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‘Has Exceeding Bad Sore Legs’
A White Slave of Maryland Reaching Old Age

August 23, 1770

The Pennsylvania Gazette

Head of Wye River, in Talbot County [1], August 13, 1770.

RUN away from the subscriber, on Monday, the 30th of July, an Irish servant man, [2] called THOMAS AGNEW, a weaver by trade, about 30 years of age, of a pale complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches high;

had on, when he went away, a coarse tow linen shirt, and trowsers, much worn, an old grey jacket, much worn, with cuffs on the sleeves; [3]

he has exceeding bad sore legs, ulcerated and swelled, two sores on the left leg; he has very little hair on his head, and is very much bald, it is thought he has a wig on, and a hat; [3]

he is a subtle fellow, was born in the west of Ireland, and brags much of his trade. Whoever bring back said servant to his master, or secures him so as he may be had again, shall have Forty Shillings reward, paid by FRANCES HUMPHREYS.


1. A center for seafood processing and crabbing on Maryland’s eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Wye River brand seafood seasoning and canned soups are a popular commodity in Maryland grocery stores.

2. This man is called a servant, not indented,, indentured or a redemptioner, meaning that the owner does not even claim that his servant volunteered to be enslaved. This is probably a debtor servant, of a kind that has been scrubbed ruthlessly from American letters.

3. Thomas is dressed in rags and in extreme bad health. At age 30, he most likely had three other stints as a servant before this time. 35 was ancient for a laborer of the age. If he was recaptured and finishes out this term, he may not be purchased—which in a way was a mercy in a world where charity was a bizarre novelty, only practiced on occasion between family [even that being odd] members and the subject of much litigation between State and Church, with neither institution carrying for the burden of caring for the destitute.

America in Chains

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