By Cory L. Higgs
In a tale of some not- so – forgotten history is the brutal war fought between the United States and the Confederacy, starting around 1861. While the war is recalled quite often, the people the war was fought over have all but vanished to the memory of the area
Millions of Africans were brought to the new world and displaced across two continents. Most of the enslaved people were brought to the sugar farming islands of the Caribbean and the plantations of the south, to ports like Charleston in the South Carolina colony.
Patrick County was home to hundreds, maybe even thousands of slaves, but their names and stories are near impossible to find in record books. Of the thousands of these people who once called this land home, only a few cemeteries remain. A marker was erected in 2017 at a mass grave in Meadows of Dan, near Meadows of Dan Baptist Church, to remember the people buried there without individual headstones or memory of them.
The marker reads, “In memory and honor of the known and unknown African-Americans buried in this Meadow. May they rest in peace, forever free.”
Another mass grave at the Reynolds Homestead also holds many graves, with unmarked stones left forgotten.
The area’s most remembered enslaved person was Kitty Reynolds. Born a slave , Kitty died a free woman. She was brought to the Reynolds Homestead early in her life and was one of 80-plus slaves living there at that time. Beth Ford, of the homestead, said that Kitty was the Reynolds family’s domestic household servant who raised the children and probably helped in other areas as needed.
She made a lasting impression on the children as they helped her and her family in legal battles.
Kitty’s most famous action was when Master Reynolds was passing through the cattle pin and was attacked by a raging bull. Knocked to the ground, other slaves in the paddock fled for cover as Kitty procured a large stick and struck the animal until it retreated. Ford said Kitty gained some prestige from the family when this happened, but not her freedom.
Ford estimated that Kitty would have been in her mid–20s when emancipation took place. Kitty stayed on the plantation before relocating to Martinsville. If her story ended there, it would be an epic ballad of a woman who faced a wild beast to save her master and eventually was granted her freedom.
Ford provided documents highlighting a Supreme Court case, centered in Patrick and Henry counties. In 1877 two of Kitty’s sons were involved in an altercation with a white man from Patrick Springs. In the dispute, the white man died, and the brothers where incarcerated and sent to a trial solely of white males. A daughter in the Reynolds family had wed a lawyer, and Ford speculated that she talked her husband into defending the two brothers because of the family’s close ties with Kitty.
Kitty died in 1930; she saw slavery, a civil war, and emancipation all in her lifetime. More information can about her can be found at: Reynoldshomestead.vt.edu.
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