By Wayne C. Temple

George and Phebe Bartlett should have been free upon their arrival in Illinois. The Illinois Constitution of 1818, in Article VI, Section clearly stated that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this state otherwise than for the punishment of crimes.” But servitude by indenture was allowed, providing that males were set free when they reached their twenty-first birthday and females when they became eighteen. Phebe would have been approximately forty four— or even younger—when Shelton brought her to Illinois, and she no doubt began soon thereafter to work for wages. In 1850 she was living in the household of a son-in-law and stated her age as seventy, but she had no idea of where she had been born. This is certainly Mariah’s mother, and Mariah even named one of her daughters “Phebe” after this grandmother, and Phebe is not a common first name. (Notice the phonetic spelling in these records.)

Read The Full Newsletter Below (Please allow a few minutes to load the file)