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June 4, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The 1909 Buckingham Murders: Part II

2_Murder_1900_Stuart_Thomas and William_detail

1900 Census Buckingham County — The “Stuart” Brothers

 

The Stewarts of Buckingham County

Virginians Thomas and William Stewart had likely lived in Buckingham County most of their lives. In 1900, nine years before their murder, they were enumerated as Thomas and William “Stuart.” Thomas, born in August of 1847, was the head of the household and gave his occupation as a farmer. William, his elder brother, born in November of 1845, gave his occupation as a farm hand. They owned their farm. Living with them were two black boys, born in April of 1888 and in July of 1891. According to the enumerator the boys used the last name “Stuart”; their first names are illegible. They are both identified as “farm hands.”

What would have incited the murder of these two men in their sixties?

The brothers had a reputation as misers. On April 21, 1909, Richmond’s The Times-Dispatch printed the rumor that the Stewart brothers were believed to be hording riches and stated that their father, James W. Stewart, had been a slave trader.

According to census data, James W. Stewart was born in Campbell County, Virginia in about 1813. Land tax records indicate that he bought two parcels, 15 + 216 acres, in southeastern Buckingham County in 1836, selling the land by 1838. In 1844, he and Daniel Brown bought 50 acres on Buck and Doe Creek, nine miles west of the courthouse, from Zedekiah Brown. In 1851 and 1858, Stewart acquired more acres on Doe Creek from Zedekiah Brown’s estate, including Mrs. Judy Brown’s dower interest. The place was identified as “Mountain Home.” The Stewarts’ immediate neighbors are familiar Buckingham surnames – Scott, Jones, Kitchen, Ragland, and McCraw, among others.

In 1850, James W. Stewart and his wife, Lucinda, lived with their sons, William (5) and Thomas (2). By 1860, Stewart (enumerated as “Steward”) owned only $500 worth of real estate; however, he reported $15,000 worth of personal property, most of which could be accounted for in the value of eleven male and six female slaves, aged two to forty, living in three houses. That year, he produced 5,000 lbs. of tobacco and other crops. The farm produced 100 lbs. of butter from milk cows. Based on the agricultural census, James Stewart appears to be a modest but successful farmer. Currently, it is unclear why Stewart owned so many slaves to work a relatively small farm.

In 1870, at the age of fifty-seven, Stewart’s real estate was valued at a mere $196 and his personal property at only $160. His wealth, apparently based almost entirely in human property, had been lost with emancipation.

By 1880, James W. Stewart tilled only 15 acres of his roughly 150 acre farm, valued at $300. In these diminished circumstances, his sons may have begun cutting wood and selling ties to the railroad across the James River.

Coming Next: The Stewarts and Antioch Baptist Church

Need to catch up on The 1909 Buckingham Murders? Part I: June 1, 2015

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