Returning for the third time to Fort Boonesborough’s February Fireside Chats, Maggie Delaney did not disappoint. Carol Jarboe first debuted her presentation of the story of an indentured servant in 2009. Since then she and her husband Rev. John Jarboe have traveled thousands of miles to countless venues to deliver this tale.
It is an emotional tale of hardship in the early days of the American colonies. Not only does Jarboe go through a myriad of emotions she takes the audience through her emotional journey with her. Her story begins in Ireland and ends in America. It is one woman’s journey to find a better life for herself and her family.
Jarboe tells a well researched story that is not always popular. Many people, historians included, play down the effect of the indentured servant. Slavery is a well known part of our history, it has been studied, analyzed, bemoaned and apologized for. In this century we find it barely believable that our ancestors, even including our founding fathers, participated in this practice.
Why then is the story of the indentured servant so nearly forgotten? Jarboe tells of the lack of records, the denial on the part of the owners of the indentures and a common lack of information. Most of the indentures were the poorest of the poor. The only way, they thought, to better their lives was with free passage to the colonies - where with luck they might end up owning land and with a better life.
But like thousands of today’s lottery ticket buyers - the chances were often thousands to one. First there was the ocean passage in deploarble conditions. Then the person that could make it through a minimum of 4 years, more often seven and often times a whole lot longer on hard labor, poor nutrition and rampant sickness and could survive and endure were not high.
But those that did were part of the hardy stock that settled our country. Jarboe tells her audience - when you are doing your family tree and you hit a wall - just no more information about an ancestor- it is most often an indenture. Records on the system are sketchy, most of those indentured couldn’t read or write. Even if they could, keeping a journal - or any personal property would have been rare living the life they did.
The lack of records is consistent with the lack of knowledge and the deniability of many. Carol Jarboe in her presentation as Maggie Delaney brings a portion of history to our awareness. It is a sad story. But the story she has compiled is also a story of hope. It is a tale of perseverance and endurance - it is the story of Maggie Delaney.