Maplewood History: A Bill of Sale… For Human Beings

Both of the two largest farms of Maplewood’s pioneer families, the Rannells and the Suttons, held slaves. Both were carrying on business in the same manner as many other hundreds or thousands of people doing exactly the same thing. That this shameful institution existed on most of the property that would one day become Maplewood indicates how widespread it once was.

This is probably the most important post I have ever made. This is a bill of sale, the text of which follows.

In consideration of the sum of Eleven hundred and fifty Dollars to me in hand paid by Ann L. Sutton of the County of St. Louis and the State of Missouri. I have hereby sold and conveyed to Ann L. Sutton the following Negroe’s to wit, A Negro woman named Caroline (?) about thirty years of age with her female infant child. Also a Negro girl named Malinda about six years old, & Also a Negro Boy named William about two and a half years old. All slaves for life. She the said Ann L. Sutton to have and to hold said slaves to her. her heirs and assigns forever.

In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand & seal this 28th day of April One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty.

J.L.Ferguson

Ann L. Sutton was the wife of James C. Sutton. That this bill of sale survives is unusual. Most of the bills of sale similar to this one have been destroyed. That it is evidence of a great evil that once permeated our country is beyond doubt.

The large amount of money paid, $1,150.00 and the date, 1860 would seem to suggest that the Suttons were not anticipating the changes that the civil war would bring. One dollar in 1860 would be worth 29 today. The Suttons paid the equivalent of $33,350.00 for four human beings, “a Negro woman named Caroline (sp?) about 30 years of age and her infant daughter, a Negro girl named Malinda about 6 years old and a Negro boy named William about two and a half years old. …All slaves for life.”

Absolutely appalling but absolutely real. Malinda and William separated from their parents. Just the thought of it is heartbreaking. Young Caroline with her infant daughter, what became of them? No one will ever know.

Our country’s prosperity was built on the backs of black people such as Caroline, Malinda and William. After the American civil war the so-called Jim Crow laws kept many of their ancestors enslaved and impoverished. They still are not receiving fair and equal treatment. There are those in high offices today who would try to drag us back to those earlier bad times. We will not let them.

From the collection of the descendants of James C. and Ann L. Sutton.

15 thoughts on “Maplewood History: A Bill of Sale… For Human Beings

  1. Thank you, Doug, for this post. I would like to see a memorial to those Ann held as slaves, and to all those held as slaves in Maplewood. The Sutton Loop park is a very good location for a statue and plaque, etc., like the Ryan Hummert memorial. This might be a tiny thing to do, in the right direction. I am not very good at organizing or heading things up, but am willing to contribute $.

    • I agree, Patty. The Sutton Loop Park would be a good location for such a memorial. We need to make some moves in this direction, Stay tuned.

  2. My house (where I am currently typing this reply) sits on land that was likely toiled by the hands of slaves. This history is most appreciated, Doug, as is your comment regarding our country’s past and current treatment of people of color. We’ll continue to try to do better and be better, despite our current administration.

    • I am with you, Beth, on trying to do better and better. I think Donna’s suggestion has merit and we need to explore a way to honor these mostly nameless folks from whose toil and suffering we have all benefited. They’re not all nameless either. There are three names on this bill of sale. More will be found. Thanks for your comment.

  3. What can we do to honor the memory of these forgotten people? A memorial at the Sutton Bus Loop Park? Name the park after them? That would be a really visible location.

    • Donna, I think you have an excellent idea. Let’s go in that direction. Much thanks. Doug

  4. 1830 U.S. Federal Census – (James C. Sutton was born Jul 1, 1897, so is about 32/33 years at this Census.)

    Two James Sutton entries, one in the St. Louis City Lower Ward and one in St. Louis Township.

    In the Lower Ward we find four free white persons in the household of James Sutton. Three are males of the following ages: one 30 to 40, one 20 to 30, and one 15 to 20. One is female, 30 to 40. No slaves or free colored persons.

    In St. Louis Township we find two males persons in the household of James Sutton. One is a free white male of 30 to 40 years, the other is a male slave of 10 to 24 years.
    —————-
    1840 U.S. Federal Census –
    James Sutton household is found living in the Central Township. The family includes eight free white persons consisting of five males and three females. The males are of the following ages: two are under 5 years, one is 5 to 10 years, one is 20 to 30 years, and one is 40 to 50 years. No free persons of color or slaves are listed (these parts of the census have been left blank for all households on the pages with the Sutton entry).
    —————-
    1850 U.S. Federal Census –
    James C Sutton, farmer, age 53 born in New Jersey is found living in District 82 of St. Louis County with wife Ann and eight children on the Sep 26, 1850. The oldest son John L., age 20, is listed as a California Trader. Living in their household they also have seven white non-related males with the following occupations: farmer, two laborers, surveyor, road engineer, road superintendent, and carpenter.

    1850 Slave Schedule –
    James C. Sutton is listed as a slave owner with four slaves in District 82 of St. Louis County on Sep 24, 1850. The four slaves include: one black male age 27, one black female age 10, one black male age 8, and one mulatto female age 40.
    —————-
    1860 U.S. Federal Census –
    J.C. Sutton, farmer, age 63 born in New Jersey, is found living in the Central Township of St. Louis County on Aug 19, 1860. The household contains wife Ann and 8 children (ages 30 to 6). Son John L. (age 30) is listed as farm hand and another son Henry L. is listed as Student at Law. In the household are 5 other family members including: George O’Maley, age 1 of Missouri, Catherine Sutton age 68 of New Jersey, and Nancy Taylor, age 53 of Kentucky, with her two children James and Mary. Also listed are three white male farm hands.

    1860 Slave Schedule results for James Sutton-
    Age Gender Race Name of Slave Owner Home in 1860 (City,County,State)
    50 Female Black James C Sutton city, Saint Louis, Missouri
    32 Female Black James C Sutton city, Saint Louis, Missouri
    6 Female Black James C Sutton city, Saint Louis, Missouri
    4/12 Female Black James C Sutton city, Saint Louis, Missouri
    2 Male Black James C Sutton city, Saint Louis, Missouri
    —————-
    1870 U.S. Federal Census –
    James C. Sutton is found living in a dwelling with two households in the Central Township of St. Louis County on Jul 16, 1870. The first household consists of James C. Sutton, farmer, age 73 born in New Jersey, living with wife Ann, four children, and Catherine Sutton. Son Henry is listed as a real estate agent and son James is listed as farmer.

    The second household is that of John L. Sutton, farmer, age 39 born in Missouri, living with wife Margaret and three children (ages 9 to 1). Also listed in this household is: George O’Maley, white male, age 10 born in Missouri; Nancy Taylor, white female, age 62 born in Kentucky, and her two children Mary and James; two white male farm laborers; and Malinda Morgan, black female, age 55 born in Kentucky, domestic servant.

    (James C Sutton dies Jul 19, 1877.)

    • Amazing, Dave P.! Your research really adds a lot to this story. I can’t thank you enough. How long did it take you to put that together? Do you mind if I use it in my new book? Someday you’ll have to show me how you do this. Much thanks.

      • You are very welcome Doug and of course you can or anyone else can use the data in my census summaries however one sees fit. If anyone gets rich or famous solely off of the fruits of my labor I refuse to be held accountable for the accumulation of any bad karma on said person! <= that is sarcasm.

        The census data up to 1940 is all in the public domain. I highly recommend putting your eyes on the actual census sheets and not trusting my interpretation of 150+ year old handwriting. For example, the occupation of Henry L. is close to just simply chicken scratch, I really only guessed what it says base on prior knowledge of the man. Also, I make mistakes and I would hate for my error to be permanently recorded in a book. One such error is I totally omitted the female ages from the 1840 census summary I posted here. The omitted line goes just after the sentence for the male ages and reads:
        The females are of the following ages: one is 5 to 10 years, one is 20 to 30 years, and one is 40 to 50 years.

        It took me one to two hours to digest the census data, then write, proof read, and double check the summaries. I also spent a little time seeing if any obvious clues to what became of Malinda Morgan, born 1810 to 1815 of Kentucky, but no luck. The census and slave schedules I obtained almost exactly two years ago on Aug 25, 2016. It looks like I spent about half the day building the James C. Sutton profile and downloading his files and a few for son John.

        I believe Malinda Morgan is most likely the same female slave that is age 30 in the 1950 census, 40 in the 1960 census, then the 55 domestic servant. The 5 year age change means almost nothing when one knows how often ages change in census data. I also am very hung up on the fact Ann Sutton purchased a second slave named Malinda. This to my mind is just too much of a coincidence to be ignored. Was this Malinda Morgan's daughter? Why did Ann Sutton handle such a large purchase herself, was this considered domestic work and Ann was in charge of all domestic duties? Did James not approve of the purchase?

        The Sutton farm would have needed more laborers than found in the household in the census records. Did he hire white day laborers or turn to slave bosses to bring in harvests? So many question, I could go on but won't.

        One final note, I think its important to say in the Central Township of St. Louis County during the 1830s to 1870s a large number of the families were German. And the German community as a group was very much against slavery and generally did not use slaves. They tended to be the backbone of the Union regiments from our area (a brother of the German Bartold family in Maplewood was in the Union army and had two confederate soldier graves found on his farm out in Wildwood).

        PS. What about little George O'Maley? What was his story?

        • This is great, Dave P. I’d like to talk to you sometime. Are you here Maplewood? Please respond to my email address dkhouser @gmail.com.

    • You are very welcome, Marcel. It is really horrible to contemplate what their lives must have been like for those born into slavery. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Hi, Doug, I wonder if there is any tie to my inquiry about the houses on Brent Street being only for the descendants of slaves. Who originally owned that property? Keep up the good work. Really enjoy your posts. Janet Thomas Tigue

    • If there is a connection I don’t know it, Janet. There very well could be. Look how much we’re learning from the contributions of everyone. Who knows what will surface in the future. Thank you for your kind words.