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The Enslaved Communities of Joseph Lewis Jr. and Benjamin Grayson


Joseph Lewis Jr was born in 1772, probably in Loudoun County. He inherited 3 acres at Gum Spring when his grandfather, Vincent, died, and he owned an additional 3 acres on which he operated simultaneously a bake house, distillery, and horse-powered mill.  By 1796, Joseph Jr. had purchased Clifton, a 125-acre plantation and grist mill near Upperville in western Loudoun County. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1803, serving as Northern Virginia’s representative to Congress until 1817. He continued his political career at the state level, serving in the Virginia state legislature in 1817 and 1818.[1]

In 1824, Joseph Jr. married Elizabeth Osborn Grayson, the 27- year-old daughter of wealthy planter, Benjamin Grayson, who owned the nearby estate of Belmont (not to be confused with the Belmont plantation in Ashburn, eastern Loudoun County).  No record has been located to-date that shows Grayson giving enslaved people to his daughter as her dowry, but the federal census records show an increase in the number of enslaved people for Joseph Lewis after his marriage to Elizabeth.  In 1820, the census listed 17 enslaved people for Lewis.[2]  In 1830, there were 29 enslaved peopled listed.[3]

Elizabeth and Joseph Jr. did not have any children, and he died at age 62 on March 30, 1834, ten years after they were married. Her father died the same year.

In Lewis’s will, he identified the following enslaved people and their status:[4]

George – “my very worthy and Trusty servant” – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Kitty – [George’s] wife and all their children except Maria – to be freed

Maria – “who shall belong to and serve my wife, and her only, until shall have attained the age of thirty-five years”

Edmund – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Grig or Griswold – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Eliza and her children – Eliza was the child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Henry – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Susan and her children if she should have any – Susan was the child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Madison – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Lee – child of Harry & Patty – to be freed

Harry – “my late slave…whom I have already emancipated”

Patty – “my late slave…whom I have already emancipated”


Although not identified by last name, the enslaved people were the Bryant family.

Lewis specified in his will that any enslaved people inherited by Elizabeth or otherwise in her possession would be retained by her.  

As Lewis’s estate was being probated so was the estate of Benjamin Grayson.  He bequeathed land and enslaved people to his children.  His will further stipulated that his two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, were to choose an enslaved woman to serve as their maid.  Elizabeth chose a woman named Alla, age 20.  In the division of the enslaved people, Elizabeth also chose Maria, Louisa, Fanny, Matilda, Ellen, Davy, Joe, Daniel (14 years-old, son of Maria), Lamour (1), and Daniel (1).  Some or all of the enslaved were probably already living and working at Clifton, having been uprooted and taken there when Elizabeth married Joseph Jr.

A year after her first husband and father died, Elizabeth married George Carter of Oatlands. The lives of the enslaved people were disrupted again when Elizabeth moved 20 miles east to Oatlands.




[1] Lewis – A Loudoun County Family at Gumspring, Virginia. Undated, unpublished manuscript by Wynne Saffer. Oatlands Archives.

[2] Ancestry.com viewed on 3 July 2018.  1820 United States Federal Census, Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, Page 130, NARA Roll M33_137, Image 144.

[3] Ancestry.com viewed on 3 July 2018. 1830 United States Federal Census, Bloomfield, Loudoun County, Series M19, Roll 193, Page 106, Family History Library Film: 0029672.

[4] Loudoun County Will Book V:209.  Loudoun County Courthouse, Leesburg, Virginia.