Hidden History: Gravel Hill, one of the oldest ‘free towns’ in Henrico

HENRICO,Va. (WRIC) — One of the oldest “free towns” is located in Eastern Henrico. Gravel Hill is a place where dozens of slaves found freedom.

Back in 1777, 78 slaves were freed as a condition of John Pleasant’s will, a Quaker who didn’t quite agree with forced servitude.

Pleasant’s son, Robert Pleasant, built a school for the free blacks on a 350 acre plot of land that was donated to them.

Gravel Hill Baptist church also sits there, which has been a pillar of the community for 150 years.

Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Richmond, Del. Dolores McQuinn, D-Richmond, and Henrico Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, who represents the Varina District, are all descendants of those freed slaves.

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