24. Slavery at Oak View

Eliza was the first enslaved woman documented at Oak View. William Powell sent Eliza to Oak View at age 19, as a gift to his daughter Burchett, and her husband Benton. Eliza lived most of her adult life at Oak View. Much of her work would have been in both the home and the fields of the Williams family. She married Reddick Hutchings, a man enslaved on a neighboring farm. Eliza was 43 years old at the time of Emancipation, when she was finally able to make a home with her husband. They worked as farm laborers at Oak View until purchasing 43 acres of land from the Williams family. In 1851, Benton purchased from a slave trader a woman named Isabella and her three sons: Levy, Walt, and Sandy. In 1856 Burchett’s father sent two more slaves to Oak View: a 12-year-old girl named Celia and her 6-year-old brother Sam. The following year, Benton paid a neighbor $410 for a 7-year-old girl named Patsy. At least 4 more African Americans, whose names are unknown, were brought to Oak View over the course of the decade, and one baby was born on Clinton Williams’ farm. Their ages and gender are told by the 1860 census: a 60-year-old woman, a 48-year-old man, a 14-year-old girl, a 10-year-old girl, and a 6-month old baby boy. Children were less expensive to purchase, and they were viewed as an investment for the future. Following the Civil War, former slaves faced the decision of whether or not to remain at Oak View as sharecroppers or tenant farmers, or to leave in search of better opportunities. Some, like Walt, stayed and worked as farm laborers, saving up money to buy their own land. Others, like Sandy and Levy, left the area. Sandy Williams farmed land in another township, and his brother Levy sold fruit and vegetables near the fairgrounds.