Roger has worked at the Library of Virginia since 1997 and currently works in the state records section. Roger has a Master of Arts degree in Public History from the University of South Carolina. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Millersville University.
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. This month’s entries will spotlight early parole records. An 1898 Act of the Virginia General Assembly (amended several times) granted the Virginia Penitentiary Board of Directors power to parole prisoners if they met certain conditions. To be eligible the inmate must have served half his term, have not broken any prison rules for the two years preceding the date of one-half his term and the prisoner must have assurance of employment upon his discharge. In 1915, the Virginia Attorney General issued an opinion stating that any legislation limiting the power of the governor to grant clemency was unconstitutional.
On 30 January 1909, Ben F. Parker, a 30-year-old African American from Nansemond County, arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary to begin serving a three-year sentence for forgery. Parker was sent to work on the Bedford County road force operated by W.H. McMillan. He was a model prisoner. After serving half his sentence, Parker applied for a conditional pardon (parole) in August 1910. C.T. Allen, a farmer in Good View, Virginia, agreed to employ Parker on his farm for $6 a month for seventeen months. Allen also promised to “take a friendly interest” in Parker, “to counsel and advise him in which … read more »
Processing the records of a state agency director can often be unsatisfying. While the folders of historically important correspondence, reports, and meeting minutes describe the inner workings of an agency, they usually reveal very little about the individuals running it. However, that is not always the case. While processing what initially appeared to be unremarkable 20th century Western State Hospital (WSH) superintendent’s records, I discovered a treasure trove of personal material related to one of Virginia’s most (in)famous physicians, Dr. Joseph S. DeJarnette.
A celebrated physician and psychiatrist during the early decades of the 20th century, Dr. DeJarnette is most famous for his support and involvement in the eugenics movement, which included support for sterilization of the “feeble minded,” alcoholics, drug addicts, and those suffering from other mental illnesses. He penned the pro-eugenics poem “Mendel’s Law” and lobbied prominently in favor of Virginia’s 1924 compulsory sterilization law. Dr. DeJarnette also served as an expert witness in the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell (1927), which upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s sterilization legislation. Though his deeds were revered during his lifetime, Dr. DeJarnette’s legacy is something most find rather repugnant today. Due to DeJarnette’s eugenics advocacy, the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services in 2001 changed the name of the DeJarnette Center for Human Development (formerly DeJarnette State … read more »
16 August 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the execution of Virginia Christian for the brutal murder of Ida V. Belote in Hampton, Virginia, on 18 March 1912. Out of the Box featured select documents from the Christian case in September 2010. The 23 September 2010 execution of Teresa Lewis for her role in the murder of her husband, Julian Lewis, sparked new interest in Virginia Christian, who up to that time was the only woman to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia since the General Assembly centralized executions at the Virginia State Penitentiary in 1908.
Often in high-profile criminal cases, the victim and victim’s family are an afterthought. To mark this infamous anniversary, I decided to write a post on Ida V. Belote. Who was she? What happened to her eight children? Two of her young daughters discovered their mother’s body and testified at the coroner’s inquisition. What became of them? My search for answers led me to the Belote coroner’s inquisition, newspaper articles, and Ancestry.com. What follows is a fragmentary picture of Ida Belote and her family.
Ida Virginia Hobbs, the daughter of James and Harriette Hobbs, was born in March 1861 in North Carolina. Hobbs married James Edward Wadsworth Belote (17 February 1846-6 June 1911) on 5 November 1879 in Northampton County, North Carolina. By 1880 the … read more »
The United States Marine Corps abounds with tradition and history. An important aspect of this history and tradition revolves around Presley Neville O’Bannon and the Marine Corps sword. Over two hundred years ago, O’Bannon, a Virginian born in Fauquier County, became the first American to raise the United States’ flag over foreign soil.
Promoted to 1st lieutenant in the Marine Corps, O’Bannon was assigned to the USS Argus in the Mediterranean during the war against Tripoli, one of the Barbary States on the north coast of Africa. Described by author Joseph Wheelan as “America’s First War on Terror,” the Tripolitan War sought an end to the exorbitant tributes of the Pasha of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli. William Eaton, navy agent to the Barbary Regencies, devised a plan to depose the Pasha by forming an alliance with Yusuf’s exiled brother Hamet. Eaton led an army consisting of Lieutenant O’Bannon and seven U. S. Marines from the Argus, along with an assortment of Tripolitans, Arabs, and European mercenaries. This army marched 520 miles across the Desert of Barca from Alexandria to attack the city of Derna, Tripoli’s eastern provincial capital. On 27 April 1805, a combined land and sea attack supported by the USS Argus, Nautilus, and Hornet, commenced against Derna. Later called the … read more »
Tomorrow historian Selden Richardson will speak at the Library of Virginia on his new book, The Tri-State Gang in Richmond: Murder and Robbery in the Great Depression. Here is a brief description of the book from the publisher:
“The 1930s was a tough decade, one made even tougher by Prohibition. During this lawless time in American history, a group of criminals called the Tri-State Gang emerged from Philadelphia and spread their operations south, through Baltimore to Richmond, wreaking bloody havoc and brutally eliminating those who knew too much about their heists. Once termed the “Dillingers of the East,” Robert Mais and Walter Legenza led their men and molls on a violent journey of robberies, murders, and escapes up and down the East Coast.”
Richardson, a former archivist at the Library of Virginia, will recount the story of this whirlwind of crime and how it finally reached its climax in Richmond. The talk, part of the “Books on Broad” series, is free. Light refreshments (wine and cheese) will be served (5:30–6:15 pm), followed by author talk (6:15–7:15 pm), and book signing (7:15–7:30 pm). His book can be purchased through The Virginia Shop at the Library of Virginia.
Selden made extensive use of the records at the Library of Virginia. The gallery accompanying this post consists of some examples from our local, state, and … read more »
On the afternoon of 18 April 1924, an Imperial Ice Cream Company truck got stuck in the mud on the road between Winchester and Front Royal. The driver left the truck to telephone the company’s Winchester plant for help to get the truck out of the mud. When the driver returned ten minutes later, he saw that a “gang of convicts, in charge of a guard, had climbed on the truck and stolen from it five quarts of brick ice cream and ten dozen Chocolate Coated Ice Cream bars” worth $6.50. The guard told the driver that “he couldn’t do anything with the convicts, as they were in for stealing at the time.” Or so A.W. Warne, Manager of the Virginia Division, claimed in two letters to Major R.M. Youell, Virginia Penitentiary Superintendent. Outraged, Warne demanded an investigation and financial restitution. He added that “it seems to me a deplorable state of affairs when a guard in charge of a gang of convicts does not have enough control over the convicts, or himself, to prevent the stealing” of ice cream. A subsequent investigation by Penitentiary officials tells a completely different story.
A week after the alleged incident, Superintendent Youell ordered J.W. Johnson, the officer in charge of State Convict Road Force Camp 29, to investigate. Johnson’s reply on 29 April 1924 reported that the driver … read more »
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.
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 »
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 »
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 »