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.

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