Exhibit 13

Harrison’s and Edna Mills – and the underground market

Harrison's mill at Edgewood PlantationHarrison’s mill at Edgewood Plantation is one of two surviving grist mills in Charles City County. A grist mill is a building where grain was ground into flour or meal by the power of running water. The mills were workplaces for African Americans. At one time Harrison’s mill was a part of Berkeley Plantation and was run by slave millers belonging to that plantation. Photo courtesy John Bragg.

Harrison's mill at Edgewood PlantationOther large plantations like Shirley, Westover, Sherwood Forest and Teddington also had their own mills and millers. This mill stone at Westover Plantation actually came from Harrison’s mill, although it was never put in service there because it was too small. Photo courtesy Ingeborg Fisher.

Harrison's mill as it was over 100 years ago.A mulatto slave millwright named Nick may have been employed in the construction of Harrison’s mill or an earlier structure at the same site. A millwright was a specialized carpenter who had working knowledge of gear ratios, drive shaft speeds and other equations. This photo shows the mill as it appeared more than 100 years ago. Photo courtesy Cook Collection, The Valentine, Richmond, Va.

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Three times Benjamin Harrison V advertised Nick as a runaway. Nick ran away in October of 1770, again in March of 1774 and again in January of 1775. Millwrights like Nick were extremely valuable slaves and able to find ready employment for their skills, as Nick did when he ran away the first time he hired himself out as a freeman at a saw mill. The last advertisement noted that he had marks on his back from having been freshly whipped. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 18 Oct. 1770; Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), 7 Apr. 1774; Virginia Gazette (Dixon & Hunter), 14 Jan. 1775.

Edna Mills on Barnetts RoadOther establishments, like Edna Mills located on Barnetts Road, were independent and served smaller farms in their area. In the early 1800s a free black man named Tarleton Smith was the miller here. Grist mills like these were an essential part of the agricultural economy. During the 1800s the county probably had as many as seven or eight mills operating at one time. Photo courtesy Cook Collection, The Valentine, Richmond, Va.

inside an old millLocal farmers brought grain to the mills and received the flour or meal from it minus the miller’s levy, commonly 20 percent. Most of the millers in the county were slaves or free blacks, and their control over this vital link in agricultural production had important consequences. By short-weighting the end product millers could obtain supplies of flour and meal for their own use or for sale on an underground market. In this way millers in the county used their positions to create an underground economic market in flour and corn meal that was vital to support of the free black community.

In 1831 sixty-three local residents petitioned the General Assembly with complaints about the “cheateries and deceptions” employed by local millers and claiming that “few or none of them” were honest. The gist of the petitioner’s complaint was that it was the invariable practice of local mill owners to employ free blacks or slaves as their millers. With the illegal proceeds taken from their customers these individuals supported “squads” of free Negroes living in the area of the mill. Occasionally local residents were caught engaging in this traffic, like free Negro James Brown who was charged in 1859 with illegally purchasing three bushels of Indian cornmeal from Randal, John Tyler’s miller.

next: Exhibit 14: Berkeley Plantation – independence for some