On Monday, the Charlotte City Council will take up a public hearing for the designation of the Stafford-Holcombe Farm which includes an early 19th century farmhouse, several outbuildings associated with the farm, and – probably most significant – a 19th century gable-roofed slave dwelling that may be the only identified slave dwelling in the entire county. We're encouraged by the efforts of the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) and the property owners to acknowledge and honor the history of such an important site. The Museum encourages City Council to designate the Stafford-Holcombe Farm.
Part of the designation process is the submission of a Designation Report that details all the information about that piece of property, including location, owner, current status, history, and significance. These are all publicly available! You can read any HLC report at their website – highly recommended if you want to go down a history rabbit-hole for the afternoon.
You can read the Stafford-Holcombe report yourself online, but I’ll share some highlights. James Stafford acquired the property that now encompasses the farm beginning the late 1700s. Between 1765 and 1800, James Stafford bought more than 2000 acres of land in Eastern Mecklenburg County and had a substantial agricultural operation. The 1790 Census lists one enslaved person living in the Stafford household. An enslaved girl named Kate is included in James’ 1812 will. Given the amount of land, it raises the question as to whether there were other enslaved individuals living on the Stafford farm.
The 1790 Census lists just two adult white males and one enslaved person living in James Stafford’s household. Two years prior, his wife, Mary, passed away and his eldest son, James Jr., had married and was living in a neighboring household. The second white male is likely the other son, George.
James’ descendants continued living on the farm through the 20th century. In 1860, ten enslaved men and women are recorded in an accounting of Franklin Stafford’s property. Also included are the buildings they lived in: two gable-roofed log dwellings west of the Stafford home. One of these is the structure that still stands on the farm. After the Civil War, the Staffords engaged their Black neighbors as tenant farmers. Some of these men and women were formerly enslaved by the Staffords. Black tenant farmers continued to live and work on the farm until at least the 1940s.
We urge City Council to designate the Stafford-Holcombe Farm a Historic Landmark and are confident they’ll do so. The importance of the slave dwelling cannot be overstated. Though many sites across the county, including the Charlotte Museum of History, include structures that were built by enslaved people and land that was worked by them, no other site has an identified structure that was primarily used as a dwelling for enslaved men, women, and children.
Have a great weekend and happy researching!
Charlotte Museum of History
About The Charlotte Museum of History
The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass