Visit to the College of William and Mary, the Albemarle County Courthouse, and US Census Research
    by Michelle Colbert


Much like my predecessor, Kim Uglum, I too made the drive down to the College of William and Mary to look through the Garth Family Papers in the special collections section of the Swem Library. The Garth Family Papers are divided up into five folders, containing family correspondence, receipts ranging for items like building materials; groceries; even supplies to assemble a wedding dress, and documentation of their slave purchases from years 1798-1833. As I was assigned to a table in the reading room I felt very overwhelmed. These documents were dense, unorganized, and handwriting from this era is always difficult to decipher. Unfortunately, there was little mention of the Birdwood property found in these documents. The only relevant items pertaining to the Stone Double Cabin were the hand written receipts from slave trade transactions. These papers relayed that between the years of 1798-1833 at least 17 slaves were purchased by the Garth family. Interestingly enough, in the year 1833 the Garth family hired three slaves, only two names legible- Thom L. and Jenny To Lee, and it was made clear in the contract that the Garths were responsible for providing acceptable clothing for each hired slave.

After returning from my trip to the College of William and Mary, our class met at the Albemarle County Courthouse to examine wills, deeds, and land records. Once again, we retraced the steps of our predecessors from years 2016 and 2017 and looked through records pertaining to the Garth family. Our main focus when looking at these records was to look for any mention of enslaved people or of the Stone Double Cabin. Although this exercise was valuable, we were not able to find any relevant information to these particular focuses. However, these records did inspire further research on the proceeding families that resided at the Birdwood estate.

I, later that day returned back to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collection Library at UVA, and began looking through the papers of Dr. K. Edward Lay, Cary D. Langhorne Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Virginia. Dr. Lay’s papers provided some great insight on the manor and outbuildings, a photograph of the Stone Double Cabin prior to its rear addition, and a clear timeline of estate ownership. The timeline is as follows:

  • 1817 William Garth arrives to property and lives in small house before building manor house
  • Ca. 1830 Birdwood manor is built by William Garth
  • 1879 William Garth dies, manor is eligible to be inherited by an heir of William Garth, inherited by I.M. Bankhead, Elizabeth Bankhead, Alice Gilehrist, and Nannie Gilehrist
  • 1879 Bankhead family sells property to Samuel H. Buck and Annie Buck
  • 1891 Buck family sells property to William C. Chamberlain and Mary P. Chamberlain
  • 1903 Chamberlain family sells property to Charles and Gertrude Edgar
  • 1909 Edgar family sells property to Hollis and Lena Rinehart who do major renovation and build an addition on to the manor house

So what does all of this information mean? These are some of my current hypotheses:

  1. William Garth constructed the Stone Double Cabin between 1830-1833 to house enslaved people that he or his family hired. -Why do I think this is the case?

    In addition to the “for hire,” document that I found in the William and Mary Collection, I have located an additional receipt dated December 25th, 1836 that documents another hire made by the Garth family. This transaction was made by Mary E. Garth when she hired freedman, Charles Mayo, at $50 a month to work on the farm and, “have the privilege of raising hogs.” Much like the clothing requirement found in the document from W&M, Mayo’s contract also proclaims that he be provided with “proper food and quarters.” When looking at US Census documents, Chales Mayo and his family, appear on the lines just below the Garth Family (the second residence on the property) from years 1850-1870, this order places the Mayo family at the closest residence to the Birdwood manor house, which could very well be the Stone Double Cabin. In addition, the slave schedule from the year 1850 lists Charles Mayo as a “slave owner,” thus indicating that his position at Birdwood was one in which he had power and would need quarters that supported that role
  2. The house continued to be lived in by an overseer until the Reinhart family purchased the property.-  By 1880 the Mayo family was not listed under the Garths on the US census, rather they were recorded living elsewhere in Charlottesville, VA. However, the 1880 census shows that the second dwelling on the Garth property was still being occupied by another contracted, freeman, Mat Yancy. Much like Charles Mayo, Mat Yancy was bound to the Garth family with a similar contract in 1866. He and his family were paid, fed, and put up in acceptable quarters. The presence of Mayo and Yancy both appearing on the same lines of multiple censuses confirms to us as readers that in addition to being hired for an identical position, there is a good chance that they lived in the same home.

    Because of the loss of the 1890 census, I was not able to see who occupied the property in the decade following William Garth’s death, however in year 1900, John Thomas Wingfield and his family were listed in the lines below the Bankhead family, who inherited Birdwood from the Garths. Because of that, this piece of census evidence also places Wingfield and his family at the same dwelling as both Mayo and Yancy. Although I have not found a for hire contract, I have found a newspaper clipping from 1896  that listed Wingfield as Birdwood’s overseer.

If I am correct in my research, the Stone Double Cabin was built between 1830-1833. The structure served as a home for freemen, who were contracted by the Garths to raise hogs, work on the farm, and most likely oversee the property. The Stone Double Cabin was primary lived in by African Americans until the abolition of slavery and then  was inhabited by white farmers and their families until the Rinehart era.

This week we are focusing on putting together all of this information and following guidelines from the National Registry for Historic Places. We hope to file a claim for this structure in the near future.


*Sources and images to be added this week