Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Levin Hodson (b. 1809 - d. 1890)
MSA SC 3520-13169
1867 Constitutional Convention, Dorchester County   

Dr. Levin Hodson was born in 1809 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.1 His father died several months before he was born while visiting his mother's relatives in Talbot County.2 Levin Hodson's mother was either Hannah Hayward or Liddy Sherwood; marriage records exist for both women with a Levin Hodson within the right time period to be Dr. Levin Hodson's mother. Liddy Sherwood has the later marriage record.3 The later date in conjunction with  the name of Dr. Levin Hodson's oldest daughter Lydia (b. 1845) seems to lend support to Liddy Sherwood. Dr. Levin Hodson lived in Vienna, Dorchester County. He married Mary Jane Howard Hodson on May 5, 1841.4 They had three children; Howard (b. 1843), Lydia, and Leah (b. 1847).5

In 1830 Hodson applied to West Point, where he attended for a short amount of time.6 He received his medical degree in 1834 from the Columbian College-- now George Washington University.

By 1840 Dr. Levin Hodson was living in Vienna, Dorchester County. He was the head of his household, living with a woman between the age of 30 and 39 and two young boys, one under five and one between five and nine years old. It would be another year until he married Mary Jane Howard, and the identities of this woman and children are unknown. Hodson also owned six slaves, including three men and three women.8 In 1850 Hodson was a farmer with $6,000 in real estate property. He lived with his wife, Mary Jane Hodson, a 21-year-old woman named Mary J Foxwell, and his three children, Howard, Lydia, and Leah.9 Ten years later in 1860 he was still listed as a farmer, and this time he and his wife, Mary, held $5,000 in real property and a personal estate valued at $5,000. Their three children were also listed, although that year Leah went by the name Annie.10

Levin Hodson attended the 1867 Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Dorchester County.11 The 1867 Constitution was a reaction to the 1864 Constitution that outlawed slavery and was seen as a Unionist, Republican document. After the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the new state Constitution included a clause that its provisions would "apply as well in time of war as in time of peace, and any departure therefrom or violation thereof, under the plea of necessity, or any other plea, is subversive of good government, and tends to anarchy and despotism." The Constitution also included a provision that the slaveholders of Maryland would expect remuneration from the federal government for emancipation, despite the fact that the slaves of Maryland were freed by the Constitution of 1864 rather than a federal act. Additionally The 1867 Consitution admitted the testimony of African Americans in court and outlawed religious tests to hold office or serve on a jury.12

The Levin Hodson Collection in the Special Collections of the Maryland State Archives offers insight into the daily life of Dr. Levin Hodson and the other people who lived and worked on his farm. His ledger books include the names of his patients and details of their treatments, paired with tallies of the money paid and owed to him. Additionally, Hodson wrote occasional entries noting the weather and the tasks that he, his family, slaves, and paid laborers completed to operate the farm.13

Hodson wrote about emancipation in his ledger book in a businesslike way; much like he wrote about the allowances that he paid to his children after his wife's death, or the tuition that he paid for their educations. He owned eleven slaves at the time of emancipation.

Hodson's diary illustrates the continuity between generations of slaveholders and slaves, as well as the vulnerability of the slave family unit and slaves' ability to act independently of and sometimes in opposition to the slaveowner's wishes. Hodson inherited most of his slaves from his father, Levin Hodson, and his father-in-law, Jacob Howard. When Levin and his wife Mary were raising their children, the slaves who he inherited were also raising their own children. All three of the slave women Hodson owned had at least one child. Julia (b. ca. 1837) had three sons and one daughter who was born in November of 1864. Fanny (b. ca. 1842) had two children, Maria and James Anna. Dacia (b. ca. 1845) had a son named Hannibal. Dr. Levin Hodson was aware of and recorded all of these family connections and noted whose mothers had belonged to his own father. Sometimes slaves were able to maintain family bonds across households and legal status. For example, Julia gave birth to her daughter in 1864-- after emancipation in Maryland-- but she negotiated with the Hodsons to allow her to stay in the home while she recovered, and her Aunt Betty was able to take care of her as she recuperated.14 

Despite the relative flexibility that appears to have existed in the Hodson household, it was still an inescapable fact that these slaves were unfree property. There is no documentation of delayed manumissions made by Hodson, meaning that all of his slaves were to be so for life. In April of 1864, Hodson fell ill with chronic bronchitis and two of his slaves took their opportunity to escape. Christopher Columbus Conaway left Hodson to work for someone else in the area. Hodson does not seem to have attempted to bring Conaway back by force, stating simply that one day Christopher "left his home for the residence of his family, in this immediate neighborhood, on Saturday evening the 16th April 1864. He did not come home, as usual, on the following Monday morning, nor indeed has he been home, to my knowledge, since he left." By the time Conaway left the Hodson household slavery was already a weakened institution-- the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, although slavery would remain alive in Maryland until the new State Constitution was enacted in November of 1864.  Joe Lockermann, another slave belonging to Levin Hodson, used the opportunity to enlist in the U.S. Volunteer service in Vienna under George C. Potwin.15 

Christopher Conaway and Joe Lockermann were not the only slaves to have claimed their freedom from Hodson; William Andrew Cook ran away in 1856.16 Although Hodson advertised a reward of $300 for his capture, Cook seems to have escaped for good and was not listed among Hodson's slaves in 1864.17

In 1870 Levin Hodson was sixty years old and had retired from farming. He lived with the family of his daughter, Lydia, and her husband, John Storr.18  By 1880 the Storrs were running a hotel, and Levin continued to live with them.19  Dr. Levin Hodson's death was reported in the Baltimore Sun on July 8, 1890.20

1. "Dr Levin Hodson." Find a Grave: 

2. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Levin Hodson Collection) Levin Hodson diary and ledger 1838-1845, MSA SC 2765. 

3. B. Jean Woolston, Marriage References Dorchester County, Maryland 1780-1867 (Cambridge: Weir Neck Publications, 1995), 43.

4. Ibid.

5. Levin Hodson Collection.

6. Hodson, Levin (H64),  Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General Main Series 1822-1860, NARA M567. Fold3. 

7. "Levin Hodson." U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935, District of Columbia, Columbian College.

6. Levin Hodson Collection.

7. Ibid.

8. UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU (Census Record, MD) 1840. "Dr. Levin Hodson." Vienna District, Dorchester, Maryland. 

9. UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU (Census Record, MD) 1850. "Levin Hodson." District 1, Dorchester, Maryland.

10. UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU (Census Record, MD) 1860. "Levin Hodson." District 2, Dorchester, Maryland.

11. Edward C. Papenfuse, et. al., The Archives of Maryland, new series, An Historical List of Public Officials of Maryland, Vol. 1 (Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives, 1990). 

12. Proceedings and Debates of the 1867 Constitutional Convention. Vol. 74, vol. 1, Debates 34. Archives of Maryland Online.

13. Levin Hodson Collection.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16."$300 Reward." American Eagle. May 14, 1856.

17. Levin Hodson Collection.

18. UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU (Census Record, MD) 1870. "Levin Hodson." District 2, Dorchester, Maryland.

19. UNITED STATES CENSUS BUREAU (Census Record, MD) 1880.  "Levin H. Hodson." Vienna, Dorchester, Maryland.

20. "The Sun. Telegraphic Summary. Etc." The Baltimore Sun. July 8, 1890.

Researched and written by Emily Huebner, 2014.

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