Chloe's Story


Nancy Lougbridge



The Carothers or Carruthers families (Carruthers in Scotland, Carothers in America) were among the first settlers in Cumberland County; in 1750 when the county was formed, there were seven established Carothers households in West and East Pennsborough Townships. The West and East branches were distantly related (both appear to have emigrated from the same area in Scotland) and both quickly rose to positions of wealth and prominence in this county. Various Carothers were sheriffs, justices of the peace, constables, church elders, and tax collectors in the eighteenth century, and several saw action as officers in the War of the Revolution. No Carothers was poor or obscure, and some were extraordinarily well-to-do.


It is the East Pennsboro Township branch of the Carothers who intersect Chloe's story, and the thread begins with Robert Carothers, the first of his line to settle there. Robert's initial land warrant was issued in 1743, and by 1750 he was already settled on his land "north of the Conodoguinet Creek." It has proved impossible to trace the exact location of this farm, but it was in present-day Silver Spring Township, directly north of Hogestown and probably between the modern WertzvilIe Road and the North Mountain.


When he died in 1771, Robert left the substantial sum of fifty pounds to his daughter Janet Nailor and the plantation of over four hundred acres to his only son John.


When John Carothers in turn died in 1783, he left behind his wife Sarah, eleven children, his plantation, land holdings in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina of undetermined size, and cash. The Carolina land was bequeathed to sons Robert and James; the home farm was granted in its entirety "share and share alike" to the other nine children: Margaret, Isabel, Jean, John, William, Andrew, Samuel, Ezekiel and Archibald. Widow Sarah buried her husband in the Silver Spring Presbyterian graveyard and almost immediately returned to her native Mecklenburg County.


With hindsight one can but applaud Sarah's flight, as she thus escaped seven years of legal squabbling among her children and sons-in-law. They found it an impossible task to divide equitably the four hundred acres into ninths, and there is some evidence that four of the children ganged up on Andrew, the fifth son, to prevent his gaining control of the property. Only John, the eldest son, was willing to sell Andrew his forty-odd acre share; Margaret, Isabel, William and Samuel combined their shares eventually and sold the package to a York County farmer, in the process evicting Andrew from his home. There is an almost gleeful note in the 1790 settlement in the section that pronounces that William Carothers and Absalom Woodward (Isabel's husband) now controlled the "168 acres, spring, spring house and buildings where Andrew now lives" and that this parcel is being sold to Samuel Strohm of York. Ezekiel and Archibald sold their shares separately, outside the family, though no doubt Andrew wanted to acquire them. It is possible Andrew was not willing to pay their asking price, as the sum he paid brother John for his share seems to have been below market value.


Seemingly undaunted, Andrew moved his wife Mary and their little boy into a small log cabin (only 288 square feet) which he probably built himself on his eighty acres. He very soon obtained a warrant for 150 acres of timber land nearby and doggedly began to clear them. By 1798, Andrew had amassed 280 acres, but he had also, at age thirty-nine, acquired five more children and the family was still living in the tiny cabin.


The impression given of Andrew Carothers is that of a man who is hardworking, close with a dollar and not addicted to creature comforts. No facts remain about his wife Mary, not even her maiden name, but one can easily infer that her lire was unusuaIIy hard and monotonous even by the standards of the time. Almost continually pregnant, taking care of her husband and six children in essentially one room, she apparently did not get a break in her routine even on Sundays. There is no church record of her marriage to Andrew, no evidence that they joined a church or were confirmed, and no baptismal records for any of the children. Other members of Andrew's family were staunch Presbyterians, but he, for whatever reason, seems to have turned his back on the church. Also unlike the father and brothers, Andrew did not participate in civic or political affairs.


The enclosed world of Andrew and Mary Carothers was shattered in January of 1801. On Saturday afternoon, January 24, their youngest child, Lucetta, age four, was found drowned in the creek that ran through their meadow. On the next Saturday, Polly Carothers, age six, was found drowned in almost the same spot.




On March 1, 1780, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the historic Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. It provided that any Negro born after that date must be, freed when reaching twenty-eight years of age, while Negroes born prior to that date would remain slaves for life. The Act also required slave owners henceforth to register the birth of slave infants at county courthouses.


Cumberland County slave holders complied with the law though some were very dilatory, like William Kelso of East Pennsborough Township. On March 31, 1789, Kelso made the journey from present-day Lemoyne to Carlisle to register "Chloe, born December 1782." Kelso was a well-known and affluent innkeeper and owner of Kelso's Ferry. He also owned two hundred acres, four horses, six cows, and two Negroes. There is no clue to who Chloe's mother was; the other slave owned by Kelso in 1789 was a man named Will.


The next mention of Chloe is of her consignment, on July 4, 1794, to a Philadelphia slave dealer named John W. Godfrey. She was eleven years old. Two weeks later she was sold for an unknown sum to John Harland, a Philadelphia merchant, and the bill of sale describes her as being about sixteen years of age. Three weeks later, on August 11, 1794, Harland sold Chloe to Peter Gevaudan of Philadelphia for 118 Spanish-milled dollars; Gevaudan then sold her for the same amount in October to L Crousillat. In a four month period, the eleven-year-old girl had had five masters, and her odyssey was not yet ended. Crousillat sold her the following March to Oliver Pollock, a merchant and financier who maintained homes in Philadelphia and in Carlisle. In 1791 Pollock had purchased the magnificent James Silver estate (the stone house near the present intersection of Rte. 11 and Lambs's Gap Road) and made it his main residence.


Oliver Pollock had emigrated from Ireland to Cumberland County in 1760 with his brother and his father Jared Pollock. The other Pollocks lived out their lives in Carlisle, but Oliver, at age twenty-five, set sail for Havana to make his fortune as a trader. He succeeded so well that by the eve of the American Revolution, Pollock, then established in New Orleans, was acknowledged as one of the five richest men in the colonies. A fierce patriot, the Roman Catholic Pollock pledged his assets to the Revolutionary cause and like his friend Robert Morris, lost everything he owned. However, by 1791, when he returned to Cumberland County, Pollock was back on his feet financially, though he had collected from the government only a fraction of the sums owed him.


Pollock seems to have been a universally beloved and respected man, and he was the only one of her owners for whom Chloe felt affection. Pollock alone seems to have taken pains to educate her and to give her religious instruction. Chloe lived in Pollock's home for almost two years, and they were the only happy years of her life.


On November 21, 1796, Oliver Pollock sold Chloe for sixty pounds to her last master, Andrew Carothers.


At this distance in time, it is impossible to explain beyond doubt Chloe's fate. It is not known why she bounced from one master to another so rapidly; it is known that she was physically healthy and large for her age, but did her successive owners discover that she was retarded or emotionally unstable? Was she so filled with rage by age eleven, so brutalized, that she was unmanageable?


Chloe was the first slave Andrew Carothers had owned, and she was probably purchased at Mary Carothers's insistence to help with cooking and household chores. Where on earth Chloe slept in the eighteen by sixteen foot one story cabin is a mystery - unless she slept in the barn. Carothers did not build separate quarters for her.


Knowledge of what happened on January 21, 1801, at the Carothers farm comes almost entirely from Mary Carothers. Chloe had been washing clothes all day until about 3 p.m., which was also the time four year old Lucetta was last seen alive. At sundown Andrew Carothers came to the house from the barn and presently asked about Lucetta's whereabouts. Someone ran to the barn to look for her there, while Andrew searched the creek, finding the girl's body almost immediately. Every means was tried to revive her; Mrs. Carothers then sent Chloe and two of the children to the nearest neighbors to ask them to come for the wake that evening. Mary Carothers noticed nothing odd about Chloe's behavior except "she affected not to know where the said child had gone."


The next Saturday about noon, Chloe was told to fetch a kettle of water and a sandstone from the creek to scrub the cabin floor. While Chloe was outside the cabin pounding the stone, six-year-old Polly was told to find the basin that was used for spreading the sand on the floor. Mrs. Carothers and twelve-year-old Sarah then juggled the furniture around the three small rooms as Chloe scrubbed the floor. This time, a child's absence was noted immediately.


Chloe halloed out to the barn to her master, he came and halloed out to my eldest son if the child was with him - ran down to where Lucetta was drowned - she [Chloe] came running up and wringing her hands and pretending to be crying, said that Polly was in the dam - she came and put on her shoes and stockings and asked where she would run, I told her to run nowhere. . . After the corpse moved for the graveyard, I thought, and it run in my mind that she, Chloe, had drowned them. I think I began on Monday to accuse her.


The next week must have been living hell for everyone under the Carothers roof. Mary Carothers said "I could not bear the sight of her about the house; I was sure she had done it" Chloe later reported that Mrs. Carothers routinely beat her two or three times a week with a cowhide whip, stripped naked, whether or not she had committed an offense, so it is likely that Chloe was beaten daily to force a confession. When the stick did not work, Mrs. Carothers tried the carrot, telling Chloe that if she confessed, she would not hang but would be sold back to Philadelphia.


Finally a neighbor, Mrs. John Clendenin, using gentle persuasion, elicited the confession from Chloe that she had drowned the girls by placing her hand over their mouths and holding them under water. Two weeks later (the delay has never been explained) John Clendenin escorted Chloe to the jail in Carlisle where she was charged with suspicion of murder.


Court calendars must have been as clogged then as now, as Chloe's trial did not begin until June. The Honorable John Joseph Henry was the presiding Judge; Samuel Laird, John Creigh, and WIlliam Moore were the Associate Judges. Mary Carothers gave the bulk of the testimony; apparently neither Andrew Carothers nor Chloe was called to the stand. It is not known if anyone spoke in Chloe's behalf; she would not, of course, have had a defense attorney.


On Saturday, June 6,1801 the sentence of death by hanging was pronounced on Chloe in the Cumberland County Court of Oyer and Terminer. Four objections were raised against the imposition of the death penalty, but these were thrown out by the President Judge at the same court session. It is not clear who raised the objections (Oliver Pollock?) or what they were, but surely one of them must have been that Chloe was incompetent and not responsible for her actions. Perhaps another was that her confession had been beaten out of her.


Governor Thomas McKean signed Chloe's death warrant on July 3, 1801; the warrant was issued to John Carothers, Sheriff of Cumberland County and Andrew's cousin.


A Methodist clergyman, Rev. James Smith, visited Chloe in her cell in the days before her execution, and these interviews were printed in Kline's Gazette. The minister probably rephrased the girl's monologue, but he reported her as saying:


The reason why I killed them was not because I had any spite or malice against them; on the contrary, I loved them both. My motive was this: I knew that the children were compelled by my mistress to give information respecting some parts of my conduct for which I was severely corrected far beyond the demerit of the fault. To cut off this means of information was the first end I promised myself but my second and greatest motive was to bring all the misery I possibly could upon the family - and particularly upon my mistress. . . . I entirely forgot what I had done until about an hour after, being at the run, above where she lay, my master calling to me to know if Lucetta was with me? I answered no. This was the first of my recollecting what I had done! . . . I was much whipped by my master to extort a confession but I was much more lashed by my own conscience. At length I confessed and was committed. On my trial, I cried Not Guilty though still my conscience spoke within me to the contrary. . . The voice of the blood of two innocent children cries against me from the ground. Is my sin too great for the mercy of God to pardon? I trust that His unbounded goodness will not suffer me to perish.


Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2001


"Pen sketch of tbe Pollock Mansion at Silver's Spring by David Keefer.



On Saturday, July 18, 1801, at twelve noon Chloe was led to the gallows which had been erected just outside of town at the present intersection of High Street and Spring Garden Street. The newspaper does not report how large a crowd was gathered to watch the hanging of the eighteen year old girl or the identity of those who attended her in her last moments.






This paper is based entirely on manuscripts and published materials in The Hamilton Library of the Cumberland County Historical Society.


Information on the Carothers family is from the library's Carothers genealogy files, tax assessment books 1750-1800, the 1798 Direct or Glass Tax and land warrant records. The 1790 and 1800 Federal Census records, Robert Carothers' will (Book B 93-95), John Carothers' will (Book D 172-3), Andrew Carothers' will (Book H 460-63), Deed Book 1 H 151 (John Carothers to Andrew Carothers), Deed Book N 152 (William & Jean Carothers and Absalom & Isabel Woodward to Samuel Strohm) and Silver Spring Presbyterian Church and cemetery records.


All of Chloe's original bills of sale are preserved in the Hamilton Library manuscripts collection. It is remarkable that the chain of ownership has come down intact, and it is probable that her bills of sale were collected as evidence at her trial. Chloe's slave registration is found in Egle's Notes & Queries 4th series, vol. 2 p. 8. The record of her commitment to jail is in County Records Box 38. The first biography of Oliver Pollock did not appear until 1937. Written by James A James, it was entitled Oliver Pollock, The Life and Times of an Unknown Patriot. Fifty years later, Pollock and his immense contribution to the success of the American Revolution are still virtually unrecognized.


Accounts of the murders, the trial and Chloe's conviction are found in Kline's Gazette June 10, June 24, July 15, & July 22, 1801. See also Pennsylvania Archives, Ninth Series, II, 1558 - N. L.