Amanda Willis was born July 25, 1831. On the 1860 Federal Census she was 29 years old with two children, Hauley 5 years old (which was incorrectly listed as Farley.) and Horace aged 3. Errors in names occurred quite often because the census takers often misspelled and incorrectly wrote information. This is more than likely due to their tremendous work load. Back then census takers went door to door with the arduous task of taking hundreds of names and information. The Soundex is a source in census research where individuals could be found in records based on what the name sounded like.
From the listing on the 1860 census she was married to Joseph Richardson, twenty years her senior and a shoemaker born in 1811. Of the 3,520 slaves and 312 free blacks in Rappahannock County, Amanda and her family were among the 312 free blacks who were considered somewhat of a third race, living in Sperryville, Virginia. Many blacks with the last name Richardson were “free mulattos”. From the mid eighteenth Century most lived in Virginia and North Carolina. I am assuming that from the way the listing is presented on the census there was another Horace, age 50 who was born in 1810 who may be Joseph’s brother. By the 1900 census at 68 years old, Amanda was living with her son Amon and daughter-in-law Hattie. Amanda by then was a widow. Amon and Hattie’s first born, Joseph Hood Richardson was two months old and named after his grandfather.
Earlier records of where she came from cannot be produced, but it isn't impossible to locate her. She was probably born in Sperryville. Her color status listed on the 1880 census was mulatto. It should be mentioned here that when the census listings from the 1880's say "mulatto" it does not necessarily mean black. The mulatto category was also used for Indians living east of the Mississippi. They might have been part black, but there are many listed also found as full blooded members of Native American tribes. According to the US Dept of Commerce, people of non-white parents were classified according to the race of the father. Mixtures of Negro and Indian were classified as Negro unless the Indian stock was clearly predominant or unless the individual was accepted in the community in which he lived as Indian.
Amanda was 45 years old in 1880. She was a housekeeper and widowed. There is an energy surrounding Amanda's story as quiet, secretive and painful. This energy seemed to be passed on to her children: Hauley, born 1855, Margaret, born 1867. Olivia, born 1869, and Amon, born May 5, 1874. Amon Grimsley Richardson as an adult never spoke about his past. There seemed to be a quiet, somber mystery surrounding him. It is said that he created a distance that indicated, that his past was one that was not to be questioned.
Amanda would bear 15 children in her lifetime, but as of this writing not all of them are seen on the census. A few of the mysteries surrounding Amanda and her children, seemed to become uncovered with the 1880 census. The eldest of Amanda's children was Hauley, 25 years old. He was single and crippled, having suffered from a broken back. How he sustained this injury is not indicated.
Margaret was 15 in 1880. She was also known as "Aunt Haggie" to Amon's children. Margaret “Haggie” Richardson was very much into the metaphysical. She eventually moved to New York and was employed as a school bus driver. Her nephew, Chauncey, used to visit her on several occasions, where a round-trip ticket to New York was $1.50. Margaret married a man by the last name of Harris. She remained in New York until her death in 1940.
Olivia was born August 7, 1869. She married 21 year old John Walker when she was 18 years old on Feb 19, 1888. (FHL Film number 33675 Ref.ID 42) She died a little over a year later on September 28, 1889. The assumption can be made here that she may have died in childbirth. John Walker remarried 6 years later to Susan Alice Barbour on April 7, 1895.
On the 1880 census, Amanda's two sons were listed as black males, while her daughters were listed as mulatto females.
Amanda died February 25, 1907 and was buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery/Rising Hope Lodge (colored) in Little Washington as most of the Richardson family members and kin are laid to rest.