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May 8, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Tales: “Old Aunt Dorcas”

Cowels_Female Slave

“A Typical Mammy,” by Genevieve Cowles and Maude Cowels

In 1937, Garnet Williams surveyed the old Atkinson home site.  The house, located two miles southeast of Gold Hill, burned in 1925 and was also known as “the Cole place.”  In her survey, Mrs. Williams related the following story:

General Robert E. Lee, after the surrender, left Appomattox and marched through Buckingham. A part of his staff and many of his men were with him, his men stopping off as they would reach their homes. About night fall they reached the farm of William P. Sheppard. It was here he pitched his camp, the last night he ever spent with any of his men in camp. The next morning he marched on to New Canton to catch the boat for Richmond, stopping to rest near the home of Robert Atkinson, who went out and invited him to have lunch with his family, and he very readily accepted. Dorcas Allen, a servant in the home prepared the lunch, which consisted of ham, eggs, pear preserves and hot biscuits. “Old Aunt Dorcas” talked of this as long as she lived, and considered it one of the happiest hours of her life.

In 1870, a Dorcas Allen was living in Prince Edward County with her husband, Henry.  She was thirty-eight years old.  Is she the woman who feed General Lee?  If anyone knows more about her life or her family, please comment or write to me at

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