Maryland Gazette, 11 June 1752
On June 11, 1752, the Maryland Gazette of Annapolis published an account of contributions received the previous year from various donors in Virginia for a Charity Working School to be established in St. Peter's parish in Talbot County, Maryland, proposed by rector Thomas Bacon (1711 – 1768). An Episcopal priest, Bacon was concerned with the religious and practical education of poor children, and the children of enslaved African Americans. George Wythe appears among the list of benefactors from October and November, 1751.
Although Bacon preached to Black congregations, and taught his white parishioners that Blacks had souls which were just as capable of salvation, his writings imply that religion would make slaves better servants, and encourages slave owners to educate their slaves in order to to save their own souls. While exhorting owners to baptize their slaves, he stresses that slaves would remain slaves after baptism.
As early as 1750, Bacon sought to establish a school for the "maintenance and education of orphans and other poor children, and negroes." The June, 1752 article appears to be an updated list of accounts first printed in the Virginia Gazette on October 11, 1751, which is much the same. George Wythe's donation of "2 Pistoles" appears in the June, 1752 Maryland article, but not in the earlier article from Williamsburg.
Bacon visited Williamsburg several times in the early 1750s to raise money for the school, giving sermons and selling pamphlets. The article mentions a "Concert of Music in the College Hall, for the Benefit of the School," which possibly took place during Bacon's visit in July. In his diary entry for for July 16, 1751, John Blair mentions "Mr. Bacon, &c. din'd here, we had fine musick." Bacon was an accomplished musician, and played the violin and viola da gamba. An article in the Maryland Gazette in December of 1754 lists another concert given in the "College Hall" and additional donations from Virginia.
Bacon first circulated his proposal in 1750, which included the proviso, "such Negro children as shall be sent by order of the Trustees to the said School shall be taught to read and write, and instructed in the Knowledge and Fear of the Lord gratis; but maintained at the Expence of their respective Owners." It it not thought, however, that any children of the enslaved actually attended Bacon's school in Talbot County, and the school was converted into a poor house in 1758 or later, after Reverend Bacon moved to Frederick County to become rector of All Saints parish. The scheme for Bacon's school was also advertised in Williamsburg in the Virginia Gazette for July 25, 1751, in a request for contributions. Though it claims to be a school where "poor children of both sexes are to be fed, cloathed, lodged and taught," this scheme does not mention educating free or enslaved Black children.
Thomas Bacon was affiliated with the "Associates of Dr. Bray," the group founded to promote the construction of schools for children of the enslaved in America. Thomas Bray was a priest who helped establish the Church of England in Maryland, and who sought to educate the enslaved in the North American Colonies. Bacon's works, "Four Sermons, Upon the Great and Indispensable Duty of Christian Masters and Mistresses to Bring up their Negro Slaves in the Knowledge and Fear of God," and "Two Sermons, Preached to a Congregation of Black Slaves" — along with books on basic arithmetic and spelling — were part of the core curriculum dispensed from the Associates. In 1761, Bacon founded another school for the instruction of free and enslaved Black children in Frederick, Maryland. Bacon's younger brother, Anthony Bacon (c. 1717-1786), was a member of the Associates of Dr. Bray, elected in 1761.
A similar school in Williamsburg, in operation from 1760 to 1774, was one of several Bray schools for African American children opened in the Colonies at the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin. The 1752 article names a number of prominent Williamsburg residents as donors to Bacon's Charity Working School, including Peyton Randolph, the King's Attorney General; Reverend William Dawson, President of the College of William & Mary; Richard Graham, Professor of the Mathematics at the College; William Preston, Professor of Moral Philosophy; Thomas Nelson, Secretary for the Colony of Virginia; and John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses. Also listed as a contributor is an "Hon. John Lewis, Esq.," possibly Wythe's former brother-in-law from Spotsylvania.
The Reverends Thomas Dawson and William Yates, also listed as donors to the Maryland school, would both later serve as administrators of the Williamsburg Bray School.
Article text, 11 June 1752
THE Trustees and Managers, for the Charity Working School, now setting up in Talbot County, Maryland, having received the following Contributions to the said pious Design, by the Hands of the Rev. Mr. Bacon, from the under named Gentlemen and Ladies in Virginia, do hereby return their sincere Thanks, to the worthy Benefactors for the same; viz.
- For Benefactions received by Mr. Bacon, in July last.
To Peyton Randolph, Esq; his Majesty's Attorney General for 2 Guineas To the Rev. Mr. Richard Graham, Professor of the Mathematics, in William and Mary College, at Williamsburg, for 1 Pistole To the Rev. Mr. William Preston, Professor of Moral Philosophy, in Ditto, for 1 Pistole
- The three last mentioned Benefactions, received by the Hands of the Hon. and Rev. Mr Commissary Dawson.
To the Hon. and Rev. William Dawson, D. D. President of the College, for £ 5 Sterling To the Hon. John Blair, Auditor General of Virginia, for 5 Guineas Ditto, for his annual Subscription of 2 Guineas, of which received for the past Year 2 Guineas To the Rev. Mr. Thomas Dawson, Rector of Williamsburg, for £ 3 12 Sterling To a Gentleman desiring to be unknown, for 4 Pistoles To a Lady desiring to be unknown, for 4 Pistoles, To Miss Priscilla Bassett, for 1 Pistole
- The two last Benefactions, received by the Hands of the Rev. Mr. Thomas Dawson.
To Dr. George Gilmer, for 2 Pistoles To a Gentleman desiring to be unknown, for 1 Guinea To Walter King, Esq; for 8 Pistoles To the Hon. Thomas Nelson, Esq; Secretary for 4 Pistoles To the Rev. Mr. John Camm, Rector of York Hampton, for 1 Pistole To Warner Lewis, Esq; for 4 Pistoles To a Gentleman desiring to be unknown, for 1 Guinea To the Hon. John Lewis, Esq; for 4 Pistoles To the Hon. William Nelson, Esq; for 4 Pistoles To the Rev. Mr. William Yates, Rector of Abingdon, in Gloucester County, for 4 Pistoles To the Rev. Mr. John Fox, Rector of Ware, in Gloucester County, for 4 Pistoles To Ralph Wormley, Esq; for 4 Pistoles To Peter Robinson, Esq; for 2 Pistoles To Col. Francis Willis, for his annual Subscription of 3 Pistoles, of which he has paid, for the past Year. 3 Pistoles, To Mrs. Willis, for 4 Pistoles To Mr. Mordecai Booth, for 2 Pistoles who is also a Subscriber of 1 Guinea per Ann.
- For Benefactions received by Mr Bacon, in October and November last.
To the Hon. John Robinson, Esq; Speaker, for 4 Pistoles To George Wythe, Esq; for 2 Pistoles To Richard Lee, Esq; for 1 Guinea To a Clergyman desiring to be unknown for 1 Pistole To James Power, Esq; for 2 Pistoles To Zachariah Lewis, Esq; for 1 Pistole To a Gentleman desiring to be unknown, for 4 Pistoles To the Hon. Philip Grimes, Esq; for 5 Pistoles To Mr. John Holt, for 1 Pistole To Mrs. Lightfoot (Widow), for 2 Pistoles To Richard Ambler, Esq; for 1 Guinea To Francis Willis, junior, Esq; for 5 Pistoles To Mr. John Norton, for 2 Pistoles and a half, To the Gentlemen and Ladies, who attended a Concert of Music in the College Hall, for the Benefit of the School, for 23 Pistoles and a half.
- Maryland Gazette (Annapolis, MD), June 11, 1752, 3.
- Mary Klein, "Racism in the Anglican and Episcopal Church of Maryland," The Archives of the Episcopal Church. Accessed March 12, 2021. For Bacon's sermons, see: Six Sermons, on the Several Duties of Masters, Mistresses, Slaves, Etc: Preached at the Parish Church of St. Peter, in Talbot County in the Province of Maryland (London: Printed by J. Oliver, 1751). Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
- Thomas Bacon, "A Sermon Preached at the Parish Church of St. Peter's, in Talbot County, Maryland: On Sunday the 14th of October, 1750, for the Benefit of a Charity Working School to Be Set up in the Said Parish, for the Maintenance and Education of Orphans and Other Poor Children, and Negroes" (London: Printed by J. Oliver, 1751).
- "Virginia Gazette Extracts," William and Mary Quarterly 12, no. 3 (January 1904), 162-163.
- Bacon, "Sermon."
- "Diary of John Blair," William and Mary Quarterly 7, no. 3 (January 1899), 142.
- Elaine G. Breslaw, Dr. Alexander Hamilton and Provincial America: Expanding the Orbit of Scottish Culture (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), 226-228.
- "Benefactions Received in Virginia, by the Rev. Thomas Bacon, for Account of the Charity Working-School in Talbot County," Maryland Gazette (Annapolis), 19 December 1754, 3.
- Maryland Gazette (Annapolis, MD) September 19, 1750, 1-2. Reprinted in Oswald Tilghman, History of Talbot County, Maryland, 1661-1861 2: 477-495.
- Edgar Legare Pennington, "Thomas Bray's Associates and Their Work Among the Negroes," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 48, no. 2 (October 1938), 368.
- Virginia Gazette (Hunter), July 25, 1751, 3. See also, "Virginia Gazette Extracts," William and Mary Quarterly 12, no. 3 (January 1904), 156-157.
- John C. Van Horne, Religious Philanthropy and Colonial Slavery: The American Correspondence of the Associates of Dr. Bray, 1717-1777 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 146.
- Thomas Bacon to the Vestry of All Saints Parish, Maryland Historical Magazine 6, no. 3 (September 1911), 271-272.
- Religious Philanthropy and Colonial Slavery: The American Correspondence of the Associates of Dr. Bray, 1717-1777 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985), n274.
- Joanne Kimberlin, "Hiding in Plain Sight, William & Mary Building Identified as New World's Oldest Still-Standing School for Black Children," Virginian-Pilot, February 26, 2021.
- Brendan Wolfe, "Associates of Dr. Bray." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (January 7, 2021). Accessed March 12, 2021.
- "The Charity Working School of Parson Bacon," Easton Star (Easton, MD), February 24, 1880, 1; and March 2, 1880, 1.
- "Racism in the Anglican and Episcopal Church of Maryland," The Archives of the Episcopal Church.
- "Rev. Thomas Bacon—1765—1768," American Quarterly Church Review and Ecclesiastical Register 17, no. 3 (October 1865), 430-451.
- Thomas Bacon, Six Sermons, on the Several Duties of Masters, Mistresses, Slaves, Etc: Preached at the Parish Church of St. Peter, in Talbot County in the Province of Maryland (London: Printed by J. Oliver, 1751). Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
- "Thomas Bacon's Life," Archives of Maryland Online.