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- Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Records are coming to Making History: Transcribe


Undated photograph of Equal Suffrage League members, Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia is excited to make the records of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia available in Making History: Transcribe. As part of our 2020 commemoration of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote, the Library is asking volunteers to help transcribe these records that document women’s campaign for the vote in Virginia.

In the autumn of 1936, Ida Mae Thompson sent out a plea to former members of the Equal Suffrage League: “We have the opportunity through the Historical Records Survey, a WPA project, of collecting and classifying for permanent preservation all available materials on woman suffrage in our State.” Thompson specifically asked for “minutes, samples of pamphlets or fliers or other printed matter including newspaper clippings, or information that workers may remember, etc.” She stressed that “ANY data” documenting the woman suffrage movement in Virginia was desirable so that its history could eventually be written.

Almost thirty years earlier, in November 1909, a small group of prominent Richmond women had founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. They spent the next decade advocating first for an amendment to the state constitution and later for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee women’s right to vote. The league’s members were all white women (and some men) and they did not advocate for African American … read more »

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- Grants Awarded to Circuit Courts for Records Preservation


Circuit Court Records Preservation program logo

The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 26 July 2019 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. Five voting members comprise the board: three circuit court clerks, appointed by the president of the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association; and two staff members from the Library of Virginia, currently the state archivist and a senior local records archivist. Board members meet once a year to evaluate applications. Clerks of the circuit courts are eligible to apply for funds to conserve, secure, and increase access to circuit court records. In all, 90 localities submitted 94 applications requesting a total of $1,441,194.21.

After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved 91 grant projects totaling over $1,200,000. Eighty-nine of the approved applications covered professional conservation treatment for items including deed books, will books, land tax books, marriage licenses, minute books, and plat books, housed in circuit court clerks’ offices, which suffered damage from use, age, pests, water, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining two grants funded records reformatting and a security system.

The following are a few of the items that received grant funding:

The Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division administers the CCRP. A $1.50 recordation fee on land instruments recorded in the circuit court clerks’ offices funds the program. The CCRP … read more »

- Money Money Money: Running Up Student Debts in Brunswick County

The start of August brings with it the excitement and anticipation of numerous young men and women as they prepare for their first year in college, moving away from home to a new part of the commonwealth, or to a new state altogether. It also brings many parents the not-so-pleasant anticipation of a variety of associated expenses, and the fear of unwanted debt. An 1832 Brunswick County chancery cause is a sobering reminder of how important it is for students to understand and follow a good budget, and to live within their means.

In 1826 Edwin Drummond was a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He appears to have been what we would now call an out-of-state student, hailing from Morgan County, Georgia.  However, it seems he had family and friends in Brunswick County, Virginia, and owned a tract of land there. Documents in the chancery cause do not reveal whether he was a “first year” or an upper-classman, yet they do reveal that he was boarding locally and not living “on grounds.” Like your average college student today, Edwin wanted to dress stylishly. He frequented local tailors, boot and shoemakers, and general merchandise stores.

 

Unfortunately, Edwin ran up debts with two Charlottesville tailors. He owed Henry Price $26.37 for his services between January 1826 and January 1827. A detailed account … read more »

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- Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of the General Assembly of Virginia


Seal of the Governor's Council, Seventeenth century. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

The first meeting of the General Assembly of Virginia took place at the church building in Jamestown on 30 July 1619. The session lasted for four hot days, not including a Sunday. The founding of the first and oldest representative legislative body in the western hemisphere was an event of epic importance in Virginia and the United States.

It may surprise people that the records of the first General Assembly are not preserved in the Virginia state archives, which are in the Library of Virginia in Richmond. There are two important reasons why that is not the case.

The first reason is that the General Assembly was not technically a governmental institution. It was a new instrument that the Virginia Company of London created to manage its small settlement in the New World. Consequently, the records belonged to the company, a chartered speculative investment enterprise that operated under a royal charter and had settled the colony.

The other reason is that any copies of the 1619 documents that may have remained in the General Assembly’s possession would have been destroyed along with most of the legislative and executive records of the colony in one of the British raids on Richmond during the American Revolution. In fact, histories of Virginia written before that time suggest that no copy was in the colony even then. The one … read more »

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- Out of Character: A Middlesex County Divorce Suit


Detail. Strohmeyer & Wyman. The Pastoral Visit. , ca. 1897. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/95515258/.

Inviting a man of the cloth to live in your home seems like it should be a good idea. You might expect a resident clergyman to bless a home with prayers and bring a heightened sense of peace to all who dwell there. Unfortunately, a man in Middlesex County discovered just the opposite when he and his family welcomed a pastor into their home. Instead of dispensing godly wisdom, the pastor set his eyes on the lady of the house, and she was happy to oblige.

In 1893, Thomas and Fannie Harris opened their home to their pastor, William E. Thompson. Pastor Thompson lived peaceably as a guest for nearly 10 months until Thomas began to notice his wife acting out of character. Fannie was extremely generous to the pastor, providing him with meals, gifts, and other favors above and beyond expected courtesy. According to Thomas, Fannie also appeared to have a strong desire to please the pastor rather than her husband. The impropriety of the relationship grew to the point that Harris forcibly evicted the pastor from the home. However, this was only the beginning.

In the spring of 1894, the pastor purchased land near the Harris estate. While the purchase did not immediately alarm Harris, he again noticed a drastic change in his wife’s behavior. Fannie made significant efforts to carry fruit and refreshments to … read more »

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- The Kindness of Strangers: A Story from the Montgomery County Chancery Causes


Postcard of Northfork, WV, coal camp just north of Switchback, WV. Courtesy of Pintrest.com.

The bedrock of the Library of Virginia’s chancery causes collection is the personal story. While most causes share similar documents, topics, and resolutions, each story told is unique. While processing 3,510 Montgomery County chancery causes during a two-year National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant-funded project, former Library of Virginia Senior Local Records Archivist Sarah Nerney and her staff of two, Regan Shelton and Scott Gardner, managed to record numerous noteworthy causes, known in local records jargon as suits of interest. One such suit of interest is  Agnes Schaub by, etc. v. Floyd Schaub, 1912-042.

On 15 December 1908, Agnes L. Harrison and Floyd Schaub married in Bristol, Tennessee. As Agnes later recounted, she “was a mere child when she ran away and married… just about 30 days before her sixteenth birthday.” As their marriage license indicates, Agnes was born in Carroll County, Virginia, while Floyd was born in neighboring Pulaski County. For a short time, they live together with “his people” in Carroll County and in Bluefield, West Virginia. Eventually, the couple settled “half-time in Pocahontas, Virginia and half-time in Switchback, West Virginia.”

Agnes acknowledged that Floyd began to mistreat her almost as soon as they were married, and that “on the slightest provocation or without provocation, he would curse and abuse her and threaten to beat her.” She described Floyd … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archives, Great Seal Edition


189_, Governor's Office

The design of the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia was adopted by the Virginia Convention on 5 July 1776, based on the work of a committee including George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas. Their design emphasized themes of civic virtue based on ancient Roman mythology, but it was not cast properly and over the years numerous variations sprang up. In 1930 a committee was formed, including the current Librarian of Virginia Dr. H. R. McIlwaine, to look into the situation and establish an official version of the great seal. As part of the work for that committee, McIlwaine collected a series of letterheads with variations of the Virginia seal on them. They differed wildly in their portrayal of the Roman goddess Virtus, the defeated tyrant, and even the background of the scene. The original text on letterheads by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. … read more »

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- Glimpses of History: Henrico County Court Order Books


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As we have often seen in this blog, even the driest local records can lead to the most interesting stories. Such is the case with the Henrico county court order books, which recorded all matters brought before the court when it was in session, providing organized synopses of cases. The Library of Virginia’s research guide for county and city court records notes that the order books contain a wide variety of information, including appointments of county and militia officers, records of legal disputes heard before the county court, appointments of guardians, apprenticeship of children by the overseers of the poor, naturalizations, road orders, and registrations of free African Americans.

Occasionally indexes to the volumes were compiled separately and inserted into the front or back covers of a volume. The indexes are a great resource to peruse, as they often reveal more than just last names and page numbers—they lead to entries that reveal much about the complex lives and times of the people referenced therein. A few examples from the indexes and entries in a few volumes of Henrico County order books created between 1780 and 1801 illustrate this.

Orphans and the poor, regardless of race, were often apprenticed or “bound out,” and sometimes the order book provided information about various trades. In 1790, “George Maxfield a poor orphan” was bound to a shoemaker, “Simon, … read more »

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- A Virginian, a Tomahawk, & the American Revolution in the Old West

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Gregory D. Smithers, Professor of History and Eminent Scholar (2019–2024) in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University, spent the spring researching and writing for a book project entitled The Riverkeepers: The Cherokees, Their Neighbors, and the Rivers that Made America. 

 


Print showing Linn brothers in hand-to-hand combat in a Native American village, Kentucky, ca. 1785. Illustration from Augustus Lynch Mason, The Romance and Tragedy of Pioneer Life, 1883, p. 413. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Like many eighteenth-century militiamen, Joseph Bowman was interested in more than warfare. Bowman’s enlistment in Virginia’s militia during the Revolutionary War also served the modus operandi for thousands of colonial Americans by the latter half of the century: the business of doing business. In a letter dated 14 June 1779, Bowman provided a rich description of the economic opportunities available to Virginians who were willing to try their luck throughout Anglo-America’s western frontiers. From New Orleans to the Ohio Valley, Bowman surveyed a diverse land rich in financial possibilities.

Joseph Bowman was born in Frederick County, Virginia, on 8 March 1752. The grandson of German immigrants, the family made the decision at some point during the eighteenth century to anglicize their surname name from “Baumann” to “Bowman.” Bowman’s forebears saw the western frontiers of Virginia as a space where they might prosper. As such, the family joined the first Europeans to settle in … read more »

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- “These are the men who took the cliffs”: Virginians on D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches of France, launching the invasion that would push the Nazis out of France and eventually end the Second World War in Europe. This year’s commemoration may be the last to include a significant number of veterans, most of whom are now in their mid-90s. With that somber reality in mind, the Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour set out to gather stories of Virginia’s men and women who helped win the Second World War. They include several who, on that historic day in June, “embarked upon the Great Crusade [to] bring about the destruction of the German war machine.”

William T. O’Neill, for example, served on the U.S. LCT (6) 544, one of more than 4,000 landing crafts that were part of the massive invasion fleet. The craft was designed to transport tanks and other cargo; on D-Day, the 544’s specific mission was to deliver a Headquarters 1st Infantry scout team and a squad of the 5th Battalion Special Combat Engineers to a beach called Fox Green. They continued to land personnel throughout the day, as well as bringing the wounded off the beaches. O’Neill also witnessed, and photographed, the sinking of the USS Susan B. Anthony.

 

Major Thomas Dry Howie, who taught at Staunton … read more »

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