Prince George’s County native Francis Damon was once living as slaves under the ownership of Thomas George, the grandfather of Thomas Jefferson.
After two decades as a servant in France, Damon escaped to exile in Virginia while serving as a translator for Jefferson. He met another planter there who allowed him to travel to France, where he was discovered by Joseph Bazille, an ambassador to the international court in Britain.
A day after Damon spoke out about American slavery, Bazille asked him to leave France, according to his memoirs.
Damon moved with his wife to the American colonies, where he established two of the first families in Charles City. In 1665, he married Anne Quantrill, the daughter of a relative.
The Quantrill family won Virginia’s 18th and 23rd governor’s mansions by Peter Fleming, the property manager of Quantrill Plantation, until Fleming resigned in 1676. Fleming was accused of being a Catholic spy and contracted a case of valium poisoning, according to Del. Susan King’s 2007 book “The Virginia Planters: A Historical Portrait.”
The Quantrill family has one of the largest genealogical records in North America, according to James Leonard, director of the Charles City County genealogical office.
I’m one of several American slave owners in France at the time,” Leonard told The Washington Post in 2006. “Having Leonard investigate family relations just makes all the sense in the world.”
Damon in 1757 was offered land in France but his father was reluctant to send him there.
“My father did not believe that my father was an honest person,” Damon, then 60, wrote in his memoir. “My father had my father work at the Quantrill plantation as a paid slave … to this day it is doubtful whether he is honest.”
He left France with his wife, his money and some possessions, according to his book.
“I faced a terrible choice — to stay there for the rest of my life working for slaves — in which case I would have been broken by the slave master — or go home to my lovely wife and children, and since I was an American citizen to do the latter,” Damon wrote.
He returned to the Quantrill family, working from 1756 to 1760 as a mason and carpenter.
Damon and his wife married and had four children, according to the Commonwealth Historical Society’s website.