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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Blacksburg in Montgomery County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Slaves' Garden

 

— Historic Smithfield Plantation —

 
Slaves' Garden Marker image. Click for full size.
By TeamOHE, July 25, 2020
1. Slaves' Garden Marker
Inscription.  Brief History of Slavery at Smithfield Plantation
William Preston purchased eighteen enslaved Africans in 1759 from the slave ship the True Blue, a part of the African Company of Merchants. The slaves were originally West African and their roots could be traced back to the modern-day of countries Gambia, Senegal, and Ghana. Many were craftsmen, weavers, and carpenters—valued skillsets on the isolated frontier of Virginia. Preston returned with the slaves to Greenfield Plantation where the family was living at the time. In 1774 the Preston family moved to the completed Smithfield Plantation, a home which the slaves had been instrumental in building. By the time of Preston's death in 1783 there were 42 people enslaved at Smithfield plantation.

Tending the Garden
Small gardens planted by and for slaves were common practice at plantations as a way for enslaved people to improve their diet, provide medicine and healing, and to continue spiritual traditions and practices. Many captured Africans were able to bring familiar plants with them by hiding rootstock and seeds in their clothing and hair. In addition, Africans

Slaves' Garden Marker image. Click for full size.
By TeamOHE, July 25, 2020
2. Slaves' Garden Marker
frequently brought with them a rich heritage of agricultural knowledge which helped them grow traditional crops in new environments and to cultivate unfamiliar European and American crops. With little free time to tend their own gardens, slaves favored low-labor crops that were high-yield and calorie rich. They often planted a combination of African plants (such as cowpeas, sorghum, lablab bean, watermelon, muskmelon, okra, eggplant, and bottleneck gourd) and European and American plants (including mustard, cabbage, onion, corn, and potatoes). The crops that were nurtured in these gardens enabled enslaved Africans to carry on cultural and food traditions, a legacy that was continued and reshaped by future generations, and thereby permanently woven into the American cultural tapestry.

Wattle and Daub
The fence that protects this garden was built by weaving together vines and sticks found on the property, strengthened by a clay and sod base. Wattled fences can be traced back thousands of years to societies throughout the globe and was a fence commonly built by enslaved Africans.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansColonial EraHorticulture & Forestry.
 
Location. 37° 13.083′ N, 80° 25.9′ W. Marker is in Blacksburg

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, Virginia, in Montgomery County. Marker can be reached from Smithfield Plantation Road 0.1 miles south of Smithfield Road, on the right when traveling south. On the grounds of the Historic Smithfield Plantation. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Blacksburg VA 24060, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 1820 Slave Cabin (here, next to this marker); Site Of The Law Offices Of Wm. Ballard Preston (here, next to this marker); William Ballard Preston (a few steps from this marker); Smithfield Plantation (within shouting distance of this marker); Smithfield Blacksmith Shop (within shouting distance of this marker); Preston Cemetery (approx. ¼ mile away); Cemetery Landscape (approx. ¼ mile away); Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Blacksburg.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 23, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 19, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 39 times since then and 17 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 19, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 7, 2021