Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Ancient Combat
‘At the Burnt Houses’
Two Servant Women Escape Together

July 20, 1758

The Pennsylvania Gazette

Run away on the 20th of June, and on the 11th of this Instant July, from Adam Williams, at the Burnt Houses on Schuylkill, two Servant Women; the one named Betty Ashburn, is well set, has black Hair, about 50 years of Age, and was born in Ireland. [1]

Had on when she went away, an old Calicoe short Gown, a grey Linsey Woolsey Ditto, a striped, and a white Linen Apron, blue Stockings new Shoes, striped Handkerchief, white Cap, a Straw Hat, and a Linsey Woolsey grey and white Petticoat; and when she eats is remarkable, by chawing only on one Side of her Mouth. [2]

The other named Mary Peterson, is a well set, fat, lusty Woman, much Pockmarked, has black Hair, is about 22 Years of Age, this Country born, of English parents: [3]

Had on when she went away, a fine white Cap, a white Silk Bonnet, a white Handkerchief, and old white and blue Gown, a Quilted Petticoat, one Side almost green, and the inside red and white, a new Hemp linen Shift and an old one, white Stockings, and old patched Shoes.

Whoever takes up and secures said Servants, so that their Master may have them again, shall have Twenty Shillings Reward for each, and reasonable Charges, paid by ADAM WILLIAMS.

N.B. It is thought they are secreted in Town.


1. How many times had this woman been sold? As many as a half dozen contracts may have circumscribed this woman’s life. In urban settings servants rarely escaped their plight but were resold.

2. In modern women, missing teeth only on one side of the mouth—usually the left side—are most commonly caused by punches from men.

3. According to establishment historians white servitude only existed in America as a means for one to pay their passage to the Plantations. Here we have a woman who was sold for three possible reasons: she was orphaned, her parents sold her to pay a debt or she sold her self to pay a debt.

America in Chains

Add Comment