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Fairfax County
Diary of Michael Shiner


This is the June 1833 account from the Diary of Michael Shiner describing the abduction
of his wife and children by Alexandria Virginia slave dealers.

This information contributed by John Sharp.

Slave market
Slave Market, Alexandria, VA

African American Michael Shiner (1805-1880) kept a diary, covering the years 1813 1869. His Diary provides us with considerable information about early working conditions at the Washington Navy Yard where he worked for over fifty. Most importantly however Shiner' s diary gives us a rare glimpse of the District of Columbia social and political scene, from a Black man' s perspective. Here within its pages we find his struggles as a slave, freeman and his successful journey to rescue his wife Phillis and the couple 's three young children who were abducted and to be sold at Alexandria Virginia, by the nation's most notorious slave dealers, Armfield and Franklin. This series of terrible events began for the Shiner family with Phillis's master, James Phumphrey s, death, in March 1832. The Shiner Diary extracts below reflect the family's harrowing experience.  The spelling, capitalization and punctuation are those of the original.

The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869 are now transcribed with introduction and notes at the
Naval Historical Center.
John G. Sharp
Stockton Ca.
April 21, 2009

Excerpt from The Diary of Michael Shiner

pages 52-54
the 5 day of June 1833 on wensday my Wife and Childdren philis Shiner [Phillis Shiner] wher sold to couple of gentelman Mr Franklin and mr John armfield and wher caried down to alexandria on the Six day of June 1833 on Thursday the 7 day of June 1833 on friday i went to alexandria 3 times in one day over the long Bridge and i wher in great distress But never the less with the assistance of god i got My Wife and Childdren Clear

i am under ten thousand oblagation to the Hon major genral Ham lin for his kindness to me and my Wife and Children  on the 7 day of June 1833 on friday the General laid a Detachment  on my Wife and 3 childdren at mr armfield Jail and takein them from ther and put them in the county Jail of alexandria to wait action of the court and my wife and childdren Reemained in the county Jail in alexandria from the 7 of June 1833 until the eleven of June 1833 on Tusday and the Same day Mr levy pumphrey exacuted papers and Manermited them free The papers wher exacuted at the City Hall in washington she [Phillis Shiner ] came up from alexandria on the 12 day of June 1833 on wensday and i am allso under oblagations to Mr Steil and Mrs Steil for ther kindness to my Wife and Childdren while they wher in the Jail and may the allmighty Bless them they gave me such a race at that time that all the people that wher acquainted with the affair in alexandria wher sorry for me and appeard to be wiling to Relieve me of my disstress

I am under Great oblagation to comodore isaac Hull for the time my Wife wher Sold to george he had command of the washington navy yard foer his kindness to me and allso to Captain John H Aulic for his kindness to when my wife were Sold to george and allso to captain Joseph Hull for his kindness to me at that time he wher first lieutenant of the washington navy yard and also under the same obligation to Major Cary Seldon who wher Naval Store Keepper and allso to Mr. John etheridge which at that time was Comodores clerk and allso to David eaton Boat swain

all those above name gentelman all of them wher wiling to help me out my my disstresses in a honest up right way when my Wife and Childdren wher snacht away from me and sold on the 5 day of June 1833 on wensday from near West alley between 7 and eighth st east May the lord Bless them all i shal never forget them

End Notes

(1)John Armfield and Isaac Franklin owned were the nation's most notorious slave dealers. The firm's slave pen was located at 1315 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia and managed by John Armfield, while Isaac Franklin established and ran the firm's markets at Natchez and New Orleans. By the 1830s they were sending more than 1000 slaves annually from Alexandria to their Natchez and New Orleans. If Phillis Shiner and her children had not gained their freedom they would almost certainly have been forced into a slave coffles leaving Alexandria VA in mid to late summer and forcibly taken through to Natchez Mississippi and the Forks of the Road slave market where they would have been sold to the highest bidder.

(1)A writ of detachment is an old English common law term, for a court order that allowed a party to seize to take into custody another person or goods

(1)The following is a transcription of the Shiner family manumission document:

Know all me by these presents that I Levi Phumphrey of the city of Washington in the District of Columbia for divers good and sufficient causes me thereun to moving have manumitted emancipated set free and relieved from Slavery a negro women named Phillis and her three children named Ann Harriet and Mary Ann purchased by me at the sale of my fathers property the said Phillis being at the time age about twenty five years and her three children aged as follows Ann about four years - Harriet about three years and Mary Ann about four months the said Negro women Phillis is in good health and entirely competent to obtain livelihood for herself and children by her own labor. And that I do by these presents manumit emancipate set free and discharge form Labor & Slavery the said Phillis and her three children. In witness whereof I have hereto subscribe my name and affix my seal the 11th day of June in the year of our Lord one Thousand - Eight Hundred and thirty-three.

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