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Free Persons of Color in The Revolutionary War: Charles Lewis & Rolly Pinn of Virginia

Free Persons of Color in The Revolutionary War:
Charles Lewis & Rolly Pinn of Virginia

(Excerpts from my book "Full Circle: Free Persons of Color In Ante-Bellum Virginia") by Anita Baxter-Wills
Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.

Below is an excerpt from my book Full Circle: Free Persons of Color in Ante-Bellum Virginia. The information is a sharing of some information I have on my ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. This is an attempt to share some of my family history with those who are still searching. With that in mind I will give tips on how and where I found my information. I have been doing this for twenty years and have a lot of material, more than I can share in this article. I want to encourage those who are seeking to continue on - do not let a wall stop you - the information you are seeking is waiting for you to uncover it.

I was born and raised in Pennsylvania and lived my early life in Chester and Berks County. My parents were George and Vivian (Martin) Baxter. My mother and her parents, Charles and Leah (Ruth) Martin, were born in Pennsylvania. My father came to Pennsylvania with his parents, Charles and Annie (Boneaparte) Baxter, in 1920 from Orangeburg, South Carolina.

I heard very little of my paternal history growing up and did not know until I was an adult why. When I found out about slavery and how my ancestors were treated I understood why they did not discuss it. My mother was just the opposite. She often told us about the accomplishments of our ancestors. We knew that Great-Grandfather Samuel Ruth had founded the Church of Christ, which was about two miles from where we lived. We knew his mother was black and his father, her slave master. We also knew that he had been sold by his white father when he was seven years old. He had the indignity of not only being sold but also watching his mother be sold along side of him.

Samuel Ruth was liberated by the famous 54th Massachusetts and taken to Pennsylvania where he met and married Maria Louisa Pinn. After he married her and they purchased a farmhouse he found his mother living on Hog Island [off the coast of South Carolina] and took her to Pennsylvania. She lived there until her death at the age of 95 and is buried on the grounds of Christ Church in Erculdon, Pennsylvania.

That was the kind of oral tradition my mother kept alive in our family. However, this article is about our Virginia history, a history which mother did not know existed. The farthest back my mother went on my Great-Grandmother Louisa (Pinn) Ruth's side was to her father, Robert Pinn, who was a minister in Philadelphia from 1868-1887. She gave me a letter from the church he ministered at and I wrote them to find information about him. They knew nothing of his background only his accomplishments as a minister. They also told me that there was another church, Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, named for my ancestor.

From that point on the search was on and over the course of 20 years I documented my maternal line, which began in Virginia. I am going to focus on those who served in the Revolutionary War out of Virginia. I will start with Charles Lewis:

Charles & Ambrose Lewis [abt. 1745-1834]:

Ambrose and Charles Lewis were among the fifty-nine free "Mulattoes" in 1790, which the Federal Census counted in the town of Fredericksburg. They comprised about nine percent of the town's population and were not a significant part of the town's residents. In later documents Ambrose would state that when he worked, he was a barber and that he had grown children in Fredericksburg. Ambrose and Charles were a part of the prominent white Lewis family and are mentioned in several publications written about the family. [i]

Ambrose [ii] has more documentation due to his application for a pension from his service in the Revolutionary War. Charles had children and seems to have resided in and around Fredericksburg without leaving much documentation. Charles' wife is not identified on any documents, although she is believed to be a Betty Lewis. Ambrose was married and his wife's name was Fanny. He had several children who lived their lives in and around Fredericksburg. Ambrose is identified as a black man on a number of documents. Charles' race is not mentioned on any documents.

Charles and Ambrose served aboard the Gally Page and Dragon Ship and then joined the armed forces. The records I have showing Charles service are Rosters as well as the following document [Virginia Soldiers of 1776, Burgess, Louis A. 1973: Virginia: pp. 735-36]:

In Fredericksburg A Different Story, Ruth Coder-Fitzgerald writes this about Fielding Lewis's contribution to the Revolutionary War [p. 34]: " One of the ships of the fleet was the Dragon, which had been inspired by Fielding Lewis. The Dragon's keel was laid in the fall of 1776 in Fredericksburg. Captain Eleazer Callender supervised the construction and in October 1777, took command of the ship, having earlier had experience on the ship Defiance. The Dragon's first year of service was on the Rappahannock River. Later, the ship saw action while patrolling in the Chesapeake Bay.[iii] More blacks served on the Dragon than on any other vessel... Also serving the Rappahannock fleet on the Dragon was Fredericksburg black Ambrose Lewis...,[iv] Ambrose Lewis went on to enlist in the army after his navy service. His brother, Charles, also was a Revolutionary War soldier."

According to Ambrose Lewis's Pension file:[v] the Galley Page and later the Dragon Ship in the Revolutionary War.[1] The Dragon Ship was commissioned by George Washington and built by Fielding Lewis, his brother-in-law. After his service in the Navy Ambrose signed up for the infantry and was taken prisoner in South Carolina. He participated in the Battle of Camden where he received an injury and was taken aboard a prison ship. He served aboard a prison ship off the coast of South Carolina until the end of the war.[vi]

Dragon Ship Register [vii]

Men's Names Pork Flour Spirits
Ambrose Lewis 30 37 1/2 30
Joshua Singleton 30 37 1/2 30
John Smope 30 37 1/2 30
John Mose 30 37 1/2 30
Joseph Sanders 30 37 1/2 30
Richard Smart 30 37 1/2 30
Edwin Eskridge 30 37 1/2 30
Francis Webb 30 37 1/2 30
Thomas Ransom 30 37 1/2 30
Howson Kenner 30 37 1/2 30
Iverson Huttall 30 37 1/2 30
Joshua Williams 30 37 1/2 30
Presley Heil 30 37 1/2 30
William Booth 30 37 1/2 30
William Huse 30 37 1/2 30
Thomas Mitchell 30 37 1/2 30
Thomas Allen 30 37 1/2 30
Arman Sandall 30 37 1/2 30
Allen Mays 30 37 1/2 30
Phillip Evans 30 37 1/2 30
George Maugham 30 37 1/2 30

1 * The Dragon Ship was commissioned by George Washington and built by his brother-in-law, Fielding Lewis

Men's Names Pork Flour Spirits
William Danton 30 37 1/2 30
John Hall 30 37 1/2 30
Harry Branon 30 37 1/2 30
William West 30 37 1/2 30
Wiot Revear (?) 30 37 1/2 30
Johothan Brown 30 37 1/2 30
Joseph Brown 30 37 1/2 30
Samuel Umpher 30 37 1/2 30
James Cofey 30 37 1/2 30
Peter Casey 30 37 1/2 30
Chas Hubbard 30 37 1/2 30
Merrideth Williams 30 37 1/2 30
James Morgan 30 37 1/2 30
Isaac Fleetwood 30 37 1/2 30
James Reaves 30 37 1/2 30
George Williams 30 37 1/2 30
John Davis 30 37 1/2 30
Charles Jones 30 37 1/2 30
Pat Williams 30 37 1/2 30
Will Norman 30 37 1/2 30
Jamers White 30 37 1/2 30
James Mortimore 30 37 1/2 30
John Godich 30 37 1/2 30
Charles Lewis 30 37 1/2 30
Virginia Soldiers of 1776, Vol. II. pp. 735-36, by Louis A. burgess (Richmond 1929); "Executive Department, August 15, 1834

"Ambrose Lewis, Seaman: Exec. Dept. Aug. 15, 1834. The heirs of Ambrose Lewis are allowed L.B. (land bounty) for his services as a seaman in the State Navy. Littleton Tazewell, Gov.

The undersigned, "the only living heirs of Ambrose Lewis, who was a sailor and a soldier of the Revolution" appointed John g. Mosby of Richmond Va. their attorney. Signed Fanny Lewis (wife of Ambrose) and Hanna Lewis (daughter of Ambrose). Witnes John Metcalf. 11 Jul 1834.

Corporation of Fredericksburg. James Chew, clerk of Hustings court, certified that John Wallace was J. Of P. (Justice of Peace)

Received of the Register, warrant 1082 for 100 acres, issued 20 Dec 1834. signed, John G. Mosby Atty.

Fredericksburg Court, 10 Jul 1834. Certified that Fanny Lewis and Hannah Lewis are the only heirs of Charles Lewis, dec'd. Copy teste, James J. Chew, Clerk.

John James Chew, clerk of Spotsylvania co. certified that Ambrose and Charles Lewis, brothers, died intestate, 6 Dec 1834.

Children of Ambrose; 660L102 1. Frances Lewis; 660L103 2. Hannah Lewis: Children of Charles; 660L104 Frances Lewis (aka Fanny Bundy); 2. Nancy Lewis."[2]


* Note: Rodham Kenner, sailor in the Virginia Navy during the Revolutionary War, left heirs Phoebe Dillon, Cynthia
Lewis, Sally Chew, Ely Chew, and Nancy Chew, who were stated to be also heirs of Ambrose Lewis.

The above document outlines the proceedings as they relate to Ambrose and Charles. The heirs' statements came from Ambrose's wife Fanny and his daughter Hannah and Charles' daughters Fanny and Nancy Lewis. It is interesting to note that the ladies went to court in order to receive land bounty for Charles and Ambrose. They received 100 acres for Ambrose and 100 for Charles [less than given to whites who served]. From this information I was able to trace where the documents were and obtain copies of the originals. The information I found led me to my ancestor Nancy Lewis, who was the daughter of Charles.

Charles's military career mirrored his brothers, he served in the naval and land forces along side of Ambrose. Since Charles did not apply for a pension there is not much documentation on him. He does have a Military file, however, little information exists on him after the Revolutionary War. Charles may have continued as a Seaman on the Dragon ship coming to Virginia infrequently. The Dragon ship was berthed in Norfolk until it sank in the early 1800's and many Revolutionary Soldiers continued as sailors.

Charles had at least two children, according to Pioneer Lewis Families [viii] : Francis Lewis and Nancy Lewis were his heirs. There is no mention of who Charles' wife was or the birth dates of the children (Nancy Lewis was born about 1764).

The documents above were found in the Courthouse at Fredericksburg [Order books and proceedings], military records [The Virginia State Library and National Archives & Records]. There was a lot of cross checking in order to accurately document the information. The difficulty came in knowing that I was tracing my ancestor since there were so many Charles Lewis's in and around Spotsylvania County. I solved that problem by cross checking Charles Lewis with the information I had on Ambrose. Ambrose was identified as a mulatto, which meant that Charles was also mulatto. When searching for Charles I crosschecked the people I found in his documents with the ones I found on Ambrose. That is how I solved the problem and saved time on my research. Ambrose and Charles lived and died so closely that they may have been twins.

Rolly Pinn of Lancaster & Amherst County Virginia:

The Pinn family originated on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as Yeocomico Indians [part of the Powhatan Confederation]. Rolly's father is thought to be Robert Pinn I [about 1710-1760] whose wife's name was Margaret, Robert and Margaret had 2 son's Robert II and Rolly. In 1733 Robert I was cited by the Church Warden's of Wicomico Parish for absenting himself from Church [Wicomico parish Order Book]. In 1760 he and Margaret were in Lancaster County and their son Robert was apprenticed out as a Copper. This was probably the period when Rolly left Lancaster County (possibly as an apprentice) and settled in Amherst County.

In 1774 Rolly signed on as part of the Amherst County Militia [Swem Library, College of William & Mary: Virginia]. When the Militia was disbanded they were ordered to full service in the Revolutionary War. Rolly served under General Lafayette until the end of the war [See below]. After the war Rolly settled in Amherst County with and became a prominent resident there. He and his wife Sarah were considered spiritual leaders and sometime in the late 1700's founded a church [Fairmount Baptist], which is still in existence. Rolly's sons James and John Turner followed in his footsteps and also became prominent farmers on the Ridge.

Below is an article printed in the News And Advance and chronicling those who served out of Amherst County Virginia:


Thursday, May 22, 1884
Revolutionary Heroes

In every war there are, and have always been, thousands of privates who suffered or bled or died after patriotic sacrifice and great individual deeds, whose names as soldiers are unknown outside the narrow circle of the humble family. Often these men had nothing to fight for, yet they periled life and limb and often lost, for their cause, their flag. Our late civil war had many such, our first revolutionary fields were covered with them. Soon those so near us will be forgotten as the Revolutionary-great, unrecognized, have been. The old county of Amherst, then comprising Amherst and Nelson, furnished many men to face disease and death in the Revolutionary War, and they came willingly, were patriots-refused pay by British gold and place and pay, and any one who gathers the names of such patriots in any war, does a high, patriotic deed.


Mr. Alexandar Brown, of Norwood, Nelson County, has given much of his time to such labor among old Virginia records, and he has furnished us a list, as far as he has been able to make it, of the soldiers of the Revolution from Amherst County. We recognize many names familiar in the counties of Amherst, Nelson, Buckingham and Appomattox, among them the great-grandfather of the writer, "John Whitehead," who served in the cavalry battalion of a Major Cabel. We have in this list seen the almost exact names of men who served with and under us the Second Virginia Calvary, and they will be pleased to find their ancestry in the same service. At any rate we shall have put these old soldiers in front for the first time.

Revolutionary Heroes  An incomplete list of those who served in the Revolutionary War from old Amherst County, (the present counties of Amherst and Nelson.)



Aaron, Benjamin & William;Adkins, Absalom; Alcock, Richard & William; Alford, John; Allen, Daniel, Jesse, Capt. Joh, John, Joseph, Samuel & William; Ampey, William; Arnold, Benjamin & Hendrick



Baddow, Thomas; Bailey, Hezekiah & William; Ballinger, Capt. Richard; Ballon, David & John; Banks, Reuben & William; Barnet, Capt. James, John & William; Becknal, James (killed), John, Micajah & Thomas (killed); Bean, Johnson; Bell, Henry, Samuel Sr. & Samuel Jr.; Bettysworth, Richard; Byas, John, Larkin & Obediah; Bibb, Henry, William Sr. & William Jr.; Biggs, John; Blackwell, David; Blaine, Ephraim; Blair, Allen; Bolling, Edward & James; Bond, Charles, Nathan & Nathaniel; Bones, John & William; Bowles, Knight; Bowling, James & John; Bowman, Drury, John & William; Brady, John; Brett, William; Brickley, william; Bridgewater, Jesse; Brooks, Benjamin, John & william; Brown, Andrew John Sr., John Jr., Morris & William; Bryant, John & William; Bullins, isaac; Burden, Archibald & Henry; Burford, Capt. David, David, James, John, Nathaniel & William; Burks, Charles, John & William; Burnet, Isasc; Burrus, Capt. Charles, Joseph, Lieut. Joseph & Thomas; Burton, James Haile, Philip & William



Cabell, col. John, Capt. Joseph Sr., Capt. Joseph Jr., Capt. Nicholas, Col. Samuel Jr., Col. William Sr., & Col. William Jr., ; Calbraith, William; Call, John; Camden, John & William; Cameron, Ambrose & Duncan; Campbell, Ambrose, Anthony, George, Henry & James; Cannady, John; Canterberry, Joseph Sr. & Joseph Jr.; Carpenter, Benjamin, John, John & William; Carter, Abram, Landon, Peter & William; Cartwright, John, Matthew, Peter & William; Cash, Benjamin, Howard, John, Joseph & Peter; Cauthorne, William; Childress, Abram, Benjamin, Henry & John; Christian, Charles, Capt. Charles. Drury, Elijah, George, Capt. Henry, Henry, Capt. John, & robert; Clark, Benjamin, David, John, Nathaniel; Nat & William; clarson, James; clement, William; Clough, John; coleman, George, James, Littleberry & Lieut.____; Conner, James; Coop, Adam; cooper, Abraham; Cottrell, Gilbert & James; Cos, Archeleus; Crawford, Joel, John, Nathan, Nelson & Peter; Crawley, Thomas; Creasy, Charles & George; Crews, Gideon, Joseph Sr., & Joseph Jr.; Crittenden, Richard; Crutcher, (or Croncher), William



Davis, Charles, Joel, Moses, Nathaniel, Richard, Thomas, William, Sr., & William Jr.,; Dawson, John, Pleasant & Will; Diggs, Captain John; Dillard, Capt. James; Dinwiddie, (or Dunwoody), John, Samuel, William & Will; Diver, John; Dixon, William; Dodd, Josiah; Douglas, George; Duggin, Will, Duncan, Clairborne, Daniel, Sr., Daniel, Jr., George, Sr., & Jr. & John.



Eades, charles & Isaac; edmonds, Charles & James; Edmondson, Robert & William; Edwards, Joseph, Thomas & William; Elder, Andrew; Ellis, CharlesJr., & Josiah; Ellison, Francis; Enix, James; Eubank, John; Evans, Ben & William; Ewers, John & Thomas.



Finnie, John, Timothy & William; Fitzgerald, James & John; Fitzpatrick, Samuel, Thomas, William & W_____; Forbush, W______; Fortune, Ben, John & Zachariah; Foster, James; Franklin, Major James, Joel, Lieut John & Samuel; Frazier, Micajah; Frayser, Philip; Frost, Joseph, Jr.; Fulcher, Richard; Furbush, george and Will.



Games, Daniel; galasby (Gillespie, and sometime Glosby), sherod & William; Galding, Julius; Galloway, Ben; Garland, Thomas; Gatewood, Ambrose, John, Larkin & Richard; Gee, John; Gibson, Griffith; Gilbert, George, Henry, John Wyatt, Morris & thomas; Giles, Josiah & Perrion Jr., Gilbland, Hugh; Gilmer, John; Glenn, Major John; Going, Phil; Gooch, Philip; Goodrich, John; Goodwin, Micajah & Richard; goolsby, James, John & william; Gosh, Thomas; Grattan, Robert; Graves, William; Gregory, Edward, John, Fletcher & Thomas; Griffin, Absalom, John Murray, Reubin & Thomas; Grissum (Gresham) Jas; Graymes, thomas; Guthrie, Moses & Nathaniel.



Hall, John & William; Halliburton, James; Hambleton, robert; Hamilton, James & william; Hamm, John; Hansborough, John, Willliam Sr., & William Jr., ; Hardy, Andrew & John; Hargrove, Hazekiah; Harper, edward, Sr., edward, Jr., & Henro; Harris Mathew, Capt. William & William; Harrison, Richard & William; Hartgrove, John; Hartless James; Harvie, Daniel; Hawkins, thomas; Hay, Charles & James; Henderson, alexander, Ensign James, James, Obediah &Stephen; Herd, John; Herndon, Owen; Higganbotham, Aron, Ben, Caleb, Mj. James, Joseph, Capt. Samuel, Sgt. William & Wiliam; Hill, Isaac, Nat & Williams; Hilley, Thomas; Hilton, George; Hite, John; Hix, John; Hogg, John; Hollinsworth, Joseph; Holt, William; Hooper, William, Hopkins, James H; Hopper, Thomas, Horsley, John, Robert, Lieut. William & William; Houchins, Edward; Houtchins, Charles & William; Huchstep (?), Samuel; Hudson, Reubin, Juffman, Frederick & Henry; Hughes, John & Will; Hundley; Nahemiah; Hunter, Titus.



Innis, John; Irvine, Christopher; Isham, Elijah, Ison, Charles & Elijah.



Jacobs, John; Johns, John, Robert & Thomas; Johnson, John, Snelling, Tandy & William; Jone, Ambrose, John, Josias, Thomas, William & Zachariah; Joplin, Josiah, Ralph, Catp. Thomas & Thomas; Jordan, John, Reubin & William; Joselin, John; Jude, John



Kesterson, John; Key, Rice; King, Jacob; Knight, Andrew; Knuckolds, Robert.



Lamont, John; Landrum, John & Capt. Young; Lane, Charles Sr., Chas. Jr., John, Joseph, Thomas & William; Lannum, Benedict; Lavender, Allen, Charles Sr., Charles Jr., & William; Lawless, Richard; Lawson, William; Lee, Francis & Richard; Leek, (Leak), Mark & Samuel; Lemasters, Jno; Leslie, Robert ; Levy, Soloman; Lewis, John; Lively, Mark; Lockhart, Walter; Loving, George; Lucas, Thomas; Lyon, Edward, Nicholas, Peter & Will.



Mahone, Daniel; Mautaply, Nat. Marksbury, Sam'l; Marshall, Wm. Martin, Azariah, Capt. Azariah, James, John Sr., John Jr. & William; Masters, James; Matthews, James, John, Joseph, Thomas Sr., Thomas Jr., & william; Mattox, Notly; Mayfield, George & John; Mays, Ben, Elijah, James & Robert; McAlexander, Alex., James, & John; McAnally, William, McCabe, Elijah, & James; McCann, James; McCarthur, Robert; McClain, James; McCullock, roderick; McDaniel, George & Jno; McKnight, John; McNeare, James; Mcnelly, Michael; Megan, Merit; Megginson, Ben, Samuel & William; Meredith, Samuel Jr.; Miller, Alex. & Charles; Milstead, Zeal; Mohon (Mahone) William; Montgomery, David, Lieut. James, James, John & thomas; Moran, John; Morris, John & Zacheriah; Morrison, William; Morson, B.; Moss, Philip; Murray (or Murrow) John, Ransum, Richard Sr., & William Jr.; Murtar, Barnet.



Neal, Joseph; Neighbors, Nat; Nevil, James & Reuben; Nightingale, Matthew; Noel, John; Nowland (Noland, Nowlin, Nowling) , David & James; North, William.



O'Brian, James; Oglesby, Jesse & Richard; Ownby, Thomas.



Page, James & Joseph; Pagett, Edmond; Pamplin, Capt. James, & Nicholas; pannel (Pannelle), Ben; Parks, John; Parrock, Charles & David; Parrow, Daniel; Patterson, John & Thomas; Peacock, Edward; Pendleton, Benjamin, Edmund, John, Reubin, Richard & William, Penn (Pinn) Gabriel, Capt. George, Philip Sr., Philip Jr., Pinn (Penn) Rolly, & Thomas; Perkins, Richard, & William; Peters, Richard, Samuel & William; Peyton, Charles, Daniel, George, Henry, James, John Sr., John Jr., Lewis, William Jr.; Philips, George, Jacob, Jeremiah, John, Leonard Sr., Leonard Jr., & Mat; Pierce, William (killed); Poe, John; Pollard, Absalom Sr., Absalom Jr., James, Robert & William; Ponton, Joel; Pope, John Jr.; Powell, Ben, Edmond, Francis, John Sr., John Jr., Nat, Richard, william, Wyatt & Zachariah; Pratt, Thomas; Price, Thomas; Prior, David, John Sr., John Jr., & Nicholas; Pugh, Willoughby; Pullins, Joseph; Purvis, George



Ramesey, James; Randolph, Henry; Ray, David Sr., (killed), David Jr., & William; Redcross; John; Reid, Alexander, George, & Johnathan; Renn (Wren), John; Reynolds, Absalom & Patrick; Rice, Holman; Ricketts, Matthew; Roach, Henry; Roak, James; Roberts, Alexander, Thomas & Zachariah; Robertson, Robert, Stephen & Thomas; Robinson, Thomas; Rodes, Capt. Charles & Charles; Rogers, Ben; Rose, Hugh, John & Peter; Rosterson, John; Royalty, John; Rucker, A___, Ambrose, Isaac, John (died in service), John Sr., John Jr., & Renbin; Ryan, Harris & J____.



Sandige, William; Satterwhite, Francis; Saunders, Ben & David; Savage, James; Scott, Wm.; Scruggs, Daniel & William; Seay, Abraham, Jr.: Shelton, Clough, D___, & David; Shields, Will; Shoemaker, John, William & Ledekiah; Simmons, James; Simpson, David; Sims, Charles; Slatter, Tyree; Slead, Will; Smith, Alex, or Austin, Elleck, James, John, Johnson, Obadiah, Thomas, "Thomas of Maryland," Thomas, Jr., & william; Spencer, Samuel & William; Staples, Lieut. Joseph, Joseph & Samuel, Jr., Staten, Will; Stevens, James, John & Thomas; Stonham, Richard; Stovall, James, Joseph & Thomas; Stratton, Isaac & John; Stuart (or Stewart) Chas., James, Capt. John, John, Swinney, (or Swaney), John.



Taliaferro, Ben, Charles, Capt. Richard & Richard; Tate, William Jr.; Taylor, George, Jesse, John, John, William & Zachary; Tennison, Ignatius; Thomas, Cornelius & John; Thompson, James; Thurman, Guthridge, John, Philip & William; Thurtless, James; Tilford, David & James; Tinsley, Isaac & James, "son of William"; Tomlinson, Ambrose; Trent, John; Trott, Joseph; tucker, Charles, Daniel, Jesse, John, Joseph, Matthey, Thomas & Capt. William; tuggle, Charles, Henry & Joshua; Toly, (or Tooley) Charles; Tunget, Fielding; Turner, Henry, John & William; Tyler, John; Tyron, Zachariah.



Upsher, John & Leroy; Upton, Thomas Jr.



Vaughn, John & Leroy; Upton, Thomas Jr.



Wade, Pierce; Walker, Jeremiah; Walton, Tilman & William; ware (Weir), James & Mark; Warren, Burrus & James; Warwick, Abraham & William; Waters, Francis & Moses; Walkius, Spencer; Watson, Edward, Lt. , John & John; Watts, Caleb T. & Thomas; Webb, Thoe Jorick (?); Webster, William; Welch, Will; Wells, James; West, Bransford, Francis & John; Whitehead, John; Whitelor, John; Whitten, Jeremiah, John & William; Wilcox, Edmond & Thomas; Willburn, Richard & Will; Williams, John; Williamson, William; Willis, John; Wilson, Mathew; Wingfield, John; Witt, Abner, Elijah, George, John, Lewis, Littleberry & Will; Wood, Jesse, James, John, Robert, Silas, William; Woodrof (Woodruff), David, Capt. John & John; Woods, Josiah; Woody, George; Wrenn, John; Wright, Achilles, Andrew, Charles, Ellis, Francis, George Sr., George Jr., James, Jesse, John, Menos, Moses, Robert, Thomas & Will.


There is a book called The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees: Remnants of A Great Nation Divided, written by Dr. Horace Rice [Heritage Press 1994]. The book chronicles the struggles of those who settled on the ridge. Rolly Pinn's family was made up of "Free Persons Of Color" who were never slaves. They attempted to live in peace with their white neighbors and found that these people were war like. Eventually Rolly died and passed the land on to his children. By the time my ancestor Robert Pinn IV came along the land was lost and having no reason to stay there he migrated to Fredericksburg.

Robert Pinn IV married the Great-Grand daughter of Charles Lewis, Elizabeth Jackson in 1839. As a gift Robert and Elizabeth were given land by her parents. Later, Robert and Elizabeth purchased more land in Fredericksburg. In the 1840 census Robert list his occupation as a minister, a bold move for a brother during those times. Robert was a Baptist Minister during the time that Baptists were considered the enemy of the Church of England. The Baptists were ministering to slaves and telling them not to be content being slaves. By 1850 Robert and Elizabeth had sold their land and were living in Pennsylvania. Robert and Elizabeth Pinn were my last direct ancestors to live in Virginia.

The information I chronicled above was submitted to the Daughter's of The American Revolution (DAR) and they have accepted my application. My reason for starting the research was to complete the story my mother started -but I found so much more. Not only my ancestors but also many African-Americans and People of Color gave their lives for this country during, prior to and after the Revolutionary War. Their stories are buried in books and documents that are yet to be found. It is the task of those of us who know to find this information and teach it to our children. Most people are not interested in a history that excludes them. We must make it our mission to take our true history to the next generation.

ii *Cook, Michael; The Pioneer Lewis Families: Cook Publications, Evansville, Ind. 1984, Vol. IV, & Lewis, Robert J.C.K., Lewis Patriarchs of Early Virginia And Maryland With Some Arms And Origins: Heritage Books, 1991

iii Stafford County, Virginia, WPA Reports, p. 261

iv Revolutionary War Pension Records, National Archives and Records Service, Jackson ., 258

v Virginia Genealogical Society, Virginia Revolutionary War State Pensions, 1960, pps. 17,22,25,70,82

vi Gwathmey, John H. Historical Register of Virginians In The Revolution: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, 1775-1783, Dietz Press: Richmond Virginia, 1938

vii Records of the Revolutionary Gov't RG2, Navy Board, 1776-1787, General Correspondence, Vessels Box 1, file of Ship Dragon

viii Cook, Michael L., Pioneer Lewis Families, Cook Publications, Evansville, Ind, 1984, Vol. IV. p. 1261 & Lewis, Robert: Lewis Patriarchs of Early Virginia, Including

ix Provided by the New York Historical Society, Archives & Records Department, [Virginia Weekly Advance, May 22, 1884, Lynchburg, VA]


Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.


In the Planters House: Three Generations of Servants to George Washington's Family

In the Planters House:  Three Generations of Servants
to George Washington's Family

by Anita Wills
Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.

A slave graveyard containing 156 bodies has been uncovered at Wakefield Plantation in Virginia. Those buried there are Africa’s sons and daughters, slaves who were owned by George Washington’s father Augustine Washington Sr. Slavery is the part of history that America does not want to discuss. Yet how did the majority of African Americans arrive here, if not by slave ships? Europe imported a race of people to breed as inferior to the white race. Many mixed raced, "colored’ or ‘mulattos sentenced to servitude by the church parishes. The Churches statements of racism still ring true in our society today.

Although George Washington moved away from Wakefield at a young age, he often returned to stay and on visit. "...George Washington lived, from his birth to his removal to Mount Vernon in 1748; first; three years at Wakefield (Popes’ Creek); the next few years at Epsewasson; the next four years on the Strother-Washington farm, in King George County; next, about two-and-one-half years again at Wakefield; next, about two-and-one half years again on the Strother-Washington place."

Some of the many servants and slaves in the Washington household were my ancestors. Sue was a servant of Augustine Sr., and her daughter Mary Bowden were born at Wakefield (Popes Creek) in Westmoreland Co., when Augustine Senior owned the property. Mary was born about 1729 when Augustine Sr. owned Wakefield [1720-1740]. Patty Bowden was born about 1749 when Augustine Jr. owned it 1740(?) - 1762. Patty was inherited by Elizabeth Washington and Alexander Spotswood upon their marriage. They moved 35 miles to Fredericksburg. Patty continued to live in Spotsylvania County until her death in 1830.

Patty was known as Patty, "Free Patty", "Patsy" and "Martha" by those in the Washington household. She was the third generation born as servants to the prominent Washington family. At least one of Mary and Patty’s parents were white and the other Negro. Whether the father was white or black or vice versa is not yet clear. The status of the women during that period suggest that their mother was white. However, there is just as much evidence that the father was white. The answer may be in the slave graveyard.

Excerpt of Augustine Washington Jr. Will:

"WASHINGTON, AUGUSTINE, 18 Sept. 1758; 25 May 1762. " To my daughter Betty a Negro child named Mary Daughter of Sue and another named Betty Daughter of Judy." (p.132).

At one point Mary Bowden ran away and was taken to court by Augustine Washington Jr. She was gone for five months and Augustine spent a great deal of tobacco looking for her. When she was found he took her to court. Mary put up no defense, possibly knowing that her word had no weight against a white man.

Augustine Washington vs. Mary Bowden for services:

"Augustine Washington gent., bringing before this court his mulatto servant woman named Mary Bowden, for absenting herself from her master’s service five months and he making oath that he hath expended one hundred and eighty pounds of tobacco in taking her up and there so. Mary having nothing to say in her own defense. It is therefore ordered that she do serve her ?? master his heirs or assignees, after her time for indenture is expired. One year two weeks and five days for her absent time and expenses."

The indentured servitude that Sue, Mary and Patty were under was no different than slavery. They could be sold, whipped and or imprisoned. If they had any children the children were also born into servitude. Sue, Mary and Patty were house servants and were listed on Augustine Washington’s inventory as worth no more than $30 each. The field slaves were listed at as much as $800 a piece since many were skilled craftsmen. The servant could also have time added on as with Mary and Patty. Although Patty was to be free when 31 she did not receive her freedom until she was 52 years of age.

During and after her servitude Patty bore several children, Ann, Milly, William, Leroy, Patty Jr., Samuel and Delphia to name a few. The older of her children were by a Col. Gabriel, who was a white man. The younger children, Leroy, William, Patty Jr. and Samuel were by her slave husband James Jackson. James Jackson was a slave to Charles Yates and was freed upon Mr. Yates death. Patty Jackson was the matriarch of the Jackson’s in Fredericksburg.

According to some laws passed by Virginia regarding slavery and servitude:

1691- The Assembly prohibited the manumission of slaves unless they were transported out of the colony.

1733- It also prohibited interracial marriages and ordered the illegitimate, mixed-race children of white women bound out for 30 years; [ Laws of Virginia: XIII ..." if a free Christian white woman shall have such bastard child by a Negro, or mulatto, for every such offense, she shall, within one month after her delivery of such bastard child, pay to the church-wardens for the time being, or the parish wherein such child shall be born for the use of the said parish, fifteen pounds current money of Virginia, or be by them sold for five years to the use aforesaid; and in both the said cases, the church-wardens shall bind the said child to be a servant until it shall be of thirty one years of age [please note that these race based laws came from the church {Anglican, Church of England, Episcopalian and Catholic).]

Freedom Papers-Patty Bowden-Jackson & Daughter Delphia:

"I do certify that the bearer of this a molatto woman by the name of Delphia, is the daughter of free Patty who as a servant of Mr. Yates (?) by the name of James for a husband. That the said Patty was born and raised on the Estate of Gen. Augustine Washington and given to Mrs. Spotswood. consort of Alexander Spotswood an act arranged by law, as a servant to serve to Thirty-one years of age - at which period I discharged her-and not wishing to have female Negroes entitled to freedom among my slaves, and to reward Patty for her faithful services I gave her this girl, then a child-who from under my hand I pronounce to be a free woman. Signed Alexander Spotswood, August 11, 1801."

The last documentation on Patty was her manumission papers [1820] in Fredericksburg. She was than 71 years of age and her "Free Negro Registry" papers stated that she was: "A Dark Mulatto who was born free."  Patty Bowden died about 1830, leaving property to her son Samuel Jackson.

Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills.   Reprints require approval by the author.


Excerpts From "The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees: Remnants of a Great Nation Divided"

Excerpts From
"The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees: Remnants of a Great Nation Divided"
Writen by Dr. Horace Rice, PhD: Heritage Press

  by Anita Wills
Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.

This article touches on a topic that seems to be a sore point for many Americans. It is the topic of the relationship between Africans and Native Americans. Many of us who are researching run into walls which we cannot get past. In order to break down the wall we have to follow the trail, no matter where it goes. If you cannot find your ancestors listed as black you may need to be looking for them in the "Mulatto" or "Indian" category. I found myself stuck many times when looking for my ancestors under the black designation.

I found out that some states had a "Black", "mulatto" and "White" designation. The "M" designation was used to designate Indians (or mixed race). To anyone who has heard of the United States Colored Troops and believe that "colored" designated only blacks, that is incorrect. "Colored" was a term used to designate anyone who was not white. Many Native Americans participated in the Civil War on the Union side and they served in the United States Colored Troops. The key that I used to get past the block was to look for the name first then the racial designation. In fact the racial designation was the last information I looked for since many of my relatives listed themselves as white. The information in this article should be helpful to those who run into walls. The article is about a Tribe in Amherst County who call themselves "The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees".

Cherokees In Amherst County Virginia:

The Cherokee language belongs to the Iroquian linguistic group. It is believed that, during some prehistoric time period, they lived in the Great Lakes region. This belief is based on numerous generations of Delaware Indian historians who passed on the oral tradition of their ancestors to their descendants whenever they had the opportunity in the northern woodlands 1(Terrell, 1971, 131). The tradition states that the powerful Delaware, whose ancient homeland was in New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New York, fought the Cherokees over a period of the reign of three Chieftains before the Delaware's could finally claim victory (p. 10). Amherst, Nelson, Rockbridge and Augusta County were thought to be hunting grounds for the Cherokee.

Amherst County is located in Central Virginia along the Blue Ridge Mountains. "Amherst is the Genius of the Old Dominion, a living, real, everlasting representative of the State, to be seen and known of all men. Look at her, the great Giantess, sitting upon the highest portion of Central Virginia, with her back against the Blue Ridge, and her feet dabbling in the noble James (River). Mount Pleasant her head, lifted 4,090 feet in the air, the Tobacco Row her fruitful breast: The Ridge, her knees holding under them a wealth of minerals; the upper James her strong right arm,... 2"(Blankenship, R.B., 1907, 15).

At one time in their exciting history, the Cherokee were a powerful and great Nation. They possessed 135,000 square miles of area that covered eight states: North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia (Blankenship, B., Cherokee Roots, 1978, 5). This tribe, one of the largest in the Southeastern section of the United States, was the first to adapt to the arrival and civilization of the Europeans. In 1540, when Hernando De Soto explored the area of the Cherokee, he discovered that they had an advanced society in their capital city, Echota (itsati), near the modern city of Madisonville, Tennessee3 (Yenne, 1986, 35).

According to tradition, the Allegeni, the ancestors of the modern Cherokee, were defeated by the Delaware-Iroquois alliance and moved into Virginia. The settled in New Holston Valley after residing for a period of time at the Peaks of Otter in Bedford County 4(Johnson, 34). In just twenty years, from 1880 to 1900, the Indians in Amherst County were systematically erased from the record books by the stroke of a pen. They were forced by law in 1705 to be called "mulatto" and then called "black" in 1900. Many of the Cherokee descendants of Amherst County accepted this term without resistance. In fact, by 1850, as "Free Inhabitants" of Amherst County, the Cherokee families lived in the communities with blacks and whites and many of the families "went" for black or white, depending on the racial community in which they lived and felt secure ( p. 37).

Some of the Cherokee residents went in the Stapleton area "went for black" even though they knew that their major ancestry was Indian, Indian/white, Indian/black or Indian/white/black. The census enumerators classified some of them as black or colored, so many of them "went for black or colored." They attended the colored school, Fairmount, on Buffalo Ridge in the Stapleton area, even though a number of them were full, three-quarter, or half blood Cherokee. Directly across the James River, in the Stonewall Mill area of Appomattox, near Turner Mountain, however, some of their bi-racial or tri-racial Cherokee relatives went to school with children of white residents, even though they themselves chose to be considered as colored in the community5 (John Ferguson, 1991).

"During the mid-1700's a band, or tribe of disenfranchised "Mulattos" began moving from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and headed for the Mountains (Matoe) of Central Virginia seeking a place where they could keep their culture alive. The band was composed of various racial groupings, Indian, Indian/black, Indian/white or Indian/white/black. The surnames included such names as Pinn, Beverly, Sizemore, Evans, Branham, Redcross, Hartless, Carter, Coleman, Johns, Harris and Sparrow. It is believed that this group was headed for the Mountains, a place where their ancestors often hunted Buffalo, they called their settlement "Buffalo Ridge". The Native Americans viewed the Buffalo as a spiritual animal, whose coat they wore in battle and whose meat sustained them. The group that settled on the Ridge served in the Revolutionary War as Patriots and eventually became wealthy land owners. They were not unlike the Creoles in Louisiana, as most had never been slaves (Wills, Anita).

During the early to mid-1800's, the families started clustering together in geographical and/or religious groups. "Pinn Park", one of the first official church/tribal burial grounds in Amherst County, is believed to have been an interment site as far back as 1750 (Land Survey of Fairmount Baptist Church/ "Pinn Park Cherokee Grounds, Amherst County"). By the 1840s, Turner Pinn, Samuel Scott, Madison Beverly, Anthony Beverly, Bartlett Sparrow, Polly Beverly, George Jewell, and others were living in the same tribal setting (clustered together in a residential clan connection) and listed as "Free Colored" individuals (U.S. Census, Amherst County, 1840).

It was only later that white settlers began to purchase land from these Native Americans and build dwellings between them. Census records show these families clustered together in 1840 and earlier. The later census records show a progressively larger number of non-family members settling in these previously "closed" areas. They were prosperous farmers on the Ridge..., (p 64). Contrary to the common belief that all Negroes and other free coloreds, or Indians, were slaves in Virginia prior to the 6end of the Civil War, there were in fact a large number of "Free Colored" inhabitants in Amherst County (McLeroy & McLeroy, 1977, 52). Free colored inhabitants comprised approximately two to three percent of the county's population between 1810 and 1860. It is believed that the major portion of these residents were, in fact, Native Americans. While some of the free colored persons were former or freed slaves, the other residents were Native Americans, descendants of full or mixed blood ancestors. The children of Native American mothers were born free while the children of slave and Native American fathers were not free because the children usually lived with their mothers. If their mothers were in included in the institution of slavery, they were born in bondage. This fact partly accounted for the large number of slaves that had Native American features.

Remnants of this group still reside on the mountain today, although most leave for better opportunities. They are members of the Keetowah band of Cherokees who meet in Tennessee once a year. The Cherokees were able to prosper by keeping family ties strong. Within this band if you are a cousin, you are welcome, they believe that "Blood Is Thicker Then Water". The ties are now cultural as very few pure blood Native Americans are left. Some of the Ridge Natives attended Howard, Hampton and other of the "colored" schools in Virginia. Those who were educated did not forget those who stayed on the ridge. The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees do not deny that they are intermixed with blacks or whites, however, they are determined to keep their Indian heritage alive. Many still speak in the old language and pass it on to their children. They are a proud but friendly people- They are "The People Who Came Before Columbus".

Terrell, John Upton: American Indian Almanac: New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971
2Blankenship, Bob: Cherokee Roots: Cherokee North Carolina, 1978
3Yenne, Bill: The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Tribes: Greenwich, Connecticut: Arch Cape Press, 1986.
4Johnson, Patricia Givens: The New River Early Settlement: Pulaski, Virginia: Edmonds Printing, Inc., 1983
5Ferguson, John. Interview. Lynchburg, Virginia, January 7, 1992.
6McLeroy, Sherrie and William: Strangers In Their Midst: The Free Black Population of Amhert County Virginia: Bowie Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1993

Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills.   Reprints require approval by the author.


The Founder of the Order of True Reformers: The Story of William Washington Browney

The Founder of the Order of True Reformers: The Story of
William Washington Browney

by Anita Wills
Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.

NOTE: As an African-American writer and columnist I feel a duty to share inspirational stories with readers. One of the writing projects I worked on required me to do research on "The Order of True Reformers."  Since February is African-American History month I felt that William Walker Browne's story achievements should be highlighted. I hope that the readers will be as inspired as I was.

The Order of True Reformers was a Fraternal Organization of African Americans organized in southern states after the Civil War. The intention was to set up business and social avenues in which Negroes could participate. By taking up the task of insuring the lives of these members, several of these societies became prosperous business enterprises. These orders began to sell Negroes insurance when well established companies refused.1William Washington Browne, a Methodist Minister of Richmond, Virginia organized the association in 1881.

Against the back drop of many misconceptions (i.e., blacks were inferior), Self Help Organizations sprang up after the Civil War to address the needs of the newly freed slaves. One of the most successful was The Grand Fountain of The Order of True Reformers, founded by William Washington Browne, an Ex-slave from Georgia. Browne set up a beneficial society which blacks could join out of which insurance companies, businesses and banks were formed. W.E.B. Du Bois characterized Browne's Fraternal Organization as "Probably the most remarkable Negro organization in the country."  Young African Americans Entrepreneurs would do well to study Brown's successes and failures - yet little is known of him or his organization.

Browns' early childhood was spent as a slave on a Georgia plantation. He was born October 20, 1849 and was given the name Ben Brown. His parents were field slaves who were sold from Virginia. He became a house servant, and a companion of his owner's son. After his first owner died Brown was taken to Rome Georgia and hired out. His new owner changed his name to William Washington Brown. He was sold out, first to a shopkeeper, then to an attorney. Brown was to be sold again, this time to Tennessee where he became a Jockey. He was now far away from his family and anything that seemed like home.

When the Union Army occupied Memphis during the Civil War, Browne was placed on a plantation in Mississippi for safekeeping. That did not deter the young man who escaped and made his way to the Union forces. When he learned that the Union were surrendering escaped slaves he ran away and worked for a Jewish family. From there he went to Cairo, Illinois and worked in a saloon (and acquired a life long horror of drinking). In 1864, when not yet fifteen, he joined an infantry regiment in the Union Army as a paid substitute and served until 1866.

He returned to Wisconsin to work as a farmhand and resume his schooling. In September 1869, not quite twenty years old, he went back to Georgia to see his mother. After the sermons of a Georgia preacher occasioned his conversion, he briefly studied for the ministry at Atlanta at a school which later grew into Gammon Theological Seminary. On the basis of his limited education in Wisconsin, he made his living as a school teacher in Georgia, then in Alabama. In 1873 he married Mary A. Graham and in 1876 was ordained a Minister in the Colored Methodist Church. This is a man who never gave up no matter what his circumstances.

While in Alabama Browne became active in the temperance movement. He worried that many Alabama blacks were disenfranchised because they had been convicted for drunkenness and also wasted money that poor people could not afford. "All the masses of our Race own is [a grave of] three by six feet of earth." Looking for an effective temperance organization, he hoped that he and other blacks could join the Good Templars. When the Grand Lodge of Alabama rejected the notion of permitting the organization of black lodges, he accepted the alternative offered by Good Templars, the True Reformers. Eventually Browne would leave Alabama and settle in Richmond, Virginia where he formed the Order of True Reformers.

The Browne who built a powerful Grand Fountain (GFUOTR) in Virginia was a product of the Post-Reconstruction South. Black powerlessness against growing white racism increased his innate caution. He tried to appease the whites who controlled government and business because he knew he needed sympathetic white judges, legislators, and bankers. A few years after his death, The Order's weekly Newspaper, The Reformer, editorialized:"While we shall never stoop to kiss the hand that smite us, yet we do not believe we can accomplish as much by extreme radicalism as by conservatism." Accepting white supremacy and racial segregation as facts of life beyond immediate amelioration, Browne preached a gospel of money, morality, education and family, racial solidarity and self-help. While whites were quarreling over the Negro problem, Browne urged his fellow blacks, "Let Us Work It Out Ourselves."

Below are listed some of the achievements of The Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers:


With one hundred members, the relict of an old organization, bearing nearly the same name, and one hundred fifty dollars, he (William Washington Browne) launched the Grand Fountain, asking at the same time the prayers and confidence of the race. He was looked upon by many as an impostor, and by others as demented, because he proposed to reform the whole [insurance] society management of the Negro race.

The Savings Bank of the GFUOTR was incorporated in Virginia on March 2, 1888 and in 1892 the real estate department was established. By 1900 they owned 15 halls, 3 farms, 2 dwellings, 1 hotel and leased 14 halls. Total value of property was $223,500. In January 1893 they began publishing a bimonthly newspaper. Eventually it became a weekly and by 1900 had a circulation of over 8,000. In 1893 they began fund raising for Old Folks Homes. In 1897 they purchased a farm near Richmond for $14,400 for the first home.

In 1899 the Order received a charter for the Reformers' Mercantile and Industrial Association, the purpose of which was to manufacture, buy and sell, at wholesale or retail, or both, groceries, goods, wares, implements, supplies, and articles of merchandise of any and every description etc. and included the insurance feature in Organizing the Order known as the True Reformers.

The object of the organization is:

"To unite fraternally all colored persons of sound bodily health and good moral character, and who are socially and otherwise acceptable to each other.

And to give all moral and material aid in its power to its members and those dependent upon them.

To educate its members socially, morally and intellectually.

To establish a fund for the relief of sick and distressed members, or for such other purposes as the Association may determine.

To establish a benefit fund, from which on satisfactory evidence of the death of a member, who has compiled a sum with all its lawful requirements, a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars shall be paid to the family, heirs, blood relatives, affianced husband, affianced wife, or to persons dependent upon aid member as the member may direct.

To secure for its members such other advantage as are, from time to time, designated by the Constitution and Laws of the Association."

In 1885 there was organized and put in operation a department for the children known as the ROSEBUD DEPARTMENT.  The object of this department was:

"To discipline the young, to train them to practice thrift and economy, and to give lessons early in the business methods of life, to establish a fund for the relief of sick members and a mortuary fund from which, on satisfactory proof of death, of a benefited member a sum not exceeding thirty-seven dollars shall be paid to parents or guardians."

This was the beginning of the Negro businessmen in insurance and banking. Other associations affiliated with the Order were St. Lukes, the Good Samaritans, the Galilean Fishermen, and the United Brothers of Friendship. Mrs. Maggie L. Walker, the head of St. Lukes, established a bank for that order and thus became the first woman in the United States to be the president of such an institution. Raleigh, North Carolina and other parts of the south had similar organizations patterning themselves after Browne's success. In 1910 the bank set up by The True Reformers collapsed and with it the popularity of William Washington Brown.

However, William Washington Browne will go down in the annuals of African-American History as a leader, visionary and "True Reformer."
1Fahey, David M.: (1994): The Black Lodge In White America: "True Reformer" Browne and His Economic Strategy:  Maryland: University Press of America

Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills.   Reprints require approval by the author.


Historic Virginia

Historic Virginia

by Anita Wills
Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills. Reprints require approval by the author.

I just spent two weeks in Virginia visiting Courthouses, Archives, Libraries, Plantation houses and the neighborhood (Old Town) in Fredericksburg where Free blacks lived. I was in Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia and immediately fell in love with those states. Except for Washington DC most of the area is still quite rural and they are not in a hurry to have Developments dotting their landscape. It was a very enriching and educational experience for me. I noticed many Plantation houses dotted the landscape, a grim reminder of the not too distant past.

The Plantations I visited were Wakefield (the birthplace of George Washington), where my ancestors Mary and Patty Bowden were born. Kenmore (Owned by George Washington’s brother-in-law, Fielding Lewis) , Nottingham (my ancestor Patty Bowden served from this house) and New Post (part of Nottingham). Wakefield is located in Westmoreland County Virginia and is right off of a main stretch of Highway. I got the best interpretation of how my ancestors lived from my visit there.

We looked at the Plantation, which was large, and I wondered how 75 slaves were expected to grow tobacco there. During the Colonial, period the kitchen and outhouse were separate from the main building. We went inside of the kitchen and there was a "Mulatto" girl. Her name was Kadisha and she was about 20 years old and was dressed in period clothing. She had on a blouse buttoned up to her neck, a bonnet over her head, long skirt and black boots. There was a huge fireplace in the kitchen over, which hung the pots to cook the food in. Kadisha said that most of the vegetables and meat were prepared in that kitchen and then taken to the main house. During the re-enactment, Kadisha explained that the skirt of the servant often caught on fire. Over the fireplace were herbs, which were dried and used for medicinal purposes. Those who worked in he kitchen were also responsible for making teas and other medication for the Master and his family.

Kadisha then explained that the house servants did not sleep in the house (unless they were white). Those who worked in the kitchen slept over top of the kitchen. She showed us a room next to the kitchen, which depicted how the sleeping room was arranged. There was a bed of straw with a white Muslim type covering around it. She said that each night before they went to bed the servants would beat the straw to chase the bed bugs away. As she was demonstrating how it was done, I felt as if I was watching my ancestor and a sad feeling came over me.

From the kitchen we went to the Main house, which was actually a replica of the original house since the original house burned down (In fact several of the Washington houses burned down)? Augustine Washington Junior (George’s brother) was out of town when it happened and the slaves had a day off. What was interesting to me was the kitchen was the only building left standing. The Main House burned to the ground and only some items were saved. My cousin and I gave each other "the look" as is to say we know what happened. However, our guide was quick to assure us that the slaves took no part in the burning of the house. It was an accident caused by a spark from the fireplace in the kitchen (hmm).

The original house at Popes’ Creek was occupied by Augustine Washington Senior and his first wife Jane Butler (about 1720-1730). During that period, the Washington’s were still just farmers with few assets to their names. They received head rights (land) by bringing Indentured Servants from England and Ireland, who then worked to pay their indentures off in five to seven years. There were few slaves until Augustine Senior and his sons married into the Butler, Aylett, Ball and Fairfax families. With the women came dowries of money and property, including slaves.

The House on Popes’ Creek would have been considered one built for a Middle Income Planter. It had a Main Hall going from the Front Door to the Back door, four rooms down stairs and four bedrooms. The beds slept in by the Master were not made of straw, but possibly, Down stuffed mattresses. The Mattresses was probably made by the slaves, who slept on beds of straw. We climbed the stairs to look at the second floor where the bedrooms were located and the difference in where the "Mulatto" Servants slept, was like day and night. The rooms were large and airy with netting over the beds to protect against flies. Their were Slop pots in each of the rooms (guess who emptied them) and toys in the children’s rooms.

As we were leaving, we noticed the sheep, Geese, horses and Oxen, basically the same animals on the old Plantation.

We were then taken to the slave graveyard, which is located on land still owned by Washington descendants. The Graveyard is non-descript and sits under a huge tree miles away from the family plot of the Washington family. The Park Ranger said the graves are in a circular shape, which was the way Africans buried there dead (that was news to me). This was the end of our tour and it gave me a better perspective on how slaves and servants lived during that period.

The other house that left an impression was New Post, which was built by Alexander Spotswood, who married Augustine Washington Juniors’ daughter. This house was larger but still had outside kitchen and restroom. There was a rusty bell hanging on a rope from the main house to the Kitchen, which was rang to summon the servants. This house sat on twice as much acreage as Wakefield and I wondered how many slaves worked on this farm. The farm is still a working farm and I noticed there were black faces in the fields although they were now operating equipment.

My cousin and I spoke of our ancestors as we headed up the road away from the Plantations. He told me that there was a slave cottage in Charles County Maryland, which was burned down. It was a reminder to them of slavery and they wanted it removed. We agreed that it is painful, but we do not want to forget, nor do we want America writing a history that does not include slavery. It is not black peoples’ shame, it is Americas’ shame.

Places to visit for Research:

  • Westmoreland County Courthouse, Montross VA
  • Fredericksburg Courthouse , Fredericksburg VA
  • Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Fredericksburg VA
  • National Archives, Washington DC
  • Wakefield Plantation, Westmoreland County VA
  • Old Town Fredericksburg (Go to Visitors Center in Fredericksburg and they will give you a tour and/or a map.)
  • Shiloh Baptist Church, Fredericksburg (church has been in operation since early 1800’s)

We were well received and the staff was helpful (they are understaffed) in showing us where information was. They allowed us to look through books that went back to the early 1800’s. We found a lot of information in the little courthouses and libraries. My suggestion is that those who are seeking information in small towns go and search the records. You will save time and money in the long run.

Copyright ©1998-1999 by Anita Wills.   Reprints require approval by the author.


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