Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finding the Butlers - My Family Who Was Enslaved by the Jesuits

If you have read the newspapers, watched TV or listened to Talk Radio in the past month, you could not miss the media coverage of the 272 people who were enslaved by the Jesuits and sold to pay the debts of Georgetown University. Although I received very little coverage in the initial article, this is my story, too.

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society appeared in a story on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday, April, 17, 2016. Two hundred and seventy-two people were reported to have been enslaved by the Jesuits of St. Mary's County, Maryland and I, Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, have ancestors who were among that group.

I first learned of my ancestors who were enslaved by the Jesuits in 2004 as I was making plans for the Hicks/Estes family reunion in New Orleans. I sent the documents I had gathered to Judy Riffel, a professional genealogist who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for examination. Judy noted that Rachel Hicks, my great-grandmother's mother was born in Maryland. She knew from prior experience that Jesse Batey , a large plantation owner, purchased a bunch of slaves from Maryland; she went to the court house and pulled those records. One of the documents was an inventory for the late Jesse Batey. My third great grandparents, Nace and Biby Butler, were listed by name, age and value along with their 11 children. The most important document that she found was the bill of sales for 64 Negroes by Thomas Mulledy to Henry Johnson on behalf of Jesse Batey in 1838.

When I received the report from Ms. Riffel, I summarized her research and sent it to my aunt Onita. As she began to write the history of the family she wondered how the family became Catholic and decided to research Thomas Mulledy. Onita learned that he was a Jesuit priest who served as president of Georgetown from 1829 until 1837. She also discovered the Butlers in the Jesuit Plantation Project.

The Jesuit Plantation Project consists of plantation records that were digitized by the students in the American Studies Department of Georgetown University. They are records of White Marsh, Newtown,  St. Thomas Manor's and St. Inigoes. My Butler family was enslaved on St. Inigoes.  Those documents included an inventory, manifests, profiles of the slaves, chronology, resources a bibliography and the diary of Brother Mobberly

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to large plantations in Louisiana. The university folklore says all 272 slaves died and left no survivors or descendants. However, many of the slaves survived the Civil War and were emancipated in 1865. There are thousands of descendants today, many still living in Louisiana.

The Georgetown Memory Project was formed in November 2015 a few days after I was contacted by Richard Cellini, an alumnus of Georgetown University. He was seeking descendants of Nace and Biby Butler and found my blog when he did a search for them.  The goals of the GMP are: to identify the slaves sold in 1838; find their living descendants; acknowledge them as members of the Georgetown family; honor their sacrifice and legacy. I joined GMP immediately.

The Butler Team was formed in November as soon a I got back to the library.(I was in New Orleans when I was contacted). I asked the Tuesday library volunteers if they would assist me in the search for the members of my Butler family and they all agreed. The  Butler Team members are: Carol Anderson, Pat Ayers, Barbara Brazington,  Mary Holcomb, Juanita McBride, Dolly Webb and me. Janette Birch is also a member of the team; she joined when she overheard us enthusiastically talking about the project. The team has found a lot of information and there is a lot more to find.

This is the first of many posts about the 272.

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