of the current National Cathedral grounds. From spring 1859 through the Civil War, he farmed on this land. The 1860 slave schedule indicates he held eight slave on this property:


33 year old female,  mulatto

19 year old male, mulatto

14 year old female, mulatto

11 year old female, mulatto

9 year old male, mulatto

6 year old female, mulatto

3 year old male, mulatto

17 year old female,  black


(With the exception of the 17 year old woman, listed as “black,” all others are listed as “mulatto.)

Two years years later,  on April 28, 1862, Dr. Busey filed a petition for compensated emancipation records in the District of Columbia,  giving the names of most of these individuals:


Ariana Beall,  16, bright mulatto     b. 1846

Louisa Beall, 13, bright mulatto   b. 1849

Mary Rhodes, 20, dark    b. 1842

Prince  Rhodes, 1 year, 4 months, dark    b. 1861

George Beall, 11, dark    b. 1851

Catharine Beall, 9, mulatto   b. 1853

Henry Beall, 5, mulatto   b. 1858


Note that two persons from the 1860 slave schedule are missing from this list: the 33 year old female and the 19 year old male. It seems likely that the missing woman was the  mother of  the Beall children, Ariana, Louisa, George ,Catharine and Henry. (Mary Rhodes is clearly the mother of the infant Prince, born after the 1860 census.)

In his memoir, Dr. Busey does not directly acknowledge having owned slaves, but he does recall nostalgically that before the coming of the Civil War, he was “surrounded by willing servants and hired laborers to do my bidding.“ Once the War came, he recalls, “household servants disappeared, and farmhands could not be obtained at any price.”   (Samuel Claggett Busey, Personal reminiscences and recollections of forty-six years’ membership in the Medical society of the District of Columbia and residence in this city with biographical sketches of many of the deceased members. Washington, D.C. [Philadelphia], [Dornan, printer] 1895.)

The identity of the missing woman, who was born around 1827, is suggested by an entry in the District’s fugitive slave records: “Margaritta Beall, committed for safekeeping by Samuel C. Busey, Sept. 29, 1861, released to same Dec. 9, 1861.[vi]  She may have attempted an escape and been recaptured, and thus handed over to the local jail as punishment for a term of about nine weeks. Under these circumstances, she may have once again escaped, and thus not have been present  in spring 1862, when Dr. Busey filed for compensated emancipation. If so, it is possible  that the missing young man, born around 1841,was Margaritte’s son, also may have born the surname Beall, and escaped with his mother, or fled around the same time she did. (It is also possible that Dr. Busey sold one or both of these individuals prior to DC emancipation on April 16, 1862.)

In turn, where did the other enslaved people on the Busey farm come from, and why did most of them carry the Beall surname? We do know that in 1844, Dr. Busey inherited from his late mother Rachel Clagget one slave, a “negro boy Alfred.”   It is possible that Alfred used the Beall surname and was the father of the Beall children.  (There was in 1870 an African American man named Alfred Beall, born about 1823, living in Mitchellville in central Prince George’s County, with his 35 year old wife and their five children. )

Speculatively, it is possible that when Dr. Busey acquired the farmland, perhaps from the recently widowed Caroline Nourse Dulany, he also purchased some slaves from her, and that one or more of these may have retained the Beall surname, dating back to Joseph Nourse’s 1827 purchase of Ann and her children from William Brooke Beall.  It might even be that Margaritta was a daughter of Ann, born just after the 1827 purchase, and thus not recorded in the bill of sale from Walter B. Beall.

It should also be noted that Dr. Busey’s father in law, Peter Dent Posey, was a significant slaveowner in nearby Montgomery County, and may have provided the Busey couple with slaves; as noted above, Peter Posey was also the person who sold Nathan Brooks to Henry Kengla.

What, in turn, happened to the enslaved young people who had worked on Dr. Busey’ farm? By 1870, Dr. Busey had resumed his medical practice in Washington City, and was starting to use Belvoir as his summer home. In that year, the census records as residing in his household a black cook, Julia Twine, age 24 and her infant daughter Delilah; the name Julia does not correspond to any of the names in Dr Busey’s 1862 compensated emancipation petition, so she may have only have come into the Busey household post-slavery. However, in 1870 in the adjacent farm, owned by the white farmer Jonathan H, Chitister, there is employed an African American cook, “Lucy A. Beale,” age seventeen. Perhaps she is the same person identified in Dr. Busey’s 1862 petition as “Louisa Beale.”

Also, in 1870, a Catherine Beall is working as the servant in the home of the white government clerk Calvin Wilson in downtown Washington DC. That same year, a George and Henry Beal, in turn, are residing in Washington DC’s Ward One, in the the home of  Henry Dorsey, a “porter in a store.”  It is not clear if there is a kinship relationship between the Dorseys and the Bealls, but they had been neighbors during the slavery era. Until 1862, Henry Dorsey was the property of Ann Forrest Green, the daughter of Uriah Forrest (the land speculator and planter mentioned above), who owned the Rosedale estate, to the immediate north of Dr. Busey’s Belvoir farm.  Evidently, Henry Dorsey and his wife Anna decided to take in the young neighbors George and Henry Beale in the immediate aftermath of emancipation.  Listed after “George Beal” is seventeen year old “Mary Beal,” dressmaker, who must be George’s young wife. By 1880 Mary Beal, “seamstress,”  is widowed with two daughters, Ellen Beal (b. 1871) and Cora Beal (b. 1874), living on 13th Street.  Since the younger girl was born around 1874, George Beall presumably died between 1874-1880.

As for Arianna Beall, the eldest of the enslaved siblings in the 1862 petition, it is is possible that she became Arianna Smith, wife of James Smith, who by 1870 had two daughters,  Susie and Anna Smith, living in a different part of Washington City.  Tragically, during that year Arianna died of consumption, leaving behind two motherless girls.

What of the missing 19 year old male, born around 1841, enumerated in the 1860 slave schedule of the Busey holdings, but absent from the 1862 emancipation petition? He seems likely to have been a sibling of the Beall children, who thus who carried the Beall surname. As it happens, the 1870 census lists a Charles Beall, born 1845 and living in nearby Georgetown. He is married to a Cherry Beall and has three daughters, Sarah, Charles, and Ida.

Finally, who was the father of the baby listed in the 1862 Compensated Emancipation record, as Prince  Rhodes, 1 year, 4 months, dark ( b.1861), the likely child of twenty year olds Mary Rhodes? It is just possible that he was the enslaved man Thomas Rhodes, age 24 in 1862, owned by Joshua Pierce, the owner of Linnean Hill (the current Pierce-Klingle House, overlooking Rock Creek Park), where eleven people were enslaved in 1862. This property was about one and a half miles away Belvoir, and it seems possible that Mary and Thomas might have maintained a liaison or marriage in the late slavery period.



Six African Americans pose for a photograph behind what is now Sidwell Friends upper school administration building: on the back is written “ ?, Rachel’s daughter, and Rachel Brook, Cook” and “Highlands, 1885.” (Sidwell Friends School Archives)


The Brooks Family, post Civil War

I conclude with an enigmatic photograph taken two decades after the end of the Civil War, held in the Sidwell Friends School archives. Six African Americans are posed behind The Highlands mansion, now known as Zartman House, the Sidwell Friends upper school administration building, beside the water pump.  An older woman is seated in a chair flanked by two younger women. A young man sits on the ground in front of the the. The group is flanked by two standing men.  On the top of the back of the photograph is written, Highlands, 1885” and at the bottom, is written “?, Rachel’s daughter, and Rachel Brook, Cook.”  The notation clearly corresponds to the arrangement of the posed figures, from left to right: an unidentified standing man, a standing young women, and the seated older woman.

It seems likely that this Rachel Brooks is somehow related to the cluster of African American Brooks who were enslaved and employed by the Nourse family at both the Highlands and Mount Albans, from the late 1820s onwards. However, her precise identity is unclear.

So far as I can tell, there are no black women documented as Rachael Brooks or Rachael Brooks living in the Highlands/Tenallytown/Upper Georgetown  neighborhood in the decades after the Civil War.[vii]  However, there are several older black woman named “Rachael” who are recorded as residing near the Highlands in the period from 1862 to 1880, who might possibly be the seated cook described as Rachael Brooks:


  1. A woman named Rachael Lyles is listed in the1862 compensated emancipation record, as age 42, born around 1819. If she survived she would have been about sixty-six in 1885, when the photograph was taken. Rachel Lyles was emancipated by Pierce Shoemaker (1818-1891) who owned a total of 20 slaves, 9 of whom born the surname Lyles. Pierce Shoemaker, a nephew of Isaac Pierce from 1841 onwards owned and operated Pierce Mill, in what is now Rock Creek Park, about a mile and a half directly east of the Highlands,down the slope. It is perhaps relevant that the immediate neighbor to the north of the Highlands was the farm known as The Rest, owned by Mrs. Arianna Jones Bruce Lyles, who owned about 20 slaves prior to emancipation, and who had many close ties to the Nourses. The families of of both William Brooks and Nathan Brooks resided near Mrs. Arianna Lyles in1870.


  1. The only older black woman named Rachel in the 1880 census in the neighborhood of the Highlands is a “Rachell Gross,” age 63, so born  around 1817, employed as a cook in the household of the white woman Kate (Catherine)  Barnard, whose mother Sophia Barnard (1796-1872) had run a Tenleytown boarding house. Barnard is listed directly next to Margaret Barber, who had been the neighborhood’s largest slaveholder, residing on the grounds that are now the Naval Observatory.


  1. The 1870 census lists a Rachael Oliver, born around 1794, residing in the home of William Brooks (b. 1830) and Sarah Brooks (b. 1833)  in Tenleytown, well within walking distance of the Highlands. The youngest child in the household is eight year old Rachel Brooks, the daughter of William and Sarah. It seems a reasonable guess that the seventy six Rachael Oliver is the grandmother of the girl Rachel, and is perhaps the mother of Sarah Brooks. Rachael Oliver would have have about 91 in 1885, presumably far too old to be in the woman in the photograph, whose hair is still black.  Elderly Rachel Oliver is perhaps related to the 16 year old black girl Jane Oliver who was then living in the Highlands as a servant, along with her apparent mother, the servant Hester Allen.


NB: We can state with certainty that the seated woman is not Sarah Brooks, the mother of Rachael Brooks, born around 1862.  Records of Mt. Zion Cemetery indicate that Sarah A. Brooks, age 45, b. 1829 in Maryland, who was “Cook at Mrs. Nourse (Highlands)  btw Gtown & Tenleytown“ died May 8,  1875. Her undertaker was Jos. F. Birch and she was buried at Mt. Zion.“



Concluding Thoughts

As of this writing, many of the precise relationships between the enslaved and enslaving families we have discussed remain unclear. It is incontrovertible, however that the labor of scores of enslaved persons on the Heights sustained the wealth of the white Nourse-Dulany network, which proved significant in the run up to the establishment of the Cathedral at the end of the 19th century. When Caroline’s sister Phoebe Nourse died in 1850 she left a modest bequest of forty dollars for a “free church,” on the St. Albans ground. This gifts, the family recalls, was inspired by the preaching and ministrations of Rev. Anthony ten Broeck, who had himself benefited, as we have seen, from the uncompensated labor for an enslaved woman, whose name is lost to history.

Phoebe’s gift was supplemented by gifts from other Nourses and their friends, including a half acre gifted by Caroline Nourse Dulany, leading to the building of the Church St. Albans in 1854, which stands to this day. The vestry of St. Albans remained under the control of Caroline and later of her heirs. After Caroline Nourse Dulany’s death in 1893, her land passed into the control of  a real estate developer, who eventually sold the land to Episcopal Diocese, conjoining this territory to the St. Albans vestry, with the blessing of the Dulany heirs.

All those who take joy in the soaring edifice of the Cathedral and the beauty of its grounds, and in the graceful splendor of Sidwell’s Zartman House, the former Highlands, hold in a sense, a debt to the scores of enslaved individuals whose lives we have touched upon. This is a debt perhaps best repaid through the compassionate and dedicated work of remembrance. In recalling their names and their labor, we honor those who worked this high ground across the decades, gazing down from to time to time, we can imagine, at a Capital city dedicated to the very principles of universal freedom that were systematically so long denied to them and their posterity.




[i] A version of this paper was presented at the Washington National Cathedral’s program, “They Knew This Land,” on October 27, 2019. I am grateful for assistance from Carlton Fletcher, and his invaluable Glover Park History, blog;  Loren (Lori) Hardenburgh,  Archivist, Sidwell Friends School; Jerry Foust, Dumbarton House; Basil Wilder,  Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Library; Jerry McCoy.  Peabody Room, Georgetown Public Library Washingtonia Collection,  DC Public Library ; The Washington National Cathedral Archives;  The Library of Congress, Manuscript Division; Robert Ellis, National Archives and Records Administration. Special thanks to Joe Auslander and Ellen Schattschneider

[ii] Neither Rebecca Nourse nor James Nourse of The Highlands applied for compensated emancipation in 1862 for their former slaves. This may be because they were at the time behind Confederate lines, or that their pro Union loyalties were suspect.  Alternately, they may have manumitted all their slaves prior to 1862.

[iii] Another possible candidate for Samuel is “Sam Martin,” who is listed in the 1862 Compensated Emancipation records in the District, born around 1819 and owned by Harriet McMaster; A year after emancipation he registered for the draft in the District, and in 1870 he is listed as “Samuel Martin,” living with his wife Lucy in Georgetown. His April 13, 1901 obituary in the Baltimore Sun notes that he was a shoemaker, born in Anne Arundel County. This was county from which Walter Brook Beall, who sold Ann and her family in 1827, appears to have originated from. Other candidates for Samuel  mentioned in the DC emancipation records include: Samuel Chase, born around 1818, owned by Anna F. Harvey; Sam Mackall, born around 1817, who petitioned that although owned by Matthew Dougall in Prince George’s County he was in service in the District in 1862 and therefore entitled to emancipation.

[iv] On the Posey holdings, see:

[v] Candidates for the  younger Ann listed in the 1862 compensated emancipation records include:   Ann Velinda Henderson, born about 1817, owned by Sarah Ann  (Stone) Beall (1841-1890), the widow of Avery C. Beall,  late of Medleys in western Montgomery County; Ann Baxter, age 38 or 40 (so born 1822-1840),  owned by Hugh McCormick; Ann Blow, born around 1822, an “excellent cook” owned by Ann H. Cunningham; Ann Lowry, born around 1817, owned by Nancy W. Davis; and, Ann (no surname), an unmarried seamsters born around 1823, owned by T.L. Alexander (Lt. Col., US Army).

[vi] In the published transcription (Jerry M. Hynson, District Of Columbia Runaway And Fugitive Slave Cases, 1848-1863, Willow Bend Books, Westminster Md., 1999), Margaritta’s name is mis-transcribed as “Bean,” but the microfilm held at the Anacostia Museum library indicates that her name is in fact written as Margaritta “Beall.”

[vii] The 1865 City Directory for Washington DC does list a widowed Rachael Brooks, “colored,” living on C street, south of north 1st street. This was at least six miles from the Highlands, so it is most unlikely that this woman worked at the household, although perhaps she travelled back for the special occasion of the photograph taking.  The same woman also appears in the 1870 census as living in Ward Seven, the easternmost part of Washington, even further from the Highlands. There is no trace of her in the 1880 census.