". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, October 18, 2010

Corbit-Sharp House (1774): Odessa, Del. Continued

This stone building is behind the Corbit-Sharp House, looking from the river and the gardens. Perhaps this is where the to-become-very-wealthy Quaker, Corbit, lived after he got his tannery on its feet, but before he built the Philadelphia-style Georgian mansion.

He had four wives, with children by them all. At one time there were 13 children in all living in the house from early 20's to infant. His fourth wife, 16 years younger than he, outlived him for 20 years. Mary was a wealthy heiress from the sophisticated, cosmopolitan Philadelphia, very well educated, and au courant with all the modes. So William improved and expanded the original mansion and grounds according to her wishes. This included moving the kitchen from the basement to the ground floor, with windows.

All Purpose Room, Including Office, Corbit-Sharpe House: This is a true mansion (makes our house look puny), owned by Quakers or not, and it is huge. It hosted many large parties, as well as long-staying relatives from Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In those days people hadn't yet separated certain functions into separate rooms. This one seems to have been a room in which the family ate, but where the Master also conducted business. That desk-bookcase, was made locally, and is a museum-quality piece. I lust-yearn to possess it myself.

The wall paper is not period.

Upstairs there is the 'entertaining room" with chandeliers, mirrors, much satin brocade and a spinnet. Except for the instrument, all of that is the restorer Sharp's idea, and is not right for a Quaker's home of that period, no matter how wealthy.

Hiding Runaway Slave Sam in the Corbit-Sharp House: 1830's. Era of the Fugitive Slave Laws.

Sam had run away from his owner in Maryland, evidently for harsh treatment. Mary Wilson-Corbit was home alone with her daughter Molly, who was about 8 - 9. Sam, who had been chased over the Eastern Shore of Maryland by the slave catchers, came to the House's door, begging for help. The slave catchers were right on his heels. Mary was liable for all kinds of punishment for helping him. She had to make her decisions very quickly. She decided to hide him.

Fortunately the slavecatchers didn't have dogs.
From the Corbit-Sharp House Sam was smuggled to Philadelphia, and from there up to Canada. He got word back to Philadelphia that he had made it --Illiterate, he couldn't write the message; the message of his safety was then sent back to Mrs. Corbit . No one knew about this except Molly, until she told the story to organization of Colonial Dames after the Civil War. Her account is recorded in the group's Minutes.

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