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Mary Ann Murray

St Augustine Record 10/21/1934

 

 

Former Slave Tells Her Story; One of Oldest Negro Residents

 

Sold in the slave market here over eighty years ago for one dollar - that is the story of Mary Ann Murray, better known as Mary Gomez, one of St. Augustine's oldest colored residents.

 

Mary, who lives on North Oneida Street, was born a slave about eighty-five years ago (she isn't sure of her exact age), belonging to the DeMedicis family here. When she was one year old, she and her mother were sold in the slave market to Phillip Gomez, Mary bringing a price of only one dollar because she was so sickly and small that everyone was sure she would die within a year. Her mother brought a good price, Mary said.

 


The Gomez homestead, according to Mary, occupied what is now the site of the court house, and here she was brought up as a family servant, always kindly treated. She can remember when a child playing about the old dirt streets of the city, and in Treasury Street, which was in front of her home. Ships used to drop anchor in Matanzas Bay, or just outside the harbor, and send in their crews to get water from the spring in the slave market. Mary tells of the time her master, Mr. Gomez, and other slave-holders in the city, sent their men to Anastasia Island to quarry coquina for sea-wall and jetty work.

 

At this time, all of the western part of the city was a marsh, part of the San Sebastian River, and Mary remembers when her mother would go to the west end of the garden of the old Spanish government House, now the Post Office, facing what is now Hotel Ponce de Leon, and sit on the bank of the creek to fish. Mary said that they used to catch trout more than a foot long there.

 

When Mary Gomez was a young girl, word of the emancipation proclamation reached here, and, she said, all the slaveholders were ordered to release their slaves and allow them to gather in a large vacant lot west of St. Joseph's Academy, where they were officially freed. When her bonds were struck off. Mary took the name of her parents instead of that of her master, as many did, and called herself Mary Ann Murray. All the freed men were quartered near where the Pablo Cafeteria is now, according to the old woman, and would go every week to the Arsenal commissary to receive rations. Later the colony broke up and many of the negroes moved to what is now West Augustine and Lincolnville. Others, however, loath to break away from their masters, wished to live near their old homes, and settled a small colony along Charlotte Street.