Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Barbara J. Heath

Committee Members

Elizabeth Kellar DeCorse, Marisa O. Ensor

Abstract

The neighborhood surrounding historic Indian Camp plantation located in Virginia’s eastern piedmont provides an opportunity to examine past identity formation and power dynamics. Using public records and ArcGIS, I researched this historical community to explore networks in which these individuals were involved. Historic land patents and transactions surrounding the Indian Camp property were given a geographical context, and based on resulting maps, research has identified a dynamic neighborhood whose members were deeply entangled in one another’s lives. Many who patented lands around Indian Camp did not do so because of a lack of opportunity in their home counties or due to failure in business or agriculture. Instead, these patentees were successful early on. Through the 1720s and 1730s, powerful, influential men with existing social, political, and economic connections in the tidewater were establishing themselves as piedmont neighbors whose plantations increased their wealth. These individuals were prominent public office holders and slave owners who were connected to each other with complex networks of kinship and social, political and economic alliances. My study supports previous Chesapeake scholarship in that it shows how a particular neighborhood’s influential citizens helped create a Virginia identity and how greatly land contributed to that identity. A more-populated group whose members owned fewer acres than their wealthy neighbors also emerged over the course of this thesis. Their participation in the landed community was significant, as well, and this group too impacted the developing Virginia society.

Within the frameworks of material culture analysis, microhistory, cultural geography, status and class, placemaking, and network analyses focusing on community and neighborhood, I interpret the formation of a new Virginia identity whose society was based on tobacco. Recognized by their elite status, influential citizens created a new Virginia identity defined by the combination of ownership of a substantial enslaved workforce and the ongoing participation in a landed community. Through my observations, a dynamic neighborhood will emerge, one which actively used land ownership to legitimize its place in society.

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