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George W. Dorsey


George Dorsey was born in Frederick County, Maryland, in March of 1835. He was the son of William and Priscilla (nee Woodyard) Dorsey, and may have been part of the substantial community of free African Americans in Maryland. He likely was born near Westminster, in that part of Frederick that would become Carroll County when he was just two years old.

In 1854, when he was still a teenager, Mr. Dorsey was apprenticed out to Nathan B. Stockdale. The Orphan’s Court records that that he was “to learn farming until age 21 when he is to receive 2 suits worth $25 and $15.” Mr. Stocksdale was a farmer in his late 40s, with a small family, living near New Windsor.

On the 11th of August, 1863, he enlisted in the US Army in Baltimore. He served as a Private in Company H of the 28th US Colored Infantry until the 30th of November of the same year. At that time, he was medically discharged with a pre-existing medical condition that caused him to be subject to fits and unfit for duty. While this condition sounds like epilepsy, this was a known condition so it’s unlikely that’s what it was.

He returned to the area near Westminster, where he worked as a hostler (e.g., he took care of horses). About 1864, he married Mary Goodwin. They had at least five children, three sons and two daughters. In 1870, Mr. Dorsey lived where he worked, at the Central Hotel in Westminster. His wife and two young children lived elsewhere in the city.

The 1880 census finds him with his wife and children By 1900, he owned his home at 302 East Green Street. Mr. Dorsey died on October 31st, 1902. His wife, Mary, died less than a year after he did. He is buried in Ellsworth Cemetery, near Westminster.

Note that a “George W. Dorsey” lived in Westminster at the same time. He was white, was enslaving at least three people in 1860. This George Dorsey went south to Virginia to enlist in the rebellion to enlist in the Confederate States Army. He also returned to Westminster after the war, and participated in the general amnesty afforded CSA veterans. How odd it must have been to have another man in the same city with the same name who was so very different than himself.

Maryland States Archives

National Archives

National Archives

National Archives