An Influential Arrival

In 1772, a family of four brothers by the last name of Ellicott moved into the area. They bought land that flanked the nearby Patapsco River and began a grain mill and a general store. Banneker, now 41 years old, was drawn to the workings of the mill, which employed an

The sea voyage was miserable, cramped, and dirty. With great relief, Molly landed at Chesapeake Bay in 1683 as one of the hundreds of "Seven Years Passengers" who arrived regularly to be sold into servitude. This was a convenient way for plantation owners, who desperately needed laborers to work their land, to attain the help they needed. The owner of a tobacco plantation located on the Patapsco River in Maryland purchased Molly's labor, and she was put to work in the fields.

In 1690, after serving her seven years on the plantation, Molly was released and given the items that were customary supplied by the employer. Armed with an ox, cart, plow, clothing, gun, and seeds with which to plant crops, Molly staked a claim near the Patapsco River on Cooper's Branch, not far from her former master's plantation. For a few years, she worked the land alone, saving her earnings from Indian corn and tobacco harvests. Though she was opposed to slavery, she needed help on the farm.

Money in hand, she traveled to the docks and bought two slaves from a ship that had recently arrived from Africa. One of the slaves, whose name is not known, was robust and hardworking. The other was Bannaka, a frail individual who claimed to be the son of an African king. In Silvio A. Bedini's The Life of Benjamin Banneker (1999), Bannaka is described as being "a man of bright intelligence, fine temper, with a very agreeable presence, dignified manners, and contemplative habits." Molly grew to love Bannaka, and he returned her love. After freeing Bannaka (as well as the other slave), Molly ignored the law against mixed-race marriages and married him, taking his name as her surname.

integrated system of complex (for the times) mechanical hardware, including a waterwheel. As always, Banneker's fascination with mechanics was in the forefront of his daily life. Drawn by its mechanisms, he frequented the mill enough to become friends with the Ellicotts. In this way, the arrival of the mill became the first real link for the solitary Banneker to the budding world of technology. The area later became known as Ellicott Mills.

Among the Ellicott family was 12-year-old George, son of one of the brothers. George shared Banneker's fascination with science, and while there was a generation gap of 29 years between them, they still became good friends.

It was George Ellicott who first became interested in astronomy, and he had the means to pursue it. He began to acquire textbooks and instruments imported from England, including a celestial globe and various telescopes. Banneker was right there with him, learning along with George at an insatiable rate. In this way, George was the key influence in Banneker's becoming involved with astronomy.

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