Monthly Archives: May 2012

- Freedmen’s Bureau in the Local Courts


The Freedmen's Bureau -- illustration from 25 July 1868 edition of Harper's Weekly. (Image public domain/Wikipedia)

In the years following the Civil War, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (commonly referred to as simply the Freedmen’s Bureau) provided assistance to former slaves still living in the South, helping them transition from a society based on slavery to one allowing freedom. Established as part of the War Department by an act of Congress on 3 March 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau, operational until 1872, helped introduce a system of free labor, provided food and clothing, helped locate families and legalize marriages, promoted education, supervised labor contracts, and provided legal representation.


14 February 1866 letter from the Freedmen's Bureau found in the Commonwealth vs. Alexander McCray, Highland County Commonwealth Causes.

One of the Bureau’s most important roles was to help safeguard the rights of African Americans and ensure they received justice from the court system. Following the Civil War, several southern states, including Virginia, enacted a series of laws commonly known as “black codes” that restricted the rights and legal status of freedmen. African Americans were often given harsh sentences for petty crimes and were sometimes unable to get their cases heard in the state courts. In September 1865, Freedmen’s Bureau courts were established to adjudicate cases involving freedmen. By February 1866, Virginia had amended her laws and the Bureau courts were discontinued by May of that same year, but because of the failure of many local court officials to administer equal justice, the Bureau courts were reestablished in certain areas … read more »

- You Are Not The Father


Photograph of Josephine Kelly's son submitted as evidence to prove that the baby's father must be an African American, Prince George County Chancery Cause 1893-001, Thomas P. Kelly vs. Josephine Kelly.

The Prince George County chancery causes are filled with numerous divorce cases involving cheating spouses and adulterous affairs, but in the case of Thomas P. Kelly vs. Josephine Kelly, 1893-001, there is also a bit of baby daddy drama. The divorce suit involves Norfolk native Thomas Kelly, who had been for many years enlisted as a machinist in the United States Navy. During the year 1888, Thomas Kelly was stationed on board the monitor fleet lying at anchor at City Point in Prince George County.  There he met Josephine Hodges, who was sixteen years of age.  As Kelly would later testify in the chancery cause, their relationship began as a friendship and culminated in intimacy. Kelly confessed  that he had sexual intercourse with her on or about the 17th day of June 1888 and also with more or less frequency from that date until he was transferred with the fleet to Richmond in October of the same year. 

About the first of January 1889, Thomas was informed that Josephine was pregnant and that her condition was attributed to him.  Her friends and her mother’s friends, including the pastor of her church, made repeated and urgent endeavors to have Thomas agree to marry her, but as there had been no promise of marriage and no undue advantage taken by him, he refused to comply … read more »

- Petersburg Chancery Digital Project Now Complete


Plat showing the Virginia Passenger and Power Company's leased, operated, and independent lines in the cities of Richmond and Manchester, Petersburg Chancery Cause George E. Fisher for etc. vs. Virginia Passenger & Power Co. etc., 1907-055.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the completion of the Petersburg chancery causes digital project. The scanning project was funded by the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program along with a $155,071 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The collection has been digitized from 1787 through 1912 and the images added to the Chancery Records Index. The most recently added suits cover the years 1889-1912.

The following are a few suits of interest found in the newly added Petersburg chancery digital images. 

In chancery cause 1907-055, George E. Fisher, for, etc. vs. Virginia Passenger & Power Company, etc., the plaintiffs ask the court to take over the floundering Virginia Passenger & Power Company in order to protect their financial stake in the business. The suit contains numerous exhibits including plats (images 616, 2030, 2032), minutes from board of directors’ and stockholders’ meetings (images 1878 and 1673). In 1908-034, John F. Crowder, etc. vs. Eli Tartt, etc., the suit stems from the unhappiness of the First Baptist (Colored) Church members with their pastor Eli Tartt. The plaintiffs wanted the court to remove Tartt as pastor of the church and their bill of complaint gives an account of a church meeting that became so uncontrollable that local police had to be called in to restore order (image 7). Crowder, … read more »

- Latest Issue of Broadside is Now Available

The spring 2012 issue of Broadside, the Library of Virginia’s quarterly magazine, is now available.  Discover fascinating items from the collections as well as events, exhibitions, educational programs, and opportunities to become more involved. The current issue includes an article by Jessica Tyree describing how her September 2011 blog post, New Friends in Wartime, An Ocean Apart, reunited a Library donor to the son of her World War II-era pen pal in England.

Click here to subscribe to Broadside or view past issues.… read more »

Posted in Broadside, Private Papers Blog Posts
Leave a comment
Share |

- A Horse in the Frederick Co. Courthouse


Broadside advertising the stud services of Young Dread, part of the Frederick County Judgment Colmes vs. Ford, 1858, found in the Frederick County Ended Causes (Barcode 1117429).

All eyes in the horse world may be directed towards Churchill Downs this week for this year’s Kentucky Derby, but Kentucky isn’t the only state with a rich horse history. Horses have played an important role in Virginia history ever since the first horse arrived in Jamestown. Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner and arguably the greatest horse to ever race, was born on Meadow Farm in Doswell, Virginia. Genuine Risk, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, called Virginia home. Robert E. Lee rode the well-known Traveller into battle. And, Misty of Chincoteague is one of the most beloved horses in children’s literature.


Advertisement for Jack Sopus found in the Frederick County Chancery Cause Admx. of Abraham Johnson vs. Nicholas W. Hancher, 1823-174SC. (Frederick County Chancery Causes Oversize, Barcode 1027767)

Here in Local Records the horses we find aren’t always as famous or majestic. Horses are left in wills and deeds, argued over to settle debts, objects of theft in criminal cases, and even causes of death in coroners’ inquisitions. Two instances of horses being caught up in matters of debt were found in the Fredrick County Judgments and Frederick County Chancery Causes. The judgment, Colmes vs. Ford, 1858, contains a broadside advertising the stud services of Young Dread, a “celebrated young Stallion” said to be the “noblest specimen of the horse kind ever known.” A beautiful blood bay in color said to have excellent movement and an exceedingly gentle temper, Young Dread, with the English … read more »

Posted in Local Records Blog Posts
Tags: , , , , , ,
1 Comment
Share |