Free State was an African-American community in Albemarle County located on a 220-acre parcel of land purchased by a free woman of color, Amy Bowles Farrow, in 1788. In the early 1800s Amy's son Zachariah married Critta Hemings of Monticello, Sally Hemings' sister. The community, which included persons of Native American ancestry, grew rapidly after the Civil War, incorporating a number of formerly enslaved individuals from adjacent estates. By the end of the nineteenth century, Free State was home to farmers, tradesmen, craftsmen, railroad workers, and clergy. Free State residents built their own school and organized a benevolent society to serve the community.
Amy Bowles Farrow (1730-1797) was among the very few African Americans living free in Albemarle County during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, Farrow purchased 214 acres adjacent to Samuel Carr's residence, Dunlora. The property, which came to be known as Free State, soon provided sanctuary and sustenance to a number of interrelated households of free African-American farmers, spinners, coopers, cobblers, and carpenters. Farrow divided her estate between two sons, and portions of the land remained in the family into the 20th century. Following the popular custom of the time, Amy Farrow would have been buried on her property. At least 53 descendants of the Free State community lie in a nearby cemetery.
There are no homes standing in Free State from the Colonial/antebellum eras. In the early 21st century a developer built a housing development on the site of Free State called Belvedere. The gravestones in the cemetery are no longer in situ, but the site of the graveyard is delineated at the site and plans are underway to add an interpretive kiosk adjacent to the cemetery.
Geographical and Contact Information
Belvedere Blvd, off Rio Road in Albemarle County