Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Slavery in Kanawha county, charleston, west virginia

West Virginia is the state that I find the earliest record of the surname, Brittentine, one of my family lines. Although, my ggg-grandfather, Monroe Brittentine was born a slave in the neighboring state of Kentucky but later relocated to Plain Dealing, Louisiana.

My research revealed that farming and livestock operations in Western Virginia mainstrem and required the use of slave labor. However, there were many parts of the region that did not employ slave labor.

The region where I find Brittentines is the Kanawha County, Charleston area. This region consisted of valleys and of larger farms of tobacco and other cash crops which used slaves. You can click on the map above to view Kanawha county if you want to get a sense of where it is located in the state.

My research further revealed that in 1860, there were 490,308 slaves which represented almost 1/3 of the population in West Virginia. A substantial slave population existed in the Kanawha Valley. Due to the decline of plantation agriculture in the 1800s, slavery was no longer as profitable in the east and slaves were frequently hired out or sold. The salt industry was driven by poor white transients and slave labor, often leased from eastern Virginia. This was the first significant introduction of slavery into western Virginia because salt was the first major industry to develop. Of the slaves in the Kanawha Valley, half were owned or hired by salt firms. About 40% percent of these slaves were used to mine coal for the salt works because they could be hired from their owners for much lower wages than white laborers demanded. These slaves were usually leased and insured rather than bought due to the risk of death or injury in the coal mines.

Based on the above, it is highly probable that the Brittentines I located in this area were held as slaves on farms or salt/coal mines.

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