THE 1850 CENSUS
OF THE 4,952 FREE INHABITANTS OF
Compiled and Edited by
Cyrus Fleming Rilee, Jr.
I cannot remember the exact moment when I decided that this would be my first official genealogical endeavor. I do remember that my interest in genealogy was stirred by the author Alex Haley, by the family stories of my Grandfather Cyrus Christian Rilee, my Grandmother Madge Croswell Dudley, my Mother-In-law Lillian Carmine Sterling, and by my interest as a historian in what our daughter calls “all things Chesapeake.”
The 1850 Census is unique in many ways, but the greatest significance comes from the fact that it was the first census to list each and every member of a household by name, and it was recorded in the order of the census takers’ journeys throughout the county. Most census lists were strictly alphabetic. It enables us to reach back in time and envision communities, economic activity, and family relationships as they existed 11 years before The War Between the States.
Imagine a living document. The oldest resident, Grace Peyton, was born in 1755. The youngest, Mildred Templeman, was one day old. Included on this census are 46 people who were alive during the Battle of Yorktown, and 31 people who were living when the Declaration of Independence was signed. More importantly, many of Gloucester’s current senior citizens knew the youngest people on this list personally. Here is a golden opportunity to link as many as five or six generations before it is too late.
On a personal note, I wish to thank Carolyn, Amanda and Rus (Cyrus, III) for understanding my passion for this project. I owe a special thanks to Evelyn Wright for her insight into issues of importance to Gloucester residents of African American heritage and to the Albuquerque Special Collections Library staff. For personal perspective, and for their amazing recollection of County and family history, I am indebted to Willard C. (Bud) Rilee and to William E. (Bill) Dudley. They helped me separate the “wheat from the chaff.”
This publication is dedicated to all of our Gloucester ancestors. Please enjoy the document, but more importantly, use it to connect with those who came before you. And always remember---no matter where you start your family tree---we all end up with Adam and Eve.
The Census process was an arduous one. The appointed state official, Assistant Marshall Patrick H. Fitzhugh, subcontracted part of the work to others. In this case, the census was conducted between July 23 and November 12, 1850. After several days on the road, the census taker would return to a “home base”. It became easy for me to decide, after a few hundred hours of research, when the census taker was near the end of a day. Handwriting would become less legible, and spelling mistakes were more common. Interpretation of “olde English” script was a challenge. I could not help but notice that the handwriting on the slave list – not included in this census- was much more legible and more carefully written than the Census list.
Most of the citizens of the County were illiterate. The spelling of a name was often the census taker’s interpretation of local dialect, and several different census-takers participated. That is why we get Rilee, Riley, Rylee, and Rylie -- Heywood, Haywood, Heighwood -- Lemon, Lemons, Limon -- Stokes, Stakes, Stakes -- Roe, Row, Rowe -- Hogge, Hogg, Hugg – Carmine, Carman, Carmines – Seawell, Sewell, Sowell, Souell – Moris, Morris, Morriss – Hays, Hayes, Hayse, Hase – Catlet, Catlett, Cattlett, Catalet. As you review the data, do not exclude an unusual spelling – you may miss a great-great-grandparent if you do.
Household relationship were complicated. Parents, grandparents, in-laws, children, step-children, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, domestic workers, and craftsmen might all share a “household”. Only with careful study can conclusions be drawn. Some patterns of household member listings were consistent within a Parish, but varied from Parish to Parish. I will provide the detailed data for serious family historians.
While the county had 694 free black citizens, 5,557 were still in bondage. Approximately 40% of white families owned slaves. Six of the 400 slaveholders were black. Very few waterman (oysterman, fisherman, and sailors) owned slaves. Total county population, according to the records available, was 10, 509.
The principal occupations listed were, in order, oysterman, farmer, laborer, sailor, fisherman, and craftsmen (wheelwrights, millwrights, saddle makers, harness makers, coach makers, blacksmiths). With a few exceptions, “Manager” had replaced “Overseer” as an occupation. The greatest % of free black adult males were sailors and oysterman. The largest % of free white adult males were farmers and oystermen.
Most free heads of households did not own real property (R.E.). Of those who owned property (not including the value of slaves), a small farmer might have a property value of $300, while the large farmers might have property worth $20,000 to $40,000. The individual with the largest single value of real property, $158,000, was John Tabb.
In addition to traditional households, the census list several hotels, private entertainment (restaurants) establishments and four “poor houses”. Where the Head of Household is a Merchant, the non-related members of that household were normally employees of the Merchant, and lodging was part of salary. The same is true of several Coach Makers. Families provided lodging for domestic workers particularly for females who assisted a mother with the tasks of raising as many as eight or nine children and for providing domestic help for the elderly. The person who owned a working boat provided lodging for sailors and/or oysterman and fishermen.
THE 1860 CENSUS
OF THE 5,221 FREE INHABITANTS OF
Compiled and Edited by
Cyrus Fleming Rilee, Jr.
Dedicated to Kathleen Elizabeth Dudley Rilee and to the memory of C. Fleming Rilee, 1923-1992
I have decided, after twenty years of family research, that the difference between a genealogist and a historian is one of attitude. The pure genealogist would list, for instance, a Mr. John Smith, age 47, a sailor residing in the household of Mr. William Jenkins (Household # 478). Period. End of discussion. The historian speculates about the conversation between Mr. Smith and the census taker. Was the discussion about the need to provide such personal data to a representative of the government? Did it center over Virginia's then recent vote to stay in the Union when the Confederacy was formed in 1860, even though Gloucester's representative voted to secede? Was it about the broader issue of slavery? Whatever the conversation was, as a result, Mr. Smith has the distinction of being the only one of the 5,221 free Gloucester citizens to be labeled, in bold letters on the official document, for time immemorial, as YANKEE! Remember, anti‑slavery sentiment was substantial among the county's watermen, who were independent thinkers and who believed that a man's reward should not come from the labor of others. My ancestors include such watermen, as well as slaveholders.
If you read between the lines, you will find similar items of interest. I have left the correction of grammar and spelling to others. This edition is as the microfilm record appears, with all its flaws.
As you review this Census, take a moment to think about the times. In less than a year 1.) Union troops will be in the county. 2.) Fathers, sons and brothers will leave for battle, most wearing Grey, some wearing Blue (I was taught by one of my grandmothers that the spelling with "ey" was to be used with reverence and ONLY for references to the Confederate forces). In less than five years 1.) Gloucester's government will be run from Washington. 2.) Newly emancipated blacks will be joyous over their freedom, but many will now be employees of their former owners. 3.) Former Confederate soldiers will return to find economic ruin, and some will not return.
With these facts in mind, observe the arrival of new families, new occupations, births and deaths, all the normal events which shape a community. Many of you will find your ancestors within these pages. It just takes a little effort.
You may find, as I have, that your Gloucester ancestors include: Ambrose, Amory, Carmine, Croswell, Dudley, DuVal, Fleming, Fletcher, Foxwell, Hibble, Hogg, Massey, Pointer, Ransome, Rilee, Stubbs, Walker, White, Williams, or Wright. If you have not begun your family search, start it now. The rewards will be everlasting.
NOTES ON THE RAW DATA
The individual first listed under each household number is the person considered the Head of the Household. Households often included domestic workers and the employees of merchants and craftsmen. It is critical to keep in mind the relative geographic location of households. Older family members can provide invaluable assistance.
Surnames are as shown on the original document. If a word or name was illegible, I have so indicated. If a reader has solid evidence which modifies a spelling, I will make the correction in a later edition. If you are beginning genealogical work, a caution‑ think phonetically. The census taker rarely asked about the spelling of a name. The same surname was (and is) pronounced differently in various parts of the County. Brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons or daughters may be listed with different surname spellings. The use of a given name plus two initials was quite common. The use of Junior was rare, because two generations did not often exist simultaneously to adulthood. Where a given name appears as the head of a household and later within the same household, the second listing can be assumed to be a Junior.
Occupations refers to the occupation of males over 15. “Student” was an occupation, as was “Gentleman.” The Protestant clergy was called Methodist Episcopal, Protestant Episcopal Methodist, or P.E.M. By 1860, the title "overseer" had all but disappeared, replaced by “Manager.” New to the list of occupations during the decade include Midwife, Seamstress, Keeper of the Ferry, Mail Carrier, Sail Maker, Machinist, Steam Miller, and permanent, full‑time Baptist Ministers (we're all in trouble, now!). I noticed that the Methodist and Episcopal Church leaders were called "Clergy", while Baptists were “Preachers” or “Ministers.” My personal favorite occupation listing is “Lumber Getter,” since I come form a long line of them.
Regarding real estate values, research has led me to conclude that the average "value" of land for purposes of the census was $10 per acre. I am basing that amount on Fleming family property for which I have records. The only data I have been able to obtain regarding personal property, other than the slave list values, is limited. Indications are that, for watermen, tongs and nets were valued from $5 to $10, and working boats ranged in value upwards from $25. For merchants, personal property included inventory, and for craftsmen, it included tools and equipment.
The vast majority of residents had been born in Virginia. During this decade, the County saw the arrival of an immigrant from Russia, a new member of an established family who had been born in Grenada, off the northern tip of South America, and a small but consistent flow from the Eastern Shore. During the 1850s there were also new farmers, some purchasing properties from families who left for destinations south and west. Some current Gloucester surnames which appeared during the decade include Gray (from Maryland), Franklin (from Germany), Kellum, Sterling, and Walthall. Names which disappeared include the community namesake, Mr. Richard Coke.
COMPARISON OF DATA FROM 1850 AND 1860
For those readers who are doing comparisons between the data from 1850 and the 1860 data, be aware of the following:
1.) After careful review, and after discussion with knowledgeable individuals, it appears that the 1860 Census is a closer match than 1850 as to "order in which households were visited." 1860 provides a better geographical map.
2.) The listed names of individuals may vary. As an example, someone listed as "Mary V." in 1850 may be listed as "Victoria" in 1860. This occurred for a variety of reasons, among them the formality accorded the process, and the fact that a person in 1860 may have preferred to be called by a middle name which was represented by an initial in 1850. A young man whose name was James Thomas might have been listed as James T. in 1850 while his father was known as Tom. By 1860, if Tom has passed away, James T. assumes his father's listed name. Where I have been able to firmly identify these types of cases, I have shown the individuals in the above example as "James Thomas" and "Mary Victoria." I have used the same method for other similar situations. Also remember that someone you knew of as Betty might be listed as Elizabeth or Lizzie, and the man you new as Jack, may in fact be named John.
3.) Do not expect people to be ten years older in 1860 than they were in 1850. Most people "aged" from seven to eleven years during the decade, with a range of a few people who "aged" twenty years, and, believe it or not, a few people who were younger in 1860 than they were in 1850. The reasons this occurred are many, the primary ones being: 1.) Birthdays, etc. were rarely observed, and birth records were practically nonexistent, other than for a family Bible. Otherwise intelligent persons simply guessed their age. If two different individuals gave the data during the two censuses, a wide variation in ages was expected. 2.) The census‑takers were men. Other sources show that the person giving the information was typically the lady of the house. Wives and mothers usually knew with some reasonable accuracy the ages of their children, but seldom knew the age of their husband. It was unacceptable and discourteous to ask a woman her age, so unless that age was volunteered, the census‑taker simply made his best estimate. I would estimate that the "average" increase in age during the decade, for the women I have specifically traced, was five years. Men couldn't guess women's ages any better 150 years ago than they can now!
HISTORICAL DATA FROM THE SLAVE LIST
As a matter of principle, I have decided against publication of the slave list. The list gives the name of the slaveholder, county, city, or state of residence of the slaveholders who did not live in Gloucester, number of slave dwellings, name of the employer of the slave if other than the slaveholder, and it lists each individual by age and sex. It does not provide any names of slaves.
The list does, however, provide some insight into economic and social conditions in the county. The Gloucester slave population totaled 11,000 in 1790. By 1860, the number had declined to 5,000. In 1860, approximately 25% of families held slaves (down from 40% in 1850). Most of those who held slaves held one or two individuals. Approximately 30% of the total slave population was held by five family surname groups. The largest single holding was 149 individuals. From a statistical analysis of the list of free black citizens in 1850 and 1860, and a review of population growth trends among the white, free black, and slave populations, I estimate that 200 slaves in the County were manumitted during the decade.
Almost 15% were employed by someone other than the holder. Absentee owners lived in Mathews, King & Queen, York, King William, Powhatan, and Northampton counties, the cities of Hampton, Baltimore, Norfolk, Richmond, Washington, D.C. and in the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas.
For families whose oral history might be verified by the list, I will provide relevant information if I receive a request in writing.
Since childhood, I have heard the stories of the devastation that The War brought to the County, and of the struggle to rebuild. The newly found freedom of former slaves was quickly tempered by economic reality. The county was occupied by the very U.S. Army which only a few years earlier its men and women had fought as the Union army. Fortune seekers made their attempts to buy land at tax sales. Families lost what had been built up over several hundred years. Yet, somehow the people of the County survived to begin again.
Who stayed? Who left? What new people arrived, and from where? How many newly free citizens stayed, and what surnames did they select? I hope to complete my final census compilation, the 1870 census of over 10,000 citizens, the Lord willing, by May 31.
THE 1870 CENSUS
OF THE 10,132 FREE INHABITANTS OF
Researched, Compiled and Expanded by
Cyrus Fleming Rilee, Jr.
When all is said and done what matters in this life is the Lord … and family.
The cover of this publication is blood red for a reason. It represents the blood shed by our ancestors in the county’s 219 years prior to 1870. It represents the blood of indentured servants, slaves, planters, the Gentry, farmers, and oystermen. It represents blood shed in six conflicts (Bacon's Rebellion, French and Indian War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican Campaign, and the War Between the States) and blood shed at the whip.
By 1870, the county had begun a period of healing which is still not complete in 1997. The U.S. (Union) Army has a colonel stationed in Gloucester (Ware 61) to ensure compliance with the laws of Reconstruction. The decade of the 1860’s has been tumultuous. Look at it through the eyes of seven families.
Mr. Samuel Almond earned his freedom by serving in the Mexican American War in the 1840’s. In 1850 and 1860 he was counted alone as a free man. Now, at Abingdon 282, we see his extended family, people joyous with the taste of freedom. Oh, what stories they could tell!
There is the family of Mr. George Horsley. His ancestors came as indentured servants to the British in the early 1700’s. They have toiled to earn a living from the county’s soil, first as servants and then as free people. George served the Confederacy with pride. You will find him in Household Petsworth 107. This family is typical of the vast majority of the county’s Irish, English, and Scottish settlers.
We all know the story of Mr. Thomas Calhoun Walker. Born a slave, he became a respected attorney, provided leadership to the county’s newly emancipated citizens, and served as a model for the accomplishments of many of us. The man who was his teacher, mentor, and law partner was a former Confederate officer. You will find Mr. Walker, his parents, his brothers, and sister at Ware 413. His grandparents are next door.
Down in Sadler’s Neck and Robins’ Neck we find the Deals. These families have oystered and fished the county’s waters for generations. Mr. John W. Deal, Abingdon 615, is anxious to get his new boat in the water. He was wounded in battle at Petersburg, but he can’t fight the war anymore ... he is ready to move forward.
You will find sadness at the home of Mrs. Mary Fitzhugh (Petsworth 487). Mr. Fitzhugh conducted the county’s census in 1850. Major Fitzhugh and his son Allen wore the Grey. At a place near Petersburg called Jordan’s Farm, on June 15, 1864, Allen was captured by Union soldiers and sent to the prison at Elmira, New York. Three days later on the same battlefield, distraught and perhaps distracted by the news of his son’s capture, Major Fitzhugh died in battle. This family has a story we all need to remember.
Then, there is family Ware 388. What caused someone born in Ireland, wed to a lady from Scotland, to move from Missouri to Gloucester in 1866? By 1870 this household includes a servant from England and a mother-in-law from Ireland. I know the descendants of the Duncan family can tell us a lot about the decade of the 1860’s.
I would love to know the life story of Priscilla Ross (Petsworth 492), age 100, born into slavery six years before our Declaration of Independence. I pray that she passed on her wisdom and knowledge to her descendants.
If you view the census as just another list, you will only see names. If you open your eyes, you will see a novel.
NOTES ON THE RAW DATA
1870 provided the first census recorded by district. The order of the census is Abingdon, Petsworth, and Ware. Mr. William E. Corr of Gloucester Court House conducted the census for Petsworth. A Mr. Samuel P. Gresham of Lancaster County Court House supervised the compilation for Abingdon and Ware districts. For some reason, Ware and Abingdon fell within a different Census District than Petsworth.
Examination of the records for Abingdon and Ware disclosed that Mr. Gresham had extreme difficulty with the dialects of the county. He heard “Horsely” as “Hostly,” “Almond” as “Aullman,” and “Bonniville” as “Bonewell,” among others. This turns out to be a blessing, since it gives us an understanding of dialects as they existed 125 years ago. To retain that distinct flavor, I have shown spellings as they appear on the original manuscript and have cross-referenced the Index to accommodate those whose ears are not trained to the “Gloucester Alphabet.” Imagine sounds so unique, that someone born and raised as close to the county as the Northern Neck had difficulty with surnames!
Occupations now finally give credit to the work of Gloucester's women. New to the list of occupations during the decade include Keeping House, Midwife, Seamstress, Sail Maker, Machinist, Domestic, Steam Miller, Insurance Salesman, Milliner, Huckster, and Auctioneer. Some of the clergy are now known as “Minister of the Gospel.”
Regarding real estate values, additional research has led me to conclude that the value of land prior to The War included a multiplier based on slaveholdings. This is confirmed by the fact that many small farmers’ listed 1870 real estate values changed little from 1860 values. For plantations, however, even where the land acreage was the same for 1860 and 1870, values took a dramatic plunge after The War. The “Personal Property” listing is the value of livestock, machinery, and working boats.
The decade of the 1860s saw a substantial number of families move to Gloucester from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, both during and after the War. A smaller number arrived from Pennsylvania, a few came from Ireland, Scotland, and the areas we would now recognize as Austria and Germany. A very careful analysis of new farm owners and the real estate transactions after 1865 would illuminate which new arrivals acquired property from established families impoverished by the War. The fact that a former Minister is now an auctioneer is ample evidence that foreclosure sales were common. Post-War surnames you might recognize include Wilburn, Newbill, Ph(F)arinholt, Marble and Duncan. I have modified the “Birthplace” column to include only birthplaces other than Virginia. Only because of my work on 1850 and 1860, was I able to enter many of the non-Virginia birthplaces for 1870. In only 20 years, lack of oral history had already resulted in a new generation without knowledge of its ancestry.
For those readers who are doing comparisons between this census and the data from 1850 and 1860, be aware of the following:
1.) This census, compiled by district, should provide the most reliable source of the locations of residences. A CAUTION. There were a considerable number of economic dislocations after The War; therefore, the family you are searching for may have moved from its 1860 location.
2.) The listed names of individuals may continue to vary. You will find examples where a given name used in 1850, but changed for 1860, is now back to its 1850 listing. As an example, someone listed as “Mary V.” in 1850 may be listed as “Victoria” in 1860 and Mary V. in this census. Some individuals actually were called and enumerated by a different name then their given name. By comparison of 1850, 1860 and 1870, I noticed several instances where a given name used in both 1850 and 1860 has been changed without explanation. For serious family historians, the 1850 and 1860 censuses should be reviewed.
3.) Do not expect people to be ten years older in 1870 than they were in 1860. The same issues regarding age which I pointed out for 1860 still apply. Women continued to “age” more slowly than men.
4.) In the enumeration for both Abingdon and Ware, census taker Gresham added racial categories Half-White(HW) and Half-Black(HB). Mr. Corr did not use those categories for Petsworth. Some individuals listed as of one race in 1850 or 1860 may be shown of a different race in 1870, since race was subject to the opinion of the census official.
5.) Almost 14% of the county’s “free” population in 1850 and 1860 was black. In fact, the Tax Records for 1770 and 1782 indicate free blacks in the county prior to the American Revolution. Researchers should consult those records as well as the 1850 and 1860 censuses before drawing conclusions regarding which of their ancestors were free prior to emancipation. Household relationships of 1870 for black families will offer substantial clues regarding families who were slaves at the same location, or who were related by blood.
6.) The column headed “M/F FB” indicates that the mother or father of the named individual was born outside the United States.
DATA EXCLUDED FROM MY PUBLICATIONS
The limitations of space prevented me from including in these publications all data on the census records. The data which I excluded, and which might be of interest for further research include:
1.) For 1850 and 1860, I excluded a miscellaneous column which listed such items as “cripple, insane, idiot, blind, deaf, dumb and pauper.” Those determinations were often completely subjective, and I could find no benefit by including the data. Specifically, “pauper” was an indication that the head of household had no visible means of support within that family unit. If a mother of grown children were living by herself, she might be listed as a “pauper,” even though her extended family was providing support. I also excluded data regarding literacy.
2.) The 1860 census and the 1870 census include a column for “married within the year.” For 1870, the census also lists the month of a marriage, if it occurred within one year of the census date, and the month of a birth for a child born within the previous year. In addition, the 1870 census has two columns dealing with voting rights, one tied to land ownership and one tied to whether a resident was a native-born or naturalized citizen.
REVISIONS AND DATA ADDED
It is critical to recognize that the data is only as accurate as the knowledge of the giver of the information and subject to the census takers' accuracy. Handwriting on the original document indicates that at least six individuals were involved in preparation of the census. Only because of my earlier work on 1850 and 1860, was I able to add or correct data for 1870. Some data had been either excluded or included erroneously on the 1870 census document, but had been available for 1850 and/or 1860. Those corrections and additions include birthplaces, inclusion of full given names, surnames, and in some cases the addition of maiden names for married women.
SOURCES OF DATA FOR ADDITIONAL RESEARCH
For those readers interested in additional research, I suggest the following:
1.) Go to Richmond and utilize the Virginia State Library. There is a wealth of information available there. The census records themselves can be accessed.
2.) Spend a day (or a week or a month) in the County Clerk’s office. There are post- Civil War records of births, deaths, and marriages available, as well as old surveyor’s drawings. I found clerk’s office personnel to be very helpful.
3.) For historical perspective, I recommend:
a. Polly Cary Mason’s Records of Colonial Gloucester County, Virginia.
b. Mr. T. C. Walker’s autobiography The Honeypod Tree.
c. Dr. Allan Kulikoff’s scholarly work Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800.
d. Mr. Alex Wiatt’s history of the 26th Virginia Infantry. (A unit in which many Gloucester citizens served during the War Between the States.)
4.) Most importantly, interview the eldest members of your families regarding their knowledge of ancestry. The data may not always be completely accurate, but it will provide the clues you need.
OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTARY
It is always the author’s prerogative to offer commentary after extensive research. I am no exception. I thought I had a thorough knowledge of Gloucester’s history well before I began this project. Wrong! I had only scratched the surface.
The information available to the masses during public school was concentrated, properly I might add, on news-making events and news-making people. Most of us learned more than we wanted to know about such names as Pocahontas, John Smith, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Walter Reed, and others. All of them were important historical figures with connections to Gloucester County, and I am proud of them all. My Gloucester ancestors have been in the county for over 300 years. They fought in the Revolution and the War of 1812, and they fought( and some died) for the Confederacy. A few were slaveholders, but the vast majority were “dirt farmers” and “watermen.” Some were abolitionists.
Enough has been written about the “glory” of pre-Civil War Gloucester, and most of it was written from the perspective of those in power at the time. Not enough has been written about the real economic and cultural conditions which surrounded those of us not from the “Plantation Bunch.” It is time for a history of “the rest of us” to be written. I trust that my work will contribute towards that effort.
Other than the first recipients of land grants from the English crown and the Royal Governors, Gloucester was settled by English, Irish, and Scottish indentured servants, and by Africans. The British preferred their own people as opposed to the Irish, who they referred to as “that strange race.” When the supply of English servants declined, the planters purchased Scots and Irish. Gloucester’s first black residents came from the Caribbean, where the Spanish and British had enslaved their ancestors. The earliest Chesapeake writings refer to the first slaves as “creole.” Only when this source of English-speaking former Africans dwindled, did planters turn to Africa itself.
The largest amount of land ownership from other than original land grants came via purchases by former indentured servants from savings or from land grants for service during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. For example, the land at Short Lane on which I was raised was granted to my great-great grandfather Fleming for service in the War of 1812. The original Rilee family property in upper Gloucester was purchased by my great-great-great-great grandfather William Curtis Rilee, Sr., from funds he was paid at Richmond in 1783 for service during the Revolutionary War. Many readers with long Gloucester histories would find, after extensive research, that their families acquired land in a similar manner.
Economically and culturally, Gloucester County peaked shortly after the American Revolution. By 1800, with Tidewater’s fields depleted from 150 years of planting tobacco, planters had moved west and south. The state’s cultural center had shifted to Richmond and the Piedmont. The nature of tobacco is such that it depletes the soil rapidly. With an abundance of land available, crop rotation was rarely considered. Planters simply cut down more forest for more soil in which to grow more tobacco. It was a surprise to me to discover that Gloucester County has more wooded land now, in spite of recent growth, than it had at the beginning of the War Between the States.
After Congress outlawed the importation of new slaves in 1808, a primary source of cash for Gloucester’s plantations was the sale of slaves to planters in the Deep South. The slave population decreased from 11,000 in 1790 to 5,000 in 1860. As a result of the arrival of Protestant clergy in the area in the early 1800s and increased awareness of the moral issues surrounding slavery, some Virginia residents freed their slaves. Plantation owners, who relied on “status quo” and who feared the consequences of a large free black population, convinced the Virginia legislature to pass anti-manumission laws. As a result, it became illegal to free slaves. That’s right! It became illegal to give someone his or her freedom, except at the death of the slaveholder. I have seen records which indicate that several Gloucester residents spent time in the Penitentiary for freeing their slaves. It was equally surprising to find that some Gloucester slaveholders of 1850 were themselves former slaves!
Much has been written about the War Between the States and its causes. The issues are complex; however, this much is clear. The primary issues were those related to federalism (the power of individual states versus the power of the federal government) and those related to industrial versus agricultural economies. The abolition of slavery, while not the primary cause for the war, was the emotional rallying cause espoused by wealthy plantation owners in order to get many poor white southerners to bleed and die. The freedom of slaves was the emotional rallying cause espoused by wealthy northern industrialists and weapons manufacturers in order to get many poor white northerners to bleed and die. A number of black Virginians, including some from Gloucester, fought for the Union. Some fought for the Confederacy. A few Gloucester citizens wore the Blue. After the War, a number of Gloucester residents applied for available federal funds. They claimed that they had been Union sympathizers, and that they had suffered economically as a result. Some of those surnames might surprise the reader.
Abraham Lincoln wrote, “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” Remember, General Robert E. Lee was an abolitionist who first turned down command of the Union Army, because he believed that the issue of slavery was a matter to be determined by each state and was not a federal issue. Anyone who has done serious research knows that the institution of slavery in the Middle Atlantic States was in rapid decline before the events at Fort Sumter, due to changing economic conditions in agriculture. The War Between the States accelerated the end of slavery. It would be almost 100 years after Appomattox before the South recovered from the economic devastation caused by the War. The recovery was made worse by the vindictive punishment inflicted on the South during the Reconstruction era.
One of the overlooked and under-researched areas of Gloucester County history deals with the ethnic and religious background of the county’s early settlers. Since the earliest colonists were required to swear allegiance to the Church of England and the practice of Catholicism would result in imprisonment or deportation, newly arrived Catholics hid their religion until any reference to it disappeared from oral history. The primary exception to this occurred on the Eastern Shore, where isolation and distance from Williamsburg and Richmond allowed those residents more religious freedom. My earliest Rilee (O'Reilly) ancestors in Accomac County (1643) were Catholic. By the time they crossed the Bay in 1703, they were Protestants. The same was true for a number of old Gloucester families.
As to ethnic background, the Anglicizing of all surnames by the British has clouded the national origin of some Gloucester families. For instance, I have discovered several uses in early Gloucester of the names Ambrosa and Carmini, instead of Ambrose and Carmine. Even as recently as this 1870 Census, Ambrosa was the surname given to the census taker in Wicomico. Given the fact that those two families lived very near to each other (possibly because they spoke the same foreign language) and arrived in the county at approximately the same time, there is a possibility that these families are of Italian descent. I leave confirmation of these theories to the Carmines and the Ambroses. There are other county surnames with similar spelling irregularities which imply a country of origin other than England or Scotland.
My use of records at the County Clerk’s office leads me to hope that the Board of Supervisors will budget funds for microfilming and recording those early birth, death, and marriage records, as well as copying the priceless surveyors maps. Fire has twice destroyed invaluable records in the past. It would be a tragedy to see these remaining records lost forever. I would also urge the School Board to purchase Mr. T. C. Walker’s autobiography, The Honeypod Tree, for use in honors and enriched history classes. His life covered almost 100 years of a period of time in the county about which very little has been written. It was from his autobiography that I discovered, for instance, the struggle to gain a referendum to abolish the sale of alcohol in the county. He and the clergy (black and white) were opposed by many Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian church members who were owners of general merchandise/liquor stores (Country Merchants). They were also opposed by many other church members who believed that involvement in the “alcohol” issue by churches was a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.
I wish to thank Mrs. Evelyn Stokes Wright for her encouragement as I struggled to complete these census compilations. I first met Evelyn as a result of an article she wrote for Glo-Quips regarding an interview with an elderly lady. We have shared information and research ever since. Evelyn assisted me with editing the surnames of Gloucester’s former slaves listed in this census. For those of you needing research regarding specific families of African descent, no one in the county is more knowledgeable than Evelyn.
I could not have completed this work without the understanding of Carolyn, Amanda, and Rus. They allowed me to pursue this passion of placing names on paper, as a way of saying “thank you” to my ancestors. Carolyn also edited this publication, providing insight gained from her extensive knowledge of Virginia history, and from her thirty years as an educator. I trust that our children will someday expand on the work I have begun.
My research, conducted over 20 years and covering a 200 year time span, has put me in contact with some real “characters” from Gloucester’s past. As a result, I have begun work on my first attempt at fiction, entitled Go to the Water, Son. The Lord only knows when and if I will finish it.
Finally, I wish to express my sincere thanks to Mr. Billy DeHardit. He provided me assistance with leads to stories, and he published excerpts periodically in Glo-Quips. Billy has the deepest and most sincere appreciation of this county’s past of any “come here” I know. He is a true friend of Gloucester’s people, present and past.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 18, 1997
THE 1880 CENSUS
OF THE 11,825 FREE INHABITANTS OF
Researched, Compiled and Expanded by
Cyrus Fleming Rilee, Jr.
Dedicated to Willard Carlyle Rilee, my Uncle Bud
I had no intention of editing and publishing the 1880 census of Gloucester County. Quite frankly, I had not expected 1880 to yield any new information not previously available, nor had I expected the number of requests from readers for information from 1880. I made the mistake of actually looking at the microfilm record on behalf of Dr. Elwood Owens (two generations removed from the Guinea marsh) of South Carolina. Once again, I was hooked!
Where previous census records had listed the names of members of a household, there had not been any family relationships listed. Finally, we have a census which lists those relationships. As an amateur genealogist and historian, I immediately recognized the importance of 1880 information for family researchers looking for a “break” which would enable them to complete missing links in family histories. I have used the raw microfilm records from the previous three census reports to make this publication one which will allow as many readers as possible to trace their county ancestors.
The 1880 census clearly provides that link for many Gloucester families. For almost all county natives born before 1950, your great-grandparents are here. Many readers will find their grandparents on these pages. Some of you will find your parents! If only one person benefits from my research, I will consider the effort worthwhile. I urge you to make the effort to find your family/families’ histories and to share those histories with the next generation. You owe it to your ancestors!
NOTES ON THE RAW DATA
The 1880 census was conducted between June 1 and June 30. The “date” of the census is June 1. Census takers were instructed to exclude those born after June 1. In addition, households were expected to report the data for members alive on June 1 who died before the date of the census-taker’s visit. Because of those parameters, you will find the names of infants born after June 1, who were not counted on June 1, and you will find data regarding individuals who were alive on June 1, but who had died prior to the date of enumeration.
Unlike in 1870, the entire county census was enumerated by county natives familiar with local families. Mr. R A. Hogg enumerated a portion of Abingdon district. The remainder of Abingdon was enumerated by Mr. Charles Catlett. Mr. Richard Allen Fitzhugh enumerated Petsworth. His father, Patrick Henry Fitzhugh, had been responsible for the census of the entire county in 1850. The census of Ware was conducted under the supervision of Mr. Wilson D. Williams and Mr. Ezra Weaver. Mr. Weaver enumerated the first 83 households, including households designated as the “Village of Gloucester Court House.” I could only speculate as to why Mr. Hogg and Mr. Weaver did not complete an entire district.
The specific census household designations are as follows:
AA001 - AA353 The Abingdon list of Mr. R. A. Hogg.
AB001 - AB603 The Abingdon list of Mr. Charles Catlett.
AC (Catlett) Abingdon resident added by County Clerk.
AM (Catlett) Residents who came forward “after I enumerated other families.”
AZ ( Catlett) Resident found to be homeless.
PF001 - PF598 The Petsworth list of Mr. Richard Allen Fitzhugh
WW001 - WW696 The Ware list. Households WW001 - WW082 enumerated by Mr. Ezra Weaver. Households WW083 - WW696 enumerated by Mr. Wilson D. Williams. WW48 -WW67 are shown as the Village of Gloucester Court House.
WZ (Williams) Ware residents added by County Clerk.
RELATIONSHIPS TO "HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD"
This census lists the relationship between most of the members of a household and the head of that household (REL/HH). In some cases where the member was an employee of the household, the only mention is of that person's occupation. In other cases, the non-family member is shown as an employee(EMP) under the REL/HH column.
In normal circumstances there would be no entry under REL/HH for the family head. There are some exceptions. There are several cases where Mr. Hogg and Mr. Catlett did not follow the specific instructions explicitly. When they encountered situations where several “families” resided within one dwelling, they sometimes continued numbering the families as separate households, while showing the REL/HH as if the two families were one. That is why you will occasionally find that the head of a household may be shown as related to a person in another household. As an example, in AA105, Mr. Vass Washington is the head of household. He is also the father of William Washington, head of household AA104; therefore, under the REL/HH for Voss, you will find F(104H) father of the Head of Household AA104. Confused enough? Actually, this “rule breaking” by Mr. Hogg and Mr. Catlett resulted in family relationships being known that would have otherwise been lost forever. Here is another good example of a case where common sense prevailed in spite of federal government regulations.
Family relationships listed range from “companion” and “friend,” to great-great grandparents, to “ward” and “servant’s child.” You will find “daughter’s child” and “wife’s nephew,” “step father-in-law” and “husband’s sister,” along with conventional family relationships. With second and third marriages common because of early death of a spouse, you will note hundreds of “step” children and “adopted” children. Also, I noticed several situations where a family consists of four generations, including parents AND in-laws. A list of relationship to head of household (REL/HH) abbreviations precedes the census.
The 1880 census also lists the birthplace not only of the residents, but also of the parents of the residents. I have listed the non-Virginia birthplaces. A caution is in order here. From prior work on earlier censuses, I find that the 1880 generation may not have even known the birthplace of the previous generation. For example, the Buck ancestors of Mr. Homer Buck told the census taker in 1880 that their father was born in Italy. I confirmed with Mr. Buck, and with another independent source, that the first Gloucester ancestor of the Buck family had been born in Germany. I added birthplace data from my earlier census records, where available; however, in cases of conflict between earlier records and this census as to birthplace, I listed the information given in this census unless there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Of necessity, I developed a cross-reference system to compare 1870 and 1880 families. I have cross -referenced approximately 70 % of the families who appear in both census records. In proofing this document, I compared 1870 and 1880 families. Where the information allowed me to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt, I included given names, maiden names, and surnames combined from both censuses. For instance, I found numerous cases where someone was listed by first name, middle initial in 1870, and by first initial, middle name in 1880. Where I am certain of the data, I have so indicated. As an example, if an individual was listed as “William T.” in 1870 and “W.Thomas” in 1880, you will see W.(William)Thomas (T.).
I have followed a similar procedure for surnames when the evidence so warrants. For example, an entry “Deadman(Dedman)” is an indication that I have specifically identified an individual whose surname was written as Deadman in 1880 and Dedman in 1870. Similarly, Pierce(Pearce) would be an indication that a specific family’s surname was written as Pierce in 1880 and Pearce in 1870. Once again, I caution the reader about being too “set in your ways” regarding the spelling of a surname. If you look only for a “1997” spelling of your name, you risk missing an opportunity to find several generations of your family. The census taker rarely asked the family about the spelling of a name. He wrote the name the way he felt it should be spelled. Mr. Hogg heard “Bonewell,” while Mr. Catlett heard “Bonnywell.” Neither of them heard “Bonniville,” yet that is the 1997 spelling of this family surname. Think phonetically! Stated another way, the “Hogg and Hogge,” “Cook and Cooke,” “Ransome and Ransom,” “Haywood and Heywood,” “Riley and Rilee,” “Lemon and Lemons,” “Shackelford and Shackleford,” “Carmine and Carmines,” and “Wiatt and Wyatt” groups of families share common ancestors and/or slaveholders and/or namesakes. The question is not “if” you are related, but “who” was the ancestor! slaveholder! namesake you have in common.
For many black families, the question of the common slaveholder further complicates the process. Surnames of some black families changed from 1870 to 1880. I have shown changes parenthetically where the evidence is solid. This occurred as a result of the reuniting of Gloucester families split apart by slavery, and the determination by some senior family member as to what the post-slavery surname would be.
The census gives a choice of blocks to check for single, married, and widowed, with a notation that “D” is to be entered in the widowed column for divorced individuals. Unfortunately, widows and widowers who had remarried are listed only as married, even though the census allowed for multiple entries. It became obvious after comparing the names of wives/husbands in 1870 and 1880, coupled with the number of “step” and “adopted” children, that widows and widowers abound in the county in 1880. If you are willing to check closely, it is not difficult to decipher the widows and widowers. I found only six divorced adults among the county’s 2,250 households. If there is no entry, the individual was listed as single.
The census gave two opportunities for us to look at the health and physical disabilities of 1880 residents. First, a blank column headed “...person sick or disabled...unable to perform...ordinary duties. If so, enter...sickness or disability?” might have an entry. Secondly, a column could be checked which reads “...Maimed, Crippled, Bedridden, or otherwise disabled.” I found that “crippled,” “invalid,” “consumption,” and “cancer,” among others, was normally written in the blank column. It appears that most of those with an entry(check) in the “Maimed, Crippled...” column were bedridden or otherwise disabled. You will find that I copied each entry from the first column (except for diarrhea). I have used BOD (bedridden or otherwise disabled) as an indication of an entry in the second column. No general conclusions should be drawn from the BOD entry. It covers abroad range of conditions, from the very ill elderly, to those in bed with flu or a cold.
I noticed that “confined” was often used to describe a woman in the final stages of pregnancy or just after childbirth. In more than one instance, you will find a “confined” woman with an infant child. The most common ailments listed were Aquas Fever and Bilious Fever. The dreaded “consumption” shows up, along with cholera. Injuries caused by horses were not uncommon.
I did not notice any particular employment pattern changes from 1870, except for the fact that many former oystermen and fishermen are now oysterman/farmer or fisherman/farmer. I do not know whether this is an indication of overharvest of the bay, or simply a preference of occupation titles by the census takers. Unique occupations, from my perspective, include “Fireman on Steamship” and “Steamship Company Clerk.” The county has its first “druggist.” Several 1870 farmers have become 1880 preachers. It appears that “works on railroad” refers to some rail system tied to saw mills. The descriptive occupation “goes by water” has replaced “waterman.” How many of you know what a “hewer of logs” does? No cheating with dictionaries!
DATA EXCLUDED FROM THIS PUBLICATION
Once again, the limitations of space prevented me from including in this publication all data on the census record. The data which I excluded, and which might be of interest for further research include:
1.) I excluded data from two columns of the census which read “idiot” and “insane.” The subjective nature of such information makes it too speculative. I also excluded data regarding literacy, and an indication entitled “attended school within the year.” Some families continued to list “At School,” etc. as an occupation. There was no consistency regarding “attended school, at school, etc….” within or between districts.
2.) I made the editorial decision that readers did not need to know the names of the several hundred citizens who reported diarrhea to the census taker. Sometimes, there is such a thing as too much information.
ERRORS AND INCONSISTENCIES
The original record shows several examples of numbering out of sequence, and several instances of duplicate numberings and missing numbers. If you follow the index closely, those numbering errors will not effect use of the census.
Do not be surprised if you find that an 1870 “male” is now a “female,” or vice versa. Census officials prepared the Official Census from work papers used in the field. Errors were rare, but they did occur. The most common name/sex error involved “Eliza.” and “Elijah.” Written in cursive, those two names were often indistinguishable.
There appears to be some double-counting of families within the Ware district, but I can not rule out the possibility that a few families with identical names and ages for a father, mother, and children did exist. Ironically, the third wife of one of my great-great grandfathers (Maria West Ware Rilee) was one of those counted twice, since the marriage occurred between her enumeration in PF011 on June 1 and her enumeration in PF476 on June 23.
As rewarding as this effort has been for me, the real rewards will come only if readers pursue “leads” regarding their own families. I hope, for instance, that Mr. William Payne, Sr. (AB305) informed his sons, William and Robert (AB303 and AB304), of the name of his African father. For other recent (by Gloucester standards) arrivals from Europe, were family histories shared? I wonder if Mrs. Martha Ann Oliver (AB334) told her children about their English grandfather, the immigrant to America. Did Boswell and Mary Seawell (PF480) share with their children that those children had three grandparents born in Ireland? Octavius Harcum, a widower, (PF046) established a General Store in the area of the county which would eventually take his name. Do his relatives know what circumstances brought him to Gloucester, and from where? Mr. Jerry Gregory and one of his sons ( WW057) were “Express Drivers” at the Court House. What did they drive, and for whom did they work? Mrs. Martha Williams, wife of the census taker for Ware district, manages a hotel (WW055). Is this the Hotel Botetourt? Miss Sarah Hughes (AB001) is a Postmistress, living at the residence of Mr. William Ash. At which post office is she working? A census always provides valuable information. More importantly, however, I hope this census raises questions which stimulate readers to conduct their own personal research. Believe me, no information I have found from the work of others has been as rewarding as that which I have found on my own.
Finally, I have two purely personal requests for information. In 1880, Mr. John H. Kelly/Kelley is the head of household WW633, only two doors away from one of my great-great-great uncles. One of his sons is named Uriah, named after Mr. John H. Kelly’s father, Uriah, born circa 1830. In 1850, the elder Uriah Kelly was a free man residing in the household of my great-great grandfather Richard Carey Rilee (HH# 535, 1850 Census). I would like to make contact with the elder Uriah Kelly’s descendants. Secondly, my great-great-great grandfather William Rilee headed household # 961 in 1850. Is the Sarah Walker residing with him his married daughter? I am curious because this Sarah and Richard Walker received a substantial portion of William’s estate after his death, sometime between 1850 and 1860. If any reader has information which would help me in my search, please contact me. If any reader need assistance in tracing family members, do not hesitate to contact me. The only real value of information comes from sharing that information with others.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
November 1, 1997