VIENNA — A special ceremony will dedicate the Memorial to the Enslaved on the Handsell Historic Site grounds in October.
Charles Jackson was born enslaved in 1814 near Vienna, Dorchester County. Little is known of his early life except that his mother was alive in the 1830s and by then Charles had a daughter, Susan. By 1840, he was a free man, though it isn’t clear whether he purchased his freedom or was manumitted by his enslaver. About this time, he married Rachel Hill, also descended from enslaved families, and they had seven children. Shirley Jackson, a Cambridge resident who was raised in the Indiantown area surrounding the Handsell Historic Site, is a direct descendant of Rachel and Charles Jackson.
Shirley and her family and her Pinder cousins have long sought to discover their roots. But as with many African American genealogies, records are scarce due to history and policies that purposefully treated their race as chattel. While most white families can research and find the graves of great-grandparents, most African Americans cannot pay their respects to family because their descendents were buried in unmarked graves.
Shirley currently serves as president of the Board of the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance who own and maintain the Handsell Historic Site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area. It was Shirley’s wish to see a memorial stone placed at Handsell to honor the memory of the enslaved people, including her family members, who lived and labored at the site. Shirley and a cousin travelled to Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Quarry, where they selected a 13,000-pound granite boulder for the memorial. The family crafted the wording and chose the symbols that were inscribed on the stone by Mark Tiley after the boulder was transported to Handsell.
On Saturday, Oct. 9 at noon a special ceremony will be held to dedicate the Memorial to the Enslaved, the newest feature on the Handsell grounds. The boulder will serve as a reminder of the hidden heroes who lived at and around Handsell, as well as other areas of Delmarva.
This memorial stone was fully funded by a family who wishes to remain anonymous. The NHPA is sincerely grateful for this generous funding in helping to support the group’s mission of telling the story of three cultures who have lived at Handsell.
The dedication will occur during the annual Nanticoke River Jamboree and, while open to the public, an event admission fee ($5 adults, children 12 and under free) does apply. For more information go online to Handsell's website or Nanticoke River Jamboree's.