The Gilmore cabin was built in 1873 by George Gilmore, an emancipated African American who had been enslaved on the Montpelier estate, the home of President James Madison. The cabin stands on land that once belonged to Dr. James A. Madison, great-nephew of President Madison. Initially George Gilmore was a tenant, but upon Dr. Madison's death in 1901, he purchased the building and 16.1 acres for $560. George, his wife Polly and their three children lived and worked here.
Progressing steadily in economic and social status, George Gilmore was listed as a farmer, rather than a laborer, in the 1880 census, indicating that he held control over his own crop production. Cash income was most likely derived from his two older sons' work as wage laborers. Archaeological discoveries of multiple beads, buttons, and sewing materials under the flooring of the cabin suggest that his wife, Polly Gilmore, contributed to the family's income as a seamstress. Family oral history also supports this conclusion.
George Gilmore died a free yeoman farmer at the age of 95 in 1905. He and his wife Polly were buried on the land they owned.
The property remained in the Gilmore family until 1920 when it was purchased by William duPont. The Gilmore family still retains ownership of 2.6 acres containing the Gilmore family cemetery. The Gilmore cabin provides a glimpse of the life of a Reconstruction-era, African-American family in Orange County.
The cabin is a small composite log and frame structure located about 350 feet west of Virginia State Route 20 and about one-quarter mile south of the Montpelier Visitor Center. In 2005 Montpelier restored the Gilmore Cabin to give visitors an opportunity to see the transition from slavery to freedom for African Americans. It stands as one of the few restored freedmen's homes in Virginia.
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Montpelier Station, VA