15 Feb 2021


Lost Capitol Hill: The Enslaved of Duddington

Louis Brown

Over ten years ago, I wrote a post about Duddington, Daniel Carroll of Duddington’s mansion just southeast of the Capitol. Recently, I was asked by reader Elizabeth-Burton Jones to write about the enslaved people that lived there.

Daniel Carroll of Duddington was an enslaver. In the very first United States census, in 1790, he is listed as enslaving 13 people. Carroll’s main source of income was selling land: He had been the largest landholder on what was to become Capitol Hill. He was also in the business of building houses and had a lucrative sideline in brick-making. He, no doubt, used those he enslaved in the latter two businesses, though records from the time do not exist, and Carroll apparently went through some trouble to separate his name from the brick business, one he felt reflected poorly on his family name. Fortunately, there are letters in the Library of Congress from contractor William Lovering to builder John Nicholson in which he complains about having been hounded by Carroll for the payment of bricks. (Thanks go to Bob Arnebeck for finding this information.)

Over the years, Carroll retreated ever further behind the walls of his home, Duddington. And the census records reflect this. While the 1800 census states that he has 25 slaves, over the years, the number that he owned went down: From 11 in 1820 to eight men and women in 1830, ranging in age from children to middle age. Ten years later, he was down to five enslaved people, two men and three women.

In these early records, there is no attempt to treat those enslaved as individuals. In the first censuses, all that is written down is the number of enslaved people, total. Later, they at least record the number of people in certain categories: “Slaves, Females, 36-54,” for instance.

It gets a little more accurate in the 1850 slave schedule of the census, the first after Carroll’s death. At least, each person listed is given their own line, though no attempt is made to give them names. In this census, Carroll, or, more accurately, his estate, is listed as enslaving two people: a 49 year-old male and a 24 year-old female.

Ten years later, his daughter Ann C. Carroll – who also was one of the executors of his will – is listed as owning two slaves, as well: A 60 year old male and a 12 year old female. Again, without any names, there is no way to tell who, exactly, they are. However, it seems most likely that the two males listed are the same person, while the females are different.

Drawing from the March, 1884 issue of Century Magazine showing the Carroll mansion behind its wall. (HathiTrust)

Two years later, the DC Emancipation Act would free these people – and would also give them names. Twelve days after the act was passed, Ann Carroll and her sister, Maria Fitzhugh, as executors, petitioned the court for compensation for Beckey Rawlings, age 14, and Louis Brown, 57. (The discrepancy between the ages of the latter is well within the margin of error for censuses of the time)

Louis (or Lewis) Brown remained with the Carroll family. In a picture taken around the end of the war, he is listed as “Uncle Louis.” (That’s him at the top left) While he is not shown in the 1870 census, ten years later, he is living with the Carroll sisters, with his profession given as “servant.” And, as a sad legacy of enslavement, it is indicated that he can neither read nor write.

While there is no definitive evidence of what happened to Beckey Rawlings, there is an intriguing entry directly next to that of the Carroll family: a Henry Brown, married to a woman named Rebecca, and their six children. And the 1870 census shows a Henry Brown living with a Rebecca Rollins. Did Louis’s son marry the young woman who had been enslaved in the Carroll household? It remains a tantalizing possibility, but there is probably no way to prove it.

Sadly, as with so many people – especially those whose names are as common as these (there are 11 Henry Browns in the 1880 City Directory) and whose job is laborer – the trail runs cold here. The records of the 1890 census, which might be able to help, were destroyed in a fire and searches through the 1900 census come up empty.

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