Slave Narrative of Thomas Foote

Interviewer: Rogers
Person Interviewed: Thomas Foote
Location: Cockeysville, Maryland
Place of Birth: Cockeysville, Maryland
Date of Birth: 1865

Thomas Foote’s Story, A free Negro. Reference: Personal interview with Thomas Foote, at his home, Cockeysville, Md.

“My mother’s name was Eliza Foote and my father’s name was Thomas Foote. Father and mother of a large family that was reared on a small farm about a mile east of Cockeysville, a village situated on the Northern Central Railroad 15 miles north of Baltimore City.

“My mother’s maiden name was Myers, a daughter of a free man of Baltimore County. In her younger days she was employed by Dr. Ensor, a homeopathic medical doctor of Cockeysville who was a noted doctor in his day. Mrs. Ensor, a very refined and cultured woman, taught her to read and write. My mother’s duty along with her other work was to assist Dr. Ensor in the making of some of his medicine. In gaining practical experience and knowledge of different herbs and roots that Dr. Ensor used in the compounding of his medicine, used them for commercial purposes for herself among the slaves and free colored people of Baltimore County, especially of the Merrymans, Ridgelys, Roberts, Cockeys and Mayfields. Her fame reached as far south as Baltimore City and north of Baltimore as far as the Pennsylvania line and the surrounding territory. She was styled and called the doctor woman both by the slaves and the free people. She was suspected by the white people but confided in by the colored people both for their ills and their troubles.

“My mother prescribed for her people and compounded medicine out of the same leaves, herbs and roots that Dr. Ensor did. Naturally her success along these lines was good. She also delivered many babies and acted as a midwife for the poor whites and the slaves and free Negroes of which there were a number in Baltimore County.

“The colored people have always been religiously inclined, believed in the power of prayer and whenever she attended anyone she always preceeded with a prayer. Mother told me and I have heard her tell others hundreds of times, that one time a slave of old man Cockey was seen coming from her home early in the morning. He had been there for treatment of an ailment which Dr. Ensor had failed to cure. After being treated by my mother for a time, he got well. When this slave was searched, he had in his possession a small bag in which a stone of a peculiar shape and several roots were found. He said that mother had given it to him, and it had the power over all with whom it came in contact.

“There were about this time a number of white people who had been going through Cockeysville, some trying to find out if there was any concerted move on the part of the slaves to run away, others contacting the free people to find out to what extent they had ‘grape-vine’ news of the action of the Negroes. The Negro who was seen coming from mother’s home ran away. She was immediately accused of Voodooism by the whites of Cockeysville, she was taken to Towson jail, there confined and grilled by the sheriff of Baltimore County—the Cockeys, and several other men, all demanding that she tell where the escaped slave was. She knowing that the only way he could have escaped was by the York Road, north or south, the Northern Central Railroad or by the way of Deer Creek, a small creek east of Cockeysville. Both the York Road and the railroad were being watched, she logically thought that the only place was Deer Creek, so she told the sheriff to search Deer Creek. By accident he was found about eight miles up Deer Creek in a swamp with several other colored men who had run away.

“Mother was ordered to leave Baltimore County or to be sold into slavery. She went to York, Pennsylvania, where she stayed until 1865, when she returned to her home in Cockeysville; where a great many of her descendants live, now, on a hill that slopes west to Cockeysville Station, and is known as Foote’s Hill by both white and colored people of Baltimore County today.

“I was born in Cockeysville in 1867, where I have lived since; reared a family of five children, three boys and two girls. I am a member of the A.M.E. Church at Cockeysville. I am a member of the Masonic Lodge and belong to Odd Fellows at Towson, Maryland. The Foote’s descendants still own five or more homes at Cockeysville, and we are known from one end of the county to the other.”

Foote, Myers,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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