Her Name was Rose
Just over 200 years ago at the slave markets in Baltimore, Maryland, a 20-year old woman named Rose and her 3-year-old child boarded the ship “The Missouri” bound for New Orleans leaving her home and perhaps family forever. She was bought by Moses Littel, a physician from New Jersey recently removed to Louisiana, which only became a part of the United States a few years before. Moses traveled up to Baltimore in the ship he also owned and would have noticed Rose and her child in the slave pens or auction blocks in the city after following an advertisement in the newspaper looking to “sell a healthy 20 year old negro woman and child from the country. She is an experienced housekeeper who is excellent at cooking and cleaning.”
He would have poked and prodded her at the sale by examining her teeth, arms, hands and bosom to see how healthy she was. The hand of the child she held would come with her as part of the deal because she wasn’t old enough to be sold away from her mother. After the exchange of cash with the auctioneer, Rose would have followed her new master Moses carrying her child in one hand and wiping wet tears out her eyes with the other thinking about all that she would leave behind in Maryland. When she was a little girl going into the streets of Baltimore with her previous owner, she probably would have seen the faces of all the men and women and children chained up, walking in unison, being lead by white men and sometimes, a free Black man, to the slave markets to be sold to the highest bidder and be exiled to the farms and plantations all over the growing states of the new South.
Now, she was one of those thousands of faces looking back at her going on a forced journey down the river during the early years of the domestic slave trade where Black men, women and children were separated from their loved ones in one of the greatest forced migrations in American history to feed the economic demand of slave labor on cotton plantations. Rose, my ancestor, made this forced journey.
Rose spent the first 9 months of her new life as a slave of Moses Littell in the small town of Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana before being sold to a Creole planter named Honoré Fuselier who lived in the small rural village of Chataignier in present-day Evangeline Parish. The fate, name and sex of the child that sailed on the Missouri with Rose is lost to history. Perhaps her child died like many did on the journey south and buried at sea. I don’t know. What I do know is that Rose, likely born in Maryland in the late 18th century, was one of many English-speaking slaves on the plantations of Creole planters with Creole slaves. She would have been called an “Americain” and probably experienced culture shock like a foreigner in another country for the first time. My ancestor would have had to learn a new language and a new way of living. Jean-Baptiste, Felician and Marie-Louise were the names she would have heard in her daily life as a slave in Chataignier. Maybe a new religion.
Like many enslaved women, Rose likely became a victim of sexual exploitation. Sometime in the 1830s, she gave birth to a daughter she named Caroline, fathered by Honoré Fuselier’s son-in-law, Lastie Frugé. Caroline grew up on the Fuselier farm in a world that was alien to her mother. Rose spoke English as her birth language while Caroline spoke Louisiana Creole or French. Rose would have known the Protestant Bible while Caroline prayed to the Catholic saints and held rosaries in her hands. Then again, considering Baltimore had a significant Catholic population, Rose may have very well being Catholic in her faith. It’s hard to say. Anglophone slaves intermingled with Creole slaves on the rural farms and plantations in the prairies of Southwest Louisiana and became Creolized over time like Rose and her Louisiana descendants. Caroline eventually formed a union with Manuel Young, a slave from a nearby farm and gave birth to several children. Manuel may have had similar mixed cultural origins like Caroline because his mother, Méline Dixon, had a French forename and English surname. Like Caroline, his father appears to have been a White Creole named David Lejeune(Angelized to Young).
Manuel and Caroline remained together after the Emancipation Proclamation and with freedom, they solemnized their marriage at St. Landry Catholic Church at Opelousas in front of a priest in 1870.
On that day, the Catholic Priest asked both the bride and groom the names of their parents. Caroline said her father was Lastie Fruge and mother was Rose Littell. Rose most likely told Caroline of her origins and how she got to Louisiana with Moses Littell from Maryland and the surname burned in her memories on that fall day in 1870.
One of the last children born to Rose and Manuel entered the world after the Civil War. Her name was Leonore Young and after spending years living in a common-law relationship with Aristide Sam, both were officially married at a Catholic church in Washington, Louisiana in 1903. They are my great-great grandparents. Their son Edward Sam married Irene Charles. Edward and Irene begat Murphy. Murphy and Thelma Edward begat my father and gave birth to me- the fourth great-grandson of Rose from Maryland.
I exist because of her.