Martha Ann Fields Building
Welcome to the Martha Ann Fields Building, home of Human Resources, General Services, the Assessor’s Office and Parks and Recreation. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll find a lot more. This building has a story.
Martha Ann Fields was an enslaved woman at Nutshell Plantation, which was previously located here on the Hanover County Government Complex. She was hired out by the Hanover Tavern and forced to work as a cook by the Winston family.
In 1863, she escaped with her children across the Pamunkey River and arrived in Hampton a free woman.
“It's a local, universal story,” said Jaime R. Fawcett, Executive Director of Hanover Museum of History & Culture. “Here in Hanover – statewide, nationwide impact.”
The Fields family prioritized education, with Martha Ann’s fifth child James Apostle Fields being a member of the first class at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Hampton University). James was later elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1889.
Martha Ann’s seventh child George Washington Fields was the first African American graduate of Cornell University’s legal program. He later wrote a memoir titled, “Come On, Children:” The Autobiography of George Washington Fields, Born a Slave in Hanover County, Virginia.
This memoir is what connected Martha Ann Fields with her descendants.
“My grandmother was very intent on letting us know that we were the descendants of James Apostle Fields,” said Ajena Cason Rogers, great-great-great granddaughter of Martha Ann Fields. “When the memoirs of James’ brother George Washington Fields were rediscovered, that’s when I discovered who his mother was.”
Rogers previously lived in the Philadelphia area, but after returning to Hanover her connection to the Fields family grew stronger.
“When I stood there with my young daughter in front of the Tavern looking back at the Courthouse, you can’t imagine the feelings that flooded over me,” Rogers said. “To be able to work with the museums and tell that so that others can feel what I felt, I can’t describe it even now how that impacted me.”
In October 2020, Martha Ann’s descendants came to Hanover for the dedication of the Martha Ann Fields building.
“Having one of the buildings named for her, it puts her and it puts me back into this landscape,” Rogers said. “We are telling a complete story of the things that happened and the people who were here on the grounds of the Hanover Courthouse area.”
One of the newest additions on the historic Courthouse green is a marker for Martha Ann Fields and her family.
“Just the fact that we are represented fully in this space means a lot to me,” Rogers said. “But it does take a village, an entire community, to remember what came before and to come together in the present time to work alongside each other to move forward together.”
In October 2022, Hanover Museum of History & Culture opened their expanded “Leaders & Legacy: Women of Hanover” exhibit featuring Martha Ann Fields.
“Working with Ajena and her family, we are really taking a closer look at Martha Ann Fields – her experience, her children's experience, her husband's experience that happened right here on this Government Complex,” said Fawcett. “One of the great things about a museum is that we connect the dots between the historic events and the people who lived those lives and share their impact on our citizens today.”
To learn more about Martha Ann Fields and her family, visit the Hanover Museum of History & Culture Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.