Malaga Moll’s great-grandson sues for freedom.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

William Dowry ag’t Francis Thomas   } Pet’o for freedom in the General Court.

The deposition of Ann Ridgely of Anne Arundel County aged between fifty seven and fifty eight years being first sworn on the holy Evangely of Almighty God, saith that she has seen William Dowry the petitioner but does not know much of him; that she knew Fanny who it is said, is Mother of the petitioner, very well; and this deponant also knew Mary Dove, the Mother of Fanny ever since she knew her own Mother, and she knew Fanny who is of about the age of the deponant from the time she was a child until she was a woman; this deponant is the daughter of Eliazar Burkhead who was the son of Abraham Burkhead, to whom Mary and Fanny both belonged when this deponent first knew them; and he gave Fanny to his daughter Frances Shekell the wife of John Shekell; this deponant further saith that Mary was a tall spare woman, of a brown complexion, and was the grand daughter of the woman, who came, or was imported into this Country and belonged to this deponants great grand Father as she has been informed and understood from her mother and her grand Father beforementioned: that her grand Father was the only child of his Father and possessed the whole estate; that this deponant has always understood that the Grand Mother of Mary Dove was a yellow woman and had long black hair; but this deponant doth not know whether she was reputed to be an East Indian or a Madagascarian, but she has understood that she was called in the family Malaga Moll, her name being Mary; and Mary Dove the Grand-daughter claimed her Sirname from her said Grand Mother; this deponant further saith that the Mother of Mary Dove (whose name she does not remember) died before her Mother, and whilst her daughter Mary Dove aforesaid was a small girl; and this deponant saith after the death of her father, her Mother intermarried with Leonard Thomas and the aforesaid Mary Dove then lived in the family and belonged to this deponant’s Brother James Birkhead, and upwards of forty years ago she sued for her freedom, and before any determination of the suit the aforesaid Leonard Thomas moved with his family and effects to North Carolina, about twenty miles from New Burn and carried the aforesaid Mary Dove with him, this deponants Brother James being then about five or six years of age: that the said Mary Dove prosecuted her claim to freedom at Newburn in North Carolina soon after she was removed there, and obtained her freedom upon trial at this deponant understood, together with three of her Children and two of her Grand Children and they were all discharged from the possession of the said Leonard Thomas; that the Children were named James, Nell and Sue, and the Grand Children, Will and Sal; that this deponant has heard her father in Law Leonard Thomas say that a certain Alexander Sands, who was the Son of an East Indian woman; and was commonly called Indian Sawny, was a Witness for the said Mary Dove, and that he proved that the Grand Mother of Mary Dove was an East Indian Woman; that this deponant does not recollect to have heard her father in law mention any other witness in particular who was sworn for the petitioner, but thinks he mentioned that one John Wells was sworn on her behalf; that the said Mary Dove had a brother named Dowry who belonged to this deponants uncle. That the aforesaid Leonard Thomas removed back to Maryland in a few years and sometime afterwards returned to North Carolina near the Yadkin and died about twelvemonth ago: — sworn to in open Court 16 Octo. 1791.    True Copy     Jno. G. [illegible]

Miscellaneous Records, Craven County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

[It is a reasonable conjecture that Mary Dove was the forebear of all the free colored Craven, and later Onslow and Jones, and later still Lenoir County Doves.]