If I tell you that Jefferson Davis lived in Ellicott City in 1860…
You’d have every reason to raise an eyebrow and say “No Way”. Before the start of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, a 75 year old African American male was counted as being a Free male servant in the household of William H. G. Dorsey. Perhaps the 2nd oldest son of the late Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals (Thomas B. Dorsey) had another residence in the City for when he was working late with a legal case. His large estate was not in the city. Perhaps Jefferson did things for the county’s first State’s Attorney like what you see in the picture. The answers may never be known for sure. This Jefferson Davis may never have had an occasion or reason to know who Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy was.
Or maybe he did?
William H G Dorsey’s older brother, Samuel, was living at the time in the Lower South with his wife, Sarah. He was taking care of the family plantation business (likely cotton) and was also a Louisiana state Senator and attorney.
It isn’t known if Jefferson was still alive when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Samuel W. Dorsey was part of the Louisiana Convention that voted to secede from the Union in 1861. William died late in 1862 while the war was raging on. The President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was greatly admired by Samuel’s wife. So much so that she left the bulk of her property to him in 1878. She had of course inherited Samuel’s as his widow. How long she (and her husband while he was living) knew Jefferson isn’t known. Actually, did she know both men named Jefferson? Some questions, we’ll probably never know the answers to.
Jefferson wasn’t the only person of this age residing in Ellicott City in 1860, though he was one of the oldest. John McClary was a 68 year old white carpenter from Ireland. William Vink was a 73 year old white paper maker. Christopher Harris was a 70 year old baker from Ireland. Joseph Dutch was a 68 year old gardener from Prussia. And then there was a 73 year old woman still listed as being enslaved by William HG Dorsey in 1860. Maybe she was Jefferson’s wife. Ellicott City residents probably knew this woman. We just don’t know her name… yet.
Another installment about EC will be made soon. There are many! Anyone wishing to read about the Beauvoir property given to Davis, can read more HERE with some interesting links found at the end. This one in particular is quite interesting. There’s a lot to unpack for history buffs.