The Virginia Gazette

Today in the 1770s: September 20

WILLIAMSBURG, September 20, 1776.
Run away from the subscriber about the 5th day of July last, a likely negro man named BILLY, about 24 or 25 years of age, well made, of an exceeding black complexion; had on, when he went away, as I am informed, a great coat, and blue Virginia cloth breeches. He was born in Williamsburg, in mrs. Ray's family, and has been seen there since his elopement. I recollect nothing to distinguish this fellow by, more than is mentioned, except a remarkalbe turning of his eyes and winking, with some hesitation before he replies upon being spoken to. . . . JOHN BANISTER

Virginia Gazette (Purdie) September 20, 1776

About this entry:

Billy was likely part of the James Wray family. James Wray died in 1750, and his inventory lists a slave child named Billy. Mr. Wray was a prosperous builder who owned property where the present Merchant's Square is located. He was know to be in Williamsburg from 1736 until he died. His wife Mary and son James inherited his property. In comparison with other inventories of this time, the values of some of Wray’s slaves were relatively high, suggesting that many of them were skilled craftsmen. The average value of Wray’s slaves was £32.10 with the most skilled slave, London, appraised at £60. Young Billy might have learned carpentry or bricklaying from one of these men.

Sources: James Wray (CW web page)

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