Letter from Thomas Brown, an enslaved man at St. Louis University, 1833

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Letter from Thomas Brown, an enslaved man at St. Louis University, 1833


Slaves--correspondence; Slaves- Self -purchase; Slavery-Living conditions; Jesuit Missions-19th Century


A letter from Thomas Brown, a slave at St. Louis University, complaining of the mistreatment. of himself and his wife Molly in 1833. He offers to purchase their freedom for $100, which is "as much as our old Bones are worth."


Maryland Province Archive


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Matthew Quallen, Adam Rothman, Tom Foley


Georgetown University









Text Item Type Metadata


St. Louis University October 21st1833

The humble address of Thomas Brown a man of colour, Most Submissively sheweth that he and his wife are very poorly treated by Revd Father Verheagan President of the University of St. Louis who is my present Master. I have been a faithful servant in the Society going on 38 years; & my wife Molly has been born & raised in the Society, She is Now about 52 years of Age  Now we have not a place to lay our heads in our old age after all our Service. We live at present in rotten logg house so old & decayed that at every blast of wind we are afraid of our lives and such as it is it belongs to one of the neighbors.  - - - 

all the rest of the Slaves are pretty well fixed and Father Verheagen wants me and my wife to live in the loft of one of the outhouses where there is no fire place Nor any way to warm us during the winter  - and your Reverence Knows it is Cold enough here. I have not a doubt but cold will Kill both me and my wife here. To prevent the Evil, I am willing to Buy myself & wife free if you Accept of 100 dollars 50 dollars I can pay down in Cash, the rest as soon as I possibly can

Rev. Father, Consider this is as much as I can raise, & as much as our old Bones are worth; have pity on Us, let us go free for one hundred dollars or else we will Surely perish with the Cold. Oh! Revd Father hear my petition   be pleased to take my case into Consideration - and I will pray for you while I live. - - I Impatiently remain Yr Reverences Most Humble And Obedient Servant,

Thomas Brown

A Coloured Man

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N.B please to direct your letter to Patrick Walsh Justice of Peace in St. Louis to be forwarded to me at the College

[In pencil in another hand]

Probably Addressed to Fr McSherry

Original Format




Maryland Province Archive, “Letter from Thomas Brown, an enslaved man at St. Louis University, 1833,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 16, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/39.