As you may know, I am participating in Amy Crow’s 52 week ancestors with the 52 week Challenge. http://www.nostorytoosmall.com/ Although this is the 18th Week; I am posting #15 and hope to catch up with the rest of the bloggers before the month is over.
I was recently given a letter that was written by Isabella Barzey (1820-1890) that had me puzzled as to the conditions of life of the population since July 3, 1848 when the Danish Governor General Scholten proclaimed freedom for all slaves in the Danish West Indies. Why were people bound to the plantations that enslaved them and why were they still being physically assaulted by the managers? I discovered that the author of the letter is my ancestor through marriage, and I needed to research in detail the facts of this ancestor.
By using Ancestry.com and stx.visharoots.org, I gathered information on birth, death and marriage dates. But I needed to look further at the past history to obtain a real sense of time in which Isabella Barzey lived, when she wrote a letter in April of 1849 to the Danish King, pleading to be transferred from Estate Cane Garden Plantation on St. Croix after being flogged in order to join her husband in St. Thomas.
My findings from the VI History books led to the Labor Act of 1849 in which I will point out two portions of the Act that shaped the early years following emancipation:
- The great majority of the newly-freed Blacks were to remain unfree on the estates with no recourse open to them but to submit to the bondage imposed by the 1849 Labor Act.
- The amended 1849 Labor Act.- The Act created a new institutionalized system of serfdom base on contract labor, in place of slavery. The law fixed the contract year from October to October, renewable each August. Engagement’s made by heads of families were to include their children. Laborers were divided into three classes with meager wages. No laborer could refuse the work he might be ordered to do. To assure that a laborer remain bondage to his former owner, the law placed him in a no-win predicament by providing:
The laborer shall have given, or received, legal notice of removal from the estate where he serves, before anyone can engage his service; otherwise the new contract to be void, and the party engaging in tampering with a laborer employed by others, will be dealt with according to law. The contract was inviolable except by mutual agreement between the master and laborer, or by order of a magistrate.
The Letter I have transcribed is from Mrs. Isabella Barzey, describing the bad treatment she received from Manager Maloy of Estate Cane Garden, and her request to be sent to St. Thomas to meet her husband. Isabella letter is as follows:
May it be pleasing to your Excellency
I humbly state that I have attended Mr. Maloy the manager of Estate Cane Garden three years as Cook, House Attendant and Seller. Always faithful obedient and attention to my business. On Monday the 16th of April last I was constrained from bad feelings reasoned by a Cold and hoarseness, to beg Mr. Maloy for a dose of oil which he refused to give when I was obliged to seek for it elsewhere and remained my house until Thursday, the 19th. When Mr. Maloy called me before Dr. Johnson who said I was not sick when my feelings were really sick as did not allow me to work the following day. I was sent to Kings Hill and their flogged in a shameful manner, the first time since I arrived at the age of maturity which is painful to my feelings. July next will be 10 years since I was married indorsed medals with accompanied certificates will prove my character it was from life and exemplary life and laudable conduct which was pleasing to Priest O Kennely
who honored me with this mark of distinction from other married women. I was always respected from the managers who preceded Mr. Maloy, it is bad feelings in him to treat me in this manner, to expose me, to cut my flesh and humble my becoming pride which was always govern with markings of obedience to my superiors, and friendship to my equals. Mr. Maloy has without cause inflicted a wound which he cannot remedy. My husband is now in St. Thomas a Mason of trade. I humbly beg that your Excellency will after mature deliberations be graciously pleased to grant myself and children to follow my husband according to the 2nd paragraph of your excellency Regulation of the 26th January last as I cannot remain to be further exposed under the powerful control of Mr. Maloy; my first child is 13 years old and my last 9 years old, your excellency’s compliance to the above will be ever gratefully remembered by your most humble servant.
Christiansted 5th May 1849
It is not yet known whether Isabella’s request to follow her husband to St Thomas was granted. The 1855 Census revealed that she was no longer living at Estate Cane Garden. She was then living in the town of Christiansted with her two daughters.
By 1860, the St. Croix Census showed that Isabella Barzey was then divorced from Henry Barzey, and living in the town of Christiansted with her daughter Virginia and grand-daughter Theresa Chabert.
Isabella’s grand-daughter Theresa Chabert married my 3rd generation Uncle Esram Bough, on February 26, 1884 at Holy Cross Catholic Church on St. Croix. Together they had four children. (see my post on Esram Bough the Cigar Maker)
Isabella Barzey died on April 11, 1890 she was 70 years old.
After the 1878 revolt on St. Croix, the Labor Act came to an end after thirty (30) years on October 1, 1879.
Letter: National Archives of Denmark -Courtesy of Camilla Jensen
Willocks, The Umbilical Cord, page 192
Boyer, America’s Virgin Islands, page 58-59
St. Croix Census 1855, Available from Ancestry.com Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), comp. U.S. Virgin Islands Census, 1835-1911 (Danish Period) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
St. Croix Census, 1860, Available from Ancestry.com Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), comp. U.S. Virgin Islands Census, 1835-1911 (Danish Period) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
http://stx.visharoots.org/ St. Croix Population Database
Holy Cross Catholics Church, Christiansted Marriage records 1855-1898
Today, July 3rd is Emancipation Day a Holiday throughout the US Virgin Islands formerly the Danish West Indies. Emancipation Day commemorates the day in 1848 when enslaved Africans on St. Croix demanded their freedom and won their freedom, and for all slaves throughout the territory.
This day is full of activities beginning with the annual 5am Freedom walk of about 15 miles commemorating the day the slaves walked to demand their freedom.
Quadrille dancing is a cultural part of the celebration, the official dance of the US Virgin Islands, presentations from various schools, historians as well as a reading of the Proclamation of Emancipation.
This year marks the 166th anniversary of the proclamation.
In 1746 and again in 1759, African descendants in the Danish West Indies revolted to try to regain their freedom. Although the hunger and thirst for liberation never faded, it took careful planning to execute the Revolt of 1848 against their owners. “By any means necessary” a modern-day phrase reflected the mood of the time. Fires were set; bells tolled all over the islands and conch shells blew, transmitting messages from one estate to the next; refusing to work; and demolishing homes on the plantations were some of the actions taken by the slaves. This went on over a span of about two days throughout St. Croix. Large crowd gathered on the West end of the island demonstrating and demanding their freedom.
On July 3, 1848, Governor Peter von Scholten delivered a proclamation “all unfree in the Danish West Indian islands are of today free”. It was the strength, sacrifices and determination of the Africans, and not the generosity of the Danish Government, which could not be ignored as they brought freedom to their people and their descendents. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.
While doing my own cemetery research at the Christiansted, St. Croix Pubic Cemetery, I could not help but notice the Hourglass carved into the tombstone of Elise Marie Svitzer. A closer look revealed a child’s grave. Without a doubt the last few words written upon the stone “aged 8 months and 8 days” was indicative of a Wednesday Child, the Hourglass, symbolizing a short life, as well as the pain felt when a baby dies.
My great-grandfather August Curtis Bough was one of the islands greatest merchants on St. Croix. When I settled on St. Croix in the mid 70’s, saw his name boldly posted (AC Bough Stores) on one of the buildings in the town of Christiansted; I made a subconscious commitment to know more about my family history. It would be two decades later when genealogy would take hold of my life.
August Curtis Bough was a popular and respected citizen who owned several establishments in the town of Christiansted dealing in dry goods, hardware, provisions, wholesale, retail and commission. His sons including my grandfather Julius Curtis Bough and many of the vendors went about the town and country selling his goods. The height of his business career may have been the best days of the island. He often talked about the money he made while sending his money to the bank in kerosene tins!!!
While visiting Estate Whim Museum looking through their collection of historic photos, seeing a picture of AC Bough store was pure excitement as well as discovering that he experimented with making and distributing soda pop.
It was particularly disturbing to learn from family members that his establishment was burglarized, but perhaps this was the turning point in his life, when he decided to enter into the ministry with the same zeal he had for his merchandising.
A.C. Bough was a proud and remarkable man who worked very hard for his family and community.
Well I began writing a year ago today with a focus on “My Genealogical Journey”. I can say like most, time flies when your’e having fun. More importantly the Geneabloggers Community has been very supporting; the comments have been inspiring; the likes are encouraging.
Thanks for coming along this journey. I appreciate your well wishes.
In 2007, the VI Ancestry Discovery Group hosted “VI Family Tree & History Exhibit,” on St. Croix. I was among the 75-plus presenters sharing my family history in public for the first time. Gathering, collecting data and working with Project Coordinator Veronica “Ronnie” Phillips; I began to think about not just what; but also how to display this data on my table. The title/theme of my exhibit: From Beaudhuy to Bough.
Much of my research is on the Bough family history: how long were they in the Danish West Indies, where did they come from, and what was their livelihood. This research went back to the 18th Century which led me to the (female) surname Beaudhuy, born about 1775, who had a relationship with (male) Bough. In my multiple searches for documentation on the Beaudhuy name, I discovered a Freedom Certificate written in Danish at Virgin Islands Archives/Records at the Public Library. Besides seeing the name, all I knew about this nearly “poster size” document was that I had something important and exciting to add to my presentation.
Attendance at the event was huge. Folks were going from table to table, with questions on ancestry as well as contributing their own information. At this event my Danish friend Camilla, also a presenter, allotted some precious moment interpreting the Beaudhuy Freedom Certificate. As she was reading the document, she looked up at me, placed her hand over her heart, and whispered “This is so beautiful”. I stood still anxiously waiting for the meaning. She said, “This is a grandmother purchasing her granddaughters freedom. “ As a grandmother, I was deeply touched.
Recently I have been given the verbatim translation of this Danish Record. The translation is as follows:
J. P. Beaudhuy attests that he has sold – to Free Negro Woman Johanne – a negro girl, also called Johanne, belonging to him for the sum of 100 Rigsdaler. The sale was on condition that Free Negro Woman Johanne (who is the child’s mother’s mother), without delay frees said child. The purchase sum was paid in full on 12 August 1817, and the child Johanne, now freebought.
Since then I have been able to work out quite a few connections with the Beaudhuy surname through documentation as shown on a Public Tree at Ancestry.com.
Alfred Ernest Muckle and Julia Cleopatra Bough married on April 26th, 1885 in the English Episcopal Church in Christiansted, Danish West Indies. (Now the US Virgin Islands) As shown in the Register of Marriages 1867-1901 St. Johns Anglican Church.
My 3x great-aunt Julia C. Bough was a 17-year-old seamstress, her husband Alfred Ernest Muckle was a 23-year-old Factory Clerk, both from Christiansted St. Croix.
Witnesses were: Peter Bough, and Alfred Hennerman. Minister officiating was Ch. Brauch, Curate in charge.
The church Bells rang out joyfully for the new couple!!
Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Muckle.
Whenever I look at the 1857 census which I retrieved from ancestry.com, I recognize that the composition of the household is of a different time; a time when families lived together. Today, the ancestors could not possibly conceive in their minds, how most families are not living together and rather live apart in distant places. Then again, they could not possibly conceive the birth of the “internet” with the capability of bringing families together for company sake.
My 4x great-grandmother, Sarah Beaudhuy lived in the household of her son, George Bough, daughter-in-law and grandchildren most of her life. George died one year before the 1857 census .
The 1857 census shows Sara Beaudhuy living in the household that once was headed by her only child, now belonging to the children of George Bough. Sarah continues to live with her family at 13&14 Fisher Street Christiansted St. Croix.
Susan Crow-Bough 42, born in St. Croix , Episcopalian widow, seamstress
David W. Bough, 17, born in St. Croix, Lutheran, Taylor
Benjamin Bough, 15, born in St. Croix, Episcopalian
Sarah Beaudhuy, 84, born in St. Croix , Moravian, Pensioner
This census is a reminder that families near or far need to make meaningful connections so that a legacy of caring can be established and passed down to the other generations.