Black history is American history and essential every day of the year. And in honor of Black History Month, we recognize that at this time, we have much to learn about the enslaved who lived and worked at the historic sites we open to the public. We are dedicated to researching and expanding public knowledge of the individual Africans and African Americans whose names and stories are deeply connected to these sites, and also the names and stories currently lost to us.
Through letters and other primary sources, we can piece together information about Pedro, who was enslaved by Patrick Henry and his family at Scotchtown. Pedro was one of ten enslaved people that Patrick Henry and Sarah Shelton received as a “wedding gift” from their parents upon their marriage in 1754. Pedro was around nine years old at that time. He and the additional nine enslaved Africans- Ben, Daniel, Dick, Dinah, Isaac, Jenny, Tom and Will- were taken to a 300-acre farm, known as “Pine Slash” in Hanover County. Pedro worked in the main house and later as a coach driver.
While enslaved at Scotchtown, Pedro went to John Syme’s store in Newcastle, Hanover, to retrieve supplies for the Henrys. A ledger account, which is now in the Library of Congress, references Pedro:
In 1786, Patrick Henry “gifted” Pedro, then a 41 years-old man, to Philip Aylett upon his marriage to Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth. Two years after he was enslaved to Aylett, Pedro escaped. He returned to his family, who were still enslaved at Patrick Henry’s plantation in Prince Edward County, around one-hundred miles away. Pedro was eventually recaptured and enslaved once again, to Philip Aylett.
The Run-Away advertisement placed in the Virginia Gazette by Aylett on March 31, 1788, provides a good description of Pedro: “He is about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, and well set, of a dark complexion, has most of his upper fore teeth out, and of a good address…When he went away he had on a blue coat with red cuffs and cape, a green plains jacket, a pair of fustian (olive) breaches, a pair of yarn stockings, and a felt hat.”
Letters indicate that after his recapture, he continued on as the Aylett’s enslaved coachman. One letter reveals that he rode to Red Hill to ferry a few of Henry’s daughters to the Aylett’s home in King William County for a family visit.
We’re working to learn more about Pedro, his family and descendants so that we may help tell a more complete story at Scotchtown. If you have information to share, or if you are looking for more information about the enslaved at Scotchtown, please reach out and stay tuned for updates.