Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment. T.O. Madden, Jr.'s We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy. The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.
Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents. Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners. In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves.
From August 7 to August 14, 1746.
RAN away from the Subscribers on the 31st of July last, Three Servants, viz. Daniel M'Craw, a Scots-Highlander, of a short Stature, speaks broken English, about 5 Feet 2 Inches high, of a swarthy Complexion, with short curl'd Hair: Had on when he went away, a coarse Bear-skin Coat, with Brass Buttons, a Pair of brown Linen Trowsers and Shirt. He belonged to Mr. Charles Dick, in Fredericksburg. John Ross, a Scots-Highland Boy, about 16 Years of age, of a ruddy Complexion, full-fac'd, speaks broken English, and has his Hair cut: He carried with him an Oznabrig Shirt, a Pair of Oznabrig Trowsers and Breeches, a Tartan Waistcoat without Sleeves, lin'd with green Shalloon, a brown Holland and a white Linen ditto, a Silk Handkerchief, a Felt Hat, and a Leather hunting Cap. He belonged to Mr. John Mitchell, in Fredericksburg. Thomas Haily, an Irishman, about 36 Years of Age, of a fair Complexion, about 5 Feet 8 Inches high; had on when he went away, a dark colour'd Broad-Coath Coat, double-breasted with Metal Buttons, a Pair of Trowsers, an Oznabrig Shirt, a white Linen ditto, and a fine Beaver Hat. He belonged to Doctor William Lynn, in Fredericksburg. Whoever apprehends the said Servants and brings them to their Masters aforesaid, shall receive a Pistole Reward for each, besides what the Law allows. Witness our Hands this 21st Day of July, 1746. Charles Dick. William Lynn. John Mitchell.