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Sunday, January 5, 2014

One Hundred Hands

George Washington Estes Row

     During the last eighteen years of his life, 1865-1883,  George W.E. Row at various times owned or operated two farms and two saw mills. He managed Greenfield for his mother until her death in 1873 and after that for his unwed sister Nan until his own death at age 39. Of course he also ran his own farm, Sunshine, on which he built a house for his family in 1880. All the work required at these enterprises obliged George to hire many hands over the years, and so he did - by the dozens. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]
     The ledgers he and his family kept for thirty years are a gold mine of information regarding life at antebellum Greenfield and the years of struggle after the Civil War. In my last post I presented the names of over one hundred individuals and businesses to whom George Row sold the products of his saw mill business and when possible I included a little information about each one. Since the majority of his customers were well off, well known and white I was able to find a little something to say about most of them.
     Today's look at the ledgers will utilize a similar approach as we learn about the men, women and children who worked for him. Most of his employees were poor, unlettered blacks recently freed from bondage or who, in some cases, had lived as free people all their lives.  Their names tended not to appear in the society columns of the Fredericksburg newspapers, rarely did obituaries note their passing and their graves were most often unmarked. In trying to unearth information about many of them I have not been successful.
     For others I will be featuring a liberal number of images from the ledgers and other sources as they apply to these individuals, both black and white. In doing so I hope to share a glimpse into their world. For those of you who have already read my previous post, you will see that a number of George Row's employees were also his customers. Also, I will point out here that some of them were charged for board. I assume that those people who worked at Greenfield may have at times occupied the former slave cabins during planting or harvesting times. But that is speculation on my part.
     In 1862 most of the slaves of Greenfield escaped to freedom. Five men, whose last names are unknown to us - Limus, William, Henry, Albert and Horace - remained with the Row family for the remainder of the war and for a year or two afterwards. The abrupt end of slavery in the south required a quick pivot to a system of paid labor. In 1867 George Row signed labor contracts with two families. That was the beginning of his role as the employer of those whose labor had been previously taken from them.
     The workers whose names appear in the ledgers are often treated without differentiation, although we will see that times some of them are identified as "colored". In the list below I will identify the race of the persons shown with a (b) or a (w) when I am confident of their color. In doing so I hope to be of some help to other researchers and genealogists who may be studying those family names.

Robert Atkins (b). Spotsylvania laborer. His name appears below, fourth from the bottom. Twenty five cents has been deducted from his pay for "neglect of duty" on March 25, 1880.

Robert Atkins

Arthur Bolling (w). Spotsylvania farmer.

Ralph Broaddus

Joe Broaddus

Sam Brown (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Ernest L. Buchanan (w). Spotsylvania farmer.

George Bundy (b). Spotsylvania carpenter and farmer. George was born free, the son of a slave father and a free black mother. During the Civil War George Bundy worked as the caretaker of the farm of Albert J. McCarty, who was off fighting with the 30th Virginia Infantry. In the 1870s George filed a claim for compensation with the Southern Claims Commission, which dismissed his petition as fraudulent.

Provision account of George Bundy

Petition of George Bundy to the Southern Claims Commission

Robert Cammack (w). Spotsylvania farmer.

Grason Carter (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Grason Carter's work account

Jenny Carter (b). Spotsylvania laborer and sister of Grason Carter. For a time she worked as a cook for the Row family. And a little sewing as well. The Sarah Acors mentioned here was the wife of Henry Acors, another member of the large community of antebellum Spotsylvania's free blacks.

Jenny Carter
Frank Clark (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

John Coleman

Henry Collins

Henry Collins work account 1882

Joe Collins

Charles Comfort (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Richard Poindexter Comfort (b). Spotsylvania laborer. A son of Charles Comfort. His nickname was "Deck."

Washington Comfort (b). Spotsylvania laborer and a brother of Charles Comfort. "Wash" Comfort died just two months after George Row, and his estate was credited with $11.50 due from George for some corn. Washington Comfort's estate documents are in the archive of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg.

Washington Comfort provision account, 1876

Washington Comfort provision account, 1877

From the estate papers of Washington Comfort

Sam Cook

Sam Cook's work account

Fleming Cooper (b). Spotsylvania laborer. In 1880 Fleming was 75 years old.

Robert Corbin

Peter Cottom

Stapleton Crutchfield (b). Spotsylvania laborer. In 1869 he worked at Greenfield as horse groom and he also harvested sumac. Note that he is charged 25 cents per day for board.

Stapleton Crutchfield and partner

Stapleton Crutchfield, groom for stallion

B.T. Doswell

Jefferson Dudley (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Joe Ellis

Joe Ellis work account, 1882

Thomas Ellis

Lucius Estes (w). Spotsylvania farmer and justice of the peace. He and his wife lived and worked at Greenfield in the 1870s with their adopted son. Two years after George Row died Lucius signed a sharecropping contract with his widow, Mary Elizabeth Houston Row.

Row - Estes contract, 1885

Row - Estes contract, 1885

Larkin Ford (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Powhatan Thomas Foster (w). Spotsylvania farmer. P.T. Foster served in the 9th Virginia Cavalry with his father, William E. Foster, and his brother, Fredericksburg merchant Oregon Dallas Foster. Ironically, P.T. Foster died in a saw mill accident in 1914.

P.T. Foster work account 1883

P.T. Foster work account 1881

William Beauregard Foster (w). Spotsylvania farmer. Brother of Powhatan Thomas Foster.

Work account of William Beauregard Foster, 1882

Thomas Gatewood

Charles Gibson (b). Spotsylvania farmer. In December 1867 George Row and Charles signed a labor agreement for the following year, in which George promises to pay $100 for the personal services of Charles and his two children, Margaret and Thomas.

Row - Gibson labor contract, 1867

Charles Gibson's provision account, 1869

James Gordon

Louisa Gordon (b). Spotsylvania laborer. Daughter in law of Charles Gibson. She and George Row also signed a labor agreement in 1867, in which he promises to pay $25 for the hire of herself and her daughter Anna.

Row - Gordon labor contract, 1867

Peter Green (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Peter Green work account, 1882
Henry Hanes

Henry Hanes work account, 1881

Lucius Hanes

Leonidas A. Harris (w). Spotsylvania laborer. L.A. Harris was a younger brother of George Row's business partner, James Alfred Harris. Another brother, Thomas Addison Harris, was sheriff of Spotsylvania County.

Thad Hart (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

Fielding Henderson

William Henderson

Henry Holmes (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Charley Jackson (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Work account of Charley Jackson, 1883

Nelson Jackson (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Noah Jackson (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

Robert Jackkson (b). A son of Noah Jackson

L.H. Jewett

J. W. Johnson

J.W. Johnson work account, 1883

Martha Johnson

William Lee Kent (w). Spotsylvania farmer. William was my grandmother's first cousin. He kept his luxuriant moustache unti he died in 1949 at age 87.

William Lee Kent

William Lee Kent work account, 1881

Carter Lewis

Jim Lewis

Sandy Lewis

Thomas Lewis (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

William Lewis (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Provision account of William Lewis
James Mason

Hugh Minor (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Joshua Minor (b). Spotsylvania laborer. Both Joshua and Hugh are shown on the 1870 census to be living at Greenfield as laborers.

Margaret Minor (b). Spotsylvania laborer. In 1870 she was a cook for the Rows.

Margaret Minor, cook

Joshua Overton (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

W.C. Pannill

Dudley Robinson (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Louisa Robinson (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

John Rough

Beverly Slaughter (b). Spotsylvania laborer. During the Civil War Beverly was  a slave of William Edwin Foster. In April 1878 George Row paid him to repair his watch.

Beverly Slaughter, for fixing watch

Obituary of Beverly Slaughter, The Daily Star 8 April 1909

Henry Slaughter (b). Spotsylvania laborer. In February 1867 George Row and Henry Slaughter signed a labor agreement, which included Henry's son and "two small boys."

Row - Slaughter labor contract, 1867

Gilbert Stewart (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

James Stewart (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

William Stewart

Allan D. Sullivan (w). Spotsylvania laborer and shoemaker.

Provision account of Allan D. Sullivan, 1870

Mordecai Sullivan (w). Spotsylvania carpenter. Brother of Allan D. Sullivan.

Provision account of Mordecai Sullivan, 1870

Julian Terrill (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Julian Terrill work account, 1882

Frank Tibbs

Nat Towles (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

Nat Towles provision account, 1870

James Tunket

William P. Twyman

Ned Watkins

G.B. Wallace

Robert Ware (b). Spotsylvania farmer.

William Ware (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

James Washington (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Mansfield Washington (b). Spotsylvania farmer. In 1880 George Row paid to Spotsylvania constable John C. Mitchell the warrant costs of Lucius M. Estes regarding Mansfield Washington.

Mansfield Washington warrant costs

Walker Wigglesworth (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Daniel Wilkerson

James Williams

Jordon Williams

Mike Williams

Addison Willis

Addison Willis work account, 1882

Frederick Wormley (b). Spotsylvania laborer.

Mary Wormley (b). Spotsylvania laborer. Wife of Frederick Wormley.

Atwell Young  (b). Spotsylvania farmer. Atwell was conscripted into the Confederate army in 1864. The year after George Row died, Atwell signed a sharecropping contract with his widow, Mary Elizabeth Houston Row.

Atwell Young and brothers provision account, 1870

Row - Young contract, 1884

Humphrey Young (b). Spotsylvania farmer. Brother of Atwell Young.

Humphrey Young obituary, The Daily Star 26 October 1906



  1. Albert J McCarty was my great, great Grandfather on my Mother's side and I grew up directly across Rt3 from his home. I have very much enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Justin.