Alexander Aldridge

Mount Pleasant’s New Owner

On April 2, 1863, AlexanderAldridgeof SussexCountypurchased the 727 acre Mount Pleasanttract from GeorgeWilson’s executor (Surry County Deed Book 14:394).  Aldridgemoved to Mount Pleasant, which he made his personal residence, and began farming his acreage.  From the time of his purchase, through 1876, Aldridgepaid real estate taxes on 727 acres. However, in 1877 the tax assessor noted that Mount Pleasantcontained only 642 acres.  In his Comments column, he attributed the change to a “Recent Survey.”  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).

In 1870 when a census-taker visited Mount Pleasant, he described AlexanderAldridgeas a 59-year-old white male farmer who owned $6,000 worth of real estate and $1,000 worth of personal property.  Alexandershared his home with 64-year-old MaryAldridge, who was described as keeping house.  An 18-year-old white woman namedElizabethEmory lived with theAldridges as did a married couple named Sledge and their five children. WyattSledge, who was age 54, was described as a white male farmer.  His wife,Martha, was 40-years-old and kept house.  The Sledges’ children werePeter (age 15),Cain (age 13),Paris (age 11),Ferguson (age 9), andWyattJr. (age 7).  Although the relationship between theAldridges and the Sledges is unclear, it is probable thatWyattSledge wasAlexanderAldridge’s farm manager or a sharecropper (Surry County Census 1870).

Land Use Patterns in 1870

In 1870 when agricultural census records were compiled,AlexanderAldridge’sMount Pleasantfarm 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 yearAldridge’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 ofAlexanderAldridge’s farming operations suggests that he placed more emphasis upon animal husbandry than he did upon field crops.

In 1872 whileAlexanderAldridgewas in possession ofMount 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 theMount Pleasantmansion, which was enclosed by a fence, was open and clear.  To the west, on a small neck of land were rows of trees, probably whereDr.GeorgeWilson’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 withinMount 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 5:137B-138) (Figures 13 and 14).

Mount Pleasant Changes Hands

OnMay 20, 1878,AlexanderAldridge ofSurryCounty soldMount Pleasant toReubinC.Gray ofChicago,Illinois.  The farm, which was said to consist of 642 acres, was described as being bound upon the north and east by theJames 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 separatedMount Pleasant from the farm belonging toJamesD.Wilson’s heirs.  The Swann’s Point farm that formerly belonged toStithSpratley also was said to abutMount Pleasant(Surry County Deed Book 16 [1873-1879]:651).