Here stood the home of James Robinson and his family. Born "free" in 1799, James is listed as being of mixed racial parentage. Family oral history suggests that James' father was possibly a member of the Carter family of Pittsylvania plantation. In 1840, James purchased 170 acres of land on Henry Hill. Within a decade, he had built a modest one-and-one-half story log dwelling and assorted outbuildings. Robinson was the third wealthiest free black man living in Prince William County prior to the war.
Nine family members, spanning three generations, resided here in 1860. During the First Battle of Manassas, the family took refuge in a neighbor's cellar, and James reportedly hid under the turnpike bridge over Young's Branch. Despite its location amidst the fighting, the house escaped major damage. The farm remained safely behind Union lines through most of the Second Battle of Manassas, although General Franz Sigel established his headquarters on the property.
In 1872, Robinson submitted a claim to the government to recover some of the financial loss incurred during the war. He claimed that $2,608 of personal property was either taken or destroyed by Union soldiers — including large quantities of hay, wheat, corn, livestock, fence rails, and assorted furniture. Robinson was reimbursed for $1,249, less than half of what he claimed.
Photo by George Barnard, March 1862.