James Madison's Montpelier We The People Fall 2014 - Page 7

continued on page 8 We T he People To further this effort, The Montpelier Foundation has partnered with the Orange County African American Historical Association and descendants of the Montpelier and Orange County enslaved communities. Gathering oral histories and making connections between families has been essential to unveiling the more complete American story. “My family’s history is being told,” states Rebecca Gilmore Coleman, the great-granddaughter of George Gilmore, who was born into slavery at Montpelier in 1810. A skilled farmer and carpenter, George Gilmore and his wife Polly began a new life when freedom came in 1865. Gilmore was listed in a Freedmen’s Bureau record as one of six African Americans in the area who could read and write and was of “good character.” The 1870 census reveals that the Gilmores and their five children lived on and farmed land owned by Dr. James A. Madison, the president’s greatnephew. In 1901, George Gilmore, now age 91, purchased the 16.1 acres and became a landowner. The deed bearing Gilmore’s signature still exists and tells a powerful story of a family’s journey from being property to owning property. The Gilmore Cabin, located a short distance from Montpelier’s entrance along Route 20, still stands today, thanks in large part to Mrs. Coleman, who brought the cabin to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s attention in 1998, the same time The Montpelier Foundation was being established. Under Montpelier’s leadership and with the support of the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, the site was restored in 2001. “When I’m here, it is spiritual to me,” comments Mrs. Coleman. “It gives me and my family a sense of place because it’s nice to know where your roots lie. I can visualize George and Polly raising their family here. To me, they’re still alive, living through me.