Originally posted 2016-02-17 15:34:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Sleazy Seducer or Slave Savior?
Pittsburgh likes to tell a romantic, shocking tale about one of its wealthy young heiresses. It’s been telling the story for 174 years. The story is mostly wrong.
Lurid speculation in newspaper accounts of 1842 get passed off as accurate history.
I refer to the elopement of Mary Croghan and Edward W.H. Schenley.
You know the name from Schenley Park, the former Schenley High School, etc.
In the story, Mary is only 14 years old at a Staten Island boarding school. Sometimes she is 13 or perhaps 15. What happens?
Schenley, a dashing English captain, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, a relative of the school owners, lurks about because he is AWOL.
Despite being called dashing, he is 43 years old. So that makes him creepy. He preys on innocent rich girls.
Mary agrees to secretly marry him and run off to England.
Wealthy dad in Pittsburgh gets upset and local reporters cover it.
In reality, Mary was nearly 16. She was known throughout her adult life as a clear-minded woman of good judgment. It seems, even at 16 she knew what she was doing.
Schenley was not a cad. Anything but.
In fact, British documents now online reveal a different Schenley. He was a tireless hero to thousands of kidnapped Africans enslaved in the Caribbean. His voice comes through in hundreds of dispatches:
” With reference to the barbarous state of the criminal law in Surinam, alluded to in my Despatch of June 13, 1843, I beg leave to state, that at this moment there is passing my windows a most frightful spectacle, confirmatory of its severity. Seven negroes, who were detected in some paltry theft of sugar from on board a punt (boat), have been taken, by sentence of the Court, to the public gallows, and there “Spanish bucked,” or flogged on their naked posteriors and thighs, with freshly cut tamarind rods, until not a vestige of whole flesh can be discovered; one mass of clotted blood presenting itself to view, as they lie chained in a mule cart upon their faces, and proceeding to the prison in the fort, for the purpose of being heavily ironed, as soon as they revive from the inanition (exhaustion) caused by the severity of the flogging.”