In honor of Black History Month, we would like to share the story of an enslaved family who lived here at Tuckahoe in the 1850s: the Andersons. As far as we know, the family consisted of parents Tom and Amy and their children Maria, Abner, Philip, Cornelius, and Willis Anderson.
Joseph Allen purchased Tuckahoe from the Wights in 1850. Two account lists of the enslaved workers were made during that year. None of the Andersons are listed on these accounts. We first see their names on an account taken on March 1, 1856. Tom and Amy were listed along with Maria, Abner, and Philip. Cornelius would be born on December 29 of that year. All of the family who were of age were noted to work in the fields.
January 1, 1859, another account list was made. Amy was pregnant at this time and gave birth to Willis on June 29. However, just a month after the list was written, Abner died on February 1. He would have been about 13 years old. The cause of his death was not recorded and remains a mystery to us. Without knowing the exact circumstances, it is difficult to know exactly how the family would have felt. If Abner had been seriously ill or injured and in extreme pain, were they relieved when his suffering was over? Was it a sudden accident that shocked the family and left them devastated and heartbroken? Regardless of how it happened, Amy and Tom lost a son and no doubt his absence was keenly felt by both his parents and his siblings. Enslaved workers were not typically given any time off for the death of a family member and so they likely would have buried Abner in the hard, frozen ground at night.
While much of our information about this family is limited, we do know that after the Civil War, some members of the Anderson family remained at Tuckahoe and continued to work as paid staff. Amy is thought to have passed away sometime before 1866 as a Goochland County Cohabitation Register marks Tom Anderson’s wife as “died”. Tom shows up in an 1867 voting record for Goochland County which would have been one of the first elections he could have voted in as a free man.
In the 1880 census, Tom was still in the area though it is unknown where any of his children were living at the time. Tom’s neighbor was noted to be Spy Boyd (the Boyds were another family that had been enslaved at Tuckahoe). Both of these men were widowers as Spy’s wife, Mahala, died sometime prior to the 1880 census. Perhaps with their shared history and proximity, these two men would have had a close bond as they and their children continued to navigate the world as free Americans.
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