Jonathan Deyo

Jane’s slave owner, Jonathan Deyo, was born in 1742, the son of Abraham Deyo (1710-1777) and Elizabeth DuBois (1710-1792). Jonathan was raised in the family’s original stone homestead on Huguenot Street. The fifth son in the family, Jonathan was granted his father’s lands west of the Wallkill River, where he built a wood-frame home on the road to Libertyville. He had a farm on the flats that produced various grains and corn. He may also have raised sheep, based on a number of receipts that show him paying for “wool carding.”[1]

Documents in the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at Elting Memorial Library reveal what may be Jonathan’s first purchase of an enslaved person. In 1789, he bought James from Henry Eltinge, a merchant in Kingston, and Dirck Wynkoop, a farmer in New Paltz. The document reads in part:

     […] in consideration of the sum
     of Ninety pounds To Us in hand paid at and Be fore
     The Sealing and Delivery of this presents, By Jonnathin—
     Doyo of New paltz in the County and State Aforesaid
     The Receipt whair of I do Herby Acknowlage have
     Bargained and Sold And by thier presents Do Bargain
     and Sell unto the Said Jonnathin Doyo A Negro Boy
     Named James Aged About fifteen years to have
     And to hold the said Negro James […]

Ninety pounds equals about 11,642 British pounds sterling today, or the equivalent of 14,297 U.S. dollars.

James’s name appears again on a receipt given to Jonathan in 1791 by Daniel Van Wagenen for rye, corn, and flax “soding” (sod or perhaps seeds). This seemingly ordinary receipt is rather remarkable in what it reveals: Daniel specifically requests “that corn of your negro James.” From this we learn that James, while enslaved, was credited as a skilled farmer whose corn was sought in particular. 

A year earlier, Jonathan Deyo was listed in the 1790 census as owning two enslaved people, presumably James and another. The gender of the second person is unknown, but since it was common for white men to provide an enslaved female to assist their wives in domestic operations of the household (including preparing food, cooking, mending clothes, and minding children), the second enslaved person might have been a woman.

Dirck Wynkoop (one of the men who sold James to Jonathan) is listed just above Jonathan Deyo in the census. In contrast, Dirck owns fourteen enslaved people, more than any other slave holder in the town of New Paltz that year. Dirck, on his own and later with his son-in-law, Peter Eltinge, operated a substantial wheat farm on “the Plains” south of the village of New Paltz. The most slaves recorded for Jonathan is seven, in 1800. After Jane was born, Jonathan owned four and five people in 1810 and 1820 respectively. (It is worth mentioning, that after New York State legally abolished slavery in 1827, Jonathan appears in the 1830 census, with a household numbering eleven and including two “free colored persons”:  a young man between the ages of 10 and 23 and a girl under age 10. It is probable that these individuals remained with Jonathan’s family, perhaps as servants, because their parents had died or had otherwise been unable to care for them during the transition from enslavement to free working person. The 1830 census shows many free blacks remaining in the households of whites, perhaps due in part to the challenge of finding paid work otherwise.)[2]

There is scant information in the historical record concerning the day-to-day interactions of master and enslaved in the New Paltz area. When one considers the experiences of Sojourner Truth (who endured slavery under several different masters before achieving freedom), the interactions were mixed, but the mental and physical cruelties inflicted on Truth and her family certainly outweighed any kindnesses that may have been offered. One story from Ralph LeFevre’s A History of New Paltz from 1678 to 1820 (first published in 1903) provides a rare glimpse of one particular enslaved-master relationship in the Deyo family. Jonathan’s mother, Elizabeth DuBois, was apparently famous for her “masculine strength and spirit.” Legend had it that “Captain Batche” (as she became known) was so angered by a male slave she thought was “guilty of impudence” that she struck him, breaking his arm so badly he needed to be taken to Kingston (some twenty-five miles away) to have the bone set. While the story of a women whose rage is so powerful as to break a man’s arm might have seemed amusing to some in 1903, the tale also serves as a reminder of the ordinary violence inflicted on an enslaved person whom a white person deemed “impudent.”[3]   

Jonathan died in 1833 at age 87. His wife Mary LeFevre died three years later. Together, the couple had, first, four daughters, and then three sons. Peter, his youngest, inherited the property on the road to Libertyville. Peter later purchased the Isaiah Hasbrouck house and property, just north of the Deyo family’s land. Jonathan’s original wood frame house on the road to Libertyville was reportedly torn down in the 1850s.[4]

Jonathan Deyo