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One of Samuel Ballton's houses in Greenlawn is
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One of Samuel Ballton's houses in Greenlawn is 23 Smith Street in Greenlawn. In this photo, the original stairs, taken Jan. 14, 2011. Samuel Ballton was born into slavery on a plantation in Westmoreland, Virginia in 1838. In 1861 he married a slave from a neighboring plantation, named Rebecca. At the start of the Civil War, Ballton was hired out to work as a section hand on the Virginia Central Railroad in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He escaped from slavery several times but always returned to visit his wife. Finally, they escaped together, walking 50 miles in 14 hours to Fredricksburg, and freedom. In 1873, after fighting for the north in a Massachusetts regiment, Samuel and Rebecca arrived in Greenlawn. Ballton was a sharecropper on the Alexander Gardiner farm "the largest farm in Greenlawn" and found success growing pickles and cabbages. He earned the title "Greenlawn Pickle King" in 1899 when he raised 1,500,000 pickles in one season. Ballton also worked as a buying agent for a large Boston pickle house, earning 10 cents per thousand for all that he purchased. Borrowing money from local white farmers, he began to buy land around Greenlawn, build homes, and re-sell the developed plots for a small profit. Ballton brought other black workers from the South to work on his farms and houses during the summer. A successful farmer and landowner and an astute businessman, Ballton encouraged the development of Greenlawn and became a founding member of the community there there. Some of the houses he built are still standing today.(Credit: Jesse Newman)

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Touchstones of black history

Black History is evident at a number of local sites. Some are tucked away; others we pass every day, oblivious to their significance.

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