Nelly Mahoney

  • 1798
    (about 1798) Nelly is born at St. Inigoes to Harry (b. abt. 1771) and Anna (b. abt 1775) Mahoney.
  • 1804
    Nel is six years old and one of 41 persons enslaved at St. Inigoes.
  • 1813
    Nell is thirteen years old, and one of 39 persons enslaved at St. Inigoes.
  • 1818
    “Litl. Nelly” gets a pair of shoes.
  • 1820
    (1820s-30s) Nelly works as a cook and/or housekeeper at St. Inigoes.
  • 1821
    Nelly is 23 years old, and one of 61 persons enslaved at St. Inigoes.
  • 1831
    Nelly is 33 years old, and one of 91 persons enslaved at St. Inigoes.
  • 1838
    Nelly is listed on a bill of sale, but ultimately remains enslaved by the Jesuits and is sent to St. Mary’s Church in Alexandria, VA to be a housekeeper for Rev. Stephen Dubuisson, S.J. She is listed in his household on the 1840 census. Nelly’s siblings—Anna, Robert, and Bibiana—are sold to Louisiana, while her sister Louisa remains at St. Inigoes.
  • 1839
    Dubuisson describes Nelly as a black girl, full of religion and very intelligent.” While she was working, Nelly listens to Dubuisson and other Jesuits discussing the political ramifications of the slave sale over the dinner table.
  • 1843
    (about 1843): Nelly, still enslaved by the Jesuits, is sent to Newtown to work as a cook, housekeeper, and sacristan, making the bread used for the Eucharist during Mass. After being separated from her family and moved frequently around the region, Nelly voices strong opinions. She is described by Rev. Francis Dzierozynski, S.J. as “an excellent cook and industrious servant and house keeper and sacristan…her only fault, is too long tongue; for the rest, the best servant.”
  • 1843
    (1843-50) Nelly lives in a small enslaved community at Newtown. Two men, a woman, and a girl are enslaved there in 1840. In 1850, Nelly is 51 and lives with Len, Robert Thomas, a woman, a man, and a boy. They serve a household of five Jesuits, who are criticized for living above their means. Nelly and the other enslaved persons probably live in small wooden houses near the manor house and church, like the one pictured in an 1882 photo and identified archaeologically in 2022.
1882 Photo of St. Francis Xavier Church, a cabin, and the manor house in the background. Image from Edwin Beitzell's Jesuit Missions of St. Mary's County, 1976.
Sandstone and mortar foundations of the brick chimney pictured in the above 1882 photo. Photo by Laura Masur
Bone buttons found above the chimney foundations. Photo by Laura Masur.
  • 1848
    Nelly is the housekeeper at Newtown, making many decisions about running the household. Rev. Nicholas Steinbacher, S.J. notes that “a colored woman has ruled and partly rules this house but she will not rule me.”
  • 1850
    Nelly is sold or leased by the Jesuits to Mrs. Combs. As a result, Nelly tries to claim her freedom, seeking assistance from a Jesuit priest, probably Rev. Michael Dougherty. Dougherty writes her a pass to escape, but Nelly’s fate remains unknown.
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