Thursday, September 21, 2023, 7p | In-Person & Zoom Webinar
With author Turk McClesky
In 1752, an enslaved Pennsylvania ironworker named Ned purchased his freedom and moved to Virginia. Taking the name Edward Tarr, he became the first free black landowner west of the Blue Ridge. Tarr established a blacksmith shop on the Great Wagon Road and helped found a Presbyterian congregation that exists to this day.
Living with him was his white, Scottish wife, and in a twist that will surprise the modern reader, Tarr’s neighbors accepted his interracial marriage. Only after a second white woman joined the household did some protest.
Tarr’s already dramatic story took a perilous turn when the predatory son of his last master, a Charleston merchant, abruptly entered his life in a fraudulent effort to reenslave him. His fate suddenly hinged on his neighbors, who were all that stood between Tarr and a return to the life of a slave.
This remarkable history unlocks a new understanding of race relations on the American frontier. Tarr and the individuals around him provide fascinating insight into the journey from slavery to freedom, slavery’s advent west of the Blue Ridge, the colonial merchant class, Indian warfare in southwest Virginia, as well as the challenges of establishing frontier societies.