In 1673, Charles Calvert, the Third Lord Baltimore, granted 1000-acres of land to Thomas Sprigg. Sprigg named the property Northampton, located in what later became Prince George's County, and was home to the Sprigg family and their slaves and servants for nearly 200 years. In 1865, Dr. John Contee Fairfax (Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron) purchased Northamption. Some freed African Americans and their descendants remained at Northamption as tenant farmers until the 1930s. Today many descendants of those enslaved at Northamption still reside in Prince George's County. Together with archaeologists, a unique research program has been created combining the archaeology of the slave quarters with their oral histories.
Slaves and Tobacco
In Prince George's County, tobacco production relied on white=servant and black=slave labor. Tobacco was Colonial Maryland's largest export. Like other plantations, Northampton supplemented its tobacco economy by growing grains, livestock, and dairying. Because tobacco production depended on intensive labor, slave labor quickly grew in Prince George's County in the early 1700s. From 1704 to 1710 the enslaved population more than doubled from 436 to 1297. In the late 1700s, sixty percent of the population, where Northampton is located, was enslaved. By the 1800s, African Americans outnumbered whites in prince George's County.
Over the years, some slaves at Northampton were granted freedom. In 1814, Osborn Sprigg;s will granted freedom to 13 enslaved people and their children. Of those freed, Tom and Frank were left livestock and property. Others, like Betsey, were left money while William was left clothing and furniture. However, not all slaves were set free and some who remained in bondage sought freedom through escape.
Runaway ads placed by Osborn Sprigg, Jr., in Washington, D.C's newspaper, The Cantinal of Liberty, for the capture of "Bob" and "Charles".
Samuel Sprigs, governor of Maryland from 1819 to 1822, inherited Northampton around 1814/1815 after the death of his uncle, Osborn Sprigg Jr. The 1840 U.S. Census recorded 117 slaves at Northampton. Some escaped and are documented in runaway ads.