Though well over a hundred people were enslaved by the Smith and McDowell families and many of them worked in our facility – then known as Buck House – and on its grounds on a day-to-day basis, we know very little about their individual identities.

Enslaved African Americans were not allowed to learn to read or write, and white historians rarely recorded their stories – or even their names. The census only records the sex and age of enslaved people and, most often, their names were only written if/when they were sold or inherited.

This is a living exhibit.

By utilizing documentary, archaeological, and oral source material, we will continue to work to piece together more stories of those held captive by the Smith and McDowell families.

LUCY ANN

MILES

LUCY

HARRIET

WILLIAM

LURAN

JOHN

QUILLAN

ALLEN

CHARLES

SANDY

TOM

TILDA

JOE

ALFRED

JOE JR

MARY

JANE

VINA

BEN

JULIUS

BOB

LIDIA

CATHERINE

ALEXANDER SY

CAROLINE

GEORGE

LOUISA

WILLIAM

BOB HARDIN

BETSEY

MOSE

PETER

CHARLES

ROBB

JEFF

MARY

SAMUEL

MARTHA

HENRY

JULIA ANN

McCAMA

GEORGE

PHILLIP

REBECCA

CHARLOTTE

HARRY

ROBERT

LIZZIE

GEORGE AVERY

Click “Read More” under the name of the person on each slide below to discover what we have uncovered so far – and the primary documentation.

There is much work left to do.

Want to help? Below the slider are tidbits of information we’ve pulled together to start locating people. Send us an email with the name of the person you’d like to help research and we’ll let you know how to get started uncovering their story.

George, Louisa, and William Morris

HIDDEN HISTORIES George, Louisa, and William MorrisWe are first introduced to George and Louisa via this will, written by James M.  Smith in February of 1850. George and Louisa are enslaved by James Smith and he is bequeathing them to his wife, Polly. When James Smith...

Caroline, Lizzie, and their parents, Bob and Lidia

c1840 Caroline is born. Caroline was likely enslaved by the Smith family from the moment of her birth.February 9, 1850James M. Smith’s will, written February 9, 1850, is the first mention we have found relating to Caroline, a child he enslaved.Last Will and Testament,...

Tilda, Joe, and their children

In 1850, a woman named Tilda was enslaved by the Smith family of Asheville. It is likely that she and her family were held captive on the grounds of Buck House, our facility. At this time, Tilda was married to Joe, a wagoner. It is likely that Joe transported goods in...

Rebecca and her daughter Charlotte

Last Will and Testament of James M. Smith, Asheville, NC Codicil dated January 7, 1854"...I further direct that the girl Caroline in said will given to my daughter Sarah L McDowell be given to my daughter Jane Cordelia and in her stead I give to the said Sarah L a...

George Avery – Blacksmith, Union Soldier, Cemetery Caretaker

In 1865, George Avery was a 19-year-old blacksmith enslaved by the McDowell family. It is likely he was born in to slavery, given his young age.  McDowell family stories say that George was freed by William McDowell in April 1865, who realized the Confederacy was...

Lucy and Lucy Ann

HIDDEN HISTORIES LUCY & LUCY ANNBill of Sale, Lucy (12 years old), March 12, 1827, from William Hunter to James M. Smith, Buncombe Co. Register of DeedsKnow all men by these presents that I William Hunter [sp?][illegible] of the county of Buncombe and the State of...

Alfred Walker

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850February 9, 1850: A man named Alfred is enslaved by James M. Smith.Not much is known about the "Alfred" who is willed to "Valentine, Wm W [William W. McDowell], + John P. [Smith]" in 1850, but it may be the same...

Lou Bradley

Who was Louisa Bradley? We first find mention of her in the Asheville City Directory for 1883-1884 as working as a housemaid for W.W. McDowell. By 1883, the McDowell family had sold what is now known as the Smith-McDowell House on the A-B Tech campus to the Garrett...

Listed below are the people whose names have so far been uncovered. They were enslaved by the James M. Smith or William W. McDowell families – and, in some cases, both.

Their names were found either in James M. Smith’s Last Will and Testament or in Bills of Sale archived at the Western North Carolina Historical Association or Buncombe County Register of Deeds.

Because children inherited the status of their mother – ie children born to an enslaved mother and a free father would be enslaved – children were often listed alongside the name of their mother.

Bill of Sale, Lucy (12 years old), March 12, 1827, from William Hunter to James M. Smith, Buncombe Co. Register of Deeds

Bill of Sale, Harriet and her three children, William, Luran, and John, October 30, 1844 from Jacob R. Shuford to James M. Smith, Buncombe Co. Register of Deeds

LUCY

c1815: Lucy is born

March 12, 1827: 12-year-old Lucy is sold by William Hunter to James M. Smith for $178.28.

January 7, 1854: Lucy is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Lucy is now enslaved by John P. Smith as his father has died and left Lucy to John in his will.

August 17, 1858: 58-year-old “old Lucy” is sold by the John P. Smith estate to Jesse S. Smith (John’s brother) for $11.00.

HARRIET

c1809: Harriet is born

October 31, 1844: 35-year-old Harriet and her three children, William, Luran, and John are sold by Jacob R. Shuford to James M. Smith for $500.00.

February 20, 1846: Still reported as being 35-years-old, Harriet and her three children – William, Luran, and John, are sold back to the family of Jacob R. Shuford along with Quillan, 23, and Allen, 15. 

WILLIAM

October 31, 1844: William, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers Luran and John are sold by Jacob R. Shuford to James M. Smith for $500.00.

February 20, 1846: William, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers, Luran and John, are sold back to the family of Jacob R. Shuford along with Quillan, 23, and Allen, 15.

LURAN

October 31, 1844: Luran, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers William and John are sold by Jacob R. Shuford to James M. Smith for $500.00.

February 20, 1846: Luran, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers, William and John, are sold back to the family of Jacob R. Shuford along with Quillan, 23, and Allen, 15.

JOHN

October 31, 1844: John, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers, William and Luran, are sold by Jacob R. Shuford to James M. Smith for $500.00.

February 20, 1846: John, along with his mother, Harriet, and brothers, William and Luran, are sold back to the family of Jacob R. Shuford along with Quillan, 23, and Allen, 15.

February, 20, 1846, Buncombe Co. Register of Deeds

QUILLAN

c1823: Quillan is born.

February 20, 1846: 23- or 24-year-old Quillan is sold to the family of Jacob R. Shuford by James M. Smith along with Allen, 15, Harriet, 35, and her children William, Luran, and John.

ALLEN

c1831: Allen is born

February 20, 1846: 15-year-old Allen is sold to the family of Jacob R. Shuford by James M. Smith along with Quillan, 23, Harriet, 35, and her children William, Luran, and John.

April 23, 1853, Buncombe Co. Register of Deeds

SANDY

c1843: Sandy is born.

April 23, 1853: 10-year-old Sandy and 12-year-old John are sold to James W. Patton by William W. McDowell for $1,275.00. There is no mention of their families.

JOHN

c1841: John is born.

April 23, 1853: 12-year-old John and 10-year-old Sandy are sold to James W. Patton by William W. McDowell for $1,275.00. There is no mention of their families.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

BOB

February 9, 1850: Bob is a tanner enslaved by James M. Smith. His wife is named Lidia. It is possible that his children are: Alexander Sy, Bob Hardin, Catherine, Betsey, Mose, and Caroline.

LIDIA

February 9, 1850: Lidia is enslaved by James M. Smith. Her husband is Bob, a tanner. It is possible that her children are: Alexander Sy, Bob Hardin, Catherine, Betsey, and Mose. She has a daughter named Caroline.

ALEXANDER SY

February 9, 1850: Alexander Sy is a blacksmith enslaved by James M. Smith. It is possible that his mother is Lidia and his father is Bob.

BOB HARDIN

February 9, 1850: Bob Hardin is enslaved by James M. Smith. It is possible that his mother is Lidia and his father is Bob.

CATHERINE

February 9, 1850: Catherine is enslaved by James M. Smith. It is possible that her mother is Lidia and his father is Bob.

BETSEY

February 9, 1850: Betsey is enslaved by James M. Smith. It is possible that her mother is Lidia and his father is Bob.

MOSE

February 9, 1850: Mose is enslaved by James M. Smith. It is possible that his mother is Lidia and his father is Bob.

CAROLINE

February 9, 1850: Caroline is enslaved by James M. Smith. Her mother is Lidia and her father is likely Bob. [See below.]

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

GEORGE

February 9, 1850: George is a shoemaker and is married to Louisa. They have a son William. They are enslaved by James M. Smith.

LOUISA

February 9, 1850: Louisa is married to George and they have a son William. They are enslaved by James M. Smith.

WILLIAM

February 9, 1850: William and his mother, Louisa, and father, George, are enslaved by James M. Smith.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

MILES

February 9, 1850: Miles and his brother, Charles, are enslaved by James M. Smith. Their father is George. It is unknown if this is the same George who is married to Louisa.

CHARLES

February 9, 1850: Charles and his brother, Miles, are enslaved by James M. Smith. Their father is George. It is unknown if this is the same George who is married to Louisa.

ALFRED

February 9, 1850: Alfred is enslaved by James M. Smith. 

SWAN/LURAN

February 9, 1850: Swan/Luran is enslaved by James M. Smith.

It is possible that this is the same person purchased by James M. Smith in 1844.

TOM

February 9, 1850: Tom is a miller and is enslaved by James M. Smith.

LUCY ANN

c1840: Lucy Ann is born.

February 9, 1850: Lucy Ann is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Lucy Ann as well as four other people – Miles, Charles, Alfred, and Tom – are inherited by John P. Smith upon his father’s death.

December 20, 1857: Lucy Ann’s captor, John P. Smith, dies without leaving a will.

August 27, 1858: 18-year-old Lucy Ann and two children are sold at the Court House by the Smith estate to J.A. Patton for $1,400.00.

September 14, 1860: J.A. Patton enslaves four female – ages 45, 8, 4, and 1 – likely meaning that he has sold Lucy Ann or she has passed away. He may still enslave the two children.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

TILDA

c1810s: Tilda is born.

February 9, 1850: Tilda is married to Joe, the wagoner. She has several children, including – Alfred, Joe, Mary, Jane, and Vina. Tilda is enslaved by James M. Smith and she and her family likely live and work at this house.

October 9, 1850: Tilda is still enslaved by James M. Smith. Smith enslaves 14 females between the ages of one and 44. Tilda is likely either 38 or 44 based on the 1850 census and the age of her oldest child.

January 7, 1854: Tilda passed away some time after October 1851. Her children are given to James M. Smith’s son, John, upon James’ death in 1856.

August 17, 1858: Tilda’s children – likely Alfred, Joe, Mary, and Vina – are sold at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will.

JOE SR.

February 9, 1850: Joe is a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – and is married to Tilda.

August 27, 1858: Joe is likely the “Joseph” that was sold to M. Erwin for $501.00 at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will. His children – Alfred, Joe, Mary, and Vina – were sold as well and seperated from their father.

ALFRED

c1839: Alfred is born.

February 9, 1850: Alfred, his siblings – Joe, Mary, Jane, and Vina, likely live with their parents – Tilda and Joe – on the Buck House property. They are enslaved by James M. Smith.

c1853: Alfred’s mother, Tilda, passes away.

May 18, 1856: Alfred, his siblings, and his father are now enslaved by John P. Smith, James M. Smith’s son, upon the former’s death.

August 17, 1858: It is likely that Alfred and his siblings – Joe, Mary, and Vina – are sold at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will. A person named “Alfrod,” age 19, is sold to G.T. Spears for $1,275.00 from Smith’s estate.

1860: G.T. Spears enslaves 20 people including a 21-year-old male that may be Alfred.

1870: A man named Alfred Spears is married and living in Asheville.

JOE JR.

c1842: Joe is born.

February 9, 1850: Joe, his siblings – Alfred, Mary, Jane, and Vina, likely live with their parents – Tilda and Joe – are enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Joe, his siblings, and his parents are now enslaved by John P. Smith, James M. Smith’s son, upon the former’s death.

August 17, 1858: It is likely that Joe and his siblings – Alfred, Mary, and Vina – are sold at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will. A person named Joseph, age 16, is sold to J. Zachary for $1,181.00 from Smith’s estate.

MARY

c1847: Mary is born.

February 9, 1850: Mary, her siblings – Alfred, Joe, Jane, and Vina, likely live with their parents – Tilda and Joe – are enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Mary, her siblings, and her parents are now enslaved by John P. Smith, James M. Smith’s son, upon the former’s death.

August 17, 1858: It is likely that Mary and her siblings – Alfred, Joe, and Vina – are sold at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will. A person named Mary, age 11, is sold to A.W. Cumming for $822.00 from Smith’s estate.

VINA

c1849: Vina is born

February 9, 1850: Vina, her siblings – Alfred, Joe, Jane, and Mary, likely live with their parents – Tilda and Joe – are enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Vina, her siblings, and her parents are now enslaved by John P. Smith, James M. Smith’s son, upon the former’s death.

August 17, 1858: It is likely that Mary and her siblings – Alfred, Joe, and Vina – are sold at the Buncombe County Court House after John Smith dies without a will. A person named Viney, age 9, is sold to A.W. Cumming for $795.00 from Smith’s estate.

JANE

c1848: Jane is born.

February 9, 1850: Jane, her siblings – Alfred, Joe, Mary, and Vina, likely live with their parents – Tilda and Joe – are enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Jane, her siblings, and her parents are now enslaved by John P. Smith, James M. Smith’s son, upon the former’s death.

Asheville News, August 26, 1858

LUCY ANN

[See Lucy Ann above.]

CHARLES

c1839: Charles is born.

February 9, 1850: Charles is the son of Clara. He is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Charles is now enslaved by John P. Smith as his father has died and left Charles to John in his will.

December 20, 1857: Charles’ captor, John P. Smith, dies without leaving a will.

August 27, 1858: A 19-year-old named “Chores” is sold at the Court House by the Smith estate to J.A. Patton for $1,250.00. 

1860: J.A. Patton enslaves seven people including a 21-year old male that may be Charles.

JULIUS

c1842: Julius is born.

December 20, 1857: Julius’ captor, John P. Smith, dies without leaving a will.

August 27, 1858: 16-year-old Julius is sold at the Court House by the Smith estate to George T. Spears, the husband of Julia Cordelia Smith for $1,300.00. 

1860: G.T. Spears enslaves 20 people including an 18-year old male that may be Julius.

BEN

c1840: Ben is born.

December 20, 1857: Ben’s captor, John P. Smith, dies without leaving a will.

August 27, 1858: 18-year-old Ben is sold at the Court House by the Smith estate to William W. McDowell for $1,250.00. 

1860: W.W. McDowell enslaves 40 people including a 20-year old “Mulatto” male that may be Ben.

(old) LUCY

c1800: Lucy is born.

December 20, 1857: Lucy’s captor, John P. Smith, dies without leaving a will.

August 27, 1858: 58-year-old Lucy is sold at the Court House by the Smith estate to John’s brother, Jesse S. Smith for $11.00.

[Possible the same 12-year-old Lucy purchased by James M. Smith on March 12, 1827.]

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

PETER

February 9, 1850: Peter is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Peter is now likely enslaved by John P. Smith as his father has died and left Peter to John in his will.

CHARLES

[see above]

ROBB

February 9, 1850: Robb is enslaved by James M. Smith.

January 7, 1854: Robb passed away some time after October 1851.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

CAROLINE

February 9, 1850: Caroline, whose mother is Arsela, is enslaved by James M. Smith, who, in his will, refers to her as a “girl” when he bequeaths her to his daughter, Sarah Lucinda.

January 7, 1854: James M. Smith changes his will to give Caroline to his daughter Jane Cordelia.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

MARY

February 9, 1850: Mary is married to Jeff and they have a son, Samuel. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Mary and her family are inherited by Elizabeth Gudger when Elizabeth’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

JEFF

February 9, 1850: Jeff is married to Mary and they have a son, Samuel. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Jeff and his family are inherited by Elizabeth Gudger when Elizabeth’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

SAMUEL

February 9, 1850: Samuel lives with his mother, Mary, and father, Jeff. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Samuel and his family are inherited by Elizabeth Gudger when Elizabeth’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

MARTHA

February 9, 1850: Martha is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Martha inherited by Elizabeth Gudger when Elizabeth’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

HENRY [sp?]

February 9, 1850: Henry is likely married to Julia Ann. It is likely that they have two children, McCama and George. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Henry and his family are inherited by Jane Cordelia Smith Spears when Jane’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

JULIA ANN

February 9, 1850: Julia Ann is likely married to Henry. She has two children, McCama and George. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Julia Ann and her family are inherited by Jane Cordelia Smith Spears when Jane’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

McCAMA [sp?]

February 9, 1850: McCama’s mother is Julia Ann. McCama’s brother is George. It is likely that McCama’s father is Henry. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: McCama and family are inherited by Jane Cordelia Smith Spears when Jane’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

GEORGE

February 9, 1850: George lives with his mother, Julia Ann, and sibling, McCama. It is likely that his father is Henry. They are all enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: George and his family are inherited by Jane Cordelia Smith Spears when Jane’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

PHILLIP

c1784: Phillip is born.

February 9, 1850: Phillip is enslaved by James M. Smith, who refers to Phillip in his will, writing:

My old man, Phillip, has long been a faithful servant and useful to myself and family, I direct no labor be required of him, but that he be allowed to live with my wife or my son, John P. Smith, as he prefers and as the law requires that he must have an owner, I give him as the property of my son, John P., in confidence that he will take care of him and protect him, and I give and bequeath to Phillip twenty-five dollars per annum as long as he lives for his comfort, to be paid out of my estate. If the legacy cannot legally take effect directly to him, I leave it to be paid to John P. Smith having a confidence that he will faithfully apply it as here intended.

October 9, 1850: Phillip is likely the 66-year-old male enslaved by James M. Smith on the 1850 census.

James M. Smith, Last Will and Testament, February 9, 1850

James M. Smith, Codicil to the Last Will and Testament, January 7, 1854

REBECCA

January 7, 1854: Rebecca and her daughter, Charlotte, are enslaved by James M. Smith, but live with James’ daughter, Sarah Lucinda, and her husband William W. McDowell.

May 18, 1856: Rebecca and Charlotte are now owned by Sarah Lucinda McDowell as James M. Smith as he bequeathed them to his daughter upon his death.

CHARLOTTE

January 7, 1854: Charlotte and her mother, Rebecca, are enslaved by James M. Smith, but live James’ daughter, Sarah Lucinda, and her husband William W. McDowell.

May 18, 1856: Charlotte and her mother are now owned by Sarah Lucinda McDowell as James M. Smith as he bequeathed them to his daughter upon his death.

James M. Smith, Codicil to the Last Will and Testament, January 7, 1854

MOSE

prior to 1854: Mose is purchased at “the widow Alexander’s sale.”

January 7, 1854: Mose is enslaved by James M. Smith

May 18, 1856: Mose is inherited by John P. Smith when John’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

[It is likely that Mose is the same person mentioned in James M. Smith’s 1850 will who was bequethed to Smith’s wife prior to his death.]

Note: Mose Cannon, 23, lives at the grounds of Buck House and works for William W. McDowell as a “Laborer” in the 1880 Census.

LUCY

January 7, 1854: Lucy is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Lucy is inherited by John P. Smith when John’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

[Lucy may be the same “old Lucy” sold by the John P. Smith estate and/or the same Lucy that is purchased by James M. Smith in 1827 from William Hunter.]

HARRY

January 7, 1854: Harry is enslaved by James M. Smith.

May 18, 1856: Harry is inherited by John P. Smith when John’s father, James M. Smith, dies.

GEORGE AVERY

In 1865, George Avery was a 19-year-old blacksmith enslaved by the McDowell family. It is likely he was born in to slavery, given his young age. 

McDowell family stories say that George was freed by William McDowell in April 1865, who realized the Confederacy was going to fall. McDowell allegedly advised Avery to join the Union Army so that he could claim a pension. However, we also know that 40 ex-slaves joined the liberating army when they left Asheville and marched to Greenville, TN, and it is likely that George Avery was one of these men. George joined the Company D, 40 Division, US Colored Troops, on April 29, 1865 in Greenville, TN, and signed his volunteer enlistment papers with an “X”.

On his return from the war one year later, the McDowells are said to have given him land and lumber with which to build a house and a job as caretaker of the South Asheville Cemetery on Dalton Street.  However, based on land deeds registered with the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, it appears that George Avery was not given legal title to any of the McDowells’ land until 1890, at which time he paid $120 for a small tract.

The cemetery, which was also located on land owned by the McDowells, was first used as a burial place for the people they and their families enslaved. Avery dug graves at the cost of $1 to the family of the deceased and looked after the site until his own death in 1938 at the age of 94.