Finding the Enslaved People at Bracketts

For more than a year we have been working  to identify the names of those enslaved at Bracketts.  We have made progress recently and have decided to share our work.

We have been working decade by decade from the time David Watson arrived at Bracketts in 1800.  The first decades between 1800 and 1810 are very chaotic with enslaved individuals traveling between David's family home called Clover Plains (now called Ionia) and Bracketts.  They are only about 3 miles apart.  Apparently David was borrowing enslaved individuals, who were owned by his parents, to help him and his new wife Sally with beginning to make Bracketts their own.  So far, the records are very scarce for this first 10 years they were at Bracketts. 

Discovery of the Watson Family Bible gave a huge boost to our search for early enslaved people.


For 30 years the births of enslaved mothers were recorded in it until there was no room left to write on the pages.  All of these bible entries are captured in the assembly of enslaved people beginning with 1820.  This was also a census year and those records contain a total for the number of those enslaved.  These census numbers were used as a guide, not as an authoritative document.  There are good and sufficient reasons for what we have done, we will just leave it there for now. 

So, here is the state of our work for 1820; 30; 40; 50; and 60. We are working on 1870.  This period is much more difficult but, we will keep at it.

Due to the sudden death of David Watson on July 30, 1830, records once again become chaotic.  Sally Watson inherits the enslaved population at Bracketts, but there is an interruption in transition of ownership through one of their sons, George Watson.  We are still trying to figure out what was going on and why Sally's ownership seems to have been delayed for 7-9 years.     The death of David Watson and his last will and testament gives us an accounting of the enslaved people he owned, their ages, sometimes notes about their health, as well as each individual's worth (as required by law).

We will account for and report here the Enslaved People at Bracketts in these periods.  As our research continues, we hope to add details about the lives of these individuals.

1820-1830 Census
1840-1850 Census

1860 Census

Emancipation Day

Supported by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s Enriching Communities Fund