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Capitalism Takes Root: Former Slaves Adapt To The Free Market

Donna Tyler Hollie

Brett M. Tyler


This article has a dual purpose:  (1) to share two interesting sources which enabled us to flesh out our family history and (2) to connect with others who may be researching our family.  Our roots are deep in Orange County.  It was home to our great grandparents, Andrew & Lillian Marshall Tyler, our 2nd great grandparents, Richard & Nellie Rose Nicholas, George & Ellen Rose, and Lansy & Elizabeth Holliday Marshall.  Our 4th great grandmother, Jenny Barbour was also a resident of Orange County.

The informative and surprising knowledge gained was about Lansy/Lansing/Landsey/Lanzie Marshall and was discovered in Orange County Chancery Records and in the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau.[i] 

   Source:  The Library of Virginia of Chancery Records, Index #1893-011.  Microfilm Reel #652, Image #391:

On 13 July 1877 Jane Murry deeded property to her daughter, Katie Harris of Louisa Co. VA.  The property, a house on a quarter acre of land in the town of Gordonsville, was situated in the rear of the Exchange Hotel and had been owned by Benjamin Murry, Jane’s son.  Benjamin died intestate and without issue and the property passed to his mother.  Jane deeded it to her daughter Katie and son-in-law, James in exchange for their agreement to provide her with a home, food and clothing for the remainder of her life.

On 1 October 1890, Katie filed suit in the Orange Co. court against Lansy Marshall to reclaim the property she had received from her mother.  (Apparently Lansy was living in the Gordonsville house that Katie inherited.)  Katie testified that Benjamin Murry died 26 November 1876.  Katie further testified that she was formerly enslaved by Capt. William Wood of Louisa Co. VA who died about 1844.  His estate was settled in 1845 and his property was distributed among his heirs.  All of Katie's brothers and sisters, except Benjamin Murry, were taken to Kentucky and Missouri by William Wood's heirs.  Those taken away were William, Andrew, Thomas, Pleasant, Phyllis and Ann Wood.

According to Katie, Lansy Marshall cohabited with Ann Wood and fathered her daughter.  Ann and her child were both taken away.  Katie had tried since 1865, unsuccessfully, to find her siblings.  She testified that Lansy was not entitled to any interest in the Gordonsville property since he and Ann were never legally married and were not cohabiting in 1865 when Virginia passed a law legalizing marriages of formerly enslaved people.  Jane Murry died in 1888.  Katie was required to advertise in local newspapers for four consecutive weeks and if her siblings did not respond, the court would consider them dead.  Lansy failed to appear when summonsed to court.  The court ruled that he had no interest in the house and lot and directed that the property be sold at auction, with all proceeds going to Katie Harris.  The property was purchased by J.C. Ross and after court costs and lawyer's fees, Katie received $183.33 1/3.  Katie, in pursuing her financial goal, gave us a gift of untold value.  We now have another family line to research which may lead to connection with previously unknown family members.

[i] The Freedmen’s Bureau was the first federal welfare agency and was formed to assist newly emancipated slaves and southern whites in transition after the Civil War.

Source: Freedmen's Bureau Records, Virginia


This Article of Agreement, made this 31st day of January 1866 between Landsey Marshall of the first part and H.W. Jones, agent for Mrs. J.B. Strange, of the second part, WITNESSETH THAT for and in consideration of the sum of  Twenty Seven Dollars, the said Landsey Marshall hereby agrees faithfully and diligently to perform the duties of farm servant for the said Mrs. J.B. Strange at her place in Louisa County, Virginia or such other place as she may direct, for the period of three months, in consideration of which services, the party of the second part herewith agrees to pay the said party of the first part the sum of Nine Dollars per month with proper and suitable food and quarters.  The said parties hereby further agree that a sum equal to one month’s pay shall be retained by the said party of the second part until final settlement at the end of the said period, and at the expiration of three month’s service said Marshall agrees to remain one month longer at the same rate of compensation if wanted by Mrs. J.B. Strange.  And the said parties unchangeably agree that if this contract be violated by either party, without legal cause, the party so violating the same shall pay to the other, as liquidated damages, the sum of Ten Dollars.  And the said parties further agree, that if it shall be mutually desirable to annul this contract before the expiration of the term agreed upon, it shall be done only in the presence of and with the concurrence of such officer of the Freedmen’s Bureau, as may have immediate jurisdiction in this matter, in the District wherein the said parties reside. 

            Given at Gordonsville, VA. on the day and date above written.

Landsey Marshall, his mark. 

H.W. Jones, Agent for Mrs. J.B. Strange.

WITNESS:  Samuel W. Carpenter,

                     Capt. V.R.C., Ass’t. Supt.


            When this contract was signed, our great, great grandfather was forty-six years old, and after working without financial compensation for most of his life, he earned his first salary of $9.00 monthly. 


[1] The Freedmen’s Bureau was the first federal welfare agency and was formed to assist newly emancipated slaves and southern whites in transition after the Civil War.

Capitalism Takes Root
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