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Frances Lawrence Webb, from "Historical

Sketches of Southampton County," 1963


Nat Turner


            So passed the closing years of the 18th Century and the first quarter of the 19th, until in 1832 its placidity was rudely shaken and a thrill of horror sent to every heart by the sudden uprising of the slaves led by Nat Turner.  It was like a bolt out of a clear sky and sent a shudder of dread through the entire South.  Prompt and determined action on the part of the planters living near the scene of the first uprising checked the spread of the revolt, and the two or three spots in the county were witnesses of the sanguinary check of the insurrection.  At Cross Keys, the old brick residence standing on the Courtland-Boykins Highway, is a low outbuilding in which five of the negroes were hanged.  Black Head Signpost at another point on the same road hands down in its name the story of its grewsome service as a means of inspiring terror among the survivors of Nat’s band.  Nat Turner himself was hanged upon a tree in the town of Courtland, then Jerusalem, and his headless body buried near the spot.  His skull, which was found in possession of a local physician at the close of the War between the States, became the property of the Provost Marshall who dominated the county in the days of reconstruction, and was given by him, as a precious relic, to one of the Northern Universities, where possibly it still stands.    

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