New book re­veals rare pho­tos, lore of Rap­pa­han­nock African Amer­i­can fam­i­lies

‘Slav­ery . . . rav­ages are un­de­ni­ably on the faces of mi­nor­ity res­i­dents’

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

Ar­guably the most stag­ger­ing statis­tic con­tained in the soon-to-be-pub­lished book, “Im­ages of Amer­ica: African Amer­i­cans in Culpeper, Or­ange, Madi­son, and Rap­pa­han­nock Coun­ties,” is the fact that be­tween 1900 and 1950 more than 34 per­cent of Rap­pa­han­nock’s pop­u­la­tion re­lo­cated.

As in African Amer­i­cans. To­day, among 7,400 county res­i­dents, fewer than five per­cent are black.

In his new book, au­thor and mu­seum cu­ra­tor Terry L. Miller helps to doc­u­ment Rap­pa­han­nock’s African Amer­i­can his­tory. De­scen­dants shared with him fam­ily lore and much more to

re­veal the once large black pop­u­la­tion’s beauty, spirit, re­silience, and pain.

As Miller says of the rarely seen pho­tos in the book, the legacy of slav­ery un­der­girds Rap­pa­han­nock “and its rav­ages are un­de­ni­ably on the faces of mi­nor­ity res­i­dents.”

In 1860, there were 3,520 en­slaved and 312 free blacks in Rap­pa­han­nock County. The ma­jor­ity of their de­scen­dants are no longer here, moved to neigh­bor­ing coun­ties or large ci­ties far away. If not peo­ple, a small num­ber of well­p­re­served slave quar­ters here stand as mon­u­ments to those who re­main an in­te­gral part of the county’s his­tory.

Miller writes about Charles W. Kilby, known as “Si­mon,” who was born in Rap­pa­han­nock County in 1853, the son of Nim­rod Kilby and Juli­ett Ann Luby, his mother en­slaved by Thomas and Mil­dred Kilby. When Si­mon was pre­par­ing to marry Lucy Frances Wal­lace, born in 1857, he was given “writ­ten per­mis­sion” to do so by her mother, Martha P. Wal­lace.

“Since both of Si­mon Kilby’s par­ents were de­ceased, his iden­tity was at­tested to by mer­chant and com­mu­nity leader Paschal M. Finks,” Miller re­calls. “Over the years, the cou­ple made a home on their own land and raised seven sons and four daugh­ters. They main­tained a last­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Finks fam­ily, as ev­i­dence by one of Si­mon’s sons, John Henry Kilby, Sr., who worked as a farm la­borer for some Finks de­scen­dants.”

It’s un­known how Amy Gor­don got to Rap­pa­han­nock County af­ter her en­slave­ment in Caro­line County. She was recorded as be­ing born in 1859 to “Mary” but owned by Bazil Gor­don. By 1870, she was liv­ing in Rap­pa­han­nock in the John An­drew Bow­er­sett house­hold; both are listed as mar­ried, as­sumedly the au­thor writes to one an­other. Bow­er­sett was a Rap­pa­han­nock mer­chant, and in Amy’s life­time she had three chil­dren.

She does not ap­pear in the pub­lic record af­ter 1889.

Among other por­traits in the book is Rap­pa­han­nock na­tive Lucy Mil­dred Ter­rill (aka Ter­rell) Pey­ton, born around 1856 to Har­ri­ett Pey­ton.

“In 1879, she mar­ried farmer Ed­ward Fletcher (1856-1927), and they had five chil­dren,” the au­thor writes. “Their home was full of en­cour­age­ment, re­sult­ing in their chil­dren be­com­ing pro­fes­sion­als in their own right. Neph­ews and grand­chil­dren also lived with them at time.”

An­other proud par­ent, de­spite her vis­i­bly ab­sent smile, was Ida Ralls Frye, born in Rap­pa­han­nock around 1874 to An­drew “Cafie” and Jane Jenk­ins Ralls. She mar­ried James Frye on Aug, 5, 1894; set up house­keep­ing, and the cou­ple raised a fam­ily of four strik­ingly hand­some chil­dren — Fen­ton, Otis, Lot­tie and Marie — at the foot of what later be­came Shenan­doah Na­tional Park.

Ida died nine months af­ter her hus­band, on June 18, 1948, both iron­i­cally of brain hem­or­rhages.

The book tells the tragic story of Harry Red­cross Wil­liams, born in 1891 to Au­gus­tus Wil­liams (born 1855) and Rose Red­cross Scott. Harry mar­ried Beatrice Lena Brown, an­other Rap­pa­han­nock na­tive and daugh­ter of Ge­orge R. Brown and An­nie El­iza Gor­don. Sadly, a fa­tal ac­ci­dent in his barn re­sulted in Harry “be­ing in­cin­er­ated al­most im­me­di­ately.”

The old­est of five known chil­dren of Charles and Ed­mo­nia Wil­liams, Irie Lee Wil­liams Brown was born in 1883 and be­came the se­cond wife of wid­ower Rev. Lewis Brown in Rap­pa­han­nock County. Twenty-five years her se­nior, Rev. Brown was both a farmer and min­is­ter. They were the par­ents of eight known chil­dren. Many years af­ter the preacher’s death Irie was re­mar­ried for a brief time to Pendle­ton Wil­son Wil­liams, Jr.

Among dozens of other Rap­pa­han­nock por­traits — from the Civil War, through World War I and II, into more re­cent times — is one of John John­son, who “played his ver­sion of the Pied­mont blues on his gui­tar and en­ter­tained au­di­ences all over the world. He was born in Rap­pa­han­nock to ten­ant farm­ers Suddy and Hat­tie John­son on Feb. 25, 1924.

“His fa­ther taught him to play the gui­tar,” Miller ob­serves, “where his unique sound af­forded him in­vi­ta­tions and record deals. A his­tor­i­cal marker on Zachary Tay­lor High­way (US Route 522 in Woodville) pays trib­ute to his con­tri­bu­tions to Amer­i­can mu­sic.”

1 Blues gui­tarist John John­son of Woodville would en­ter­tain au­di­ences all around the world. 2 Lucy Mil­dred Ter­rill Pey­ton, born around 1856 in Rap­pa­han­nock, en­cour­aged all of her chil­dren to ex­cel de­spite their many ob­sta­cles in life. 3 Charles W. "Si­mon" Kilby, born in Rap­pa­han­nock County in 1853. 4 Harry Red­cross Wil­liams, born in 1891, would per­ish in a barn fire.


Seen here with four of her eight chil­dren, Irie Lee Wil­liams Brown was born in 1883 and be­came the se­cond wife of wid­ower Rev. Lewis Brown in Rap­pa­han­nock County, 25 years her se­nior.

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