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Life on the plantation

Hardin Reynolds’ land was made up of three plantations — Rock Spring, North Mayo, and South Mayo. At Rock Spring, 45 Africans were held. The North Mayo plantation, located about one mile south of Rock Spring, held 13 Africans. The North Mayo plantation, about 3 miles north of Rock Spring, 13 enslaved Africans were held. This plantation was also next to the Jackson Penn plantation, which held 25 enslaved Africans. In addition, 32 to 41 Africans were also held in Stokes County, N.C. on the Reynolds plantation at the foot of Pilot Mountain at Quaker Gap.

Farming activities were closely tied to the operation of a tobacco factory where plug tobacco was made. The Rock Spring also had a post office and a mercantile store that sold a wide variety of products from produce to clothing and luxury items.


Daily life for the enslaved people at Rock Spring was directed by two individuals; Hardin Reynolds, through his overseers on the plantation grounds, and Nancy Reynolds inside of the “dwelling house.”

By 1860, the Reynolds family had grown with children ranging in age from 1 to 16. Given the demands of this number of children, there would have been anywhere from five to eight African women and children working in the outside kitchen and in the home. The space near the rear of the house, including the out-buildings and the yard, is where slaves performed many of their household chores. Domestic chores including laundry activities, food preparation, and soap making would have been performed from the rear porch and into the yard.

On the grounds, there were field hands not only to plow the land, plant and cultivate and process tobacco, but also to raise oats, rye, wheat and corn and harvest the same on 500 cultivated acres of a total of 2,300 acres of land at Rock Spring in 1860. Most of the acreage was in tobacco.

In 1840, half of the field hands at Rock Spring were 10-16 years of age. By 1860, a third of the field hands were between the ages of 10-16. This was the age group most in demand as field laborers, and these children were primarily used in cultivation and harvest. A few would have worked within the household and in carrying water and food to those in the fields.

There also was daily care for more than 100 animals including horses, cattle, oxen, mules, sheep, and pigs. The dairy was the repository for the milk produced and used by the Reynolds family. The kitchen cook worked all through the day preparing meals for the Reynolds and the other slaves on the plantation. Seasonal work including soap-making in spring and livestock slaughtering in winter.

Enslaved workers also worked in the tobacco factory on the plantation where the tobacco grown on the plantation was processed. The tobacco was rolled to the Reynolds factory in hogshead casks for processing by 14 workers, seven men and seven women.


Food was rationed out weekly to the head of each enslaved household. The most common food available to enslaved Africans was corn meal from which to make cornbread, cabbage, and pork provided at hog killing time in the winter. Occasionally, some of the enslaved men would have time to fish or snare game. There was however never enough food for the enslaved. The dairy products, mostly butter, vegetables and meat produced on the plantation were primarily for trade or the use of the Reynolds family.


Enslaved housing

The Rock Spring Plantation included seven slave houses, six located on a hill and the kitchen house where at least six enslaved adults and children lived. The kitchen house still stands, but slave quarters and overseers’ residences have long ago disappeared.