1858: Samuel Allen McCoskry Statement on Manumission of Henry Garrett

Bishop Samuel A. McCoskry

This statement was recorded on 6 June 1858 by 53 year-old Samuel Allen McCoskry (1804-1886) who was the first Bishop in Michigan in the Episcopal Church. Samuel attended the United States Military Academy for two years, then graduated from Dickinson College in 1825. He was ordained deacon and priest in 1833, and after serving as rector in Reading and Philadelphia, was elected bishop in 1836.

Samuel’s statement records his acquaintance with a runaway slave named Henry Garret and the circumstances surrounding his manumission by Julia (Wickham) Leigh (1801-1883), the widow of his former master Benjamin “Watkins” Leigh (1781-1849) of Richmond, Virginia. Watkins was an 1802 graduate of William & Mary College who became a successful lawyer and politician, serving in the US Senate as an Anti-Jacksonian Whig in the mid 1830s. They lived in a home on Clay Street in Richmond (still standing) that was a gift for Julia and Watkins given to her by her father. After Watkins died, however, the property was sold. Sometime in the 1850s’ Julia relocated to New York City were she likely took up residence with her son-in-law, Charles Meriwether Fry (1822-1892), a New York banker and the husband of her daughter Elizabeth (“Lizzie”).

Julia’s son, Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Jr., served the Confederacy and was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Left: Benjamin Watkins Leigh; Right: Julia (Wickham) Leigh

[Note: This document is from the personal collection of Adam Fleischer and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Was well acquainted with Henry Garrett (a colored man) from Canada. He visited me frequently. He stated to me that nearly twenty years since he had run away from his master Watkins Leigh, Esq., of Richmond, Virginia, but that he had never felt free—always apprehensive that he would be arrested. He stated that he had by appointment met Mrs. Leigh and her children at Clifton House [Niagara Falls], Canada, that they had never lost their attachment to him. I at once advised him to go and see Mrs. Leigh who had removed to New York after the death of her husband. He followed my advice. He went to New York and brought to me his free paper given by Mrs. Leigh. I read the case fully. They contained a full and entire relinquishment to his services and that from the date thereof he was a free man. I think these papers were dated in the autumn of eighteen hundred and fifty-seven.

— Samuel A. McCoskry, Bishop of Michigan, Detroit, June 6, 1858

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