Letters from Liberia:
Jefferson County Voices, 1831-1859

In the four decades before the American Civil War a national organization, the American Colonization Society, encouraged free blacks and emancipated slaves to emigrate to their colony of Liberia. Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia) sent more emigrants to Liberia than any of the other western Virginia counties, with the first emigrants leaving the county in 1830 and the last in 1855.

Letters from Jefferson County, Virginia emigrants, potential emigrants, and those who assisted them were found and retrieved from the extensive collection of the American Colonization Society records held by the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. For a project supported by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society and the West Virginia Humanities Council, these letters and one deed of manumission have been transcribed. Links to the transcriptions of the letters are below.

Abraham Hamilton

Abraham Hamilton, a free man of color, also wrote to the American Colonization Society about emigrating with relatives in the spring of 1855. He also decided he was not financially able to go.


Abraham Hays

Abraham Hays was purchased from an unknown master by the Reverend John Matthews of Shepherdstown so that Hayes could emigrate with his wife and children to Liberia in October 1831. Soon after arrival in Liberia, Hays wrote a letter to John T. Cookus of Shepherdstown which was published in the Virginia Free Press and Farmers' Repository, Charlestown, Jefferson County, Virginia.


Andrew Green

Andrew and Priscilla Green with their six young children, her mother Lydia Carroll, and Priscilla's cousin Thomas Johnston emigrated to Liberia in October 1830. Priscilla, the children and Thomas Johnston were emancipated by Miss Christian Blackburn who also purchased Andrew Green from an unknown master so that he could accompany his family to Liberia.


Ann Monrow

Ann Monrow, free since the age of four, wrote letters to the American Colonization Society inquiring about emigrating with her sister and other relatives in the spring of 1855. She decided that she was not financially prepared to go.


Charles Starkes

Charles Starkes, his free wife Joanna D. Starkes, and their nine freeborn children emigrated to Liberia in February 1849. Charles was emancipated by Jane Charlotte Washington, widow of John Augustine Washington who had inherited Mount Vernon.


Eliza and Reuben Hatter

On the same ship with Andrew Green and his family in October 1830 were Eliza and Reuben Hatter, husband and wife. Eliza Hatter had been both enslaved by and carefully brought up by Miss Christian Blackburn who purchased Reuben Hatter from Dr. Samuel Walter Washington so he could accompany his wife to Liberia. Eliza Hatter died in 1836 and Reuben Hatter appears that year in Philadelphia to prepare to apply for his Seamen's Protection Certificate.


Fanny Weeks

Fanny Weeks, a free woman of color, purchased her enslaved husband from his deceased master's estate and then on 16 Jul 1831 she signed a deed of manumission for him. In November or December 1832, Fanny and Samuel Weeks and their four children left Jefferson County for Liberia.


Moses Baylor

Moses Baylor, previously freed by the will of Joshua Burton, wrote a letter of inquiry to the American Colonization Society office in the spring of 1854. He emigrated to Liberia in May 1854 with a cluster of neighbors. Within a few years he left Liberia and spent the rest of his life in Jefferson County.


Sally Snyder

Sally Snyder, a free woman, along with her husband Jacob Snyder and their three young daughters emigrated to Liberia in January 1850. Jacob Snyder had been enslaved by William Engle.


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