In the colonial period, Annapolis and Baltimore were major ports of entry for indentured servants from Europe. The Ridgelys purchased indenture contracts for at least 300 servants between 1750 and 1800. Most of these servants had been convicted of crimes in England and Ireland. They traded hard labor and passage for a fresh start in the New World when their contract was over. Yet nothing could make up for the fact that these men and women were an ocean away from home, friends, and family.
Indentured servants were not willing laborers and the working conditions at Northampton Furnace was grueling. The indentured labor was critical to the ironmaking process. Tasks included extracting ore and coal, felling and cutting acres of timber, and hauling fuel, iron ore and finished products to and from the site.
Indenture contracts were written between British agents and Ridgely indenture purchasers. All indentures were bought for only a limited time. Non-convict servants served terms of 4 to 6 years, while convicts had to serve at least 7 years. Those working within their contract found living conditions very similar to their enslaved counterparts, such as their less than substantial food and clothing provisions.
Last updated: July 10, 2020