Monthly Archives: May 2013

- Stories from the Past Revealed in Rockingham Co. Chancery Records

 

Central Mining, Manufacturing, & Land Co. Prospectus, Rockingham County Chancery Cause John E. Roller and George W. Sanderson, etc. vs. J. K. Snavely, etc., 1909-088.

The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the Rockingham County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, is pleased to announce that the indexing and digitization of Rockingham County’s historic chancery causes is now complete and available online through the Chancery Records Index on the LVA’s Virginia Memory site.

The RockinghamCounty chancery collection covers the years 1781 to 1913 and are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history. They often contain correspondence; property lists: including slaves; lists of heirs; and vital statistics that reveal detailed stories that help tell the story of Virginia. Cases contain useful biographical, genealogical, and historical information and document a broad spectrum of citizens—rich and poor, black and white, slave and free. (See this earlier blog post for a description of interesting suits covering the issue of slavery found in the chancery causes for the years 1781-1893.)

In addition, the economic boom of the 1880s, and subsequent bust that followed the Panic of 1893, plays out in the chancery causes. Suits 1903-128 and 1909-088 contain prospectuses laying out the grand plans of two land improvement companies that became casualties of that financial downturn. The schemes for new towns, grand hotels, and railroad lines in RockinghamCounty and other parts of the Valley collapsed along with the railroad and banking industries of the U. S., and the creditors and shareholders of the … read more »

- Everything I know about the Constitution, I learned from Chester the Crab (and Star Trek)


A page from the CONSTITUTION CONSTRUCTION comic book, part of the Chester the Crab series created by Bentley Boyd (Bentley Boyd Papers, LVA Accession 41945). Copyright Chester Comix, LLC.

Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before, or since, tall words proudly saying “We the People.”  That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for ALL the people!  These words and the words that follow…[t]hey must apply to everyone or they mean nothing!”

-James T. Kirk, Star Trek, “The Omega Glory”

Not long ago, I caught ”The Omega Glory” episode of Star Trek on television.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are trapped on a planet very similar to Earth and they discover that it had a parallel history in which the United States (Yangs) and its Communist opponents (Kohms) had fought a devastating nuclear war in that planet’s mid-20th century with the U.S. being on the losing side and the country taken over.  The descendants of that U.S. had held on to their documents as sacred relics, and it is Kirk who shows them that the Constitution, which they’ve locked away, is a living document for all people.

Oddly enough, this show reminded me of one of the most entertaining collections in Private Papers at the Library of Virginia—the Bentley Boyd Papers (Accession 41945), which center on the artist’s Chester the Crab comic series.  Boyd began drawing Chester … read more »

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- Tobacco Census: Fixing the “Frauds and Mischiefs” of the Tobacco Trade


Unknown image of tobacco dress, circa 1920s. (Image used courtesy of Library of Virginia Special Collections.)

Virginia’s agricultural production, as well as its economy, was dominated by tobacco for over three centuries, ever since John Rolfe sent his first shipment of tobacco to England in 1614. Growth of the Virginia colony and extension into the interior meant more soil and larger crops of tobacco. Despite the continuous growth in production, the tobacco trade was plagued by falling prices and decreased quality. By the 1720s, tobacco exports included large quantities of inferior product that even included shipments of “trash” tobacco—shipments that diluted tobacco leaves with foreign substances such as household sweepings. Consequently the price of tobacco sank so low that many planters struggled to recover production costs.

In 1723 Virginia’s General Assembly passed the first of its Tobacco Acts that attempted to control the quantity and quality of tobacco grown in the colony because it was believed that “most of the ffrauds [sic] and mischiefs which have been complained of in the Tobacco Trade” had arisen from the “planting on land not proper for producing good Tobacco” and the production of “greater Crops than the persons employed therein are able duly to tend.” The 1723 act established limits on the number of plants that certain classes of persons could grow with slave owners being allowed fewer plants. Each vestry of every parish had to appoint two people every year to count the … read more »

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- Lost 19th Century Rockingham Co. Wills Found at LVA

 

Detail of Rockingham County Will Book February 1821-April 1824 (Barcode 1172547), Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Individuals today wishing to conduct research using Rockingham County court records may encounter a few stumbling blocks. Due to two major events in the locality’s history, Rockingham County is identified as one of Virginia’s Lost Record localities. The first loss of Rockingham records occurred in 1787 when a courthouse fire destroyed primarily wills and estate records. A second and even more devastating loss came during the Civil War.

In June 1864, with the threat of Union troops advancing into the valley, concerned citizens of the county wanted court records (mostly volumes) removed from the courthouse so that the records could not be destroyed. A judge granted permission for these records to be moved to a safer place east of the Blue Ridge.  A teamster and wagon were hired to remove the records, but the wagon was left on the Port Republic-Forge road after a rim was lost and a tire came off. During this delay, Union troops spied the wagon and partially destroyed the records by setting fire to it.  The mother of a Confederate soldier extinguished the fire by carrying water and smothering the fire with green hay just cut from a nearby field.  She retrieved what was left of the records and took them to her home for safekeeping.  The records remained at her home for quite some time, and because the … read more »

- Legislative Petition Digital Project Up and Running


Virginia General Assembly, Legislative petitions of the General Assembly, Petition of E.P. Pitts, Accomack County, 13 March 1862. State government records collection, The Library of Virginia (page one of four)

Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation are just some of the concerns expressed in the Library of Virginia’s collection of Legislative Petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865.  In late 2012, the Library partnered with Backstage Library Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to digitize the collection straight from the microfilm which was created in-house in 2002.  Work has now begun to take the 150,000  digital images, unite them with the database entries constructed on the Library’s searchable website (Legislative Petition Online Database), and make them accessible through Digitool – the Library’s digital asset management system.  Thus far, the counties from Accomack through Amelia and Appomattox through Barbour are available (Legislative Petitions on Digitool). Besides the images, these entries in Digitool provide the same information previously available on the Legislative Petition Online Database including the petitioner, date, description, and subjects.  The petitions often contain hundreds of signatures and are a useful tool in genealogical research. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.

There are many noteworthy and valuable documents among the over 1,000 petitions currently digitized.  Accomack County alone includes several appeals of freed slaves for permission to remain in the state following their emancipation as required … read more »