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.
People looked at the Muse Brothers, Georgie and Willie, and saw something different. Some saw objects of pity. Some saw objects of ridicule. Some saw dollar signs.
Author and former Roanoke Times journalist Beth Macy (Factory Man) explores the harrowing story of two albino African American brothers, the children of a sharecropping single mother, from rural Franklin County. Family oral history tells of the boys’ abduction around 1903 by “freak hunters” for one of the many circus outfits touring around the country at the turn of the 20th century.
Between 1840 and 1940, the circus was the most dominant form of entertainment in the United States. Georgie and Willie Muse appeared as “freaks” in the sideshows of several circuses with only the sparsest room and board as their pay. They were dubbed the Sheep-headed Men, White Ecuadorian Cannibals, and Martian Ambassadors. The brothers had no say in their working conditions, employers, or compensation. They later claimed in court documents that they were held against their will “and in other words…made…slaves.”
After accidentally being found by their mother, Harriett, when the circus came to Roanoke in 1927, over two decades after their disappearance, a lawsuit was filed on the brothers’ behalf in City of Richmond Law & Equity Court. The court documents survive in the archives of the Library of Virginia and were … read more »
On 23 August 1831, Governor John Floyd received a hastily written note from the Southampton County postmaster stating “that an insurrection of the slaves in that county had taken place, that several families had been massacred and that it would take a considerable military force to put them down.” Fifty-seven whites died, many of them women and children, before a massive force of militiamen and armed volunteers could converge on the region and crush the rebellion. Angry white vigilantes killed hundreds of slaves and drove free persons of color into exile in the terror that followed.
Early newspaper reports identified the Southampton insurgents as a leaderless mob of runaway slaves that rose out of the Dismal Swamp to wreak havoc on unsuspecting white families. Military leaders and others on the scene soon identified the participants as enslaved people from local plantations. Reports of as many as 450 insurgents gave way to revised estimates of perhaps 60 armed men and boys, many of them coerced into joining. The confessions of prisoners and the interrogation of eyewitnesses pointed to a small group of ringleaders: a free man of color named Billy Artis, a celebrated slave known as “Gen. Nelson,” and a slave preacher by the name of Nat Turner. Attention focused on Turner; it was his “imagined spirit of prophecy” and his extraordinary powers of persuasion that … read more »
Every year, seemingly on cue, nature gets the message that we’ve had enough heat and humidity. October dawns and the mornings get crisper, the leaves begin their brilliantly-hued demise, and everything is suddenly pumpkin-spice flavored. October also ushers in the celebration of all things archival with the nationwide American Archives Month.
This year, the Virginia Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) adopted the theme of “Art in the Archives” to highlight the fine art, folk art, literature, poetry, sketches, and other artistic expressions that can be found in archives and special collections throughout the Commonwealth. Such materials can be housed in distinct art collections such as those in the archives of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, James Madison University, or the LVA’s own state art collection. Other examples can be found in non-art collections such as illustrated WWII-era letters from William & Mary or Virginia Union University’s model of the Liberty Ship SS Robert L. Vann.
Twenty institutions from around Virginia submitted images for use on the Virginia Archives Month 2016 poster. The handsome poster will be mailed to institutions, libraries, officials, and MARAC members around the state. Perhaps you’ll see a copy in your travels! If you would like you own copy, a downloadable PDF is found here.
In an effort to encourage a more participatory Archives Month, the … read more »
Back in 2010 when I was processing the Nelson County chancery suits, I found a remarkable genealogical chart of the prominent Carter family. From that discovery, I wrote my first Out of the Box blog—A Tree Grows In…Chancery! Now, I am here to testify that not only does lightning strike twice, but in the same place as well. Mary Dean Carter, an archival assistant at the Library of Virginia since 2007, was thrilled about my first revelation related to her father’s lineage.
While helping process the Halifax County chancery in 2014, it was my second discovery though that really hit home for Mary Dean. In the beginning of the project Mary Dean had a simple request, let me know if you come across any suits with these last names: Long, Woodall, Land, Burton, Hudson, or VanHook. These surnames belong to her known relatives residing in Halifax County. In a rather lengthy chancery suit from 1869, Heirs of Jesse (Jessee) Ballow v. Exr of Jesse (Jessee) Ballow, etc., 1869-021, I uncovered relatives on her mother’s side of the family.
With the discovery of another well-preserved genealogical chart, Mary Dean determined that her third great grandfather, Hyram Hudson, was a direct descendant of Jesse Ballow’s sister, Anne. A color coded key is provided for reading the chart. Jesse Ballow died in Cumberland County and … read more »
In the summer of 2012, the Library Development and Networking Division started a project that included loaning scanners and computers to Virginia libraries in the hope of bringing to light hidden local history collections housed in public libraries. These collections hold items of local interest and historical value, and many of these items are unique to their region or locality. This project was started and continues to be funded with grants provided by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), whose mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people with ideas, administers LSTA funds.
A team of Library of Virginia staff traveled to public libraries to deliver the scanners and peripheral equipment, providing training on using the equipment, guidance on organizing materials to be digitized as well as file-naming conventions, and conducting an assessment of items to determine their value for scanning.
In August 2012, the LVA team visited the Halifax County South Boston Public Library. As part of the discovery process, the team was told about a safe located in the local history room of the library. While library staff believed that this safe might contain some important documents that should be scanned, no one had been able to open the safe even with instructions provided. Luckily, LVA’s former Local Records Director (and … read more »
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Tagged Culpeper County, Digital Projects, George Washington Carver Regional High School, IMLS, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Library Services and Technology Act, LSTA, Madison County, New Kent County, Orange County, public schools, Rappahannock County, yearbooks
Processing county deeds is usually not the springboard to finding something that is, well, blog-worthy. Deeds are already recorded in county deed books that have been scoured by generations of genealogists, researchers, and historians; it’s unlikely that anything new or odd will come to light. But something new did come to light from those dusty bundles of tri-folded Lunenburg County deeds, and it illuminates a small part of Virginia’s architectural history.
The county court was held in a variety of locations during Lunenburg County’s first twenty years. This practice was common and practical since the county’s boundaries shifted frequently as the General Assembly carved eleven new counties from Lunenburg’s western borders. In 1765, Robert Estes agreed to build a courthouse for the county on his property near what is today Chase City in Mecklenburg County. Its design was based on the courthouse in Dinwiddie County. Joseph Smith, a tavern keeper, took over the property when Estes died in 1775.
The people of Lunenburg County faced an ironic problem in the 1780s; the area surrounding the county courthouse had become a hotbed of lawlessness and disorder. The courthouse grounds apparently became infested “with persons violently suspected of Horse-stealing and sundry other crimes,” not least among them Smith himself, according to a legislative petition signed by more than a hundred residents in 1782.
The petition asked that … read more »
In the colonial period, married Virginians had very few legal grounds for divorce. Over the years, though, standards loosened up a bit, and eventually the old justifications of adultery and impotency were joined by reasons such as abandonment, cruelty, or being a fugitive from justice. In 1873, a new justification was added to the list: if either party was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary. One of least common reasons for divorce, this kind of suit does pop up in chancery from time to time when the spouses of criminal Virginians took advantage of the law to get rid of the old ball-and-chain.
W. H. Bonaparte and Emma G. Lee were married in Hampton in 1888. In January 1889, W. H. was convicted of a felony for transporting a woman named Ruth Tennelle into Hampton for the purpose of concubinage and was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Emma filed for divorce in February 1891 and her petition was granted one month later. (Elizabeth City County chancery cause 1891-007 Emma Bonaparte by etc vs. W. H. Bonaparte)
In 1898, Rosalie Mayo and Daniel N. Huffer were united in matrimony. In 1901 Rosalie filed for divorce while pregnant with her second child, stating that her husband had recently been sentenced to one year in the penitentiary for a terrible assault on their little … read more »
Editor’s note: A version of this article originally appeared in the LVA newsletter.
Alice Trissel of Rockingham County spent 41 years helping provide New York City children with summer vacations in rural Virginia through the Fresh Air Fund program. During that time she amassed a mountain of documentation concerning the programs activities. Although she didn’t want to part with all of her memorabilia, she eventually ran out of room in her house to store the overflowing boxes of materials.
So in the same spirit that moved her to host Fresh Air children and serve as a fund representative and committee chairperson, in the summer of 1999 Trissel donated her collection to the Library of Virginia. The collection, which contains over 18 cubic feet of host family applications, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, posters, and other promotional materials, was a major addition to the Library’s private papers and organizational records collection at the time.
The Fresh Air Fund, which still provides thousands of children with free vacations each summer in small towns and suburban communities, originated in 1877 in Sherman, Pennsylvania. The Fund estimates that more than 1.8 million New York City children have participated in the program since Reverend Willard Parsons first asked members of his congregation to open their hearts and homes.
Although Trissel first became acquainted with Fresh Air in 1927 when her mother … read more »
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in The Delimiter, the Library’s in-house on-line newsletter. It has been slightly edited for clarity.
To commemorate the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, Philip Morris wanted to finance a major tour of an original copy of the document– the basis for many of our basic freedoms and rights. As the repository of Virginia’s copy of the Bill of Rights, The Virginia State Library and Archives (now the Library of Virginia) was approached and agreed to its use.
Philip Morris funded restoration work on the document and financed the fabrication of both an elaborate traveling case, as well as a display case. Both cases had advanced climatic control and were designed to protect this precious document from any potential harm. In addition to the immediate housing for the document, the design of the display system guaranteed crowd control, as well as allowing adequate viewing of the document by visitors wishing to see the Bill of Rights.
The tour consisted of a 52 city, 50 state tour, commencing in Barre, VT, on 10 October 1990 and winding up with the document’s return home to Richmond on 11 December 1991 (with a grand total of 26,000 miles traveled), culminating in a fundraising dinner and closing of the exhibition on 15 December. The tour was planned to ensure that weather conditions … read more »
The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 23 May 2016 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. The board is comprised of 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. The board meets twice a year to evaluate proposals. This cycle’s grant applications requested funds for processing, conserving, securing, and increasing access to circuit court records. A total of seventy-nine applications were submitted from seventy localities with requests totaling over one and a half million dollars. After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved seventy-three grant projects totaling nearly $900 thousand. Seventy-two of the approved applications were for funding to perform professional conservation treatment on more than 250 volumes housed in circuit court clerks’ offices that had been damaged by use, age, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining seven grants were for security systems, reformatting projects, and plat cabinet.
The CCRP is a part of the Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division. Funded through $1.50 from the circuit court clerk’s recordation fee, the CCRP provides resources to help preserve and make accessible permanent circuit court records. The program awards … read more »