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Slaves at Flowerdew Hundred & Tar Bay Plantations in Prince George Co., VA
  • lulu55 January 2012
    I believe my ancestors were slaves on the above listed plantations or other nearby plantations.. I am a novice & just starting my research. I cannot trace my ancestors before the late 1800's.
  • lulu55 January 2012
    New to this site. I'd like any information on slaves in Prince George County, along the James River.
  • Racefield February 2012
    Hi Lulu

    Flowerdew Hundred was owned by the Yeardley (1600's) and Wilcox (1800's) families. J V Wilcox owned 27 slaves in the 1860 Census (Slave Schedule). M J Wilcox owned 91 slaves in the 1860 Census (Slave Schedule).

    I would look at those schedules (checking to see if the ages/sexes match up to your relatives) then obtain the land owner's wills. The slaves should be mentioned as property in the wills.

    On Tar Bay . . . hmmm, I know where Tar Bay Road is in Prince George, but not the plantation (it probably does not exist) . . . I would try to find out exactly where the plantation was physically located. Then do a property search to obtain the names of the former property owners. Once you acquire those names, check the Census records/Slave Schedules under the land owners name. Don't forget to check out the wills.

    One last note. . . Prince George County was formed from Charles City County in the early 1700's (not sure of the exact date --- 1702???). Also, I believe there may have been a fire in Charles City. Do not let that deter you. There are tons of ways to find the information. You just have to get out the shovel and dig!!!!

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you are successful. My fingers are crossed!!!!
  • Racefield February 2012


    I found it!!!!!! There is a picture, could not copy it.

    Hopewell vicinity, Prince George County
    Built c. 1746; burned c. 1965

    Tar Bay is now a ruin dramatically sited overlooking the bend of the James River of the same name. It is believed that the house was erected in 1746 for Daniel Colley but was not fully finished at that time. The chimneys have exterior fireplace openings, filled in, for possible future additions that were never built. A distinctive and unusual feature was the extension from the river front, giving the house a T-shaped floor-plan. Often such a projection contained the staircase; this one did not. In other aspects, Tar Bay was a conventional example of high-style Virginia Georgian architecture. Its five-bay facade with paired windows was covered by a hipped roof with a modillion cornice. The brickwork was laid up in Flemish bond with gauged-brick jack arches. Exceptional was the absence of a belt course, a feature normally found on two-story colonial brick mansions.

  • Racefield February 2012

    Tar Bay is located in Prince George County:

    State Route 10 on County 641 to a dirt road, 0.3 m,; L. here 0.6 m. to TAR BAY HOUSE (R), on a tree-shaded lawn with gardens terraced toward a bend in the river.
  • Racefield February 2012
    Morning Lulu

    Flowerdew Hundred, Tar Bay and Aberdeen plantations are all inter-related via family. When reading the following information, pay close attention to the family names and dates as well as the property boundaries along the state road names.

    Contact Carol Marks Bowman of Disputanta, VA. I am sure she can add light on your family with her records of Aberdeen Plantation. She might also be able to point you in the direction of records for Tar Bay.

    NOTE: The Prince George Historical Society does an annual tour featuring the "Beefsteak Raid." You might want to attend.

    Below is info on Aberdeen, Tar Bay and Flowerdew. (I will probably have to separate it over several posts)

    Aberdeen in Prince George County, Virginia, was built by Cocke on his inherited land is one of a small group of houses built with lateral front halls sewing pairs of large rooms. It contains distinguished Federal woodwork whose idiosyncrasies may well be linked to other houses through additional study. The house is remarkably well preserved, with few changes,
    and sympathetic modernizations. It sits surrounded by woodland, wetlands, and flat fields still being farmed.

    Thomas Cocke's role as Ruffin's guardian and later as confidant and friend has been overshadowed by Ruffin's strong personality. Though Cocke did not publish his experiments on soil renewal, his debates with Ruffin and their mutual investigations were a significant part of Ruffin's research. In the fields still under cultivation at Aberdeen and on their lands nearby they experimented and cogitated. Ruffin's published works reformed a significant segment of American agriculture.

  • Racefield February 2012
    Aberdeen Info continued . . .

    Aberdeen was originally a part of the Bonnacord estate, land granted in 1650 to David Peebles, born in Scotland in 1616. Peebles died in 1659 and, according to Peebles genealogical sources, was buried "near Bon Accord." His daughter and heir, Christian, married John Poythress, son of Captain Francis Poythress I, thus bringing the land into the wealthy Poythress family. By the time Prince George County was created in 1703, Joshua Poythress, son of John, owned most of the nearby
    Yeardly tract, Flowerdew Hundred, granted in 1619. In 1740, Poythress' daughter, Elizabeth, inherited Bonnacord. Her marriage to James Cocke opened the next chapter in the history of the Aberdeen property.

    James Cocke was a wealthy sea captain who also had a distinguished military career. He served in the Virginia Navy during the American Revolution on a cruiser outfitted for him by the Virginia General Assembly. He served as both captain and commander of the bruiser brig, Raleigh, with orden to patrol the James River in 1776. From November of that year until February of 1777, Cocke commanded the "Manley Galley." He later commanded the fort at Hood's near Brandon not far
    below Bonacord on the James River. He was forced to abandon the fort "in the face of a landing detachment from a British warship." This last action is recorded in a letter to a Colonel Muter from Cocke, dated "Bon Accord, January 18, 1781 ."

    Though somewhat convoluted, the history of the Cocke family and its plantations is germane to the significance of Aberdeen. James Cocke's father was Benjamin Cocke, son of Thomas Cocke, both sea captains. Thomas was the son of a William Cocke who brought his family from Cornwall in England to land granted to him in 1706 at Cabin Point in Suny County, Virginia. His namesake
    Thomas Poythress Cocke, was born to James and Elizabeth Poythress Cocke at Bonnacord in 1774. In 1790, with the settlement of his father's estate, Thomas inherited a 1,685-acre portion of Bonnacord which he named "Aberdeen," in keeping, no doubt, with his mother's Scottish ancestry.

    Thomas's brother, John P. Cocke, inherited the remainder of Bonnacord. Thomas married Sarah Colley, daughter of Nathaniel and Martha Batte Colley. Colley had settled in Virginia after the Revolution and built a significant mansion at Tar Bay (now a burned out ruin) about five miles from the Cockes.

    Thomas and Sarah Cocke had two children, Nathaniel Cocke and Martha Cocke.
    The exact building date of Aberdeen is unknown. A house was shown there on maps done in 1807 for the settlement of the estate of Colonel Charles Carter of Shirley when Thomas Cocke acquired

    499 acres known as "Old Town" from Carter's estate. However Edmund Ruffin, noted agriculturist and, later political extremist, places Thomas Cocke living at Aberdeen at the time of Ruffin's birth at nearby Evergreen in 1794. It is safe to assume that Aberdeen was built sometime between Cocke's inheritance in 1790 and the Carter map of 1807.

  • Racefield February 2012
    Aberdeen info continued . . .

    The Ruffin and Cocke families were closely linked. Shortly after Edmund Ruffin's birth, his mother died and his father married Rebecca, a cousin of Thomas Cocke. Edmund's father, George, died in 1810 while Edmund was a student at the College of William and Mary. Thomas Cocke was appointed Edmund's legal guardian in George Ruffin's will.

    The ward and guardian became close friends. Both had inherited land that had been farmed for at least a century, land that had once been fertile and was now depleted. David F. Allmendinger, Jr., has chronicled their relationship in his article, "The Early Career of Edmund Ruffin, 18 10- 1840," (The Virginia Magazine of History and
    Biography, Vol. 93, No. 2, April, 1985), from which the following information is taken.

    For thirty years, Thomas Cocke played a significant role in Ruffin's career.
    . . . .Their relationship, though forgotten by the world after 1840, constituted
    one long scientific debate, with Cocke playing the role of skeptic to Ruffin's
    ideas.. ..Ruffin and Cocke conducted field experiments on their own farms,
    analyzing soil samples apparently in their own houses, where chemical apparatus
    could be assembled.. ..[Ruffin discovered that soils needed to be neutralized in
    order to be able to absorb fertilizer in the form of animal manures and vegetable
    waste.] Ruffin discovered on his own farm the cure for acid soil:..(layers) of fossil
    shells ("marl" as it was called in Virginia).

    [Thomas Cocke] responded by declaring marl "not worth the trouble." Cocke
    himself had made "several small applications, in 1803, on soils of different kinds,"
    with no visible benefit. He had neglected to mention this early trial, Ruffin said,
    "until induced by my remark." Ruffin insisted that Cocke take him immediately to
    the field.. .. In 1817 Ruffin could still see the results in the mere appearance of the
    places Cocke had treated. One had been ruined by too heavy an application; but
    the other two remained rejuvenated, superior to surrounding plots.. ..Later in 18 19
    Ruffin appears to have persuaded Thomas Cocke to experiment once more with marl.
    It was then that Ruffin discovered the earliest such experiment he ever recorded. When
    Thomas Cocke ordered his elderly gardener at Aberdeen to apply marl to the garden,
    the slave objected: he knew "the stuff was good for nothing' because his old master
    had once tried marl, "and it had never done the least good."

    This experiment had taken place at Bonaccord, the plantation once owned by James Cocke, father of Thomas Cocke.. ..Ruffin went to this field, too, and could see where the deposit had been laid.. ..It was still so much better than the surrounding field that it was never dressed with barnyard manure, "though the cause was not then suspected."

    Ruffin and Cocke remained closest of friends until the latter's suicide on February 22, 1840. Two days before, Ruffin had visited the ailing Cocke, then living at Tar Bay, who brought up the subject of suicide. They had a spirited discussion about burial customs with Cocke deeming the western custom of deep burial "folly" and advocated the Chinese custom of an 18-inch depth. "In terms of their old disputations, Cocke had come to view his own body as part of a natural food chain, as
    putrescent manure" (Allmendinger).

    The lives of these two Virginians, Ruffin of Coggins Point and Cocke of Aberdeen, show remarkable similarities. Intellectually and academically, they were very much alike. They both leaned to the reclusive lifestyle, particularly in later life, apparently relishing the opportunities they had to engage each other in intellectual conversation. Ruffin was moved to write two memoirs of his friend, one immediately after his death and another some years later.
    Ruffin, after suffering the loss of his wife and eight of his eleven children and dismayed by the defeat of the Confederacy, committed suicide in 1865.

    In 1844 Aberdeen was put up for sale to settle the estate. An advertisement of the sale notes the following: "To any person wishing to view the premises, Mr. Nathaniel C. Cocke, who resides on the place will take pleasure in showing them." This suggests that Cocke's 24-year old son was residing there. Included in the sale were the sixty-five slaves on the property. Apparently Aberdeen remained an active plantation throughout the owner's absence. Nathaniel Cocke bought the 1,685-
    acre property from the estate in March , 1844. The year before Nathaniel had married Virginia Ann Peterson, daughter of John Augustine Peterson and Virginia Thwean Peterson. They had nine children, one of whom, a son and namesake, died in 1857 while the family was living at Aberdeen.
    * . . .
    Aberdeen was sold on January 12, 1861. Nathaniel enlisted in the 5 V~rginiaC alvary, company F (Prince George Calvary) on April 20, 1861. He died in service on October 5, 1862. His wife died seven years later and both were buried in the garden at Tar Bay.

    Though no longer owners, Aberdeen remained important to the Cockes. The 1927 tombstone of their last child, Charles H. Cocke in the cemetery of St. John's Church, Hopewell, identifies him as "Son of Virginia Ann and Nathaniel Colley Cocke of Aberdeen."

    The purchaser of Aberdeen in 1861 was Thomas A Proctor, son of William Eppes Proctor of Temple Tavern (later called Greenview) in nearby Carson. Not much is known about Proctor, but his four sisters married well known local families: Harrison, Dobie, Peebles, and Bragg.
  • Racefield February 2012
    Aberdeen info continued . . .

    The purchaser of Aberdeen in 1861 was Thomas A Proctor, son of William Eppes Proctor of Temple Tavern (later called Greenview) in nearby Carson. Not much is known about Proctor, but his four sisters married well known local families: Harrison, Dobie, Peebles, and Bragg.

    Under Proctor's ownership, Aberdeen survived the war that raged around it. Hines Road along its southern boundary, served as the route for General Wade Hampton's troops to reach the corral of cattle at Coggin's Point in what is called "the Beefsteak Raid." Hampton, himself, visited Aberdeen in September, 1864.

    Family tales place the blame for cut marks on a mantel and the stair railing on "Yankee sabres," however, no factual information has been found to prove this belief.
    Thomas Proctor and wife, Margaret, sold Aberdeen to Charles Hanison Marks on October 14, 1884.

    Marks was born at Burleigh in 1846 to Captain Edward Archer Marks and his wife Eliza A. Bryant. Captain Marks was the son of Edward and Mary Hanison Marks who purchased Old Town from the Charles Carter estate in 1807 (see above mention of a map of this transaction showing a house at Aberdeen). Charles Harrison Marks attended Prince George Academy and entered VMI on August 11, 1863.

    He was a cadet private in company D at the battle of New Market and remained with the Corps until Richmond was evacuated when he joined the Confederate Army. He was wounded during action near Salisbury, North Carolina in the final days of the Confederacy, but was able to return home. In 1870, he married Helen Peebles Harrison, daughter of wealthy landowner Colonel Richard M. Harrison of Huntington.

    The couple resided at Edgewood, one of Col. Harrison's properties, until they moved to Aberdeen about five miles away. They had five sons and two daughters. Charles Marks died at Aberdeen in 1896, leaving Aberdeen to his wife. Aberdeen had been reduced to a property of about 500 acres by the time of Marks' death. Helen
    Marks gave slightly more than 50 acres to her son, Dr. Wirt Peebles Marks, in 1900. The remainder of Aberdeen was inherited by five of his children in 1910. In 1912, her son, Edward Archibald

    Marks, bought out the interests of his brothers and sisters and became sole owner. One of his brothers, William H., continued to live at Aberdeen while Edward, an insurance executive, had his home in New Jersey. Edward moved his family to Aberdeen about 1933. Aberdeen was put in the name of Edward's wife, Mary Blodgett Marks, on May 3, 1937. Upon her death in 1964, the property went to the three children of Edward A and Mary B. Marks: Edward A. Marks, Jr., Wingate
    Harrison Marks, and Mary Virginia Marks. Wingate lived at Aberdeen from 1937 to 1993.

    Edward died in 1983 and left 116'~o f Aberdeen to each of his two children, Irene Marks Rupp and Edward A. Marks. Wingate died in 1993 leaving his interest to his wife, Mary Lane Marks. Mary Virginia died in 1996 leaving T o Edward , to Irene Rupp, and t o Carol Marks Bowman, daughter of Wingate Harrison Marks.

    Mary Lane died in 2000, leaving interest in the Mary L. Marks Living Trust for which Carol Marks Bowman serveded as successor trustee. In July 2000, Carol Marks Bowman purchased all outside interests in Aberdeen. The entire property of 378 Acres and the house built by Thomas Cocke is now a whole unit owned by Aberdeen Farm
    Properties, LLC, of which Carol Marks Bowman and Mary Elizabeth Marks are members.

    Both are great-great-great granddaughters of Edward Marks of Old Town, friend and fellow farmer of the Ruffins and the Cockes.

    The preservation of the agricultural fields, woodlands and wetlands surrounding the main house was assured by the placement of the whole property under easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in July 2000. This and an easement on the house to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will ensure the preservation of Thomas Cocke's house and some of his fields where "marling" experiments were conducted.

    Allmendinger, David F., "The Early Career of Edmund Ruffin, 1810-1840,"The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol.93, No.2.

    Boddie, John Bennett, Southside Virginia Families, Vol. 1

    Bowman, Carol, "Historical Background: Aberdeen, Prince George County, Virginia," manuscript on file at VDHR.

    Boykin, Edward, Beefsteak Raid.
    Governor's Letters Received, ms. The Library of Virginia.

    "Obituaries, The Daily Express, Petersburg, Va., Oct. 15, 1857

    Prince George County, Virginia, Court and Land Records.

    "Public Sale of Land and Negroes," The Republican, Petersburg, Virginia, January 2, 1844.

    Roll of Honor, Confederate States of America, Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia.

    Ruffin, Edmund, Incidents of My Life.

    Works Progress Administration, Survey files for Prince George County.

    Virginia Military Institute, Cadets at New Market.
  • LauranettLauranett May 2012
    Thank you for your thorough and thought-provoking response to Lulu55. The haunting image of Tar Bay was included in a 2001 Virginia HIstorical Society exhibition curated by Dr. William Rasmussen as well as a book which he co-authored. We do not often find images of such places associated with enslaved people but when we do it helps us better understand the physical environment in which they labored. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!
  • ntw July 2012
    I am just beginning to search backwards from the1870's so I am something of a novice. I am searching for ancestors named Todd, Bolling or Washington. They would have lived in the Flowerdew Hundred area, near the courthouse or in the Carson area.The info I've just read about Prince George is fascinating. I am hooked!
  • Beaudreau September 2012

    Thank you for your history of Aberdeen. It was very well-written and informative. I have just started working on my family genealogy and came upon your history as the result of a Google search for Helen Peebles Harrison, my great grandmother. My grandfather was Charles Harrison Marks II and my grandmother was his second wife, Virginia Dare Mayes. My father, Virginius Archer Marks, was born in Hopewell in 1923. Charles Harrison Marks died in 1933 after a car accident, so my father and his sister and brothers (Helen, Hardaway, and Bryant) were fatherless at the height of the depression.

    Dad hated the name “Virginius” and went by “Archie” or, later in life, “Mark” or “V.A.” I was born in Richmond while Dad was in medical school. We moved to Michigan in 1952 for Dad’s obstetrics residency. He practiced in Michigan until 1970, and then in Florida. He died there in 2006.

    In the early 1960s, we took many family vacations to Virginia to visit family and to visit Civil War historical sites. On one of those trips, we visited Uncle Willy. I didn’t realize that it was at Aberdeen until I read your posts. The giveaway was your description of the sabre cuts on the bannister and mantle. I was returning downstairs from (I believe) the upstairs bathroom, when I noticed extensive gauges in the bannister. These were horizontal cuts rather than vertical, much like those a whittler might make pulling his/her knife horizontally along a wood block with the grain. As I remember it, one of my older female relatives observed me examining the gauges and said angrily: “See those cuts; the Yankees did that!” My unspoken response was “Gosh, it’s been a hundred years. You should get some wood putty and fix it.”

    I remember a long drive up to the house and then being challenged by two aggressive peacocks after we got out the car. (Better than big dogs!) Uncle Willy must have been William Harrison Marks. I believe that he was a Methodist minister and that he baptized me and two of my brothers in Hopewell in the early 1950s.

    We had a big family dinner. I don’t remember too much of the meal except desert: pecan pie and caramel cake. Yum!

    Thanks again for work.
  • Racefield June 2013
    Hi Beaudreau

    Your "cousin" owns Aberdeen ---- Carol Marks Bowman. She is with the Prince George Historical Society. I am sure she would love to hear from you.

    The PG Historical Society just photographed the ruins of Tar Bay again . . . it is in a sad state of decay.

    I grew up at Racefield (hence, my tag name). It is also a Harrison home place. It is located about 2 to 3 miles from Aberdeen and about 1/4 of a mile from Tarbay. We are "circling" here Beaudreau .......I knew of Hardaway (who passed away in 2004) --- he lived about a mile from me, I live in Richmond, I just ran into Charles Marks (he is around 53) in Hatteras, NC (he lives in the PG area and is Hardaway's son).

    If you need assistance on your research, let me know............I will gladly assist.
  • bcreative222bcreative222 October 2013
    I have ancestors who lived at Flowerdew Hundred and Curles Neck. I have found that they were listed as slave owners, but I haven't found any names, or much else. I am a beginner at this, although my father was very much into geneology and researched his side and my mother's side way back. I don't know if any of the information I have would help someone, or vice versa. I haven't read all these posts yet, but I will.
  • RosaVal October 2013
    Hi, Beaudreau!

    My grandmother, Rosa Eva Marks Harrison, was a sister to your grandfather, Charles Harrison Marks II. I met your uncle Hardaway a few times at my Aunt Emily Peebles Harrison Inge's family (Harrison & Marks) reunions at a park in Prince George County. Likely met other members of your family too, but it's been a while. My mama spoke of her cousin Hardaway often. I always hoped to get to spend some time with him to talk 'genealogy', but never got the chance.

    At some point between 1912-13 and 1920, my grandparents and my mother lived at Tar Bay for a few years. I believe my Aunt Mary LaGrande Harrison was born there and possibly Aunt Emily and her twin brother Henry Pretlow Harrison also. From there they moved to a tenant house at Coggins Point, across the river from Berkeley and Westover. My grandfather Edward Valentine Harrison died there in 1924 from pneumonia, leaving Rosa a widow with four children and one 'on the way'.

    We visited the ruins of Tar Bay several years ago while on a family vacation in VA. I have a bunch of pictures that show a little of what was left of the house behind a lot of overgrowth.

    Would love to get in touch and share information!!

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