On 13 November 1860, J.S. Moore of Indiana wrote a letter to his Virginia relative Doctor Thomas Moore. Much of the letter has to do with health matters and the vibrant Indiana economy. The “Indiana Moore” then turned his attention to the recent 1860 presidential election. He provides “Virginia Moore” his thoughts on Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and who was responsible for the secession crisis pervading the nation at the time.
“I suppose Lincoln is elected President and report says the result has created a consternation in the South and an effort is being made to adopt a plan for secession. It does appear to me that it is folly and madness on their part to attempt resistance at all events until Lincoln or his party is guilty of an overt act that would justify such a procedure if justifiable it could be. I know that Mr. Lincoln holds today principles that you and I use to battle for under the leadership of Henry Clay.
And I do say when the Republican Party is assailed the assault is not made on their principles but a misrepresentation of those principles and I hold the Democratic Party responsible for the ill feeling engendered both North and South. They persist in saying here at home that the Republican Party proposes to make war on
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Lee County Chancery Causes, 1857-1912, are now available on the Chancery Records Index. Because they rely so heavily on the testimony of witnesses, chancery causes contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information and are especially useful when researching local, state, social, and legal history. The Lee County chancery collection offers a glimpse of life in Lee County during the 19th and early-20th centuries by documenting the African American experience, women’s history, Southern business and labor history, and the impact the railroad’s arrival had on a region. Following are a few suits of interest found in the collection.
Lee County chancery causes contain several suits illustrating the experiences of women in the westernmost part of the commonwealth. In Mary V. Pennington by etc. vs. M. C. Parsons, etc., 1887-019, Mary Pennington sought to gain control over land gifted to her by her father. The land was being sold by her husband, William Pennington, who had become “indebted and greatly embarrassed.” In 1907, Elizabeth Smith faced a similar dilemma. Elizabeth R. Smith vs. J. K. P. Legg, etc., 1907-045, protested the sale of Smith’s land sold for a set of blacksmith tools. Elizabeth Smith did not agree to the sale, but her husband, Samuel L. Smith, “commenced … read more »
In May of 1883, H. W. Gray, president of the Schomacker Piano-Forte Manufacturing Company, brought suit against Bettie L. Payne in the Frederick County Circuit Court for a debt of $500. Bettie had purchased a piano from the company via one of its agents, William H. Manby. After delivery, she refused to pay based on her belief that the piano was not of the quality that she had been promised. She claimed to have purchased the Schomacker in part due to statements made in promotional materials about honors and prizes that the pianos had received at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876—claims she now believed to be false and misleading. In particular, she objected to the Schomacker being much inferior in tone and touch than she had been led to believe by the advertising.
The Schomacker Piano-Forte Manufacturing Company was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by John Henry Schomacker of Vienna, Austria. In 1855, he built a large piano factory at the corner of Catherine and Eleventh streets thanks in part to his success after his pianos won big prizes at various fairs and exhibitions in the United States. The factory made upright, grand, and “square” grand pianos of high quality woods that were heavily carved in a Germanic style. A big selling point was that the wires of the pianos were electroplated … read more »
During a recent cataloging project, what at first seemed like a standard exercise revealed a nice surprise. From its exterior, the Halifax County (Va.) Capitation and Personal Property Tax Ledger, 1861, had all of the makings of an ordinary volume of county taxes. This was certainly true in 1861 when it was originally created. Each page lists the names of individuals along with details of how much capitation tax (a head or poll tax levied on individuals at a fixed rate) and personal property tax was owed, along with details about what kind of personal property was being taxed (for example–furniture, watches, plate, carriages, money, livestock, and slaves).
At some point, however, someone, or more likely several someones, used a little more than half of the volume as a scrapbook. Pasted over the original document pages are a wide variety of clippings from magazines and newspapers. The clippings are primarily images; although some poems are included as well as short articles about artists and writers and a biography of British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone written on the occasion of his death in 1898. The subjects of the scrapbook are related to Biblical scenes, European royalty, Napoleon, American founding families such as the Jeffersons and Washingtons, travel, pets, artists and writers, poetry, and reproductions of paintings, drawings, and photographs with artistic themes.
A note … read more »
With good reason, hurricanes are both a familiar and forbidden subject in the state of Virginia. The Atlantic hurricane season is officially from 1 June to 30 November, with the season’s peak occurring between August-October. During the very active hurricane season of 1933, the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane hit coastal Virginia on 23 August 1933, causing catastrophic damage. The storm was first noticed when it was east of the Windward Islands. By 18 August, the tropical storm was 900 miles east of Puerto Rico and within 150 miles of Bermuda, and on 21 August it became a hurricane. On 23 August at 9:20 A.M., the storm changed track and the eye passed over Norfolk, Virginia, and moved north. Some of the lowest pressures ever measured in Virginia occurred with this hurricane. A second hurricane would hit the mid-Atlantic a few weeks later.
The stricken area covered large parts of Norfolk, Princess Anne, Northampton, Accomack, Elizabeth City, York, Gloucester, Mathews, and Lancaster counties. To a lesser extent, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties were also affected. In all, the hurricane caused $27.2 million in damage and fewer than 18 fatalities in Virginia. The 1933 hurricane season left a destructive path all the way into Pennsylvania and remained the worst series of storms on record in the area until Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
In January 1983, on the eve of … read more »
October brings back falling leaves, cooler weather, football, and most importantly Archives Month! Governor Bob McDonnell has officially proclaimed October as Virginia Archives Month. And the theme of this year’s celebration in the commonwealth is “Boxes to Bandwidth: Reconstructing the Past for the Future.” Archives Month celebrates the institutions and people responsible for preserving and making accessible records that play a critical role in preserving our documentary heritage. The work of archivists gives us a sense of being part of a larger picture and helps us begin to see ourselves connected to others – family, community, nation, or a group defined by ethnicity, religion, work, or play. For more information and to view images submitted by participating Virginia institutions, check out the Virginia Archives Month 2012 website. This year’s theme “Boxes to Bandwidth” is reflected in the 2012 Virginia Archives Month poster with images chosen to highlight Virginia’s rich history of service, innovation, creativity, and artistry.
Archives Month is a great time to attend a book talk, program, or workshop and to explore your local archives repository. The Library of Virginia is celebrating Archives Month with behind-the-scenes tours at 10:00 A.M. on October 10th and 24th. David Howard will present a talk on his work Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Lost American Relic on Wednesday, October 10th, at 12:00. … read more »
A small slip of paper on display in the Library of Virginia’s latest exhibition You Have No Right: Law and Justice in Virginia, running 24 September 2012-18 May 2013, was of immense importance to twelve people. It discloses, even though it does not state the fact in so many words, that on 2 May 1772 they gained their freedom after being held in slavery since each of them was born. The piece of paper and the fates of those Virginians illuminates a disturbing and little-known part of Virginia’s history, the enslavement of American Indians.
The paper came into the possession of the Library of Virginia in 1988 when it acquired a copy of volume two of John Tracy Atkyns, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of Chancery in the Time of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke . . . (London, 1765–1768) that had once been in the library of the colonial government in Williamsburg. One of the librarians in the cataloguing section showed it to me, knowing of my interest in that library. When she lifted it from her desk to hand it to me, a piece of paper that had been slipped between leaves in the middle of the volume fell out and fluttered to the floor. We were surprised, and I was even more surprised when I saw what it … read more »
On 15 May 1883, a seemingly intoxicated man approached Richard Stevens and his group of friends as they were standing together at 513 N. 17th Street in Richmond’s Church Hill area. The man was James Harris, a fortune teller or maybe just a swindler, who asked if he could tell their fortunes. Most of the group declined, but Richard Stevens agreed, and they went to a nearby passageway after Mr. Harris suggested they find a more private location. To the skeptic’s delight, this fortune teller was not able to see his own unfortunate end coming.
The pair settled in on a bench, but before he would tell Stevens’ fortune, Harris requested payment. Stevens informed him he would give him the money only after he told his fortune, but the fortune teller claimed, “I’ve been bit too often.” James Harris then got up and started backwards, staggering. Richard Stevens provided an eyewitness account of the events that followed:
“He had a stick with a crooked handle which he nearly dropped, and I tried to help him with it by catching hold of the …end. He was intoxicated and was at that time on the edge of the doorsill and seemed to have such a slender hold on to his end of the stick that I aimed to catch [him] by his garments to prevent him
The Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Part of the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services branch, the program was created in 1992 to address the preservation needs of some of the most important records in the state – the records of Virginia’s 120 circuit courts. The CCRP continues to not only preserve, digitize, and microfilm historic records from around the commonwealth but also to reach out to circuit court clerks in each locality, offering them consultative services and financial assistance through its grant program. Since its creation twenty years ago, the program has awarded over 1100 grants, totaling nearly $16 million, to Virginia circuit court clerks to help address the preservation needs of records stored in their localities.
Twenty years later, access to Virginia’s historic court records has never been wider with more than 7 million digital chancery court images from fifty-seven counties and cities now available online through the Chancery Records Index (CRI), created to increase access to Virginia’s historic equity cases. In celebration of this important milestone, we’ve created this video celebrating the twenty year history of this innovative program that has helped ensure the preservation and accessibility of records that are a treasure trove of state and local history.
-Bari Helms, Local Records Archivist
On 29 August, the movie Lawless, starring Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, and Jessica Chastain, opens around the country. Based on the bestselling novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, the film tells the story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers – bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, reputed to be the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” Much of the film’s action centers around moonshiners paying “protection money” to corrupt local authorities to guarantee their loads of moonshine would be safe in the county. The Bondurant brothers refused to cooperate and ended up paying the consequences.
Part fiction, part family history, the movie Lawless tells the story of the Franklin County bootleggers, but what about the automobiles used to run their moonshine? Their stories can be found at the Library of Virginia in the Franklin County Determined Papers and Franklin County Common Law Papers. Automobiles used by bootleggers were seized by law officers when bootleggers were arrested and reported to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney who would file a criminal charge in the name of the Commonwealth against the automobile, e.g., “Commonwealth vs. REO Roadster Automobile.” These documents record the date of seizure, type and make of automobile, license number, engine number, and reason for seizure. The automobile would then be condemned and sold … read more »