The 2015 Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project

by Mia Carey

Yarrow Mamout was a Muslim slave who purchased property at 3324 Dent Place on February 8th, 1800, four years after receiving his freedom. Mamout served the Beall family of Maryland and Georgetown for over forty years after arriving in Annapolis, Maryland in 1752. He is thought to have been born in Guinea, West Africa ca. 1736 before being sold into slavery at the tender age of 16. When  he in arrived in Maryland, Yarrow was able to read and write in Arabic, which suggests that he may have been a wealthy member of his Fulani tribe. Mamout received his manumission  papers on August 22, 1796 as a reward for being a good and faithful servant.  By 1803, Mamout had transferred the property deed to his fifteen year old son, Aquilla.

Yarrow Mamout

Despite losing his savings twice to insolvent merchants, Mamout amassed a savings of $200 which he then used to purchase shares at the Bank of Georgetown.The interest accrued from these shares allowed Yarrow to live out the rest of his life comfortably. He was known for his skills as a brick-maker and basket-weaver,  his experience working on a ship, and his extensive understanding of real estate, finance, and law. Yarrow became well-known in 1819 after Charles Wilson Peale painted his portrait (which now hangs in the Atwater Museum in Philadelphia). When Peale arrived in Georgetown he heard of a man rumored to be 140 years old and sought out Yarrow; during his session he recorded Yarrow’s account of his life in his diary. A second portrait of Yarrow was painted in 1822 by James Alexander Simpson, which now hangs in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Public Library. According to an obituary circulated by Peale, Yarrow died on January 19, 1823 and is rumored to be buried in the place in which he prayed.

Much of the historical information was developed by James H. Johnston in his book “From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.”

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