In her narrative Veney writes that she never knew her father and that her mother died when she was about nine years old. Fletcher died at about the same time, and his will separated members of the Johnson family among various surviving members of the Fletcher family. Ownership of Bethany and her sister Matilda transferred to Fletcher's grown but unmarried daughter Lucy Fletcher. On January 25, 1827, Lucy Fletcher's sister, Nasenith Fletcher, married David Kibler, and Lucy Fletcher and her slaves moved in with the new couple. Veney describes Lucy Fletcher as kindhearted and generally opposed to slavery. Kibler, by contrast, was cruel and abusive, and regularly inflicted violence on the enslaved people under his control, including Veney. Veney's narrative also describes her conversion to Christianity, which was overseen by Kibler's brother and sister, both devout Methodists.
Marriage and Freedom
At some point, probably late in the 1830s, Veney married Jerry Fickland, an enslaved man owned by Jonas Menefee, who lived several miles away on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Menefee's debts eventually forced him to sell his slaves and they were confined in the town of Little Washington, in Loudoun County, prior to auction. About March 1843 the trader Frank White purchased all of Menefee's slaves and, before marching them south, encouraged Fickland to fetch Veney. White promised that the two would remain together. After Veney warned her husband not to trust the trader, Fickland fled to the mountains. He was captured and, with Menefee's permission, sold away by another slave trader, David McCoy. Veney never saw him again.
McCoy accepted a job overseeing a road construction gang of free black men, and he assigned Veney to cook for them. One of those laborers, Frank Veney, became her second husband, and the couple had one son, Joe Veney. In 1915 Frank Veney told the Page News and Courier that over the course of his life he had married twenty-five women, of whom he could remember eleven. Bethany Veney, he said, was his ninth wife. Veney negotiated with McCoy to hire her time out as she wished, paying her owner $30 per year and keeping anything left over for herself. She rented a house from John Printz on a mountain spur south of Luray called Stony Man.
Veney died on November 16, 1916, at the home of her daughter in Worcester. She was buried in that city's Hope Cemetery. On July 12, 2003, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signed a proclamation declaring "Bethany Veney Day" in Worcester.
ca. 1815 - Bethany Veney is born enslaved in Luray, Shenandoah County (later Page County).
ca. 1824 - Charlotte Johnson, the mother of Bethany Veney dies, as does their owner, James Fletcher. Ownership of Veney transfers to Fletcher's daughter Lucy.
January 25, 1827 - David Kibler and Nasenith Fletcher marry in Shenandoah County (later Page County). Bethany Veney labors for the Kibler family.
ca. March 1843 - Jerry Fickland, the husband of Bethany Veney, is sold, flees to the mountains, and is captured. Veney never sees him again.
January 1844 - Charlotte E. Fickland, the daughter of Jerry Fickland and Bethany Veney, is born. Not long after Veney and her daughter are sold to John Printz Sr.
ca. Early 1850s - Bethany Veney is sold to David McCoy, a slave trader in partnership with John O'Neile. She foils an attempt to auction her in Richmond by pretending to be sick.
Late 1850s - Bethany Veney earns $1.50 per week cooking for G. J. Adams and J. Butterworth, copper miners from Rhode Island.
December 27, 1858 - G. J. Adams, of Providence, Rhode Island, purchases Bethany Veney and her son, Joe.
August 1859 - Bethany Veney and her son, Joe, arrive in Providence, Rhode Island.
Late 1859 - Joe Veney, the son of Bethany Veney, takes ill and dies in Providence, Rhode Island.
ca. 1865 - Bethany Veney travels to Luray and returns to Rhode Island with her daughter and son-in-law.
1889 - The Narrative of Bethany Veney, a Slave Woman is published in Boston, Massachusetts.
November 16, 1916 - Bethany Veney dies at the home of her daughter in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is buried in that city's Hope Cemetery.
July 12, 2003 - Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declares "Bethany Veney Day" in Worcester.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Wolfe, B. Bethany Veney (ca. 1815–1916). (2017, December 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Veney_Bethany_ca_1815.
- MLA Citation:
Wolfe, Brendan. "Bethany Veney (ca. 1815–1916)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Dec. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: December 13, 2017 | Last modified: December 18, 2017
Contributed by Brendan Wolfe, editor of Encyclopedia Virginia.