Slavery in Virginia and Belle Grove

10/09/12 9:10 PM

Outbuildings at Belle Grove Plantation

Outbuildings at Belle Grove Plantation

When doing the research on the history of Belle Grove, I have come across a lot of wonderful surprises. Historic events and people that we as Americans need to remember. But with that research we have also come across darker times in our history. Not to include it in the history of the plantation would be a disservice to those who lived it and died by it. It is important to know where it came from and how it evolved and what impact it had on Belle Grove Plantation.

When looking at the history of slavery in Virginia, we can trace it back to the founding of the English colony by the London Virginia Company. The London Virginia Company was an English Joint Stock Company that was established by James I of England on April 10, 1606. The London Company, which was also known as the Charter of the Virginia Company of London was established by royal charter with the purpose of establishing colonial settlements in the New World. It was through this company that a system called “Headright” was put in place to entice settlers to venture to North America.

A “headright” was a legal grant of land that was given to settlers. To obtain a “headright” the settler would not only have to travel to the New World, but also bring indentured servants with them. The amount of land given was determined by the number of indentured servants brought. Most “headrights” were for 1 to 100 acres of land. The most common amounts were 50 acres for someone newly moved to the area and 100 acres for those who previously living in the area. By giving land to the landowning masters, the indentured servants had little or no chance to gain their own land.

Indentured Servant Note

Indentured servitude was a historical practice of contracting an individual to work for a fixed period of time in exchange for transportation to the New World, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during their term of indenture. The general time period would be three to seven years. Most indentured servants were men and women under the age of 21. Generally their fathers would make the arrangements for them and sign their paperwork. There was no cash paid to the family for the individual. The labor markets were overcrowded in Europe and this system provided jobs to poor young people who wanted to come to the New World for work, but had no way to pay for it. In 1650, there were approximately 4000 white indentured servants working in Virginia. Many would earn their freedom and would receive a grant for 50 acres of land when released from their indentures. Here they would raise their own crops such as tobacco.


African workers were first imported to Virginia in 1619. By 1650, there were about 300 African workers living in Virginia. That was about 1% of the estimated 30,000 population. Some of these indentured servants would go on to earn their freedom and would be able to buy land for themselves.

Just to the south, there were Spanish colonies that had long been using slavery for labor. The first recorded instance of slavery in the Virginia Colony wasn’t until 1654. This was a lawsuit brought to court by Anthony Johnson of Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore against another land owner, Robert Parker over an indentured servant named John Casor. It was Anthony Johnson’s contention that John Casor, an African man, owed him lifetime services.

Anthony Johnson, also an African man, had been brought to Jamestown along with 19 other African men as indentured servants. In 1623, Anthony Johnson had earned his freedom and in 1651 had gained enough wealth to import five “servants” of his own. This import earned him 250 acres as a headright.

John Casor alleged that he had come to Virginia as an indentured servant and had sought to transfer his obligation to Robert Parker, a white farmer. Anthony Johnson claimed in court that “hee had ye Negro for his life”. The Northampton County Court ruled that Robert Parker had unjustly kept John Casor from Anthony Johnson. It was the Judgment of the Court that John Casor be returned to Anthony Johnson and that Robert Parker would make payments for all charges in the suit. John Casor did return to Anthony Johnson. This was the first known judicial approval of life servitude in Virginia with the exception as punishment for a crime. John Casor remained with Anthony Johnson for the rest of his life.

By the end of the 17th century, large numbers of slaves from Africa were brought to the Virginia Colony by Dutch and English ships. These slaves were placed on large tobacco plantations and would work as field labor, household and skilled workers. Slowly these slaves would replace the indentured servants. As slaves, they not no mutual agreement and no time limit for their labor. Even the children of these slaves were born to a lifetime of service. In 1661, Virginia passed a law that made the status of the mother determine the status of the child. In time, slavery would become an economic factor on labor-intensive tobacco and cotton plantations of the South.

In my research, the earliest record I have been able to uncover of slaves at Belle Grove Plantation dates back to the Will of Francis Thornton, husband of Alice Savage Thornton and third landowner of Belle Grove Plantation. Francis Thornton passed away in 1726. In his will he bequeath the following:

“I give and bequeath unto my grandson Francis Conway one mulatto girl names Bess. Item: I give and bequeath unto the within named George Riding son of my wife Ann, five slaves by name – Mullato James, Negro Dick, Negro Jane, Negro Nanny and a negro boy names Samuel. Item: I give and bequeath unto Margaret Riding, daughter to my wife Ann Thornton, six slaves by name – Negro Charles, a girl named Peggee, a Negro girl names Frank, Negro Susan, Negro Billy, a Mulatto Jacob. Item: The rest of my Negroes I give and bequeath unto my loving wife Ann Thornton during her natural life and after her decease I will and bequeath all my said Negros to be divided by equal portions between George & Margaret Riding, son and daughter of my wife Ann Thornton.”

Alice Savage Thornton passed away in 1692 and Ann Thornton was Francis Thornton’s second wife. His grandson, Francis Conway who received one mulatto girl named Bess would become Belle Grove’s fifth landowner and was Grandfather to James Madison.

The next record of slavery comes with the Will of Edwin Conway, husband of Elizabeth Thornton Conway and Great Grandfather of James Madison. His son was Francis Conway in the below paragraph. He passed away in 1698. In his will he bequeathed the following:

“I also give to my sd sone Francis, three negroes, Sam & Kate & Frank, their child, to him…Item, I give unto the child, or children, whereof my wife now goeth withall, the crop of sweet scented tobacco that is now below at my lower plantation, to be put into the hands of Henry and Edwin Thacker and sent for England, and when money is made from the sale of the same, They, to buy two negroes, such as in their discretion they shall think fit, and to bee delivered to their mother, for the saide child, or children. Item, I give to my sone Edwin, all that estate, both real and personal, which I formerly gave him by deed of gift, recorded in Lancaster Court, with all and every part and parcel of my estate in Lancaster County, not before given, except one negro man named Jack.”

The next Will that speaks of slavery is that of Rebecca Catlett Conway Moore. Her first husband was Francis Conway. Her second husband was John Moore. John Moore was who gave Belle Grove it’s name. She was mother to Nelly Conway Madison and Grandmother to James Madison. She passed away in 1761. In her will she bequeath the following:

“and by virtue of said will did on 16th day July last past make choice of the five Negroes •• I bequeath unto my son WILLIAM MOORE when he attains age of Twenty one and to my grandson JAMES MADDISON junr. when he attains Eighteen years of age to be equally divided between them.”

The last Will that speaks of slavery is that of  William Bernard Sr. He was husband of Fannie Hipkins-Bernard. Her father, John Hipkins built the center section of current manor house for her and her husband. In his will he bequeathed the following to his son William Bernard Jr:

“… to my beloved wife (Elizabeth Hooe)……the use of four of my Slaves that she may choose and the use of two female Slaves she may choose till they arrive to fourteen years of age…and if any of the Negroes she shall have chosen shall die or when the two negroe Girls shall have arrived to the age of fourteen my Executors Suffer her to choose others in their place except such as may be employed as house Servants by either of my Children…all my Negroes & Mulattos be divided……to my Son William I give all the Negroes and their Increase that came by his Mother together with the other half of such as I hold in my own Right.”

William Bernard Jr. never received this bequeath. William Bernard Jr. passed away in 1822 and was the last of the Hipkins-Bernard family to live at Belle Grove. His father wouldn’t pass until 1844.

The last records of slavery that I have found was that of Carolinus Turner. In Federal Census Records, I discovered the number of slaves that Carolinus Turner owned during his time at Belle Grove. The 1840 Federal Census lists Carolinus Turner, age 20-30, along with eleven male slaves under ten, eight aged 10-24, five aged 24-36, four aged 36-55, one aged 55-100, twelve female slaves under 10, eight aged 10-24, five aged 24-36, and three aged 36-55, for a total of 58 in the household, with 31 involved in agriculture. The 1850 Federal Census lists Carolinus Turner at 37, a farmer and worth $100,000. He owned 73 slaves at the time. The 1860 Federal Census lists Carolinus Turner at 47, farmer and worth $272,500. He owned 92 slaves.

Death Records of Slaves in King George County

Death Records of Slaves in King George County

From all the records I found, Carolinus Turner’s time period contained the best documentation. I was able to pull death records for King George and was able to put names to some of the slaves of the Turners. Here is some of the names from this list:

Warner Stuart, son of John and Susan Stuart died on November 20, 1853 at the age of one year, three months and four days of unknown causes.

Charles Washington, of unknown parents died on May 23, 1855 at the age of fifty-five of ulcer in hands.

Richard Martin, son of Joseph and Harriet Martin died on May 14, 1855 at an unknown age from Scarlett Fever. There were several children that died in 1855 from Scarlett Fever; three in the month of May.

I was also able to put a name to an overseer during the Turner period. His name was Baldwin Lee. He had an assistant named Francis Roach. Francis and his wife Ellen lost a child, Francis Roach Jr. to Scarlett Fever at the age of eleven on November 14, 1853. I don’t have much information on Baldwin Lee or Francis Roach. The only information I was able to find on Baldwin was that he took his own life in 1868.

During the Civil War, many slaves were taken by the Union Army. As I was looking through the archives, I came across a file of small sheets of paper. Written on each piece of paper was the number of slaves that were taken by the Union Army from an owner in the area. It was as if they expected to be reimbursed for their loses.

I have been searching for some records or maps of Belle Grove before or during the Civil War that might give me some idea where the slave quarters would have been. I was told that someone has a map that showed a slave quarters located in the middle of the field at Belle Grove. We have several dirt roadways, many dating back to the early 19th Century.

Map of Port Conway and Belle Grove - 1854

Map of Port Conway and Belle Grove – 1854

I have located one map that I feel might tell me that there were quarters even closer to the house than that. On this map, you can see where the manor house is and the roadways are. But in the field, which is now located behind the caretakers house, there looks to be a grouping of some sort. Some have told me it could have been an orchard. But this “orchard” extends down and around a roadway to what I think may have been a wharf for shipping at one time. Also when I was walking the plantation back in March, 2011, just beside this area between it and the driveway on the grassy area that separate it, I found two plate shards that date back to the late 1700s to early 1800s. My thought is that there could have been a trash pit nearby. Could it be one used by the slave quarter?

Summer Kitchenbuilt in 1790s

Summer Kitchen
built in 1790s

Our best record of slavery at Belle Grove is our 1790s Summer Kitchen. This kitchen was built with a small kitchen on the right and small living space on the left. What makes me think that it was living quarters instead of perhaps a laundry is the size of its fireplace. The kitchen side of the Summer Kitchen has a very large fireplace that still has the iron rod attached to the back of the fireplace wall and the iron hooks that were used to hang pots to cook. The living quarter side’s fireplace is much smaller and has no iron rod or hooks and has no mantle.

Fireplace on the kitchen side of the Summer Kitchen

Fireplace on the kitchen side of the Summer Kitchen

Fireplace on the living quarters side of the Summer Kitchen

Fireplace on the living quarters side of the Summer Kitchen

Iron Rod with Cooking HooksFireplace on the kitchen side of the Summer Kitchen

Iron Rod with Cooking Hooks
Fireplace on the kitchen side of the Summer Kitchen

My research is not done and I am sure I will find more on the families that lived there. It is our hope that we can restore the Summer Kitchen and convert it into a small museum of what life was like at Belle Grove. Our plan is to house the artifacts and information we uncover on the owners and house in the kitchen side. We would like to devote the living quarters on the left side to the slaves that served Belle Grove. It isn’t the best part of history of the plantation, but it needs to be remembered, lest we forget.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 204 Comments »

204 Comments on “Slavery in Virginia and Belle Grove”

  1. Fascinating research and presentation!

  2. Thank you. It’s not my favorite part of Belle Grove history.

  3. Good for you for looking into this so thoroughly — in spite of its unpleasant nature. Your museum idea is brilliant too.

  4. Thank you! We think so too. We all desire a name and to be remembered.

  5. What a wonderful project for you! I look forward to reading more of your discoveries. … D 🙂

  6. Thank you! This isn’t my favorite part of Belle Grove history, but it is important to remember.

  7. clandsman Says:

    Thank you. You are so right, we can’t forget this time in our history.

  8. So true.

  9. seniorhiker Says:

    You make a good detective. This sad part of our history does need to be remembered.

  10. Thank you. Just call me a history detective 😉

  11. You have done quite a lot of digging! It amazes me the documents that have been saved over the years. You are correct, this was a bad time in our nation’s history and the indentured slaves were an integral part of the economy of Virginia. They deserve to be honored for their lives work.

  12. Thank you! We hope is to have the complete history of Belle Grove. The good and the bad.

  13. terry1954 Says:

    to me this was sacred, every word you have transferred to paper. i appreciate your efforts in writing this up. i love the two fireplaces, where they both look like they were used by slaves. i am glad slavery is gone, but the interests of it is regarded in my heart as loving and respectful for them and their lives they led. i feel so close to you and Belle Grove, after this, and I don’t even know why……….

  14. Thank you! We believe that all the history of Belle Grove is important. The good and the bad. And we also feel that the slaves that lived here need to be remembered and respected as much as the families. As far as your feeling close to us, well, you have been with us from pretty much the beginning as have several others. You can’t help be feel apart of it like we do. Thank you for your support!

  15. I think the toughest thing about reading accounts of slaves for me is two things, that they are accounts in the sense of property/monetary accounts, and the exact contrast that your comment shows–their lack of being considered families like the landowners. The recording of their deaths with unknown parents and unknown age, etc. is very sad. But I still appreciate your efforts and the inclusion of this documentation. Those I know of African-American descent keenly feel this hole in their history–not being able to trace their families–and even scanty details like these can be bittersweet prizes in connecting to their personal past.

  16. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you. It is our hope to record what we can and present it to the public. If it help just one person find a missing part of their lives it will have been worth all the research.

  17. metan Says:

    Great post. History should always be remembered, good or bad. Minimizing the bad stuff doesn’t make it go away, and means people forget, something that shouldn’t happen.
    African men owning other African men is not something I had heard of only rarely before. Is this something that happened often?

  18. I totally agree with you. We should always remember. As far as African men owning others, I have heard of a few, but not as much as whites owning them. This is just the first record of someone being held for life as a slave in Virginia. I thought it was strange too that it was an African man who was once an indentured servant wanting to hold another man for life.

  19. Angeline M Says:

    It’s late here, and I’ve just scanned your post. I will be back tomorrow to read it in its entirety. Fascinating records and history you’ve given here. Great work you’ve done on all of this.

  20. Thank you! We want all the history to be told of Belle Grove.

  21. Momma Mindy Says:

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today. I really appreciated your visit!

    I was especially thrilled to discover your blog is filled with HISTORY, one of my favorite subjects. I especially love the history behind homes, antiques and dishes, so I look forward to learning more!

  22. You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog too! History is one of our favorite subjects. And with our passion for Belle Grove, it makes it even more sweet!

  23. Momma Mindy Says:

    Your marketing strategy is amazing. I already showed the pic to my hubby and said, “Hey! I wanna’ go stay there!” I belong to a Christian writers group and all I could think about for those writing historical fiction is that you could host writing retreats there.

  24. Thank you! We would love to host a writing retreat! It is such a peaceful place, it would be a great place to gather your thoughts.

  25. shofar Says:

    Great research, Michelle! You’re a great historian bringing authenticity and greatness to Belle Grove’s past and future! My grand daughter will be fascinated by this post since she is studying about slavery in her 6th grade American history class.

  26. That is wonderful! I hope it will give her some insight on how it came to be at least here in Virginia. Thank you!

  27. Norma Chang Says:

    Thanks for the history lesson, I am learning so much about American history through your research and writings.

  28. Thank you so much! We have really enjoyed doing the research and sharing it!

  29. acairfearann Says:

    I think wordpress ate my post. In any case, it is wonderful to see solid research being done, using the primary sources. Being able to present both the accomplishments and darkness of the past is one of the really good things you are doing with Belle Grove, so nice to see.

  30. Thank you so much! We love Belle Grove and have a great passion for its history, good and bad.

  31. Pat Says:

    Thank God for His care and love,wonderful History,and no we should not ever forget. “Whew” that was a lot but I also learned from your wonderful finds.
    Love you 😀

  32. Pat, thank you for your support and loyal following! What great history Belle Grove has and we want to make sure we represent it, good and bad. Who knows, maybe through our research someone will be able to connect with your family.

  33. Pat Says:

    Wow that would be awesome!! I’m enjoying the journey for sure.
    Love you Michelle

  34. Love you too Pat 🙂

  35. Powerful history / post – lest we never forget! I have nominated you for a “Versatile Blogger Award”. To accept please go to

  36. Thank you so much! We will never forget any of the history of Belle Grove. We hope to open the small museum soon to bring it to our visitors! Thank you so much for sharing our blog with your readers! It really does mean a lot to us!

  37. Nativegrl77 Says:

    Glad you included the slave history …for obvioius reasons but well, it happened (^:

  38. We love Belle Grove and its history, good and bad.

  39. Chuck Ring Says:

    A stellar job. As a retired police detective, I am envious of your work and extra-ordinarily proud of your accomplishment.

  40. Thank you! Coming from a police detective, I am honored.

  41. Aelfgifu Says:

    Very informative and interesting reading. Thank You for stopping by my blog.

  42. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of yours! Thank you for stopping by ours! We hope to see you one day at the plantation!

  43. You have a gift of telling history, I for one appreciate all your research, Although not one of our better historical facts, it did happen and you did a good job of telling it.

  44. Thank you! It wasn’t a subject I enjoyed doing, except finding the names of those who would have gone nameless.

  45. You did good in remembering them and that part of history so they will not go nameless and will always be remembered.

  46. What lovely research you do. It would be so lovely to put your blogs together in a little book to sell or give away at the plantation when you open. You could make two little booklets: a historical one about the plantation and its history and a places of interest one so people could visit the places you have visited and written about.

  47. I have been asked about that several times. I am thinking on it. However you are the first who has thought of doing two instead of one. I think I like that idea!

  48. It would be a keepsake for the history buffs – the history one. And it would be a travel guide for people who don’t know Virginia. I just think you are doing such a wonderful job on the blog, it deserves to have a wider audience.

  49. I will look into it!

  50. gardeniahung Says:

    This is a good explanation of Indentured Landowners and The Origins of Slavery at the Belle Grove Plantation, Virginia in the USA.

  51. Thank you! I can’t say I enjoyed the research on this subject, but it was nice being able to find some of the names of the slaves. We can now remember them.

  52. bucketdave Says:

    Wow, very amazing article. It’s very important that someone did this research, even if it wasn’t the most fun job.

  53. Thank you! I am just glad I have names now that we can give them respect for the work they did for Belle Grove.

  54. Markus Says:

    Great research. Terrible history but it is so important to keep researching and to learn about the past.

  55. I totally agree! It wasn’t the best part of Belle Grove’s history, but at least now those who worked, lived and died there will have a name and will be remembered.

  56. hermitsdoor Says:

    You continue to find another file drawer full of information about this house and property! Maybe you could set up a widget on the side of your blog that would let us link to your posts on the history.

    I’m drafting a post on desegregation to put up soon.

  57. I am finding things left and right! Wait until you see my next post! I will have to look into the widget to do it. What would that widget be called? I don’t think I have ever heard of that one. I look forward to reading your post soon!

  58. jackcurtis Says:

    Please keep up the history…the past, shapes the present. The juxtaposition of ObamaCare’s hyped need for doctors and reduction of pay for them with the acceleration of student loan obligations creating new ones, seems likely to provide a new class of indentured servants…

  59. I have a lot more history to come! Wait until you see my new find!

  60. Lissa Rabon Says:

    This is great stuff! So wonderful to live in that history. Thank you for sharing it!

  61. You are so welcome! Thank you for stopping by! Wait until you see what new pieces of history I have found!

  62. eideard Says:

    Important. Pleased you didn’t hide from it.

    I think that’s a compliment.

  63. We were hiding from it. I am so glad we were able to find names to go with those that worked, lived and died at this plantation. Many have no grave or tombstone and no records of their time here. Now I can give them the respect they so deserve.

  64. I was in DC last month and spent a couple of days in Alexandria. Thought of you guys and how far away you were from Alexandria. I learned about Thomas Jefferson’s slaves at the museum of American History. A very interesting story, that of the slaves of Monticello. Very sad but also very beautiful

  65. Wow, you were too far from us at all! DC is maybe 45 mins to an hour from us, depending on that wonderful traffic that DC is known for. Yes, the stories of the slaves of years past was one of the nicest part of our history. I do have to say though most were not mistreated as some farther south. Have you ever heard the term “sell you South”? That was a threat made of selling a slave to a more southern plantation were they were not treated as nice. But we are working on uncovering more about our own slaves and preserving what history we do find of them. I think they deserve at less to have a name remember if nothing else is found.

  66. Grumpa Joe Says:

    Great job or researching and writing the history. Your accounts will only serve to enhance the appeal of your B&B. Keep on diggin’.

  67. Thank you! I just loving finding new pieces to put together with the rest of the history.

  68. leahmama1 Says:

    I am really interested to hear more about your research. Maybe you will write a book. It is all fascinating!

  69. Thank you! I have had many ask me to do so. I just don’t know when I would have the time to do it! This dream of mine has me so busy, but a good busy! I may have to do it one day though. It would be great if I could make a contribution to it’s library!

  70. Long way down here!
    That was fascinating though slavery is a terrible thing and a sad blot on human history. The small museum you mention is a great idea and would serve as both an important reminder but also the centre of some fantastic tales of history that would really bring the plantation to life. Look forward to further developments 🙂

  71. Thank you! Please check out our new page called “Silent Vintage and Antiques Auction”. We are doing a Silent Auction throughout the month of October to raise funds to restore, preserve and open that museum!

  72. Editors Says:

    Sounds Good.

  73. Leo Says:

    Great research and presentation. I live in Africa and we are still expected to feel guilty about slavery. The truth is that it was not the Europeans that started this trend but they did exploit it for cheap labour. Originally the Chiefs of the inland tribes brought their captives and criminals to the coast and sold them to the ships that landed. In the early days the seafarers did not go inland as it was too dangerous . They didn`t go into villages and force the people onto the boats, they were brought to there like cattle to be traded. A similar thing happened in Europe and Asia when counties were invaded, the population was put into slavery, that was life in those days. Do you find in the USA that descendants of slavery still expect compensation ? as they do here, instead of moving forward .

  74. Thank you so much for your comment. It is really great to hear what the feelings are in your country about slavery. I knew about the tribes trading others to the Europeans, but I didn’t realize that there is still bad blood over it in Africa. There are some who feel the same here, but I hope as the generations are born, those will move on. At Belle Grove, we just want to make sure we gave a name to all those who have until this time been nameless.

  75. Wow! Beautiful work you did here! thanks for sharing! I like your blog a lot! You now have a new follower! 🙂

  76. Thank you so much! We have loved sharing all the fun and history with everyone! Thank you for joining us on this adventure!

  77. RobynG Says:

    Fascinating, as always! 😉

  78. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! 🙂

  79. spajzgirl Says:

    It was very interesting!!!Thank you..

  80. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome! It was a sad part of the history, but it is important to remember it too!

    Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!

  81. digger666 Says:

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Reblogged from the meticulous Lest we forget…

  82. Thank you for sharing us with your readers! We really appreciate it!

  83. Lest we forget; fascinating stories, your family’s and Belle Grove’s. Thank you.

  84. virginiaplantation Says:

    Thank you! I totally agree! We should never forget.

  85. Nativegrl77 Says:

    Thank you for stopping by – all the likes are greatly appreciated…I wanted to interject that in some not all instances of Slaves owning other slaves are family ties taking action to keep family together. Great stuff VAPlantation … Good Luck on the Auction !

  86. virginiaplantation Says:

    You are so welcome! That is a great piece of history I didn’t know about. Thank you!

  87. Gillian Says:

    I’m glad to learn more of the history of slavery in the former colonies. It ties in with my current reading, William Wilberforce by William Hague. What a beautiful place you have. I’ll keep it on my list of possible accommodations should we travel in your area, which I dearly hope to do in the next few years.

  88. It’s not one of the best parts of our history, but it is still part of it. I have some knowledge about William Wilberforce. After I saw the movie “Amazing Grace” I wanted to learn more about him. Great man! We do hope you will follow along with us on this journey and maybe find your way to our plantation some day. Thank you!

  89. Mrs. P Says:

    Thank you for sharing this history. You brought up the case of John Casor claiming to be an indentured servant but John Anderson saying he was his slave for life. It seems so strange that a man who was once an indentured servant himself would try to prevent another man from being emancipated. I had discovered some of my own relatives came to America as indentured servants. Your back history on why white people were sent over as servants was very helpful, thank you.

  90. You are so welcome. It was a surprise reading that someone who was a servant would do the same to someone else. I just read the other day too that some slaves would buy other slaves in order to keep their families together. I didn’t know that either. I’m glad I was able to be some help. Thank you for stopping by.

  91. Reblogged this on someonesomewhere00 and commented:
    A fascinating post on slavery in Virginia (USA). The description of how human beings (mostly white but some black African) could regard others as property and treat them as such is truly shocking.

  92. Thank you so much for sharing our blog with your readers! It really means a lot to us!

  93. Cris Says:

    You really put a lot of work into this. Good job. And thanks for dropping by my photo blog and liking it.

  94. You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your work! Thank you for stopping by ours!

  95. Nativegrl77 Says:

    thank you for all the likes … thank you for the history lesson & adventure

  96. You are so welcome! And thank you for following along with us too!

  97. iamrcc Says:

    Thank you for the research you have done. More importantly, thank you for posting it so others can perhaps get some idea of what was transpiring during those times. In response to the individual who commented about moving forward, that is easier said than done. When you are wronged, it is easier to put it behind you when obstacles are not constantly placed in your path to hamper your ability to be successful. That was the case for the majority of slaves. When many look back on their history and the stories that were related about their family and what the family went through, they quite naturally feel angry/cheated. While there are thousands of success stories, there are equally as many that are filled with tragedy because someone looked the wrong way, walked down the wrong street or through the wrong door.

    Perhaps if the story of slavery had been fully told and studied in schools years ago, America wouldn’t still be in denial and people would feel like they could let go of the past and move forward.

    Thanks by the way for visiting my blog once again and liking my post “Sailing Sailing”.

  98. Thank you so much for your comments. I agree it would have been easier that there not been so many things to get over. I hope we can tell that story of our plantation through our small Summer Kitchen museum some day.

    You are so welcome! We hope to see more from your blog in the future!

  99. helen1950 Says:

    I have just posted and have recently written about slavery in reference to Women and their ability to thwart the hideous regime. However this is from a British point of view and with little knowledge. What a coincidence that you should like my post that is unrelated. … thank SO much for ‘liking’ me and giving me a better insight in slavery

  100. You are so welcome! I am going to read your view here shortly. I think it would be interesting to see how the British feel about it. Thank you for stopping by and reading our blog! We hope someday you might find your way to our plantation too!

  101. Just fascinating, and such terrific research.

  102. Thank you! It’s not the best part of Belle Grove, but it is important to remember it.

  103. beingzora Says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog and the Like. I grew up in Virginia and appreciate the work that you are doing — on both levels. Keep it up and good luck with your restoration. Zee

  104. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of yours in the future! We also hope you will join us on this grand journey! Maybe someday you can find your way to our plantation! Thank you for stopping by!

  105. This is an interesting topic. I live in Maryland, so I am not too far from Virginia. The East Coast is loaded with history. Great research and presentation. I enjoy learning about history.

  106. You are so welcome. I’m sorry the pictures were back on there yet. We messed up and removed them by accident. But we hope to have them back soon. Maybe you can come by the plantation after we open and visit the Summer Kitchen Museum once we get it finished. We plan to honor those slaves that worked on the plantation there.

  107. That sounds like an amazing idea. I will have to get up with you when I visit VA. I’ll have to set aside a weekend in the summer to check it out 🙂

  108. opreach Says:

    Great research on a very difficult part of our history. Thank you.

  109. Thank you! It’s not the best part of our history at Belle Grove, but to forget it would be disrespecting those that lived it.

  110. opreach Says:

    Well said. Blessings.

  111. Very worthwhile research. I would not call it a “sad” part of American history – because all great economies/civilizations were based on slave labour. Sad is that racial prejudices still exist in our present time. Giving those half-named ones their deserved respect is a dignified task.

  112. Thank you. I do agree with what you said. We hope to be able to give them the respect that they so deserve.

  113. Jan Says:

    Thanks for liking my post on Cottonmouth Creek! And I’m so glad I checked out your blog. I particularly liked this post of yours. I’m a southern girl, born and bred in Oklahoma, and my family roots are deep in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and finally Oklahoma about 120 years ago. I also have some Yankee roots, but I don’t identify with them as much because they also went through the south to get to me.
    I said all that to get to my dad’s family who settled in South Carolina in the early 1700s. By 1860 various family members on different farms owned close to 100 slaves. When I first found this information I had to go away from it and think I was probably looking at the wrong family, but after awhile I revisited it and faced the unpleasant facts.
    I also have original settlers in Virginia starting with Jamestown and then various other new settlements across the territory during the Colonial period. Some of those “family farmers” also owned slaves. One of these days I hope to make a trip to some of those family locations and do some more research on these families and when I do I’d love to visit your place as well.
    So glad I found your blog.

  114. Jan, That is some wonderful family history. To go back to Jamestown as well as other colonial settlements is wonderful. I do understand your feelings on the fact that some of those gentleman farmers owned slaves. But just remember that in the earlier days, they weren’t so much slave as they were indentured servants working off a debt. It was in later years that it turned into slavery. But I do hope that you will have a chance to come east and visit some of these areas. They are so worth the time. We are also glad you found us! We look forward to seeing more of your blog too! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  115. stephglaser Says:

    Thank you for providing the whole story — as ugly as it may be. As you mentioned, it’s so important to examine this part of history and it would be tragic not to do so. I appreciate your honesty and giving complete information! Your B&B sounds lovely. Thank you so much, as well, for stopping by and following Travel Oops! Steph

  116. You are so welcome! We enjoyed your blog and look forward to seeing more soon! Yes, it’s not the best part of Belle Grove, but it is part of it. We want the whole story told, not just bits and pieces. Thank you for stopping by ours! We hope to see you “around” some time!

  117. Thanks so much for posting this piece of history. The story of what happened to John Casor was chilling, and you can only imagine how devastating this practice was to the people imprisoned as slaves.

    There may be more interesting things where the broken china was found. I recently “excavated” a Victorian “tip” (English word for garbage dump”) on my uncle’s farm, and we found all sorts of pottery and glass. Anyway, it’s very exciting to follow your research into the history of your house and land. Please keep writing!

    All best, Virginia

  118. You are so welcome! How cool to meet a “Virginia”! Yes, this part of history wasn’t the best of Belle Grove, but wait until you read what I am about to post! I couldn’t believe it. Thank you for stopping by!

  119. It is crazy to think slavery still exists in America and Russia, but does. Plesae see my book, “The Hammer and Sickle,” available worldwide on and Amazon:

  120. Thank you! We will check it out! Also find us on Facebook at – Please Like Us!

  121. Thanks for giving us our first “Like”! Have an awesome Thanksgiving.

  122. Yay! I love being the first! Thank you so much for stopping by! We hope to see more of you and your blog!

  123. Such thorough research. Check out the ancestry show that follows the roots of famous people. Some amazing athletes are descendants of Virginia landowners and slaves.

  124. Thank you! I will have to take a look!

  125. Thank you for your like. Your blog is so enlightening. I look forward to reading more

  126. You are so welcome! Thank you!

  127. oarubio Says:

    Wonderful research! My maternal grandmother (1894-1971) was born in the family house in Montgomery, AL which was away from the actual plantation site. Your article inspires me to see how I can add to the family history. (My mother is still alive.) Thanks for your approval of my article yesterday. The “pen” is still mighty! — Tony

  128. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future! Thank you so much! You will have to let us know what you come up with! We love to hear about others that we have inspired and what it helps them find! Yes, give me a pen any day!

  129. Love your blog. Am coming back to read this more more later, as the pictures won’t load for some reason. I need to start back on my own research. I met someone born into slavery in 1961. I was 8 at the time. She was 103 and mopping the floor. She was born in 1858. I have written some things about her on my blog under Sally.

  130. Wow! I will have to see if I can read that! Thank you! I made the mistake of deleting my media library and lost a lot of my old posting pictures. We was going to work on it the weekend my mother became ill so now I am behind in repairing it. It’s not you. We look forward to reading more of your blog too! Thank you for stopping by!

  131. Sorry, I should have phrased that in 1961 I had met someone who had been born into slavery in 1858.

  132. 😉

  133. pstpierre Says:

    What an extremely interesting account of the history of Belle Grove.

    I bet you can just feel what it would be like to turn the clock back to the 1700’s.

    Thanks for liking my post.

  134. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog soon! Being there you can just “feel” the history around you.

  135. Maxi Says:

    I grew up in the 50s when African-Americans were not allowed to enter any public buildings, couldn’t drink from fountains, had to sit in the rear of the transit bus, and so other rights they deserved.

    I didn’t understand it then and don’t understand it now. To me it was a semblance of slavery. It made me very sad when I was young.

    Blessings ~ Maxi

  136. Maxi, I didn’t come along during that time, but I can only image what it was like. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. It was a type of slavery.

  137. Mike Limon Says:

    Hi. Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog entry about Pearl Harbor. I hope that you enjoyed it and stop by often. I must say, I have never seen a blog like yours before. I love it. Very informative! The only problem I had was the pictures on this page did not load, so I was only able to read the text. I don’t know if the problem is with my computer, or with your site. I will try and re-load the page and see if that helps. I look forward to reading more of your research. Take care!

  138. You are so welcome! We look forward to seeing more of your blog in the future! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! It’s not your computer. I made a mistake and deleted my media library about a month or so ago. I was going to replace the pictures but wasn’t able to due to my mother’s illness. I am hoping to catch up on my blog photo replacement over the weekend if I can. I am so glad that you are enjoying it. If you like this post on slavery, please check back in the next day or too. I have some updates on it for our plantation.

  139. Sandymae Says:

    Thanks for liking my blog on “Brain Training – It’s not as easy as it the sounds”.

    What a lovely B&B and such interesting history surrounding it! I just recently finished reading two different books on slavery, and sad as it was, I really wanted to know as much of the history as possible. The first book was “The Covenant” by James A. Michener and the second one was “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill. I also read Roots by Alex Haley some time ago. Although these books were fictional in story, they included a great deal of actual history. I am 6 or 7 generations down from King George, the third so was quite interested in the history involving him as well. Not history that I can “brag about” :), but still history. Thanks for sharing your information.

  140. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future!

    If you want to read a really good book on slavery, read “A Slave in the White House” by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor. I will be putting a post up on it in a few minutes.

    Thank you for stopping by!

  141. Sandymae Says:

    Thanks so much for the reference on the book. I will certainly look it up as I am trying to read a variety of authors. This is one that I have not read yet. I have taken a break on blogging for a bit, but plan to get back into it soon. Thanks for your historical information.

  142. You are so welcome!

  143. futuredoll Says:

    So interesting! You explain everything so well!

  144. Thank you! It wasn’t a great part of our past, but it is a part that is just as important. Be on the look out for more on the slaves at Belle Grove. I have recently uncovered slaves that connect us to James Madison’s Montpelier!

  145. Nativegrl77 Says:

    Thank you for all the likes !!!

  146. You are so welcome!

  147. Nativegrl77 Says:

    looking forward to more renovation updates!!

  148. Thank you! We hope to start getting the estimates soon!

  149. Nativegrl77 Says:

    Hope you and yours have a great XMAS a Happy New Year

  150. Thank you! Merry Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year!

  151. What a terrific story. Thanks for taking the time to tell it and for stopping by my blog to remind me to take a look. It really helps to get a notice from wordpress of a visitor so Ill be reminded to visit. I don’t like to miss out on great stories like this. I tweeted @jacquelineJax

  152. Thank you! I don’t have a tweet account set up just yet. I will soon. I will make sure to keep yours in mind. I know what you mean about checking with blogs you follow. I try really hard to check everyone’s blog, but with things gearing up, I’m not sure how much I can get to each day. Merry Christmas from Brett, Hurley and Michelle at Belle Grove Plantation!

  153. Wow .

  154. I know, its not pretty, but it is part of the history. I do have some developing information on slaves at Belle Grove I will be posting soon.

  155. have you considered getting a story or a movie woven round your plantation. It looks quite romantic.

  156. You know I have. I just need to finish the research and get our bed and breakfast on the ground first. I have been playing with some ideas on how to approach it. I have thought of telling the story of the plantation through the eyes of the house. You know like the house is telling the story. The other way I just thought of today. I thought wouldn’t it be fun to have it told through the eyes of the women who lived there during different periods. Kind of like the American Girl series except more for adults. Of course I am not really a writer. I just enjoy writing this blog. 😉

  157. Again, very compelling work. Thank you.

  158. Thank you! Its not the best part of the plantation but it was part of the history that made it what it is today.

  159. Nativegrl77 Says:

    History …love it!!! as always, thank you for stopping by

  160. You are so welcome! We love to “visit” We love history too! Even if it isn’t the best kind of history, it is all still important. Thank you!

  161. Great stuff. I have a moral dilemma. If we all agree that slavery was an evil, would we condemn all those who benefited or who lived in societies that allowed slavery (and did nothing about it) as evil?

  162. I understand your dilemma. As a person, if I had lived in that time period would I have been a slave owner or not. I was born in South Carolina and more than likely would have had slaves in my household through my father. Unless I was lower class and couldn’t afford them. Personally, I don’t think I would have wanted to own someone else. I would have found it wrong. But I have the benefit of knowing a time when slaves weren’t owned. Would I have felt that way if it was all I knew? I don’t know. I like to think I wouldn’t have. But as you ask, do we hold those societies accountable for it or call them evil? Well if you did that, you could never live in any society. Most cultures in the world at one time or another had slaves, whether they were called slaves or not. So does that make us all evil? And are we, in present day held accountable for the actions of our fathers? I don’t think so. We can not change the past. Nor can you hold someone accountable who had no way of changing it. But what we can do is hold others accountable to keep it from happening again. And how do we remember it? Do we push it under the rug and forget about it or do we state what happen in truth and teach our children about it? That I feel is where we are accountable.

  163. It is a question that has to be asked especially when there are states today who countenance forms of slavery (the prostitution rings in some countries). It must also be remembered (and not to pick on America) but slavery was abolished in most of the western world long before the American civil war.

  164. That is true. But if you want to get down to it, who provided the slaves to the Americans? Not that Americans are cleared of the blame, but Africans would capture and kidnap their own people to sell them into slavery. And it wasn’t just the white plantation owners that owned slaves. There were former slaves that owned slaves too. So where do you point the finger of blame? The truth is slavery had become such a big part of the southern culture and way of life, it was hard to give up. And there were Americans that did free their slaves. Dolley Madison’s father became a Quaker and freed his own slaves before moving his family to Philadelphia. After years of trying to make ends meet, he ended up bankrupt and was expelled from the Quaker community for that debt. So seeing how other freed their slaves only to end up bankrupt made it even harder to get others to follow suit. So it could be the reason it took so long for America to caught up with the Western World.

  165. Sandymae Says:

    I really like your answer. I have thought about that so much as I have researched and read stories on slavery. For seven years I lived in a culture where everyone who could afford it had domestic help. At first I really resisted the idea as I felt that I should be doing all my own domestic work and it seemed demeaning to me to have someone doing my cleaning or laundry. After having so many people approach me asking for cleaning or gardening jobs, I then realized that it was my responsibility to give and pay for honest work if I could possibly afford it. I wanted so much to treat those who worked for me as equals in every way. It didn’t always work out especially when I wanted live-in help to sit at the table and eat with us. Many of them appeared to feel uncomfortable, but over the years I made some life-long friends from Nannies who helped with our children and the housework. I came to know their families and attended weddings of a number of their children. It has taken society many years to break free from slavery, and let’s hope and pray that we will never ever treat others as our property or as less value than us. We are all God’s children.

  166. I can’t say I have ever had that issue with having people to help at home, but the idea that you stated was presented to me just a week ago as I was watching the first season of Downton Abby. (I am trying to catch up on the series) But the Lord was talking to the new Lord to be about the same issue. He told him that as someone of rank, it was their duty to help provide honest work for those around them. That everyone had their part to play in the whole picture. I thought that was very smart and had never really seen it that way. But I agree without those who provide, others would suffer too. I also agree that I hope we never go down that road of slavery again. It is by remembering it that we keep it from happening again. Yes, we are all God’s children and He expects us to look out for each other.

  167. themofman Says:

    This is a highly important post.

    It infuriates me to think that a society, content in the assumption that it is noble and decent, would enact laws and grant wills to justify the enslavement of other people while fully convinced that those people are not people.

    As you and other cmmentators have said; however, it is necessary to report the full truth of a history of any community. Thank you so much for bearing true history; both the positive and the negative.

  168. Thank you so much! We agree with your when it comes to the true of history. All of it is important, good and bad. It is how we got to where we are today. And to forget the past dooms us to repeat it.

  169. pstpierre Says:

    Thank you for liking my Christmas post.
    I’m assuming that you’re plantation is up and running as a B&B.
    Is that correct?

  170. You are so welcome! We are working towards that. We are in the zoning process to get approval from the county so we can open in April or May. Thank you!

  171. elmediat Says:

    A fascinating account. Only by confronting the Shadows in our history can we come to understanding and achieve healing. Presently, here in Canada, the Idle No More Movement is creating a necessary , though difficult , opportunity for us to face the results of our treatment of The First Nations People.

  172. Thank you! I would have to agree with you one facing it. I haven’t heard a lot about the First Nations People, but I am sure it is a lot like the American and Native Americans and the way we treated them. Is that correct?

  173. What fascinating historical research you’re doing here. I work in a botanical library, and the librarian here worked for months with Dr. Sam Black to research what freedom-seekers would have eaten for wild native edibles when they were on the Underground Railroad. The resulting info was incorporated into “Slavery to Freedom” about which you can read more here:
    Also, I believe the journals of botanist William Bartram may trace his journeys through the Rapanhannok (sp?) area and may prove helpful to you. all best! Angela

  174. Thank you so much! We are always interested in finding connections that may lead us to new information!

  175. This was quite informative –especially the portion which explains the first instance of legal life time servitude in the Virginia colonies. Thanks for sharing.

  176. You are so welcome! We don’t enjoy this part of our history, but we truly believe it is an important part. We are working on a new post on the slavery side of Belle Grove that we hope to post soon. It tells about the connection we share with Montpelier and their slaves.

  177. I love history and would enjoy reading your next post on this topic. I will be on the lookout for it in future. Thanks so much. 🙂

  178. You are so welcome. I will try to get it up soon.

  179. Awesome. I’m looking forward to it. I shared you article with a coworker today and had a really interesting discussion about history. Thanks so much. 🙂

  180. Bunk Strutts Says:

    Fair and even-handed reporting of such a touchy subject. Indentured servitude was the norm and not the exception throughout most of human history. It wasn’t until relatively recently that slavery was banned in civilized countries, yet it still exists.

  181. Thank you so much! We have to say that we agree with your statements totally.

  182. Christina Says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I have been reading around on your site and love love love it! What an interesting history and turn of events you are uncovering. Belle Grove seems like a fascinating place with loads of history hidden all around. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  183. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog in the future! Thank you! We are so glad you have joined us on this journey!

  184. It was quite interesting to read the specific history you outlined. Thank you for the effort of research.

  185. Thank you so much! We will be adding some more information soon around the slaves that lived and died at our plantation! I think you will find it very interesting!

  186. suehillbeck Says:

    I’m so pleased you liked my blog and I found my way here. I recently realised how little I know about this period of history when I read Mildred d Taylor’s roll of thunder hear my cry. Can’t wait to see what else you uncover and thanks for giving me a bit more knowledge

  187. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog! Thank you! We have more information to come on this subject. I have a little more research I want to do before I do the post. But it is coming soon!

  188. Such and interesting subject, I have always been fascinated by the history of the South, the civil war etc. Thank you for visiting my blog

  189. You are so welcome! We hope to see more of your blog! Thank you! We hope you will stop by the blog again!

  190. adamspaula90 Says:

    What an amazing story…the writing is delightful.

  191. Thank you!

  192. adamspaula90 Says:


  193. Eddie Green Says:

    I am glad that I read your blog during Black History Month. It has rich information that we as American should always remember and pass down.

  194. Thank you! You know we are working hard to restoring the Summer Kitchen (which is both kitchen and slave quarters). Once we do, we are going to make it a small museum. The kitchen side will house the artifacts we have found and will find and the history of the families that have lived on the plantation. The slave quarters side will be to remember all the slaves that have lived, served and died on the plantation. I have found slaves going back to the Conway family (1670-1790). I will be posting a new post soon with more information that I have uncovered. But I am excited to give these important people a name and will be remembered. We just need to get the funds to do it.

  195. lolahbf Says:

    The story of John Castor is heartbreaking. Reminds you of the injustice of mankind. Learning about slavery makes my blood boil (especially as an African myself).

  196. It is sad to know that it happened no matter who you were during that time. But by remembering it and talking about it, we keep it from happening again. And we give those who were apart of it a name. I am going to be doing another on the slaves of Belle Grove soon. I just need to finish my research to confirm some things. Thank you for stopping by and reading it!

  197. That is extremely sad and often ugly, but also very interesting to read about the reality of it all in such precise detail. The early 17th C period also interesting, when it was indentured labourer as opposed to full slavery per se and there were under James I and his headright laws, both black and white laborers. Also strangely but very interesting to hear of the African- American man successfully suing his white neighbour for ownership of a slave or indentured labourer. All in all, sobering stuff. Excellent post, thank you.

  198. Thank you! It’s not a beautiful part of Belle Grove’s history, but it is just as important as any other part. Because its each part that made it what it is today! We should have more soon on more things I have found out about.

  199. futuredoll Says:

    “If we don’t learn from history , we are doomed to repeat it.” I loved your pictures-took me on a little Thursday break from my business tasks!

  200. Thank you! You know this is one of our most popular posts. Such a sad part of our history, but such an important one to remember.

  201. […] back to the Slave Quarters that I mentioned […]

  202. Thank you so much for sharing this campaign and love of our priceless outbuildings!

  203. This is a great (albeit disturbing too), well-told, little-known story. But, the subsequent discussion by your readers is even more thought provoking! Have recorded others’ sites, book info, etc. Time well spent today! Thanks for that.

  204. Thank you! It wasn’t the best part of the history we have here, but it is just as important any other events that happened. It is what made the plantation what it is today.