I’ve spent more than six years researching enslaved African-Americans associated with John Howe Peyton at Montgomery Hall (now Montgomery Hall Park and formerly an African-American park between 1946 and 1969), those enslaved at his other properties, those enslaved by his immediate and extended family members, and those enslaved by other former owners of the Montgomery Hall property and have recently completed the first of several major updates of the Enslaved Community Database on this site. Prior to my research, slavery and enslaved workers had not even been mentioned in connection with the Montgomery Hall property. I added the Enslaved Community Database to this site in 2012, consisting at first solely of a list of names included in five separate inventories recorded by representatives of John Howe Peyton’s executors. As I learned of others their names were added to this list. Next, I added details I found pertaining to the sale of Peyton’s enslaved men, women, and children at Alleghany County, Virginia in November, 1847, details of those living at Montgomery Hall who were sold after the death of Ann Montgomery Lewis Peyton in 1850, and those who continued to be owned by Peyton’s estate after the death of his wife.
Eventually I added those I found to have been enslaved by Peyton’s son, William Madison Peyton. William Madison Peyton acquired enslaved men, women, and children through inheritance, through his father, through his wife’s family, and by purchasing individuals from others. There is no known surviving inventory of William Madison Peyton’s enslaved workers and many were sold in 1858 when he sold “Elmwood,” now Elmwood Park in Roanoke, Virginia. I next added those I found to have been enslaved by William J. Shumate at Montgomery Hall and most recently I added the enslaved African-Americans of Margaret Reed after I learned that at least some of them worked on the property later known as Montgomery Hall.
It is always rewarding to find these formerly enslaved men, women, and children still living after Emancipation, where they chose to live and with whom they chose to live once they were free to make these choices and to be able to offer more than vague details of their enslavement. Sinah, an enslaved female owned by John Howe Peyton, was born c.1789 in Stafford County, Virginia, and considered aged and of no value in 1847. She not only lived to see Emancipation, but lived another seven years with a family member, Abraham Wallace, a skilled blacksmith in Loudoun County, Virginia. Members of the Anderson family, some of whom were sold by William Madison Peyton in 1858 when he sold “Elmwood,” include descendants of Edmond and George Anderson. Descendants of Edmond Anderson were carpenters, teachers, social workers, and a grandson, Edmond Anderson Bird, was an 1889 graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Descendants of George Anderson include a grandson, Charles W. Follis, who moved to Ohio with his parents and became the first African-American professional football player.
Margaret Reed willed possessions to both her family and enslaved females she owned at the time of her death in 1827. Elizabeth “Betsy” Truss, one of these enslaved females, was the wife of a free African-American shoemaker, Matt Truss, from whom John Howe Peyton purchased shoes in Staunton. Margaret Reed’s will provided for Betsy Truss and her children to be offered to Matt Truss for a low price, but even then he struggled to purchase his family. Betsy and her children were eventually free and were able to move to Canada with Truss. Marshall, a boy owned by John Howe Peyton, was bound to another man at the age of seven or eight to learn the trade of tailor. He was sold at the age of eleven or twelve in 1847 in Alleghany County, Virginia, and then sold almost immediately by the man who purchased him to an unknown person in a market in an unknown location. I haven’t been able to find him after that time. The most deplorable act known to have been committed against an African-American at Montgomery Hall was William J. Shumate’s illegal enslavement of James Hamilton, a free African-American man formerly of Hancock, Maryland.
Content for the Enslaved Community Database is being updated and all individual pages will be restored in September, 2018.