Slaves to Satellites - 250 years of
Changing Times on the Virginia Farm
True story of eight families and what they did on the
True story of a real 355 acre farm in Bedford, Virginia and the eight hardy families who came and went during a period of 250 years. They worshiped with and intermarried with neighbors. They came, they built, they had children. They worked but ultimately passed away. And then another family lived its cycle, its way.
What happened here -- and why it happened - is typical of many other Southern farms: hardy folk coping with unpredictable weather, cyclical economics, and changing competition.
The book begins when slavery was commonplace and the only satellite was the moon. It shows that the South's dependency upon slavery was far more prevalent than generally believed. Indeed, even a neighborhood church owned
The second half of the book shows life and times without slaves. It examines the impacts of the Civil War, new technology, and the invisible hand of economics in driving people to change the use of the land, to change the relationship of landowner to the tenant farmer and sharecropper and to change the role of the neighborhood church.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I The Slavery Era
1. The Land
2. The Elizabeths
3. Slaves and a Church
4. Wars against Britain
5. Thomas Farm
7. New Thomas Generation
8. Secession & War
1600 - 1700's
1774 - 1815
1830 - 1856
1856 - 1860
1861 - 1865
|Part II A New South
10. Harry & Friends
11. Gus & the Depression
12. Eris and the Forties
13. Nobody home
14. New Yorkers
15. Satellite TV
16. Enduring Earth
1906 - 1929
1929 - 1940
1941 - 1949
1950 - 1977
1980 - 1998
Here are a few excerpts
Tobacco was then a primary "clear money" farm product , it was carted to the Lynchburg market, which, from 1823 to 1833, was the largest tobacco market in the world, outranking even Richmond. The production pace was exhausting the rich soil of the region. A gazetteer publisher observed in
1835 that "many intelligent planters, foreseeing the inevitable course of things, are by degrees abandoning the culture of the plant, and giving increased attention to the growing of wheat and the improvement of their
over cropped lands........"
There was more than one case in Bedford where a hated, abusive owner was murdered by a slave. Fortunately, others, like Thomas Jefferson, had a sense
of responsibility for their well being, either out of human compassion or for business reasons. Such owners would not underfeed, overwork, or injure slaves. The slave was too important: he was needed to do the work, not just today, but next week and next year. After buying a slave, the owner took care of his "investment". At best, slavery was paternalistic.
Some slaves, determined to run their own lives, would try to run away. Most were recaptured as owners usually helped each other track down runaways. A few escaped forever, to the North, or by joining Indian communities in the hinterland.
Owners would punish slaves who misbehaved or who had tried to escape. Two miles
from Solaridge, in the cellar of a decrepit house, is a wrought iron shackle on
a heavy floor beam, from which, it is said, hung a chain used to keep a slave in
Church owns slaves
Peaks Presbyterian Church, described as "a large congregation covering an infinite space of territory around the Peaks" mountains, wanted a full-time minister to preach, to inspire, to pastor, and to guide the religious education of the children. They concluded that they could only afford to do it if their Church could use slaves to raise products to sell.
In 1774 the Peaks congregation petitioned the Virginia House of Burgesses at
Williamsburg for permission. One hundred two men signed the petition, including
10 Mitchells, 7 Dooleys, 5 Kennedys, 6 Ewings, 4 Reads, and 3 Campbells. Also
signing were 3 Beards: Adam, David and Samuel, and 3 Sharps: Adam, John and
The Burgesses did indeed grant that permission so members of the congregation contributed money to buy the slaves: Kate, Tom, Jerry, and
War in Virginia
Some other neighborhood men who also served the Southern cause were Charles
Beard, and Robert L. Beard, who was taken prisoner, as was R.N.'s brother
in-law, James H. Hopkins, who subsequently escaped. Other kin who served were
R.N.'s teenage nephew, William R. Thomas, and cousins and cousins James T. and
Some died. Neighbor R.H. Kelso, a young 3rd Lt., was killed at Yellow Tavern.
And George Cabell Moseley, a VMI student, died in August 1864. He was only 17.
The war marched right into Bedford in June, 1864.
Union General David Hunter led 15,000 Federals into
Bedford County, from Buchanan, up, over and
between the Peaks of Otter, on their way to Liberty, to
New London and then to their main objective,
The Thomases and their neighbors hid their valuables and foodstuffs. They
scattered their livestock into the wooded hills. John Calvin Thomas and others
of the Home Guard picked off stray roving Yankees........
The drought of 1930-31 had shriveled an already drab economy. Vegetation withered. Parched crops were not worth harvesting. Creeks slowed to a trickle. Few builders had any customers wanting new buildings, so lumber mills let people go. Gus Simmons sold his mill for what he could get and began looking for another interest.
A quirk circumstance led him to buy the farm, then known as the Thomas/Holmes place.
It was being auctioned off for the third time. On the first two tries, the foreclosure agent did not receive reasonable bids. Now, on this third try, creditors were ready to accept almost anything. The story is that the auctioneer stood on the courthouse steps, calling for bids. Simmons happened by just then, and waved to his auctioneer friend, who interpreted his open hand wave as a bid, and then shouted "Sold for
Tomatoes and Sheep
.Lalla, daughter of Reverend Robert Kelso Moseley, wrote " Young
faces .. old faces, looking down at the red tomatoes; young hands ...'old
hands, always moving, never resting. A few quick looks sometimes, from the
girls as they peeled the tomatoes, to the young men who scalded them, or
fired the boiler, a minute or two of talk, in morning, at noon, and in the
evening; the rest of the time just rows of busy hands, never stopping,
rows of dull faces, getting duller as the hours dragged on. Very little
talking, it wasn't encouraged either by the management or the machinery.
Five cents a bucket."
And what happened to the tomato skins? Farmers were permitted to fill up 40 or 50 pound buckets to feed their hogs. Some skins were just pushed into the creek. And a more spectacular solution was to use a water cannon to shoot a massive stream of skins high over the creek and splay it over some unused
........didn't cost much to feed: they seemed able to survive by eating
almost anything. But like other Bedford County sheep farmers, Lugar was
unable to make it pay. It has always been hard to protect these peaceful
animals from marauding dogs. Roving dog packs would spook the sheep. They
would panic and run, and collide with barbed wire fencing. Some would get
cut and start to bleed. This incites the dogs into a killing frenzy. Some
farmers continued the old practice of keeping donkeys to defend the sheep.
Nevertheless, dogs took a heavy toll.
Dogs were not the only problem. Technological developments hurt most: new fibers such as Nylon, Orion, Dacron, and polyesters replaced wool in many garments. And improved efficient transportation brought wool from the wide open spaces of New Zealand and Australia, where sheep outnumber cattle by about six to one, at a lower delivered cost than home grown........
........still serve as a community center, but only occasionally. The
country church is no longer the primary bond for people of the
neighborhood. The number of Sunday faithful has not kept pace with the
growth of population. Residents now maintain their friendships and
discover new friends over a wide geographical area. Cars, good roads,
telephones and e mail link people together almost irrespective of
Major, main-line Protestant churches have lost members nationally while the more fundamentalist churches and alternate, New Age, religions, have
Surveys confirm most Americans profess to believe in God. But it isn't evident from church attendance. We
have more choices in how we use our time. It is easy to go somewhere else, to do something else. For many people television at home or pursuit of recreation takes priority over being in church. We are living in an "Entertainment Age" or "Recreation Age", where sports and games consumes the national interest........
In spite of our human presence, and in spite of what we have done with the land and to the land, there is a lot of life here...big and
small, animal, bird, reptile, and bugs innumerable.......
Nature repairs the scars men have made upon the land and replenishes the life on the land. The humans who come and go may seem different, but human nature has not changed. They still want to love and be loved, they still sin, they still seek understanding. They still strive to
This is a great gift
156 pages 60 illustrations Big
Flex cover ISBN 1-883912-06-7 Price $24.00