Indentured Servants in Whitpain in the 18th Century

I t was an accidental discovery. I was searching for someone else in the Whitpain area, but I stumbled upon a digitized document of lists of indentures from the Pennsylvania German Society from October 3, 1771, to October 5, 1773,


"Includes the date, servant's name, which European port they sailed from, to whom they were indentured, their master's residence, occupation and terms of the contract, and the amount of money involved."


Before I get into the names of the indentures from Whitpain, let's go into the background of what an "indentured servitude" is.


Indentured Servant: "A debt bondage worker who is under contract of an employer for a specified period of time, in exchange for transportation, food, drink, clothing, lodging and other necessities." - Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License


It sounds like a broad definition of what it is. What did this definition mean by "a debt bondage worker?" Is this another term for a slave?


By looking at a different website, the definition of "indentured servant" refers to the European immigrants.


This became popular in the 1600s shortly after the establishment of Jamestown, VA. European immigrants coming into America needed money to get to America. He/she would have to contact a landowner in America to do labor in exchange for a ticket to America. The settlers in America needed cheap labor "to help manage their large estates and farmland, and plenty of landowners agreed to fund the passage of European immigrants to Virginia in exchange for their labor."


The workers had to pay back their master for transportation by performing a certain type of labor. There were two types of laborers: skilled and unskilled.


Skilled: indentured for 4-5 years

Unskilled: indentured for 7+ years


Most of the laborers were men ranging from their late teens to early 20s. Women were also indentured servants, specifically as household employees or domestic servants.


It is said that "indentured servitude" and "slavery" are not exactly the same.


Similarities: they were sold, loaned, or inherited; had little personal freedom

Differences:

  • Immigrants were indentured servants as a choice

  • Slaves didn't have a choice


  • Indentured servants were considered "personal property"

  • Slaves were considered a "lifetime investment"


  • Indentured servants "had access to the courts and were entitled to own land," but were prohibited to get married; masters have the authority to sell them to another master if they want to

  • Slaves didn't have any of that

Indentured servitude was banned after the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, which occurred after the Civil War.


Learn more about Indentured servitude in Pennsylvania.


Below is a list of indentured servants who served their masters in Whitpain


1. Grace Ryan, servant

  • Assigned to George Casner from Whitpain Township on February 6, 1772

  • Served for 4 years

  • Amount- £11.10

2. Christian Niver, servant from the Rotterdam Port

  • Assigned to Valentine Sherer from Whitpain Township on October 19, 1772

  • To be found all necessaries and at the expiration have 2 complete suits of apparel, one of whereof to be new; and 1 pair of boots whenever the servant chooses to have them

  • Served for 3 years

  • Amount- £23.9.0

Valentine Sherer was naturalized and sacramented as an American citizen on April 4, 1763. His estate in Whitpain had a valuation of 300 and a tax of 6.0.0.


3. Conrad Undersee, servant from the Rotterdam Port

  • Assigned to George Kastner from Whitpain Township on May 4/5, 1773

  • To be found all necessaries and at the expiration have 2 complete suits of apparel, one of whereof to be new; or £10 in cash

  • Served for 3 years and 8 months

  • Amount- £27

  • His previous service under George Ross of Philadelphia (as a butcher) was cancelled

George Kastner (1701-1776): George was born in Germantown; the youngest son of Paul and Kastner. He moved to Whitpain around 1728 and purchased 200 acres of land from Thomas Rees and Anthony Morris and his wife.


NOTE: It is unclear which George Ross they referred to. Could it be George Ross, a PA delegate and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence?


Bibliography:


Castner, Samuel, Jr. The Kastner Or Castner Family of Pennsylvania. (Philadelphia: George H. Buchanan and Company, 1901): 18.


Egle, William Henry. Proprietary, Supply, and State Tax Lists of the City and County of Philadelphia. From the Years 1779, 1780, and 1781. (Philadelphia: William Stanley Ray, 1897): 573.


"Indentured Servants." Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Accessed June 17, 2020. https://www.phmc.pa.gov/Archives/Research-Online/Pages/Indentured-Servants.aspx.


Linn, John B. and William H. Egle. Persons Naturalized in the Province of Pennsylvania, 1740-1773: Excerpted and Reprinted from Pennsylvania Archives, Series 2. Volume II. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967): 88.


Record of Indentures of Individuals Bound Out as Apprentices, Servants, etc., and of German and other redemptioners in the office of the Mayor of the city of Philadelphia, October 3, 1771, to October 5, 1773. (Lancaster: Press of the New Era printing co., 1907): 58, 60, 144, 220.


"Record of Servants and Apprentices Bound and Assigned before Hon. John Gibson, Mayor of Philadelphia, December 5th, 1772-May 21, 1773 (continued)." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 34, no. 1 (1910): 101.


"Record of Servants and Apprentices Bound and Assigned before Hon. John Gibson, Mayor of Philadelphia, December 5th, 1772-May 21, 1773 (continued)." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 34, no. 2 (1910): 219.


Tardi, Clara. "Indentured Servitude." Investopedia. Last modified November 13, 2019. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/indentured-servitude.asp.


#pahistory #whitpain #archives #records #philly #indenturedservants #europe #immigrants #master #labor #18thcentury

20 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All