"Jesuits' Slaves in the Family" by Patricia Bayonne-Johnson

Dublin Core


"Jesuits' Slaves in the Family" by Patricia Bayonne-Johnson


Descendants; History; Louisiana; Jesuits-Slave trade


Patricia Bayonne-Johnson's account of her discovery that the Jesuits of the Maryland Province owned her great-great grandparents Nace and Biby Butler and sold them to Louisiana.

You can learn more about Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, her work as a genealogist. and her connection to the Jesuits' slaves, from her blog.


Patricia Bayonne-Johnson


Eastern Washington Genealogical Society Bulletin, 2008


Georgetown Slavery Archive


Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, Adam Rothman


Published with the permission of Patricia Bayonne-Johnson









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Patricia Bayonne-Johnson

We are a big Louisiana family of Roman Catholics.  My paternal and maternal grandfathers were Catholic men married to Baptist women.  In interfaith marriages where one of the spouses is Catholic, in accordance with Church doctrine, ALL OF THE CHILDREN MUST BE BAPTIZED Catholic.  So everybody in my family began life as a Catholic and many members are still practicing.  We attended St. Monica Catholic School and Church in New Orleans and made our First Communions and Confirmations.  In all of the years of our Catholic education including catechism, history, and social studies classes, the Catholic priests were never mentioned as big-time slaveholders. As a matter of fact, I don't recall any lesson in Black History; those lessons would come later when I transferred to a Negro public school in Jefferson Parish which shares its' border with Orleans Parish. To say that my entire family was appalled to discover that our ancestors were enslaved by the Jesuits of Maryland would be an understatement.

In 2004 I was the co-chairperson of the Hicks/Estes family reunion along with my aunt, Dr. Onita Estes-Hicks. In addition to sharing the organization of the reunion, we each had an extra task to perform: I would research the family and Onita would write the history. Given the shortage of information and time, I hired Judy Riffel, a professional genealogist, to assist me in my research of the Hicks family of Iberville Parish, Louisiana. The Estes family is from Mississippi and Ms. Riffel does not do research in that state.

On March 19, 2004, I mailed 10 documents to Ms. Riffel for her examination.  They included a pedigree chart, censuses, baptismal and burial records.  Ms Riffel made a trip to the courthouse in Plaquemine, Iberville Parish, Louisiana and found an inventory for the late Jesse Batey and three other documents which included the sale of the Butlers to the Barrows by Jesse Batey heirs, and the sale of the Butlers from the Barrows to the Woolfolks. The last document and the most important of the four documents found was the bill of sale of 64 Negroes by Thomas Mulledy to Henry Johnson on behalf of Jesse Batey. This document exposed the Jesuit slaveholdings in St. Mary's County Maryland. All of these documents created a paper trail of my great-great-great grandparents and their children from a plantation in Louisiana to St. Inigoes, a Jesuit-owned plantation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.


A notation of the birthplace of my maternal great-grandmother, Rachel Scott Hicks, led to the discovery of her mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and their last slave owner.  When Ms. Riffel noticed that Rachel’s parents were from Maryland on the 1910 US Federal Census for Iberville Parish, she decided to research the records of Jesse Batey of Terrebonne Parish who owned a plantation in Bayou Maringouin.  She knew from prior research that in 1838 Batey had purchased a large number of slaves from Maryland.

The late Dr. Jesse Batey’s inventory is dated 5 March 1851. Rachel is not listed in this inventory because she was not born yet, but her mother, Mary and her parents, Nace and Biby Butler, and their children are found among the slaves.

The 1851 inventory lists the family as follows:

1.  Nace Butler, negro man, aged sixty-five years, appraised at three hundred dollars

2.  Bebe, his wife, negro woman aged about sixty, appraised at three hundred dollars

3.  Martha, negro woman (daughter of Babe(sic)), aged twenty-two and her two children, Bridget aged five years and Emeline aged two years, appraised together at twelve hundred dollars

4.  Babe (sic), negro woman aged twenty, appraised at eight hundred dollars

5.  Gave (sic) negro boy, aged about eighteen years, appraised at eight hundred dollars

6.  Henry, negro boy, aged seventeen years, appraised at eight hundred dollars

7.  Tom, negro boy, aged sixteen years, appraised at eight hundred dollars

8.  Mary, negro girl, aged fifteen years, appraised at seven hundred dollars (Rachel’s mother)

9.  John, negro boy, aged fourteen years, appraised at seven hundred dollars

According to Ms. Riffel’s interpretation, all of the children named above are Bebe’s children


An undivided half share of the plantation was sold by the heirs of Jesse Batey to Washington Barrow of Nashville, Tennessee and his son John Barrow of East Baton Rouge Parish on 18 January 1853.  The Butler family was listed among slaves that were sold in that transaction: Mary 17, Rachel, her child(My great grandmother), 3 months; Nace Butler, negro man, 67, Biby (sic), his wife, 63 and her three children, Henry, 19, Thomas, 17 and John 15.  Martha Ann, 24 and her three children were also noted on the inventory.  Bridget 7, and Emeline, 4, were described as mulattos.  Josephine, 1, Martha’s youngest child, was listed as black.  Mary, Martha Ann and their children were not grouped with Nace, Biby (sic) and their sons.  Perhaps, these young Butler women and their children were  sold to another plantation owner.



On February 1856, Washington Barrow sold the plantation to Patrick and Joseph B. Woolfolk.  On this record, Rachel is listed as age 3, but her mother Mary Butler is not listed.  However, Rachel’s grandparents, Nace and Biby(sic) Butler are among the slaves on the plantation.  Also listed were Rachel’s uncles, Henry, Thomas and John Butler.  Martha Ann, Rachel’s aunt and her three children, Bridget, Emiline(sic) and Josephine were there, but living apart from the other Butlers.



In the city of Washington, on 10 November 1839(sic), Thomas Mulledy of Georgetown, District of Columbia, sold to Jesse Batey of Terrebonne, Parish 64 Negroes.  Nace Butler, 50 is positioned as the head of the following slaves, who appear to be his wife and their nine children: Beby(sic), 45 and her children: Caroline, 16; Basil, 14; Martha Anne, 12; Anne, 10; Gabe, 9; Beby(sic) 8; Henry, 7; Tom, 15; Mary, 3 (Rachel’s mother).  This transaction occurred in Georgetown while the slaves were on the St. Inigoes plantation in Maryland.

When I received the report from Ms. Riffel, I summarized her research and sent it to my aunt Onita. As she began to write the history of the family she wondered how the family became Catholic and decided to research Thomas Mulledy.  She learned that he was a Jesuit priest who had served as president of Georgetown University from 1829 until 1837 and she discovered the Butlers in Jesuit Plantation Project.



The Society of Jesus owned six plantations in the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which they relied on to support their ministries.  The estates totaled 12,000 acres on four large properties in Southern Prince Georges, Charles and St. Mary’s counties and two smaller estates on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  These estates were presented to them by the Lords Baltimore who were Catholic and used slaves to work them.  The slaves were gifts to the Jesuits from wealthy Catholic families to sustain the Church.

The records of White Marsh, Newtown, Thomas Manor and St. Inigoes plantations, The Jesuit Plantation Project (JPP), form part of the archives of the Jesuits’ Maryland Province and has been converted to an electronic format by students of American Studies Department at Georgetown University.  The archives contain personal papers like diaries of Br. Mobberly who spent time on several of the plantations, the Sale Contract of 272 Slaves in 1838, documents regarding plantation conditions, the welfare and religious needs of the slaves, Resource Chronology and a JPP Bibliography.

The sale of the slaves by the Jesuits had nothing to do with morals because they did not consider it to be immoral to own slaves. Selling the slaves  was a decision based on economics.  They feared the devaluation of their property, the slaves, at a time in which the abolition movement was spreading.  The economy was no longer being driven by slave labor and the slaves were getting very costly to feed.  They were also experiencing difficulty with governing the slaves and thought they could make more money by selling the slaves and employing tenant farmers.

My Butler family was among the 272 slaves sold down river to Louisiana plantation owners.  According to the JPP site, sixty four Negroes including the “Butler Breed” as they were called in a Slave Transfer to St. Inagoes (sic) Plantation in St. Mary County, were shipped to Louisiana on #2.  Nace, Jr., 20 ran away before boarding the slave ship.

According to the 1851 Batey inventory, nine of fourteen Butlers remained together - the parents and  seven children. Six children, namely Suckey, Bridget, Caroline, Basil, Anne, and Biby's three-month old infant, were on the Katherine Jackson's manifest but were apparently sold to a another plantation owner. (Note- Biby's infant has not been located in any records except the manifest. I think she died; perhaps enroute to Louisiana.) They were not kept together as stipulated in the conditions of the sale as set by the Jesuits -  the slaves must be sold to large plantations and not families so they would not be separated; husbands are not to be separated from wives or children separated from parents; slaves must be allowed to practice their religion which was Catholicism; slaves who have spouses on another plantation must be bought together; slaves who cannot be sold because of age or disease must be provided for as “justice and charity” demands, as noted by Kathryn Powers Brand in the Georgetown Voice,  “The Jesuits Slaves,” February 8, 2007.



Nace and his wife Bebe were quite long lived.  They were found on the 1870 Iberville Parish census at 75 and 80 respectively (I think that the ages were reversed).  Charles a, male child 9 years old, was enumerated with them. It is thought that Nace and Bebe Butler died between 1870 and 1878.  No record of their deaths has been located, but Charles Butler was enumerated with Henry and Rachel Hicks, my great grandparents, in the 1878 Iberville Parish census.

Many of the Butler children remained in the area.  I have located them in the censuses and in volumes of Catholic Church Records of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  I plan to do further research at the courthouse in Plaquemine, Louisiana State Archives, and the  Archives of the Diocese of Baton Rouge  when I am in Louisiana.


The Search for the Ship Manifest

My search for the name of the ship that transported my ancestors who were enslaved by the Jesuits came to an end after four years of research.  When I wrote the article,  the ship that transported my Butler family from Maryland to Louisiana was identified as Ship #2. I knew better; I knew ships have names so I spent several years searching for the name.

On July 4, 2008, I visited usgenweb.org, clicked on Louisiana and found the Inward Slave Manifests for the Port of New Orleans.  There were several rolls of transcriptions and I selected Roll 12, 1837-1839; the Butlers were sold in 1838 so I figured they would be on that roll.  I searched for Jesse Batey, the plantation owner, who purchased them, but he was not found.  Then I wrote my great-great-great grandfather’s name, Nace, in the “Find in Top Window” space, clicked and the entire family appeared.  The details are as follows:


Entry #304

Port: Alexandria

Ship: KATHERINE JACKSON of Georgetown

O/S: Robert N. Windson

Date: 13 November 1838

Nace & Bibey (sic) Butler and their 10 children were listed.  The sex, age, height and color were also noted.  The transcriber was Alma McClendon. Other manifests had been transcribed by Dee Parmer Woodtor, PhD.  My work with the Butlers is not finished; my next task is to find the name of the parishioner who donated the Butlers to the Jesuits to work St. Inigoes Plantation in Maryland.



1) 1910 U.S. Census, Iberville Parish, LA, pop. Sch., Maringouin, page 156, T624, Roll 515.

2) Inventory for Jesse Batey, Conveyance Book 2, Volume 2, Entry#192, Iberville Parish, Louisiana.

3) Mortgage Book Entry for Samuel Batey, Robert Batey, Martha Batey and Margaret Young, Mortgage Book 4, Entry #20, 18 January 1853.  Transcription by Judy Riffel.

4) Mortgage Book #5 Entry #133 for Washington barrow, Conveyance Book 4, Entry #151, page 228, 4 February 1856, Iberville Parish, Louisiana.

5) Conveyance Book T, pp34-35 #24, 4 June 1839, Washington, D. C.  Transcription by Judy Riffel.

6) Slave Transfer; Document 110 W5-Maryland Province Archive, 1970.  Jesuit Plantation Project.

7) Record of the Sale of the Jesuit Plantation Slaves, 1838, Inventory page 7.

8) 1870 U. S. Census, Iberville Parish, LA, pop. Sch., Plaquemine Parish, page 368, M593, Roll 514.

9) 1878 Iberville Parish, LA Census, transcription by Judy Riffel.

Author's note:

This article was written in 2008 and does not reflect what we have discovered since the formation of the Georgetown Memory Project. It was what I knew at the time and it does relate what I found initially and how planning for a reunion  led to my Butler family who were enslaved by Jesuits.

Original Format

Word document


Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, “"Jesuits' Slaves in the Family" by Patricia Bayonne-Johnson,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 18, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/50.