Monthly Archives: April 2012

- Reason to Believe: Quantico and the Evacuation of Stafford County


The Post Band playing the Star Spangled Banner at the formal morning ceremony of Colors in front of Post Headquarters, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, Virginia World War II History Commission, Miscellaneous, Box 1a, Accession 27544, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

On 5 October 1942, the United States District Court in Norfolk, at the request of the Navy, condemned 50,000 acres of land in Fauquier, Prince William and Stafford counties in order to enlarge the Marine base at Quantico.  Two days later 650 families learned that they would have to vacate their property within 20 to 60 days!  I learned of this story when I processed the records of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Development, Division of History.

In September 1942, the Virginia Conservation Commission’s Division of History and Archaeology, under the direction of Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode, began a war records collection program. Unable to continue the Division of History’s historical marker program because of wartime rationing, Eckenrode sought to “record the history of the Old Dominion’s war effort while the history is still fresh in the making, rather than wait until after the war when the events and details would be more obscured.” The Conservation Commission began a correspondence program in which a non-salaried correspondent from each locality sent reports about local war activities and local effects of and reactions to the war.

In March 1943, Mrs. Mary B. Thompson of Stafford County submitted to the Commission the “Story of Stafford Evacuation” by Elizabeth Russell Powers.  Approximately 350 families lived in the 30,000 acres of condemned land in Stafford County.  Powers described … read more »

- Dear Uncle…


Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. (Image used courtesy of United States National Park Service.)

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. A conflict associated with the War of 1812 was the Creek War, fought mainly in Alabama which at the time was part of the Mississippi Territory. Recently, I came across a letter dated 9 April 1814 used as an exhibit in Lynchburg Chancery Cause 1815-002, Peter Detto vs. Heirs of Caleb Tait, etc. It referenced the last and most famous battle of the Creek War, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, fought only a couple of weeks before the letter was written. Waddy Tate, a recent Virginia emigrant to the Mississippi Territory, wrote the letter to his uncle Caleb Tate to clarify a misunderstanding concerning a deed to a lot of land in Lynchburg that was the source of the dispute in the chancery cause. Caleb believed his nephew had recorded the deed but Waddy informed his uncle that he had not because “our Judicial proceedings were all for a time suspended” because of the “Indian War.” But now that the “brave Genl. [Andrew] Jackson” had arrived, the courts were back in session and he would be sure to record the deed soon. Waddy concluded his letter by describing in a florid style General Andrew Jackson’s victory over the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend:

“General Jackson on the 27th last

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- We Remember: Virginia Tech Five Years Later


vt_ribbon_gray

Five years ago, Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured at least 17 others before turning the gun on himself.  The 16 April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history.  In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, I created a web archive collection, Tragedy at Virginia Tech, in order to capture the Commonwealth’s “on-line” response.  Included in the collection are the websites of Virginia Tech, the Office of the Governor, and the Virginia Tech Review Panel.  I remember creating the collection because of the “historic” nature of the shooting.  I confess that I initially viewed that day’s events with the emotional detachment of an archivist/historian.  But what made it “historic?” The number of people killed?  The 32 people who died that day are not numbers – they had names, families, hopes and dreams – a future.  The biographies captured in the Tragedy at Virginia Tech collection quickly shattered my impassiveness.  What I saw as “historic” in 2007 is an ever present tragedy for the families who lost their loved ones.  It is a wound that time cannot heal.

I was reminded of this when I began processing the e-mail records of Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  The Kaine administration transferred to the Library of Virginia approximately 1.3 million e-mail messages from 215 … read more »

- A troubled slave makes his escape


Woodcut illustration of a cabinetmaker at work, taken from THE BOOK OF TRADES, published in 1807 and found in Special Collections at the Library of Virginia (T47 .B72 1807).

In the fall of 1805, John Alcock, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, cabinetmaker, relocated to Richmond and opened a cabinetmaking shop. By 1807 he had expanded his business to include the making of Windsor chairs. In that same year, Alcock purchased James Harris, a “mulatto” chair painter, from Alexander Walker, also a Fredericksburg cabinetmaker, for $450. Alcock would later attest that Harris was agreeable to the sale because he could be nearer his mother, who lived in Richmond and from whom he had been separated at some previous time.

Very soon Alcock became dissatisfied with Harris’ work and described him as “idle,” a “thief,” and a “drunkard.” By 1808 the situation had worsened, and Alcock, who had business in Georgia, took Harris with him in the hopes of selling him. Unable to accomplish a sale in Georgia, Alcock sold Harris in Charleston for $375. He claimed he spent $90 to $100 in trying to sell Harris. Alcock, believing Alexander Walker had knowingly deceived him, demanded restitution. In an attempt to get to the truth, depositions were taken from the men who worked for Alcock and Walker. The information from the depositions, part of Henrico County Chancery Cause 1811-001, John Alcock vs. John Brockenbrough, provide a detailed description of Walker’s shop, who worked there, and Harris’ role in the shop.

James Harris, born circa 1790, had been … read more »

- Titanic: 100 Years Later


Richmond Times-Dispatch, 16 April 1912, page one (above the fold), Chronicling America.

Are you ready for a sneak preview of Titanic !

No, not the 3-D version of the 1997 mega-hit movie, Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but the viewing of a stunning array of newspaper images taken from Chronicling America, a featured online resource of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a cooperative initiative to digitize historical newspapers from around the United States.  No special effects are needed to be drawn in and riveted by the press coverage of one of the greatest peacetime maritime disasters.

15 April 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  The mighty White Star Liner on its maiden voyage hit an iceberg and within a few hours sunk to the bottom of the cold North Atlantic Ocean, killing over 1,800 men, women, children, and crew members.

Stories of bravery, sacrifice, cowardice, and tragic negligence fill column after column of papers beginning with the late editions of 15 April 1912 and for many days following.  Early dispatches were filled with conflicting information, rumor, and wild conjecture, but over time the sad facts revealed the tragic scope of the disaster.

The pages you see here will be added to the Virginia Newspaper Project’s long-standing web exhibit, Titanic:  100 Years Later, a web exhibit, believe it or not, that predates the release of … read more »