Monthly Archives: November 2011

- The Siege of Veracruz in Amelia Co.?



Occasionally the strangest things will surface in the county records.  While processing Amelia County records (Barcode 1147160), archivist Callie Freed found a map depicting the U.S. Army’s 20-day siege of the Mexican city of Veracruz during the Mexican-American War. 

 Titled “Siege of Vera Cruz by the U.S. Troops under Major General Scott in March 1847, from surveys made by Major Turnbull, Captains Hughes, McClellan, & Johnston, Lieutanants Derby & Hardcastle, Top. Engineers,” the map depicts General Winfield Scott’s troops and siege engines spread out across the land surrounding the city of Veracruz and its fortifications, as well as other key features of the landscape and the reefs just off of the city in the Gulf of Mexico.  Statistics are given about the regiments of the divisions belonging to William J. Worth, David E. Twiggs, and Robert Patterson as well as the numbers of troops killed and wounded in the operation.  The map was drawn by Captain George McClellan and published in 1847 by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers.

 The siege of Veracruz took place in March 1847 and was the scene of the first successful large-scale amphibious assault by a United States military force.  General Scott landed his U.S. Expeditionary Force near the city and lay siege to it for twenty days until it was surrendered, opening up the east coast of Mexico … read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday: Walter Turpin, No. 3159 and No. 4361


Photograph of Walter Turpin, #4361, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 52, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Walter Turpin, the subject of this week’s post, had a long criminal history of housebreaking and counterfeiting.  His prison record was spotty at best. He escaped once and masterminded a daring escape plan with two other prisoners that failed,  yet, he was pardoned – twice.

Walter Turpin had a difficult childhood.  He was born in December 1877 in Bedford County.  Orphaned at a young age, Turpin made a living as a newsboy on the streets of Lynchburg.  In 1890 he was arrested for stealing cigarettes and sent to a reformatory for seven years.  Turpin quickly graduated from the reformatory to the penitentiary when  he was sentenced in January 1900 by the Richmond City Hustings Court to two years in the Virginia Penitentiary for breaking into the storehouse of the Southern Railway.  Turpin was discharged on 21 October 1901; however, his freedom was short-lived.  Turpin was sent back to the Penitentiary in June 1902 for five years for breaking into a hardware store in Lynchburg.  Since this was Turpin’s second conviction, five additional years were added to his sentence.

On 25 October 1902, Turpin escaped from the Penitentiary in broad daylight.  He exchanged his prison stripes for … read more »

- Augusta Co. Images Keep Coming In!


Perspective Map of the City of Waynesboro, Virginia, 1890. (Augusta County Chancery Cause 1893-030 Fishburne vs. Quarles &c)

The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. With this addition, fifty boxes of Augusta County chancery covering the time period from 1879 through 1895 may be viewed online.



Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1880-119 is a contract dispute that centered on the construction of an addition to Wesleyan Female Institute in Staunton. The case includes numerous exhibits such as the 1877-1878 school bulletin (image# 134-159), receipts for building materials (image# 195, 200) and two drawings of the addition (image# 213, 215). Augusta County Chancery Causes 1884-057 and 1895-023 are property disputes in which the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of doing harm to the value of their property. In the first suit, the plaintiff argues that heat and fumes from the defendant’s brick kiln adversely affected the value of his property (image# 41). In the second suit, the defendant built a slaughterhouse and stockyard near the plaintiff’s house (image# 491) polluting a stream and causing insufferable smells and noises all of which depreciated the value of the plaintiff’s property. Most notably, this portion of the Augusta County Chancery Causes includes suits that have their origins in the real estate boom and bust period of 1890s western Virginia. Many of the suits contain plats of … read more »

- The Gingaskins of Virginia


Gingaskin Indian reservation historical marker located near the site of the reservation in Northampton County. (Photo by Bill Pfingsten, 4 May 2008/used courtesy of Historical Markers Database.)

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month set aside to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. Here at the Library of Virginia we have documents that tell the story of the Gingaskin Tribe. In 1641, the Accomac Indians, an Algonquin-speaking tribe located on the Eastern shore and part of the group collectively referred to as Powhatan Indians, became known as the Gingaskins when they accepted a patent from the English government for the remaining 1,500 acres of their ancestral lands on the ocean side of Northampton County. Various legal and boundary struggles with their English neighbors over the years reduced the lands reserved for the Gingaskins to 650 acres, which was patented again in 1680.


Investigations of people, including free negroes, living on Gingaskin lands, 1785.  (Northampton County Land Records, 1785-1815. Barcode 1168316)

Over the years, Indian lands were often leased to outsiders by the state and county governments in order to help support Gingaskin members, most of whom chose to maintain a traditional lifestyle and not farm the lands. Great concern was exhibited by white neighbors about the Gingaskins intermarrying with free negroes and charges were made in petitions to the General Assembly in 1784 and 1787 that there were no more “real” Indians left on the reservation and therefore the land should be given to whites who could better protect it, by which they meant farm it in … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Preston Waters, No. 18879 and Alfred Williams, No. 19912


Photograph of Alfred Williams, #19912, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 43, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  This week’s entry will spotlight the photographs of escaped inmates.  When an inmate escaped from the Penitentiary, State Farm, or a convict road camp, the superintendent issued to law enforcement 3″x5″ index cards.  The front side contained the prisoner mug shot, while the back of the card provided basic information (name, inmate number, date and location of escape, crime, sentence), physical description, and the name and address of immediate family.

On 26 April 1925, Preston Waters, No. 18879, and Alfred Williams, No. 19912, two convicts at the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond, sawed their way out of their cell with a hacksaw.  Avoiding the guards, the prisoners made their way to the ground floor, climbed on top of a row of new cells, and cut their way through the metal ceiling in order to gain access to the roof at the southwest corner of the building.  They lowered themselves down by rope to a window and then dropped the fifteen feet to the ground and escaped into the night.

In April 1923, 21-year-old Preston Waters of Culpeper County was sentenced to 15 years in the Virginia Penitentiary for attempted rape.  Alfred Williams had a lengthy criminal record.  In December 1920, … read more »

- There Ain’t No Barbecue Like a “Montague Barbecue”


Broadside, Records of Governor Andrew J. Montague, Series IV. Personal Papers, 1905, B, July 26, Box 40, Folder 1, Accession 45102, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

An ongoing project to arrange and describe the executive papers of Virginia’s 20th century governors has brought to light many important and interesting papers of Governor Andrew Jackson Montague, who served as governor of the Commonwealth from 1902 to 1906. While in office, Montague campaigned against incumbent senator Thomas S. Martin for his seat in the United States Senate. Montague’s papers are unique among executive papers in that they include correspondence, voter lists, broadsides, and other material related to his campaign.

In addition to his campaign material, Montague’s executive papers contain a wealth of constituent correspondence. Letters from the attorney general, superintendent of the Penitentiary, adjutant general, state librarian, and superintendents of the state’s mental hospitals represent a large portion of these papers. Moreover, Montague’s correspondents include such notable figures of the early 20th century as Clara Barton of the American National Red Cross, Principal Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute, President Theodore Roosevelt, and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller.

Also well documented within Montague’s executive papers is the enlargement of the Virginia State Capitol. Montague’s term in office saw the most significant changes in Jefferson’s design of the Capitol with the addition of wings to the east and west sides of the structure. Included are bills, receipts, correspondence, minutes, reports, and other papers including manuscripts from architect John Keevan Peebles … read more »

- CSI: Old Virginia: Coroners Edition


Slave quarters under the oaks at the Hermitage in Savannah, GA., circa 1900-1915. (Image public domain/used courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

At one o’clock in the morning on 1 September 1859, Milly T. King arrived at the home of James Clary and found his slave Hannah “lying on the hearth gasping for breath, and I thought dying.” When King saw Hannah an hour later, she was dead. The following day Brunswick County coroner William Lett arrived to examine the body.  With him were twelve men, none of whom had a medical background but rather were chosen as upstanding men and representatives of the county. The office of coroner held inquisitions in cases when persons met a sudden, violent, unnatural, or suspicious death. In this case Hannah had certainly met a sudden and suspicious demise.

Hannah, owned by the late Elizabeth H. Harwell, had been in the possession of James Clary, who adamantly maintained that the marks found on her feet and legs and the wound on her head were not from anything suspicious but came as a result of a fall from a window occurring a few weeks before her death. The coroner and his jury of white men were left to decide if Hannah had suffered an accidental death or if her death had been caused by something more malicious. Clary’s wife, Eliza, backed up her husband’s statements and claimed to know nothing of Hannah’s death, maintaining that her wounds were caused by the fall. … read more »

- Spoils of War Return Home to Virginia



On Thursday, October 20, staff from the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch were in Jersey City, New Jersey, to formally accept one of the Commonwealth’s long-lost treasures – a Stafford County record book taken from Virginia in 1863 by a Union officer serving in a New York regiment. 

 The volume, an order book detailing the daily activities of the court from 1749 to 1755, was transcribed by a Stafford deputy clerk in 1791.  The book was removed from the Stafford courthouse by Captain W. A. Treadwell of the 4th N.Y. Regiment and was long considered to be a casualty of the war.  A note inside the front cover and presumably in Treadwell’s hand states that it was “Taken from Stafford Court House, March 30 1863.”


Stafford County Order Book, 1749-1755, taken from the Stafford courthouse by Capt. W. A. Treadwell in 1862.

 The volume was handed down several times over many years before it was presented to the Hudson County Historical Society. The Society’s collection eventually was transferred to the collection of the Jersey City Free Public Library’s New Jersey Room. Recognizing that the order book did not fit within the New Jersey Room’s collection policy, Jersey City Public Library’s John Beekman contacted the LVA to return the volume to its rightful home in Virginia.  The volume will be conserved at LVA’s in-house conservation lab and scanned and microfilmed to ensure its preservation. Scanned images will be presented to … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Theodore Gibson, No. 32872


Photograph of Theodore Gibson, #32872, 25 October 1934, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 23, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

[Editors Note: Yes, we know it is not Monday. The Out of the Box staff had a technical glitch this afternoon and accidentally published Monday's post today. We will have a new, non-mug shot post on Monday.] Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Theodore Gibson’s mug shots caught my attention because they showed how much he aged in prison.  When I researched his case, I was shocked by what I found.

In the early morning of Thursday, 18 October 1934, William H. Woodfield, a 71-year-old night watchman for the coal yard of W.A. Smoot and Company in Alexandria, was murdered.  Woodfield’s skull was crushed with a hammer.  No money was stolen but Woodfield’s watch was missing.  On Tuesday, October 23, acting on an anonymous tip, the Alexandria police arrested 25-year-old Theodore Gibson.  He  confessed to the killing two days later.  Gibson stated that he was walking through the coal yard when he was accosted by Woodfield who ordered him to leave the yard.  Woodfield struck him, Gibson claimed, so he grabbed a small sledge hammer and hit Woodfield in the head twice.   Gibson dragged the body 50 feet and fled.

The speed of Gibson’s legal proceedings, according to the Washington Post, was “believed … read more »

- Don’t Block the Vote

 



In honor of the upcoming Election Day, today’s post presents a record that illustrates the struggles that some Virginians experienced while attempting to exercise the right to vote guaranteed them by the Fifteenth Amendment.  Today’s ease of voter registration belies the fact that this has not always been so in Virginia for everyone.  The Commonwealth’s Constitution of 1902 was a post-Reconstruction attempt to whittle down the voter rolls by making property ownership, poll taxes, and literacy tests prerequisites to voter registration, thereby eliminating large numbers of African Americans and poor whites.  Section 19 of Article II specifically mentions the so-called “understanding clause” –  the requirement that a person applying to register must be able to read or have read to him a section of the Constitution and explain its meaning to the registrar.  It seems fairly clear that this understanding clause was not applied to every person registering to vote.


Voter refusal of Snowden Robinson, 15 September 1902.

Warren County kept a register of voters  titled “Refused Colored Applicants,” 1902-1903 (Barcode 1205724) consisting of dated entries by name of African American men attempting to register to vote, along with their ages, dates of birth, occupations, and how long they had lived in the state, county, and precinct. Also recorded is the section of the Virginia constitution that was given to the men for explanation (although not which article) and what their answers were. … read more »

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