Sometimes when conducting historical research, you have to take what you know and work backwards. Using that same logic, here’s what we know by reading and analyzing Johnson’s The Colored Woman at Headquarters:
- Johnson captured his collection of oral stories in 1913.
- The bound woman lived in Cedar Creek, which is also Belle Grove Plantation’s location, at the time that she shared her story.
- The Brumback family owned and farmed Belle Grove in 1910.
Taking the data from the bound woman’s story, we started with the Brumback family’s 1910 census record. From there, we looked at entries before and after the Brumback family’s entry in hopes of finding a black woman who may be our bound woman.
We found a record with a Lucy Walker, whose age lined up with the story:
- Lucy Walker
- Aged 68
- Mother to William Walker, the head of the house
Johnson described the property on which the bound woman lived when he talked with her in 1913.
She lived in a cabin amid the farmlands at the end of a rough, crooked lane. There were numerous children about the place, and there was much dirt and care-free disorder. A thin, tall old woman met me at the door and ushered me into a tiny low-ceiled parlor where there were draperies at the windows, and a piano and other furniture more aspiring than I would have expected. It was in this parlor tha.t I heard the woman’s story of her war-time trials.Clifton Johnson (Johnson, 1915, p. 392)
Using Johnson’s breadcrumbs, Lucy’s census record fit the bill, too: she was living with her son, his wife, and their six children, which would account for the numerous children Johnson describes when meeting her.
Do we know for sure that Lucy Walker is The Colored Woman at Headquarters? No.
Is it a pretty solid lead? Yes.
Although we have an educated guess as to the identity of the enigmatic bound woman, we don’t have any images or photographs of her, so artist Emily Fraser sketched a silhouette of her interpretation of what Lucy may have looked like in 1913.
Before we get into the Battle of Cedar Creek, let’s explore how Belle Grove fits into this story and learn about the man and woman we think are Lucy’s parents.
Learn more about Lucy’s father, Lewis Robinson, and his connection to Belle Grove Plantation.
Learn more about the woman we believe to be Lucy’s mother, Hester Smith.
Fraser, E. (2022). Lucy Walker [Drawing].
Johnson, Clifton. (1915). Battleground Adventures, the Stories of Dwellers on the Scenes of Conflict in Some of the Most Notable Battles of the Civil War. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Opequon, Frederick, Virginia; Roll: T624_1629; Page: 19A; Enumeration District: 0033; FHL microfilm: 1375642