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People Enslaved at Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Plantation began with 483 acres given to Isaac Hite Jr. by his father in 1783. By 1824, it had grown to 7,500 acres. Its products were grain, livestock, flax and hemp. Other Belle Grove enterprises included a grist mill, saw mill, distillery, store, lime kiln, quarry, and blacksmith shop. The great commercial success of these enterprises relied upon an enslaved workforce.

The Hites were involved in a national system, codified by law, that enslaved Africans and their children. Outlawed by most northern states by the late 1700s, investment in human property was so enmeshed in the entire nation’s economy that it would take a Civil War to abolish it.

Surviving records indicate that the Hites at Belle Grove owned at least 276 men, women, and children between 1783 and 1851. Isaac Hite Jr. and his first wife, Nelly Madison Hite, received 15 slaves from her father James Madison Sr. in 1783. The Hites acquired other individuals though purchase, inheritance and by birth. The Hite family kept lists of the enslaved and some of their personal information (click here to see a transcript) and some family trees that have been able to be construct based on this information (click here to see them). Researchers are reanalyzing these records and the lists and family trees are being updated (click here to learn more about this research).

The 1810 census noted 103 enslaved people in the Hites’ ownership and 101 in the 1820 census. Isaac Hite Jr.’s holdings of slaves declined after the 1820s as he sold them or gave them to his adult children. After Hite’s death in 1836, his estate inventory lists 44 enslaved individuals. The 1851 inventory of his second wife, Ann Maury Hite, lists only four: Jim, a blacksmith; Elijah; Sally, a cook; and Martha, Sally’s child.

The 1820 census record below shows all members of the household including a total of 17 free white persons and 101 enslaved, many of whom were children:

Slaves - Males -  Under 14: 25
Slaves - Males - 14 thru 25: 11
Slaves -  Males -  26 thru 44: 19
Slaves - Males - 45 and over: 3
Slaves - Females -  Under 14: 19
Slaves - Females - 14 thru 25: 7
Slaves - Females - 26 thru 44: 14
Slaves - Females - 45 and over: 3

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