Carr Family on River View Farm 1870-1978: African American History at Ivy Creek Natural Area


Welcome to another story about one of the many interesting collections in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. I am Ellen Welch, an Archives processor and an Albemarle County local who enjoys sharing knowledge about historical collections, particularly those from Charlottesville and Albemarle County. This is a post about Hugh Carr (1843-1914) and his family who were African American owners of the land where Ivy Creek Natural Area in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia sits today. Part of my work is responding to suggestions for improvements in describing our collections. My colleague, Katrina Spencer, Librarian for African American and African Studies, recently sent me a request to add more description to the Ivy Creek Natural Area collections MSS 10770,  and MSS 10176.The description was so minimal that the African American history of the Carr family was invisible to anyone searching our collections. With the suggestion from Katrina, I was able to bring the Carr family history into the description so that patrons can know more about this important family in Albemarle County during the nineteenth century.

Hugh Carr (1843-1914) Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

The Ivy Creek Natural Area—which is well known for its beautiful views of the Blue Ridge mountains, and its numerous hiking trails, and nature programs—was created in 1978 from the sale of the Carr land. Hugh Carr, born into enslavement, purchased the River View Farm after emancipation in 1870. He doubled the acreage of the farm and built a farmhouse where he raised his family through four generations. The local government, the Nature Conservancy, and the Ivy Creek Foundation preserved this property, making it a National Historic Landmark, and recovered a treasure of local history that memorializes the lives of the Carr family. As a longtime local resident, I had known about the Ivy Creek Natural Area but had no knowledge of Hugh Carr. Similarly, the description in the collection title made no mention of Hugh Carr or River View Farm. This is what makes reparative work so essential in libraries and historical repositories. It is exciting to shine a light on their remarkable lives, making them well known to our patrons today and in the future.

The collections, Papers of the Ivy Creek Foundation and its history of Hugh Carr’s River View Farm, MSS 10770-a , MSS 10176 introduce Hugh Carr (1843-1914), an African American born in enslavement, who bought a 58-acre tract of land for $100, which became River View Farm (Martin Tract from John Shackelford) in Albemarle County in 1870 after emancipation. Hugh Carr continued to purchase land for the farm, and, by 1890, it was over 200 acres, making Carr among the largest African American landowners in Albemarle County. (Brickhouse)

Aerial view of Hugh Carr’s “River View Farm.” Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Receipt for Hugh Carr’s purchase of the land for his farm. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10176-a Box 1, Folder 1

The Carr family and their descendants were excellent farmers, modeling the best agricultural practices for other farmers. According to Hugh Carr’s grandson, Dr. Benjamin Whitten, the farm had “horses, milk, and beef cattle, a flock of sheep, pigs, chickens, and crops.  They also worked other jobs, while farming their land, waking at 3 a.m. to begin their work every day. (Brickhouse)

Barn at River View Farm, which can still be visited today at Ivy Creek Natural Area, which is located 6 miles from the City of Charlottesville going west on Hydraulic Road toward the South Rivanna Reservoir, off a left turn before the Reservoir bridge. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Carr family home. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Hugh Carr married his first wife, Florence Lee in 1865 when they were still enslaved by Richard H. Wingfield of Woodlands Plantation. After two years, she left Carr, and they were eventually divorced. Hugh Carr married Texie Mae Hawkins (1865-1899) in 1883. They had six daughters, Mary Carr Greer (1884-1973), Fannie Carr Washington (1887-?), Peachie Carr Jackson (1889-1977), Emma Clorinda Carr (1892-1974), Virginia Carr Brown (1893-1935), and Ann Hazel Carr (1895-1975), and one son Marshall Hubert Carr (1886-1916).

Hugh Carr, who did not know how to read and write, highly valued education for his daughters and son. He raised them by himself after Texie Mae died in 1899. Most of his children earned college degrees and post graduate degrees, becoming teachers and community leaders. Six of the Carrs’ seven grandchildren, ten of thirteen great grandchildren, and nine of twelve great-great grandchildren graduated from college. (National Register of Historic Places Registration Form)

Hugh Carr, (1843-1914) Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Texie Mae Hawkins Carr, (1865-1899) Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Mary Carr Greer , daughter (1884-1973). Teacher and Principle who invited students to stay at her house, which was near the Albemarle Training School, during bad weather. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Fannie Carr Washington, sister. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Peachie Carr Jackson (1889-1977) daughter. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Marshall Hubert Carr (1886-1916) son. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

When Carr died in 1914, he bequeathed parts of the farm to each of his children. Their eldest daughter, Mary Louise Carr Greer became principal of the Albemarle Training School and was an influential educator in the local community.  Her husband, Conly Greer, was the first African American extension agent for Albemarle County and the last family member to farm at River View Farm.  After his death in 1956, Mary Carr Greer continued to live there but the land was rented to local farmers.  When Mary Greer died in 1973, she left the estate to her only child, Evangeline Greer Jones, who in turn sold it. (Brickhouse)

Following its sale, the farm was slated to become a subdivision with 200 homes, but with strong support from University professors, the Nature Conservancy, and the Ivy Creek Foundation, the land was purchased jointly by the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County in creation of the Ivy Creek Natural Area in 1978. (National Register of Historic Places Registration Form)

The history of the Carr family, their River View Farm, and the Ivy Creek Area are not only preserved but are a living memory that is thriving today. The cultural heritage of the Carr farm remains in evidence on this site. The property serves as the first stop on the Union Ridge Heritage Trail tour of African Americans, a program administered by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. (National Register of Historic Places)

Ivy Creek Natural Area. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Folder 11

Ivy Creek Natural Area with 400 species of wildlife. Hugh Carr and Ivy Creek Natural Area papers, MSS 10770-a Box 1, Foder 11

Evangeline Greer Jones, granddaughter of Hugh Carr, wrote that she “is glad to see the farm as a home for a wide variety of wildlife, flowers and trees.” She thinks her family would be glad to see how it has turned out. A sign at the Ivy Creek Natural Area reads, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints. However, it is permissible to pick fruit from the trees in the orchard if eaten on the spot.” Jones wrote that she “is very much pleased to know that people can come and visit.” (Brickhouse)

(If you ever need to request a correction or suggest a change to a description of one of our collections, you can find the Suggestion description forms here.) 


National Register of Historic Places Registration Form (contains many details about the Carr and Greer family and the River View Farm)

Brickhouse, Robert. “Nature Preserve Ex-Slave’s Legacy” The Daily Progress. September 12, 1982 (collection material)

Grohskopf, Bernice. “Legacies Nature and History at Ivy Creek: How Hugh Carr rose out of Slavery to Create the Farm that became Our Secret Garden” Albemarle Magazine. 1988 June-August.

For more information:

Flowers, Charles V. “The Creation of Ivy Creek Natural Area” Adapted from interview with Paul Saunier, Jr. The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland. April 15, 1984. (collection material)

Flowers, Charles V. “Ivy Creek is an Oasis of the Unspoiled” Interview with Dr. Benjamin Whitten. The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland. April 1984 (collection material)

Ivy Creek Foundation, Accessed 1/27/2023


Discoveries in The Transformation: An American Tale

Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, a novel in the Sadlier-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction, gives a tantalizing glimpse into the development of the modern American view of the afterlife. This post was contributed by Emily Pierson, a recipient of the Lillian Gary Taylor Fellowship in American Literature. This fellowship supported her research for her dissertation on the cultural context and impacts of garden cemeteries in nineteenth-century America.

When I proposed a dissertation about cemeteries, I think the last thing my advisors expected was for me to spend several weeks reading novels. The early drafts of that last chapter contained a handful of attempts to link the two subjects, most of which got cut from the final version. Among those works, though, was a particularly interesting Gothic novel called Wieland, or, the Transformation: An American Tale, a remarkably unpromising title when searching for tales of the dead. Wieland, however, presents the reader with a world in which the possibility of the living and the dead interacting with one another is a real one, even if there is a perfectly natural explanation for the tale’s seemingly supernatural events.

Photo of page 88 from Wieland di

Clara supposes the voice to be that of a heavenly influence. (PS1134.W5 1811, Sadlier Black

Photograph of cemetery

Family Plot at Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, MO. Photo by Emily Pierson.

The story is that of Clara and her brother, the eponymous Wieland. Following the death of their father, the two encounter a series of mysterious events including phantom voices. Clara presents several possibilities for the origins of these voices: angles, demons, spirits of the dead, even the voice of God. Though ultimately proven to be the voice of a man named Carwin who had briefly made their acquaintance, it was the attempted explanations that were far more interesting to me than the ultimate reveal.

Published in 1811, Charles Brockden Brown presented in his novel possibilities that were outside of the bounds of orthodox interactions between the living and the dead. He begins by calling attention to the family’s adherence to nontraditional theological positions, which are further emphasized in the subsequent chapters as the siblings and their companions muse on the possibilities of interactions between the spiritual and the physical. Before the Fox sisters heard their rappings or the Banner of Light published its first edition, Clara and her brother were pondering whether the mysterious lights and voices they saw and heard might be the spirit of their father. Later on, Wieland proclaims that he will stand as a witness before the bar of Heaven to condemn Carwin. A few lines later, he cries out to his dead wife and children, “I have sent you to repose, and ought not to linger behind.”[1] Two lines of dialogue tease at the possibility that Brown was already viewing the afterlife as an extension of this one, a phenomenon usually discussed in the same breath as the rise of Spiritualism nearly 30 years later.

Brown is not the only author hinting at or explicitly describing an afterlife in which the deceased continue to have remarkably life-like interactions. Walt Whitman seems to speak to the dead, while Harriet Beecher Stowe’s little Eva tells those around her that she hopes to see them in Heaven.[2] Most famously and explicitly, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s The Gates Ajar presents a cosmology in which the dead are keen to watch over the living, hope for their reunion, and even play piano. Wieland’s commentary on the bar of his Maker, followed so quickly by commentary about rejoining his dead wife and children, reads as an early participation in this same popular theology of the afterlife.

What, then, does any of this have to do with cemeteries? I was, admittedly, disappointed that Clara is denied the opportunity to attend the burial of her sister-in-law and her children. There are, in fact, no visits to cemeteries in the book. However, those proposals that the afterlife is connected to this one rather than totally distinct from it are precisely the driving force behind cemetery design in the nineteenth century. Family plots gave the opportunity for the living to visit their dead relatives and presented a visual map onto which the living could imagine their own heavenly reunions. Though I found no ghosts or graveyards, Wieland offered a tantalizing look at the development of the mentality that pervaded the nineteenth century and has still left its mark on the way we talk about the living and the dead.

[1] Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Toms Cabin., 2013. 274; Walt Whitman, “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night,” Leaves of Grass, 1891-1892. See also Whitman’s “Come Up from the Fields, Father.”

[2] Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland, or, The Transformation: An American Tale, 1811. 211; 218.

Frances Clayton and the Women Soldiers of the Civil War

This post contributed by Elizabeth Nosari, Nau Project Archivist at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Her work involves processing the John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, which includes correspondence, diaries, photographs, military records, currency, and printed materials relating to the American Civil War (1861–65).  

Popular notions of women during the Civil War center on self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, or brave ladies maintaining the home front in the absence of their men. This conventional picture of gender roles does not tell the entire story, however. Men were not the only ones to march off to war. Women bore arms and charged into battle, too.

— DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons, p. 1.

CDV Portrait of Female Union Soldier Frances Clalin Clayton

Frances Clayton. MSS 16459, Gift of John L. Nau III

Minnesotan Frances Louisa Clayton (sometimes spelled Clalin; born ca. 1830) was purported to have disguised herself as a man under the alias Jack Williams in order to enlist and fight in the United States army during the Civil War, at a time when women were barred from service.1 Some historians question the veracity of accounts of Clayton’s military service.2 However, her story would not have been as rare an occurrence as one might think. In They Fought Like Demons (2002), historians DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook note they had discovered evidence of some 250 women soldiers who adopted male personas in order to fight in the Civil War. Moreover, Blanton and Cook expect there are hundreds more women whose stories have gone undocumented as lower literacy rates as well as the private nature of their soldierly subterfuge meant they were less likely to write letters or diaries detailing their experiences than their male counterparts.3 “Unless women were discovered as such … or unless they publicly confessed or privately told their tale of wartime service, the record of their military career is lost to us today.”4 As the authors acknowledge, Black women, in particular, are underrepresented in this history due to the fact that biographical stories of Black soldiers serving in the United States Colored Troops largely went uncovered by the mid-nineteenth century’s racist and white-centered mass media. What is certain, however, is that “more women took to the field during [the Civil War] than in any previous military affair [in the United States’ history].”5

What we know of Clayton comes from newspaper reports and men’s eyewitness accounts. Interviews with Clayton and witnesses featured in many newspapers when her story broke in 1863. One witness’s account lauds her service: “She stood guard, went on picket duty, in rain or storm, and fought on the field with the rest and was considered a good fighting man.”6 However, only sparse details about Clayton’s military service are documented as “most reporters found the story of the faithful wife more appealing than the details of Clayton’s life as a soldier.”7 Reports say she enlisted alongside her husband, John, in a U.S. Missouri regiment in the fall of 1861.8 She fought in eighteen battles between 1861 and 1863.9 These included the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee (February 11–16, 1862), in which she was wounded. During the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862–January 2, 1863), Clayton reported having witnessed her husband’s death “just a few feet in front of her. When the call came to fix bayonets, [she] stepped over his body and charged.”10 Clayton was discharged in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1863.11

CDV Portrait of Femail Union Solder Frances Clalin Clayton no. 2

Frances Clayton. MSS 16459, Gift of John L. Nau III

There are no known extant military records documenting Clayton’s story. However, historic photographs of Clayton as a soldier demonstrate the effectiveness of her male persona. In this full-length carte de visite portrait from the John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, Clayton is shown standing and holding a sword, at ease in her Union uniform topped with the cavalryman’s Hardee hat. Contemporary newspaper descriptions further underscore Clayton’s evident soldierly comportment. According to one account, Clayton was “tall,” “masculine-looking,” and had skin “bronzed by exposure.”11 To pass as a man, she was said to have adopted an “erect and soldierly carriage” as well as a “masculine stride in walking.”13 She was also said to have excelled as a swordsman (as she is pictured) and rider in addition to then “manly vices” such as drinking, smoking, swearing, and gambling.”14

At the time of the Civil War, women, particularly those of the middle and upper classes, were expected to be “demure, submissive, pious, and concerned only with home and family.”15 However, such “Victorian ideals of womanhood” were relatively less important to those existing childless, outside of marriage, or with fewer choices, including those in the “working and lower classes, yeoman farmers, newly arrived immigrants, or pioneering families.”16 Moreover, according to Blanton and Cook, the woman warrior was familiar in popular culture and was considered “a virtuous and heroic ideal.”17 This archetype would have been visible in “any number of … examples, both true and legendary.”18 And American precedent would have included historic women such as Deborah Samson (alias Robert Shurtleff), who fought during the American Revolution.19

Clayton’s carte de visite portraits demonstrate the gendered binary of life in the mid-nineteenth century and the boldness of women soldiers’ “private rebellion against [restrictive] public conventions.”20 Women who fought in the Civil War, including white women such as Mary and Molly Bell (Confederate), Lizzie Compton (Union), and Cuban-born Loreta Velázquez (Confederate), risked their lives and the threat of arrest and imprisonment by fighting. This was even more true for Black women soldiers such as Lizzie Hoffman (Union, 45th U.S. Colored Infantry) and Maria Lewis (Union, 8th New York Cavalry), and the outcome of the war held deeply personal implications for Black women’s freedom and personhood.21 Lewis, a formerly enslaved woman from Albemarle County, Virginia, “emancipated herself from slavery” by assuming the alias George Harris and passing as a white man to fight with the 8th New York Cavalry.22 The stories of Lewis, Clayton, and many more show that adopting male personas and fighting in the Civil War enabled women to gain social, economic, and civic privileges that were “otherwise closed to them.”23

1 Women would only be granted the right to choose direct combat roles in all branches of the United States military 150 years later, in 2016. See Jim Miklaszewski and Halimah Abdullah, “All Combat Roles Now Open to Women, Pentagon Says,” December 3, 2015,, accessed October 11, 2022.

2 Wikipedia, s.v., “Frances Clayton,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

3 DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook, They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 2002), 2.

4 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 7.

5 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 6.

6 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 75.

7 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 149-151.

8 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 34.

9 Bonnie Tsui, She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 66.

10 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 11.

11 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 34 and 150.
12 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 48.

13 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 58.

14 My emphasis on the photographic portrait. Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 52, 55, and 58.

15 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 3.

16 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 3.

17 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

18 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

19 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.
20 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

21 Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 6.

22 Wikipedia, s.v., “Maria Lewis,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

23 My emphasis. Blanton and Cook, They Fought Like Demons, 5.

Work Cited

Blanton, DeAnne, and Lauren M. Cook. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: LSU Press, 2002.

Miklaszewski, Jim, and Halimah Abdullah. “All Combat Roles Now Open to Women, Pentagon Says,” December 3, 2015., accessed October 11, 2022.

Tsui, Bonnie. She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Wikipedia, s.v., “Frances Clayton,”, accessed October 11, 2022.

Wikipedia, s.v., “Maria Lewis,”, accessed October 11, 2022.