Bleak House Plantation: The Path from Slavery to Freedom

To research the African Americans who lived on the Bleak House plantation we started with the inventory and appraisal of Dr. James B. Rogers's estate (May 1864; Albemarle County Will Books).  There is no record that any slaves were sold out of the estate before Emancipation.

‑‑Search for Mariah‑‑

For this search we selected one woman from the inventory:

Mariah, aged 47, value $1000.   (b. 1816.)
Figure 1: Rogers inventory detail

Tracing women from slavery to freedom can be more challenging than tracing men—especially so in this case where the first name is common and the inventory does not group slaves by family.   The Albemarle County Personal Property Tax List (PPTL) cannot be the first step, as it was for Thornton Tyler of Hydraulic, because it lists only males (and some females who were heads of households). 

Instead, to achieve a cluster of first names to search in censuses, we usually start by looking at the birth records database, sorting by mother’s and owner’s names.  Only one birth was found for a Maria/Mariah owned by James B. Rogers: "Bennett" born in 1855. 
Figure 2: detail of sorted birth records database

There is no Bennett in the Rogers inventory or fiduciary accounts, but there is a Bernard, age 8, and thus born c. 1855.  When pronounced, the two names are quite similar.  So, next we try looking for a Bennett or Bernard, born about 1855, in the 1870 census.  We found no relevant Bennetts, but two possible Bernards: Bernard Ivins and Bernard Jennins.  When we examine the original pages, it becomes clear that this was a double record of a family headed by Perkins Ivins/Jennins, a blacksmith, his wife Maria, and several children (with inconsistent first names)(Figure 3).  There is a 90-year-old Hannah Wood living with them, who matches a Hannah, age 85, in the Rogers inventory.  She is thus likely to be Maria's mother.

Figure 3: 1870 census entry for Perkins Ivins and his family

Figure 4: 1870 census entry for "Hannah "

Now we need to determine what is the family's actual surname.  Sorting the PPTL by first name for "Perkins" reveals a Perkins "Ivins" or "Ivens" living from 1867 to 1869 at or near the "Longwood" estate of Theodore Michie (Figure 5).  On the 1864 Civil War map of Albemarle County that we have geo-registered, Longwood appears as a plantation not far from Bleak House (Figure 6). 

Figure 5: Property Tax List

Figure 6: Map of Earlysville (1864)

Later censuses resolve the family surname to Evans.  The post-war location of Perkins Evans, who was not in the Rogers records, suggests that he might have belonged to the Michies of Longwood.  The Will Books include an 1847 inventory of the estate of Theodore Michie's father, James Michie, Jr. It lists a 32-year-old blacksmith named Perkins.

Now we have the basic information about the family of Perkins and Maria Wood Evans and can explore additional records.  In their case, marriage records, death and burial records, later censuses, personal papers, and a surviving Evans graveyard, helped to fully fill out the family tree.  One of their sons, Nathaniel 'Link' Evans, was a well-known Earlysville blacksmith; there is now a Link Evans Road in the area.  Contact has also been made with Evans descendants, who shared a rich oral history that shed important light on Maria (Wood) Evans's early history, as well as the lives of her descendants. 


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