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Brooklyn Tobacco Factory

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c. 1855, probably Dabney Cosby Jr.; 1995 restored. 16040 River Rd.
  • (HABS; Photograph by Tim Buchman)

By the mid-nineteenth century, small and large tobacco factories dotted the tobacco-growing counties. Most large planters processed their own leaf tobacco into plug and twist chewing tobacco and, less frequently, into snuff or smoking tobacco. Some entrepreneurs like Beverly Barksdale II and Joshua Hightower, who owned the Brooklyn Tobacco Factory, also bought and processed their neighbors' crops. Their factory, in operation by 1850, had as many as thirty black employees, many of them children. Closed by the Civil War, it operated intermittently in the 1880s but finally shut its doors, as did many, because the owners could not afford new mechanized machinery. Today, few of these tobacco factories survive. This large and plain seven-bay brick building with two stories and an attic has whitewashed interiors with specialized workrooms, some of the original machinery, and historic graffiti including label stenciling and the scrawled names of workers and managers. Rural in location and urban in size, Brooklyn is the best-preserved antebellum tobacco factory in the Virginia country-side.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee


What's Nearby


Anne Carter Lee, "Brooklyn Tobacco Factory", [South Boston, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Virginia vol 2

Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest, Anne Carter Lee and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 358-359.

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