The success of Elijah Fletcher's farm relied on the labor of enslaved individuals, both African American and Native American (from the nearby Monacan Confederacy). Although initially opposed to the "peculiar institution," Elijah owned over 110 slaves upon his death in 1858. In 1865, the slaves were freed, but some families settled nearby and continued to work for the Fletchers as paid laborers. Read More...
Sweet Briar Slave Cabin: For 170 years, a small cabin has stood behind the former "big house" on the Sweet Briar Plantation. Built as a slave cabin in the 1840s, the building has served as a post-bellum residence, employee housing during the 1910s and 1920s, and as a classroom, chapel, and alumnae office. For more information on this historic building, click here.
Martha Penn Taylor (shown at left) worked for three generations of Fletchers: Elijah, Indiana, and Daisy. Mrs. Taylor was born around 1830 and lived until at least the 1890s. Her descendants are buried in the Coolwell First Baptist Church Cemetery. Another family that worked at Sweet Briar during the antebellum period adopted the last name Fletcher. The Fletchers recently held their family reunion at Sweet Briar. Interdisciplinary research is on-going to locate more information about the families who lived in this community and their descendants. To read more about these individuals, click here.
Many of the Sweet Briar slaves were buried on the plantation. To date, several burial locations have been located on the lands owned by Fletcher. One of the largest cemeteries is the "Sweet Briar Burial Ground," re-dedicated by the College in 2003 in honor of the people who labored and died on the plantation. This cemetery contains several dozen graves and is located about half-a-mile from the "big house." To read more about the cemetery, click here.