NPS Hampton NHS
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  • Ironworks, Iron Chains

    In the 18th century, enslaved men sometimes served as overseers at the farms and the Ironworks. Black overseers on the estate, such as Savee in 1745, were in charge of small groups of enslaved persons and indentured servants who worked together to clear land, plant crops, and do the backbreaking work of the furnace and the forge.


    By the 19th century, overseers were white men in paid positions. Some overseers, such as the Musgroves, were long under the employ of the Ridgelys: three generations of the Musgroves show up in daybooks.


    Once the mansion was completed in 1790, the Lower House became the Overseer's House. These overseers held great authority on the estate. They used harsh discipline that included placing an iron collar or shackles around the neck, a practice first used against indentured servants and soon after, against enslaved laborers. Overseers rang the bell on top of the Lower House to signal the beginning and end of the workday, until the Maryland State Legislature abolished slavery in 1864.


    Proceed to the Log Cabin for an introduction to the Slave Quarters.