Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




The purpose of this thesis is to examine and describe the lives of the citizens of a rural, agricultural Virginia County which had a social and economic order based on the institution of slavery. This system was dominated by a wealthy white minority which had the ability to use the existing components of government to perpetuate itself. All aspects of the county were explored, including its origins, geography, population, county court system, representation in state and federal government, economy, transportation, communication, religion, education, and health care.

There was an abundance of available primary sources which gave insights into the county's internal functioning including county court order books, overseer of the poor reports, registers of free Negroes, land tax and property tax books, and license returns. Also, reports of internal improvement companies to the Board of Public Works and other sources gave insights into the available means of transportation. In addition, the reports of the school commissioners provided information on the county's educational situation. Also available were the journals of the Virginia General Assembly, legislative petitions from the county, poll returns, and the Congressional Globe, all of which mirrored the county's attempts to externally influence matters of importance.

Insights into religion were drawn from the more numerous records of the Baptist and Presbyterian churches. Newspapers from Richmond and Petersburg were also used.

This study illustrates a county which was economically and politically secure. All indications suggested that it would have continued for many years with little change in the absence of the catalyst of the civil War.

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