Those Dangerous Quakers

  What could be more threatening, to an aristocratic member of a rigidly hierarchical society, than a man who refused to remove his hat for his betters? Who refused even to address his betters as “Master” or “Mistress,” and addressed everyone with the familiar “thee” instead of the respectful “you?” Quakers believed in the equal […]

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The Seven Slave Daughters of Elijah Bettis III

The descendants of Drew Bettis, the mixed-race grandson of Elijah Bettis III, have passed down the tradition for nearly 200 years: Elijah had seven enslaved daughters, by seven different enslaved women. All of them were close to each other and considered each other sisters. Some of their names persisted in the family for generations: Martha, […]

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Forgotten History: The First African-Americans in Virginia

In 1648, two Virginia slaves, Philip Mongon and Domingo Mathews, were loaned by their owner to one of his creditors, for a term of four years. Unfortunately, they “were very stubborn and would not follow his business.” Eventually they refused to work at all, until their owner provided a written agreement stating that if they […]

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What did it mean to be a “trained doctor” in the 18th century?

At the end of the 18th century, there were perhaps 4,000 people in America who called themselves doctors, 400 of them with formal training and 200 with actual medical degrees. In rural areas, most people acted as their own doctors, with the help of popular self-help books designed to make basic medical knowledge available to […]

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Frontier Aspirations: Cinderella, Charnelcy, Narcissa – and “Harriethusie”?

When the large family of Elijah Bettis Jr. decided to move west in 1805, they were among the richest residents of Moore County, North Carolina.  Elijah Jr. was recognized as a “trained medical doctor” (more on that later,) and either he or his son Elijah III was keeping company with the elite of Moore County […]

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Freemasonry, Theft, and Lawsuits on the Missouri Frontier

In 1825, in the small frontier town of Greenville in southeast Missouri, a quarrel erupted over a book.  The quarrel led to no fewer than four lawsuits, which nearly tore the county apart.  David Logan, who admitted having stolen and concealed the book, knowing it belonged to Elijah Bettis, sued Bettis for slander for calling […]

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