Buckingham County was created in 1761 from the southeastern portion of Albemarle County. In the nineteenth century the county was settled more heavily by people migrating from the Tidewater area. It was devoted chiefly to tobacco plantations and worked by enslaved African Americans. The landscape of the proposed district has retained its rural nature consisting of agricultural fields and wooded lots. It is notable that the destruction of the Thomas Jefferson-designed Buckingham Courthouse by arson on Feb. 26, 1869 (the same day the United States Senate passed the 15th Amendment granting formerly enslaved people the right to vote) adds an extra layer of difficulty when researching the proposed district.
The area of the proposed district is home to multiple families, both black and white, that have resided in the county from the Colonial era to the present day. The Union Hill portion of the proposed district, located on the northeast side of Rt. 56, has been historically, and remains today, populated primarily by African-American families. A significant number of descendants of formerly-enslaved people own land and reside in the proposed district, including the cattle farm and orchard on land owned by a descendant of slaves.
While many former slaves left Buckingham County plantations at the end of the Civil War, others remained. Some formerly-enslaved workers stayed because they were able to acquire land, while others stayed and became sharecroppers or tenant farmers in order to maintain their livelihood. Some former slaves remained because of the continued racial biases and lack of resources to move and re-establish themselves. Still others stayed because of the strong bonds to the area and to the families and communities they had formed before Emancipation.
The closely-knit and supportive network of families in the Union Hill/Woods Corner area began to establish their own community by building churches, schools, stores and dwellings that eventually altered the area from a landscape of slavery into one that was theirs to claim. These emancipated and free black communities have been little studied in Virginia.
Sources: Information compiled by intern Frances Leake in the summer of 2018, using the Preliminary Information Form (PIF) submitted to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources by Preservation Virginia in January 2017, in an effort to register Buckingham County on Virginia's National Registry for Historic Places.