Two families connected by slavery and love reunite for first time in Campbell County

By Irisha Jones - Reporter

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Va. - Two families connected by slavery and compassion met for the first time during a two-day reunion for in Campbell County.

10 news reporter Irisha Jones found out how the descendants of slaves and the white slave owners retraced the steps of where their stories connect.

Years of research has led to this moment. A reunion between different families, descendants of William Williamson and Thomas Rosser. 

"They did everything they could to help William Williamson, who was half black and half white keep his freedom," said Bowman.  

Bobbi Bowman said documents and deeds she found in 2010 in the Campbell County Courthouse shows "Billy" Williamson was a free man in 1842.

"Our great, great grandfather William Williamson fought for 15 years to keep his freedom after he bought it," said Bowman. 

According to Bowman, an 1806 law in Virginia said black people had one year to leave the state after they were freed or go back into slavery. Williamson had to decide. And because he trusted Rosser so much, he picked him as he slave owner as a way to stay with his family. 

"They walked in this building as two free men in 1859 and they walked out as a master and slave," said Bowman. 

A visit to the site of slave auctions in Campbell County made it all real. 

"If the Rossers had not bought grandpa, they would have put him on this block and they would have sold him to the highest bidder," said Bowman.

George Rosser is the great-grandson of Thomas Rosser. 

"Not many 90-year-old people ever have the opportunity to do something like this to become a part of their life," said Rosser. 

With tears in his eyes, he says this part of his family's history was unknown until Bowman's research. 

"I know how I felt. I just couldn't believe it, that's all," said Rosser. 

The families also took a tour of the land where research shows it was once owned by Willamson. 

"After the war, they were free and then the Rossers returned our land. It is an unbelievable story," said. 

It's a unique story of slavery worth telling. The two families plan to hold more reunions in the future.

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