Friday, April 29, 2016

A Cog in the Slave Economy Wheel


Just how much was slavery a part of Southern society? Often the extent of its influence depended on geographical location. However, the institution's tentacles reached far and wide in each and every state where slavery was legal--and way beyond those states' borders. Individuals who did not own slaves could rent them. And people who owned and rented them needed to feed them, shelter them, and clothe them. While much of the material resources for enslaved people's food, shelter, and clothing came from their own labor on rural plantations, town workshops, and urban factories, owners had other options as well.

The above advertisements ran in the Petersburg Daily Express on December 15, 1860. It was probably not a coincidence that ads like this ran in anticipation of slave hiring season. Merchants Emanuel and Davis offered apparel items for slaves. They sold blankets, socks, and clothing. From what I was able to find in census records, neither retailer owned slaves. But, not owning slaves did not preclude someone from benefiting from the system. Emanuel and Davis obviously attempted to fill a need in the commercial system and tried to earn revenue from the sale of goods specifically marketed to owners for their slaves.

Did Emanuel and Davis have a stake in the institution of slavery? Would they lose a potentially significant stake in the market economy if slavery ended? I would say yes to both questions, without a doubt.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thomas C. Chandler's Fairfield Plantation


A couple of weeks ago I stopped in at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine on my way down I-95 back to Petersburg. It was a Monday morning and I was the only one on the grounds of what used to be Thomas Coleman Chandler's large "Fairfield" plantation. A kind National Park Service volunteer greeted me and provided an account of Jackson's wounding, his travel to Guinea Station, stay at the Fairfield plantation office building, and ultimate death. Being already quite familiar with Jackson's history, I was more interested in learning about the Chandler family.

When I asked the volunteer how many slaves the Chandler family owned, he said "dozens." He went on to explain that a couple of Chandler's sons served in the Confederate army and had nearby plantations too. When I got home curiosity got the better of me, so I searched out Thomas C. Chandler in the 1860 census. Remembering that I had crossed into Caroline County to get to the Shrine, I located him on that county's lists.

Chandler is noted as a sixty-two year old farmer worth $14,000 in real estate and $39,500 in personal property. Also in the Chandler household were Mary E., who was Chandler's much younger forty-three year old wife, two twenty-one year old (daughters?) Mary T. and Elizabeth P., twenty-three year old son Henry H., eleven year old son James G., nine year old daughter Lucy T., seven year old daughter Elizabeth C., and five year old daughter Nannie W. In the slave schedule census I counted sixty two slaves in Chandler's possession, who lived in thirteen slave dwellings.

Listed on the same free schedule census was Thomas Coleman Chandler's son, thirty year old farmer Thomas K. Chandler, who owned $12,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. Thomas K. lived with his wife twenty-five year old Ann P. Also listed just a few households away was another Chandler son, thirty-two year old physician Joseph A. Chandler and his wife Emnella. Joseph owned $12,000 in real estate and $18,000 in personal property. Thomas K. Chandler owned fourteen slaves. It appears he hired four others, all lived in two slave houses. His brother, Joseph A. Chandler, owned twenty slaves and had four hires, who lived in six slave dwellings.

It appears that Thomas K. Chandler and a younger brother, who still lived with his father, Henry H. Chandler, served in Company B, Ninth Virginia Cavalry, which was also known as the Caroline Light Dragoons.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson had camped at Fairfield Plantation during the Fredericksburg campaign and seems to have enjoyed the hospitality provided by the Chandler family and their slaves. After Jackson was wounded at Chancellorsville, Gen. Lee suggested a return to Fairfiield at Guinea Station for Jackson's amputation recovery. The hustle and bustle of the Chandler home was deemed too noisy for the wounded general, so Jackson was provided with a room in the quieter nearby plantation office building (shown above). He arrived there on May 4, and stayed until he passed away on May 10. Jackson's wife, Anna, was there at his death and accompanied the general's body to Richmond. Along on the trip and comforting Anna was the Chandlers.

As one might imagine, the war was rough on the Thomas C. Chandler household. He is listed in the 1870 census as a seventy-two year old farmer worth $8000 in real estate ($4000 less than ten years before), and $1000 in personal property ($38,500 less than ten years before). Interestingly there are eight African Americans listed in Chandler's 1870 household. One man is listed a a "farm laborer," and three of the teenage or adult women are listed as "Domestic." It appears that the Chandler household was not able to divorce itself totally from the need for African American labor, even a decade after emancipation.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Neighborhood History: Edge Hill


When doing battlefield tours at the park I often get asked where Gen. Lee's headquarters was located? Well, I have to explain that the answer to that question depends on what point in the Petersburg Campaign one is inquiring about. 

Lee's first headquarters was located at Violet Bank, on the north side of the Appomattox River and across from Petersburg. Lee kept tabs on the Army of Northern Virginia at Violet Bank from June to early November 1864. Then, for about three weeks, Lee kept post at or around the Beasley House on High Street in Petersburg.

At the end of November 1864, Lee accepted the offer to move his headquarters to the William Turnbull estate, which was known as Edge Hill, just west of Petersburg on Cox Road. Grant's continued threats to Lee's right flank prompted the move that fall. 

William Turnbull is listed in the 1860 census as a thirty-four year old farmer. Bettie J., which I assume was his much younger wife, is listed as nineteen years old. In addition, three Lewises lived in the household: Alpha J., forty-three, Mary P., fifteen, and Frank H., twelve. I suppose these could be Bettie's mother and sister and brother. Turnbull's occupation is listed as "farmer" and he is credited as owning $12,000 in real estate and $15,000 in personal property. He was the owner of five slaves. During the war, Turnbull worked as a Confederate government agent in Petersburg.


When the Union Sixth Corps broke through Lee's lines on the morning of April 2, 1865, the force turned away from Petersburg to clear any possible Confederate attempt at their flank and in the mid-day turned back and moved on Edge Hill. Guarding Lee's command post was artillery under the command of William T. Poague. Five of the Sixth Corps' eight brigades attacked the Turnbull House and were initially turned back by Poague's gunners. A second coordinated Union attack drove off the majority of the cannoneers. Lee and his staff made a quick getaway to the inner Petersburg defenses.

The destruction of the Turnbull House is somewhat of a historical enigma. Some Union and Confederate accounts claim that soon after Lee and his staff evacuated the premises, the house caught fire by some method. Other evidence indicates that Edge Hill survived at least until April 3rd. Regardless, not long after its capture, the Turnbull House was little more than ruins, as Alfred Waud's sketch (above) shows.

Today, little if anything exists of Edge Hill. There is part of a chimney at the location, but I am not sure that it is a nineteenth century relic. I often shop at the Walgreen's drugstore adjacent to the location, and my insurance agent and local bank branch are just a stone's throw away, too. Most people would not even know of the location's historical significance were it not for the highway marker shown at top.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"The Tired [USCT] Solider"


There was a time I could play basketball all day and then stay up watching television all night. But sadly those days seem gone. Now, on my days off, I often seek opportunities for both mental and physical rest. When I was a teenager I never thought I'd actually enjoy an occasional nap. I suppose this phenomenon has everything to do with the aging process, but in those moments when I need to push through to get something done, I try to think about those in the past whose lives were much more physically taxing than ours of the present.

Whenever I lead tours, I attempt to convey to visitors the sheer amount of physical effort it took to get things done in everyday nineteenth century life; whether that was cooking, laundry, or just getting from one location to another. Preparing a meal took hours, laundry was backbreaking, and even if a person rode a horse to get somewhere, that animal needed cared for, saddled, and harnessed. And when back home it needed additional care and fed. Today, we just park our cars and go inside.

Life as a Civil War soldier while on campaign must have been exhausting. Edwin Forbes's sketch (above) of a Union soldier after the first days of fierce fighting at Petersburg (June 15-18, 1864), illustrates the results of the taxing nature of soldier life.

When I first saw the image I wondered if Forbes just sketched a dead soldier, but the inscription plainly tells that this soldier was attempting to regain some energy by catching a few winks. Forbes wrote about this particular incident in his book Thirty Years After: An Artist's Memoir of the Civil War, and speculated that the fatigued soldier was a member of a United States Colored Troop regiment. He wrote:

"I came upon a most pathetic picture of an exhausted soldier as I was riding along a road to Petersburg during its siege, whose attitude suggested utter abandon, and whose pallid face caused me to think him dead. I dismounted and found him motionless upon his back, with bare feet and legs hanging over a bank. His old grey blanket was around his body, a gun was slung over the left shoulder, and his haversack containing untouched rations rested on his hip. I began to sketch so interesting a subject, and at first supposed him to be a white man; but as I carefully drew his lineaments I noticed the unmistakable fullness of feature and wavy black hair which showed him to be a mulatto, and probably a member of a negro regiment in the Eighteenth Corps.

As I continued my work I was suddenly startled at a trembling of the eyelids and the languid opening of his eyes. He looked at me in a dreamy fashion, the drowsily closed his eyes again as if too exhausted to interest himself in anything, and remained motionless. I finished my sketch and left him in the care of those who would look after him."

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Slave Patrol Regulations


The other day while rummaging around online at the Duke University Digital Collections, I came across a handbill for a set of slave patrol regulations for the town of Tarboro[ugh], North Carolina, which were established in 1837. They are listed as follows:

"Rule 1st. Slaves residing in the country whose owners, masters or mistresses for the time being do not live in town, other than such as have wives in town, shall not come to town on the Sabbath day, unless to attend church, or in the night time without written permission from their owners, masters or mistresses for the time being, such permission stating the place or places such slaves shall visit
-Provided that they may at all times, come to town, or on the business of their owners, masters or mistresses for the time being without written permission
Rule 2nd. No slave after the hour of nine, P.M. (a reasonable time being allowed for him or her to go home or to the place designated in his or her written permission after the ringing of the bell,) shall be on the streets, or absent from the premises of his or her owner, master or mistress for the time being-or the premises of the owner, master or mistress for the time being of his wife-or the premises of the person, where he may be authorized by his written permission to go-unless he or she be on the business of his owner, master or mistress for the time being.
Rule 3rd. If any slave shall violate the foregoing Rules, the Patrol shall have the power and it shall be their duty (any two of their number being present) to whip the said slave, either at the time of the offense being committed or at any time within three months thereafter, the number of stripes not to exceed fifteen, unless the said slave shall be guilty of insolent behavior, or make his escape from the Patrol, in either of which cases the number of stripes not exceed thirty-nine."

Monday, April 18, 2016

More on Slave Hiring


Earlier today I finished reading "Reading Wolves to Our Own Destruction": Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782-1865, by Midori Takagi (University Press of Virginia, 1999). In this well researched book, the author explores the urban landscape of slavery and how it tested the traditional sense of the "peculiar institution." With many owners allowing their slaves to find their own employment in the city's numerous factories, make their own living arrangements, and do overwork for cash payments, the city version of slavery was often markedly different than that of rural plantation slavery.

In some respect though, other qualities of urban slavery mirrored that of the countryside. Slave hiring occurred on both plantations and in cities such as Richmond. As part of her evidence of the large number of slaves rented for city work, Takagi quoted a short notice from the January 3, 1853, Richmond Daily Dispatch (shown above). I located the article via the "Chronicling America" newspaper database from the Library of Congress.

As one can see, slave hiring helped fuel Richmond's antebellum economy. These individuals provided vital labor and as the notice shows, "Thousands of dollars changed hands." Most of that money went to the slaves' owners, and depending on the master, slaves may or may not have had much say in where they went to work or what type of labor they performed.

In this particular issue of the Daily Dispatch, the claims made by this little notice were supported with numerous advertisements posted by individual citizens and hiring agents, both seeking and offering their slaves for hire. The practice of slave hiring goes to show that although slave owners were a minority in the antebellum South, many more people other than just owners had a large stake in the perpetuation of the institution.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Robert Lumpkin Advertisement


If one reads much about Richmond's role the domestic slave trade, a specific name comes up over and over again, that of Robert Lumpkin.

The fifty-four year old Lumpkin's occupation in 1860 was listed as "Private Goal [jail]." He owned real estate worth $20,000, and personal property worth $6845. Lumpkin owned nine slaves. Lumpkin's real estate value is probably listed so high because he owned a slave complex that was known by some as "the Devil's Half-Acre." The property included Lumpkin's house, a jail in which to hold slaves waiting to be sold, a hotel where out of town slave buyers and dealers could find accommodations, and a kitchen that prepared meals for both slave inmates as well as guests at the hotel.


The property was located in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom, quite the undesirable piece of real estate due to it's placement along Shockoe Creek's steep valley banks.

Lumpkin ran the advertisement above in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on October 31, 1864. It reads: "SERVANTS WANTED - I wish to purchase, for a Southern gentleman, for his own use, one first-rate COOK, WASHER and IRONER, and one Female HOUSE SERVANT, well qualified, for which I will pay the highest market prices. Apply to Robert Lumpkin."

The trader's personal life and professional life seemed to be in conflict, but he apparently made it work. Lumpkin lived with Mary F. Lumpkin, an enslaved woman and the mother of the dealer's at least five children, all of whom were educated in the free states. Lumpkin's 1866 will left his property to Mary.

As the advertisement shows, Lumpkin traded in slaves even as Richmond was under attack by Grant's forces both north and south of the James River. In fact, Lumpkin attempted to flee Richmond as the Union army bore down on the Capital City on April 2-3, 1865. However, as he tried to board his slave coffle on the Richmond-Danville Railroad, he was refused. Apparently, he had little more choice than to let his slaves go free.

After the Civil War Lumpkin's property was transformed from slave complex to an educational facility. In 1867, Mary Lumpkin rented the buildings to a a former abolitionist who used the buildings to educate Richmond's freedmen. Later the facility relocated and changed names several times before attaining it's present designation of Virginia Union University, a historically African American institution of higher learning.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Seeking Isaac on the James River


The above advertisement ran in the July 19, 1839, issue of the Richmond Enquirer. In it slave renter, James A. Thomas, sought the rendition of Isaac, who ran away from him on the first of June. Thomas explained that he hired Isaac from Leonard Daniel, who was the executor of Mary Daniel's estate. Slave sales and rentals were often the result when an owner died.

What I found interesting about this particular advertisement was the fact that Thomas explained that Isaac was born on the James River and as he explained, Isaac was known to most of the boatmen on that thoroughfare. It seems likely then that Isaac must have experienced some freedom of movement in his previous situation. As the ad also mentions, Thomas believed that Isaac was likely working his way along the James River Canal, attempting to pass as a free man or "attempting to make his escape to some free State under cover of free papers, and some other fictitious name." Waterways were common methods of escape for fugitive slaves. Runaways had the opportunity to meet people of diverse origins on rivers, but also potentially encountered slave catchers who know rivers were often traveled by fugitives. 

James A. Thomas is listed in the 1840 census as the head of household of containing ten people. I found it intriguing that the Thomas household included three free people of color in addition to four slaves. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Interview with a USCT: Cornelius Garner


I completed reading Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves yesterday and found these 1930s recorded conversations fascinating. The Virginia Writers Project employees conducted oral history interviews with about 300 elderly former slaves to get their views on life before emancipation and since. While a number of the original interviews have been lost over time, this published collection has been available since 1976.

Fortunately, a majority of the interviews were made by African Americans, so interviewees seem to have been more candid than some of the WPA Federal Writers Project interviews conducted by white interviewers. That was the case when African Americans Emmy Wilson and Claude W. Anderson spoke with former slave Cornelius Garner in Norfolk in 1937.

Garner explained to his interviewers that he was born in 1846 in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Garner said that he started working at about ten years old helping grow tobacco, wheat, corn, and oats on his owner's plantation. He described his housing as good; that it didn't leak, but had a dirt floor and straw beds. Garner also explained that he received plenty to eat. He said that a ration of meat and corn meal was supplied, and sometimes he received fish, molasses, and bread.

Garner does not go into an explanation of how, but in 1864 he arrived in Norfolk, Virginia. Being curious, I thought I'd see if I could corroborate his statement with any available service records.

Indeed, Garner's records show he enlisted in Company B of the 38th United States Colored Infantry.on February 15, 1864 in Great Mill's, Maryland. It was his army service that brought him to Norfolk, where he was officially mustered in. Garner was described as eighteen years old and five feet, five inches tall, and having a dark complexion. He is identified as being born in St. Mary's County, Maryland, as he explained to his interviewers.

Private Garner was present and accounted for with his unit until September 29, 1864, when he was wounded at New Market Heights fighting with the 38th USCT in Alonzo Draper's brigade. Garner mentioned in his interview fighting at Deep Bottom and Chaffin's Farm (aka New Market Heights) but did not cover the fact that he was wounded. His service records indicate that he spent time at Balfour General Hospital, a Union army hospital in Portsmouth in October and November and returned to duty on December 12.

Garner's records indicate that he was sent back to the hospital on February 2, 1865, for an unexplained illness. His is shown as being in the general hospital at Fort Monroe from March until about September. Then he appears to have been transferred to Fort Wood in New York harbor; most likely for a trip to Texas for border duty, where the 38th was stationed until they were mustered out in 1867. Garner explained in his interview that he returned to Virginia when he left the army that very year.

In Garner's records is an application for compensation by his former owner Ann Milburn. Milburn also supplied an affidavit of her loyalty to seek payment for Garner's service. Garner said in his interview that his master was Lewis Milburn. Looking up Ann Milburn in the 1860 census I found that she was the 50 year old wife of farmer John L. Milburn. John Milburn owned $10,000 in personal property. Their son, seventeen year old Lewis, is shown as a "farm hand." John L. Milburn also appears in the 1860 slave schedules as the owner of sixteen slaves, who lived in two slave dwellings. On that list of a slaves appears a fourteen year old black male, who would fit Garner's age and description exactly.

Being able to corroborate Garner's interview story with official documents, in my opinion lends a extra level of credence to these sometimes disregarded "memory" accounts of lives spent in slavery.

Slaves Wanted for Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad Line


Slave labor was not only instrumental to rural plantation agricultural and urban environments, it also fueled Southern industrial initiatives. Enslaved individuals toiled long hours in iron foundries and various types of factories that required large numbers of manual laborers all across the South. They also put down countless miles of railroad track.

The advertisement above ran in the Petersburg Daily Express on September 3, 1855, and sought to locate "a large number of NEGROES to labor on the Western end of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad." The Norfolk and Petersburg connected the important Appomattox River tobacco town with the Atlantic Ocean port city. The railroad provided market competition to the shipping industry that plied the Appomattox River.

The advertiser, Nathan S. Carpenter, appears in the both the 1850 and 1860 censuses as living in Richmond. In 1850, his occupation is listed appropriately as as "carpenter." By 1860, Carpenter had apparently advanced to the position of "contractor." Interestingly, Carpenter is not shown with any real estate wealth in 1850, and no real estate or personal property wealth in 1860. In 1860, Carpenter was forty years old and was the head of large family that included his wife Maria and six children, who ranged in age from eighteen to four years old.

The Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad began construction in 1853, when William Mahone (pictured below) was hired to serve as the line's head engineer. Mahone, a southside Virginia native, had been educated at the Virginia Military Institute.

The approximately eighty-five mile line was completed in 1858 after a delay in 1855 due to a yellow fever outbreak in Norfolk and Portsmouth. Mahone became the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad's president in 1860. The 1860 census shows the thirty-three year old Mahone as living in Norfolk as a "civil engineer" and the owner of seven slaves. His worth is listed as $3,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. Also in the household is his wife Otelia, eleven years Mahone's junior, and their three toddler and infant children. Also in the home was sixty-three year old Susan Voinard.


In 1861, Mahone became lieutenant colonel and then colonel of the Sixth Virginia Infantry. In 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general. Mahone must have thought it strange to fight so close to his former railroad line when he earned what was probably his greatest military laurels as his command led a counterattack against the Union attack at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. The railroad ran just a stone's throw away from where the miners tunneled under the Confederate lines.

Mahone returned to railroad work after the war as president of the combined lines of the Norfolk and Petersburg, Southside, and Virginia and Tennessee railroads. He went on to a political career by becoming mayor of Petersburg, serving as a senator in the 1880s, and running two failed attempts for the governor's seat.


Mahone died in 1895, and was buried in Blanford Cemetery in Petersburg. His nondescript mausoleum only hints at his place of rest with a "M" above its entrance door.

Monday, April 4, 2016

More Free Papers Lost


The above advertisement is the third that I have located so far in which free people of color sought to find their lost free papers. Unlike the other two, this one does not offer a reward. It ran in the September 27, 1855, edition of the Petersburg Daily Express by George Valentine.

Valentine is not listed in the 1850 census, but is in the 1860 census. George's age in 1860 was twenty six, and his occupation is shown as a "ditcher," with a personal property value of $20. He is the head of a household that included his wife Angeline, who was thirty, and their two daughters Sytney, age two, and Joanner, age one. Both George and Angeline were listed as illiterate. George was described as black, while Angeline and the children were mulatto.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Neighborhood History - 151 Years Ago Today


About four miles down Boydton Plank Road from where I live is that road's intersection with White Oak Road. This area, and just to the west, saw significant fighting on March 31, 1865. The White Oak Road battle followed on the heels of an engagement just a couple of miles further south on March 29, at Lewis's Farm.

This round of fighting secured the Boydton Plank Road for the Union troops, and left only the Southside Railroad as a supply line available to Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. It also set up the next day's fighting at Five Forks, and thus the eventual Union breakthrough of Lee's defensive fortifications southwest and south of Petersburg in the early morning hours of April 2.  

I feel humbled to live among such an important historical setting. In just about any direction I turn, I am only a few miles from some significant part of the Petersburg Campaign. I only wish more people in my area took the time to learn about the history that surrounds them. Then, maybe, they could better understand how these events are still relevant to their present lives.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Henry Elebeck's Bathing Saloon


Similar to a number of the free black barbers that I located in Kentucky, Petersburg's Henry Elebeck offered bathing opportunities to his customers in addition to his hair cutting and shaving services.

From 6:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. "citizens of Petersburg and the public in general" could bathe at Elebeck's establishment at the Merchants' Exchange building on Bank Street. Baths were offered in cold, hot, or tepid water for $.25, or one could get what appeared to be a combination of temperatures for $.37 1/2.

Barbers typically offered these types of services in effort to generate additional streams of revenue. Baths and showers were not yet common in many antebellum homes, and since Elebeck offered them as such an early hour, and late into the evening, patrons could partake in the hygienic practice outside of business hours and at their convenience. I wonder if Elebeck offered bathing services seven days a week, or just on weekdays.

Ever the entrepreneur, and in addition to baths, Elebeck concluded his advertisement with a note that he had "on hand, a large supply of Eau de Costral, an excellent tonic for the hair."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bollingbrook Hotel Slaves


I've mentioned in several of my posts that antebellum free black barbers often set up their shops in or near hotels. Doing so provided them with a virtual constant supply of customers. It just made good business sense.

Using similar good business sense, mid-nineteenth century hotels in the South often ran advertisements in period newspapers to attract customers. Petersburg's Bollingbrook Hotel was one of, if not the, finest place to stay in the city. Located near three of the Cockade City's non-connected railroads (Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad, the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, and the Southside Railroad) brought guests for a night's stay, while waiting to switch rail lines.

In the Bollingbrook Hotel's ad above, not only does the lodging's new proprietor offer high-quality meals, the best of furnishings, attention for lady guests by his wife, and peacefulness of the neighborhood, he specifically mentions that "the servants are all attentive."

Joseph L. Carrington is listed as forty-seven years old and the hotel keeper of the Bollingbrook Hotel in the 1860 census. He apparently lived in the hotel with his wife and their seven children. Also residents in the hotel were ten non-relatives, including a physician, merchant tailor, mail agent, conductor, and a free woman of color "house maid." Interestingly, he is not listed as owning any real estate value, but owned $25,000 in personal property. Not surprisingly Carrington is also shown in the 1860 slave schedules as owning twenty-two slaves and two slave houses. The slave dwellings were likely urban apartment-style structures for his hotel work force.

One can see the need for hotel slave help. Think of all the domestic help a plantation big house needed and multiply that several times. Someone had to clean the rooms, empty the chamber pots, cook the guest's meals, wait on guest's tables, carry the guest's luggage, wash the linens, wash and iron guest's clothes, carry fuel to guest's rooms, and hundreds of other tasks.

Living in a city setting may have afforded hotel slaves a greater measure of opportunity for learning about what was going on in the world than their fellow bondsmen and women on rural plantations. Hearing guests' conversations on topics of all kinds, and interacting with other urban slaves likely allowed them to be aware of period politics and social issues that affected their existence. It may have been through occurrences such as these that slave learned of runaway opportunities such as that which William Baylis attempted in 1858.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Petersburg Barber Sought Lost Free Papers


After working eleven straight days, I planned on having a sleep-in Sunday. However, my internal alarm clock would not go into "snooze" mode, so I spent a good deal of the day reading and searching through old newspapers online.

In the December 27, 1855, edition of the Petersburg Daily Express, I came across the brief classified ad shown above. I had found similar ads in other papers, but this is the first I have located from a barber.

In it, free man of color and barber Richard Newsom offered a five dollar reward for the recovery of his "FREE PAPERS," which were lost, apparently on the Southside Railroad between Petersburg and Lynchburg.  A Richard Newsom, a nineteen year old mulatto man, appears in Richmond's 1850 census, but no occupation is given for him. I was not able to locate a Richard Newsom in the 1860 census. Perhaps Newsom had moved on from Petersburg by the time of the 1860 census.

Jarratt's Hotel was one of antebellum Petersburg's best lodgings. Like many other period hotels, it offered amenities for guests such as Newsome's barbershop, laundering services, and carting baggage service; most of these positions were held by free people of color or enslaved individuals rented out to hotel owners. Jarratt's was located at the southwest corner of Washington and Union Streets, where the city's transit station currently sits. The hotel was close to the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad, which made it convenient for guest arriving in town from the south by that means of transportation.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Petersburg Black Barber Advertisement - Henry Elebeck


Finding some Petersburg Daily Express editions online helped me search for additional antebellum barber advertisements. The above advertisement ran in the same 1855 edition as the "Murder In Dinwiddie" story that I highlighted in my last post.

Petersburg free man of color barber Henry Elebeck sought to encourage customers to visit his establishment for their "shaving and hair cutting" needs. Elebeck's advertisement is very similar to others I have found, both in Virginia and Kentucky. In his notice, he claims his ability to serve his customers in "the most superior style." Further Elebeck stated that "His razors are ever keen, his establishment always clean and neat, and his assistants attentive, courteous and obliging." Elebeck goes on to offer his patrons shaving soaps and colognes of the highest quality as an inducement.

Apparently, Elebeck was a veteran barber, as his ad thanks long-time customers during his twenty years of service.  He appears in the 1850 census as a thirty-six year old mulatto barber with $1000 in real estate. He lived with wife, Ann (born in New York), their six children, and John Edwards, a forty-five year old bricklayer, who was noted as deaf. Elebeck's neighbor, John K. Shure is also listed as a barber. If Elebeck's claim of twenty years in service is correct, he started cutting hair when he was about twenty years old.

In 1860, Elebeck was listed as a forty-five year old barber with $500 in real estate, and $100 personal property. He was still married to New York native Agnes Ann, and the couple had added two children from the previous decade.


As the advertisement also indicates, Elebeck's shop was in the Merchants Exchange building on Bank Street (pictured above). This was a superb location for an antebellum barber, as the building was the hub of Petersburg's business community. Here men met daily to haggle deals between wholesalers and retailers and place bids on auctioned market crops such as tobacco, wheat, and cotton. The men that conducted their business at the Merchants Exchange building would likely have been some of the most wealthy and influential in the area. They would probably have been concerned with their personal appearance and would have had the financial resources to afford daily shavings and frequent hair trimmings.

The Merchant's Exchange building is of Greek Revival architecture and was completed in 1841. It now serves as a museum for the city of Petersburg.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A (Slave-on-Slave) Murder in Dinwiddie


I've been looking for digitized versions of Petersburg's antebellum and Civil War newspapers, and as luck would have it, I found one. The Library of Virginia's online "Virginia Chronicle" has some limited issues of Petersburg's The Daily Express for 1855, 1860-63.

Browsing through some of the 1855 editions, I came across the September 3 issue; which by the way, has some other interesting tid-bits that I will share in future posts.

However, the headline for the above short article was one that really caught my eye. Being that I live in Dinwidde County, I immediately wanted to know more about this antebellum homicide. Then, when I found out it involved an enslaved man who killed another enslaved man, a hundred questions rushed into my mind. What provoked this most drastic of measures? Unfortunately, the article doesn't give us a clue. The only thing it lets us know is that these men had words, "got to blows" and then "William, a miller," stabbed Tom in the heart.

In point of fact, the article seems to give so little care to the characters that it starts confusing William by calling him Miller, his occupation, not necessarily his given name, then switches back to calling him William.

And, other than apparently a hanged slave who committed a previous murder, who the heck is Ned? What is his story? Did he kill a fellow slave man or woman or a white man or woman?

Both William and Tom's masters seem to appear in the 1860 census. William's owner, Major Roney, was likely Patrick Roney, a seventy-three year old Dinwiddie County farmer, who apparently lived with his three adult sons William, Henry, and James. Roney owned $3,000 in real estate and $13,240 in personal property. Roney owned eighteen slaves, who lived in five dwellings. Tom's master, sixty-three year old George Washington Crump, owned thirteen slaves that resided in four slave quarters. Crump lived with his wife and a fifteen year old female, who was probably his daughter or granddaughter. He owned $5,300 in real estate and $17,000 in personal property.

What ultimately happened to William? Was he hanged like Ned? Did Tom have family that mourned his death? Was Crump compensated for Tom's death? Hopefully some more digging in this series of newspapers will help me answer some of my questions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wealth and Slave Ownership


The recent Geico Insurance commercials are quite effective because they try to simplifying things. Do you know, the ones I'm talking about? They say, "if you're a ____, then you ____. It's just what you do." And while there are certainly exceptions to their statements, they get their point across. I suppose one could use the statement for many wealthy people in the antebellum South. "If you're wealthy, you own slaves. It just what you do." Again, there were exceptions to that rule. And, on another thought, one might argue that those people we were well off due to their owning of slaves.

A colleague at work shared the above advertisement with me from the Richmond Sentinel, and ran in January 1865. If you have been to Pamplin Historical Park, you might recognize the name Boisseau. The Boisseau's plantation, Tudor Hall, is a main feature of the Park.

The plantation patriarch, William E. Boisseau died in 1838. Listed on his estate inventory were fifty-one enslaved men and women, boys and girls. William's wife, Athaliah Keziah Wright (Goodwyn) Boisseau is listed in the 1840 census as the head of household and shows as owning thirty-five slaves. One wonders what happened to the additional sixteen slaves listed on the estate inventory two years earlier. Were they sold or given to her seven children? Apparently, around this time, Athaliah inherited an additional 520 acres on non-contiguous tract. It may be this piece of land that is mentioned above as "Derby."

By 1850, Athaliah was living with a daughter, Ann E., and her husband, Robert H. Jones, on an adjoining plantation. Jones, a tobacco inspector, had apparently been married to Ann's older sister, Martha Eliza, who died in 1840. The 1860 census shows Athaliah still living with the Jones family. That census shows Jones as owning $57,000 in real estate and $100,000 in personal property, of which were seventy-four slaves, who lived in seventeen slave dwellings. Also in the Jones household in 1860 was twelve year old nephew Adrian Boisseau. Adrian's father and mother, physician William Boisseau, Jr. and Julia (Grigg) Boisseau had moved to Alabama where they passed away in 1854. Tudor Hall eventually devolved from Athaliah's to her third oldest son Joseph, who lived there with his wife Ann until Union army threats displaced them in 1864, and their home was used as the headquarters for General Samuel McGowan from South Carolina.

One of the most interesting things in this short newspaper article to me is the inflationary prices that the named enslaved people sold for. Athaliah died in Petersburg in December 1864, when goods and commodities in the region were becoming extremely stretched due to the Union army's occupation of the area, which naturally drove up prices for everything.

As always, so many questions come to mind. Were any of the slaves that were sold related? Were any purchased in groups? Or, were they all separated? If separated, were they able to reunite since the war was over within the next three months? In addition, I would be extremely interested in learning who purchased these individuals and what type of wealth they possessed to pay such inflated prices. Whoever they were, they surely soon found that wealth built on slave ownership was like building a structure on quicksand.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

December Meant Slave Hiring Season


There were antebellum Richmond firms that specifically sold slaves, and others that served as brokers for people looking to rent or lease help for a period of time, typically a year term.

The above advertisement ran in the December 17, 1839, issue of the Richmond Enquirer. As previously mentioned, slave hiring was usually established on annual terms, and that most often started as close to the first of the year as possible. In this notice, Richmond broker Robert Hill made it clear that he was ready to serve those in need of hiring slaves or those looking to lease their slaves out. Hill apparently ran his ad a little early in order to give some time for individuals who wanted their slaves leased out the opportunity to "find suitable situations for them." Likewise, he requested those seeking to hire to see him as soon as possible as he already had a number of workers on hand and ready to rent out.

Being a thorough business man, Hill stated his terms straight away as five percent for hiring out slaves. However, to sweeten the deal, he included that his company also attended to medical costs and offered house calls through the year for their enslaved hires at no charge to the renting party.

Lastly, Hill provided the address for his office to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to visit him and set up their situations.

We do not put a second thought into our present day renting of tools. equipment, or a car when the need arises, but in the nineteenth century, businesses such as Robert Hill and Company offered unpaid human help when needed, and seemingly with as little moral concern.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"A Virginian Beaten by His Own Slave"


A colleague at work this week shared an interesting local history story that made national news in March 1861. And although it originally ran in the nearby Petersburg Express on March 19, this particular version appeared in the New York Times on March 22, 1861. Doing a quick internet search showed me that the article also made it as far west as Sacramento, California. The internet search also quickly made it apparent that this story is not unknown today. A couple of other blogs in recent years have discussed it. But, since it happened in the county where I currently live, and involves what was a rather unusual occurrence, I thought I'd share it here, too, in its entirety as it ran in the New York Times.

"A VIRGINIAN BEATEN BY HIS OWN SLAVE.
--The Petersburgh [sic] Express of teh 19th gives the following particulars of a savage assault made upon Mr. F[endal] MALLORY SUTHERLAND, of Mulberry Inn, Dinwiddie County, Virginia, on Friday last, by one of his own servants:

'Mr. SUTHERLAND was out on his plantation superinending the clearing of a patch of new gound, and directed NED, a robust fellow, to lift a log to a pile of burning brush. The negro replied that he would not do it, which Mr. SUTHERLAND interpreted to mean that the negro did not feel able to lift the log, and stooped to do so himself. While stooping, NED seized a big stick, and striking his master a powerful blow over the back, felled him to the earth. He then repeated his blows until the stick was broken in many pieces, and Mr. SUTHERLAND lay apparently lifeless. Thinking he had accomplished his purpose, he started off, and had proceeded about fifty yards when he saw his master attempt to rise. Seizing another stick, he returned and striking Mr. SUTHERLAND another severe blow across the face, mashed his nose flat to the face, and then continued to beat him across the arms, breast and legs, until the flesh was pummeled to the consistency of jelly. Some small negroes were present when the beating commenced, but they were mere children, and dreaded the ferocity of NED as though he had been a tiger, and were therefore prevented from offering assistance. As soon as they could get to the house the intelligence was communicated to some of the neighbors, and all turned out en masse to hunt us the fiend, some three or four going to the assistance of Mr. SUTHERLAND, and conveying him to his residence. Upon reaching the house he manifested indications of returning of consciousness, and at last accounts, Sunday, was alive, though in a very precarious condition.

The search of the neighbors for NED proved unavailing, but the account of the outrage reached this city [Peterburg], and on Sunday night Mr. GEORGE ALSOP, who knew the scoundrel, succeeded in arresting him at the depot of the South-Side Railroad in this city, and lodged him in jail. He will be transferred to the County of Dinwiddie for trial."

Fendal M. Sutherland appears in the 1860 census as a thirty-eight year old farmer. He owned $6,000 in real estate and $13,700 in personal property. Living with Sutherland was his wife, Emerlina P., age thirty-seven, and their three sons and one daughter. Sutherland, as one might imagine, also appears in the "Slave Schedules." Sutherland owned thirteen slaves who ranged in ages from fifty to three years old. These enslaved individuals were all described as black, except one mulatto. Interestingly, Sutherland was listed having one of his slaves as a fugitive. Sutherland's slaves lived in two dwellings.

Unfortunately the news article provides no context for this act of violence. One is left to ponder why Ned beat Sutherland so severely. Was there a specific precipitating factor? Or, was Ned just generally fed up with having little to no say in his life. Had Sutherland previously treated Ned poorly? Was there an ill history between the two men?

I also wonder what fate Ned met. I must admit I was surprised to hear that he was jailed and not lynched for the beating. Was he truly tried? Was he hanged? Was he sentenced to be sold out of state? Perhaps the answer is out there waiting to be uncovered. History mystery #4,080.