Author: Lynda J. Morgan


Tazewell Branch (1828–1925)

Tazewell Branch was born enslaved in Prince Edward County and later served two terms in the House of Delegates. Learning to read and write, Branch worked as a shoemaker and was known for his intelligence. By 1873 he owned land in Farmville and sat on the town council. That same year he won a seat in the General Assembly. Branch, who was respected by African Americans and whites, won reelection two years later as a member of a coalition that included the moderate factions of Prince Edward County’s Republicans and Conservatives. He dropped out of politics after his second term, and his income declined as mass-produced footwear undermined his shoemaking business. His biggest legacy might have come from his children, who became educated and led successful careers in teaching and medicine.


Samuel P. Bolling (1819–1900)

Samuel P. Bolling was a member of the House of Delegates from Cumberland County, the owner of a brickyard in Farmville, and an entrepreneur with enough wealth and success to attract national attention. Born enslaved, Bolling developed skills as a mechanic and manager. He began acquiring property after the American Civil War (1861–1865), purchasing more than 1,000 acres in Cumberland County. A front-page article in the Cleveland Gazette, published in 1886, estimated the value of his brick-making operation and country house at $40,000. Bolling joined the Readjuster Party in 1880 and served in a series of local positions, including the county board of supervisors. In 1885 he won the House of Delegates seat his son Phillip S. Bolling had captured two years earlier. Because of their similar names later works confused the two men. In his later years the elder Bolling sold part of his property to the area’s poorer African Americans and contributed land for an industrial school. He died on his Cumberland County farm in 1900.


Peyton E. Anderson (ca. 1857–1950)

Peyton E. Anderson was a minister and the first African American superintendent of Prince Edward County‘s rural black schools. Born enslaved near Farmville, after the American Civil War (1861–1865) he committed himself to getting an education and studied ministry at Richmond Theological Institute. He became the superintendent of schools for African Americans in Prince Edward County, where he oversaw the construction of twenty-three rural schoolhouses and developed a curriculum centered on industrial education. For twenty-five years he was also principal of the Virso School, in Prince Edward County. One county superintendent described him as the most versatile schoolteacher he had ever seen. During his career in education, Anderson served as pastor of New Bethel and Shiloh churches, and at his death in 1950 was pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church.