Author Topic: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia  (Read 1032 times)

Offline Anchor425

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Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« on: Thursday 19 September 19 01:45 BST (UK) »
Can anyone help with information on a part African-American, Robert Thomas Davis who is my wife's GG grandfather, on her father's side? 

Robert Davis is believed to be a son of Thomas Davis, a farmer & Rosetta Johnson, an African-American slave.   After participating in the California Goldrush (which began in 1848), R.T. Davis sailed from San Francisco on June 14, 1852 on the “Ceres”, which was ship-wrecked in the Fijian Islands July 22, 1852.  Those on board were rescued by a whaler, “Daniel Watson” & taken to Auckland, NZ.   He arrived in Australia on the “William Hyde” in October 1852, embarking in Port Phillip, Melbourne, in the then Colony of Victoria.   He moved to the gold fields, first Ballarat and then to Sandhurst (later known as Bendigo), where he settled, worked as a digger & carter and raised a large family.   

The following is an extract of his obituary published in a newspaper on October 4, 1913:
Mr. Robert Davis, of Strickland Road, Bendigo, died yesterday morning at the age of 100 years.   The deceased gentleman celebrated his centenary last month, having been born in September, 1813.   He was a colored man, a native of Bellfield, Virginia, U.S.A.   He arrived in Sydney in 1852, and proceeded to Ballarat, where he remained till the night before the Eureka Stockade fight.    Making his way to the Bendigo goldfields, he arrived here in 1853, and had resided here ever since, following the occupation of a digger and fossicker.

The spelling of Robert's place of origin in Virginia (VA), USA has been reported above as both “Belfield” & “Bellfield”.   The latter is used on his death certificate.   In VA, there two different places of origin dependent on the spelling viz Belfield, a former town & now part of the city of Emporia in Greensville Co & Bellfield (Plantation) in York Co.


Offline knort33

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #1 on: Thursday 19 September 19 01:55 BST (UK) »
You have not mentioned specifically what it is that you are looking for.

Offline Anchor425

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #2 on: Thursday 19 September 19 02:11 BST (UK) »
Hi knort33
I am planning a trip to the USA next year and, among other things, I would like to know where in VA he came from, Bellfield Plantation in York Co or Belfield in Greensville Co.
Anchor425


Offline oldohiohome

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #3 on: Thursday 19 September 19 15:39 BST (UK) »
I'm assuming Thomas Davis was a free white man, correct? If not, you can probably disregard this whole reply and the next one as well.

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First regarding Bellfield Plantation, York County:

Bellfield Plantation, York County, Virginia
seems to be a one family plantation only. in the hands of the Diggs family early. but the generation born in 1716-1725 died elsewhere.

https://www.colonial-settlers-md-va.us/getperson.php?personID=I027029&tree=Tree1

and:
"About 1795 Bellfield was sold by William Digges of Newport News to William Waller and finally came to Colonel Robert McCandlish. It was still in the hands of the McCandlish family when commandeered by the Government."

https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrma/installations/nws_yorktown/about/history/the_land.html

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and:
"Tobacco and slavery"

"The "very best of the best" came from Bellfield Plantation on what is now the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, where planter Edward Digges used his profits to erect a landmark three-story manor house."

https://www.dailypress.com/life/dp-nws-york-river-slavery-0526-20130525-story.html

So, the plantation went from the Digges to the Mcandlishes to the US Government. No Thomas Davis, farmer.

Offline oldohiohome

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #4 on: Thursday 19 September 19 15:43 BST (UK) »
Then for Greensville County
First a search for Thomas Davis, Bellfield Va, 1800 to 1860
note I searched for Bellfield, with one "l" but all the results were for Greensville County, not York.

results page:
https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?givenname=thomas&surname=davis&residence_place=bellfield%2C%20va&residence_year_from=1800&residence_year_to=1860&count=20&offset=0

---
individual links

this man looks promising:

1820 Census Greensville Virginia
Thomas Davis household,
white
1 male over 45
1 female 16 to 25
1 female over 45
1 person engaged in agriculture

slaves
1 male over 45
1 female over 45

free colored persons
1 male under 14
1 female under 14
1 female 26 to 45

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLJ-ZYD

---
1820 Census Greensville Virginia
Thomas Davis and Thomas P Davis
both held slaves, no free colored persons in household

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLJ-ZTJ

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1830 Census Greensville Virginia

Thomas Davis
one of the last two men, I think. slaves but no free colored persons

For 1830, the other two men might be in the county but not indexed correctly. you might want to browse the images.

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH5H-3LX

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1840 Census Greensville Virginia
Thomas Davis Sr
slaves, no free colored persons

"Sr" means there could be someone else with the same name in the area, not necessarily this man's son, but probably younger. might want to browse again.

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHT2-STR

========
Next a search for Thomas Davis, York County, Virginia 1810 to 1860

results page:

https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?givenname=thomas&surname=davis&residence_place=york%20county%2C%20va&residence_year_from=1800&residence_year_to=1860&count=20&offset=0

individual links:

1810 Census  York VA
Thos Davis
no slaves, no free persons not white

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH2B-39Y

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1840 Census  York VA
Thomas Davis
no slaves or free colored persons

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHB4-7D2

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So I would guess your ancestor was from Greensville County.


Offline oldohiohome

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #5 on: Thursday 19 September 19 15:46 BST (UK) »
There is something called the:
Records of Ante-Bellum Southern
Plantations from the Revolution
through the Civil War
General Editor: Kenneth M. Stampp

Associate Editor and Guide Compiled by
Martin Schipper

It lists where the surviving plantation records are kept.
a researcher's blog post introduction to the collection is:
https://www.reclaimingkin.com/southern-plantations/

Once, a while ago, I tracked down .pdf files of the indexes. I looked through them but did not find any reference to surviving records of the Thomas families in Greensville County.

---------
See if there is a Greensville County Historical Society, or the like. They might have more information.

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Edit to add:
That one man in Greensville Co listed first is the only Thomas Davis I found with free colored persons in his household. I wonder if he moved somewhere else. If you start looking and can't find him in Virginia, he might be in one of the free states.

Offline Anchor425

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #6 on: Friday 20 September 19 04:50 BST (UK) »
Hello oldohiohome

I am very grateful for the effort you have put in to help me throw some light on my wife's Virginian ancestry.

As far as I am aware, Thomas Davis was a free white man, so your replies are relevant and I accept your theory that he was more likely to hail from Greensville Co than York Co.   As you say, the Greensville household in the 1820 Census looks promising – Thomas could be the white male over 45, Rosetta Johnson could be the free colored female 26 to 45 and their son, Robert could be the free colored male under 14 (7 yrs old, if born in 1813).

I have found the following online and will do some further research:
http://sites.rootsweb.com/~vagcgs/index.htm (Home of the Greensville County Genealogical Society)
https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Greensville_County,_Virginia_Genealogy
http://genealogytrails.com/vir/greensville/

My wife and I plan to be in VA in July next year, so Emporia will be included in our itinerary, for visits to the Richardson Memorial Library and the Greensville Co Historical Society (Museum).

Many thanks

Anchor425  :)

Offline oldohiohome

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #7 on: Friday 20 September 19 05:17 BST (UK) »
You're welcome, I enjoyed it.

Offline historyplease

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Re: Robert Thomas Davis (1813-1913), from Bellfield (or Belfield), Virginia
« Reply #8 on: Sunday 17 October 21 07:57 BST (UK) »
To anchor 425
I am a relative of Robert Thomas Davis from Belfield Virginia.
He lived to the age of 100 and died at White Hills Bendigo in Australia.
He was my great great grandfather on my mothers side.
You were correct with your information about him being ship wrecked and then going to New Zealand before coming to Victoria.
If i can help with information please message me.