Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don't White Wash the Past

Somewhat to Lewis Zirkle's credit he did free one of his slaves, George, and gave him some land in one of his wills
I have found that relatives have wanted to distance some of our families from the institution of Slavery. I was quite surprised when I first found my Forgey family's name linked to Slavery. I found Forgey wills in Tennessee naming slaves as part of the family property. My family had been in the Midwest for so many generations that our family didn't have any memory of slave ownership in our family.
Here Lewis leaves a Mulatto boy to his wife
My cousin Nan Harvey found more family related documents at Virginia Memory for our Zirkle family. This Palatinate German family settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 18th Century. The documents Nan found relate to a court case to set aside the will of Lewis Zirkle (husband of Mary Magdalene Roush).  Lewis had made 4 wills during his lifetime. Several references to slaves can be found in these documents. Only 3 slaves are named but he seems to allude to even more? It's interesting that Roush family historians stated Johann Roush, Mary Magdalene's father, was anti slavery. I've found no written evidence that he was against slavery, and felt that this was wishful thinking on the Family Historian's part. The fact that his daughter was a slave owner makes me tend to think her family wasn't actually against slavery. I had thought myself that German Lutherans might steer away from owning slaves so I was surprised to find they did in fact own slaves. Slave ownership was much more widespread than many would like to believe. Even those who didn't own them would sometimes lease them.
Closing our eyes to slave ownership in our families is a shame. I think looking at this terrible episode in our family history can make us more sympathetic to plight of oppressed peoples, and should make us more humanitarian. I personally try to vote for those who support equal treatment for all.

Here Lewis leaves his slave Margaret to his wife

Alluding to Slaves not named

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