William Beck

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William Beck was the "Mulatto" slave of Thomas Walker, Jr., who served in the Revolution with Walker and was emancipated by the Virginia Legislature in October 1779 after Walker petitioned for his freedom.[1]

Petition emancipation

Albemarle County, Virginia. filing started October 23, 1779: Thomas Walker Jr. asks that his mulatto slave William Beck be emancipated. Walker states that he purchased Beck from the heirs of the late Major Thomas Meriwether for seventy pounds. He further cites that Beck "has during his servitude behaved in a most exemplary manner" and has served "under Colo Charles Lewis in several campaigns to the northward." Noting that Beck has paid him back the said seventy pounds, the petitioner prays that "your hon. house would declare the said William Beck to be free." Result: Reasonable; bill drawn.[2]

The Petition read, in part:

“That Whereas William Beck Mullato Slave formerly the property of Major Thos. Meriwether & purchased by said Thos. Walker Junr. of his heirs for the sum of Seventy pound has during his servitude behaved in a most exemplary manner, while with him, under Colo Charles Lewis in several Campaigns to he northward & having paid said Thos. Walker Junr. the (first) purchase, fully expecting his freedom for the same, your petitioner does therefore most humbly request your hon. house would declare the said William Beck to be free. Thomas Walker, Jr., Albemarle County, To Virginia Government 23 October 1779 Passed by Virginia House and Senate on 30 October 1779” -Walker petition to free Beck in Legislation Petitions, Archives of Library of Virginia

Context: Thomas Meriwether (1714 - 1756) was “a man of great wealth” according to George Gilmer’s book, First Settlers of Upper Georgia. He held the rank of colonel and commander of the Virginia Militia in the French and Indian War. The Thomas Meriwether home was at “Clover Fields” and it is probable that William Beck was born there. The executors of his were Col. Joshua Frye, Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas Jefferson), Dr. Thomas Walker and Dr. George Gilmer, all prominent citizens of Albemarle County.

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