Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation are just some of the concerns expressed in the Library of Virginia’s collection of Legislative Petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865. In late 2012, the Library partnered with Backstage Library Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to digitize the collection straight from the microfilm which was created in-house in 2002. Work has now begun to take the 150,000 digital images, unite them with the database entries constructed on the Library’s searchable website (Legislative Petition Online Database), and make them accessible through Digitool – the Library’s digital asset management system. Thus far, the counties from Accomack through Amelia and Appomattox through Barbour are available (Legislative Petitions on Digitool). Besides the images, these entries in Digitool provide the same information previously available on the Legislative Petition Online Database including the petitioner, date, description, and subjects. The petitions often contain hundreds of signatures and are a useful tool in genealogical research. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.
There are many noteworthy and valuable documents among the over 1,000 petitions currently digitized. Accomack County alone includes several appeals of freed slaves for permission to remain in the state following their emancipation as required … read more »
On 16 March 2013, Virginia’s Executive Mansion celebrated its 200th anniversary with a birthday party at the Library of Virginia. The highlight of the event was a public screening of a new Mansion documentary, First House, produced by Blue Ridge PBS in partnership with Appeal Productions. The Library of Virginia and Citizens’ Advisory Council for Interpreting and Furnishing the Executive Mansion also published a commemorative book, First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families, written by Mary Miley Theobald. Out of the Box decided to jump on the bandwagon with a post highlighting some of the archival records about the Executive Mansion at the Library.
The history of the Executive Mansion (also called Governor’s House or Governor’s Mansion) is well represented in the Library’s archival collections. The Auditor of Public Accounts, Capital Square Data Records, 1779-1971, document the construction, furnishing, and repair of the 1813 Executive Mansion and the various buildings used by the governor prior to the Mansion’s construction. The Drawing and Plans Collection includes a photographic copy of a page from Alexander Parris’ sketchbook depicting the floor plan for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. Parris designed the mansion in 1811-1812. An Executive Communication to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, dated 17 February 1813, includes photocopy of a report from David Bullock, William McKim, and Robert Greenhow, … read more »
In 1923 the Virginia General Assembly accepted a gift which would lead to an international investigation and administrative embarrassment 15 years later. The gift was a 300-year-old portrait of none other than “first Captain and practical founder of the State of Virginia” Captain John Smith. Or was it? The painting depicts a bearded man wearing a fur-trimmed hat and elaborately embroidered coat, flanked above by putti (chubby male children) holding pelts and below by snarling lions. The portrait was presented to the General Assembly by 15 prominent Virginians including John Stewart Bryan, Fairfax Harrison, and Eppa Hunton Jr.
The portrait was purchased for $1,000 in 1923 through the London-based firm of B.F. Stevens and Brown, “experts in Americana.” The painting subsequently hung in the Governor’s Office, where it remained until the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Alexander W. Weddell, studied the painting while editing the book A Memorial Volume of Virginia Historical Portraiture, 1585-1830. Weddell believed the portrait to be that of “the half-mad son of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who was known to have walked about London in Oriental garb.” Weddell discussed the portrait with the director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, H. M. Hake, who found the original engraving which the Commonwealth’s portrait was modeled after–and it is of little surprise that it was not of John Smith.… read more »
Former Virginia state Senator William B. Hopkins Sr. died on 11 December 2012 at the age of 90. During World War II, Hopkins joined the Marines and saw combat in the Pacific theater of the war. Hopkins, a Democrat, represented the Roanoke area as a state senator from 1960 to 1980 and was Senate majority leader from 1972 to 1976.
Hopkins’ service to country and commonwealth is well documented in the collections of the Library of Virginia. A copy of his World War II separation notice is in the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission. Numerous collections related to the Virginia General Assembly document his legislative activities. Senator Hopkins is best known for chairing the Commission on State Governmental Management from 1973 to 1978. The Commission, also known as the Hopkins Commission, made recommendations to reorganize and modernize state government. “That’s what he was most proud of,” his son William Hopkins Jr. told The Roanoke Times, “the work of the Hopkins Commission and how it improved state government.” The records of the Hopkins Commission, both published reports and 30 cubic feet of manuscript material (accession 29887), are part of the Library’s collection. Hopkins may no longer be with us, but his legacy lives on at the Library of Virginia.
-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist… read more »
On 6 November 2012, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were re-elected President and Vice President of the United States. Or were they? As we all learned in our high school government class, the President and Vice President are officially elected by the Electoral College. Under this system, established by Article II and the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution, voters in each state on Election Day are actually choosing a candidate’s slate of electors to serve in the Electoral College. Under Chapter 1 of Title 3, United States Code (62 Stat. 672, as amended), the Electoral College meets and votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. The 2012 Electoral College will meet on 17 December to cast Virginia’s 13 electoral votes for Obama and Biden.
The Library of Virginia has a variety of records in several collections (Secretary of the Commonwealth, Office of the Governor, Virginia General Assembly, etc.) related to the Virginia Electoral College from 1789 to 2008. Today, copies of the Certificate of Ascertainment and Certificate of Vote are transferred to the Library by the Virginia State Board of Elections. The Certificate of Ascertainment lists the names of the electors appointed and the number of votes cast for each person during the general election. The Certificate of Vote lists the totals for the Electoral College. Additional records … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition. This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole information in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Elmer Raines, the subject of this week’s post, was paroled in July 1911. His freedom was shortlived. Raines was back in the Penitentiary by November 1911 under a new name, Charles H. Kimball, one of many aliases “Raines” used.
Thirty-five-year-old Pennsylvania native Elmer Raines arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary on 14 July 1909. Raines was convicted of forgery in the Roanoke Corporation Court and sentenced to four years in prison. At the time of his incarceration, Raines had two known aliases: Henry Fairfax and Frank Fairfax. Penitentiary officials also learned of a new one: William H. Reynolds. On 2 February 1911, Penitentiary Superintendent J.B. Wood received a letter from a Mrs. William H. Reynolds of Macon, Georgia, inquiring if her husband, Elmer Raines, would be paroled in July. “I have tried to be patient,” Mrs. Reynolds wrote, “and sometimes think I can not get along alone and make a living[,] however I have been very successful so far.” By June 1911, Mrs. Reynolds’ fortunes had changed. “[K]indly do all you can to get [Raines] pardoned in July,” she wrote Wood, “for I need his protection more than I can tell you.” The Virginia Penitentiary … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition. This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole records in the Virginia Penitentiary. Joe Perry, the subject of this week’s post, was paroled in December 1910. After his release, he exchanged several warm letters with Superintendent J.B. Wood.
Forty-two-year-old Joe Perry of Buchanan County arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary on 30 August 1906 to begin serving a ten-year sentence for second degree murder. He was a model prisoner and did not violate any rules during his incarceration. In May 1909, Perry found a repeating shotgun which one of the guards had left in a common area of the penitentiary and returned it to prison officials. On 14 December 1910, this incident, along with Perry’s good conduct and clemency petitions submitted by Buchanan County citizens, led Governor William Hodges Mann to commute his sentence to eight years. This made Perry parole eligible. Five days later the Virginia Penitentiary Board of Directors granted it without requiring Perry to secure employment.
Upon his return home to Council, Virginia, Perry wrote Superintendent J.B. Wood on 14 January 1911 to thank him. “I feel that I owe you so many thanks for the kind treatment I received from you and your officials during my time there,” wrote Perry. “I can’t find words … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting early parole records in the Virginia Penitentiary. Edmonia M. Peebles, the subject of this week’s post, brutally killed her husband. Her subsequent manslaughter conviction as well as the decision to grant her parole was controversial.
On the afternoon of 31 August 1907, David C. Peebles and his 11-year-old daughter Mary Sue arrived at their home in Bedford County, having spent several days in Lynchburg. His wife, Edmonia, was working in their detached kitchen. David was drunk and argumentative. David cursed her and accused her of neglecting her responsibilities. Edmonia responded that “if I were a man I’d give you a good thrashing, but I can’t beat you.” Enraged, David attempted to choke her; Edmonia grabbed a stove-lifter and stuck him several times on the head. Peebles grabbed an axe handle and beat her with it. Edmonia got away from him, ran into the house, grabbed a shotgun and returned to the kitchen. Peebles was washing the blood off his face. “You see that don’t you?” he shouted. “You made me do it,” Edmonia replied, “but I want to know if you are going to beat me anymore.” Peebles grabbed the axe and started towards her. “I am not going to let you beat me … read more »
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 »