Seeking Information on Ruben Nelson, Former Slave of James Fontaine in Hanover Co., Virginia

The Society has received a query for any information on a former slave, Ruben Nelson, who, based on a 26 September 1867 application in the Freedman’s Bank Records, was owned by James Fontaine (1799-1872) of Hanover County, Virginia.  Reuben was born around 1842 in Louisa County, as was his wife Mary Ann.  After the Civil War they lived in Richmond where Ruben worked in a hotel.  They had six known children:  Robert; Louisa; Ruben W.; James E.; Bertina; and William J. Nelson.  In the 1870 census Ruben is identified as mulatto.

1867-09-26 Reuben Nelson Freedman Application

James Fontaine had 38 slaves in 1850, one of whom was about the age of Ruben, and 51 slaves in 1860, with two about the age of Ruben, per the census slave schedules generated in those years.  In 1860 eight of the 51 were house slaves.

James’ wife, Juliet Morris, daughter of Richard Morris, was from Louisa County, where Ruben and his wife Mary Ann were born.  Could Reuben have been owned by the Morris family?  Richard Morris  had 41 slaves in 1850 and 90 in 1860.

If you have any information on Ruben or Mary Ann or their family, please contact the Society’s librarian at  We are also looking for any photographs of James Fontaine, if any exist.  Thank you!

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