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The Burwells Move Their Slaves

The Burwells Move Their Slaves to the Southside

by Julie Richter

When I read the description of the Ann Powell Burwell Commonplace Book in The Guide to African-American Manuscripts at the Virginia Historical Society, I knew I wanted to see the document. The entry in the guide reads, “Contains lists, 1746-1839, of slaves owned by Armistead Burwell and John Burwell, including ages or dates of birth. One list includes names of mothers.” I hoped to find information in these lists about slaves who lived in eighteenth-century Williamsburg for my ongoing study of this community. What I found was a puzzle: More than one person wrote the lists in the small notebook, the authors did not always date their entries, and the lists were not in an order that made sense. I turned to a variety of documents (including court records, land and personal property tax lists, and the Virginia Gazette) and the jumbled contents of the commonplace book to analyze the information in these lists. The entries in the small notebook provide details that I used to identify several black families owned by three generations of the Burwell family. The appearance of slave families on more than one list helped me to sort the various records into chronological order and to follow the forced movement of Burwell slaves from the Tidewater to the Southside. In addition, the names on the lists enabled me to analyze the reasons the several authors decided to record details about the enslaved men, women, and children whom they owned.

The seven lists of slaves recorded by four members of the Burwell family between 1746 and 1839 fill ten pages in the Ann Powell Burwell Commonplace Book. (See table below.) A Williamsburg merchant named Armistead Burwell authored two of the lists in 1746. The first was a record of “Negro’s sent to Roanoke [torn]5 march 1746 & seated there.” This inventory included the names of four men and an equal number of women. Perhaps “Roanoke” was the name of Burwell’s 3,404-acre plantation on the south side of Finney Wood Creek in Mecklenburg County, land for which he received a patent on January 12, 1746/7.1

Order of Slave Lists as They Appear in the Commonplace Book
[p. 2, front] slaves born between 12 February 1798 and 1820
[p. 2, back] slaves born between 1819 and August 1839
[p. 17, front] “List of John Burwell’s Negro’s”
[p. 17, back] “[List] of my house Negro’s in Wmsburg 14 July 1746 vizt”
[p. 18, front] list of slaves with ages and slaves born between 5 September 1789 and 25 April 1797
[p. 18, back] “Account of Negros given by B Powell & L Burwell to A Burwell & her Children 26 November 1789”
[p. 19, front] “[List] [of] Negro’s sent to Roanoke [torn] 5 march 1746 & seated there”
[p. 19, back] undated and untitled list of slaves
[p. 20, front] undated list with slave names and appraised values
[p. 20, back] “a List of Tithables”
Proposed Reordering of Slave Lists in the Commonplace Book
List 1 “[List] [of] Negro’s sent to Roanoke [torn] 5 march 1746 & seated there” [p. 19, front]
List 2 “[List] of my house Negro’s in Wmsburg 14 July 1746 vizt” [p. 17, back]
List 3 undated, untitled, and torn [p. 19, back]
List 4 “a List of Tithables” [p. 20, back]
List 5 undated and untitled [probably “List of Lewis Burwell’s Negro’s”] [p. 20, front]
List 6 “List of John Burwell’s Negro’s” [p. 17, front]
Lists 7 to 10 “Account of Negros given by B Powell & L Burwell to A Burwell & her Children 26 November 1789” and list of slaves born between 28 October 1790 and August 1839 [p. 18, back; p. 18, front; p. 2, front; p. 2, back] Source: Ann Powell Burwell Commonplace Book, Mss5:5B9585:1, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia.

Burwell moved enslaved men, women, and children from his plantations in King William County and King and Queen County in the Tidewater region to his new land south of the James River in the Piedmont section of the colony. 2 While the move to the Southside gave Burwell the chance to develop a plantation for his sons, it did not represent an opportunity for this merchant’s enslaved men and women. Will, Jupiter, Andrew, Simon, Judy, Sarah, Nancy, and Moll were taken from their homes and forced to create new family and friendship ties in Mecklenburg County. Burwell made no mention of the connections that the move severed or if his enslaved laborers were able to stay in touch with family and friends in the Tidewater.3

Southside Virginia.

Next, on July 14, 1746, Armistead Burwell listed the names of nine slaves—four women, two boys, and three children—who were his “house Negro’s in Wmsburg.”4 The order in which Burwell noted his slaves makes it possible to determine some family relationships because he listed a young child after his or her mother. Sarah Hampton was the mother of Beck and Hampton. Sam was the son of Priscilla. The fact that Daniel and Jack do not appear after a woman’s name suggests that they were about ten—old enough to be separated from their mothers and be put to work. It is possible that Daniel was the son of Sarah Hampton because she and her known children, Beck and Hampton, became the slaves of Lewis Burwell, Armistead’s oldest son. Lewis Burwell also gained possession of Daniel. Jack might have been the son of Betty Evans—a Jack Evans and Betty Evans were among the slaves who descended to Armistead’s younger son, John.

The list of bond laborers sent by Burwell to his new plantation and the record of his Williamsburg slaves provide a look at the number of enslaved men, women, and children that the second son in a prominent gentry family owned in his early adulthood. Burwell was twenty-eight years old and the father of an infant son when he wrote the two inventories in the little notebook. Perhaps the birth of his son Lewis in 1745 prompted Burwell to make plans for the land and laborers that his eldest son would inherit. The enslaved men and women sent to “Roanoke” developed the plantation that Lewis inherited. The Williamsburg merchant might have noted the names of his household slaves as he anticipated the birth of a second child in late 1746.

A fragment of a third list of enslaved men, women, and children written by Armistead Burwell survives; perhaps he noted the date of this inventory on the portion that has been lost. He made this record of thirty-seven individuals at some time between March 1746 and his death in February 1754. The five men, eight women, thirteen boys, and eleven girls lived on his Southside plantation. Extant tithe lists detail the increase in the number of Burwell’s slaves in Mecklenburg County after he moved a portion of his labor force to this part of Virginia. In 1748, Burwell had seven tithes on his new plantation, an indication that one of the eight slaves moved to the Southside two years earlier had died. In 1750, the merchant’s overseer, James Thompson, turned in a list of twelve tithes. Thompson reported the same number of tithable slaves at Burwell’s quarter in 1751 and 1752. The count of tithable slaves in Mecklenburg grew from twelve in 1752 to thirty-five in 1764. There were three overseers on the 3,003 acres of land in St. James Parish that belonged to Burwell’s estate in that year. John Westbrook reported fifteen tithes, John Oliver turned in a list with the names of ten slaves, and George Tureman counted nine individuals over sixteen years of age.5 That each of the three overseers turned in a list of tithes indicates that there were three quarters on the plantation by the early 1760s.

Christian Burwell (daughter of John Blair, president of the Council) took over the responsibility of keeping track of the domestic slaves in Williamsburg and the rural slaves in Mecklenburg County when her husband, Armistead, died in Williamsburg in 1754 at the age of thirty-six. Their son Lewis was eight years old, and John was a year younger than his brother. Christian Burwell added notations to two of the lists her husband had written and recorded three lists of her own in the small notebook. First, the widow Burwell noted the births of five children born to four of her enslaved women in Williamsburg between March 1754 and May 1756.6 She made these entries on the same page that Armistead Burwell used to list “my house Negro’s” in July 1746. There is no evidence that either Armistead or Christian Burwell purchased slaves for their Williamsburg household. The number of urban slaves grew through natural increase. Christian Burwell added a comment below her husband’s 1746 list of “Negro’s sent to Roanoke.” She noted, “The Negroe’s in Lunnenburg 1764 are 18 men and 17 Women.” There were also an unknown number of enslaved children on the family’s Southside property.

The first roll that the widow Burwell began was a “List of Tithables.” Perhaps she recorded the date of her list at the top of the page that is now torn. It is known that Burwell made these notes sometime after the birth of Kate’s daughter Agathy in October 1757. Christian Burwell also included the names of slaves who were under the age of sixteen and made note of some family relationships. The “List of Tithables” includes both Williamsburg slaves and enslaved laborers in Mecklenburg County.

The document has three sections. First, the widow Burwell noted the names of eight female slaves with their children; Great Sarah, Young Sarah, Hannah, Kate, Sue, Esther, Alice, and Betty lived in Mecklenburg County with their children.7

The next group included seven adult women. The first three females—Moll, Nanny, and Judy—were sent to “Roanoke” in March 1746. Priscilla, Betty Evans, and Betty Guinea were among the Burwells’ Williamsburg slaves in July of the same year. It is likely that Betty Guinea’s child who was born on March 29, 1756, had died by the time that Christian Burwell wrote this list because the child’s name does not appear on the document. This roll is the only reference to a woman named Bridget.

The third portion of the “List of Tithables” included seventeen male slaves. Jupiter, Andrew, Will, and Simon were the four adult males whom Armistead Burwell moved to “Roanoke” in March 1746. Jack Evans and Daniel were two of the boys in Armistead Burwell’s house in Williamsburg in 1746. This list is the first reference to slaves named York, Ned, Dick, Robin, Ben (two men with that name), Jack, Morris, Jacob (a boy), Mingo, and Dick.

The order of the slaves’ names on the “List of Tithables” suggests that Christian Burwell moved the sons born to urban slaves—Jack Evans, Daniel, Hampton, Sam, Abraham, and Joseph—to Mecklenburg County when they were old enough to work in the tobacco fields. Perhaps she relocated the enslaved boys because she wanted to have the several quarters on the Southside plantation well established before her sons, Lewis and John, turned twenty-one.

Christian Burwell probably consulted all of the lists of slaves when it was time to divide her husband’s estate after Lewis and John turned twenty-one in 1766 and 1767, respectively. She entered two more lists of enslaved men, women, and children in the small notebook in the 1760s. A comparison of an undated and untitled list with one headed with the phrase “List of John Burwell’s Negro’s” suggests the untitled list was a record of the slaves Lewis Burwell received when he reached his majority. Lewis Burwell inherited forty-three men, women, and children valued at £1,581.10.8 The “List of John Burwell’s Negro’s” included the names of forty slaves whom John Burwell inherited from his father’s estate. The total value of John Burwell’s slaves was £1,601.10. Each brother gained possession of slaves from the Williamsburg household and the plantation in Mecklenburg County.

The “List of John Burwell’s Negro’s” was the last entry that Christian Burwell made in the notebook. Ann (nee Powell) Burwell, daughter-in-law of Christian Burwell, recorded the next list in the Commonplace Book in November 1789. Perhaps Ann, the daughter of Williamsburg’s Benjamin and Annabelle Powell, gained possession of the small book when she married John Burwell in December 1771.9 Christian Burwell might have given the volume to her son and daughter-in-law as a family keepsake when they left Williamsburg and moved to Dinwiddie County by August 1776.10 Burwell’s decision to leave Williamsburg for the Southside had an impact on the lives of his domestic slaves. The move took Burwell’s household workers from an urban area where it was easier to develop ties to other slaves and to free people of color. Ann Burwell’s dower slaves also experienced disruption in their lives when the family, black and white, relocated to Dinwiddie County.

Benjamin Powell House, Williamsburg,
where Ann Burwell (nee Powell) grew up.

The Burwells, their daughters Elizabeth (born circa 1772) and Ann (born 1775), and their slaves made their new home on a 635-acre plantation that was about twenty-four miles from Petersburg. In 1777, Burwell noted that the property had “a new dwelling house, not quite finished, with other necessary houses for a family.”11 Five years later, in 1782, Burwell had nineteen slaves over the age of sixteen and twenty-two slaves under sixteen in Dinwiddie County. He moved some of his enslaved laborers to nearby Greenville County. In 1785, a white overseer supervised the work of Burwell’s fourteen adult slaves and fifteen slaves under the age of sixteen in Greenville County. Burwell had a labor force of eleven adults and thirteen enslaved persons under sixteen years old in Dinwiddie in that year.12 The white and black families grew during the 1780s. Ann Burwell and four enslaved women—Lucy, Kate, Betty Banks, and Lizzy—bore children in this decade.

John Burwell experienced financial problems in the mid-1780s. In June 1787, John Burwell mortgaged eighteen slaves—Joe; Morris; Jack; Kitt; Michael; Johnny; Liza; Young Kate; Lucy and her children Daniel, Dilcia, Lewis, Johanna, Lucy, and Ephraim; and “Banks Betty and her Children Richard and a Girl just born”—to his brother Lewis who was his security for several bonds that were due to creditors on January 1, 1789. If John Burwell did not pay his obligations by that date, Lewis Burwell would gain possession of his brother’s slaves.13

Extant documents indicate that John Burwell did not meet all of his financial obligations before he died in the spring of 1788.14 He left a number of debts for his widow, Ann, to pay. The proceedings of a chancery case reveal the extent of his financial problems. Benjamin Powell, Burwell’s executor and father-in-law, informed the judge that John Burwell gave his wife the “use of all his estate after the payment of his just debts, during her widowhood, and empowers his executors, with the consent of his wife, to sell the land whereon he lived at the time of his death, or any part thereof, to assist in paying his debts.” Powell noted “that the slaves and personal estate of his testator will not be sufficient for the payment of his debts: that he conceives it his duty to sell a part, if not the whole of the land, whereon the testator lived, as aforesaid, and has applied to the said Ann Burwell for her consent to make such sale. But now so it is, that the said Ann Burwell, whom your orator prays to be made a defendant to this, his bill, refuses to consent thereto.”

Ann Burwell appeared before the judge of the Chancery Court and stated “that the assets in the hands of the complainant are not sufficient of themselves to pay the debts of the testator: that the complainant bath applied to this defendant for her consent to the sale of the land in the bill mentioned that she hath refused and still doth refuse her consent to such sale. She therefore prays that she may not be compelled to relinquish her title and claim to the said land; but may be hence dismissed &c &c.”15

The widow Burwell maintained possession of the Dinwiddie plantation. However, there was a sale of some and possibly all of John Burwell’s slaves. The sale took place between the probate of his will in April 1789 and November of the same year. Among the purchasers were her father, Benjamin Powell, and her brother-in-law Lewis Burwell. They returned to her a total of twenty-three slaves in November 1789. She recorded an “Account of Negros given by B Powell & L Burwell to A Burwell & her Children on 26 November 1789” in the small notebook that she received from her mother-in-law. Burwell noted the names and ages of these twenty-three men, women, and children. First, she recorded the five enslaved men she received—Robin (age sixty-one), Sam (age forty-four), Michael (age thirty-six), Ephraim (age thirty-two), and Kit (age twenty-two). The adult women—Lucy (age thirty-three), Kate (age nineteen), and Lizzy (age twenty-one)—followed the men. Will Pigeon (age sixteen), Billy (age eighteen), and Betty (age not given) were next on the list. The twelve remaining slaves were boys and girls. The widow Burwell listed Lucy’s children—Johannah (age eight), Lewis (age nine), Little Lucy (age five), and Little Ephraim (age two)—as a group. Betty was the mother of the last two children—Richard (age five) and Nelly (age two)—on the list. Kate was the mother of Aggy (age three) and Betsy (born on September 5, 1789). Sally (age seven), Lucy (age five), Charlotte (age three), and Armistead (age two) were Lizzy’s children. Burwell wrote “lent” after the names of four of the slaves: Kit, Will Pigeon, Billy, and Betty. Benjamin Powell purchased these four individuals at the sale of John Burwell’s estate and lent them to his daughter. Kit, Lucy, Kate, Lizzy, Will Pigeon, Billy, and Betty might have been Ann Burwell’s dower slaves.16

Ann Burwell added to the list that she wrote in November of 1789. She drew a line after Nelly’s name, the last person on the list of slaves she received from her father and brother-in-law. Then, she wrote the names of thirteen children born to her enslaved women and their birth dates at the bottom of this list. The enslaved boys and girls were born between October 28, 1790, and February 14, 1799. Ann Burwell’s record of slave births filled the rest of the page. She continued her list of slave births on an additional page.

Lewis Miller Sketchbook.

The widow Burwell carried the notebook with her when she and her family left Dinwiddie County in late 1794 or early 1795. In June 1795, Burwell purchased 333 acres in Mecklenburg County.17 She moved nine adult slaves to her new home: Sam, Michael, Ephraim, Peter, Will Pigeon, Betty, Lucy, Kate, and Lydia. Johannah and Sally were between the ages of twelve and sixteen in 1795. Unfortunately, the personal property tax list did not include the names or numbers of slaves under twelve years of age.18 Ann Burwell lived in Mecklenburg County until her death sometime between June 28 and October 13, 1800. Her household included her three unmarried daughters, her son Armistead, and eight tithable slaves—Michael, Billy, Will Pigeon, Ephraim, Lucy (two women with this name), Kate, and Sally. Five slaves were between twelve and sixteen years oldArmistead,Richard, Ephraim, Charlotte, and Nelly. It is likely that Ann Burwell also had some enslaved children on her property.19

According to the terms of his mother’s will, Armistead Burwell inherited her property in Mecklenburg County. He also gained possession of her domestic slaves. Burwell married Mary Cole Turnbull in December 1800 and moved his family—white and black—to Dinwiddie County early the next year. The year 1801 also marked the time that Mary Burwell began to record slaves births in the small notebook.20 Mary Burwell recorded the births of thirty-one children and the names of their mothers between March 6, 1801, and August 1839.21 The entries made by Ann and Mary Burwell provide details about four generations of a family headed by an enslaved woman named Lizzy. Mary Burwell gave birth to thirteen children between 1802 and 1823. She shared the joys and heartbreaks of childbirth with eight of the family’s female slaves: Kate, Lucy, Lydia, Sally, Charlotte, Mary, Annabella, and Aggy each bore at least one child between 1802 and 1823.

Mary Burwell entered her last note about the family slaves in August 1839 when Lizzy’s granddaughter Amy gave birth to Caroline. It is possible that Armistead and Mary Burwell left their home to live with their son-in-law and daughter, Hugh Alfred and Ann Powell (nee Burwell) Garland in that year. The Garlands and their nine children lived at Mannsfield, a house near Petersburg that still stands. Armistead Burwell died at Mannsfield in 1841. The widow Burwell moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to live with her son Armistead sometime between 1841 and her death in 1860. There is no evidence that Mary Burwell took slaves with her when she relocated to Vicksburg.22 When Mary Burwell left Virginia, she took the small notebook first owned by her husband’s grandfather in 1746. This document is an important part of Burwell family history for the Burwells and of the enslaved men, women, and children they owned.23

Three generations of the Burwell family recorded notes about the lives of their slaves. The first notations of the four authors can be connected to important events in their lives. Armistead Burwell noted the names of the enslaved men and women he sent to open a new plantation. A month after she became a widow, Christian Burwell recorded the birth of a child. The fact that she did not make an entry after the mid-1760s suggests that Christian Burwell felt that her role as manager of the family slaves ended with the division of her deceased husband’s estate. Ann Burwell also began her entries in the notebook as a widow. It is likely that Ann Burwell passed on the record book to her daughter-in-law Mary Cole Turnbull when she married Armistead. Three months after her marriage, Mary Burwell entered the birth of Annabella to Kate in March 1801. Ann and Mary Burwell’s notes provide some details about the growth of the family’s labor force. However, none of the authors provided any details about the person behind the name entered in the notebook. We are forever left wondering about the lives of these enslaved people who tended the fields, cooked meals, cleaned, helped to raise children, and who endured years of separation from their own families and friends.


1Nell M. Nugent, et al., eds., Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 6 vols. (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library and the Virginia Genealogical Society, 1934-98), 304. The patent noted that the land was in Brunswick County. Burwell’s land was in the part of Brunswick that became Lunenburg County in 1745 and then part of Mecklenburg County in 1764 I will use Mecklenburg County as the location of Burwell’s Southside plantation throughout this paper. Evidence suggests that Burwell held his land in Mecklenburg County before he gained his patent. At the end of the June 1746 court session of the Lunenburg County Court, the clerk noted “that the court be adjourned till the court in course and held next month at Burwell’s Quarter on Butcher’s Creek.” Landon C. Bell, The Old Free State: A Contribution to the History of Lunenburg County and Southside Virginia, 2 vols. (Richmond, Va.: The William Byrd Press, Inc., Printers, 1927), 1: 114.

2After the death of Armistead Burwell in February 1754, his brothers Lewis and Nathaniel advertised the sale of his land in King William and King and Queen Counties. Virginia Gazette, June 6, 1755.

3Gail S. Terry details the ways in which slaves owned by the Cabell and Breckinridge families adapted to their relocation from Albemarle County, Virginia, to Kentucky at the turn of the eighteenth century and the ways in which the enslaved men, women, and children kept in touch with family and friends living in different states. See Terry, “Sustaining the Bonds of Kinship in a Trans-Appalachian Migration, 1790-1811,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 102 (1994): 455-476.

4A 1782 Williamsburg census and the extant Williamsburg Personal Property Tax Lists (1783, 1784, and 1786) indicate that most Williamsburg residents had more adult female slaves than adult male slaves in their households. Michael L. Nicholls notes that Williamsburg’s gentry residents had female slaves do domestic work in their homes and that the many tavern keepers in the city depended on enslaved women to cook, wash, and clean. See Nicholls, “Aspects of the African American Experience in Williamsburg and Norfolk,” unpublished report, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, (1990), 3-5, 12-13.

5London C. Bell, ed., Sunlight on the Southside: Lists of Tithes, Lunenburg County, Virginia, 1748-1783 (Philadelphia, 1931; repr., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1974), 71, 158, 176, 190, and 261-262.

6Milly gave birth to Sally in March 1754 and Rachel on May 28, 1756; Priscilla was the mother of Joseph born in May 1754; Betty welcomed Abraham on March 7, 1756; and Betty Guinea’s child, C[illeg], was born on March 29, 1756.

7Great Sarah was the mother of Elley Ben, Milly, and Sally; Agathy Judy Jimmy, C[illeg], and Betty were Young Sarah’s children; Hannah’s children were Patty, Lucy, Moses, and Aaron Docke; Kate was the mother of Judy, Betty, Michael, and Agathy; Sue had two sons (Davy and Charles) and two daughters (Fanny and Amy); Esther had one son, Jimmy, and one daughter, Phoebe; Alice’s son was named Sawney; and Betty was the mother of Abraham.

8This list has two sets of lines that divide the slave names into groups. First, the document includes solid lines below the appraised value of several of the enslaved individuals on the list. Christian Burwell used a second set of dashed lines that run the width of the column (from slave name to appraised value). It is likely that the dashed lines indicate family groups of two and possibly three generations. It is difficult to determine all of the relationships among the enslaved men, women, and children because this list is the first record of several of these individuals.

9Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), December 5, 1771. Note that Annabelle Powell’s given name is also spelled “Annabella” and “Hannahbella” in local records. All three variants turn up in the names of generations of white and black females in this family.

10Virginia Gazette (Purdie), August 30, 1776. John Burwell inherited 1,490 acres of land in Mecklenburg County from his father. However, he decided to sell the property and announced his intention in April 1771. Burwell, hiswife, and his mother conveyed the land in May 1777. The deed noted that the property “was devised to him by his father Armistead Burwell Gent & farther asurred to him by Lewis Burwell the younger oldest son & Heir at Law of the said Armistead & an Indenture executed by the said Lewis (and recorded in the honble the General Court the 29th October 1767).” Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), April 18,1771; Mecklenburg County Deeds Book 5: 74-76, dated [blank] May 1777 and recorded August 11, 1777.

11Virginia Gazette (Purdie), April 18, 1777. Burwell informed readers of the Virginia Gazette that he wanted to sell the property. He did not, however, sell the land and lived on the plantation until his death in 1788.

12Dinwiddie County Land and Personal Property Tax Lists 1782 to 1788; Greenville County Personal Property Tax Lists 1785, 1787, and 1788; originals at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

13Robinson Family Papers, MSSIR5685d24-33, Section 7, Virginia Historical Society Richmond, Virginia.

14John Burwell wrote his will on February 26, 1788, and his widow, Ann, paid the annual personal property taxes on June 16, 1788. Robinson Family Papers; Dinwiddie County Personal Property Tax List 1788.

15Robinson Family Papers.

16In his November 1790 will, Powell noted that he lent his daughter “all the Slaves and personal Estate which I purchased at the sale of her late Husband John Burwell deceased (except a Negro Girl named Pegg and a Bay Horse called Stephen) which I have now in my Possession, during her natural life and after the death of my said Daughter Anne I give and bequeath the said Slaves and personal Estate to be equally Divided among the Children of the said Anne Burwell or the survivors of them.” York County Wills and Inventories 23, 222, dated November 17, 1790, codicil dated November 19, 1790, and recorded January 17, 1791. A comparison of the list of slaves John Burwell inherited from the estate of his father and the “Account of Negros given by B Powell and L Burwell to A Burwell & her Children 26 November 1789” provides some clues about the identity of Ann Burwell’s dower slaves. John Burwell gained possession of men named Robin, Sam, Michael, and Ephraim at his majority. There is no evidence that the other adult slaves on the 1789 list—Kit, Lucy, Kate, Lizzy, Will Pigeon, Billy, and Betty—were owned by the Burwell family before the 1780s.

17Mecklenburg County, Deed Book 8:526, dated and recorded June 8, 1795.

18Mecklenburg County, Personal Property Tax List 1795.

19Mecklenburg County, Personal Property Tax List 1800; Mecklenburg County, Will Book 4: 232-234, dated March 1800 and recorded October 13, 1800. The widow Burwell used her will to provide for her three unmarried daughters. In March 1800 she wrote, “I further Give devise and bequeath to my Said Son Armistead Burwell and his heirs forever in fee Simple The tract of land lying in the County of Mecklenburg, on which I now reside Reserving however to my three Daughters Anne Burwell, Hannah Burwell and Annabella Burwell, so long as they shall remain unmarried as full and ample a right to the use of the dwelling house and other houses on the land as he the Said Armistead Shall have It being my intention that my Said daughters Anne, Hannah and Annabella may each of them there have a home so long as the[y] remain unmarried and chose to reside there. Fifthly It is my Will and Desire that all my unmarried Children be well and Comfortably Cloathed Out of the proceeds of the Crop made on the land the year of my death and the amount of Such Cloathing is not to be Charged to them in the Division of my Estate.” It is interesting to note that three of her children married within a year of her death: Armistead to Mary Cole Turnbull on December 13, 1800, Hannah to Thomas Pelham on September 9, 1801, and Annabella to John E. Dawson on September 17, 1801. It is likely that Armistead and Mary were courting before Ann’s death. Perhaps both Hannah (age nineteen at her marriage) and Annabella (age sixteen at her marriage) chose marriage at a young age because they did not receive large legacies from their mother or because they knew that their brother Armistead planned to move back to Dinwiddie County and they did not want to stay in Mecklenburg on their own. The two daughters whom Ann Powell Burwell did not mention in her will—Elizabeth and Frances—married before March 1800, the date that she wrote her will. It is possible that the financial problems that John Burwell had before his death in 1788 had reduced the family’s wealth and that his widow could not afford to leave a bequest to their married daughters. It is also possible that Ann Powell Bur well felt that Elizabeth and Frances did not need any financial support from her.

20It is likely that Ann Burwell gave the small commonplace book to Mary Cole Turnbull before her death. Armistead Burwell married Mary Cole Turnbull in December 1800 and it is likely that Armistead and Mary were courting before Ann’s death. It is also probable that Ann Burwell knew Mary Cole Turnbull’s mother when they were young girls. Perhaps they drew on this connection when they were mothers who lived in Virginia’s Southside in the 1770s and 1780s. Ann Powell was the daughter of Benjamin and Annabelle (1732-82) Powell. It is likely that the Powells moved to Williamsburg from Warwick County in the early 1750s. Ann’s older sister, Hannah, was born in 1753. Ann was born a year or two later. Ann Powell married John Burwell, son of Armistead (son of Lewis Burwell) and Christian Burwell (daughter of John and Mary Blair), in December 1771. It is probable that the Reverend James Horrocks performed the wedding ceremony. The Burwells lived in Williamsburg during the first few years of their marriage. Their daughters Elizabeth (circa 1772-1804) and Ann (1775- ) were probably born before the family moved to Dinwiddie County. It is known that the Burwells were residents of this county by 1776. Armistead (1777-1841), Frances (1781- ), Hannah (1782-1806), and Annabelle (1785-1855) were born in Dinwiddie. Mary Cole, daughter of Reverend Roscow and Rachel Cole of Warwick County, was born on November 10, 1751. Her brother William was born on January 17, 1753. Roscow Cole was the son of William and Mary (nee Roscow) Cole of Warwick County. Rachel was the daughter of Anthony and Diana (Tabby Robinson of Charles Parish. Rachel’s sister Diana was the wife of Thomas Everard, the clerk of the York County Court. Rachel would have made some visits to see Diana who was six years older than she was. Perhaps she met her future husband, Robert Turnbull, a Scots merchant based in Petersburg, on a trip to Virginia’s capital. Mary married Turnbull on September 16, 1770, most likely in Williamsburg because the Reverend James Horrocks performed the service. Horrocks was also the husband of Mary’s cousin, Fanny Everard Horrocks. Robert and Mary Turnbull lived at White Hill in Prince George County. They had eight children: Charles (1772-1811), Anne (1775-circa 1840), Thomas Crawford (1776- ), Robert (1778-1839), William (1780-1780), Mary Cole (1782-1860), Margaret Stephenson (1783-1836), and William Cole (1786- ). Robert Turnbull also owned land in the same part of Dinwiddie County where John and Anne Burwell lived. Perhaps the two women who had grown up in the Tidewater region of Virginia visited each other and watched their children play together. Mary Cole Turnbull was dead by 1790, and her daughter and namesake was less than eight years old. Robert Turnbull married twice after Mary’s death. He was the husband of Sarah Buchannan of the county of Baltimore by March of 1790. An act to annul this marriage was passed by Virginia’s General Assembly in December of the following year. Turnbull married Hannah Jones Minor (daughter of Peter Jones and the widow of Peter Minor) in 1792. He died in 1803. Possibly Mary Cole Turnbull and her younger sister, Margaret Stephenson Turnbull (1783-1836) spent some time at the Burwell house in the years after their mother’s death. Their older sister, Anne (1775-1840), married in 1792, and perhaps they learned about housewifery from Ann Powell Burwell (it is certainly possible that they could have learned from their second stepmother). Mary Cole Turnbull and Armistead Burwell saw each other when they were in their teens and early twenties, respectively, and fell in love. Her engagement to Armistead Burwell, the only son, guaranteed that she would be in charge of the management of the family slaves. Perhaps Ann Powell Burwell gave her future daughter-in-law her commonplace book before her marriage. This would explain why she signed her name as Mary Cole Turnbull, not Mary C. Burwell, in the Ann Powell Burwell Commonplace Book.

21There are two gaps in Mary Burwell’s entries, the first from 1806 to 1812 and the second from August 1830 to March 1836.

22For details about members of another branch of the Burwell family who moved enslaved laborers to the southern frontier in the Antebellum Period, see Joan E. Cashin, A Family Denture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 128-129.

23Mary L. Garland, a descendant of Ann Powell Burwell, donated the small notebook to the Virginia Historical Society in 1945.