Courtland Travel Guide

  • Southampton County Courthouse
    Southampton County Courthouse
    by Basaic
  • Mahones Tavern
    Mahones Tavern
    by Basaic
  • Veterans Plaque
    Veterans Plaque
    by Basaic

Courtland Things to Do

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    Courtland and Southhampton County

    by Basaic Written Feb 14, 2012

    Courtland began in 1791 with the name of Jerusalem. It got the name Courtland in 1888. Courtland is the county seat of Southhampton County and has a population of just over 1300. In 1831, the town was the site of the trials and executions of people involved in the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. Famous and popular singer Pearl Bailey was born nearby.

    Southhampton County Courthouse
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    The Nat Turner Rebellion

    by etfromnc Updated Nov 24, 2011

    During my first year in the Air Force, I married a lovely young lady whom I had met on a temporary job between my graduation from Duke and actually entering active duty with the Air Force. One of our shared passions was reading. During my time in pilot training, she bought a copy of The Confessions of Nat Turner, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by William Styron, also a Duke graduate.

    At the time, I had little time for novels but in the years since have learned that this novel was somewhat loosely based upon the life of Nat Turner, an actual early 18th Century Virginia slave who led a revolt of slaves in Southampton County, Virginia in August of 1831. His revolt resulted in the largest number of fatalities to occur in one uprising prior to the American Civil War in the southern United States. Approximately 60 whites and 100 blacks died during this uprising. Turner was captured, tried, and hanged. After his hanging, on 11 November 1831, the state executed 56 blacks accused of being part of Turner's slave rebellion. Two hundred blacks were also beaten and killed by white militias and mobs reacting with violence. Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.

    When you visit Southampton County, if someone offers to show you Nat Turner's grave, save your time. There is dispute as to whether his body may have literally been destroyed shortly after he was hanged, at the young age of 31, but there is no argument that no-one knows where whatever remained of him after the hanging was buried.

    There is a Nat Turner Trail but its development has repeatedly been denied both state and federal funding so it is very difficult to find and only sporadically receives attention or promotion. If you are planning to be in the area Google "The Nat Turner Trail," where you may find upcoming "tours."

    If you find yourself in Southampton County and want to find something related to this uprising, visit the Rebecca Vaughan House at 26315 Heritage Lane in Courtland. The last killings of the Nat Turner Rebellion occurred in this house so it may provide a good starting point for your tour. Unfortunately, from a historical perspective, the house was moved from its original rural setting into the town of Courtland just a few years ago.

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Comments (1)

  • Nov 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    I have passed this house many times driving through Courtland and have not seen any restoration on the property except for the dormers. It is sad to think that Franklin/Southampton Historical Society is not doing more with not only this property but for their entire historic district as well. VA is a hot spot for tourism and history buffs alike. I agree, the Vaughan house should not have been moved, but for the sake of saving it as the only option, then two thumbs up for the Historical Society to accommodate. I have so much passion and drive for historic homes and their history, I wish I could make a difference!

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