Starting Over

The Effects of the Proclamation--Freed Negroes Coming Into Our Lines At New Bern, North Carolina

The Effects of the Proclamation--Freed Negroes Coming Into Our Lines At New Bern, North Carolina engraving from Harper's Weekly, February 21, 1863.

Defeat left Brownsburg in despair yet as always faithful and resigned to what its Presbyterian inhabitants interpreted as God’s will.  “How many homes are devastated all over our land!”, Harriet Morrison wrote sadly from Bellevue.  Six weeks after Lee’s surrender, her father commented:  “The Yankees are now in Staunton and passed through Brownsburg to Lexington a few days since[,] then have since returned through Fairfield to Staunton.  Many of the negroes have gone and more are dayly [sic] going. . . . [Illegible]  Cousin Adam Brown’s have gone.  As yet ours have remained. . . .  We are constantly fearing incursion and interruption from the Yankees, but as yet we have been watched over by one who has all power in Heaven and on earth.  Truly it is a gloomy time.”

Oath of Allegiance Notification

Oath of Allegiance to the United States signed by Confederate veteran Daniel Hilleman of Rockbridge County, Virginia.

On the other hand, Henry Boswell Jones did not even notice the end of the war in his diary.  One must read between the lines for any hints of Appomattox.  On April 14, he wrote, “My son John came home a paroled prisoner,” and on May 1, “James Willson was buried today.”  But before, between, and after these brief entries, Jones recorded the usual prosaic events, relating that he “plowed,” “planted sorgum” and “clipped sheep,” and that at New Providence on Sunday “a new Sabbath School was opened and Reverend [Ebenezer D.] Junkin gave the sermon.”  Like many Brownsburg farmers, Jones, who had always performed most farm labor himself, was able to hire a few former slaves and continued to work his land successfully. 

Some farms may have been lost in the immediate years after the war due to debt plus emancipation and other losses of invested capital, but no evidence of widespread hardship or social or economic upheaval in Brownsburg has surfaced.  

Photograph of Jump Mountain

Photograph of Jump Mountain, located near Brownsburg, by Michael Miley, c. 1875-1880

The Walkers Creek School Board established a school for blacks in Brownsburg in 1870.  It appears that few if any African-Americans were able to acquire their own farms, instead working in the village or in the homes and on the lands of whites.  For Brownsburg as for the rest of the South, things would never be the same, nor would they be perfect; but people adjusted, and life went on.

Starting Over