Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Line 19.1 William Sellman; Can a Slave Owner be Holy?

William Sellman was the son of a former indentured servant. By the time he died he owned “31 negro slaves.” It seems ironic that coming from a background where his own father had been an “indentured” servant and did not own slaves, that William would. Am I proud he owned slaves? Of course not but owning slaves did not make him a wholly evil man. But could he still be holy and a slave owner? There isn’t much known about William, except what can be gleamed from his will and some land records. Hopefully, he was a Christian man who was kind to his slaves. The man who wrote "Amazing Grace" went back to slaving once he became a Christian but at the end of his life he fought to end the practice. William Sellman didn't give up his slaves (he actually "willed" his slaves to his heirs). He didn't fight against slavery. So it leaves to question if he could justify owning slaves. We can't know his heart condition, but I at least will hope that he had pity on people he imprisoned.

William Sellman was born 22 January 1688/9 in Accomac, Accomack Co., Virginia, the son of John Sellman and his wife, Elizabeth Brashears
Married Ann West, daughter of John West and Matilda Scarborough on 09 October 1718 in Accomac, Accomack Do., Virginia
The children of William Sellman and Ann West were:
1.      Thomas Sellman born 29 November 1718 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland. He married Ruth Shipley and died 1794
2.      William Sellman Jr., born 18 May 1720 at All Hallows, Anne Arundel, Maryland. He married Charity Tidings and died 7 November 1749 in Virginia
3.      John Sellman born 1 March 1720/21 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland and died there 15 November 1804.
4.      Charles Sellman born 5 August 1722 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland. He married Elizabeth Gassaway about 1745. He died 20 December 1770 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland.
5.      Jonathan Sellman born 21 February 1723/4 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland. He married Elizabeth Battee.
6.      Ann Sellman born 25 September 1725. She married Samuel Battee.

William Sellman died 31 March 1743 in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland

William Sellman was the great-grandson of both a French Huguenot, forced to flee France for his religious beliefs and a powerful man who persecuted people not of the Anglican lean toward Christianity. It seems odd that the grandchildren of two such men, should find enough love between themselves to marry and have children.

William lived most of his life in Anne Aundel Co.,  Maryland. His main residence was “Sparrow’s Rest” on the Rhodes River. He later added Shaws Foly to his land holdings and then added “Francis Addition” forty-two acres, which he purchased from John Gresham in 1729. Here William build a brick house in 1735 and marked the chimney in “old Flemish bond” with “W A 1735” for himself and his wife, Anne and their children. A hundred and ten years later his descendant added a large addition. The house remained in the Sellman family for six generations when it was sold to Mrs. Alexander Howat in 1915. Grainy but interesting photos of this house can be seen at Wilbert (Bert) Webb’s RootWeb site. I hope he doesn’t mind me posting the site address: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~yearsgoneby/p1113.htm

 William died 7 March 1742/3 at age 53. According to his will, he owned 1373 acres of land, thirty-one “Negro” slaves, 21 horses, 119 head of cattle, 108 sheep and 19 hogs    as well as farm and home equipment and goods. His will read in part:

Sellman, William A.A. Co., 11th Feb., 1742-3; 31st March 1743. To son-in-law Scarborough Sparrow, 100 A. lying bet. property of Thomas Higgins and Nicholas Maccubbin's quarter on Elk Ridge. Shd. he die without issue to pass to son Thomas. to son William, part of 300 A. "Morton's Lot" on Bush R. in Baltimore Co. and liberty to live at swelling plantation for yrs. To son John, 260 A. "Sewall's Lot," 88A. "Catter's Whim," 100 A. "Carter's Rock," 23 A. "Carter's Addition." To son Charles, residue of "Crosses Forest." To son Jonathan, 360 A. "Shaw's Folly," 42 A. "Frances Addition". To son Thomas, land testator bought from Benjamin Trasker, agent of Lord Baltimore, and money now in the hands of Joseph Adams. To child. afsd. and dau. Anne, personalty. To wife Anne, personal estate. Tobacco in warehouses to be shipped and proceeds thereof to go into his personal estate. Ex.: Wife and son Jonathan. Test: John Jacobs, John Sparrow, Mary Sparrow. 23.251"} {4--Sellman, Anne Arundel Co. [will]; 25 oct 1748; 29 May 1749, to son William Sellman, 1 s. sterl.; to son Scarborough Sparrow, slaves. To son Thomas Sellman, slaves. To grandson Jonathan Sparrow, son of Kensey, 1 slave.To other 2 grandsons, Kensey and Thomas, sons of the above sd. Kensey Sparrow, remainder of above slaves....To grand-dau. Ann Battee, slavaes; to the 2nd child. of dau. Ann Battee, 1 slave. To son Jonathan Sellman, furnishings; To Elizabeth, wife of Jonathan, chest of drawers. To son Scarborough Sparrow, sheep and the 2 child of my son Charles Selman, Margaret and Ann, and the 3 children of my son John Sellman: Ann, William and Frances. To grand-son West Burgess, cattle. To grand-dau. Katharine Sparrow, dau. of sd. son John, one large hammered pewter dish. to sons John Sellman and Charles, all my crop of cotton. To dau. Matilde Brugess, furnishings. To dau. Ann Battee, my clothing. To dau. Katharine Curtis, clothing. To Elizabeth, wife of son John Sellman, and to Elizabeth, wife of son Charles Sellman, clothing. To Mary, wife of son John Sparrow, clothing. To Dinah, wife of son Kensey Sparrow, clothing. To children: Kensy Sparrow, Scarborough Sparrow, John Sellman, Charles Sellman, Thomas Sellman, and dau. Ann Batee, remainder of my estate. son Scarborough Sparrow, ex. Wit: John Jacobs, Jos. Cowman, Jr., Richard Tidings. 26.141}

I don’t know if William Sellman had any religious affiliations but if so, it can be hard in our age to justify his owning slaves. But the Eighteen Century was a different time and slavery was practiced at that time. It became an economic rather then a moral issue to many people in the Southern States. That doesn’t justify it but it makes it easier to understand that if William Sellman was a Christian, why he would own other people. He was part of a system that used the black man and woman as a source of labor. My hope is that he treated his slaves with compassion, despite enslaving them. Again, it doesn’t justify his “economics” but it does make it a little less intolerable. The issue of Slavery and Christianity is an interesting discussion and the Internet has several interesting article on this subject. If you are a descendant of a Sellman slave or of William Sellman himself, I’d love to hear your view this son of an indentured servant become slave owner.

1. Maryland Calendar of Wills by Jane Baldwin & Roberta Balling Henry, Baltimore Gen. Publ Co., 1968: Volume 8
2. "One Mississippi Family" by Ann Geoghegan annieg49@bellsouth.net "Ancestry.com"
3. Ancestry.com "Our Family History Rebecca Miller and Bruce Rutherford"
4."Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland" by J. D. Warfield, A.M. 1967
5.John Warren, john.Warren@worldnet.att.net
6.“Bert’s Family Links Over 500 Surnames” byWilbert (Bert) Webb, Root Web http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~yearsgoneby/p1113.htm.