The Slave Dwelling Project (www.slavedwellingproject.com) was founded by Joseph McGill, a Civil War re-enactor and descendant of the enslaved. The organization’s mission is to identify and assist property owners, government agencies, and organizations to preserve surviving slave dwellings. To draw attention to the existence of slave dwellings and other buildings that once housed the enslaved, Mr. McGill travels the country and sleeps in the dwellings. To date, he and his followers have slept at sites in over 18 states, including the north where many people do not realize there was slavery.
On Friday, June 2, Mr. McGill will participate in a school program conducted at Oatlands. That evening, he will be on the courthouse lawn at Leesburg First Friday to talk about slavery and answer questions. Information about the role the county courthouse played in the institution of slavery will be compiled and on display by the Black History Committee. Inside the old courthouse, there will be a presentation on “Preserving Loudoun’s Historic Court Papers.”
On Saturday, the public will have a rare opportunity to tour the Settle-Dean Cabin. It is one of the few remaining structures from the predominantly African American village of Conklin, now the community of South Riding. Charles Dean had been enslaved by Thomas Settle and after Emancipation, the two families lived in log cabins joined together on the exterior by board siding. The property was willed to the Dean family by Settle after his death.
The Slave Dwelling Project will be at Oatlands on Saturday evening, starting at 8:00 PM with a lantern light walking tour about the enslaved community that was once there. By 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, 133 men, women and children were enslaved at Oatlands and the Carter’s smaller plantation, Bellefield, near Upperville. This program is free and open to the public. Descendants of the enslaved community at Oatlands will join Mr. McGill that night to sleep in the 1804 mansion, 1810 greenhouse, and elsewhere on the property.