The Oaklands Plantation: An Exploration of one Family’s Significance to the Roanoke Area

Author: Kerri Taylor
Major: History
Approved: Fall 2016
Status: Completed

I am interested in the local history of Northwest Roanoke. My project explores the influence of the Watt’s family both in the growth of the city of Roanoke, and in the emergence of Northwest Roanoke as a previously segregated, now predominately black community. This particular family used to own a sizable amount of property on a plantation called Oaklands Plantation within the Roanoke area. The property was one of the largest in the area. The family was known to be very hospitable—many people traveled to their home and stayed for many days. The family held prominent positions within the local area. The records kept at the Virginia Room inside the Roanoke Public Library, on the subject of Oaklands plantation, confirm this, leading me to believe that this hospitality, combined with their prominent positions within the community made them very influential figures in the development of Roanoke from the late 1880’s going onward into the mid 20th century, especially after the abolition of slavery and a release of any slaves they owned. Oaklands as a plantation no longer exists due to modern expansion of the city. A majority of the land that was once Oaklands plantation land has been sold or taken by eminent domain. The remaining property that has sparked my interest for this project is right in front of the Lick Run Greenway, behind 581 and the Valley View Mall, across the street from the Canteen Vending Company. I think it is important to explore this topic because not many people in the area are even aware of its historical richness or its influence at the time it existed, and perhaps even its continual influence on the community today.