- Paint Your Wagon


The Matchless No. 35, Hughes Buggy Company catalog, Frederick County (Va.) Chancery Cause Columbia Wagon Co. vs. John G. Crisman & Co., etc., 1903-058, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

A chancery case from Frederick County looked like any other business dispute except for a unique item presented as an exhibit. Columbia Wagon Company vs. John G. Crisman & Company, etc., 1903-058, involved the bankruptcy of the Crisman Company and the efforts of its creditors to collect on the debts owed them. One of the many parties involved in the case submitted an exhibit of their showroom catalog of wagons and carriages. The Hughes Buggy Company’s catalog reads like a modern day sale brochure by any major auto company selling a Ford Fusion or Honda Civic. The wagons listed in the Hughes Buggy catalog have their own unique names and descriptions for their particular style. “The Physicians’ Phaeton” was a canopy covered carriage with large wheels having “1 inch tread” supporting its carriage described as ideally suited for the traveling doctor making house calls. The catalog offered customized color options with purchase of this new buggy.

Another style called “The Matchless No. 35” implies the manufacturing quality and customer appeal was second to none:

“This wagon is without a doubt the most popular vehicle built in the United States today.  Every single item of material and workmanship is positively the very best that can be procured.  Every known improvement is substituted in this carriage without additional cost.

The price includes Fnenuatic Tires, Wire Wheels,

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- African American Land Ownership and Loss


African American man plowing with a pair of horses in Hampton, Virginia, circa 1899. (Image used courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

Prior to the abolishment of slavery, the idea of landownership was an impossible dream for most African Americans, but in the years following the Civil War, African American landowners began to appear in Virginia’s chancery records. Unfortunately, these new landowners most often came to court because they were in danger of losing ownership of their property, or they felt they had been cheated out of the true value of their lands. With little support to aid in their pursuit of landownership, many minorities lost their property in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two such examples were found in the Patrick County chancery causes.

In 1872, Enoch Wilson, an African American, sold a parcel of land to Gabriel Hylton, a white man, at a price that was much lower than it was worth.  Hylton, regarded as a shrewd man and apparently not averse to taking advantage of others, vowed to pay Wilson $1.25 per acre for 217 acres of land.  The transaction even included an offer to allow Wilson to continue to reside on the property until his death.  Unfortunately for Wilson, the agreement was simply verbal and no money or documentation was ever exchanged.

Wilson’s grandson lived with him and was unaware of the verbal agreement with Hylton.  As the assumed heir to the property, he decided to grow and sell … read more »

- The 2014 Alan M. and Nathalie Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography

The 2014 Alan M. and Nathalie Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography will be held at the Library of Virginia on Saturday, 12 April.   This year’s lecture features two guest speakers:   Dr. Maury Klein, “Railroad Maps as Promises of the Future,” and William C. Wooldridge, “Tracks on Maps:  Showcasing Virginia’s 19th Century Railroads.”  This event includes a special one-day exhibition of maps relating to the talks from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Out of the Box presents a sneak preview of two of the maps from the Library’s collection that will be on display.


Map and Profile of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, 1856, call number 755 R15 1856, Map Collection, Library of Virginia.

Railroad construction boomed in 1850s Virginia. Railroad companies drafted and published maps to raise support for and to alert the public about ongoing railroad track construction. One example is the Map and Profile of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.  This shows the railroad track from Lynchburg to Bristol, Virginia, and highlights the technical surveys of the project in tables printed below the map. Coalfields and coal pits are shown.


A Map of the rail roads of Virginia, by Lewis von Buchholtz, 1858, Board of Public Works (BPW 672), Map Collection, Library of Virginia.

In 1858, A Map of the Rail Roads of Virginia by Ludwig von Buchholtz was lithographed by Ritchie and Dunnavant, a Richmond publishing firm. The map clearly shows the railroad lines completed in the commonwealth, those in progress, and those proposed. When compared to the 1848 Internal Improvements Map of Virginia drawn by Claudius Crozet it clearly shows … read more »

- “There’s only one thing I don’t like about Combat–It Ain’t Safe!”


Recruitment poster for U. S. Army Air Corps. Image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

When John Hager Randolph Jr. wrote to his parents in Richmond near the end of his Virginia Military Institute career in the spring of 1942, he had a few things on his mind. There were the girls he was interested in, the potential for a “bawling out” from Mom and Dad once they received his grades, and the average college student’s ever-present concern: money (“Please send me the money soon!” was his plaintive postscript to one letter).  But, while his life at this point resembled that of pretty much any other soon-to-be graduate, Randolph was on the verge of a new chapter of adventure and danger, thrown in the midst of one of history’s greatest conflicts. His service as a World War II bomber pilot is detailed in the letters he sent home, preserved in the John Hager Randolph Jr. Papers (Acc. 51038) at the Library of Virginia.  

After VMI, Randolph entered the Army Air Corps, training stateside as a pilot with the war looming ever larger in his future. At the end of a prolonged period of uncertainty as to his eventual assignment, he found himself heading to the Pacific Theater in the spring of 1945. There, he would take part in an aerial battering of Japan that would test its resistance to surrender before the atomic bomb finally brought it down.  … read more »

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- Magic Lantern After-Show Turns Deadly


Phantasmagoria by James Gillray, 1803. (Image used courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

Sometimes what starts out in fun can turn into a deadly accident.  That’s exactly what happened on 5 September 1894, in Bedford County, Virginia, when John Robinson decided it would be amusing to play a prank on some friends.

The friends had attended a magic lantern show held at the “Negro church” in Montvale, Virginia, and it was after the show that John Robinson devised his idea for a prank. Bud Anderson was there that night and told about the events that led up to the incident. “The show closed at 10:15 P.M. I stayed a few minutes afterwards and went with Bob Rosebrugh and met [Robinson] on the railroad crossing.” Robinson had “proposed a plan to scare Hunter Clark and John Minter, who had gone home with the Flood girls.” He shared his plan with Anderson and Rosebrugh, who told him, “I’m afraid Hunter Clark will shoot.” Not to be deterred, Robinson left for “some minutes” and returned with a rope and white garment.  Robinson took the rope and garment and crossed the creek “by the Bluff Road.” Some 20 minutes later, Anderson and Rosebrugh heard four pistol shots.

Hunter Clark was able to fill in the details about the prank that went horribly awry: “Just before we got to the creek at Rice’s Mill, I ran against a white garment tied to a … read more »

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- “What’s in a name?”

As Juliet Capulet asked, “What’s in a name?” Well, for some Virginians of centuries past, quite a lot. So much so that a few staff members began keeping a list of interesting names discovered while working on the public service desks at the Library of Virginia. Soon, other staff members in the archival processing sections began contributing interesting and unusual names to the list.

We thought these names were too good to keep to ourselves, so we started posting them to the Library’s Twitter feed under the hashtags #FunnyNames #FromTheArchives.  We share these in the spirit of good fun and hope you’ll enjoy the interesting array of monikers. Who knows, maybe the posts can help revive period names like Elmadoras and Waldegrave and liven up roll call in Virginia’s schools.

-Vince Brooks, Senior Local Records Archivist… read more »

- “I speak for the trees!”


Plat, 9 September 1741, Lancaster County Chancery Cause William Edmonds, infant vs. Robert Edmund, infant, 1751-001, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Flora of Virginia, the Library of Virginia’s latest exhibition, highlights the botanical exploration of Virginia from the colonial days to the present.  Curated in partnership with the Flora of Virginia Project, the exhibition explores the history of botanical description and illustration and celebrates the power of the flower.  It features original artwork and colorful illustrations from the LVA’s collections, as well as books, photographs, and plant specimens. With the exhibit as inspiration, I wondered what flora history could be uncovered in Virginia’s local court records. Plats and surveys, documents frequently included as exhibits in court cases, are excellent resources to discover which trees grew where in Virginia counties. Trees were often used as landmarks in plats or were included by the survey maker as decorative elements to their work. My search revealed a wealth of plat and survey examples from different parts of the state spanning over 250 years of Virginia history.

B. A. Colonna, the deputy county surveyor of Northampton County, drew a unique and detailed plat of Catherine H.G. Kendall’s land.  His 15 January 1869 plat included symbols for the pine, oak, and gum trees growing on her land and a key to identify what each symbol represented.  This plat is part of Northampton County Chancery Cause 1869-015, Samuel E. D. Kellam & wife vs. Juliet J. Kendall, etc.

A 19 … read more »

- Kaine Email Project@LVA – Sunshine Week Edition

This is the fourth in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).

Sunshine Week “is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” In honor of Sunshine Week, 16-22 March 2014, this week’s post focuses on how a 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by a state delegate led to a Kaine administration prohibition on printing by state agencies.


Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District.  Photo from Virginia House of Delegates web page.

In November 2008, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) submitted a FOIA request to all state agencies asking for a copy of each publication with a print run exceeding 100 copies.  He also wanted to know the printing costs for each publication and the name of the printer.  Upon receipt of Lingamfelter’s letters, agencies contacted Kaine administration staffers for further guidance.  Gena Boyle, special assistant to the governor for policy, forwarded one such email to Chief of Staff Wayne Turnage on 1 December 2008.  Turnage replied that “I’m sure he [Lingamfelter] expects to find millions in printing costs.  With the advent of web to hold reports he will be disappointed – I hope.”

Wayne Turnage, Chief of Staff to Governor Tim Kaine (2007-2010); Deputy Chief of Staff (2006-2007).

With the support of Delegate Lingamfelter, the administration consolidated his requests and treated them as one FOIA … read more »

- King William Co. Chancery Now Online!


Letterhead for the Terminal Hotel, West Point, Virginia. King William County (Va.) Chancery Cause Anderson Bourgeoise, etc. vs. Daniel L. Risley, 1904-026, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for the King William County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1868-1913, are now available online through the Chancery Records Index on the LVA’s Virginia Memory site. Because they rely so heavily on the testimony of witnesses, chancery causes contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information and are especially useful when researching local, state, social, or legal history. Chancery causes often contain correspondence, property lists (including slaves), lists of heirs, and vital statistics that are especially helpful in documenting the African American experience, family history, women’s history, and Southern business and labor history. Following are a few suits of interest found in the collection.

The King William chancery causes contain several suits which illustrate the experiences of Native Americans in the Tidewater region. The Mattaponi Tribe is represented in Chancery Cause 1895-002, George F. Custalow vs. James S. Robinson, Trustee. In the case, two members of the Mattaponi Tribe, Custalow and Austin Key, dispute ownership over a piece of land.  In Chancery Cause Walter Miles vs. Alice Miles, 1907-006, two members of the Pamunkey Tribe, living in Indian Town, head to the King William County court to seek a divorce. Walter Miles claimed that on 15 November 1904 he was called before the chiefs of the tribe to face a charge … read more »

- Latest Digital Images of Legislative Petitions Now Available


Page 1 of petition, citizens of Shinnston, 1861, Harrison County, Legislative Petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia. See gallery at end of article to view rest of petition.

Digital images of legislative petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865, from Fairfax County through King William County have been added to the Legislative Petitions Digital Collection available on Virginia Memory, the Library of Virginia’s digital collections website. The list of localities added includes the present-day West Virginia counties of Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, and Kanawha, as well as Kentucky County, now a part of the state of Kentucky. It also includes numerous localities classified as Lost Records Localities such as Fairfax, Gloucester, Hanover, James City, King and Queen, and King William Counties. With this addition, the number of legislative petitions available for viewing online currently exceeds 11,000.

One common topic found in the legislative petitions that would be of particular interest to genealogists is that of name changes. Virginia citizens could petition the General Assembly to have their names changed.  Typically this was done for inheritance purposes. In 1851, Richard Ballinger of Floyd County filed a petition to change the surname of his nine stepchildren from Lovell to Ballinger so that they could be heirs at law of his estate. William W. Finney of Accomack County filed a petition to change not just his surname but his whole name in order to receive his inheritance. Finney’s uncle, John Arrington, wrote in his will that the only … read more »