Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bacon Tait - Richmond Slave Trader

Yesterday I received the latest addition to my personal library in the mail. I'm presently working my way through another volume so I have not yet dived into it, but the title had me hooked from my first reading it: The Secret Life of Bacon Tait, a White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color, by Hank Trent, and which was published just this year from LSU Press.

I won't write out a biography of Tait, as that has been completed well by the folks at the Encyclopedia of Virginia. However, I thought I'd share a couple of advertisements that it took me only a couple of minutes to find in the Richmond Daily Dispatch in the August 27, 1852, edition.

Although one is for a family of three and the other is for a woman on her child, the two advertisements have a commonality in that both notices state that the enslaved individuals are not to be removed from Richmond. Apparently, Tait had no compunction with participating in the interstate slave trade in other instances, but for whatever reason, these bond people were apparently not to be removed from the city.

Perhaps the former owners had sold them to Tait with that strict stipulation, or perhaps Tait was serving as the selling agent for the owners who only agreed to sell them under that condition. We cannot know for certain.

The end wording of the first shown advertisement is interesting: "all of excellent character, strictly honest and sold for no fault." This domestic enslaved family's sale was only enhanced by such a description. Having honest servants was something all masters desired. A statement of "excellent character" only increased Tait's chance of a successful sale.

The other notice, for a forty-two year old woman and her eight year old child (interestingly no gender given), who were also domestics, seems to have a bit of conditional statement on the non-movement request: "if early application is made." Does this mean that if the woman and child do not quickly sell, they are not subject remain in "Richmond or the neighborhood?" With domestic house skills such as "plain cooking and washing and the dairy," one suspects that in an urban environment like Richmond, a new owner could be quickly found. But, that just a suspicion.

I'm looking forward to reading the Trent book to see if any insight is given into advertisements like these two posted by Tait and learning more about his relationship with free woman of color Courtney Fountain. Isn't history just fascinating?


  1. Hi Tim! Fascinating indeed. I bought the book on Google Books a couple of years ago, but it looks like it is now available on Amazon, where I will buy a physical copy. The Google version restricts you to only read it there, which drove me crazy.

    I've also seen these ads during my search. As an African-American, it's very difficult to read them, even though I understand that it was a common practice in this country.

    By the way, I have a very strong hunch that Courtney Fountain is from my line of Fountain's out of Winchester, VA.

    My 2nd g-grandfather was also James Fountain from Winchester, VA. like Courtney's father, although I'm sure they are not the same person. However, I do believe they were from the same family though, I just haven't found my connection to them...yet. I'm working on it.

    Anyway Tim, I just wanted to say hi and to let you know that your page has not gone unnoticed. I'll let you know what my search turns up, if anything.

    Take care,

    E Fountain

  2. Hello, E! Welcome to my "Random Thoughts." Your comment about being an African American and reading of slavery advertisements being difficult is well taken. If studying history has taught me anything (and it has taught me much), I've learned to be more empathetic. I think most white people do not put much thought into how black people perceive history, or consider their diverse perspectives.

    Again, thanks for reading the blog. Please come back often, share it with friends and family who might find it interesting, and keep me informed about your research. Let me know if I might help in any way.

  3. Hi Tim,
    I found this post interesting as I find the dynamic of the relationship between a slave trader and free black woman captivating. I look forward to reading more about the Tait and Fountain family once I get the book in hand (just ordered). I too would be interested in E Fountain's findings. Thanks for the post!

  4. Hi Tim,
    I came across his name from the Encyclopedia of Virginia out of the blue and the story got me hooked. I want to know more about the family and what became of them through Ancestry. Another name to add to my growing list. Thanks for the post.

  5. Tim great article I to am an African American with some ties to Tait. My Great Great Great Grandfather Thornton Buck was born in Richmond Va and owned by the Gamble Family possibly Robert. The Gamble family sold a property to Tait before they moved to Florida and built 4 plantations. I’m trying to figure out where the property was located and any other information about Thornton who was born in 1810.