The reality of slavery at Red Hill is one that we are exploring and researching. We believe our evolving Quarter Place Trail research brings the opportunity to discover new history together to foster engagement and dialogue.
We believe the Quarter Place project is the best way to expand the interpretative focus of Red Hill. Moving beyond the story of Patrick Henry as one of the nation’s Founding Fathers and his family as plantation owners, this project focuses on the enslaved community that Henry and Red Hill relied on to work the land and enrich the family’s well-being.
One aspect of expanding our recognition of the people who lived and worked at Red Hill, but who have been left out of its history, is to restore the African American enslaved cemetery and the Quarter Place Trail. The cemetery is located in a quiet corner at the end of the Quarter Place Trail. This is a project that needs additional funding. It requires historical advising and research, as well as the delicate physical endeavor of restoring the gravesites and area. Currently, the Research Advisory Council and Community Engagement Committees have been active in assisting Red Hill by furthering research about enslaved life and engaging local descendants.
The name Quarter Place appears on 19th-century deeds and maps of Red Hill to describe the grouping of living quarters of the enslaved Americans and African Americans living at Red Hill from the 18th century until the mid-20th century.
African American Cemetery
Through a grant in 2018, Red Hill re-acquired 77 acres of adjoining property originally part of Henry’s Red Hill. On that land, referred to as Quarter Place, sits a cemetery that Red Hill maintained over the years, believing it to be a sacred burial ground for people enslaved at Red Hill, their ancestors, and family members buried after them. In early 2019, Dr. Brian Bates, Director of Longwood University’s Archaeology Field School, surveyed the area using LiDAR and marked 147 graves. Additional gravesites have been identified more recently. Only one grave is marked with a name. Matilda Pannell died in 1923 and was buried here with her ancestors. Matilda’s great-grandmother, Vilet, is listed on the 1799 inventory as an enslaved child. The other graves are marked with field-stones at the head and foot. Ongoing research is being completed to identify the names of those interred here. Acquiring the cemetery allows Red Hill to integrate, in a meaningful way, the birth, life, perseverance, and resilience of those enslaved by Henry into the history of Red Hill and the nation’s founding. Research on this project has just recently started. If anyone has information regarding the cemetery, or descendants of Red Hill’s enslaved community, please contact us directly.
The Quarter Place Trail is a half-mile long, culminating at the Enslaved & African American Cemetery. The terrain slopes at the trailhead, levels off, and then steepens as it descends to the cemetery. The one-mile, round-trip walk is of moderate difficulty.
Quarter Place Cabin
A reconstructed log cabin is the starting point for the Quarter Place Trail. This cabin is a representation of the types of dwellings that the enslaved and later free black population lived in throughout the late 18th to 20th centuries. Based on the 1799 and 1802 inventories listing the enslaved people who were owned by the Henry family at Red Hill, at least 12 cabins would have been found along this Trail.
Immediately northwest of the Quarter Place Cabin are the stone foundations of two early cabins that survived into the twentieth century. Old photos of these cabins served as the basis for the Quarter Place Cabin design and would have been inhabited by enslaved families.
Tobacco Curing Barn
Tobacco was the cash crop of Virginia. During Patrick Henry’s ownership of Red Hill, the plantation yielded over 20,000 lbs. of tobacco each year. After the plant was cut from the ground, the stalks were split up the center and then hung over wooden sticks inside the tobacco barn to dry for 4-6 weeks. The leaves were cured with heat generated by fire then pressed into large barrels known as hogsheads and then sent to market to be sold.
The ordering pit, a covered, dirt-floored cellar, was utilized by the enslaved workers to bring cured tobacco into a state of “order” or pliableness during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in preparation for processing it for market. The ordering pit is located to the left of the Quarter Place Trail.