"She will not Rule Me": Fr. Steinbacher airs his grievances against the female slaves of Newtown, April, 1848.

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"She will not Rule Me": Fr. Steinbacher airs his grievances against the female slaves of Newtown, April, 1848.


Slave women; Slave labor; Slaves--United States--Social conditions; Master and Servant ;Catholic Church-Clergy-Correspondence.


In a letter from 1848, Fr. Steinbacher complains about the state of the Newtown mission and the behavior of its inhabitants, including the slaves and hired laborers of the mission.


Maryland Province Archives


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Adam Rothman, Elsa Barraza


Georgetown University Library









Text Item Type Metadata


Newtown the 3rd of April 1848

Very Reverend Father Provincial:

            It is more than two months, that I gave my account in in [sic] which I showed that we are coming on well despite of the scanty income from the farm and the mission. The farm (in all about 40 acres of land) is to be attended by an old slave and two hired boys, and the house by two old colored women. The mission stations, which are under my charge yield very little of a salary. $65… about for 7 months is the whole amount. Nearly the whole harvest of wheat and corn and tobacco went to Baltimore for the purchase of provisions. Many repairs are to be made, and improvements to be undertaken y, without changing anything essentially good. I will never undo what others have done well, and only prevent ruin and decay as far as it can be prevented. Rev. f. Combs knows that our expenditures exceeded hitherto our receipts without running the house into debts. The balance this day is = $138.29, which I was able to pay by means of a happy result of a change in one of my former missions. Rev. F. Dougherty, my companion is little help to me with regard to economical affairs. Since the month of September 1847 to this present day –the time of my being stationed here- all he paid me from his two mission stations, which he attends and which are the most lucrative of the four we have to attend, sacred hearts and St. Joseph’s = $57,…

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And I had to pay for his expenses – besides the heavy bills he paid himself- during his management previous to my coming+ $66.. thus a balance of $9,… stands against him. The greatest part of these $66… expenses were for his own personal use, some for the house. Then it is to be remarked, that for several months previous to my coming he drew the income of the four mission- stations- if there was any- he alone. For his boarding of course from September 1847 to this day he did not pay a single cent. His maxim, to hear him talk, is to care not money. But to extravagate in expenses- often useless- is an other maxim with him. In fact, the man is not calculated for a mission where he gets money in hand. When I asked Rev. F. Verhaegen how much money he would allow him to keep in possession he answered: about 3.00 or 4.00 Dollars. I communicated this to F. Dougherty but instead of complying with the order, he expressed absolute contempt for it. This may seem incredible, yet it is a true fact. How then, shall I manage this mission. A father, a companion, who attends the two most lucrative congregations, St. Joseph's and Sacred Heart's and pays not a single cent for his boarding and wants for his attendance more than all the rest taken together, for working and mending  sick calls, &.&.- a old brother of 80 years, crazy and always craving for a dram like the Rev.’ gentlemen- two old women, full of heat and tricks and fond of a dram- and old drunkard of above 60 years- two giddy hired boys - My goodness, such a situation will puzzle the strongest mind out of its wits.


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I begged of Rev. F. Combs to propose to Father Provincial the propriety and even necessity of an efficient brother for this place and to let me have brother John N[?] with him. I will get along well, and if my just request be rejected I declare: I cannot go any further. I forsake every thing here and supplicate for the employment of a lay brother. I understand many things, that entitle me to any employment. I never loved the Society more than I do now. But I will never run into debts unless the Society positively tells I must do so. One of the causes I expressed my humble opinion is the disregard of enforcing the obedience of members to the local Superior. And the biggest talker is the man that carries the point. I required Rev. Father Combs at his late visit to look over my accounts, which are, I think as exact as they can be. But he declined but the talk of [?] F. Dougherty was more interesting t him. This is say to show that I do not crave for any sympathy nor for enlisting the affection of any man for my case. I acted with straight endeavours, and if they can not please man, they are according to the constitution of the society and I stand the trial of my accusers.--  A colored woman has ruled and partly rules this house but she will not rule me -

With profound veneration

N.. Steinbacher SJ


p.s. I would consider it a great favor to have Rev. F. M. Gibbons for my companion instead of Rev. F. M. Dougherty

Very Rev. I. Brocard
Georgetown College
District Columbia


Original Format




Maryland Province Archives , “"She will not Rule Me": Fr. Steinbacher airs his grievances against the female slaves of Newtown, April, 1848.,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 16, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/144.