Sunday, August 30, 2015

More Virginia Slave Dwellings

Yesterday, Michele and I took a drive down to Surry County to visit Bacon's Castle. It was a wonderful trip fill with lots of great history. Bacon's Castle is the oldest brick house in Virginia and is the only example of Jacobean architecture in the United States. It was built by Arthur Allen in the mid-1600s. The house stayed in the Arthur family for many years before it devolved to the Hankins family, who operated the plantation during the Civil War years. 

On the property are a number of out buildings, including a mid-19th century slave dwelling and smokehouse. The slave quarter is a typical two story duplex frame and clapboard design. 

However, instead of central chimney shared by the two apartments, each gabled end had its own chimney. Each apartment has its own door entrance.  

An interesting feature were the small upper-level two-over-two windows. The building was not guest accessible, so I was unable to inspect the upper story to see if they included a fireplace as did the ground floor.

On our drive back to Petersburg we stopped at the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield in Hopewell. Here the National Park Service interprets the Union army's supply base during the Petersburg Campaign, as well as Appomattox Manor, the Eppes family plantation. On its grounds are several period outbuildings. Shown above is the laundry (left) and kitchen (right) building. Similar to the structure at Bacon's Castle, it had two sections. The laundry side had a stairway to the upper-level, although it was also inaccessible. A smokehouse stands to the building's left.

The story of the Richard Eppes family and his scores of slaves was fascinatingly told to us by park ranger Emmanuel Dabney. Eppes owned land on several non-contiguous plantations, but lived at Appomattox Manor until the summer of 1862, when he and his family fled to the safety of Petersburg as the Union army made its toward Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. Many of Eppes' slaves used the opportunity to grasp their freedom.

The final slave dwelling I photographed this weekend is located in Sutherland, which is just southwest of Petersburg. Once known as Sutherland Station, it was on the Southside Railroad. Fighting occurred here during the April 2, 1865 Union army breakthrough as they neared their goal of capturing the rail line. The slave dwelling rests behind the Fork Inn, also known as the Sutherland Tavern, once a stagecoach rest stop, hotel, and tavern built in 1803. The property was owned by Elizabeth Sutherland during the Civil War.

Ms. Sutherland appears in the 1860 census as seventy-five years old. She is listed as being involved with "Farming and Private Inn and Tavern" business.She owned $9,000 in real estate and $21,300 in personal property. She owned twenty slaves, ranging in age from seventy-five to ten months, who lived in three slave dwellings.

Although often overlooked in favor of their more impressive "big houses," these structures are important pieces of Virginia history that all appear to be safe at present. Hopefully these buildings will continue to be preserved and interpreted so we can better understand and appreciate the lives of those who lived and toiled long hours at these sites.  

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