A Slave Dwelling at in Bedford County
This is a virtual tour of a dwelling that housed enslaved workers at the Otter Mills plantation (later known as Ivy Cliff) in Bedford County. The plantation, owned by the Brown family from the mid-eighteenth century until the 1920s, consisted of up to 3,400 acres at the height of its prosperity.
This cabin is the only extant slave dwelling left on Ivy Cliff's remaining eighteen acres. It stands relatively close to the main brick house, though it is largely out of view from it, as it is on lower ground. The simple cabin consists of two rooms, or "pens," on the first floor connected by an open breezeway that has a wooden staircase at one end. The design of the house is in the dogtrot or saddlebag style, and could accommodate up to four different family units in its pens. Census reports between 1810 and 1840 indicate that there were more enslaved women and children than men on the tobacco plantation. Little is known about the individual slaves beyond the fact that doctors' visits were made to women named Sarah, Mimy, and Martha Ann in the 1820s and 1830s. When the family patriarch, Captain Henry Brown, died in 1841, he mentioned both male and female slaves in his will: Dick, Bill, John, George, Charles, Christian, Harry, Wilson, Eliza, Nancy, Mary Ann, Anna, Martha, and Manda.