Alexander Aldridge

Mount Pleasant’s New Owner

On April 2, 1863, Alexander Aldridge of Sussex County purchased the 727 acre Mount Pleasant tract from George Wilson’s executor (Surry County Deed Book 14:394).  Aldridge moved to Mount Pleasant, which he made his personal residence, and began farming his acreage.  From the time of his purchase, through 1876, Aldridge paid real estate taxes on 727 acres. However, in 1877 the tax assessor noted that Mount Pleasant contained only 642 acres.  In his Comments column, he attributed the change to a “Recent Survey.”  145 The buildings on the Mount Pleasant tract had an estimated worth of $2,000 at the time of Alexander Aldridge’s purchase in 1863.  They sustained their value through 1870 but when the assessor visited the property in 1871, he reduced their worth  to only $1,500.  By 1874 Mount Pleasant’s buildings had dwindled to only $1,250.  They were taxed at that level through 1884, by which time the property had changed hands three times (Surry County Land Tax Lists 1866-1884).  It is likely that during the Civil War and the Reconstruction period, the buildings at Mount Pleasant, like those of most  other Tidewater Virginia properties, suffered from deterioration and neglect.  There is no indication that they sustained wartime damage.  Maps prepared by Confederate cartographers identify Mount Pleasant and the home of J. D. Wilson (Gilmer ([186-]; 1864) (Figures 11 and 12). 146

In 1870 when a census-taker visited Mount Pleasant, he described Alexander Aldridge as a 59-year-old white male farmer who owned $6,000 worth of real estate and $1,000 worth of personal property.  Alexander shared his home with 64-year-old Mary Aldridge, who was described as keeping house. 147  An 18-year-old white woman named Elizabeth Emory lived with the Aldridges as did a married couple named Sledge and their five children. Wyatt Sledge, who was age 54, was described as a white male farmer.  His wife,Martha, was 40-years-old and kept house.  The Sledges’ children were Peter (age 15),Cain (age 13),Paris (age 11),Ferguson (age 9), and Wyatt Jr. (age 7).  Although the relationship between the Aldridges and the Sledges is unclear, it is probable that Wyatt Sledge was Alexander Aldridge’s farm manager or a sharecropper (Surry County Census 1870).

Land Use Patterns in 1870

In 1870 when agricultural census records were compiled,Alexander Aldridge’s Mount Pleasant farm was said to be worth a cash value of $6,000.  During 1869, he had had 250 acres of land in production, plus 200 acres of woodland, and 125 acres of other unimproved land. Aldridge’s investment in farming implements was minimal: $57.  This probably was due to the shortage of such equipment right after the Civil War. Alexander Aldridge’s livestock included one horse, two mules and asses, ten milk cows, two working oxen, twenty other cattle, twenty sheep, and twenty-five swine.  The value of his livestock was $500 and the census-taker noted that during 1859 he had spent $47 in farm productions for the betterment of his livestock.  During the 1869 crop year Aldridge’s cultivated land had yielded 250 bushels of Indian corn, 50 bushels of oats, 15 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 20 bushels of sweet potatoes (Surry County Agricultural Census 1870). The pattern of Alexander Aldridge’s farming operations suggests that he placed more emphasis upon animal husbandry than he did upon field crops.

In 1872 while Alexander Aldridge was in possession of Mount Pleasant, a highly detailed topographic map was made that shows the layout of the property.  Displayed  prominently was the main house and a line of dependencies located to its west.  Another line of dependencies was aligned along the main entrance road, which ran along a roughly east-west axis, south of the main house.  The land around the Mount Pleasant mansion, which was enclosed by a fence, was open and clear.  To the west, on a small neck of land were rows of trees, probably where Dr. George Wilson’s “Neck Orchard,” where his fruit orchard and ice house were located, just east of the boundary line with Four Mile Tree.  To the southeast of the mansion house were two large orchards that also lay within Mount Pleasant’s boundaries as they were traditionally defined.  Few changes were in evidence when the area was mapped again in 1877 (Donn 1872; Moffitt 1877; Surry County Plat Book 5:137 B-138) (Figures 13 and 14).

Mount Pleasant Changes Hands

On May 20, 1878, Alexander Aldridge of Surry County sold Mount Pleasant to Reubin C.Gray of Chicago,Illinois.  The farm, which was said to consist of 642 acres, was described as being bound upon the north and east by the James River, on the west by Four Mile Tree, and on the south by the county road to Swann’s Point. Aldridge’s property line extended along the Swann’s Point road for one mile and two hundred-fifty yards.  The road reportedly served as the boundary line that separated Mount Pleasant from the farm belonging to James D.Wilson’s heirs.  The Swann’s Point farm that formerly belonged to Stith Spratley also was said to abut Mount Pleasant (Surry County Deed Book 16 [1873-1879]:651).

[145] Nobody else was credited with the missing 85 acres.

[146] This identifies the approximate location of the tract called Jack’s, which had had a race field.

[147] It is unclear whether she was his wife or his sister.