Over the past decade, many colleges and universities in the U.S. have faced, with varying degrees of openness, the truth about their slave history. Like every institution with roots very far back in American history, higher education is deeply intertwined with human bondage. Schools that were founded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often participated directly in slaveholding, slave trading, and “research” using black bodies. In his 2013 book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, Craig Steven Wilder explored many of these topics.
As a college professor, I naturally wondered about the institution where I teach. Hood College dates its founding to 1893, so it seems to post-date the era of slavery, which ended in Maryland in 1864. But Hood also claims an older past and deeper roots. When we look more closely, it turns out that Hood’s history does include slavery, in two main ways.
Slave labor at the Frederick Female Seminary
First, Hood’s parent institution was the Frederick Female Seminary, a genteel school for young ladies that operated in downtown Frederick, Maryland, from 1840 to 1893. The Seminary was clearly involved with slavery, not on a large scale, but deliberately. The Seminary’s proprietor, a white Massachusetts native named Hiram Winchester, had arrived in Frederick in 1838. In 1840, when he founded the Seminary, he was employing one free woman of color (her name is unknown), and he held no slaves. But this situation would change.
Over the next decade, Hiram Winchester acquired at least three enslaved people to serve him and to work at his school, where he also lived. In 1848 he paid $197 to buy a 23-year-old man named Ephraim for a term of seven years, after which Ephraim was supposed to return to his permanent enslaver. (Term slavery and the hiring of slaves were both common in northern Maryland in the mid-nineteenth century.) When Ephraim arrived at the Seminary as an enslaved worker, one of the white students there was a local teenager named Margaret Scholl. More on her later.
Hiram Winchester continued to purchase enslaved workers; he probably bought term slaves because they were cheaper, and because he wouldn’t have to support them when they grew too old to work. In 1850, Ephraim was one of three enslaved people owned by Winchester: the other two were a 50-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl, neither of whose names are known. In addition, three free black women were employed at the Seminary in 1850: Jane Littles (age 24), Mary Cross (25), and Caroline Holland (35). No doubt most or all of the black workers on site worked for the school, not just for Winchester and his small family. To the Seminary students, the slaves and the free black servants may have been indistinguishable.
In the 1850s, Winchester bought at least two more enslaved workers. In 1854 he paid $300 for twelve-year-old Jemima Walker, who was supposed to remain enslaved for another twenty-three years. In 1855, when Ephraim’s seven-year term of slavery was up, Winchester paid $400 to replace him with 34-year-old Abraham Blackstone, who was to serve for eight years before becoming free. Apparently Winchester had one enslaved man to do the heaviest chores, while a group of black women—both enslaved and free—kept his household and school running by cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and in general caring for the white girls who attended and lived at the Seminary.
Lest you think that Hiram Winchester was hopefully waiting for slavery to come to an end, or that he kept a soft spot in his heart for children of color… no. In April 1863, months after the Emancipation Proclamation had freed the slaves in the rebellious states (but not, notably, in Maryland), Winchester advertised in the Frederick Examiner: “Wanted, for a term of years, a slave child, either male or female, from 9 to 12 years of age.” He gave his address as the Frederick Female Seminary.
Sympathetic to slavery
In addition to using the forced labor of enslaved people, the Frederick Female Seminary benefited from slavery in another way. Recruiting many of its students from Maryland and other slaveholding states, it cast itself as an institution that was sympathetic to the values of the white slaveholding class. In an 1860 newspaper ad, when sectionalism was at its height, the Seminary assured prospective parents that “[b]eing located in a Southern State it is in all its proclivities a Southern institution.” In the same year, the Seminary’s “Circular and Catalogue” was even more pointed:
The influences, which, unhappily, too often tend to deprive Northern female seminaries of the confidence of parents and guardians residing in the slaveholding States, find no lodgment here; on the contrary, this is eminently a Southern Institution of learning… an Institution where the daughters of Maryland and other Southern States may receive an education adapted to … the peculiar institutions of those states.
People at the time understood that the phrase “peculiar institution(s)” meant slavery. In other words, said the recruiting literature, your southern daughters won’t be exposed to any of that abolitionist nonsense here at the Frederick Female Seminary. The Seminary is totally down with slavery.
(A side note about the Seminary’s legacy: The grand Greek revival building constructed for the school still stands today in downtown Frederick. Known officially as Winchester Hall, it houses county government functions. You can watch a video about its history at this link.)
Margaret Scholl Hood
The other connection between Hood College and slavery is through the College’s namesake, Margaret Scholl Hood (1833-1913). After her alma mater, the Seminary, closed and was purchased by the Reform Church, to be reopened in 1893 as the Woman’s College of Frederick, Margaret Hood was such a generous benefactor that the re-founded institution was re-named for her in 1915, as Hood College.
Margaret Scholl, who was white, grew up in a family that owned slaves. Throughout her childhood and young adulthood, enslaved people cared for her, waited on her, and made her life easier from day to day. Her father Daniel Scholl held just three or four slaves at a time during Margaret’s childhood, which made him a typical Frederick County enslaver. But in western Maryland enslavers were a small minority; the great majority of white families held no one in slavery. So the Scholls were among the few who chose to be enslavers.
Over time Daniel Scholl held quite a few people in slavery—male and female, adults, children, and infants. We don’t have much information about any of them. We do know that in 1844, when Margaret Scholl was eleven years old, her father paid $150 for a twenty-year-old woman named Sarah, who had eleven more years to serve as a slave. And of course as a young teenager Margaret attended the Frederick Female Seminary, where she was again dependent on slave labor.
Records in a diary
By the time Margaret Scholl was eighteen, she was keeping a diary. Her diary, which has been published, includes a few of her interactions with the people enslaved by her family. Reading it, we see her being driven around Frederick, or escorted when she rode on horseback, by servants named Joe and John, who were probably enslaved. A servant named Jane, also probably enslaved, worked as a domestic in the Scholl family; Jane had a miscarriage while working, and later gave birth to a baby girl.
Like other white women in small households in the border states, Margaret Scholl sewed clothes for “servants” (a standard euphemism for “slaves”) in her household; this was common white female labor, however surprising it seems to us. But Margaret Scholl was no benefactor of the family slaves; her behavior harmed them, and she knew it. One Sunday in 1853, for example, twenty-year-old Margaret visited friends who urged her to stay for dinner, “and by my yielding,” she wrote, “I kept John from Sabbath School.” For enslaved people, church and Sunday school were treasured opportunities for spiritual growth, education, and social life. John Jackson was the slave who most often accompanied Margaret Scholl on her visits and outings or brought a horse to fetch her home. Eleven years later, in 1864, Daniel Scholl would free John Jackson, when Jackson enlisted to fight for the Union in the Civil War.
A Moral Stand
How should we think about a young white woman, living with her parents, who benefited directly from the labor and suffering of people legally owned by her father? Should we excuse Margaret Scholl from responsibility for the slavery that went on in her family home? I don’t think we should. First, she lived with it until she was thirty-one years old (in 1864, when slavery was abolished in Maryland), so she wasn’t a child that whole time. Second, Margaret Scholl could have stood up against slavery. We know this because she did take a principled stand on another popular moral issue of her time: alcohol.
In the 1850s, a young man named John A. Johnson was courting Margaret. Although she was somewhat discreet in her diaries, it’s clear she was longing to marry him. Alas, Johnson’s business interests included whiskey distilling, and Margaret was firmly opposed to alcohol. Whiskey was not the only problem in their relationship, but for Margaret, it was a serious obstacle: in 1856, after six years of serious courting, she wrote, “I told him my opinion and my request that, while he and Clint were in partnership [as distillers] I did not wish him to visit me again.” And alcohol was the sole focus of Margaret’s social justice concerns. While her diaries often express her disapproval of whiskey, nowhere does she mention any qualms about holding people in slavery.
Facing the Past
While many colleges and universities are coming to terms with more direct and troubling slave histories than Hood’s, in a way Hood’s story is emblematic of American history. So many white Americans have a tendency to feel “safe” from slavery. My family never owned slaves, we say. This institution had nothing to do with slavery, we assure ourselves. But when we dig at the roots of institutions and economies and our system of government, there it is. Slavery was right there, shaping our past and making it possible. Things we value today were made possible by the labor stolen from, and the suffering inflicted on, enslaved African Americans.
And that’s something every one of us is still reckoning with.
I would like to thank Hood Archivist Mary Atwell and Western Maryland Room Archivist Elizabeth Howe for help with locating materials during the pandemic, my colleagues in the Hood College History Department for strongly supporting this research, and Hood President Andrea Chapdelaine for listening with an open heart to this story as it began to emerge a few years ago.
 Maryland State Archives, Frederick County Courthouse Records, Land Records, Liber WBT 8, p. 199, online at mdlandrec.net.
 U.S. Census, 1850 and 1860, Frederick, Maryland, slave schedule and population schedule.
 Maryland State Archives, Frederick County Courthouse Records, Land Records, Liber ES 4, p. 354 (for Jemima Walker), and Liber ES 5, p. 617 (for Abraham Blackstone), online at mdlandrec.net.
 Civilian and Telegraph, Cumberland, MD, 16 Aug. 1860, p. 2. This ad also ran in other local papers, including the Frederick Examiner, where it appeared in April.
 Circular and Catalogue of the Frederick Female Seminary, 1860, quoted in Patricia Heldoorn, “The Frederick Female Seminary,” unpublished paper, 1978, Hood College Library. I am indebted to Ms. Heldoorn’s excellent research for this and the Frederick Examiner reference in the previous note.
 U.S. Census, Frederick, MD, 1830 and 1840, and slave schedule for 1850.
 Maryland State Archives, Frederick County Courthouse Records, Land Records, Liber HS 23, p. 259, online at mdlandrec.net.
 The Diaries of Margaret Scholl Hood, 1851-1861, ed. Rose Barquist, Mary Frear Keeler, and Ann Lebherz (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1992), 13, 22, 24, 57, 61, 64, 65, 162, 184, 315, 334, 340, 341, 349, 350. For Jane’s miscarriage and daughter, see pp. 294 and 353.
 Diaries of Margaret Scholl Hood, 65, 351; Diane Mutti Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (Athens: U. Georgia Press, 2010), 138, 152.
 Diaries of Margaret Scholl Hood, 62.
 Maryland State Archives, Frederick County Courthouse Records, Land Records, Liber JLWC 1, p. 552, online at mdlandrec.net. This shows that the Scholls held slaves until the last year of slavery in Maryland. The Hood College website includes the statement that “Following Daniel and Maria’s deaths, there are no records to indicate Margaret’s household included enslaved persons even though she had returned to Manchester Farm.” However, Margaret’s father Daniel was still alive in 1864, when slavery was abolished in Maryland. Margaret Scholl could not have held slaves after her father’s death (in 1873).
 Diaries of Margaret Scholl Hood, quotation at p. 255; also pp. 18, 22, 27-8, 58, 59, 63, 67, 77-8, 79, 81, 112, 127, 128, 170, 260.
Before there was Reality TV, there was Reality. Focusing on defined segments of our past is an important part of understanding our world today. Thanks for the insights.
Heather Gehron-Rice '93
Thank you for speaking the truth of our past.
Bravo to you Dr. Amt for undertaking this painful, honest view of our beloved college’s history! Thank you for sharing these brutal truths! Your vulnerability and openness contribute to my enduring endearment for our cherished Hood community.
Thank you for this research. It was an enlightening read.
We must first examine our institutions and their relationships with promulgating, benefitting from, and perpetuating this 400 year stain on the American experiment. But we cannot equitably stop at mea culpa-ing for our personal role in nurturing and sustaining slavery, or participation in it’s hydra headed byproduct—systemic racism , or its equally insidious refusal to take a hard look at the whole question of complicity. Martin Luther King Jr. asked
“Where Do We Go From Here?” There are obvious answers.
Reparations have merit, so does establishing scholarships to enable African American students to have more open access to higher education. If we acknowledge that the United States from it first days as a British, French or Spanish colony has been intimately wedded to the use of enslaved populations, predominated by Africans and native Americans, then there is a multiplicity of potentially beneficial solutions.
There is no question that the current confessional phase , if it is to have any meaning and efficacy , must be followed by actions and commitments which directly address the many existing inequities of long standing, borne of this country’s unwillingness to confront its participation in slavery. These inequities are legion: deteriorating public education, childhood nutritional deficits, unequal access to medical care, higher incarceration rates, a higher preponderance of death row inmates to name a few in the news lately.
We as a country used slavery as the principal economic engine to generate wealth and advantage, while never compensating those who enabled this economic growth and stability. It’s time to pay the bill. It’s also time to seek the wisdom and expertise of African Americans of diverse educational employment and social backgrounds to identify where such compensation is needed and devise programs with direct benefits.
White people have been throwing money at situations which they perceive as problems, with little to no representation and participation in decision making by those allegedly targeted for such benefits. Urban renewal proved to be one of the most egregious examples. We can no longer “fix” problems in a white-dominated top-down way, or we are very likely to pat ourselves on the back for doing good when we may even be causing greater harm. That’s the price of making decisions in an atavistic paternal way which ironically is another direct legacy of slavery.
A course correction is in order, a partnership, a dialogue, a union of all stakeholders in the process of finding a practical way to best redress the sins of the past is the only hope for the future.
I agree with everything you say here, especially about the need for partnership and dialogue, rather than “solutions” dictated by those who have always been in power. Thank you for this thoughtful response.
Thank you, Emilie Amt
My ancestors were Free people of color living on Western Maryland. The pandemic has delayed my research trip to MD.
I enjoyed reading it. Your article confirmed my thoughts on slavery in Western Maryland.
Thank you. If there’s anything I can do to help with your research, please let me know. (You can email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.)