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Story Archives: Natchez in Union hands; John Roy Lynch leaves Vidalia to reunite with mother
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|Natchez in Union hands; John Roy Lynch leaves Vidalia to reunite with mother|
(Third in a series)
In 1862, 15-year-old John Roy Lynch -- a future Congressman -- was banished to life as a field hand on Tacony Plantation three miles from the small riverfront town of Vidalia. He was born a slave to interracial parents at Tacony in 1847 but spent most of his youth as the personal valet of the Alfred Vidal Davis, a wealthy Natchez planter who lived at Dunleith mansion.
Davis owned several plantations in Louisiana and was one of the largest farmers in the South. He owned thousands of acres of land which were tended by hundreds of slaves.
Around 1849, Davis purchased John Roy Lynch's family from William Deale of Vidalia. In John Roy's autobiography "Reminisces of an Active Life", he wrote that his father, a white man named Patrick Lynch, was betrayed by Deale.
John Roy's father and his mother -- Caroline, a slave at Tacony -- were rearing their small family when Patrick Lynch became ill with either tetanus or cholera and died in 1849. On his deathbed, Patrick Lynch borrowed money to purchase his wife and children and turned the titles over to Deale, who John Roy says promised to ensure that the Lynch family remained free and protected. But Deale betrayed Patrick Lynch, wrote John Roy, and sold the Lynch family to Alfred Vidal Davis to pay off Patrick Lynch's debts.
Davis promised Caroline that she and her children would never face hard labor on his plantations and that they would never be sold to a cruel owner. He assigned Caroline as a housemaid at Dunleith, son William as a dining-room servant and John Roy as his valet.
In 1862, Davis broke that promise when he sent John Roy to Tacony to labor as a field hand after succumbing to the demands of his wife, who felt John Roy was smart-mouthed and insolent.
John Roy and Mrs. Davis had once been close. He wrote:
"While I was an especial favorite of both Mr. and Mrs. Davis, this seemed to be particularly true of Mrs. Davis. She would seldom, if ever, go shopping or visiting without having me occupy a seat on the carriage by the side of the driver to open and close gates on the road, and open and close the carriage door for her to get in and out.
"She would often have me come to her bed chamber during the day, especially when the weather was warm, and sit for hours at a time by her side and fan her and hand her warm ice water when thirsty. She was very fond of me and would speak of me in terms of commendation and praise when talking with friends and servants."
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