This week's blog post is a reminder that Clarke County was built on the backs of thousands of men, women, and children who were held in perpetual bondage, and it is a tribute to those men, women, and children who's voices have been silenced within the narrative.
To make sure their voices are coming through loud and clear, there will be no interpretation or explanation given to accompany the following images. Some have been transcribed for ease of reading, but that is all.
The Archivist, the author of this blog, invites you to join her in these conversations, and to help bring these voices back to the present.
I have a man for sale & thought perhaps that either you or yr son Mr Elliot might wish to purchase & That I would inform you of it before he has sold, I sell him primely [sic] because I am tired [illegible deletion] of his troublesome hiring out every year I wish to get a settled home for him - He is a man between the age of 45, or 49, years - & is remarkably healthy I have never paid a Dr bill for him, nor do I believe he has ever been very ill in his life excepting [sic] the time when he was so unfortunate as to get an accidental shot from a gun during some wrong [illegible] time when he was a lad it has ingured [sic] a little the appearance of his face but is not the slightest disadvantage to him - My price for him is $200 - I am not in want of the money, & the purchaser can have it perhaps my life-time by paying the interest of the money Innitially [sic]. I would be willing to bind myself no
to call for the money for 2 years, but after that time to have the bond payable on demand, tho [?] perhaps I shall not want the money during my life - I sincerely wish it were in my power to dispose of all my servants as a female finds it a most troublesome business when they have to collect him, I see that they are clothed &c. but the man I offer for sale is the only one of the servants I have the right of disposing of, the others being loner servants - should either yourself or son or any other friend be in want of a man I will thank you to [illegible words], or Mr D. Meade who will be at [illegible] on Monday & who would give sale for me. I would like to get a good lease at once for him as the next year is near at hand - yrs respectfully
Divorce is no small matter, particularly in 1835. In the United States, it wasn't until well into the twentieth century that divorce became somewhat less stigmatized, although divorces in general still favored men over women. Women were, throughout history, left to bear the brunt of social stigmatization over divorce and other matrimonial troubles. It was usually seen as a woman's duty to ensure the happiness of her household, and for rich women, the burden was especially high. More was a stake in a marriage between two wealthy families than was for more common families.
Exploring the intricacies of marriage in the 19th century would fill dozens of blog posts, so if you want to read more, check out this lecture, written by Hendrik A. Hartog of the University of Wisconsin Law School entitled Marital Exits and Marital Expectations in Nineteenth Century America.
While digging through the Clarke County deed books, we once again found some intrigue - record of the divorce in 1835 of John W Byrd and his young wife Mary F Page, the second daughter of Ann Meade Randolph Page of Annfied. Seeing written evidence of a divorce this early in the century is intriguing enough, but reading further, the questions grow.
Clarke County Deed Book a:111-113
Less than a month after John Brown's infamous raid on Harper's Ferry, Clarke County slave owner's worst nightmare was realized: evidence of a potential slave insurrection was discovered.
Where do the poor people go?
What is a community to do to help those who cannot help themselves, who are stuck in a rut, down on their luck, with no support system in place?
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, being poor was largely considered to be a dishonorable state of existence, and most people who fell into that category (including the elderly and disabled) were largely ostracized, yet supported, by society at large. In America, county level governments took charge of instituting and maintaining houses to care for the poor - poorhouses, almshouses, county farms, etc - and they were organized and run by Overseers of the poor. The idea behind agriculture-based poor-relief is that those needing the relief will reside and work on the farm and raise some, if not all, the food they plan to consume.
Clarke County had one poor house that we know of, although it's possible there were earlier versions. Sometime in the mid-nineteenth century a large farm was built 3 miles north of Berryville, in what is now known as Stringtown. Records for the County Farm are scarce (at least during COVID closures), so we don't know much about it. It was in operation "for more than fifty years" according to the land deed documenting the sale of the farm to the Nicodemus family in 1946. County Farms, or Poorhouse farms, generally began to decline after 1935, when the Social Security Act went in to practice, meaning it's fairly likely the complex was built in the second half of the century.
Philip Henry Powers is the last Clarke County Educator we will cover in our mini-series, for now, and boy is he an interesting one.
Born April 10, 1828 to William Afton Powers and Alice Maher Saunders, in King and Queen County Virginia, Philip spent his life as an educator, a soldier, a farmer, and a father.
This week, along with our weekly educator profile, we bring you the ugly side to missing or unrecorded information. History is, and has always been, recorded by the winners, the victors, the socio-economic leaders, often to the near complete exclusion of those deemed "the losers." Many historians joke about the prevalence of the "old white man syndrome," the idea that history is written and dominated by old white men (at least in western culture), but it's a real problem. Women, Persons of Color, and most minority groups are generally left out of the narrative, and it makes forming an image of those peoples rather difficult.
The educator chosen for this week is Fannie Jenkins, a Clarke County native and educator, who also happened to be black.
This week we bring you the story of Theodora Cox, a Millwood native and a life-long Va educator. Once again, quarantine restrictions made researching her life a tad difficult, so this is an incomplete study.
Theodora Cavalier Cox was born December 30, 1887 in Virginia to parents William H. Cox ( 1844 - 1912) and Margaret Nagle (1851-1930). She was the youngest of 3 girls.
Fun Fact: each census record places her parents' birth location in different states AND countries. William's death certificate lists him as having been born in New Jersey, and Margaret's death certificate lists her as having been born in Baltimore. Why the census records are so wild is unknown.
"U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012"; School Name: State Teachers College at Harrisonburg; Year: 1935
Today we bring you the brief story of Lillie May Glover.
Born: abt 1852
Married: Aug 24, 1875
Died: Jan 12, 1939
Stella Davenport Moore was born on the 8th of January 1910 in Clarke County, Virginia. She was the second daughter of Ammishaddai Moore and Stella Davenport Richardson, and she was born into an old Clarke County family. The Moores had been in the area since before the Civil War. The family home was Upton, an estate in Millwood.
What an interesting time we're living through. Every day we're finding and reading about new developments dealing with the COVID-19 virus plaguing the globe. We're all in various stages of self-isolation and social distancing, and we're all feeling helpless and trapped as something we don't fully understand runs rampant, and we're starting to comprehend our inability to do anything to alter our situation. As we stare at the face of a possible quarantine period stretching for MONTHS, I wanted to bring to light some other voices who also experienced great struggle and uncertainty in their lives.
Today's Voice is that of Milly Fairfax, an enslaved woman held in bondage by David Huffman, of Page County, Virginia. We know very little about Milly, but we do get one brief, significant look into her life. The letter that follows was either written by her or, more likely, dictated by her.
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.