Sarah Madden bore ten children and when the term of her indenture was over, she and her youngest son, Willis, struck out for themselves--Sarah as a seamstress, laundress, and later, with Willis, a dairy farmer and tavern keeper. Stories of Willis and Sarah were passed down in Madden family lore through the generations--their hard work, their business sense, their ability to overcome obstacles, poverty, illiteracy, prejudice. This is the chronicle of those generations, a 200-year history of a kind unusually complete in American history. Two factors make it so--that Sarah Madden and her offspring kept their stories alive, and that they saved hundreds of important documents of their freedom, hardship, and daily work.
These documents came to light in 1949 when author T.O. Madden, Jr. (great great grandson of Sarah Madden) conceived a powerful desire to know more of his bygone generations. He began to investigate, and his search for family brought him to a hidebound trunk originally belonging to his great grandfather Willis. Its contents brought tears to his eyes. Stored there, awaiting discovery, were papers dating back to the mid-eighteenth century, freedom papers, papers of indenture, deeds of land, Sarah Madden's laundry and seamstress record books, letters, traveling passes. In addition, the leather trunk held an exciting, full set of business records for the days of the nineteenth century when Madden's Tavern flourished as a center of activity in Orange County and as a place for travelers to rest on the road to Fredericksburg.
Since that day, T.O. Madden, Jr., has been deeply researching his family, using census reports, other official sources, familly, and friends. All have led to his ably reconstructed family history, and to his own remarkable story. We Were Always Free is a unique and very American family saga.
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