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January 7, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Population Mid-19th Century


In the Gazetteer of the United States (1854), Thomas Baldwin very simply states the population of Buckingham County that year: “Population, 13,837, of whom 5676 were free, and 8161, slaves.”

At first glance, the degree to which slaves outnumber free men, women, and children is impressive. The numbers, however, do not represent a simple dividing line between the races. In 1854, here were a number of free blacks living in Buckingham, including the well-known Daniel Stanton family, whose sons were boatmen on the James River.

Among the slaves were Blacks, “Mulattos” (mixed race or light skinned individuals), and possibly some people with Native American ancestors. Some of these slaves were highly skilled, working as blacksmiths or millers. Most, of course, labored on Buckingham’s farm land.

The 1850 Federal population census includes a separate slave census which gives the age, gender, and “color” of each slave.  While the assignment of Black vs. Mulatto varies from enumerator to enumerator, it can be an informative detail. The slave census also notes if the person is “Deaf & dumb, blind, insane or idiotic.” From these few facts a rough idea of the slave population in a household, on a farm, or on a larger plantation emerges.

One of my current projects is collecting stories of Buckingham’s enslaved population and information about the early days following emancipation and Lee’s surrender in April of 1865.  If you have any family stories you would be willing to share, please let me know.


Leave a Comment
  1. Earl of Albemarle / Jan 7 2013 5:46 pm

    How many “current” projects do you have?

    Steven G. Meeks, *CTA* President/Chief Executive Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society

    President – Hatton Ferry Co-chair – Charlottesville Albemarle Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee

    434-296-1492 200 Second Street, NE Charlottesville, VA 22902

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 7 2013 6:02 pm

      Thanks for asking. I have several projects going at various stages of development, including one concerning the William Harris family of Green Mountain, southern Albemarle County. At the turn of the twentieth century, Albemarle historian Rev. Edgar Woods declared this about William Harris and his wife, Mary Netherland, “From this stem has sprung a greater number of families perhaps than from any other ever domiciled in the county.”

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