The African-American Experience at Green Level (later to be known as Avoca)


It cannot be forgotten that the beauty and prestige of Avoca was in large part attributed to the labor of many African-Americans who were enslaved throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical records show that Charles Lynch, father of John and Charles Lynch, brought slaves to the area toward the end of his life. Three years after the ratification of the Treaty of Paris and the official end of the American Revolution, the younger Charles Lynch (or Col. Charles Lynch, as he is popularly known) is recorded as owning 24 slaves. In 1796, he had 13 and was possibly contracting labor out from slaves on neighboring plantations. Part of the reason for the diminished slave population is explained by a 1792 deed record made in Campbell County when Col. Lynch freed a dozen slaves:

“All men who are by nature free and agreeable to the command of Our Lord and Savior Christ believe it is our duty to do unto all men as we would they should do unto us.”

Even though he was at one point expelled from Quaker fellowship, Lynch came from a family with deep ties to the Quaker church. Quakers generally disapproved of the practice of slavery, and the Quakers' teachings on this subject no doubt had influence on Col. Lynch. Furthermore, the American Revolution's liberating spirit must have prompted Lynch to question the hypocrisy of a nation that advocated that "all men are created equal", but did not extend that regard to African-Americans. Judge Lynch furthermore must have remembered that his father was shown a great deal of kindness by the man to whom he was formerly an indentured servant. Bearing all of this in mind, Col. Lynch freed all but two of his remaining slaves in his will. The two in question were an elderly couple, leading some historians to assume that Lynch felt that it would be cruel to turn these two elderly people out into the world without the ability to work.

However, Lynch's son Anselm began the process of re-acquiring slaves by 1810. In that year, the slave population had increased to 24 men, women, and children. A decade later, that number had grown to 43 slaves and 14 freedmen who lived on the plantation. That number remained at 43 in 1830 under Anselm Lynch's son, Charles Henry Lynch, who inherited most of his slaves from his father. Children had little to no monetary value until they were grown enough to perform tasks. Male slaves were valued higher than female slaves, but began to depreciate in value once they reached 35 years of age. Female slaves reached their peak value when they were capable of childbirth or as they acquired certain domestic skills. 

The number of slaves living at Avoca fluctuated between 27 and 31 slaves over the next thirty years. Charles Henry Lynch owned a plantation that contained  about 1,600 acres on the eve of the Civil War, but he also owned valuable real estate throughout Central Virginia. Once emancipation came to Campbell County, many of Charles Henry Lynch's former slaves remained at the plantation. Perhaps these freed people saw no prospects more appealing than leaving the plantation. Perhaps they did not mind their treatment at Avoca. The truth is probably some combination of both.