Archy’s story is one of the most direct examples we have of resistance among people enslaved by early Lewinsville members: while Mottrom Ball’s estate was being settled, Archy ran away twice from the people to whom he was hired.  The response of the administrator, Lewinsville land donor Spencer Mottrom Ball, reminds us of the very real power he and other enslavers held over the people they enslaved: in Sept. 1846, the estate sold Archy for $725 to the slave trading firm of Bruin and Hill.  At that time, Bruin and Hill were sending regular shipments of human property from Virginia to states farther south.  While we cannot be sure, that is probably where Archy ended up, far from friends and family. 

The first record of Archy I have found is in the inventory that William Swink and others conducted of Mottrom Ball’s estate on Dec. 29th, 1842.  Archy is one of 20 “Negroes” included in the inventory along with livestock and household and agricultural equipment. No ages are provided, but at $375 he is valued toward the top of the range, which extends from $0 for older people, including Sandy, “Old Charlotte,” “Old Nancy,” and “old John,” a carpenter, to $400 for a man named William, who may have had particular skills, or just have been recognized as a particularly effective laborer.  Archy’s relatively high valuation suggests that he was probably at the height of his physical powers, and therefore his value as a laborer, in 1842 – an older teenager or younger adult. 

Many of the enslaved people listed in the inventory were hired out in the years that followed: in other words, they worked for various people, and their wages were paid to the estate, increasing the wealth that would eventually be distributed to Mottrom Ball’s heirs.  Some of the hiring took place within the Ball family (before Martha and her children divided up the legal ownership of the people listed when the estate was finally settled); some was to others in the community. 

Archy was hired to Spencer M. Ball, apparently without incident but for a relatively low amount ($20 a year, in comparison to the $35-$45 the work of other enslaved people brought), for 1843.  In 1844, he was hired to S. Cutts, but the estate only received $13 because he ran away.  Apparently he was recaptured, because in 1845 the estate received $40 for his hire to F.A. Dickens.  He was hired to F.A. Dickens again in 1846, but ran away; the estate accounts show that $13 was received for the work he performed. 

We don’t know why Archy ran away.  The most likely explanation, especially if he was a young single man without children (or had already lost people to whom he was close to sale or relocation), was that he was hoping to free himself by reaching the northern states (which were not yet bound by the Fugitive Slave Act in the mid-1840s, though they would be after 1850).  It is also possible that he was trying to get closer to people important to him: a partner, child(ren), sibling(s), parent(s), or friends.  Since he ran away from two different men who hired his labor, it seems unlikely that he was responding to the labor or living conditions in a particular workplace.  

Whatever his motives, he seems to have taken what he saw as a chance to improve his situation, and instead experienced the consequences of challenging the unjust but very real legal power of people who considered him property. Though we have no record of what happened immediately after his recaptures, it is very likely that he was whipped or physically punished in some other way.  After his second escape and recapture, in September 1846 (one month before Lewinsville celebrated its formal founding), he was sold to Bruin and Hill, a slave trading firm in Alexandria.  At the time, Bruin and Hill were actively shipping enslaved people from Virginia, which had more laborers than lands worn out by several centuries of unsustainable agricultural practices required or could support, to areas farther south that people of European descent were only beginning to colonize and cultivate using enslaved labor.  

Being sold south was one of the threats, explicit or implicit, that enslavers in Virginia could use to exact obedience from those they enslaved.  The word of Archy’s sale may have spread immediately among members of the enslaved community surrounding Lewinsville, or it may have trickled out more gradually, perhaps during the week after Christmas 1846, the part of the year when enslaved laborers had the most freedom to meet and socialize with friends and relatives who lived at some distance.  In any case, it seems likely that the enslaved people who occupied the gallery of the newly-built Lewinsville sanctuary would have been recently reminded of the very real power those who gathered for worship on the floor below held over their lives, and of their willingness to exercise that power.    

Archy’s sale contributed $725 to the total value of Mottrom Ball’s estate.  That amount, and the amounts paid to hire Archy and other enslaved laborers listed in the estate accounts, serve as reminders of just how directly the labor of enslaved people, and on occasion the profits of selling them as property, contributed to the wealth that made the Balls’ land donation, and hence the formal founding of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, possible. 

For comparison, when Lewinsville pastor Franklin Gillespie was researching the history of the church in 1946, he found an 1847 report to the Board of Domestic Missions recording that Lewinsville’s “house of worship was erected at an expense of $650.”  It’s not clear whether that amount included materials, labor, or both, but it gives us some idea of what $725 could buy in 1846 (apparently that amount was more than the equivalent of a building campaign, at least for the materials of what the report described as a “comfortable” sanctuary).  It also gives us some idea of the sort of independent life Archy could have made for himself and those he cared about if he had been able to claim the $40 a year at which the Balls and their neighbors valued his labor. 

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