First Anniversary Update

It’s been about a year since I began the Ganges Families History Project and in the spirit of an annual holiday letter, I thought I’d summarize what’s transpired in the past 12 months.

I began the project with a certain level of uncertainty, wondering whether there was both a need for it and whether there were sufficient sources available to take the story beyond where it was when I started. I am happy to report that the answer to both questions is yes.

As I point out in the About section, much of the story to-date has focused on the capture and arrival of the Ganges Africans in Philadelphia in 1800. Much less well-covered are: the fates of the Ganges after they were indentured out into the Philadelphia area; the voyage of the U.S.S. Ganges; the court cases that resulted in their being freed; the attempts by their captors to recover their property and, when that failed, to recover their losses from one another; the origins of the Schooners Prudent and Phoebe in the United States and Africa; the fates of the men (and they were all men) in Newport, Charleston, London, Bance Island (Sierra Leone) and Havana whose business it was to kidnap men and women in West Africa and bring them across the Atlantic for sale in the West Indies. The historic record has something to tell us about all of these, not just in general terms but specifically about the Ganges’ story.

The research has taken me (virtually) across four continents to a broad variety of repositories holding pertinent materials. The “Top 10” highlights include:

  1. Locating the geographic coordinates  of the “Old Lazaretto” on State Island where the Ganges Africans were treated on their arrival. It is probably the final resting place for those who died while in quarantine. There is nothing on the site now, about a mile NNE of Fort Mifflin. ( 39°53’19.79″N 75°12’23.61″W See: Henry Gannet, A Dictionary of Geographic Positions in the United States,  Washington DC, US Government Printing Office, 1896., p 70,  (Google Books))
  2. Reviewing the indentures and bonds of individual Ganges Africans and placing them with masters and mistresses throughout the Philadelphia area. These, together with a register (Indenture Book D, AmS.061), allowed me to identify the 126 Ganges who lived long enough to be indentured, the master or mistress to whom they were indentured and, for all but 7 cases, their first place of residence. The Survivors section of this web site now includes this information.
  3. Completing high resolution scans of the Ganges-related indentures and bonds held in the Abolition Society Papers (boxes 2 and 3A) at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. These will ultimately be made available on the Society’s web site.
  4. Conducting preliminary research on Ganges families from Chester County, Pa. at the Chester County Archives, and Chester County Historical Society. This formed the basis of this site’s first personal profile for Samuel Ganges.
  5. Locating of published accounts of the lives of several Ganges Africans, including Dabbo (Duke), Sado, Peter, Phillis, and David Ganges.
  6. Locating the original ship’s log for the U.S.S. Ganges at the Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis. It includes the specific log entries documenting the capture of the schooners Prudent and Phoebe.
  7. Locating records pertaining to the libel and condemnation of the Prudent and the Phoebe in the minutes and case files of the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania, originals held by the National Archives, Northeast Region.
  8. Locating letters held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from the owners of the schooner Phoebe to one of their attorneys, William Tilghman.
  9. Locating letters pertaining to the case U.S. vs Schooner Phoebe in the letter book of George Augustus Cushing, at Harvard.
  10. Locating records of a South Carolina lawsuit identifying the owners of 45 of the slaves aboard the Phoebe. They were London slave merchants John and Alexander Anderson and their agent/factor at Bance Island, Sierra Leone, John Tilley. A summary of the court case, Anderson et. al. vs. Moncrieff has been published. Original court papers are also available at the South Carolina Archives.

I am still wading through these sources and more as I construct the Ganges’ story.  This web site still has a long way to go before I will be satisfied that it is something approaching a coherent whole. Nonetheless, I’ve learned a lot in the past year and gained much personal satisfaction from the work. I intend to carry on. Watch this space and, if you are so inclined, write me.

MK
February 12, 2019

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