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Mary Jane Higgins

The Grove Museum

Mary Jane Higgins (ca. 1825-1870) was enslaved as a domestic servant by the first owner of The Grove, Richard Keith Call, on his Orchard Pond Plantation. Her father, Dr. John Jenkins, escaped slavery in Virginia and, by 1858, lived in Canada when he learned of Mary Jane’s whereabouts on Call’s plantation near Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Jenkins had already purchased the freedom of his youngest daughter, Martha, and wrote to Call requesting to purchase Mary Jane. Call agreed, and by 1860 Mary Jane had made it to freedom in Canada and was reunited with her father and sister. She dictated a letter to her husband Perry, who she had to leave behind at Orchard Pond. Perry is listed as a mechanic in the records of the plantation’s enslaved workers. The letter also contained a few lines written by Mary Jane, stating that she was learning to read and write. After several years of separation and following emancipation in 1865, Perry joined Mary Jane in Canada. There, they lived with family and earned enough money and property to leave a will when Mary Jane died in 1870. Sift through digitized copies of Mary Jane and her father’s letters at The Grove Museum to learn more about their story in their own words.


(Letter, August 5, 1858, John Jenkins, Hamilton, Canada, to Richard K. Call, 3 pp.: ''It is with the deepest emotions of gratitude Sir I acknowledge the receipt of your letter, giving your consent to let me have my Daughter Mary [and for] the moderation of your price. . . Please let me know by letter when you are ready and what day she will leave Tallahassee. . . Please give my respects to Mary, tell her, her friends are awaiting her arrival with great anxiety, thinking it almost an impossibility that the two Sisters should ever again be reunited on Earth.'',