Not every Irish man and woman who found their way to North America before 1862 became a slaveholder. However a number of their children did. This blog will be about those people, the American-born children of Irish parents who adopted the slaveholding practises of their neighbours. Discussions with other researchers who have information about Irish descendant slaveholders has identified the need for a central space for this research. If you would like to contribute a short blog containing information about African American people enslaved by Irish descendant slaveholders, please use the contact page on this website.
John McDonagh 1779-1850 was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1779 the son of Irish parents John and Elizabeth McDonagh. In 1800, he was sent to Liverpool. England to acquire goods for the Louisiana trade and after a second successful trip he decided to make his home in New Orleans. By the time of his death in 1850, his net worth was calculated at almost 2 million US dollars. He never married and left his estate almost entirely in trust for the establishment of schools for poor white and free Black children. The New Orleans Public School system had been established in 1841 and in spite of the Will being contested, the New Orleans Public School system received $704,440 in 1858.
John McDonagh's wealth was amassed predominantly through slaveholding.
In the 1830 US Federal Census there are 87 enslaved people recorded as his property, in 1840, 192 enslaved people and in 1850, 58 enslaved people. In 1822, John McDonagh devised an elaborate manumission scheme for the people he had enslaved. Under this scheme it usually took about 15 years for enslaved people to gain their freedom. He was also an active member of the American Colonization Society which hired ships for enslaved people to go to Liberia.
US Federal Census 1830
US Federal Census 1840
US Federal Census 1850
Robinson, Morgan, The African Colonization Society, The Whitehouse Historical Association (June 22 2020) (www.whitehousehistory.org/the-american-colonization-society) (accessed 28 Jan. 2021).
John McDonagh wrote his Will in 1838 and in it he identified the following enslaved people:
Anna/Hannah, and her unnamed children
Hagar and her unnamed children
Dolly and her unnamed children
Sophie and her unnamed children
Henry, occupation carpenter
William, occupation carpenter
George, occupation carpenter
Jane/Jenny and her unnamed children
Phillip, his wife Jenny, and their unnamed children
In a letter written 30 May 1842, to Rev. W McClain, John McDonagh identified the following people bound for Liberia on the ship Mariposa;
James, an African by birth, Henrietta , his wife, McGeorge, his son, Ellie, his son, Molly daughter of Henrietta
Charity daughter of Molly
James Gray, Milly or Amelia, his wife, Elizabeth his daughter, Louis their son
Richard, a minister of the gospel aged about 50 years.
Cuffy, Maria, his wife, Charles, their son, Lucy their daughter, Maria their daughter
Peter, Diana his wife, Thomas their son
Judy, Galloway, his son
Juda daughter of Juda[y] ,
Jenny aged 35 years, John his son, Orleans his son, Alfred his son
Simon, Mary wife of Simon, Winny their child a girl, Benjamin their son
Elisa their daughter
Phillis, George Ellis her son,
Joshua, Charles Mason his brother (brother of Joshua)
Cornelius, Susan sister of Cornelius
Augustine Lombart(d), Julia wife of Augustine Lombard, Jonathan their son
Dabney aged 19 years honest and faithful man.
Jack, Becky sister of Jack, Matilda sister of Jack, Randal a brother of Jack
Nancy, Dime daughter of Nancy
Katy, Henry son of Katy, Isaac son of Katy
Elisa, John son of Elisa
Jenny (called little jenny), Letty a daughter of Jenny, Daniel a son of Jenny
Bridget, Bridget her daughter
Sally, Samuel his son
Rhina, Andrew age 13 son of Rhina, Caroline daughter of Rhina , Robert carter , son of Rhina, Baltamore son of Rhina, Catherine a daughter of Rhina
Precilla, Moses his son, William his son .
Note: McDonagh appears to use his/her interchangeably. He also makes subtle distinctions, naming some children as the son or daughter of one member of a couple and other children as the children of both members of the couple. As a result it is difficult at times to clearly identify family groups. Further information is available in the original letter.
Letter written 30 May 1842 by McDonagh to Rev. W McClain, African Colonization Society. Lafayette College's Special Collections and Digital Scholarship Services
(exhibits.lafayette.edu/mcdonogh/items/show/2484) (accessed 28 Jan. 2021).
Lafayette College's Special Collections and Digital Scholarship Services