In 1824, John Walker purchased a 500-acre farm in King and Queen County, Virginia, and began working it with a dozen slaves. The son of a local politician and planter who grew tobacco, Walker lost status when he became a devout Methodist, raised wheat, and treated his slaves like brothers and sisters. He also kept a detailed and fascinating journal.
Drawing on this forty-three-year chronicle, Claudia L. Bushman provides a richly illuminating study, a microhistory that is rewarding to read. Walker sets aside most of the "Old South planter" stereotype. He sold wheat in Baltimore and Norfolk and invested in railroad stock, and yet he grew, spun, and wove cotton for clothing, tanned leather, and made shoes. He avoided lavish creature comforts in favor of purchasing the latest farm equipment. So far from losing out to soil exhaustion, he experimented with improved farming methods, nourished his land, and kept his yields high.
Walker's journal describes the legal cases he tenaciously pursued, records devotion to the local Methodist church, and explains his practice of Thomsonian medicine on slaves and family members alike. He provides insight into women's work and lays out the drama of blacks and whites living in close intimacy and constant fear. Walker humbly referred to himself as "a poor illiterate worm," but his diary dramatically captures the life of a small planter in antebellum Virginia.
|Publisher:||Johns Hopkins University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.04(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Claudia L. Bushman teaches history and American studies at Columbia University. She is the author and editor of seven books, including Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah; America Discovers Columbus: How an Italian Explorer Became an American Hero; and "A Good Poor Man's Wife," Being a Chronicle of Harriet Hanson Robinson and Her Family in Nineteenth-Century New England.
Table of Contents
Preface - "in many respects a peculiar man"
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
"I record this for the benefit of my children"
Chapter 2: LAND AND FAMILY
"writing off a kind of History of my ancestry"
Chapter 3: HUSBANDRY
"began to plant corn"
Chapter 4: AGRICULTURE
"an experiment to see which way will produce the best"
Chapter 5: ECONOMY
"Income fell short this year $156.371/2"
Chapter 6: MASTERY
"My Servant Jack ran away from me Wednesday"
Chapter 7: HUSWIFERY
"the first piece of cloth woven here"
Chapter 8: COMMUNITY
"the rich nabobs... make us poor people give them ease"
Chapter 9: METHODISM
"I am yet striving to get to glory"
Chapter 10: MEDICINE
"he would have been dead before this but for the Tomsonisn practice"
Chapter 11: LEGALITIES
"But for my forgiving disposition I would sue indite and prosecute him again"
Chapter 12: LOCUST GROVE
"the greatest crop of wheat ever made in Locust Grove"
Chapter 13: TWILIGHT
"thine poor insignificant helpless illiterate worm"
Chapter 14: WAR
" a most dreadfull and distressing afflicted state"
Chapter 15: CONCLUSION
"I am so reduced in circumstances"
APPENDIX A - GENEALOGICAL CHARTS
APPENDIX B - THE SLAVE POPULATIONS AT CHATHAM HILL AND LOCUST GROVE
What People are Saying About This
"I found this book full of fascinating family and community history... Her research seemed quite thorough."
"Drawing on the extraordinary collection of Walker's manuscript farm journals, this book imparts a strong sense of what life was like for this farmer and his family. Topics include husbandry, weather, local politics, work, domestic economy, religion and community, relations with neighbors and slaves, health and medical practices, and the property and land-use history of individual farms. Bushman's scholarship is sound and her writing is clear. Rich in charming detail, In Old Virginia will be a valuable resource for social historians of slavery and rural society."