Fiction authors sometimes begin historical narratives by announcing the discovery of a long-forgotten strong box in a dusty attic containing purportedly true accounts of times passed handily preserved for the modern reader’s enjoyment. T.O. Madden, Jr.'s We Were Always Free starts with just such a scenario, but unlike historical fiction, this is no ploy. The history unearthed is real and traces back to colonial Virginia when Mary Madden, an Irish woman, gave birth to a child of mixed race on August 4, 1758 in Spotsylvania County.
Because of the laws of the time, just as the mother was free so would Mary’s child, Sarah, be considered free, as would all of Sarah’s descendents. Mary and her newborn were first tended at the Collins farm in Spotsylvania, and the church vestry paid the Collins for their year of upkeep with 600 pounds of tobacco taken in tithes from the parishioners. In 1759, still being paupers, Mary was sent along with her baby, to the local workhouse where the poor labored to support themselves.
By Betty Churchill Lacy
When I was five years old I was taken by my parents in their four horse coach to visit Dr. Peyton Grymes near Orange Court House. From there we drove to Montpelier to visit ex-President Madison. I distinctly recall Madison as a worn, feeble old man in dressing gown, and a black silk cap lying on a couch. It was not long before his death. Mrs. Dolly Madison in her turban also made an impression on me, for she was very kind, and took me all round the rooms to see the many beautiful things with which they were filled. I remember with special delight a music box that was wound up for my amusement.