An Unsavoury Family Business.
In the previous part in this series, I traced George Meade Emory’s and Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’s family histories back to Connecticut in the mid part of the 18th century. And Showed that there were good reasons to suppose that they were both a part of the group of families resident in Connecticut descended from Balthazar DeWolf, the first DeWolfe to move to the Americas circa 1640.
One reason I found this coincidence fascinating relates to Russell Millers biography of Hubbard ‘The Bare Faced Messiah.’ on page 11, Miller tells us the following. Concerning Hubbard’s Grandmothers father,
“John DeWolf, her father, was a wealthy banker” and later on the same page he says “DeWolfe offered the young couple the use of a farm he owned in Nebraska on condition that Lafe would maintain and improve the property.”
On page 12 Miller adds, “For a couple of years Lafe worked his father-in-law’s farm, but a bitter family row developed when DeWolfe indicated his intention to exclude his other children and leave the property solely to Ida and Lafe.”
It seems from this that though Hubbard may well have exaggerated his grandfathers wealth, that his great grandfather John DeWolfe was quite definitely a rich man. Which raises the question, where did this wealth come from?
Filmmaker Katrina Browne is descended from the DeWolf family and most of what I have discovered about the DeWolfe family seems to have been collated by her.
James DeWolf (1764-1837), was a senator and a merchant who was reportedly the second-richest person in the country when he died. In the 1790s. The DeWolf money came from buying and selling human beings. From 1769 to 1820, the DeWolfs brought 10,000 Africans to be sold in, South Carolina and southern U.S. ports; Havana, and ports in the Caribbean. Some were set to work on DeWolfe sugar plantations in Cuba; and some in DeWolfe family homes. The family involvement continued despite laws prohibiting many of their activities. They largely got round the laws by political influence, somehow persuading President Thomas Jefferson, to split the customs district of Newport, R.I, And appoint a customs inspector just for Bristol, named Charles Collins. Collins was James DeWolf’s brother in law and he conveniently failed to notice the slave ships moving in and out of harbor.
George DeWolf, even continued trading in slaves after 1808, when Congress banned importating slaves into the U.S., until 1820, when slave trading became a hanging offence. The central mover in this branch of the DeWolfe family was Mark Anthony DeWolf was born to Charles and Margaret on November 8, 1726, and it was his sons and grandsons who mainly involved in the Slave Trade. L Ron Hubbard’s Ancestors were Cousins to Mark Anthony DeWolfe.
There is a danger here of seeming to damn Hubbard by association. It is clear that if George Meade Emory’s ancestor, Levi DeWolfe, is indeed the son or grandson of Mark Anthony DeWolfe, then it is his family that is directly linked to the Slave trade, and this might account for why George Mead Emory dropped the name his Father had preserved as a Double Barrel.
It however also seems apparent from Katrina Browne’s research that the slave trade and it’s offshoots dominated the economy of Rhode Island and Connecticut, and it would seem quite likely that The Cousins might well have got their slice of a very big pie. And it would provide a neat explanation of how Hubbard’s Great Grandfather became, ‘A wealthy Banker’
There is another and perhaps more important theme, to which the issue of slavery relates, that of family attitudes mores, values and beliefs.
Hubbard is reported as saying in a letter to his wife, ‘get yourself a (Unpleasant racial epithet) thats what they’re for.” In other places he describes African natives as ‘un-teachable’ and promotes various stereotypes of African Americans.
Now some of Hubbard’s apologists attempt to explain such things away in various ways, but mainly by saying that this kind of thinking was endemic at the time. There is surely a certain amount of truth to this, however I wonder if history is as clear cut as all that. I suspect that for the majority of people, indifference would be the norm, it usually is in most situations. I would guess that for some it would be related to fitting in with powerful or influential people, who the above narrative suggests might well have been the minority, but who’s views might well have been the strongest, reinforced by generations of power and influence.
This would certainly have been the case in the southern states where the issues of ownership and white dominance is clear cut. In families from elsewhere in the US I would suspect that it would have had most influence in families such as the DeWolfe’s who had built their power on the Slave Trade. The best evidence that race as an issue in American society was a public affair that did not necessarily continue behind closed doors is the music industry, where black and white musicians were all but forbidden from playing together in public, but would often ‘jam’ together after shows or in their own spaces.
It is also worth considering at this point, that various comments Hubbard made, which suggest he thought in racist ways were made in the 1950’s and 1960’s, a post war period in which, racist ideas were fundamentally in disrepute, given the experiences that soldiers who had liberated concentration camps brought home with them, a disrepute that was probably instrumental in the success of the civil rights movement.
Undoubtedly there were vocal racists, but their ideology was fundamentally under attack, that Hubbard voiced attitudes that were against the trend, does not serve his cause.
Now as I have indicated history is not destiny, and Katrina Browne’s, work courageously exposes a part of her family history about which she is openly ashamed, but unwilling to hide. For this she is to be commended, further information about her work on the subject is available on the following Links.
As regards Hubbard, and Scientology, stories concerning human trafficking, minimal wages in the Sea Org, and conditions of virtual slavery in the RPF, seem to me to be revealed in an entirely new light by even the possibility that Hubbard’s family history is connected to the slave trade. As is the accusation that the ideas of Dianetics, and Scientology are, neo-eugenic, or psycho-eugenic in their tone and intent.