Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2021

History Corner(s)

Yarrow Mamout in Four Corners, 1752 – ca. 1770

By Ken Hawkins

On 4 June 1752, the ship Eliza landed at Annapolis carrying more than 250 enslaved directly from Guinea in West Africa.  Among those was a literate Muslim young man of about sixteen years, Yarrow Mamout, who was purchased off of the ship — likely along with his sister, Polly — and brought on shore.

Portrait of Yarrow Mamout (Muhammad Yaro), 1819.  (Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Mamout was enslaved by Samuel Beall, Jr., planter and sheriff of Frederick County.  Judge Beall also built and operated two water mills, one on Rock Creek and one on the Northwest Branch, about 10 miles northeast of Georgetown, which he called Beall’s Industry and that later came to be known as Burnt Mills.  The site of Yarrow Mamout’s house in Georgetown was recently memorialized with a historical plaque, but his connections to the area that became Four Corners was significant.

Samuel Beall, Jr., lived at this time on the land patent called Charles and William, then consisting of several hundred acres along Sligo Creek from near Four Corners to Piney Branch Road, running adjacent to the Girls’ Portion patent that now makes up downtown Silver Spring and parts of D.C.  Its northern end was about a mile from the mill seat on Northwest Branch.  Yarrow Mamout was Beall’s body servant, so he likely remained close to Beall and frequented this area, passing directly through Four Corners on the way to and from Beall’s mill.

Plat showing 18th-century land patents of Mill Seat, Bealls Industry, and Charles and William.

In 1764, Beall established an iron furnace near Antietam creek about sixty miles to the northwest.  He sold most of his land holdings in the lower county circa 1770.  Thus, Mamout spent about eighteen years after his arrival enslaved in what became the Burnt Mills and Four Corners areas of Silver Spring (see plat, right).

When Beall died in 1777, Mamout was inherited by his son, Brooke Beall, who kept him first at his estate near Potomac and, after 1788, in Georgetown, where Beall exported tobacco and imported goods.

Yarrow Mamout was emancipated in 1796 at the age of sixty by Brooke Beall’s widow.  A skilled brickmaker and financier, he saved enough money to buy property west of High Street (Wisconsin Avenue) in upper Georgetown by 1800, and was a well-respected member of the community.  The painter Charles Willson Peale sought Yarrow out in 1819 and completed a masterful likeness of this remarkable man.

[Hawkins holds a Ph.D. in history and lives in Northwood Park.]   ■

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