Monday, March 5, 2018

1860 Black Barbers in Farmville, Virginia

In my continuing search for Virginia's antebellum black barbers, I recently searched the Farmville, (Prince Edward County) Virginia, 1860 census. The town's population was just about 925 people that year. According to my previous research I figured that a town of Farmville's size probably had the size to support a barber or two or three, and such was the case.

The first black barber that I came across was Thomas Harvey. This twenty-three year old mulatto man apparently lived in a hotel in town as all of the individuals (about thirty-five) in this household are under Norvell Cobb's name, who is listed as a hotel keeper. In addition many of the people living there have various occupations such as lawyer, druggist, merchant, student, jeweler, etc., that one would expect to find in town environment.

Barber Thomas Harvey is the only man of color listed as living in the hotel. Perhaps he cut hair and shaved beards in the hotel working for the building's owner and manager. Interestingly, there were two "negro traders," also residing at the hotel at this time.

J.W. Brightwell, a thirty-eight year old slave trader (above) had real estate valued at $10,000 (about $280,000 in present dollars) and personal property valued at $7880 (about $230,000 present dollars).

John Jenkins apparently was not as successful as Brightwell, as he is not shown as having any wealth.

Farmville's other two barbers apparently worked at the Randolph House hotel. Andrew Lilley, a twenty-two year old black man who had $400 in personal property, and Crawley Mitchel , a forty year old mulatto man, who had no personal wealth are both shown residing in the same household and likely worked together.

I did not find any black barbers in the 1850 Prince Edward County census. I am curious if the 1860 barbers continued to stay in Farmville after the Civil War. I'll try to remember to let you know what I find out.

1867 Farmville map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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