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Maggie Delaney, Indentured Servant

Returning for the third time to Fort Boonesborough’s February Fireside Chats, Maggie Delaney did not disappoint. Carol Jarboe first debuted her presentation of the story of an indentured servant in 2009. Since then she and her husband Rev. John Jarboe have traveled thousands of miles to countless venues to deliver this tale.

It is an emotional tale of hardship in the early days of the American colonies. Not only does Jarboe go through a myriad of emotions she takes the audience through her emotional journey with her. Her story begins in Ireland and ends in America. It is one woman’s journey to find a better life for herself and her family.

Jarboe tells a well researched story that is not always popular. Many people, historians included, play down the effect of the indentured servant. Slavery is a well known part of our history, it has been studied, analyzed, bemoaned and apologized for. In this century we find it barely believable that our ancestors, even including our founding fathers, participated in this practice.

Why then is the story of the indentured servant so nearly forgotten? Jarboe tells of the lack of records, the denial on the part of the owners of the indentures and a common lack of information. Most of the indentures were the poorest of the poor. The only way, they thought, to better their lives was with free passage to the colonies - where with luck they might end up owning land and with a better life.

But like thousands of today’s lottery ticket buyers - the chances were often thousands to one. First there was the ocean passage in deploarble conditions. Then the person that could make it through a minimum of 4 years, more often seven and often times a whole lot longer on hard labor, poor nutrition and rampant sickness and could survive and endure were not high.

But those that did were part of the hardy stock that settled our country. Jarboe tells her audience - when you are doing your family tree and you hit a wall - just no more information about an ancestor- it is most often an indenture. Records on the system are sketchy, most of those indentured couldn’t read or write. Even if they could, keeping a journal - or any personal property would have been rare living the life they did.

The lack of records is consistent with the lack of knowledge and the deniability of many. Carol Jarboe in her presentation as Maggie Delaney brings a portion of history to our awareness. It is a sad story. But the story she has compiled is also a story of hope. It is a tale of perseverance and endurance - it is the story of Maggie Delaney.


Maggie Composite

Newsreel Clip - Coming Soon!

The Fireside Chats
sponsored by The Fort Boonesborough Foundation


Park manager, Rob Minerich makes introductions.


Parson John speaks with photographer Kathy Cummings and Foundation Secretary Barbara Disney.


Parson John Frank Jarboe


Even on a cold and blustery night, there was a full house.


Foundation treasurer, Elizabeth Chalfant, shows silent auction items and Rifle Raffle tickets, before the performance.


Foundation member Jackie Ginter serving food.

The Fireside Chats are a series of four first person interpretive programs combined with a dinner of Frontier Fare. They are held each February at Fort Boonesborough State Park. The tavern is open before the meal for folks to visit and linger over hot cider and enjoy period music. Then the meal is served, the tables moved aside and the performance begins. The crowd is always a mix of people from the surrounding towns of Richmond, Winchester and Lexington, mixed with a few re-enactors from out of state and often visitors from further distances who have seen or read about and have come quite a distance because of interest in a particular subject. During the first chat this February their were visitors who had driven in from West Virginia. During this second chat, a family from Texas was present while they were in the area on other business.

Regardless of their reasons none were disappointed when Maggie Delaney takes center stage. Her performance has been honed to perfection over the years. She opens with some light banter with Parson John - the holder of her indenture papers (portrayed by real life husband Frank Jarboe) . She resists the telling of her life story as ”too sad a story” for folks to hear. But with his urging she begins the tale of Maggie Delaney. One of the questions that always comes up after her performance is whether Maggie was a real life person. “No, admits Jarbo, “she is a composite figure drawn from various historical sources. Put together from bits and pieces of people’s lives to make a complete story.”


Despite the sadness of her story, “the Irish “ shines through as Maggie still finds reason to laugh.


She also talks of her desperation and hope for her own future.

Haven’t had a chance to hear Maggie Delaney live?

60 Minute DVD $20.00 + S&H

Special thanks to Carol and Frank Jarboe and The Fort Boonesborough Foundation for total access to photograph the event.

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