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Elizabeth (Brightful) Bruce


Mrs. Elizabeth (Brightful) Bruce is buried in an unmarked grave in Ellsworth Cemetery in Westminster, Maryland.
Ms. Elizabeth Brightful was born enslaved about 1843. Both parents, Mr. Harper and Mrs. Mary (Hill) Brightwell/Brightfull/Brightful were enslaved by Mr. Ezra Buckey. Based on the legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem, children would inherit the status of their mother. Therefore, since Mrs. Mary Brightful was enslaved, so was infant Elizabeth. When Mr. Buckey died in 1858, he split the Brightful family up, sending young children away from their parents to be the property of the Buckey children. As a result, when only 15 years old, Elizabeth was enslaved by the newly wedded Mrs. Margaret Ellen (Buckey) Englar. Mrs. Englar was about five years older than the young Ms. Brightful. Mr. Buckey’s will specified that all the Brightful children were to be manumitted as they each reached age 40.
Oddly, Ms. Brightful is listed in the 1860 census by name. Since no record of manumission is found in the Frederick or Carroll County court records, it is possible that she was enumerated as free in error. She would only be set free by the new constitution of the state of Maryland, passed in November 1864.
Shortly after this census was taken, Ms. Brightful married Mr. Henry Bruce. By 1870, now emancipated, she had four children. The whole family was living with and working for Mr. Napoleon Dorsey. The Bruces would go on to perhaps as many as 11 children, raising them in Carroll County, working on the various farms and in the various homes. Ultimately, Mrs. Bruce worked at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College).
Mr. Henry Bruce died sometime before 1900, and Mrs. Bruce moved to Washington DC for a time. By 1920, Mrs. Bruce lived with her younger brother, Luther Brightful in a rented home on Union Street in Westminster.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Brightful) Bruce died in the summer of 1925. Only three of her children survived her, along with 11 grandchildren. She is buried in Ellsworth Cemetery. Her grave is currently unmarked.


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