Banneker’s family tree still bears rich fruit

Banneker’s family tree still bears rich fruit

The Baltimore Sun

Gregory Kane

And so Molly Welsh, an Englishwoman sentenced to indentured servitude in 17th-century Maryland, wed an African slave named Bannaka. And they begat four daughters, one of whom was named Mary.

And Mary wed a slave named Robert, who took her last name, which, by the time of their nuptials, had become Bannaky. Mary and Robert begat one son and three daughters. One of the daughters, Jemima, wed Samuel D. Lett. From that union came eight children, including a son named Aquilla.

“Aquilla Lett eventually moved to Ohio,” Gwen Marable said Saturday afternoon. A number of generations later, “that’s how I came to be born in Ohio,” she said. Marable eventually found her way to Maryland. She may be in these parts for good.

“The project has really kept me here,” Marable said.

That project would be the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Baltimore County. That son Mary and Robert Bannaky had was none other than Benjamin Banneker—the farmer, astronomer, mathematician, surveyor and publisher—whose farm once sat on the site where the park is now located. Marable described herself as a collateral descendant of Banneker, not a direct descendant…

…”It’s been said that she married Bannaka to keep him from running off,” said Cole Wiggins, a board member of the Friends of the Banneker Historical Park and Museum. “But don’t quote me on that. It’s never been proved.”

Actually, wisecracking husbands might say that Welsh’s marrying Bannaka might have been the sure way to make him run off. What may be closer to the truth is that marriages between white, female indentured servants and black men—whether slave or “free men of color”—could have been quite common at the time…

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