Old campus photo


Carter Dowling

ca. 1843 - February 7, 1883

Much of what is known about the early life of Carter Dowling comes from a runaway advertisement placed in the Alexandria Gazette on September 17, 1858. Carter Dowling was about 23 years old at that time and was 5 foot 8 or 9 inches tall. Additionally, the ad indicated that he was a “bright mulatto” a term used in the nineteenth century to suggest that his skin tone was light and he had a “very pleasant countenance” indicating that he was considered attractive. The runaway ad was placed by David Fitzhugh, on behalf of his sister, Maria M. Fitzhugh, Alexandria resident and Dowling’s enslaver. At the time of his escape, Dowling was hired out to Alexandria Theological Seminary (now Virginia Theological Seminary). Carter Dowling was able to make use of the Underground Railroad and arrived at conductor and abolitionist, William Still’s home in Philadelphia sometime later. Dowling indicated to Still that his mother, father, five brothers and six sisters were all enslaved by Maria M. Fitzhugh and although she was Episcopalian and indicated she would free them when she died, Carter did not take her at her word and took the opportunity to flee when it was presented.

Carter Dowling lived as a free man in Brantford, Ontario, Canada and was a member of the Episcopal Methodists. After slavery was abolished in the United States he moved to Washington, D. C. where much of his family was living. From 1867 until about 1870 Dowling resided in Washington. However, some time in 1870 he returned to the north and is recorded in that year’s census as living in Niagara Falls, New York. Carter Dowling worked as a waiter in a hotel, owned real estate, and was literate. In 1878 he married Laura J. Leslie of Buffalo, New York. By 1880 they Dowling family was living in Detroit and Carter Dowling was working as a sleeping car conductor. Sadly, on February 7, 1883, at the age of only 40, Carter Dowling died suddenly while at work on a Canada Southern train. At the time of his death, Carter and Laura Dowling were living in Buffalo, New York and had two children.

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