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Nicholas Paroway


Mr. Nicholas Paraway was born before the United States, lived to be over 110 years old and is buried at Ellsworth Cemetery near Westminster, Maryland. He was the first African American to vote in Carroll County.

In 1766, Mr. Paraway was born enslaved near Baltimore. His original enslaver is not known. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, he was a boy, ten years of age. He would tell stories of seeing large numbers of strangely uniformed soldiers (evidently the French) coming through Baltimore. At the end of the war, the celebrations were held, and he would describe them as, ‘The biggest illuminations I ever saw!’

By 1820, he was enslaved by Mr. Ludwig Wampler, along with 19 other people. Some of these others were likely his family members. When Mr. Wampler died in 1826, 22 people are listed in the inventory of his personal property. Mr. Paraway was listed as “1 Negro Man, Nick” and had an assigned value of $300. Mr. Wampler willed various parts of his estate to his sons, and it is not clear which child inherited Mr. Paraway.

Whoever it was though, sometime before 1830, Mr. Paraway was manumitted. He is enumerated as free in the 1830 Census with two Black women. They were living in Baltimore. The women may have been his daughters.

Mr. Paraway paid $2.50 to Abraham Shafer on November 3rd, 1854, purchasing a young woman named Honor Paraway. He manumitted her two weeks later. I believe this woman to be the same person who is listed on the inventory of Ludwig Wampler’s probate in 1826, valued at $250.

We know that Mr. Paraway was married twice. His second wife, Mrs. Grace Paraway, was about 30 years his junior. She is buried near him, in Ellsworth.

Mr. Paraway was the first African American to register to vote in Carroll County. His obituary read, in part, “When enfranchisement came, in deference to his age, he was the first one of his color to register as a voter in the district, and jealous and proud of the privilege he has voted at every election since.”

At the time of his death in 1876, he had reached his 110th year. A lengthy obituary was published in local newspapers at the time, and republished as far away as London, England.

New York Times, 20 Dec 1876


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