About: Vince

Vince joined the Library of Virginia in 1999. After serving in the archives research and private papers departments, he moved to the Local Records Services branch and his present position as a Senior Local Records Archivist. Vince has a Master's degree in Archives, Museum and Historical Editing Studies from Duquesne University.

Author Archives Vince

“Persecuted By His Race”: The Norfolk County Chancery Causes, 1718-1913


Mikro Kodesh synagogue, Berkley, built 1922. Now home to the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Coutesy of Wikicommons.

The information contained in the Norfolk County Chancery Cause 1893-022, Berkley Hebrew Cemetery Association v. Abraham Liebman, et. al., makes for a highly charged and drama-filled story. More importantly, however, the cause provides insight into a diverse community beginning a more organized transition within a region. Jewish immigrants began settling in the Tidewater area in the late 18th century– according to Irwin M. Berent, author of Norfolk, Virginia: A Jewish History of the 20th century. The home of the first Jewish resident of Tidewater is found in Portsmouth, which was established in 1752, incorporated as a town in 1836 and then as a city in 1858. Jacob Abrahams came first to Maryland as a convict from London. He was part of the Ashkenazic faith (a follower of the German/Eastern European ritual of Judaism). Thousands of Jewish families came to London from Germany, Lithuania, and Poland.

The first permanent Jewish resident of Norfolk, Moses Myers, settled in the Berkley section in 1787 and began an immensely successful import-export business. Soon after, the Jewish community in Berkley became known for two significant developments:  the site of the first cemetery for Norfolk-area Jews and the beginning of the “most close-knit Orthodox Russian-Jewish community in all of Tidewater.” Berkeley (sometimes spelled Berkley) is one of the oldest communities in Virginia. It was the county … read more »

A Morbid Memento: The Trial of Kit Leftwich


Detail from Aero view of Bristol, Va.-Tenn. 1912. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

In September 1895, Kit Leftwich (also known as Kit Leftridge) was indicted for the rape of Annie Fogarty, the 12-year-old daughter of his supervisor. The jury found the former slave not guilty of the charged rape, decreasing the indictment to attempted rape. Even so, the punishment was set at death by hanging. Kit Leftwich has the distinction of being the first person legally hanged in Bristol, Virginia, since its founding.

Lynching, a common form of ‘people’s justice’ at the time, had led to several public hangings. The case of Kit Leftwich was different because it ensured the public could not execute vigilante justice in place of law and order. When it became clear that the population of Bristol was too biased, a motion was passed for the jury summons to be sent to neighboring Washington County. The assumption was that the people farther from the case would be less aware of it. Even so, one of the jurors selected shared the surname of the presiding judge, so the impartiality may have been less than initially intended. Judge William F. Rhea had retired from the Virginia Senate in 1888, and would later serve in the United States House of Representative from 1899-1903.

With jurors selected and the charges set, the trial began on 10 September 1895. By the end of the next day, the evidence had … read more »

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The Murder of John R. Moffett: Race, Politics, and Local Control


J. R. Moffett portrait, Thompson, S. H., The Life of John R. Moffett. Salem, Virginia: Mrs. Pearl Bruce Moffett, 1895.

On the evening of 11 November 1892, attorney and Democratic Party operative John T. Clark shot and fatally wounded Reverend John R. Moffett on the streets of Danville. Moffett, minister of North Danville’s Missionary Baptist Church, had feuded with Clark previously. Religious people and churchmen claimed that he was targeted for loudly proclaiming his intense anti-liquor views. In their minds, Moffett was “the first martyr to the Temperance cause,” a heroic figure battling the bottle and its terrible social consequences. In reality, as historian Richard F. Hamm has persuasively argued, Moffett’s murder reflected deep divisions in Danville—and Virginia—of race, politics, and issues of local control. As a closing chapter of our blog posts related to the exhibition “Teetotalers and Moonshiners,” we will take a look at Library sources related to the events leading to the murder and the trial and its aftermath to tease out these themes.

Rev. Moffett published a newspaper dedicated to the Prohibitionist cause. The Tennessee State Library and Archives recently donated a rare issue of Anti-Liquor to the Library. The masthead proclaimed that “Anti-Liquor is a temperance and prohibition monthly, issued for the sole purpose of educating the people upon the evils of the drink habit, and especially to turn light upon the question of Legal Prohibition.” Moffett’s powerful words, delivered in speeches and in the pages of Anti-Liquor and the … read more »

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Ghosts in the Archives: Communing with the Virginia Historical Inventory


Photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, 1936. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In recent years, tourists and locals alike have flocked to Virginia’s many old downtown areas to attend ghost tours. These events have quickly become popular ways to learn about the ways that the past lingers in the present day, but the relationship between Virginia’s history and its ghosts is much older than the tours. The Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI) records held at The Library of Virginia illustrate that historical ghost-lore is not a new trend; Virginians in the 1930s and 1940s saw hauntings as appropriate and desirable elements of historical properties as well.

The VHI was part of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a leg of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The FWP program hired authors to write, and researchers to find and document, iconic American stories and locations. In Virginia, researchers spanned out across the commonwealth documenting the location, status, and history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. This brought them to familiar cities like Williamsburg and Alexandria, and to smaller, more rural places that were best described by the nearest highway. They collected the information they needed from archives, newspapers, and interviews with homeowners and neighbors. Written sources gave them the names of previous owners, construction dates, and famous events. The oral interviews filled in the stories not present in the archives. In many cases, when the researchers spoke with locals they used ghost … read more »

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Not If You Were The Last Man On Earth!: Virginia’s Board of Censors


Movie poser, The Last Man On Earth. Source: imdb.com/

The Virginia Board of Censors (1922–1966), later the Division of Motion Picture Censorship, was tasked with identifying obscene, indecent, and immoral scenes in motion pictures. The purpose of the body was to regulate motion pictures and provide a system of examination, approval, and regulation of banners, posters, and other advertising material related to films. The board also leveled penalties for violation of its requirements. The law establishing the board made it essentially illegal to sell or exhibit any commercial film that had not been officially approved and licensed by the board.

In 1924, a silent film, The Last Man on Earth presented challenges for the Board of Censors in several areas. The movie takes place in the future; a young man believes he has met the love of his life only to be rejected by the young lady.  He is so devastated by her rejection that he moves to the mountains, determined to live his life as a hermit. While he is away from civilization a devastating worldwide plague kills every fertile man on Earth over the age of 14.  The plague called “masculitis” results in an overpopulation of women. The disease manages to become a de facto women’s rights movement. In the United States, positions in Congress, the courts, and the presidency are all held by females.

A female aviator on a flight across the … read more »

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CCRP Grants Review Board Awards Funding


CCRP logo

The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 24 August 2017 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. Six members– four circuit court clerks, appointed annually by the president of the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association; and two staff members from the Library of Virginia, currently the State Archivist and the Deputy of Collections and Programs–comprise the board. Members meet once a year to evaluate proposals. Clerks of the Circuit Courts apply for funds to conserve, secure, and increase access to circuit court records. A total of eighty applications were submitted from seventy-nine localities with requests totaling $1,090,554.15. After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved seventy-nine grant projects totaling nearly $850,000 (CCRP Grant Awards FY2018). Seventy-seven of the approved applications covered professional conservation treatment for items including deed books, will books, order books, surveyor books, minute books, and plat books housed in circuit court clerks’ offices which had been damaged by use, age, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining two grants were for storage projects.

The following are a few of the items that received grant funding:

The CCRP is administrated as part of the Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division. Funded through $1.50 from the circuit court clerk’s land instrument recordation fee, the CCRP provides resources … read more »

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Open Data for Public Good


Governor McAuliffe signing legislation related to opioid addiction, 2017.

“Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians.”

Governor McAuliffe made that blunt yet true statement in a February 2017 press release announcing his signing of several House and Senate bills designed to fight the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose. Virginia is focused on addressing the disease of addiction as well as helping individuals, families, and communities recover from and ultimately prevent the spread of substance abuse. Governor McAuliffe has been committed to finding solutions to the opioid epidemic since 2014, when he established the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse.

Annually, the Governor challenges all Virginians to use the government’s publicly available data (also known as open data) to help address some of Virginia’s biggest challenges. On 28 and 29 September, teams of data analysts and programmers will descend upon the Library of Virginia to do just that for the 2017 Governor’s Datathon. Their focus will be on addressing the crisis of opioid addiction in Virginia.

The first Datathon, held in 2014, started out with only state agency teams participating. The goal was to help change culture and encourage state employees to use more data and analytics in their operations and decision-making. As the Datathon has evolved, the goals became more focused on the Governor’s highest priorities. Prior challenges included addressing education outcomes, health disparities, safer roads, and diversifying the New Virginia Economy. The … read more »

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The Fives Battery and the Injured Lynchburg Lott

When processing a collection of old court papers, sometimes archivists have to use their imagination to interpret what was written. The words don’t always make sense in the context of the sentence and we must decide whether the mistake is in the handwriting or in our interpretation. Is it how the word is used (or misused) in the sentence? Or might it be my own personal misunderstanding of the word in the context of the times?

That was what happened to me when I was processing an 1823 Lynchburg chancery case. The injunction suit, Daniel B. Perrow vs. Smith Barnard, etc., was unremarkable. Perrow had rented a house from Smith and William Barnard on Cocke Street in Lynchburg, and by all accounts, the dwelling needed some repairs. Various affidavits indicated that during “wet weather” the house was nearly uninhabitable. The renter and landlord had come to some sort of an agreement about the repairs that were needed, who would pay for them, etc.; that is what the suit was about. The repairs were to be made to the “house and inclosure” in order to make the property “tenantable.” Because of the repairs, a credit or allowance would be given to the tenant.

In the course of reading the affidavits, however, it became apparent that the tenant, Perrow, was doing more than repairing the house.

read more »

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Beachhead Revisited: Parramore’s Island on the Eastern Shore


Flyer, 1868. Accomack County, Chancery Cause, 1876-038, William McGeorge, Jr. etc. versus Talmadge F. Cherry, etc. Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

In the late 1800s, land speculators became interested in selling islands along the Atlantic Coast to be used as summer resorts. “Parramore’s Island,” a barrier island on the coast of Accomack County, Virginia, was one such island. The island has been identified in its history by various names including “Parramore’s Beach,” Parramore’s Beaches,” “Parramore’s Great Beach,” and “Parramore Island.” Parramore’s Island and Parramore’s Beach were most frequently used.

Dr. Talmadge F. Cherry of Baltimore, Maryland, was interested in buying the island. He received two advertisements and a plat containing information about the island. These documents were used as exhibits in a chancery suit- Accomack County, Chancery Cause, William McGeorge, Jr. etc. versus Talmadge F. Cherry, etc., 1876-038.

J. Henry Ferguson of No. 80 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland, sent Dr. Cherry an advertisement that he printed on 15 July 1868. He gave many good reasons to buy the island. A second advertisement consisting of four pages was also given to Dr. Cherry. This document was divided into five sections, titled “NEED OF A GOOD SEA-SIDE RESORT,” “The Opportunity Offered,” “WHAT IS PROPOSED,” “Improvements Needed,” and “Peculiar Advantages as a Summer Resort.” This document provided information about building a summer resort and tried to convince the reader that it should be built on Parramore’s Island.

Dr. Cherry also received a hand drawn plat of the island … read more »

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I’m A Sap: The WWI Letters of David J. Castleman


Good-Bye Kiss, ca. 1917.

My name is Chloe Staples, and I am from Richmond, Virginia. I am a rising senior at Lynchburg College with a major in United States history and a minor in Spanish. This summer, I am interning at the Library of Virginia (LVA) in the Information Security & Technology Services department.

My first month at the LVA has been so great. I have learned new skills that will help me down the road, worked with incredible people, and done work of which I can be proud. As one of my first assignments, I went through boxes of World War I-era documents from soldiers born in Virginia to determine which ones would be interesting for the public on Transcribe. The first few boxes were mostly boring—I read about a guy’s car sale for about ten letters! Things started to get more interesting as I went through the war correspondence files in the Executive Papers of Governor Westmoreland Davis, 1911-1922. The most interesting cache was definitely the letters from David J. Castleman—a Greensboro, Alabama native– fighting in the war abroad. His letters are some of the sweetest things I have had the pleasure to read in my, admittedly short, 21 years of life. It is both fascinating and moving to learn about someone through their letters and sort of put yourself in their position.

Castleman wrote … read more »