Mary Ann Simmons

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Mary Ann Simmons

I’ve been in Liverpool for the last week or so, where I had hoped to find some information to support a reference I found that Henry Peter manumitted some slaves (I believe his sons were among them) in Liverpool before emancipation in August 1834. Unfortunately the Liverpool Archives do not have that information.

However, I found some very interesting information online while I’ve been here although it took me down several rabbit holes, causing me to neglect my writing, so I’m behind in my schedule and I’ll have to make up ground later.

In looking at HP’s slave register for 1829 last week, I discovered that he gifted a slave girl to his daughter, Mary Ann Simmons.  This was not the first time I had come across a gift of a slave from him to his daughter, but this one was very exciting. What this gift, and the other that I had seen, told me is that his daughter had to be free in 1829 since slaves could not own slaves.

This one was even more interesting because the slave that he gifted her was held in trust by her for a minor whose name was Henry Morris Simmons. I then discovered that a Mary A Simmons was named as the mother of a Henry Morris Simmons in the 1827 Baptism records from St, Michael where she was described as “a free coloured woman”.Henry Morris Simmons

If this is the same Mary Ann Simmons (and it seems to be) then she had the child while she was about sixteen or seventeen years old and HP gave her a slave girl who she held in trust for her son, his grandson, who was two years old at the time. Henry Morris appears to have moved to England at some point in his life, where he became a doctor. This I have yet to verify through another source.

Mary Ann also moved to England where she married James Baber in 1839. In their marriage records she was listed as a widow, but was she really married before or did she have an illegitimate son? In any case, who was his father? Was she born free or was she freed? These are questions that take me down those rabbit holes that I mentioned, looking for answers.

But these little nuggets tell me secrets about Henry Peter. First, he acknowledged his daughter with his name. Second, he gave her gifts (albeit slaves) and he left her an annuity of £50 (about £1,400 in 2015 dollars based on historic standard of living) even though she was married. So he appeared to care for his “natural and reputed coloured daughter” as he referred to her in his will.  These nuggets give me clues to the character of Henry Peter Simmons. Exciting!

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