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Home: Regional: U.S. States: Virginia: Westmoreland County

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Re: Largest individual act of emancipation
Posted by: Rosemary Mahan Date: November 11, 2000 at 07:17:25
In Reply to: Largest individual act of emancipation by John Chilton of 507

As well as the nationally known shrines of Wakefield (Washington's Birthplace) and Stratford Hall (Lee's Birthplace), there is in this county Nomini Hall, probably the finest home in colonial days in Westmoreland County. It was the home of Councillor Robert Carter, a grandson of "King" Carter of Lancaster County, for which Rt. 3 (Kings Highway), the road that runs from Richmond County (and I believe actually from Lancaster County at one time) all the way to Fredericksburg is named. According to the book, "Westmoreland County 1653-1983," Nomini Hall, "one of the largest mansions built in Virginia during the Colonial Period, was constructed under the direction of Robert "King" Carter I for his son, Robert Carter II, and was contemporaneous with other dynastic projects underway at Sabine Hall and Christ Church." Unfortunately, the colonial buildings of this home were destroyed in a fire in October 1850. "Physical traces of the mansion exist today only in uninvestigated archaeological remains." Another home has been built there and some stately trees still stand. The property still remains owned by descendants of the Carter family and is currently in the process of restoration at this time.

It is true that there has been no monument built in honor of Councillor Carter, but there are many historical markers throughout the area attesting to his influence as are with other great men of this area, such as James Monroe (this is also the county of his birthplace) and the Buffalo Soldiers. And as far as an actual "monument" being erected for Lee in Westmoreland county, there is none. His birth home is open for visitors and maintained by the Lee Foundation.

The following is an excerpt from the Black History chapter of "Westmoreland County Virginia 1653-1983":

"Councillor Robert Carter of Nomini Hall (by far the largest slave owner in Westmoreland, at one time holding between 278 and 303 slaves) is reported to haved filed a deed of manumission in the Westmoreland County Courtin 1790, with a schedule for freeing all of his slaves. Although some historians seem to know of its provisions, the deed itself does not appear to be filed in the Westmoreland County Deeds and Wills. Four deeds of manumission were, however, located, appearing in Deed Book 18, pp. 213, 244, and 291-92. In these deeds Carter manumitted 80 slaves. Carter divided his estate and holdings before he died, goint to Baltimore to spend his last years.

Whether motivated by religious beliefs or economic consideration (a depression followed the war), Carter's deed did provide for the liberation of a certain number of slaves each year over a period of 20 years. The schedule was arranged so as to prevent great distress for the Negroes and also so as to see to it that chaos did not occur in the community. Carter made arrangements to rent land to those former slaves he condiered able to act for themselves -- allotting 10 lots to 30 former slaves. He sometimes allowed free slaves to hire others not yet free. James, a Negro bricklayer at Aries, for example, hired his wife, son and daughter who were not free. Sam Harrison agreed to hire himself and five children to the Councillor for 15 pounds and rent one and one-half acres for two pounds, 10 shillings more. Others were hired by neighbors or by overserrs on Carter's plantations.

Neighbors complained about so many slaves becoming free at one time. Charges against these freed slaves were numerous and the neighboring community was particularly alarmed by the effect these newly free people were having on their own slaves. The chorus of condemnation was so loud that many other owners hesitated to free their people, though some, as William Bernard, did leave wills of manumission. Robert Carters own sons so bitterly opposed losing much of what they considered their rightful wealth that the elder, Robert, vowed not to carry out the deed as his father had stipulated. The younger son freed slaves and purchased replacements. Because of the heirs' opposition, many Carter slaves scheduled to be freed in later years probably never were."


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