While examining Prince Edward County court records for chancery suits, former Local Records Archivist Catherine OBrion found a group of declarations to the justices of the peace of Prince Edward County. The declarants were Revolutionary War veterans seeking to obtain pensions under an act of Congress passed on 7 June 1832. The applicants present detailed testimony of their time of service during the Revolutionary War. Information found in the declarations include date and location applicants entered into service, names of military companies they served in, names of military commanders they served under, names of fellow soldiers they served with, length of service, their ages, and their places of birth. The declarations also include affidavits from witnesses who could verify information provided by applicants.
The predominant portion of the declarations consists of narratives of the veterans’ tours of duty during the Revolutionary War. William Hines, age 78, presented an account of his service under General George Rogers Clarke in present-day Kentucky. Clarke’s army was pursuing Native Americans along the Ohio River. Hines shared how, during the campaign, he was severely wounded by two musket balls which broke both bones of his right arm below the elbow. Hines was personally assured by General Clarke that he would receive a pension. William Worsham, age 80, presented an account of his service from the time the war began … read more »
On the morning of 14 March 1885, Lysander Rose, caretaker of the Old Reservoir in Richmond, went about his normal duties, but this morning would not be a typical one for Rose. As he approached the reservoir, Rose found what appeared to be a piece of broken shoe string, a woman’s red glove, and what he described as signs of a “desperate struggle.” When he peered over into the water, Rose saw “floating near the top the flounce or something of a woman’s dress and one leg jutting up.” After the coroner arrived, the muddy body of a young woman was lifted from the water. A cursory examination revealed that she had slight bruising on her face, a swollen mouth, and a rent in her gown at the elbow. Later, it would be discovered that she was also eight months pregnant. Several days and several false identifications passed before the body was finally identified as that of Fannie Lillian Madison.
At the time of her death, Lillian Madison, as she was commonly called by friends and family, was 23 years old, pregnant, and unmarried. Lillian had checked into the Exchange Hotel in Richmond under the name Fannie Merton mere days before her body was discovered. Lillian’s pregnancy (without the prospect of a husband) supported the coroner’s initial ruling of suicide, but as more evidence began … read more »
Former Local Records archivist Catherine OBrion was given the task of processing the chancery causes of Arlington (formerly Alexandria) County. Perhaps the most interesting case that she discovered was a suit entitled Creed M. Fulton versus the Christmas Aeroplane Company, Inc. et al. The day after Christmas in 1910, Mr. Fulton, a lawyer from D.C., filed suit against the Christmas Aeroplane Company, the company’s founder William W. Christmas, and two other individuals—Lester C. McLeod and Thomas W. Buckey. In the bill for the suit, William W. Christmas is described as the inventor of a heavier-than-air machine for the purpose of aerial navigation. According to the document, Mr. Christmas informed the complainant that the aircraft “had been actually tried and was successful and that said machine had remained in the air for sometime.”
In need of money to procure a patent and to build a practical machine for the purpose of “demonstrating the values and practicability of said invention,” all parties entered into an agreement on October 26, 1909, in Washington, D.C that would create the Christmas Aeroplane Company. According to the agreement, money for the patent would be advanced and the others would aid William Christmas in raising funds to cover the actual cost of building a machine. After $1,200 was given for the patent, it became necessary for some of the parties to advance … read more »
During the months of October and November, Local Records archivists delivered presentations on chancery suits to the Tazewell County Public Library, the Scott County Rotary Club, the Beautiful Older People in Dinwiddie County, and the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society. They shared with the attendees what chancery causes are and how they are useful not only for genealogy research but for learning local history as well.
The archivists offered numerous chancery suits as examples such as a Dinwiddie County case that involved the descendants of a free African-American doctor who also owned slaves; Tazewell County suits that referenced conflicts between the first settlers of Tazewell County and Native Americans; post-Civil War era Scott County suits that brought to light lingering bitterness between pro-Union and anti-Confederacy residents; and Middlesex County suits that showed slaves suing for their freedom. The archivists informed the attendees how they could access their locality’s chancery causes through the Chancery Records Index. The response to the presentations by attendees was very positive. Laurie Roberts, the director of the Tazewell County Public Library, commented: “You gave our audience an appreciation of the reflection of our social history we can find in this treasure trove of material and inspired us to delve into the records.”
If you are interested in scheduling a presentation by one of the Library’s Local Records archivists, please contact … read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the addition of records from Fluvanna, Goochland, and Montgomery Counties to the cohabitation register digitization project. This project, via the Virginia Memory website, aims to index, digitize, transcribe, and provide access to all known Virginia cohabitation registers and the related registers of children whose parents had ceased to cohabit.
The cohabitation registers were the legal vehicles by which formerly enslaved couples legitimized their pre-slavery marriages and the children of unions that no longer existed in 1866 due to death or other circumstances such as the wife being sold away. These records are invaluable resources for genealogists and historians alike.
Goochland and Montgomery have to date only uncovered their cohabitation registers. Fluvanna, however, includes both the cohabitation register and the register of children whose parents had ceased to cohabit by 1866. The registers, transcriptions, and searchable indexes are available online along with the other registers from Virginia localities in the Cohabitation Register Digital Collection in Virginia Memory. To find it use either the link provided or go to Virginia Memory, choose Digital Collections, then Collections A to Z, and finally Cohabitation Registers.
For more information on the cohabitation registers, see an earlier blog post Solid Genealogical Gold, about the Register of Colored Persons of Smyth County, Virginia, cohabiting together as Husband and Wife on 27… read more »
The wool of Merino sheep was highly prized and for centuries the flocks were not allowed to be exported from their home in Spain. One of the few individuals to get Merinos into the United States was U.S. minister to Spain David Humphreys, who imported twenty-five rams and seventy-five ewes to his home in Connecticut in 1802. The Library of Virginia has a copy of Humphreys’s 1804 book The miscellaneous works of David Humphreys, late minister plenipotentiary —to the court of Madrid, which contains an essay on Merino sheep. Thomas Jefferson was also particularly interested in the improvements of sheep herds and by 1810 had acquired his own herd of Merino sheep. The demand for Merinos soon reached manic proportions, a bubble was created, and like all bubbles there was a crash. (For more on this subject see Monticello’s article on sheep.)
Amongst the Cowling Papers found in the City of Richmond records is a letter dated 14 August 1827 from William DuVal (1748-1842), a Virginia lawyer, legislator, and planter, to Willis Cowling (1788-1828), a Richmond cabinetmaker. Enclosed in the letter is a sample of Merino wool. DuVal wrote to ask Cowling if he would sell two hundred pounds of Merino wool to buy material for slave clothing. Cowling was a good choice for carrying out DuVal’s request as he regularly dealt with merchants … read more »
Occasionally the strangest things will surface in the county records. While processing Amelia County records (Barcode 1147160), archivist Callie Freed found a map depicting the U.S. Army’s 20-day siege of the Mexican city of Veracruz during the Mexican-American War.
Titled “Siege of Vera Cruz by the U.S. Troops under Major General Scott in March 1847, from surveys made by Major Turnbull, Captains Hughes, McClellan, & Johnston, Lieutanants Derby & Hardcastle, Top. Engineers,” the map depicts General Winfield Scott’s troops and siege engines spread out across the land surrounding the city of Veracruz and its fortifications, as well as other key features of the landscape and the reefs just off of the city in the Gulf of Mexico. Statistics are given about the regiments of the divisions belonging to William J. Worth, David E. Twiggs, and Robert Patterson as well as the numbers of troops killed and wounded in the operation. The map was drawn by Captain George McClellan and published in 1847 by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers.
The siege of Veracruz took place in March 1847 and was the scene of the first successful large-scale amphibious assault by a United States military force. General Scott landed his U.S. Expeditionary Force near the city and lay siege to it for twenty days until it was surrendered, opening up the east coast of Mexico … read more »
November is Native American Heritage Month, a month set aside to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. Here at the Library of Virginia we have documents that tell the story of the Gingaskin Tribe. In 1641, the Accomac Indians, an Algonquin-speaking tribe located on the Eastern shore and part of the group collectively referred to as Powhatan Indians, became known as the Gingaskins when they accepted a patent from the English government for the remaining 1,500 acres of their ancestral lands on the ocean side of Northampton County. Various legal and boundary struggles with their English neighbors over the years reduced the lands reserved for the Gingaskins to 650 acres, which was patented again in 1680.
Over the years, Indian lands were often leased to outsiders by the state and county governments in order to help support Gingaskin members, most of whom chose to maintain a traditional lifestyle and not farm the lands. Great concern was exhibited by white neighbors about the Gingaskins intermarrying with free negroes and charges were made in petitions to the General Assembly in 1784 and 1787 that there were no more “real” Indians left on the reservation and therefore the land should be given to whites who could better protect it, by which they meant farm it in … read more »
At one o’clock in the morning on 1 September 1859, Milly T. King arrived at the home of James Clary and found his slave Hannah “lying on the hearth gasping for breath, and I thought dying.” When King saw Hannah an hour later, she was dead. The following day Brunswick County coroner William Lett arrived to examine the body. With him were twelve men, none of whom had a medical background but rather were chosen as upstanding men and representatives of the county. The office of coroner held inquisitions in cases when persons met a sudden, violent, unnatural, or suspicious death. In this case Hannah had certainly met a sudden and suspicious demise.
Hannah, owned by the late Elizabeth H. Harwell, had been in the possession of James Clary, who adamantly maintained that the marks found on her feet and legs and the wound on her head were not from anything suspicious but came as a result of a fall from a window occurring a few weeks before her death. The coroner and his jury of white men were left to decide if Hannah had suffered an accidental death or if her death had been caused by something more malicious. Clary’s wife, Eliza, backed up her husband’s statements and claimed to know nothing of Hannah’s death, maintaining that her wounds were caused by the fall. … read more »
On Thursday, October 20, staff from the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch were in Jersey City, New Jersey, to formally accept one of the Commonwealth’s long-lost treasures – a Stafford County record book taken from Virginia in 1863 by a Union officer serving in a New York regiment.
The volume, an order book detailing the daily activities of the court from 1749 to 1755, was transcribed by a Stafford deputy clerk in 1791. The book was removed from the Stafford courthouse by Captain W. A. Treadwell of the 4th N.Y. Regiment and was long considered to be a casualty of the war. A note inside the front cover and presumably in Treadwell’s hand states that it was “Taken from Stafford Court House, March 30 1863.”
The volume was handed down several times over many years before it was presented to the Hudson County Historical Society. The Society’s collection eventually was transferred to the collection of the Jersey City Free Public Library’s New Jersey Room. Recognizing that the order book did not fit within the New Jersey Room’s collection policy, Jersey City Public Library’s John Beekman contacted the LVA to return the volume to its rightful home in Virginia. The volume will be conserved at LVA’s in-house conservation lab and scanned and microfilmed to ensure its preservation. Scanned images will be presented to … read more »