Putting A Face To History

Putting A Face To History

THIS HISTORIC log structure and the adjacent brick slave dwelling is located on the old McChesney farm just south of Brownsburg.

Putting A Face To History

WDBJ 7 reporter Bruce Young photographs an interview with David Green (at right) in front of the slave dwelling where his enslaved ancestor lived on the McChesney farm. With them are Mary Kay (second from left), current owner of the farm, and Green’s wife, Karen Sleezer (behind Green).

Putting A Face To History

MARY KAY (left), the owner of the McChesney farm, recently led a tour of the farm for David Green (center) and Historic Lexington Foundation Executive Director Don Hasfurther (right), along with Brownsburg residents and Brownsburg Museum affiliates Paul Hahn, Karen Parker and Isabelle Chewing.

Descendent Of Area Slaves Visits Dwellings In Brownsburg

The Brownsburg area is home to numerous standing slave dwellings, and the Historic Lexington Foundation and the Brownsburg Museum began an effort in 2019 to document these structures.

While the structures are still standing, little is known about the enslaved individuals that lived in these dwellings.

A visit by University of Virginia Associate Professor of Engineering David Green to one of the slave dwelling on Dec. 11 helped put a face to the brick and mortar, according to Don Hasfurther, executive director of HLF.

Green and his wife, Karen Sleezer, joined Brownsburg residents and museum affiliates Paul Hahn, Karen Parker and Isabelle Chewing and Hasfurther for a visit to the old McChesney farm just south of Brownsburg. The property owner, Mary Kay, led the group on a tour, including the brick slave dwelling and an adjacent historic log structure. The slave dwelling was the home of Green’s enslaved ancestor on his paternal grandmother’s side of the family.

During an interview conducted by WDBJ 7 reporter Bruce Young, professor Green explained that his father had had a profound impact on his life and his interest in his family’s genealogy. He stated that his great-great-great-great-grandmother, Anne Redd, was a slave who lived at the McChesney farm. Anne Redd was enslaved by Robert McChesney, who gifted her to his daughter Anne McChesney McBride. Her husband, Isaiah McBride, assumed ownership.

During the interview, Green discussed the institution of slavery and the fact that from a generational standpoint it was not all that long ago. Slavery is something that “people really have to get into to understand where we have been if we’re to going to optimize where we’re to go in the future,” he said.

Following the visit to the McChesney farm, Hahn took David Green to view the slave dwelling at Verdant Acres, north of Brownsburg. That two-room brick structure is similar to the one at the McChesney farm. The visit concluded with a visit to the Asbury Methodist Church Cemetery where Marie Redd (1841-1925) is buried.

On Oct. 30, 2019, Paul Hahn had arranged a visit to four Brownsburg area slave dwellings, including Verdant Acres, for HLF executive director Hasfurther and then board president Suzanne Rice. They were joined by Virginia Humanities officials Justin Reid and Peter Hedlund and Jobie Hill, preservation architect and founder of “Saving Slave Houses.” Hill is working to document slave dwellings throughout the United States. This documentation effort followed an earlier Virginia Humanities documentation of the slave dwellings at historic Buffalo Forge.

Following the visit to Verdant Acres, known historically as Castle Carberry, HLF approved a grant through the organization’s Lyle-Simpson Preservation Fund for the Pedersen family to replace the roof on the slave dwelling there and provide support for the structure’s interior wall. The structure is accessible to the public, and the Pedersen family hopes to use one room for educational purposes. These were all factors in HLF’s decision to approve the grant.

According to Hahn, once the current pandemic has abated, the Brownsburg Museum and HLF hope to arrange a program for the public to visit the Brownsburg area slave dwellings. He and Hasfurther agree that visitations to these structures would help residents better understand the institution of slavery in Rockbridge County and beyond. The event would be a fundraiser for the two organizations and their efforts to document and preserve area slave structures.

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