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William Harden


Mr. William Harden is perhaps the oldest person who is buried at Ellsworth Cemetery, near Westminster, Maryland.

Mr. Harden was born in the late 1700s, about 1769. He was likely enslaved, although his enslavers have not been found. He was free before Maryland emancipation, perhaps as early as the 1840. By 1847, he had saved enough money to start purchasing the freedom of at least two family members.

In 1847, the Carroll County Chattel Records mentions the manumission of Elizabeth Harden by William Harden. They likely had married sometime before this. Their marriage may have been as early as 1830. In 1850, Mr. Harden purchased James Singleton Harden, a five-year-old boy and likely his son, from Mr. Frances Haines. He paid $50 for James. Two weeks later, Mr. Harden manumitted the boy. Another child, Claressa, remained enslaved by the Haines family. Why Mr. Harden was unable to purchase her as well, we will likely never know.

The couple lived with Mr. Nicholas Paraway, another elderly Black man, and his wife, Grace. Near Westminster, Mr. Harden worked as a laborer, likely on local farms. According to the US Census, less than 1,000 free Black people lived in Carroll County that year, while approximately the same number of Black people were held in slavery.

Mr. Harden continued to live and work around Westminster until his death in the winter of 1879. He was over 110 years old.

His headstone was recently cleaned, as part of the general restoration of Ellsworth Cemetery.

The Baltimore Sun, 5 Jun 1841

The Baltimore Sun, 4 Jun 1841


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