Exhibit 15

Westover Plantation – a place of origins

The first Charles City

Westover Plantation plat from the 1700sWestover plantation was the site of the first Charles City center of government. All ships arriving with indentured servants or slaves were required to land at designated markets where the servants and slaves might be sold. Court records from 1655 establish that Westover was such a designated market. The original courthouse, church and tavern were located to the west of the plantation house as shown in this plat from the 1700s. Visitors interested in walking to the old landing and courthouse site may do so as a part of Westover’s self-guided grounds tour. Plat from William Byrd Title Book courtesy Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Richmond, Va. virginiahistory.org

view from Westover PlantationWilliam Byrd I imported more than 100 Africans during the 1600s. Only one Virginian imported a larger number. Africans imported by Byrd may have been offloaded here, and, if so, Westover may have been a principal point of disembarkation of Africans brought to Virginia during the 1600s. Photo courtesy John Bragg.

court documentA “monthly” court was established in the Borough of Charles City in 1623. Several important law suits concerning the status of Africans were decided by this court. Although many court records were lost during the Civil War, one surviving order book reports a case decided in 1665, involving “Jack” a Negro – (no surname given) who sued for his freedom. Jack claimed that he had an agreement with his former master Rice Hoe to be freed after eleven years of faithful service. Hoe’s son claimed that Jack had not served faithfully. Neighbors testified to the contrary that Jack had been a faithful servant and the court set him free. Still, at the time Jack filed his lawsuit he had already served a total of twenty-nine years – a period of servitude so long that it was almost indistinguishable from a lifetime of servitude. Another case decided in 1677 involved a free Negro woman named Susannah who petitioned to be freed from the payment of taxes, a form of relief customarily provided to aged and disabled citizens. Charles City County Deed, Orders and Depositions, 1655-1665, pp 604-05.

next: The Byrd dynasty