Peter Kenney, SJ's observations on the enslaved families at Bohemia, 1831

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Peter Kenney, SJ's observations on the enslaved families at Bohemia, 1831


Slave families; Marriage-Slaves; Slaves-Catholicism; Jesuit Visitor; Jesuit Missions- 19th Century


Fr. Peter Kenney SJ reports negatively on the condition of enslaved families at the Bohemia plantation in Cecil County, Md., in 1831.


Maryland Province Archives


Georgetown Slavery Archive




Adam Rothman, Tom Foley


Georgetown University Library









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Supplement to Instructions

Observations made by R.F. visitor at the Residence of St. Fr. Xavier Bohemia Cecil Co. Md June 1831


The number of slaves in this residence were 7: 5 males, 2 F which were under 18: 2 females, one of which was under 16.  Three men are married, their wives not belonging to us; one of them lives on the farm in the house given to her husband, & has brought a girl, who is her niece, within 12 yrs one illegitimate child on the farm: the father was a stranger. 2 of the 3 men are illegitimate by same mother & different fathers not of the farm.  Jacob married by Fr. Epinelle to a girl who was a Catholic & living in a Cath. family turned Methodist, & did belong when Jacob married her.  Jem lived in the worst habits with a woman of infamous character who was said to have it the same time her own husband.  Jem’s mother the present old woman permitted him to have her in her own house.  This woman’s husband died & since then Jem said he had the Superior’s leave to marry her, & Fr. Epinelle married them_ But it is believed that she goes to Balte twice a year to pursue the same bad habits whilst she regularly practiced before her marriage & that she returns to this farm enriched with the fruits of her inequity.  The third man & the youngest of the 3, for 3 yrs lived in adulterous habits with a woman, whose husband had left her, & taken up with another woman: when he was not allowed to have her on this farm he took her to the house of a free & married black man in the neighborhood who was also said to be criminal

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with this woman in the very house in which his own virtuous wife & widowed mother resided, & in which Tom slept every night without any leave asked or given him to leave the farm.  Tom since got shut [sic] of this woman & now says that he is married to a virtuous girl at Wilmington & that Mr. Cooper married them.  This, if it took place was done without the knowledge of either Fr. Epinelle or B
r Heard.  There has not been any document produced & the act being illegal on the part of the Priest produces dealt of the transaction which can hardly be ascertained now as Mr Cooper is gone to Europe.  A black woman from Wilmington has been here, who says that she was present at the marriage.__

Not one has been to the Sacraments for 12 yrs except an old woman: seldom is one seen at mass on Sundays: all swear & curse: 2 are drunk 10 or 12 times in the year.  This hereby is not impeached, yet it is said they hold it to be no sin to take either from the farm or house, what they may want or wish to have in either diet, drink or clothing.  The temptation is the greater as in the state of Delaware, a few miles distant they can make legal sale of any utility, which they may bring to market, without any testimony from their master.  There is not however any thing of moment that can in this way be laid to their charge.  They however curse & swear horribly.  The also fight a home & abroad often.  Jems house has been made a sort of tavern for selling whiskey &c to ours & our neighbor’s servants.

Original Format




Maryland Province Archives, “Peter Kenney, SJ's observations on the enslaved families at Bohemia, 1831,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,