Author Archives: Michael Kearney

Samuel (Mundo) Ganges

Samuel Ganges (GPIDS0830 [1]) was one of the three First Ganges to be have been given this name.  He is the youngest of the three, having been indentured for twelve years to Jonathan Scholfield of Lower Dublin, Philadelphia County [2]. This places Samuel’s date of birth around 1791.  The other two Samuels were at or near adulthood when indentured in 1800, being bound for seven and four years, respectively.

At the time of Samuel’s indenture, Scholfield had been a Justice of the Peace for Lower Dublin Township for nine years, having been appointed soon after the passage of Pennsylvania’s 1790 constitution.[3]

Though a Quaker by birth, Scholfield seems to have been a reluctant one, waiting until the last minute to manumit an enslaved 15 year old boy, John Solomon, in August 1776, two months shy of a mandatory disownment ordered by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of all members who did not manumit their slaves by October. Scholfield’s disagreements with the Society of Friends continued soon after when, after paying a fine for failing to attend military training under the 1777 Militia Act — an action proscribed by the Yearly Meeting — he was disowned in September 1778.[4] He subsequently joined the meeting of “Free Quakers” which was composed of fellow believers who had run afoul of the Friends pacifist principles.[5]

After the Revolution, Scholfield took up residence on a 100 acre farm straddling the border between Lower Dublin and Moreland Townships. While he no longer owned slaves, free blacks continued to be enumerated in his household in the 1790 (1), 1800(3) and 1810 (1) censuses.[6]

Though no longer enslaved, Samuel’s indenture restricted his personal autonomy until age 21. Before its expiration in 1812, he took matters matters into his own hands. On May 1, 1808 he absconded with enough clothing to outfit a long journey or, perhaps, to fund it. Scholfield placed ads in local newspapers for several weeks, offering an $8 reward and providing all the particulars as shown below. There is little doubt that this “Guinea negro boy”, Mundo, bound under the name of Sam Ganges, is the same man as the Samuel Ganges bound to Jonathan Scholfield 8 years earlier. The facts presented match up very nicely.[7]

Runaway Ad for Sam Ganges, aka, Mundo, placed by his master, Jonathan Scholfield, a few months shy of the eighth anniversary of their indenture agreement.

We do not know whether Sam, aka Mundo, was taken up and delivered back to his master or not but a record created nearly forty years later in an unexpected place suggests that he did achieve full autonomy — by putting out to sea.

On March 16, 1830, the Louisiana Legislature passed an act “to prevent free persons of color from entering into this state.” Section 12 of this act required “all free negroes, griffs and mulattoes of the first degree” who had entered the state after the adoption of the Constitution of 1812 and before January 1, 1825 to enroll themselves with the office of the Parish Judge of their resident parish or with the office of the Mayor of the City of New Orleans. The rolls kept by these offices were to include the person’s “age, sex, colour, trade or calling, place of nativity and the time of their arrival in the State.” [8]

In accordance with the law, the Mayor of New Orleans began keeping such records and those from the period 1840 to 1864 survive in Register of free persons of color entitled to remain in the state, 1849-1864. In volume 1, we find an entry, written in French, for a Samuel Ganges, negre [negro], age 45, journalier [laborer], born Afrique [Africa], arrived New Orleans in 1823. The name, age and place of birth all match what we know about Sam (Mundo) Ganges, and the case is strengthened by Scholfield’s statement that Mundo went by his adopted name. A measurable fraction of Philadelphia’s free black males were mariners, so this would not have been an unusual choice for Samuel to have made.[10]

Entry for Samuel Ganges in the New Orleans register of free persons.

This record is the first we have located that places one of the First Ganges outside the Philadelphia region, and will probably not be the last. Given that this record indicates Samuel resided in New Orleans for at least 20 years, there is also a reasonable chance he left descendants there. Time and future research will tell.


[1] This is the internal database ID used to distinguish the first Ganges from another.

[2] Indenture from Samuel Ganges to Jonathan Scholfield, Box 3A Folder 1. Indenture term for 12 years suggests a date of birth of 1791. All indentures for Ganges males were for 4 years or to age 21, whichever was longer. Skills to be taught: farming; 3 quarters schooling.; “Papers, Series IV. Manumissions, indentures, and other legal papers, document”, Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Jonathan Scholfield (1742-1812) was a birthright Quaker, the youngest of nine children of John Scholfield and Ann Lenoir of Solebury, Bucks County. He married Rebecca Beaumont, daughter of John Beaumont and Sarah Pancoast of Upper Makefield, at the Wrightstown Monthly Meeting on May 17 1769.

[3] Pennsylvania, General Assembly, House of Representatives, “List of Justices of the Peace”, (Lancaster, Benjamin Grimler, 1809), p86. Scholfield was appointed 18 Sept. 1791.

[4] Buckingham [Pa.] Monthly Meeting, “Minutes 1763-1792”, 7 Sept 1778, p. 176.

[5] Charles Wetherill, “History of the religious Society of Friends, called by some the Free Quakers, in the city of Philadelphia”, ([Philadelphia? Pa.] : Printed for the Society, 1894), p 20.

[6] See 1800, 1810 and 1820 U.S Census, Population Schedules for Lower Dublin Township, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

[7] ” Eight Dollar Reward”, 16 May 1808, p. 1, Democratic Press, Philadelphia, Pa, images, ( : accessed 11 May 2021).

[8] Mitchell, Brian. “Free Blacks Database: New Orleans, 1840-1860.” Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation 1, no. 1 (2020); online

[9] “Free People of Color in Louisiana”, Louisiana Digital Library ( : accessed 13 Mar 2021), image, New Orleans (La.) Office of the Mayor, “Register of free colored persons entitled to remain in the state.”, Vol 1, 1840-1856, p 111 (image 33), crediting New Orleans Public Library, Louisiana Division, City Archives & Special Collections, New Orleans, La.

[10] Gary B. Nash, “Forging Freedom”, (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 149.

Third Anniversary Update

It’s now three  years since I began the Ganges Families History Project and, continuing  in the spirit of the “annual holiday letter”, here’s what’s transpired in the past 12 months.

As “luck” would have it, the pandemic has put a big dent in my ability to conduct new research, since every archive or library I have been using for in-person research has been closed. Nonetheless, I have continued with limited online research as circumstances permit.

Fortunately, though, I had a backlog of previous research that hadn’t made it to the web site, and that is where much most of this year’s effort has gone:

  1.  A full account of the voyage of the USS Ganges that included the capture of the slave vessels Prudent and Phoebe in July, 1800 and their direction to Philadelphia. The Ganges stayed on station off Cuba, taking more prizes but also suffering an outbreak of yellow fever aboard that forced her to cut her mission short and return to Philadelphia in September, suffering the loss of 26  men.  It’s no wonder the citizens of Philadelphia dreaded this disease and went to extraordinary lengths to keep it away.
  2. A significant rewrite of the section describing the arrival of the Phoebe and Prudent in Philadelphia; the public’s reaction; the quarantine of the vessels and their passengers and the rules that were in effect at the time; the care provided the Ganges Africans at the Old Lazaretto including clothing, provisions and medical care, drawing on records of the Board of Health at the Philadelphia City Archives.
  3.  A major new find pertaining to the Ganges medical care after their arrival, namely: that after leaving the Old Lazaretto, about 10 of the Ganges received additional care at Pennsylvania Hospital, their expenses being paid by the District Court.  Many thanks to Terry Buckalew, who manages the remarkable web site devoted to the Bethel Burying Ground and to Stacey Peebles, archivist at the Pennsylvania Hospital Archives, for their assistance in identifying and extracting these records.
  4. Finally, while my research has been limited to online resources, there is one big win to celebrate this year, the story of Lahy Ganges. Lahy was initially indentured to Enos Eldridge of Darby Township, but moved to Philadelphia city later in life and took the name “Levi.” He died at the Alms House in 1846 and is buried at Bethel Burying Ground.  Remarkably, and with no small measure of irony as well, Levi played a small part in the Amistad incident in 1839. A record of his role is found among the “American Missionary Archives” available online from the Tulane University Library. There, we find evidence of Lahy’s name change to Levi and, to my great surprise and delight, the name of Lahy’s  African father, Mulcauba, as well as his region of origin/ethnicity, Susu. This is the first case , and hopefully not the last, where we can document the life of a Ganges African from beginning to end. Details and source citations can be found in Lahy’s  profile, linked above.

I continue to make progress on the web site, but it still has a way to go.  I am looking forward to being able to visit archives and libraries in the coming year – I have missed them terribly. But whether I’m at home or in the research room, my enthusiasm for the Ganges remains and  I intend to carry on. Watch this space and, if you are so inclined, write me.

Lahy (Levi) Ganges

Genealogical Summary


In October 1800, Lahy Ganges indentured himself to Enos Eldridge for a term of four years. This places his birth some time before 1783, given the Abolition Society’s practice of  indenturing First Ganges males for 4 years or to age 21, whichever came first. Thus, Lahy was 17 or older at the beginning of his indenture.[i]

The indenture describes Eldridge as a farmer of Darby Township, Delaware County.  Deed records of the time variously describe him as a yeoman or grazier – a person who “rears or fattens  cattle and sheep for market.”

Around 1798, Eldridge removed from his farm in Newton Township, Gloucester County, NJ to Darby Township, Delaware County, leasing a 46 acre farm on the west bank of Cobbs Creek, near the Blue Bell Inn.  In May 1800, he bought the property from Benjamin Paschall for $2,000[ii] and then sold it 4 years later to Jacob Gibbons for $3,700.[iii] The previous November, Eldridge had tried to auction the farm, providing this picturesque description to prospective buyers:

A valuable Plantation, situate on the line of Philadelphia and Delaware counties, near the Blue Bell inn, and near the great Southern road.  Seven miles from the city of Philadelphia – containing about 46 acres of land.  The farm is well divided into small fields with new post fence of chestnut timber; all the lots are well watered by a stream running through the same. There is a sufficiency of the best thriving timber for fuel and fencing; there are about twelve acres well set with timothy and clover feed, a young orchard of one hundred apple trees of the best grafted fruit, with a variety pf other fruit trees, such as cherry peaches, plumb, &c. – The buildings are two story stone dwelling house and kitchen, a new stone barn and carriage house forty-four by thirty five feet. With cellars under the whole and stalls for 224 creatures, a well of excellent water at the door with a pump therein, a garden well set with flowers and shrubs, newly pailed in. There is on said place one of the best stone quarries in the neighborhood.  The situation is worth a citizen’s attention as a country seat, it being a healthy situation. Any person willing to purchase may view the premises, by applying to Enos Eldridge, living thereon.[iv]

Like any real estate advertisement, this description probably stretches the truth, but it appears that Eldridge made considerable improvements during his ownership.[v] This is a possible location where Lahy worked off his indenture to Eldridge, perhaps caring for livestock, laboring in the quarry, or constructing the new barn and carriage house.

Enos Eldridge owned or leased other properties during the period of Lahy’s indenture. In 1798, he was leasing 20 acres on Tinicum Island from Thomas Proctor.[vi]  In 1801, for $50, he bought the entirety (100 acres) of Maiden Island, located in the Delaware River just south of Fort Mifflin.[vii]  Eldridge’s wife, Agnes, had also inherited land on Petty’s Island and the Delaware shoreline in Newton Township, Gloucester County.[viii] Given their location, all these properties would have been subject to regular flooding, so would probably have been used for grazing livestock and Lahy may have devoted time here as well.

This is about as far as we can take Lahy’s story based solely on what can be inferred from his original indenture.  Searches for him under this name in the usual census, city directory, and vital records come up empty.  However, there is a significant clue to be found in an unexpected place – ironically — the records of  another slave ship incident, that of La Amistad, nearly forty years after Lahy’s indenture.

In August 1839, the Spanish/Cuban slaving schooner La Amistad was brought into the port of New Haven, Connecticut in the custody of the USS Washington, which seized her off the coast of Long Island with 53 Africans aboard. The Africans had been recently kidnapped in Africa, enslaved, brought to Havana via the Middle Passage, sold and  — accompanied by their new owners — shipped aboard La Amistad for work on sugar plantations a few days sail from Havana.

Around July 1, 1839, off the coast of Cuba, the Africans escaped their bonds, killed the captain and cook and seized control of the vessel.  They spared their owners’ lives in exchange for navigation back to Sierra Leone, their point of origin. The owners, however, by sailing slowly eastward during the day and hard and fast to the northwest at night, managed to make landfall at Long Island instead.

The incident caused a public sensation as abolitionist and pro-slavery factions wrestled for control of the narrative. Were the Africans free?  Was it murder or self-defense?  Early on, the story tended to favor the pro-slavery faction because the Spanish owners’ side of the story could be translated and published with relative ease.  Not so for the Africans.  Although they were ethnically diverse and spoke multiple African languages, no one else could speak their primary language, Mendi. Communication was very difficult.

Faced with this dilemma, Lewis Tappan, a member of the abolitionist committee formed to assist the Africans, put out a public call for help:

If there are native Africans in this city, or elsewhere in this country, who were born near the sources of the river Niger, or in Mandingo, or who can converse readily in the Susoo, Kissi, Mandingo, or Gallinas dialects, they will confer a great favor by calling or sending to the undersigned, for the committee, at 143 Nassau street, New York City.[ix]

Abolitionist supporters throughout the country answered the call, including a committee of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society consisting of Dr. Isaac Parrish, Daniel Neall Jr., William Betts, William Harned and Charles Wise. In a letter to Joshua Leavitt dated September 12, 1839, Dr. Parrish offered

.. to confer with you in the case, to secure the services of D P Brown on behalf of the Society, solicit funds and adopt such measures as should be necessary to aid you in the defense.

and offered Leavitt the services of a translator

a white man – about middle aged – named John Shain. When a child he was placed on board of [a] Slave Ship and lived for 7 years amongst the Africans … [he] obtained an intimate knowledge of the Soso and Mandingo languages. He is well acquainted with the customs of the people, the Geography of the country etc.[x]

Three days later, Parrish added another candidate to the list

I have just returned from a very interesting visit to an old Mandingo man in company with John Shean,  J [Joshua] Coffin etc. Shean and he conversed fluently and readily in the Susoo language – and it was hard to tell which of them was the most pleased. The old man is nearly 80 years of age, speaks several African languages, French and English, the latter very imperfectly. If he should be wanted, we will send him on – he is very anxious to go.[xi]

And well it might be that the old man be anxious to go. He was Lahy Ganges.

The following day, Joshua Coffin, one of the other attendees of the meeting with John Shane and “the old man” provided further particulars to Lewis Tappan in a letter Shane delivered to him in New York[xii]

Phil 16 Sept 1839
Brother [Lewis] Tappan,

Yesterday afternoon I attended one of the churches for colored people & by means of one of the congregation was introduced to a native Soosoo (the son of a Soosoo chief) who was kidnapped from Africa when a man grown. I went last evening with John Shane to see him in company with Dr. [Isaac] Parrish. I was grateful to find them both well acquainted with the language. The old man Levi Ganges, alias Lahi, the son of Mulcauba. He can speak the Soosoo, the Mandingo, the Mandingo Foulah, the Timmanee and the Lambar languages & how many more I know not. It may be (&) well to mention that in Mr. Shane can speak the Spanish both the classical & creole & not improper to suggest the propriety of not saying a word about his knowledge of Spanish unless the question is asked him in Hartford. We all think it would be advisable to have Levi go to Hartford.  Mr Shane will tell you all about his qualifications. He would be glad to have him go on many accounts. If you think so, just write a line to Dr. Parrish & he will come forthwith. I should be pleased to say more, but am in haste as you see by my writing.

Yours for the slave

Joshua Coffin

Lewis Tappan Esq.
No 122 Pearl St or No 143 Nassau St. NY
By Jno. [John] Shane     

After delivering this letter to Tappan, Shane proceeded to Hartford and spoke with the La Amistad captives, but was unsuccessful. He then returned to Philadelphia with a letter, dated September 18th, from Tappan to Dr. Parrish. The situation can be inferred from Parrish’s reply

I received thine of the 18th by return of John Sheain and was almost as much disappointed as Sheian himself, that he failed to converse with the Prisoners – Altho I cannot doubt from the account, that had he the full confidence of Joseph Cinquez he could communicate with him.

There is a hint here that Parrish believed Cinque’s lack of confidence might arise from a general distrust of whites. It is true that at this point, the captives were in great fear for their lives and did not know who to trust.[xiii]  This attempt having failed, Dr. Parrish resolved to push on:

In consulting upon the case our Committee concluded to send on old Levi Ganges and as he could not go alone – to let J S [John Shean] accompany him. We have raised $300 and if a strong appeal were made could raise more. This sum will pay the expenses of Brown & the interpreters and leave us something. Please get old Levi comfortable accommodations in some friendly family. He is well known here and can tell his own story. He has an unpleasant inflammation of the eye following an operation which was performed several months ago which may require some care. If John Sheain can be of any use, let him be employed. If not we will pay his expenses until Levi is ready to return. [xiv]

Shortly thereafter Lahy/Levi Ganges must have set out to Hartford to see what assistance he could render to the Amistad Africans. It appears that he was as unsuccessful as John Shean.  An accounting of the defense committee’s expenses published in Lewis Tappan’s Emancipator reports an $1.60 expense for Levi Ganges’ lodging in Hartford and nothing more.[xv] This suggests that Levi, too, was unable to speak any of the Africans’ languages and this, not a distrust of whites,  was the reason for their silent responses to John  Shean.

The Emancipator, 6 Feb 1840, p. 163, col. 5

Lahy/Levi Ganges returned to Philadelphia and the Amistad defense went on. The committee finally located two translators when the Africans taught Professor Josiah Gibbs Yale his numbers. In New York City, he walked the waterfront for hours, loudly and repeatedly counting to ten. His efforts were rewarded when black two mariners, Charles Pratt and James Covey, recognizing  his speech but at a loss to understand his strange behavior, sought out the story. In a matter of hours, the situation was clarified. The mariners were recruited and brought to the Africans’ prison cells in Hartford, much to the joy of those imprisoned.[xvi]

The Amistad case continued to its historic conclusion and Lahy/Levi took up his life again in Philadelphia. Despite having made the association between Lahi and Levi Ganges, other records pertaining to him have proven scarce. The 1820 and 1840 Federal censuses for Southwark enumerate a Levy and an L Gansey, colored, which might be he.[xvii] Adam Everly, comb maker of 225 High St, opened a bank account for Levi in August, 1831.[xviii]

Philadelphia Alms House – 1840 [xix]

Levi succumbed to apoplexy on September 13, 1846 at Blockley Hospital at the Philadelphia Almshouse. He was interred at Bethel Colored Burial Ground three days later.[xx] This burial ground, long forgotten but recently re-discovered, is the final resting place for thousands of black Philadelphians. An excellent web site maintained by Terry Buckalew, , documents the lives of people interred there, including Lahy/Levi. May he rest in peace.

[i] Indenture from Lahy Ganges to Enos Eldridge of Darby Township, Delaware County, 6 October 1800, Box 2 Folder 17. “Papers, Series IV.  Manumissions, indentures, and other legal papers, document”, Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

[ii] Delaware County Pennsylvania Deeds, F:564.

[iii] Delaware County Pennsylvania Deeds, P:166. Eldridge is describes as “of Moyamensing, Philadelphia County, in this deed.

[iv] Anonymous, ”Auctions by Shannon & Poalk,” Philadelphia Gazette, 8 Nov 1803, p. 5, col. 2; online archives, Genealogy Bank ( : accessed 11 Aug 2020).

[v] Many of the outbuildings listed in the ad are not listed a 1798 Federal Direct Tax assessment which lists only a stone hose and kitchen. See: Assessment Lists for the Pennsylvania Direct Tax, 1798 – 1800, Microfilm Publication M372, 24 rolls, (Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1962), roll 7, division 3, collection district 5 (Chester(part) and Delaware County, Darby and Tinicum Townships), Book 1, n.p, line 60, Enos Eldridge;  online images, Ancestry, ( : accessed 11 Aug 2020).

[vi] Assessment Lists for the Pennsylvania Direct Tax, 1798 – 1800, Microfilm Publication M372, 24 rolls, (Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1962), roll 7, division 3, collection district 5 (Chester(part) and Delaware County, Darby and Tinicum Townships), Book E, Tinicum Twp., n.p., particular list number 6, Enos Eldridge;  online images, Ancestry, ( : accessed 25 Aug 2020).

[vii] Delaware County Pennsylvania Deeds, H:563.

[viii] Gloucester County New Jersey Deeds, M:15.

[ix] Lewis Tappan, “To the Committee”, NY Commercial Advertiser,  13 Sept 1839, p. 2, col. 1, online archives,, accessed 25 Aug 2020. Note that Tappan does not list Mendi as one of the desired languages. At the outset, the Amistad committee mistakenly  believed that the Africans’ primary language  was Mandingo, not Mendi.

[x] “Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Amistad Case”, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library,Tulane University , Tulane University Digital  Library ( accessed 13 July 2020), image, “Letter from Isaac Parrish to Joshua Leavitt”, 12 Sept 1839, Doc. No. F1-4613, crediting “American Missionary Association Archives, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana”.

[xi] “Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Amistad Case”, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library,Tulane University , Tulane University Digital  Library ( accessed 13 Jul 2020), image, “Letter from Isaac Parrish to Lewis Tappan”, 15 Sept 1839, Doc. No. F1-4624, crediting “American Missionary Association Archives, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana”.

[xii] “Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Amistad Case”, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library,Tulane University , Tulane University Digital  Library ( accessed 16 Jun 2020), image, “Letter from Joshua Coffin to Lewis Tappan”, 16 Sept 1839, Doc. No. F1-4626, crediting “American Missionary Association Archives, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana”. This is the only record identified to-date that provides a specific point of origin, parent, and ethnic group for a member of the First Ganges,

[xiii] Reddicker, Marcus, The Amistad Rebellion, (New York, Penguin Books, 2019), p 123.

[xiv] “Slavery and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Amistad Case”, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library,Tulane University , Tulane University Digital  Library ( accessed 13 Jul 2020), image, “Letter from Isaac Parrish  to Lewis Tappan”, 20 Sept 1839, Doc. No. F1-4634, crediting “American Missionary Association Archives, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana”.

[xv] S.S. Jocelyn, Joshua Leavitt, Lewis Tappan, “Expenditures on Account of Captured Africans”, The Emancipator, 6 Feb 1840, p. 163, col. 5, online archives, Gale Primary Sources ( : accessed 13 July 2020), 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, citing Wisconsin Historical Society. Sept [1839] Levi Ganges (interpreter) board at Hartford 1 62 [$1.62].

[xvi] Reddicker, Marcus, The Amistad Rebellion, (New York, Penguin Books, 2019), p 136.

[xvii] 1 1820 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Southwark District, population schedule, p. 86 (stamped), line 2, Levy Gansey; digital image, ( : accessed 14 Jul 2020); citing National Archives Microfilm publication M33 roll 110. 1840 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Southwark District,  population schedule, p. 111 (stamped), line 1, L  Gansey; digital image, ( : accessed 14 Jul 2020); citing Family History Library Film 0020555.

[xviii] “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013”, digital images,, ( : accessed 14 Jul 2020) >PA – Philadelphia> Philadelphia>Not Stated>The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, image of entry for Am[Adam] Everly 225 High St for Levi Ganges, account 17232 (8 Aug 1831);citing Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

[xix] John Caspar Wild, Alms House (Philadelphia), 1840, Lithograph in colors, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, Yale University Art Gallery.

[xx] Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Board of Health Cemetery Returns, unnumbered page, section Bethel Colored Cemetery for the week of September 16, 1846, return for Levi Ganges, died 13 Sept. 1846;  image, “Registration of deaths, 1803-1903; arranged by year and cemetery”, FamilySearch  ( : accessed 12 July 2020) > digital film 004009816  > image 208.

Second Anniversary Update

It’s now two years since I began the Ganges Families History Project and continuing  in the spirit of an annual holiday letter, here’s what’s transpired in the past 12 months.

While the search for original sources continues, my emphasis over the past year has increased its emphasis on taking the information I’ve already found and bringing it together into a more coherent narrative.  This has taken two forms: continuing to update the Ganges Families web site and presenting my research results in public presentations. Many thanks to the African American Genealogy Group of Philadelphia and the Main Line Genealogy Club for giving me the opportunity to organize my thoughts. I’m now prepared to take the story out further when opportunities arise.

So, without further ado, here’s the “Top 10” highlights for the past year:

  1. Documenting what is know of the voyages of the Schooner Prudent and Phoebe. Of particular interest is a document describing the consignment terms for 45 of the Africans enslaved aboard the Phoebe at Bance Island, including an 8% contingency for “Loss occasioned by death.”
  2. Documenting the two federal court cases, U.S. vs. Schooner Prudent and U.S. vs. Schooner Phoebe that resulted in the First Ganges being freed.
  3. Adding a table of (very) short biographical sketches of the men involved in the court cases.
  4. Adding a glossary of common legal terms found in the court cases.
  5. Continuing to profile the lives of individual Ganges, including Phillis, Abraham, PeterPeter “Guinea Pete”, Sado and Debby Ganges, and moving to a new, standard profile format that’s much easier for me to create and maintain.
  6. Verifying that the remains of the “Old Lazaretto” – the quarantine hospital where the First Ganges were treated and where six of them were probably buried – are very unlikely to have survived. The site is currently under the control of the Corps of Engineers in a location dubbed “Disposal Area Number 2”. This is where the Corps deposits spoil coming from its dredging operations on the Delaware Rive. A summary map is available here.
  7. Assisting Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Cassie Owens on an article describing the Pennsylvania’s indenture process at the turn of the nineteenth century, including an interview with a living descendant of Samuel Ganges of Chester County.
  8. Completing a high resolution map of the Philadelphia area showing the locations where the First Ganges were indentured.
  9. Preparing and presenting the aforementioned talks on the project.
  10. Drafting a summary and map of the Ganges voyage from Philadelphia to Cuba and back (not yet published here), including a yellow fever epidemic aboard that ultimately killed more than twenty crew members.

I have made progress on the web site in the past year, but it still has a way to go before “completion.”  My enthusiasm for the topic hasn’t waned and  I intend to carry on. Watch this space and, if you are so inclined, write me.

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.

February 12, 2019