Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Francois Arajou (b. circa 1773 - d. ?)
MSA SC 5496-51919


Francois Arajou was born around the year 1773 and lived as a slave in the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the area that would later become Haiti. When the slave revolt that would culminate in the Haitian Revolution broke out in the 1790s, many white planters fled the island, taking a handful of their slaves with them. The Vincendieres, the planter family Francois belonged to, were among these colonial refugees. Francois was brought to Maryland in 1793.Prior to Francois' arrival in Maryland, he probably lived on one of the Vincendieres' plantations near St. Marc, where the extended family grew coffee, sugar, and indigo.Francois may have had specialized skills that led the Vincendieres to select him in particular to bring with them to the United States. 

The Vincendieres fled the island with a total of twelve slaves, including Francois. Due to the influx of refugees from Saint-Domingue, in December of 1793 the Maryland General Assembly passed a set of laws limiting the importation of slaves from the French Caribbean.3 These laws were motivated at least in part by fears that Haitian slaves would spread rebellious ideas among Maryland slaves. The General Assembly limited each head of household to five slaves, and individuals could bring up to three. Refugee slaveowners were also required to register their Caribbean slaves to the clerk of the county they resided in. The first record of Francois in the United States is his inclusion in a list declaring the five slaves owned by Marguerite Magnan de la Vincendiere, head of the Vincendiere family.4 Francois Arajou was listed alongside several other slaves, Jauvier, Jean Sans-Nom, Veronique, and Maurice. Marguerite's son, Etienne Vincendiere, claimed three people, Marianne and her daughter, Cecile, and Souris. The oldest daughter in the family, Victoire Vincendiere, recorded only one slave, Saint Louis. Payen Boisneuf, a distant relative of the family who resided with them in Frederick County declared three; a man named Pierre Louis and two small children, Lambert and Fillete. 

Francois lived at the Vincendiere's plantation, L'Hermitage, for sixteen years before he ran away.5 By that time Victoire Vincendiere had emerged as the head of the family and L'Hermitage consisted of over 740 acres. In 1800, the Vincendiere household, with Victoire at the head, was made up of eighteen free white people and ninety slaves, making them the second largest slaveholders in Frederick county and among the largest in the state. L'Hermitage may have reproduced French Caribbean methods of farming, and there is evidence that the slaves there were treated particularly harshly. In Saint-Domingue slaves were treated as expendable and through the slave trade a steady stream of people replaced the unsustainable losses the slave population suffered. Victoire Vincendiere was taken to court for "abusing and ill treating her slave, Jenny". She was also charged with assault against Rosina Cecille. "The case was struck off but Victoire paid $272 in attorney's, clerk's, and sheriff's fees." Payen Boisneuf, the cousin who lived with the family at L'Hermitage, had eight separate indictments for treating his slaves cruelly. In fact, the slaves belonged to Victoire. In 1798, a Polish traveler named Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz wrote that he could see stocks, whips, and instruments of torture on the farm. His other statements about L'Hermitage, including its size and number of slaves were exaggerations, bringing his account into question, but his attitude does reflect the beliefs of the larger community, which may have regarded newcomers with more suspicion than they would other local slaveowners.

Francois Arajou escaped the plantation in March of 1809. Victoire Vincendiere offered 40 dollars for his recovery. According to the runaway ad he was "a French Negro Man called Francois, and only known by the name of Cayou."7 The advertisement describes his appearance as being "of common size, rather of a red colour, small eyes and deep heavy browed, big lips and large mouth, he has two incisive teeth wanting, speaks broken English and slowly, his tone of voice is harsh." Francois had been seen in Annapolis after he had run away, leading Victoire to suspect that he had gone "into the seafaring business." This suspicion may help explain why the advertisment was placed in newspapers in the port city of Baltimore. It is unknown whether Francois was able to hold on to his freedom after the escape in 1809. He certainly evaded capture for at least a year, since the advertisement was placed in December of 1810, one year and nine months after he ran from the plantation. 

1. FREDERICK COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Declaration of Negroes, December 28, 1793, Liber WR, folio 775.

2. Cultural Resources Study, Monocacy Natl Battlefield, Paula Stoner Reed, Edith B. Wallace. Govt Printing Office, 2005, 95.

3. Joy Beasley, "Entre Autres: Conflixt and Complexity at L'Hermitage," presented January 6, 2012.

4. FREDERICK COUNTY COURT (Land Records) Declaration of Negroes, December 28, 1793, Liber WR, folio 775.

5. "Forty Dollars Reward" Federal Gazette. December 8, 1810.

6. Cultural Resources Study, Monocacy Natl Battlefield, Paula Stoner Reed, Edith B. Wallace. Govt Printing Office, 2005, 99.

7. "Forty Dollars Reward"
Researched and written by Emily Huebner, 2015.

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