A view of Rappahanock County rolling hills, countryside and mountains.
This website, "Rappahannock Roads To Freedom" is dedicated to the tens of thousands of men, women and children of color who lived in Rappahannock County in the 1700s and 1800s. My son, suggested that name and it fit perfectly because some of my ancestors who were free still functioned as slaves when in the 1840s and 1850s according to court records, were court ordered to work on road projects for 16 cents a day until their taxes and levies were paid!! Furthermore, the name is particularly meaningful for my enslaved ancestors who probably walked up and down those same dirt roads but had no idea that freedom would one day come, if not for them then for their unborn children.
Ben Venue, only the existing slave quarters in Rappahannock County today.
My ancestors lived in Amissville and still to this day relatives live there in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Although my mother Ressie Brown grew up in Amissville, her mother Irie Williams Brown and grandmother Edmonia Nelson Williams and other members of her family lived in Rock Ford, Marshall and Linden in Fauquier County. Apparently they walked back forth across those county road lines alot. I found slave birth records for my great great grandmother, the family matriach, Easter Nelson that listed Keysville in Rappahannock County as her home, while right across the county line in Fauquier County is the Crest Hill Baptist Church for which it is said she donated the land.
Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, my grandfather Lewis Brown, Jr. preached here in the late 1800s-early 1900s.
The countryside is incredibly beautiful in Amissville and many parts of it is still unspoiled. Every year my family makes a pilgrimage of sorts there for the Brown family reunion in July. But as beautiful as Rappahannock is it was home to a harsh way of life for my ancestors. As I learned more and more about the history and day to day realities of slavery and living as a free person of color in Rappahannock county I felt the need to document it.
The surnames that are of particular interest to me are: BROWN, NELSON, WILLIAMS, LAWLER, LOLLA, SHAW and BROOKE. But once I started researching my family history I also began to discover the names of the white families that held my ancestors as slaves, indentured apprentices via the Overseer of the Poor, devised them in wills, or fathered children by them: BLACKWELL, DULIN, RAMEY, CLARKE, AND TURNER. I struggled to find a way to reconcile myself to my ancestors' enslavement and poverty and finally decided to find a way to memorialize them by publication.
Every time I looked at a court record, Free Negro register, personal property tax list, will, deed, or book and saw those names over and over or learned the name of a new enslaved or free ancestor or fellow person of color those names began to stay in my head and I thought about the people behind the names. I decided I would make a record somehow and this website was born. This website is dedicated to their memory, their blood, sweat and tears and hopefully their laughter and joy in those beautiful and bountiful hills and dells of Rappahannock County.
CLick here to visit the Rappahannock County Marriages website to see the 1866 Cohabitation Register aka the Colored Register