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Duryee History; Slavery

29th Oct 2016 in

Duryèe History - Slavery

My ancestors were Huguenots. They originally came to France from Scotland some time between 1300 and 1500 AD. They were Calvinists, and between the years 1661 and 1700, the religious tide in France swelled against Protestants, and the Huguenots were more and more suppressed. My ancestors left France and settled in Manheim, which is now in Germany but then was in the Rhenish Palatinate. They remained there for only a few years, then sailed to New York in 1675. Today we never think of them as slave owners, but I recently discovered a piece of evidence that shatters that naive assumption. We forget that slavery was a national institution and was not restricted only to the Southern colonies and states. Colonists in New York began systematically using black slaves in 1626. Emancipation was not granted to slaves in New York until 1827, but there were loopholes in the law that remained on the books, allowing slavery to continue until 1841, a mere 20 years before the beginning of the Civil War. There were over 200 years of slavery, just in New York, that we rarely hear mention of. All of the other Northeastern states have equal histories.

I've recently found mention that Joost Duryee, the Huguenot immigrant and my 7th great-grandfather, was shown as having 2 slaves in a census-like document from 1698. Below are images of a slave indenture document binding over an eight-year-old girl to New York resident Jacob Duryée, my third great-grandfather, in 1825. At the bottom of the document are the signatures of the people involved. First is Jacob's, then a "C Duryee". Jacob's wife's name was Cornelia, so that is likely her signature.

Jacob's son Abram went on to lead the 5th New York Regiment Volunteers, AKA the Duryée Zouaves, in the Civil War. During the war, Abram would fight in many battles including Big Bethel, Cedar Mountain, Bull Run, and also Antietam, still the bloodiest battle in US history with 22,217 men listed as dead, wounded, or missing in one day.

I can't help but wonder what Abram's feelings about slavery were, versus his feelings toward the secessionist South. I think he was morally outraged enough to go to war more by the latter than by the former, but I can never know this for certain. It just seems to me that growing up in a family of slave owners would shade his personal beliefs on the subject. He would go on to become Police Commissioner for the city of New York after the war.

Abram was born into a slaveholding family in New York on April 29, 1815, and died on September 27, 1890, in a nation that was, at least in the letter of the law, free of slavery. 

Abram Duryee, Brig. General for the Union in the Civil War


Plaque at Antietam Battlefield


  • The indenture document is located at the Brooklyn Historical Society - Call Number 1977-583 (Link does not work, Dec. 15, 2021, note sent to Brooklyn Library)
  • Information on my great-great-grandfather Abram Duryée
  • A good source of information on slavery in the northern United States can be found at
Indenture Title Pg.


Indenture Pg. 1


Indenture Pg. 2

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