Royal Governor William Berkeley, owner of nearby Green Spring Plantation, purchased the land here by 1652, then known as Hot Water. After Berkeley’s death, the Hot Water tract passed to the Ludwell and Lee families. William Ludwell Lee inherited the property in 1796 and died in 1803. Lee’s will specified that his slaves be freed when they reached the age of 18. They were allowed to live on the property for ten years at no charge and “comfortable houses” were to be built upon the tract for them. Lee’s philanthropy gave rise to one of Virginia’s early free black settlements located at Centerville.
Governor William Berkeley, also owner of Green Spring Plantation, purchased this tract of land, known as Hot Water, in 1652. The land also served as the ancestral home of the Ludwells and Lees. The Plantation itself housed many African American slaves who also took part in Bacon’s Rebellion and in the American Revolutionary War. After Berkeley died, he passed the tract to the Ludwell and Lees. When William Ludwell Lee inherited the estate, he had it assessed and completely tore down the aging mansion to build a new house (Cotton). After William Ludwell Lee died, he decreed that all of his slaves be freed and also made provisions for their continued support and education. More than thirty slaves were freed and received farmsteads in the Hot Water Tract, which consisted of more than 8,000 acres. They were allowed to live on the property for ten years at no charge in horses built on the property.
The Hot Water tract soon became a part of Centerville and served as the site for many
battles in the future. Because of Wiliam Ludwell Lee’s generosity to his former slaves, the descendants of those freed slaves were able to create one of the first Free Black communities in Centerville during the antebellum period. Furthermore, Centerville also served as a hub for colonial activity as a central port for trade of tobacco and produce (Knight).
Cotton, Lee Pelham. Green Spring Plantation: An Historical Summary. http://www.historicgreenspring.org/plantation_history.php (accessed March 7, 2012).
Knight, Priscilla. History of Centreville and Virginia Run. http://www.virginiarun.com/system/files/CentrevilleHistory.pdf (accessed March 7, 2012).
African American Historic Sites Database. Green Spring Plantation and the Hot Water Tract. http://www.aaheritageva.org/search/sites.php?site_id=262 (accessed March 7, 2012).
Historical Marker “Hot Water/Centerville V-47,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Governor William Berkeley,” Historic Green Spring, www.historicgreenspring.org (accessed May 2, 2012).
“Recreated Cabin,” Freedom Park- James City County, www.williamsburgoutside.com (accessed May 2, 2012).
Department of Historic Resources link not available