Slate Hill Plantation

Nathaniel Venable owned Slate Hill Plantation, where Hampden-Sydney’s founders held their first meeting.  His office, now known as “The Birthplace,” sits on campus today, behind Atkinson Hall.  Venable’s will shows that he owned eleven slaves at the time of his death in the early 1800s, including “Betsey, Frank, John, Old Will, Billy Hand, Garden Dick, and Yellow Dick.”  Because Venable had several sons, brothers, and grandsons, tracing slave names and ownership through the family becomes confusing.  However, an African American family by the name Venable still lives in the Mercy Seat Community near Worsham, Virginia, which neighbors Hampden-Sydney’s campus, and Mr. Clem Venable III recently retired from a long career with Hampden-Sydney’s Buildings and Grounds crew.  An interview with Mr. Venable revealed that he knew little of his family’s origins, but when asked about any relation to the Venables of Slate Hill or of Venable Hall fame, he mentioned that there could be a connection there “from the slave days.” 

Research into early trustee meeting minutes showed that Samuel W. and Richard N. Venable, Nathaniel’s sons, were placed on a committee to draw a plan for a new library, and to engage “workmen” to build it.  Richard N. Venable and his wife Mary Morton had several children.  Their son Richard (1806-1844) married Magdelena McCampbell and the two named their son Richard Morton Venable (1839-1910).  Richard M. Venable graduated from Hampden-Sydney in 1857, became a Major in the Confederate Army and a trustee of the college, and the dormitory called Venable Hall is named in his honor. 1855 birth records at the local courthouse list Richard M. Venable’s slave, Sukey, giving birth to a boy named Clem.  The 1870 census lists a free fourteen-year-old Clem Venable, living in Prince Edward County with his parents, Robert and Susan (perhaps “Sukey” for short), and working as a domestic servant.  Because early and accurate records on African Americans are few and far between, after this record it is difficult concretely to trace this Clem Venable to Clem Venable III, who lives in the area today; however, it seems highly unlikely that the names and location would be a simple coincidence.  There is little doubt that Clem Venable III is indeed connected to the Venables of Slate Hill, and very directly related to the Venable for whom Venable Hall is named.  Notably, on Mother’s Day of 2009, Clem Venable IV walked across a stage in front of Venable Hall during his graduation from Hampden-Sydney, likely the first graduate of the college who is descended from a slave family affiliated with its earliest days.

For more information about Slate Hill click here.


  • Bettye Venable Swanzy says:

    any info regarding Venable related to Richard father of Ephriam Venable form Henry Co. Tenn will be appreciated. Thanks Bettye Swanzy

  • Eleanor Venable says:

    Hi my name is Eleanor Venable and my grandfather was Lemuel Venable from Virginia

  • Karen Wooten says:

    I’m not sure I’m posting in the right place. I’m looking for a great great or great3 grandmother. She was listed as unknown Venable, who married a Comby in NC. Had daughter named Valerie Lily that married a Dixon, I believe. Any information on her would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Mrs. Monique J. H. Clark says:

    I am the Great, Great Granddaughter of Mrs. Julie Venable Beasley of FarmVille, Virginia, she is listed as a Mulatto in the 1880 Census with my Great, Great, Grandfather, John Beasley, a Mulatto, with their son Cornelius who is my late Grandmother Frieda Hildergrant Beasley Baidy’s father.

  • Debra says:

    Hi my name is Debra Diaz and I am the gggrandaughter of Louella Venable and she is listed as a mullata along with her husband Aaron Swader who is also a mullato, I believe she was owned by a William Venable in Prince Edward county Va.

  • Meredith Venable says:

    My name is Meredith Venable. I am from Brooklyn, NY. I’m African American and my great grandfather was from FarmVille, Va. His Name was Spencer Venable. His brother was Edgar Venable. They married two sisters, Dorothy and Gladys Brooks. Any information would be helpful.

  • Tracy Koerschgen Allen says:

    Venables, Vaughan, Watkins, and Morton families were all pretty close in those days.
    I have DNA matches to African American / Mulatto family. Trying to figure out which Caucasian male of these families produced children with their slaves or sharecroppers.
    Kate C Vaughan is the name I’m looking for,born abt 1857 to a Martha who was a slave.
    Looking for any information on a Martha on Slate Hill or the Vaughn plantation. Thank You

  • David Jurney says:

    I am looking for Nathaniel Bacon Journey and William Journey (Tavern)
    and where they lived.

    The map you have on this Slate Hill site has critical information-is it published or is a copy of the full map avaiable?

  • Deborah Bee says:

    Looking for the parents of Simon Venable born in 1825. He married Jennie (aka J Virginia) (Dec 1832 – Oct 10, 1926).
    They had at least one child, a daughter named Jennie Venable (aka Venobor); she married Clayborn (there’s various spellings) Wilson (b 1873).
    Simon was probably born near Charlotte County Virginia.

  • Jason Venable says:

    My 2nd great grandfather was Richard Venable born around 1853 in Charlotte county, Virginia. His dad was Richard Dick Venable born around 1825. They were probably slaves. His son Richard had several children but none of them show up in the 1870-1900 census for some reason. Any help will be much appreciated.

  • Isabella McFarlin says:

    That would be very interesting to know! I’m a descendant of nearly all those slave owning families (Vaughan doesn’t sound familiar). I would love to know which among my ancestors fathered children with their “servants.” These families seemed to have the idea that they had never done anything the angels would not approve of. Anyway, I am proud of them for being founders of the country, etc. but not proud of their slave owning history.
    I want to apologize to all the African American cousins I probably have who have visited here. But I am proud to be related to you!

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