Virginia Tech® home

The enslaved community

The names of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation are written on a art piece that hangs in the historic home.

The lives of the enslaved people were largely unrecorded and many of the details of their lives at Rock Spring are lost to history.  However, research has helped to uncover some of their stories. 

Kitty Penn Reynolds

Kitty Penn Reynolds
Kitty Penn Reynolds

The most well-known of the enslaved Africans who were held at Rock Spring plantation was a woman known as Kitty who may have been born on the neighboring Penn plantation and purchased after Greenville Penn's death in 1845.

Born about 1838, Kitty Penn was probably purchased by Hardin Reynolds between 1847 and 1850. Kitty was married at Rock Spring to Anthony Reynolds, a field hand.

Kitty would have 19 children, including Amanda, Arron, Elvira, Mary, Lee, Betty, Burwell, John, William, Perry, Thomas, David, and Jennie.

An act of bravery led to her to also being put in charge of the 16 Reynolds children. According to Kitty (as passed down by her children), the Reynolds family owned a bull that wouldn’t bother women, but wouldn’t allow men inside the fence with him. Although Hardin knew this, he went into the pasture and the bull attacked him. Kitty was able to get the bull off of him by distracting him with her apron and skirt — thus saving her owner’s life.

After emancipation, Kitty moved to Spoon Creek in Patrick County, but she maintained close ties to her former owner’s family. R.J. Reynolds would send a chauffeured car or train tickets for Kitty to visit his family in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also bought Kitty a house in Martinsville.

In 1877, two of Kitty’s sons, Burwell and Lee, were involved in a fight resulting in the death of a white man, Aaron Shelton. The young African-American men were most likely destined to be hanged, but for the intervention of the Reynolds family. Hardin’s son-in-law Andrew Lybrook, who was a lawyer, represented Burwell and was able to get a new trial because although he had requested Blacks be included among the jury, an all-white jury was used. The case led to the Supreme Court decision Ex Parte Virginia.

Kitty later moved to the Preston community to live with her son Davie until she died on April 4, 1930. She is buried at Mt. Olive East Christian Church, located about 10 miles from Rock Spring Plantation.

Other members of the enslaved community

Thirteen-year-old Squire Cobb was the enslaved body servant to A.D. Reynolds during the Civil War.

A.D. Reynolds recalled an experience involving Squire while traveling from Danville to Richmond in March 1865:

“We followed on to Richmond I had bloody flux (dysentery) & was in the Hospittle [hospital] when orders come to take the train for Richmond. My boy Squire come to me at 3 oclock in the morning saying Col. Henry told him to let me know he had marching orders. I had lost 17 lbs. in a week and felt I would die if I remained their [there] with the help of my boy I managed to get to the depot.”

On Dec. 28, 1876, Squire married Adaline Reynolds, daughter of Jacob "Jack" and Letty Reynolds. Adaline died in 1882, and in 1884 Squire married Jane Reynolds, who records show worked with Squire at the Rock Spring tobacco factory in 1880. 

Squire died in Tennessee in 1918.

Letty (Reynolds) had been enslaved by Joshua Cox in Stokes County, North Carolina, and after the marriage of Hardin and Nancy Cox Reynolds in 1843, she was brought to Rock Spring Plantation as part of Nancy's dowry.

Letty, then age 19 or 20, may have been one of a number of young women who nursed and raised the Reynolds children.

She married Jack Reynolds in 1850. Together they had three children: Mary, Adaline, and Henry. After emancipation, Jack joined the United States Colored Troops and died of measles while serving in the war. 

Myles and Rhoda Reynolds were enslaved at Rock Spring Plantation and married in 1849. Myles and their six children — Ann, Maria, Cynthia, Matilda, Columbus, and Jane — were born on a Stokes County, North Carolina, plantation also owned by Hardin Reynolds.

After emancipation, Myles joined the United States Colored Troops and died of measles while serving during the war.

Plantation cook who worked in the kitchen house. She was the mother of Peter Reynolds.

Teamster who drove the wagons on the plantation and a field hand

Names of 65 enslaved Africans at Rock Spring 1850-1865

  • Peter and Sarah (Reynolds)
    • Their son: Willie Lee Reynolds, b. 1851-1936
  • Anthony and Sally (Reynolds)
  • Anthony and Kitty (Reynolds)
    • Their children: Amanda, b.1854
    • John, b.1856
    • Elvira, b.1857
    • William S., b.1859
    • Burrell, b. 1860
    • Piny, b. 1861
    • Savannah, b. 1862
    • Perry, b. 1863
    • Thomas A., b. 1864
  • Robert and Delilah (Reynolds)
  • Seth and Cynthia Nadon
  • Moses, 1779-1859
  • Tamer Reynolds, 1789-1869
  • Jane, died 1855, age 14
  • Celia and daughter Emily, b. 1855
  • Mary and son Tylor, b. 1855
  • Drucilla and son John, b. 1855
  • Mary and daughter Sophie, d. 1862, age 18
  • Catherine and son Rufus, b. 1855
  • Eliza and son Early, b. 1861
  • Mothers of childbirths reported by H.W. Reynolds, 1854-1865: Anny, Malinda, Martha, Lucinda, Celia, Mary, Eliza, Bettie, Sarah
  • Sallie and son Lewis, b. 1861
  • Susan and daughter Bettie, b. 1864
  • Susan Jane and daughter Harriet, b. 1864
  • Harriet and daughter Susan, b. 1869
  • Jack and Letty Cox Reynolds, m. 1850 (after the marriage of Hardin Reynolds and Nancy Jane Cox in 1843)
    • Their children: Mary, b. 1854
    • Adaline, b. 1859
    • Henry, b. 1857
  • Myles and Rhoda Reynolds, m. 1848
    • Their children: Ann, b. 1851
    • Maria, b. 1853
    • Cynthia, b. 1855
    • Matilda, b. 1857
    • Columbus, b. 1860
    • Jane, b. 1861