One of the projects the Committee on Race and Reconciliation has embarked upon is a study of slave ownership by the clergy of the Diocese. The study uses as its starting point the U.S. Census of 1860, and the companion Slave Schedules, matched with the list of clergy of the diocese in 1860. The diocese at the time covered all of present day Virginia and West Virginia.

Census page – click for full size

There were some holes in our study, and today I went back to look for the Rev. Aristides Spyker Smith listed in the clergy directory as the Rev. Aristides Smith, Principal of the Norfolk Female Seminary, a private school not a theological seminary. We’d not previously found him in the 1860 U.S. Census, but today I did. Ancestry.com transcribes his first name as Austides which is perhaps why we’d located him before.

According to the census, the family lived in Norfolk County and Aristides was the head of household. His occupation is given as P.E. Clergyman and school teacher. Three other Smiths, all in their twenties, resided in the house. The two eldest were school teachers, both male. No occupation is given for the youngest, Ellen. The household also employed a white female servant, aged 16.

We’ve found most clergy in the Diocese of Virginia owned or rented at least one slave. These would not be listed by name on the U.S. Census, but rather listed under the owner’s name under the Slave Schedule. I have not found anyone on the Norfolk County Slave Schedule who is a likely or possible match with Aristides.

However, with a name as unusual as Aristides it pays to do surf the internet. It turns out that during his lifetime Aristides did rent and sell slaves:

Harrison and Smith family papers, 1857-2005

The Harrison and Smith family of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina included Aristides Spyker Smith (1809-1892), an Presbyterian and Episcopal minister and principal of women’s schools in Virginia and Mississippi. Smith’s sons were Jonathan Reynolds (Johnnie) Smith (1836-1862) and Leonidas Wilkinson Smith (1835-1864). Also included was Smith’s daughter Ellen Alice Smith Harrison (b. 1840), her husband George Harrison (fl. 1852-1875), their daughter Sarah Walton Harrison (1868?-1891) and her husband Paul Garrett (1863-1940), and their son Aristides Smith Harrison (b. 1864) and his wife Katie Wilson Curtis, a daughter of George B. Curtis (1834-1920) of Biddeford, Maine, who traveled to Colorado in search of gold and adventure (ca. 1856), returning east and settling in Enfield, N.C. He opened a general store, and later a bank and a cotton business.

… items include a southern business directory used by Aristides Smith as a scrapbook; tax-in-kind receipts from the Confederate government; receipts for the rental and sale of slaves; notebooks of Aristides Smith on mathematics and astronomy… 

More about Aristides Spyker Smith:

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