Mary Ellen Manly was born a slave on the Pulaski County, Arkansas, cotton plantation of John Adamson. Her birth year is estimated to have been 1841 based on a probate document itemizing the property of her deceased master, dated October 1862. In that document, she is listed among the female slaves and her age is given as “about 21.” Her mother, Emily — age “about 45” — and her daughter, Fanny — age “about 5” — are also listed.
Mrs. Sarah (Carter) Adamson, the widow of John Adamson, did not live on her husband’s plantation, which was located on the north side of the Arkansas River near Buck’s Ford, a few miles downriver from Little Rock. Rather, she lived in a house in Little Rock where she rented out rooms to boarders. By late April 1862 when Goodrich began boarding with Mrs. Adamson, it is clear that Emily, Mary, and Fanny are living in the city as well, serving the household as servants, along with a male slave named George.
Goodrich mentions these house servants frequently in his diary, especially the 21 year-old Mary, a mulatto, whom he finds sexually attractive. Within a month of his residence in the Adamson home, it is evident that Goodrich has sexual intercourse with Mary — referring to her simply, and coldly, as “the negro girl here” in his diary. He apparently feels some remorse for his actions, however, as he admits to feeling “badly” about the encounter. We know from previous entries in his diary Goodrich understands fully that consorting with a slave or, worse yet, fathering a child by one, could permanently ruin his reputation in Southern society. Apparently Goodrich’s sexual appetite could not be stifled, however, as he had sexual relations with Mary at least once in each of the following two months as well.
On August 30, 1862, Goodrich wrote, “Mary, the black girl, ran off yesterday, and today she got a whipping.” It isn’t clear from Goodrich’s diary if this is the same Mary, or who meted out the punishment.
On September 8, 1862, Goodrich confides in his diary that he was nearly, and quite possibly, caught by one of the other boarders trying to “make it” with the [Negro] girl. We have to assume that this girl was Mary, as he does not mention her name, but it is clear that by November 1862, Goodrich has developed strong feelings for Mary. He even demonstrates some jealousy and expresses outrage to the military authorities when Mary is chased into the house by a drunken officer on General Thomas Hindman’s staff in November 1862.
Throughout 1863, Goodrich barely mentions Mary, though it is believed they maintained a relationship. After the fall of Little Rock to Union troops in September 1863, and the death of Mrs. Adamson the following month, the relationship between Goodrich and Mary seems to get closer. As liberated slaves, Mary, her mother and daughter, find themselves suddenly free to leave Little Rock and strike out on their own. But they choose instead to ask Goodrich if he will shelter them in his household in exchange for cooking, washing, etc. Goodrich agrees to do this and the bond between them is made all the stronger.
Since Mrs. Adamson had willed her Little Rock house to the Presbyterian Church, her death forced Goodrich and the three former slaves (Emily, Mary, and Fanny) to search for a new place to rent. By January 1864, Goodrich is able to convince Mrs. Matilda Fulton, the widow of Senator William S. Fulton, to rent the entire house known as “Rosewood” to him, where he had previously been teaching a school in one room. By sub-letting what he did not use, Goodrich managed to rent this property from Mrs. Fulton for all of 1864, though she raised the rent on him from $31/month to $50/month before the end of the year.
Carnal relations no doubt resumed between Goodrich and Mary Manly in 1864. When four Express Riders from the Quartermaster’s Department were billeted in Rosewood for several months beginning in April 1864, Goodrich again became quite jealous of Mary’s flirtations with the Union soldiers and he pressed himself upon her again and again. By July 1864, Mary was pregnant with Goodrich’s child. On July 8th, Goodrich wrote:
“Saw federal surgeon. Brought him up to see Mary. Gave a recipe but would do nothing to take away the child. Mary likes me I know. She is true to me, I think, but Emily told her if she had anything to do with anyone, it should be with some[one] that had money. Emily told her not to have anything to do with me as I was poor & could not support her or give her enough to support her. I always thought that Emily had a spite against me.”
Goodrich’s diary makes it clear that he sought someone to administer an abortifacient to Mary so that he would not have to suffer the social stigma of fathering a child with a Black woman. On July 21, 1864, Goodrich wrote in his diary:
Mary told me that Monday night [July 18] of this week, she was delivered. It was very small, dead, & white. There is no doubt but that it is mine. There was not much pain. It could not have been painful as she was not sick from the effects. I am glad it is over. No one knows it but Emily, Mary & myself.
A few days later, on August 8, 1864, Goodrich records in his diary that he realizes he has the clap. From the descriptions of his symptoms in both diaries and letters, it is clear that Goodrich contracted syphilis and that he, most likely, passed it on to Mary as she became extremely ill beginning in August 1864 and did not recover until the following March. Dr. A.W. Webb treated Goodrich for syphilis; Dr. George C. Hartt treated Mary.
Goodrich’s diary and letters tell us that he cared a great deal for Mary. Her near death in the winter of 1864-5 convinced him of that. After her recovery, he devoted his spare hours to teaching Emily, Mary, and Fanny how to read, and he purchased textbooks for Fanny to teach her English and arithmetic.
But the relationship between Goodrich and Mary inevitably came to an end in 1867. The opportunities for financial and social advancement in Little Rock were being hindered, Goodrich came to realize, by his “living” with a Black family and so he eventually turned them out.
Following her relationship with Goodrich, Mary apparently wed a Black man named Taylor — a native of Virginia. Unfortunately, she was widowed by the time of the 1880 census which shows her living in Little Rock with three sons; Albert (b. 1868), William B. (b. 1870), and George (b. 1871). But ten years earlier, the 1870 census shows Mary and her mother living in the Third Ward with no kids so she was presumably not the mother of these three boys. The 1880 Census also shows that one of these boys, 12 year-old Albert Taylor, was working as a servant in the household of Little Rock lawyer, Col George W. Caruth.
In 1900, Mary Taylor lived on Locust Street in the 15th Ward of St. Louis, Missouri with her 29 year-old son George. She still labored as a washer woman. Her son, William B. Taylor also lived in another St. Louis household, married to a woman named Mary.
It appears that in 1910, Mary E. (Manly) Taylor worked and resided as a servant in the household of Alpheus Stewart (a White Editor) and his wife Candace Aretta (Bruce) Stewart in the 17th Ward, St. Louis, MO. In 1920, she is listed as a lodger in the household of Anna Cunningham (Black) in the 17th Ward of St. Louis, MO and with occupation of laundress. No other information can be found on Mary.