The Lambert Lands have been recently recognized by the installation of a historical marker. Located in Morgan Township, these lands (265 acres) were purchased by the Lambert brothers, who were slaveholders in Virginia. They freed their slaves and gave them the land to be held in common by them and their descendants in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the lands were sold for taxes in 1970. It is known that many escaping slaves passed through this settlement and were helped by its residents. The marker documents this important aspect of Gallia County history.
HISTORY OF THE LAMBERT LANDS
The Lambert Land, located in Morgan Township, was one of Gallia County’s early landmarks. Stories about this segment of local history were handed down by word-of-mouth for three generations by family members who once lived on the 265.5 acre plot of land. For years the inhabitants believed that Frank, Miller and Minnis Lambert were supposedly plantation owners in Virginia who freed their slaves 20 years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and led them to Ohio; however new research has disclaimed this legendary tale.
Gallia County Deed Records at the Courthouse show that in 1843, a Frank Lambert, along with 29 other individuals with the surname Lambert, purchased three parcels of land in Gallia County. Recent research in Virginia found the Last Will and Testament of Charles Lambert, Jr. who was the actual owner of the group of slaves. Charles Lambert, Jr. of Bedford County, Virginia died in 1839, but he willed that his blacks be freed and provided money for them to buy land where they could go to live in freedom. The researchers discovered that Frank Jones, also known as Frank Lambert, was actually one of Charles Lambert’s former slaves and not a plantation owner.
Shortly after the former Lambert slaves settled in Morgan Township in Gallia County, they began to change their slave surname to their authentic names. Some of group became the Burks, Jones, Leftwiches, Millers, Minnises, Randolphs, Reeds, Sales, and Winfields. Within two years after the 1843 Lambert Land purchase these early settlers and other free blacks in Morgan Township established the Morgan Bethel Church.
Descendants of the original settlers continued to live on the Lambert Lands for two or three generations. By 1960 most had moved away, and the real estate taxes became delinquent. As a result, the county sold the communal property at a public auction on the Courthouse steps in 1969. That was the end of the real estate which had existed in the Lambert name for 126 years.
The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lambert, Jr. not only disclosed the authentic names of his slaves but also provided their age and description. In Richmond, Virginia researchers found the appraised value of each slave in the 1840 Property Tax records. This and more information can be found at the Gallia County Historical/Genealogical Society and The John Gee Black Historical Center, Inc. located at 48 Pine Street, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631-1512. Barbara Scott, local historian of Black History, also has information. She can be contacted by telephoning (740) 446-6521.
Estivaun Matthews & Charles A. Murray, Project Chairpersons
The Lambert Lands Preservation Society is an ad hoc committee of the Gallia County Historical/Genealogical Society located at 412 Second Avenue, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631. Through the efforts of these officers and all of the committee members, this unique segment of Gallia County history will never be forgotten.
ABOUT THE LAMBERT LAND PRESERVATION SOCIETY
* Denotes Descendants of the Former Slaves
Rev. Calvin Minnis* – President
Glenn Miller* – Vice President
Buford Minnis* – Recording Secretary
Corliss Miller – Treasurer
Barbara Scott – Chaplain
FRONT OF THE MEMORIAL MONUMENT READS
A Memorial Honoring a Community Founded by Former Slaves
Lambert Land Memorial
Dedicated September 14, 2002
This memorial is dedicated to 30 ex-slaves, freed by slave holder, Charles Lambert, Jr. of Bedford County, Virginia in his last will and testament. In 1843, the group migrated northward, crossed the Ohio River, and settled on 265.5 acres in Morgan Township, in Gallia County, Ohio, where they could live as free men and women. The memorial also records the names of 148-known individuals buried without markers in this cemetery.
BACK OF THE MEMORIAL MONUMENT READS
“Upon my death, all my black people shall be set free.”
Charles Lambert, Jr., former slave owner.
Original Lambert Settlers
Mary Ann Lambert
Randolph Lambert, Jr.
DIRECTIONS TO THE LAMBERT LANDS
To visit this memorial site from Gallipolis, follow State Route 160 northwest approximately 3 miles to the traffic light at the intersection of State Route 160 and Jackson Pike (Old State Route 35). At the light turn right to continue on State Route 160. Travel north, toward Vinton, to Thompson Road (approximately 10 miles). Turn right on Thompson Road and travel east for 1.5 miles to Greenlee Road. Turn left on Greenlee Road and travel for 0.4 miles to the Morgan Bethel Church. The church is located on the right side of the road.
The Underground Railroad is a story of the search for freedom, one of the defining aspects of the American experience. It is neither a “railroad,” nor is it “underground.” Rather, it is a network of sites, routes and events that tell the story of thousands of escaped slaves trying, against all odds, to reach freedom. Ohio’s location bordering the slave-owning states of Kentucky and West Virginia (formerly Virginia) make it an area rich in Underground Railroad history.