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Slavery in Oldtown area, Deffinbaugh, pre 1864

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Whilst my father never owned a slave outright, he hired their time from surrounding slave holders. A strong man could be had for ($150.00) one hundred and fifty dollars per annum; a woman for housework about half the above amount. Our slaves were protected by their masters in agreements mutually signed by both parties. This contained among other stipulations that said slave was to be provided with two summer and two winter suits of clothing. (Show me the laborer of today who is guaranteed the like amount.) He was also to have good substantial food and to be treated in a humane manner. I never saw our slaves used in a cruel manner; they had to work just the same as everybody else and do it properly and as for punishment, they were chastened just the same as we boys were by the laying on of a stout rod. I am not putting up a defense of the institution of slavery; it was wrong and no man should be the master of another but in abolishing chattel slavery a new and more scientific form of service was ushered in by the ruling class. I mean industrial slavery, where the victims were made to believe they were freemen; I mean the wage system, which will in the next fifty years pass away to be succeeded by the Cooperative Commonwealth.

The worst feature I can remember of Negro slavery was the selling and separating of families and breaking up of home ties. One instance I well remember: we had in our kitchen as a cook a young black woman by the name of Caroline belonging to a man who lived on the Potomac, John McLaughlin, who came and took her away when her time expired, to be sold for a gambling debt. I will never forget the tears she shed on taking her departure, how they rolled down her black cheeks as she rode away on horseback, mounted behind her master.


Benjamin Deffinbaugh

The diary was in the possession of Durwood Deffinbaugh. He permitted it to be published in the Journal of the Alleghenies, vol XXXVI, 2000. It is used with permission.

What is presented here is an extract of events dealing with the slavery in the Oldtown area.


Collection Location:
Frostburg State University Library

Slaves, Western Maryland

Western Maryland, 1800-1864

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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