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A SUIT OF CLOATHES  - brief bio of Dengbo Sickles

Dengbo Sickles,is the earliest known African born relative of the Sickles/ Russell Family Line (Born circa 1762, W. Africa, died 11/11/1845) He is also recognized as the first African born slave in Prince Edward Island. 

Dengbo's first name sometimes appears in documents as Bembo, Dembo, Dumbo or Dimbo. Dengbo was born free in Africa and was owned for some years by a Georgetown merchant, William Creed (born in Ireland). There is some speculation as to whether Creed was Dengbo's first owner, but he is the only documented owner.

Dengbo was born in Western Africa where the 'ngb' phonetic blend is common and is related to Mandinka tribe history. The first name Dengbo flourishes in Benin, today. He is likely from the area of Benin City, Nigeria (or Togo) His father was a wealthy tribal chief with 1500 heads of cattle. Dengbo could have been captured by African Tribal enemies, who were also slave traders; or directly by white slavers.

Dengbo kept his own first name after arriving on the North American continent. Aunt Elizabeth Lopes related that he got his chosen surname on the slave ship. Since there are no records of a ship captain named Sickles, it is my guess that he selected his name from the manner of his capture.

Dengbo's personal recount of how he had been enslaved in Africa: When the slave hunter raided his native place he took refuge in a hollow log. He was dragged from his hiding place by a hunter with an iron hook attached to a long handle and to his dying day he could show the mark in his back made by that cruel instrument. Since 'Sickle' has not been directly traced to any person's name, it may well be that on the slave ship, he was referred to as the 'Sickle' boy due to the long handle with a hook. Dengbo was likely a twin and his mother may have counted a twin brother twice, when running inland from the attack. Twins run through Dengbo's progeny.

Dengbo is noted as having arrived on St. John, (which included Nova Scotia, but was later named Prince Edward Island) by 1785. He is the first African born slave to settle in PEI. He had likely been bought at Rhode Island and traveled through Salem and Boston, before being taken to Prince Edward Island (St. John). It was then a British Colony and British Loyalists were moving North due to the Revolutionary War.

Dengbo was in the household of Captain William Creed and Elizabeth Higgins Creed, whose family line can be traced to the Mayflower.  It was the second marriage for both. They resided in St. Andrews Point opposite Georgetown, PEI.  Dengbo quickly learned to speak and then to read and write in English, and soon acquired a Bible. He may have been used as a translator when other slaves were brought to the Island.

Having been such a diligent worker, Dengbo's owner, William Creed agreed to contract a manumission, grant of freedom. It was set at the standard rate of indenture for seven years, on Sept 1, 1795. (registered 11/12/1796)   Dengbo would receive his own upkeep and grass and hay for one cow and two sheep annually (animals included.)
 On the last year, in addition to his customary one cow and two sheep, he was to also receive one sow and a "suit of cloathes." 

It is reported that (due to his hard work) he was released early from his manumission, but was still granted a 'suit of cloathes.'  Master Creed helped Dengbo purchase his intended wife out of slavery from the house of Lt. Governor Edmund Fanning, of Nova Scotia. The "suit of cloathes" would become Dengbo's wedding suit.

Dengbo married Mary (Polly) Moore on December 11, 1802 at Charlottetown, PEI.
They had nine children. Dengbo, Mary Polly, and up to a total of 22 Sickles members are thought to be buried at Wightman's Point Pioneer Cemetery, now a Historic and Protected site in Canada.

After being set free, Dengbo became a well respected farmer in his community, owning  100 acres of land in both Georgetown and Lower Montague.  He was recognized in the PEI Royal Gazette as "a man 'of splendid character' who immigrated to this island country years ago. (Royal Gazette Newspaper 12/15/1845)

It is unusual for one person to be born free, captured into slavery, sign a manumission, be released, and die free. Dengbo outlived both William and Elizabeth Creed. The names 'William' and 'Elizabeth' occur frequently throughout his descendants. 

Grandma Isabella (aka Isabelle) Sickles line is through their ninth child, William Sickles (Feb 19, 1817-1846). William had a twin sister,- Jane Sickles. 


Isabelle Sickles Russell-Billups  (9/23/1888-9/22/1966) is through the line of William Sickles eighth son, Benjamin Jonathan aka Jonathan Benjamin (04/03/1861 to 12/1/1946) and his first marriage to Mary Ann Dempsey born circa 1866. Grandma Isabelle was born in Northumberland County, New Brunswick.  She was one of Jehovah's Witnesses.   
 

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