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The Naming Project: Daughter of Gabriel

What We Know About the Daughter of Gabriel

The only mention of Gabriel’s daughter comes from an untitled list written by Dolley Madison’s son John Payne Todd in his journal, in between journal entries dated April 30 and May 19, 1845. Among the 36 enslaved people on the list are

“Gabriel & Daughter.”[1]

It is not clear why Todd wrote the list. It likely reflects the entire number of people he enslaved at that time.[2] The list includes people who were domestic workers at Dolley Madison’s house in Washington (she had sold Montpelier the previous year), as well as people who were at Toddsberth, Todd’s plantation in Orange County. Todd may have been considering whether to sell some of the enslaved, or weighing the possibility that some of the enslaved might be seized in payment for his debts. (Four of the people on the list – Benjamin, Tydal, Ellick, and John – had been placed under a lien in March 1845 and were slated to be sold at the end of May, as a result of a lawsuit brought against Todd by merchant Richard M. Chapman.)[3]

Todd connected most of the children on this list with their mothers – Caty, Becca, and Judy – but he listed Gabriel’s daughter with her father. The names of Raif Jr. (Ralph) and Caty (Catharine) Taylor, their two children William Henry Taylor and Sarah Elizabeth Taylor, and Ellen Stewart and her mother Sukey were marked with a bracket, likely indicating that they were in Washington with Dolley Madison at that time. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

It is unusual to see a father and daughter listed together in this way. Young children were usually grouped with their mothers. Possibly Gabriel’s wife had died and their young daughter lived with him. It is also possible that Gabriel’s daughter was an adult, whose name had slipped Todd’s mind in the moment, although she was connected with Gabriel in Todd’s memory. The list does not include ages or estimated monetary values of the enslaved people, which might have provided clues to the identity of Gabriel’s daughter.


Who Might Gabriel’s Daughter Be?

In mid-July 1844, Dolley Madison had transferred approximately 50 enslaved people to her son John Payne Todd, in two separate deeds, including 14 adult women and at least 5 girls.[4] (This transaction appears to have included nearly all the people Dolley still enslaved at this point, and was probably intended to prevent the enslaved from being seized and sold to settle her debts.) Gabriel was among the men in the transferred group; could Gabriel’s daughter be one of the women or girls in the group as well?

We can easily rule out 10 of the 14 transferred women – Nancy, Sarah, Julia, Amy, Winney, HarrietCaty, Ellen, Sukey, and Becca – since their names appear on the same list as “Gabriel & Daughter.” The remaining four women and their children were sold to the purchaser of Montpelier, Henry Moncure: Sylvia and Fanny in July 1844,[5] and Milly and Charlotte in August 1844.[6] Presumably when Todd made his list in April or May 1845, he would not have included enslaved people whom he had already sold, so it is unlikely that Sylvia, Fanny, Milly, or Charlotte was Gabriel’s unnamed daughter.

All 14 women in the transferred group, then, can be ruled out as potential daughters of Gabriel. Possibly Gabriel’s daughter was a woman whom Todd already enslaved before the transfer, but that would make it even less likely that Todd would not be able to list her by name.

This means the most likely possibility is that Gabriel’s daughter was a child, transferred with him from Dolley Madison to John Payne Todd. No children were listed by name in the deeds of transfer. One deed listed “Caty and young children” and “Sylvia and four children.” Charlotte and Fanny were listed in the other deed with no mention of their children, but the children’s transfer was implied with the transfer of their mothers. If Gabriel was his daughter’s only surviving parent, her transfer may have been implied with his as well.

John Payne Todd died in January 1852, and his estate was inventoried in September of that year. Gabriel was mentioned in Todd’s will (he was supposed to get his freedom and $200, but likely never did), and he was appraised as part of Todd’s estate inventory.[7] Gabriel’s daughter, however, is missing from both the will and the inventory. The only enslaved women mentioned in the will and inventory were also named in the April /May 1845 list with “Gabriel & Daughter,” meaning that none of them was the same person as Gabriel’s daughter.


What happened to Gabriel’s daughter in the seven years between 1845 and 1852? She may have died. It is perhaps more likely that Todd sold her after she reached the age of 15 or 16. By that age, Gabriel’s daughter would be considered able to do an adult’s work, and able to bear children – who would themselves be enslaved.


Insights into Family and Freedom

We may never know the name of Gabriel’s daughter. The single mention of “& Daughter” on Todd’s list, however, offers us a small glimpse into a father-daughter relationship within the enslaved community. What was it like for Gabriel to raise his daughter, if he had lost his wife? Did other members of his family or kinship network help to care for her? What did Gabriel hope or fear for his daughter’s future?

The hope of freedom may have seemed unattainable in 1845. Yet it is possible that Gabriel, who was about 50 years old at that time, would live long enough to see the end of slavery. It is even more likely that Gabriel’s daughter, if a child in 1845, would one day gain her freedom.


[1] John Payne Todd, List of Slaves, [April or May 1845], extracted from John Payne Todd, Journal and Letterbook, 1844-1847, The Peter Force Collection; Series 8, MS 17137, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, accessed June 18, 2021, MRD-S 29160, Montpelier Research Database

[2] The list includes 36 people. The six bracketed names seem to be the people who were currently in Dolley’s household in Washington, with the other 30 presumably at Toddsberth. Todd stated in October 1844 that he was “in possession” of “Thirty slaves consisting of men women & children.” See: A List of Property Belonging to John Payne Todd, October 4, 1844, box 628, folder Wall File I, 1, Orange County Ended Chancery, Ended 1846, Orange County Courthouse, Orange, Virginia, accessed June 23, 2021, MRD-S 25532, Montpelier Research Database.

[3] Judgment in Favor of Richard M. Chapman, October 1844, Orange County: Record Series: Law Execution Book, Circuit Superior and Circuit Courts, 1843-1853: 67, State Records Center, Richmond, Virginia, accessed May 25, 2021, MRD-S 34635, Montpelier Research Database.

[4] Dolley Payne Todd Madison, Declaration of Certain Slaves to John Payne Todd, July 16, 1844, box 3, folder Deeds Conveying Slaves and other property from Dolley Madison to John Payne Todd, 1844 Jun 16-Jul 17, Papers of Notable Virginia Families, MS 2988, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Virginia, accessed June 22, 2021, MRD-S 27300, Montpelier Research Database; Dolley Payne Todd Madison, Deed of Certain Slaves to John Payne Todd, July 17, 1844, box 3, folder Deeds Conveying Slaves and other property from Dolley Madison to John Payne Todd, 1844 Jun 16-Jul 17 , Papers of Notable Virginia Families, MS 2988, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Virginia, accessed June 22, 2021, MRD-S 27218, Montpelier Research Database.

[5] Answer of Henry W. Moncure, July 1, 1847, box 629, folder Wall File J, 1, Orange County Ended Chancery, Ended Dates: 1847-1848, Orange County Courthouse, Orange, Virginia, accessed June 22, 2021, MRD-S 26225, Montpelier Research Database.

[6] Indenture of Sale of Slaves from John Payne Todd to Henry Moncure, August 27, 1844, Papers of Dolley Madison, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, accessed June 22, 2021, MRD-S 25611, Montpelier Research Database.

[7] John Payne Todd, Will dated December 31, 1851, with Certificate of Register of Will of the Orphan’s Court of Washington, DC, box 22, RG 2; Superior Court, District of Columbia Archives, Washington, DC, accessed June 24, 2021, MRD-S 24594, Montpelier Research Database; Inventory and appraisal of John Payne Todd’s Estate, September 28, 1852, Will Book 12:18-20 and loose papers, Orange County Courthouse, Orange, Virginia, accessed June 24, 2021, MRD-S 23936, Montpelier Research Database.