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Claressa Harden


Claressa Harden is one of the earliest burials in Ellsworth Cemetery.

Ms. Harden was likely born into enslavement in 1834 in Maryland. She was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Harden. It is not clear who her first enslaver was.

By 1850, her enslaver was a farmer, Mr. Francis Haines. When he died in September of 1858 at the age of 72, his will granted her manumission following the death of his widow. [[The will was adjudicated on 4 October in 1858.]] Mr. Haines had enslaved at least one other person, Mr. Samuel Squirrel. Both Ms. Harden and Mr. Squirrel appear in the 1850 census slave schedules, although not by name.

Both enslaved people were mentioned by name in Mr. Haines’ will, although Claressa’s last name is not included. She is simply called “Clara”. He willed that they remain as his widow’s servants and property until her death, at which time they would be manumitted. They are listed in Mr. Haines inventory, and each assigned a dollar value of $300. Together, they comprised nearly a third of the value of what his widow received. Mrs. Polly Haines inherited a total of $1,920.

According to Mr. Haines’ will, a year following Mrs. Haines’ death, they were also to be granted $150 and $50 respectfully. He willed their beds to them, and some tools to Samuel.

Ms. Sydney Squirrel was a free Black woman living with the Haines family in both 1850 and 1860. Mr. Haines’ will refers to her as Samuel’s wife. She was granted $50, to be paid a year after Mrs. Haines’ death.

Ms. Harden continued to live with Mr. Francis Haines’ widow and their son, Mr. John T. Haines, following the elder Mr. Haines’ death. In the 1860 census, she was enumerated, along with Samuel & Sydney Squirrel, with the Haines family. Notably, she was counted as free rather than enslaved. However, her manumission was not recorded in the County Court, as would have been expected.

Mrs. Haines died on 17 April 1863. Ms. Harden’s manumission papers are dated April 1863, which coincides with Mrs. Haines death, and clearly after the 1860 Census. The enumerator might have been incentized to count them as free, since they would then count as a full person vice the 3/5’s of a person that they would be counted as if they were enumerated as being enslaved. This inflation of the county’s census would have political and even financial consequences. The manumission documents note that she was 29 years old at that time. [This places her birth year in 1834.]

A grave marker in the Jerusalem Lutheran Cemetery (well north of Ellsworth) marks the grave of a Samuel Squirrel who died in 1860. This marker is located in the next row over from Francis and Polly Haines. If this is the same man, he did not live to see his freedom. Ms. Sydney Squirrel is living and working as a domestic with John Haines in 1870. No further record of Ms. Squirrel is found.

A woman named Clarissa Harden married William Massie in Carroll County in February 1866. This may be the same person, although her headstone does not record her name as “Massie.”

It is not clear if Claressa had any children.

The date of death on her headstone is obscured and most likely is July 1866, less than three years after her enslavement ended.