Pictured here with some of her family is a woman named Harriet Smith. Harriet claimed that she was among the last to be born into slavery at Tuckahoe during the Allen period of ownership. She is thought to have been born in June of 1853 to parents Ellen Anderson Smith and Ed Smith.
Ellen is first noted on an account list of Edwin Wight’s estate in 1850. She and her child, Nancy, were listed with a valuation of $500. After Joseph Allen purchased Tuckahoe, they appear on another list later that year along with four other of Ellen’s children (Daniel, Jane, Dilsey, and Jordan). On this 1850 list, all are noted to have the last name of Anderson. Who the father of any of these children was remains unclear. By 1856, it appears that Ellen had started a family with another enslaved man named Ed Smith. From this point, Ellen and her children are listed with the last name Smith. Two other children are born in this decade including Harriet and her brother, Andrew.
During the 1850s, Ellen is listed as having served as the cook which would have been a difficult and demanding position. Ellen would have been spending much of her time in the Old Kitchen building along Plantation Street which means that she and her family likely lived nearby in one of the slave cabins. In 1915, H. Coolidge (a member of the family that owned the property at the time) went to visit Harriet and spoke with her about her childhood at Tuckahoe. It is said that she had a clear recollection of growing up in the second quarter from the kitchen building (which would be the North Cabin). Though never explicitly stated, it is assumed that Harriet would have worked out in the fields with her father and siblings after she had reached a certain age. As a young child, she likely would have been put in charge of simpler tasks like running errands, feeding livestock, and perhaps assisting her mother in the kitchen.
At the time of the Coolidge visit, Harriet’s home was “on the Gayton Road near the negro church”. Several members of her family were living with her at the time including her husband, Dabney Wesley who she referred to as “the ditcher”. According to census records, the couple married around 1867 meaning Harriet would have been around 14 years old. They had at least nine children together and are thought to have continued to work at Tuckahoe as paid servants after the Civil War.
Records show that Harriet passed away on April 7, 1926 at the age of 70. The cause of death simply as “old age”. Some of Harriet’s family including Dabney (who had died in 1919) and quite possibly Harriet herself are thought to be buried at a church just a short ways from Tuckahoe.