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First Name: Virginia
Gender: Female
Family Relationships: Edmond, Brother
Linney, Sister
Owner's Name: Archibald Govan
Lucy Ann Govan
Reference Number: UNL00005160


Virginia was tried and sentenced to death in 1843 for setting fire to and burning a building in Richmond, Virginia. Her conviction was set aside by the govenor of Virginia, James MacDowell.

From a letter dated March 21st, 1843 from Lucy Ann Govan to William M. Waller:
"...her trial took place on Wednesday the 15th and despite of all that could be done to save her she has now resting on her the aweful sentence of death- the 25th day of April is fixed for her execution".
"There was everything to prove her guilty even without her confession...".
"if the govenor grants a pardon Mr. Govan says he will try to get her a master some where in North Carolina and not let her be sent off so far from her parents".
"...we can not bring ourselves to believe that she intended to consumate the crime. She only did it I think believing if she was detected she would be sent away. Had we known of her great opposition to returning to the place we should not have forced her back...".

From a letter dated June 17th, 1843 from Lucy Ann Govan to William M. Waller:
"poor Virginia is here still, her health has greatly improved".
"Mr. Govan will dispose of her shortly...her family seems quite reconciled to her fate".

From a letter dated June 18th, 1843 from Archibald Govan to William M. Waller:
"...had granted her a pardon..."
"she was siezed with epileptick fits tho: not the first time...".
"finding it impossible to sell her at any price and dangerous to remove her any distance until...her health was in some degree restored...".

The following are quotes taken from notes located in the folder Mss7:3 E443 Sp272:1
Virginia was charge on February 2nd, 1843.
"...arraigned and pleaded not guilty". Page 1.
"...unanimously of the opinion that the said slave Virginia is guilty of the offense..." Page 2,
" is consided by the court that the said Virginia be hanged by the neck until she is dead". Page 2.
At the trial William B Rushmer, a witness to the fire, made this statement "...she told him that if he would not sell her, she would have never set fire to the house again". Page 5.

From George W. Soler's petition to the court: "...was well disposed and submissive. I have no reason to believe she was actuated by malice...if she did commit the offense she was persuaded or influenced by some one else". Page 5.

Virginia was granted an conditional pardon by govenor James MacDowell on March 23rd, 1843.

From the govenors pardon: "considering ...the age and stupidity of the culprit, and the slight and doubtful character of the testimony ... I give a pardon to Virginia but on the consideration that Govan give statisfactory assurance to the exe. that he will remove her at once from the bounds of this comth". Page 6.

Document 1 of 2 related to this person


Record Date:


Record Type:


Record Call No.

Mss2 W1567 b 5

Record Title

Letter, 1843, of Lucy Ann Govan (of "Selwind", Hanover County, Va.) to William Macon Waller (of "Forest Hill", Amherst County, Va.) concerning Virginia, an African-American slave on trial for arson.

Document Notes:

This second letter from Lucy Ann Govan to her father William Macon Waller discusses both the health and legal status of Virginia.








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