Ignatius Gough was seventeen years old when his owner, Stephen H. Gough, a graduate of Georgetown University who lived in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, sold him to the Deep South. Ignatius endured a treacherous, month-long journey in 1835 when he was shipped from the port of Alexandria, Virginia, to the port of New Orleans on the Brig Isaac Franklin, packed in the ship’s hold alongside 142 other enslaved people. Four years later, on February 13, 1839, Robert S. Smith, agent for Stephen Gough, sold Ignatius to Fr. A. P. Ladaviere, the Jesuit President of St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
Ignatius Gough’s coerced labor aided in the establishment, expansion, and survival of St. Charles College, which had only just begun to hold classes in a single building the year of Ignatius’s purchase. He learned to make bread to feed the Jesuits and the college community, as well as fellow enslaved people. He conveyed Jesuits, students, and their guests to and from the college, likely driving them and their trunks in a wagon. Jesuits also entrusted Ignatius to run errands away from their property—he transported goods, procured trees for the college, sold a horse on their behalf, and helped gather materials for building projects.
While enslaved to the Jesuits, Ignatius sought a new kin community in Louisiana as he grieved the loved ones he had been forced to leave behind in Maryland. He became acquainted with Sarah (known as Sally) Grayson and her son, George, who were owned by Pierce and Cornelia Connelly. Sally was the daughter of Mary Phoebe Grayson (daughter of Emy and Steve) a woman who was also enslaved to the Connellys. The Connellys had owned Sally since about 1832, when Sally was between eight and sixteen years old, and they brought her with them from Natchez, Mississippi, when they moved to Grand Coteau. Sally was a nurse to the Connelly children, Mercer (b. 1832), Adeline (b. 1835), John Henry (b. 1837), Mary Magdalen (b. 1840), and Pierce Francis, or Frank (b. 1841). Sally’s owners frequented St. Charles College, where Pierce taught English and drawing, as well as the nearby convent and school of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, where Cornelia taught music and tutored. Sally may have accompanied her owners when they came to the college to teach, participate in religious services, or dine with the Jesuits, giving Sally an opportunity to visit Ignatius.
Sally’s son George was baptized on August 19, 1838, at the age of two, and Sally was baptized on May 24, 1839, when she was around 24 years old. Oral tradition holds that Sally’s owner, Cornelia Connelly, who had converted to Catholicism in 1836 after her husband had in 1835, had instructed Sally in the Catholic faith, influenced her to convert, and stood as godmother at her baptism (Cornelia Connelly later founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and has been declared “venerable” as she is being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church). While Cornelia exerted a strong influence on Sally’s conversion, Sally’s acceptance of Catholicism may have also been shaped by the Jesuits, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, or her own husband, Ignatius, who was already Catholic. Ignatius and Sally married the following month, on June 2, 1839. Because they were enslaved to different owners, they had to travel to visit one another on the properties where they lived. Their first child, James Henry Mary, was born on August 27, 1840, and baptized September 11.
Ignatius Gough almost didn’t live to see the baptism of James Henry. On September 1, 1840, he was arrested by the Sheriff of Opelousas on suspicion that he had been involved in plotting a revolt with other enslaved people to kill their masters and other white people. Pierce Connelly wrote that a loaded pistol had “unluckily been put in his possession by a runaway brother and accidentally discovered in his hands.” Ignatius was imprisoned in Opelousas to be put on trial along with others suspected of involvement in the plot, including Frank Hawkins, a man enslaved to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. When Ignatius Gough and Frank Hawkins were arrested, their families were consumed with grief, not knowing whether they would see the men again. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart recorded that Jenny Eaglin Hawkins, Frank’s wife, went “sobbing to the feet of the Blessed Virgin” in the sisters’ chapel and that everyone else enslaved to the sisters joined her in praying “to this Consoler of the Afflicted.”
Frank Hawkins returned the evening of his arrest, declared innocent. The enslaved community gathered again in the sisters’ chapel, rejoicing in thanksgiving over Frank’s survival. Ignatius Gough, however, remained in the Opelousas prison for eight days, where he was reportedly tortured. Jesuit Father De Leeuw testified in court to Ignatius’s innocence, and Ignatius was eventually released and able to return to his family on September 8. Thirty other enslaved people implicated in the plot were executed. Three days after Ignatius’s return, he and Sally celebrated the baptism of their firstborn son; the ritual was especially bittersweet as they gave thanks for Ignatius’ survival and mourned those who had been killed.
On April 30, 1842, the Connellys sold Sally, her son George, and Ignatius and Sally’s young children James Henry and infant Marie, born in February, to the Jesuits as they prepared to move to Europe to pursue Pierce Connelly’s call to the priesthood. Cornelia chose to become a nun and founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. One can imagine how Ignatius, Sally, and their children rejoiced to be able to live together, sharing a cabin in the church yard of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. There, their family grew, experiencing joy and loss together. Their next three children did not live to adulthood. Joseph Ignatius, born September 2, 1843, and baptized September 5, died three days after his baptism. Sara Marie, born and baptized May 31, 1845, died June 7. Sarah, born April 30, 1847, died in January 1860, at twelve years of age. Ignatius and Sally were able to cherish the lives of their children who survived, welcoming Marianne, born August 26, 1849, and Adeline, born November 2, 1851.
Celebrating moments in their lives with their enslaved community was one of the many ways the Gough family sought respite from the brutal, laborious conditions of their enslavement. On special occasions, such as Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter, and other specified feast days, the Goughs used the time they were permitted for recreation to spend time with their community, enjoying feasts and companionship. On such occasions, the Jesuits gave enslaved people small so-called “treats,” such as extra time away from labor, the opportunity to partake in finer food and drink than they were usually permitted, or monetary “tips.” On New Year’s Day, for instance, adults received $1, while younger bondspeople received 25 or 50 cents based on their age. The youngest children were given candy. In December 1850, when Mr. Plantar, probably a teacher, took some of the students of St. Charles College to the circus, some of the younger Gough children were permitted to go with them. Rarely, though, were enslaved people permitted to join in the bountiful feasts and recreation days in which the Jesuits and students partook. And these “treats,” though they may have been perceived as acts of benevolence, were still mechanisms slaveholders used to control the people they held in slavery: owners offered these incentives in order to attempt to ease tensions and dampen enslaved people’s desire to resist.
The Gough family resisted their enslavement nonetheless. On one occasion, Ignatius Gough drove the Jesuits’ wagon into the woods and left it there, causing injury to the horses. Jesuits punished Ignatius for his perceived negligence, claiming that he had been drinking. While it is difficult to determine his intentions, it is possible Ignatius intentionally circumvented his duties and damaged the Jesuits’ property as a deliberate act of resistance. Ignatius was sent to the jail for two Sundays, fed only bread and water at the guard’s leisure. Ignatius’s stepson, George, later received the same sentence for allegedly defrauding the Jesuits. This form of punishment was common in the region: enslaved people were sent by their owners to prison on successive Sundays commensurate to the degree of their infraction. They returned to the sites of their enslavement during the week so their owners would not lose the value of their labor.
Sometime between 1852 and 1859, the Jesuits sold the Gough family to Doctor Henry Jackson Millard, who lived nearby. During that time, Ignatius and Sally became the parents of three more children, Mary Elizabeth in 1853, Phoebe Cornelia in 1855, and William Thomas in 1859.
Ignatius Gough died on July 13, 1861, at the age of 39, while still enslaved to Millard. Sally Gough lived to see freedom. By 1870, Sally and her daughters Adeline and Elizabeth worked as domestic servants for the family of lawyer John F. Smith. Adeline married Charles Gardiner and Elizabeth married Henry Hardy. They later moved to a homestead of their own, where the Gardiners lived next door to Sally and other relatives. There, Sally Gough’s family cared for her in her old age. Adeline’s youngest daughter recalled in an interview that as a toddler she led her grandmother around as her eyesight failed her. Sally Gough died c. 1902-1904 in Grand Coteau. Adeline and Elizabeth’s families continued to live in St. Landry Parish, working as farmers and domestic servants, while attending the same church—St. Charles Borromeo—where their forbearers lived and labored in slavery.
This research was compiled by Kelly L. Schmidt. Recommended citation: Kelly L. Schmidt, “Ignatius Gough and His Family,” Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation Project, 2021.
Updated: January 2021