The Tale of Freed Slaves Cudjo and Jo

As we said in an earlier blog, William Scott became owner of the land on which Hargrave House was built after prominent legal professional and substantial landholder Jeremiah Langhorne died. As an interesting aside, Langhorne also bequeathed property, a portion of which now lies directly across Main Street from HH, to two slaves he freed, Cudjo and Jo.

Wilma Brown Rezar, noted Doylestown historian, pieced together some information about Cudjo and Jo in her book “Doylestown … and How it Came to Be.” In handwritten notes documenting research for her book, she surmised that Langhorne possibly tried to prepare Cudjo and Jo for their roles as landowners by having them remain on the Langhorne Park Plantation and share in its profits. Langhorne gave them 10 cows, eight horses, 20 sheep and all of his farming implements, with instructions to limit the amount of grain sowed, except in a tract of 10 acres. That could be used to plant buckwheat and Indian corn yearly. Out of the profits, they were to support the women and children of the plantation and pay 30 pounds annually in rent to the estate executors.

Life as free men and on their own lands began on March 25, 1751. It is not know where Cudjo lived, but, according to Rezar, it seems likely it would be near the crossings of “the two great roads.” Presently, that would be the four corners of State and Main streets in Doylestown. Some of Cudjo’s land bordered on what is now Green Street, as well as Court Street.

Rezar expected that the drastic change of living – spending most of his life on a well-established plantation with other like-families to suddenly becoming isolated in a vast, underdeveloped area – may have been too much for Cudjo to handle.

On Aug. 5, 1791, five months after leaving the plantation, Cudjo gave up the “lifetime rights” to his new land for a “consideration,” or “value received” to the Langhorne executors.

No other information had been uncovered about Cudjo’s whereabouts after that. “Perhaps he returned to the place he knew best – to help the now independent families on the plantation grounds – or possibly he lived with Jo,” she said in her notes.

“It would be nice to know what happened to Cudjo and Jo (and their descendants,” Rezar added in a footnote. “They played such an important part in our history.”