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February 9, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Runaway Slave: Nelson Hart

runaway slave
During the 18th and 19th centuries, newspapers frequently printed advertisements for runaway slaves. The rewards which offered descriptions of these desperate men and women increase our understanding of the sufferings of slavery. Through these advertisements, we are often reminded that many slaves used surnames long before Emancipation. In this case, Nelson Hart was the property of Elizabeth Ann Price of New Canton, Buckingham County and his surname, “Hart,” was established before he was purchased by Price. It is also often disclosed that skilled men such as Nelson Hart frequently traveled far from home, resulting in a wide knowledge of Virginia. Nelson Hart’s fate is unknown. The following advertisement ran in the spring of 1847:


RUNAWAY from subscriber some time ago, a negro man named NELSON HART, of dark complexion, about five feet eight inches high – with one Eye out, which [one], not recollected – he is about 35 or 40 years of age – quite intelligent – took with him a suit of black summer clothes and a suit of Kentucky Jeans – one of the Coats has a Velvet Collar. Nelson has been hired for a number of years at the Buckingham Iron Works, both at “Bear Garden” and “Stone Wall” – has attended Furnaces over the Mountains, his acquaintance is very extensive. The above reward will be paid for his delivery, or his security in Jail so that I might get him.
New Canton, P. O., Buckingham co., Va.


Interested in learning more about the use of newspaper advertisements to reclaim runway slaves?
Visit “The Geography of Slavery in Virginia”

Coming next: Runaway Slave: Patrick Winfrey


Leave a Comment
  1. Beth Leggieri / Feb 10 2017 4:44 pm

    Do we know who Elizabeth Ann Price is?

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 11 2017 8:48 am

      Beth, I don’t know Elizabeth or the Prices of New Canton. Perhaps someone who does, will comment. Joanne

      • Beth Leggieri / Feb 11 2017 11:57 am

        Joanne, am interested in following Nelson since his skills were once utilized at Buckingham Iron Works (see Edward Walton Sims, my 3xgg, about whom we have earlier conversed). Nelson and those like him are precisely “who” I am after, attempting to develop the larger family story–the decisions, actions, choices made by those before us and the consequences. Thank you for posting this series, anticipating learning more. I will add Nelson’s story to my ancestor’s chapter if I can decisively tie him to Edward Walton Sims. So hoping Nelson survived, had a family, and his ancestors are searching for him, too. (Price is another line from this area, and now working on Elizabeth Ann who may be a lateral connection.)

  2. Linda Loftin / Feb 9 2017 8:57 am

    Thank you for not ignoring the plight of the slaves of Buckingham County.

    • Joanne Yeck / Feb 9 2017 9:02 am

      Linda, You are welcome. More to come. As I’m sure you know, information about the early history of Buckingham County is scarce and information about slaves, their names, their plight is even scarcer. Joanne

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