Historical Five Oaks
Our story begins with David Rittenhouse Edley son of David Edley and
Elizabeth Lawrence. Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1791. David was one of their
four children, and the only son. He received an excellent education and became one of
Lynchburg Virginia's most prominent lawyers.
David Rittenhouse Edley married Miss Missouri Morriss in the year 1828. By 1830 he owned
four slaves. He had acquired land in the counties around Lynchburg and had his law
practice firmly established. He and his wife had no children of their own. In August of
1843 the sister of Mrs. Edley had a child named Missouri Edley Hobson. After the death of
Mrs. Edley's sister in 1851 David and his wife Missouri adopted her sister's child
In 1840 David Rittenhouse Edley bought one hundred and fifty acres of land, this land was
called "Five Oaks Plantation". It was located about three miles outside of the
Lynchburg area. A small log cabin was on it, growing in front of the cabin were the five
large oak trees from which the property derived it's name of "Five Oaks
Plantation". The family would spend their summer months on this plantation, the
remainder of the year was spent at the College Hill home in the city of Lynchburg.
In the early years of the plantation David R. Edley owned six slaves, by 1850 he had
acquired a total of nice slaves. There was only one slave dwelling on the plantation. From
the 1850 slave schedules it's hard to tell the exact ages of these people. Four people are
listed as "slaves above 16 years of age", and five are listed "slaves above
12 years of age", for the total of the nine people.
Over the next ten years the law firm was doing very well, and David R. Edley had invested
in a sawmill in Lynchburg. There he had one slave, a male age 65. In the College
Hill home he had four slaves working. Of these four slaves in the College Hill home, one
young man named Lewis F. was serving his master by being his "body servant".
Lewis' younger sister Emma J. was the "maid" for Mrs. Edley. There young adopted
daughter Missouri, who was called "Edley" by the family, had her own "hand
maid" who was named Puss. Later I discovered that her real name was Louisa J.
As the fortune of David Edley's family increased, he had by 1860 purchased nineteen
slaves. Fourteen of these people were housed at the plantation. Two slave dwellings are
listed on the 1860 slave schedule. The ages of these fourteen people range from fifty
years down to two
infants less then a year old.
In 1860 just three short years before the civil war, a special census of
"agriculture" was taken of all the area in every county of Virginia. The
following is a summary of the value of Five Oaks Plantation. Also listed are the crops
produced in that year of 1860.
Seventy acres of the land was "improved". Eighty acres was
"unimproved". Value of the farm was $6,000.00, value of farm equipment $100.00.
David Edley owned three horses, four milk cows, two working oxen and three other cattle.
Value of the livestock was $300.00. There was three hundred and fifty bushels of wheat and
three hundred bushels of oats grown and harvested. Six bushels of peas and beans, one
hundred bushels of Irish potatoes, thirty-five bushels of sweet potatoes were grown and
twelve tons of hay was cut. These crops had to feed the slaves and the Master's family.
There was no mention of an orchard for fresh fruit. It was listed on the census schedule,
along with everything grown or raised in the state of Virginia. There were no sheep for
the use of wool for making clothes. I question how well the slaves were cared for. The
slaves of David R. Edley were probably treated well. Edley family lore tells the story
that "David Edley set his slaves free before the war". This is not true, they
were in bondage until the last shot was fired that ended the war. They all assumed the
Edley name when they were set free at the war's end. David Edley's "body
servant" Lewis F. even named his first born son after his "Master".
From my research I believe that Pompey Edley born 1780 and his wife Dinah born 1783 are
the beginning of our African American Edley lineage.
Complied by Brenda C. Jones
Photo Of Plantation