Mary Perth

Mary travels on the L'Abondance with her husband and children. They are listed together in the BIrchtown muster. She was prominent in the Methodist congregation and was a Methodist exhorter as early as 1774.

She was acquired as a house slave by John Willoughby when she was an adult, and she had at least one child. In the tithables John Willoughby lists a ‘young Mary’ for the first time in 1767.

Mary married Caesar Perth in New York after 1779. Caesar is named in the same tithable list as owned by Willoughby's neighbour, Hardress Waller. Our assumption is Patience, Hannah and Zilpah are the children of Mary Perth by a previous relationship, and there is also a boy named Luke named in the Birchtown muster. These are are too young to be listed in the tithables. The surname of two of the children suggests that their name is probably Saville, from an extensive family of small slave holders rom New Mill Creek, but the Norfolk titheables for 1751 - 1768 do not list a Saville who owns a slave named Mary. One of the Saville men may have been the father or one of the Savilles slaves could have been the father of her children.

Mary and Caesar Perth and their daughter Susan, as well as Hannah and Patience, all relocated to Sierra Leone.

Related Background Information

  • John Willoughby -

    John Willoughby was major Virginia planter and a suspect Loyalist, who died in 1776.

  • Virginia's Black Methodists -

    Norfolk’s enslaved Methodists  owed conversion to Robert Williams, a self-funded Wesleyan itinerant from Ireland who arrived at Norfolk en route to New York in the summer of 1769. By 1776 there were several large Black Methodist meetings in the area around Norfolk.

  • “One Militant Saint”: The Much Traveled Life of Mary Perth -


    In 1772, in Norfolk Virginia, when the moon provided just enough light, a young slave woman would strap her baby on her back and slip out of household of John Willoughby. Cautiously making her way out of the sleeping town,







Tithables for the North Side of Tanners Creek 1767 - North Side of Tanners Creek

Source for this event: Norfolk County Virginia Tithables, Volume 3, 1766 - 1780
Name Owner [Narrative]
Young Mary John Willoughby - Norfolk [This is the first entry among the tithables relating to John Willoughby that mentions Mary Perth.]


Becomes a Methodist exhorter - Norfolk

Source for this event: Evangelical Magazine

7/ Nov

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Lord Dunmore's Proclamation - Norfolk

  • John Murray, Lord Dunmore -

    John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (1732 – 25 February 1809), was the  colonial governor of Virginia at the outbreak of the American Revolution.

Source for this event: Lord Dunmore's Proclamation


Small Pox outbreak - Gwynn's Island

  • Small Pox -

    In January 1776  smallpox made an appearance in Virginia. Although smallpox had been present in the colony at times before there had never been such a serious and widespread outbreak.




John Willoughby Jr petition. - Norfolk

Mary is to have left with two girls and two boys, but Willoughby Jr was guessing could be wrong about the gender of the children. We think its three girls and a boy died of smallpox.

Source for this event: The Petition of John Willoughby Jnr.


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Treaty of Paris - Paris France

  • Treaty of Paris -

    In November 1782 a provisional peace treaty was hammered out between the British and the Americans in Paris.

Source for this event: Treaty of Paris


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Evacuation of New York - New York

  • Evacuation of New York -

    In April 1783 the first evacuation fleet left for Nova Scotia. A week later  the British Commander, Sir Guy Carleton, sailed up the Hudson River to Orangetown for a conference with General Washington to discuss the evacuation. As the victorious commander, Washington opened the meeting by reiterating the resolution of Congress regarding “the delivery of all Negroes and other property.”

Source for this event: The Book of Negroes
Vessel Names and their Commanders Where Bound Names Age Description Names of the Person in whose Possession they now are Remarks
L'Abondance - July
Master: Lt. Philips
Port Roseway Mary Perth 43 stout wench Formerly Slave to John Willoughby, Norfolk. Left 7 years ago. Captain Perth's Company. Certificate from General Birch.
Mary Perth's Relationships
Assumed to be traveling in the Book of Negroes with:


Birchtown Muster - Birchtown

Source for this event: Birchtown Muster of Free Blacks
Name Age Occupation Families they lived with Companies they belong to Remarks Company They Are Now With
Mary Perth 44 Captain Perth's Company
Mary Perth's Relationships


Land Grant - Birchtown

Source for this event: Grants of Land - Nova Scotia


Death of her husband Ceasar Perth - Sierra Leone

Source for this event: The Diary of John Clarkson