In the decade after Edward and Francis Dodson unpacked their wagon (1772), the 95 acres on Little Fork of Allen’s Creek, Mecklenburg County (VA) became a bustling farm. Green stalks of corn grew from hills of rich, red clay soil. Hogs snuffled through thick stands of oak, hickory, persimmon,and pine. Cattle grazed in fields that first yielded crops of wheat. The farmers sold surplus timber and crops to purchase those tools and foodstuffs they couldn’t produce themselves. And they purchased “heads” to increase their productivity, which would increase their profits, which would increase their savings, which would purchase more acreage–and more “heads” to work the new land.
The county was criss-crossed by spring-fed creeks and rivers, and by centuries-old trading paths, first packed down by the feet of the Occaneechi Indians. The road from Petersburg (VA) to the North Carolina border cut through the Mecklenburg Court House settlement, and was heavily used by the Continental and county militia companies as they positioned supplies and men during the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. Edward Dodson served as militia company lieutenant from 1778 for the duration of the rebellion, and no doubt was called to guard the munitions at nearby Taylor’s Ferry on the Roanoke River. Having enslaved men, women, and children back on the farm privileged a resilience on the Dodson place that helped the family survive throughout those turbulent years.
In 1784, the Dodson family welcomed Edward Junior. Sally (Sarah), William, Elizabeth, and Martha probably knew what was up with the addition of one more baby, but toddlers Nancy and John were likely enthralled by the newborn. Outside their house could be heard the cries of two more babies, Robin (Bob) and Amy, born to the enslaved Kate and Biddy. In the quarters of the forced laborers two-year-old Bristol and Lucy were looked after by seven-year-old Sukey and four-year-olds, Dick and Bristol. Will, Peter, and Pat worked the farm with Kate and Biddy, overseen by Master Ed.
Post-war Virginia was just beginning to reconcile the concepts of liberty and slavery, the American contradiction that would shape generations of Dodsons.
Mecklenburg County (VA) Personal Property Tax Lists, 1782-1805, scanned microfilm images. A Binns Genealogy CD Series, Williamston, MI; BinnsGenealogy.com.
Name of Enslaved Date of Birth
This March no lacy edges embroider the frozen lake; no bear paw padded prints in the snow. Francis Slocum State (PA) Park is greening. The brooks stumble over worn stones then quietly meander through roots. The table is full and awaits spring’s migrating guests.
Dory was rescued six months ago from the night streets of our small town, just a wee handful of curiosity. Cappy, the eldest dog, quickly asserted his “do not touch me” rule. Luci, on the other hand, delightedly modified doggy games to meet her new toy’s size and age, and willingly accepted the kitten snuggles. I often find the two curled up, sharing space, snoozing. Sisters.