- Jailing the Jerkers



Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, Rockbridge County, National Register Nomination, Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Rockbridge/TimberRidgePresChurch_photo.htm, accessed 20 June 2017.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Doug Winiarski, Religious Studies professor at the University of Richmond, spent the spring semester researching and writing Shakers, Jerkers & the Shawnee Prophet: Religious Encounters on the Early American Frontier, 1805-1815.

Samuel Houston probably scoffed at the legal proceedings against him as he stood before the bar in the Lexington, Virginia, courthouse on 6 August 1805. How could his peers on the grand jury take this case of assault and battery seriously? After all, he was one of the most prominent men in the Rockbridge County: a decorated Revolutionary War officer, a wealthy planter, and a slaveholder. Most important, Houston was a devoted member and patron of the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, the handsome stone edifice that stood only a few yards from his imposing log house.

The charges against Houston stemmed from a bizarre new religious phenomenon known as “the jerks”: involuntary convulsions, in which the subjects’ heads lashed violently backward and forward in quick succession like a “flail in the hands of a thresher.” The strange bodily fits erupted unexpectedly during the Great Revival (1799–1805), the powerful succession of Presbyterian sacramental festivals and Methodist camp meetings that … read more »

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- Virginians in the Great War: Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918)


Photograph of Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. Corporal Harry A. Matthews, the subject of this week’s post, died on 5 December 1918 from wounds he received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on 11 November. Matthews’s sparse World War I Questionnaire tells a sad story of love and loss.


Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Harry Anderson Matthews was born on 8 December 1894 in Richmond, Virginia, to Harry Lee Matthews (1868-1925), a general contractor, and Minnie Pohle (1870-1951). The Matthews family had at least eight children: Hudson W. Matthews (1893-1924), Henry A. Matthews (1894-1918), Irving Lee Matthews (1898-1967), Linwood C. Matthews (1901-1965), Marie Matthews (1905-1969), Herbert T. Matthews (1906-1967), Audrey L. Matthews (1906-1994), and William A. Matthews (1909-1910). When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Matthews worked for his father as a building foreman. On 19 January 1918, Matthews married Adelia Charlotte Howland (1899-1982). He was inducted into the army on 27 May 1918 and left for Europe on 6 August 1918. His daughter, Marjorie, was born thirteen days later.

Matthews served in the 164th Machine Gun Company, 26th Infantry Division. His unit fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a 47 day (26 September to 11 November 1918) American offensive along a twenty-four mile front from the Argonne Forest to the Meuse River. … read more »

- “A Frolicsome Freak of Boyhood”



Jacket of Application for Pardon of James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, James Allen, Rufus Percival, and David Austin. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Executive Papers, 1876, June 20-September 1876, Box 48, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Catherine Jones, associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, spent the fall semester researching and writing, Child Prisoners and the Limits of Citizenship in the New South.

On 22 September 1876, Governor James L. Kemper issued a conditional pardon to six inmates housed at the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond. He explained his action by noting that all but one was “under seventeen years of age.” Further, he characterized the boys’ actions—stealing and consuming food from a hotel dining room—as an “impulsive and frolicsome freak of boyhood.”  Kemper’s pardon and the appeals that prompted it, shed light on a tricky question— what did age mean to Virginians in the nineteenth century, particularly as it related to criminal responsibility?


Entry for James Gibson, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin, 11 May 1876, Prisoner Register No. 5, 1876-1884, page 59, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Subseries A. Registers, Miscellaneous Reel 5990, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, LIbrary of Virginia (part one).

The Virginians pardoned by the Governor—James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin—were committed to the penitentiary on 11 May 1876. The Wythe County Court had sentenced the youths to five years in the penitentiary for burglary and theft of food valued at under $9. These six young prisoners became part of a penitentiary population that grew rapidly between the end of the … read more »

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- Mapping No-Man’s-Land: The Official War Atlas of the 1st Division, A. E. F.

This article originally appeared in slightly altered form in the Summer 2001 issue of “Virginia Cavalcade.”

 


The Official War Atlas of the 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force.

Between 1928 and 1930, the federal government published the official records of the 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force (AEF). The Library of Virginia recently conserved an atlas that complements those twenty-four massive volumes. Maps are, of course, crucial in warfare, and these twenty-six base maps and forty-two overlays provide topographic documentation of portions of the American—and Virginian—involvement in World War I.

The federal government distributed the canvas-bound atlas with the 1st Division’s published records in the early 1930s. Army cartographers and engineers at Fort Humphreys, Virginia (now Fort Belvoir) and Fort DuPont, Delaware (now a state park), created the atlas using French Cartographic Service maps purchased in 1928. The army made the overlays with lithography and reproduced original maps with mimeographs. Numbers on the overlay maps correspond to coordinates on the base maps, allowing the researcher to see precise positions of enemy lines, mustard-gas concentrations, machine gun nests, and the like. The army cartographers characterized these maps and overlays as “exact reproductions of all available maps, sketches, charts, etc., showing all of the troop dispositions, operations, plans, situation reports, diagrams, [and] barrage charts…which have been found in the World War Records of the First Division.”

The maps nearly languished in obscurity in the Library’s archives storage. They came … read more »

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- Connect with Us


Connect logo

Libraries and the people that staff them, fund them, and use them have a long history of civic engagement—they’re involved in their communities and make positive changes that improve the quality of life for all. From reading to children at story time to upholding the Freedom of Information Act, library activities contribute to the greater good.

At the Library of Virginia, we’ve been working hard to be more open to collaboration and new directions based on the needs of the communities we serve and to welcome and encourage citizen engagement. We want to share our processes and invite people into them when possible. Projects such as our crowdsourcing transcription site Making History: Transcribe have brought together archivists, high school students, genealogists, computer programmers, and community volunteers. Working together has taught us a lot, and we want to learn more!

We’re launching a new website specifically for feedback,Making History: Connect. Through Connect, we want to gather opinions on Library of Virginia projects and services. The more you tell us what you like, or what we’re missing, the better we can meet your needs. You can help us brainstorm potential new directions for our projects, or tell us about things you’ve discovered in the collections. Quick polls will help us understand what you enjoy and what we might need to change. The first three areas … read more »

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- The Temperance Movement and The Road to Prohibition

From the earliest days of European settlement, Americans drank prodigious amounts of alcohol. Almost every aspect of early American economic and social life involved alcohol. Far from being seen as evil, alcohol was an essential element of the table, a stimulant for work, and a social lubricant for good fellowship—especially in a world where water purity was always in question. One estimate puts annual per capita consumption of alcohol at almost 4 gallons in 1830.

The temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries grew as a reaction to the perceived overconsumption of alcohol. It was one of the longest lasting social reform movements in the United States and sought to radically change the way Americans consumed alcohol. Public support of the temperance movement was a major impetus for the 18th Amendment establishing national Prohibition. Followers of the temperance movement believed alcohol was to blame for societal problems like unemployment, crime, poverty, and domestic abuse.

Many women recognized the damaging effects of drinking on the family and worked through anti-liquor organizations and moral persuasion to regulate alcohol consumption. They supported the power of the state to curb drinking and alcohol, even as the state denied women an essential political right—voting. Instead, women who supported the temperance movement sponsored parades, established rooms stacked with prohibition literature, and canvassed for the prohibition vote. Involvement in the … read more »

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- The Courthouse Adventures of Morgan P. Robinson


Martinsville courthouse.

In 1915, Richmond native Morgan P. Robinson became the chief of the Archives Department at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia); three years later he was appointed the first state archivist. Almost immediately he began surveying the city and county courthouses to determine the completeness of their holdings. During these examinations he also rated the environmental conditions at each facility and noted whatever other observations struck him. He was sometimes assisted in this endeavor by the clerks, who supplied him with inventories and other information about their records. Many times, however, he received field reports from Milnor Ljungstedt, a seasoned genealogist from New England who assisted him with his inspections. How Robinson and Ljungstedt began working together and what her official role was remains something of a mystery.

With dates ranging from 1915 to 1929, these courthouse surveys consist of a collection of files for each of the inspected Virginia localities which had surviving reports. Now housed at the Library of Virginia, the surveys vary in size and completeness from almost nothing to huge inventories and everything in between. A typical file contains a brief report by either Ljungstedt or Robinson and a few photographs to document the inspection. The reports were often scribbled on an envelope that presumably held the small photographs taken during the on-site visits.

Both Robinson and Ljungstedt … read more »

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- Time in a Box: the Kaine Administration “Time Capsule”


Contents of Time Capsule

Every box of records that arrives at the Library of Virginia is full of possibilities. We never know what we are going to find in the most seemingly mundane records series. I was reminded of this recently when I discovered a mini time capsule in a box of records from the Kaine administration (2006-2010).


kaine001

I was processing a box of Secretary of the Commonwealth Kate Hanley’s (2006-2010) correspondence when I found a bundle of papers with the following note:

“Please Read! We decided to fill the empty space in this box with some time capsule items from here in the SOC. Enjoy! Governor Kaine’s SOC 2006-2009

The “time capsule” contains:

  • A Virginia is for Lovers bumper sticker
  • A paper plate
  • The wrapper from a Dr. Pepper bottle
  • Coupons for Papa John’s Pizza
  • The Wall Street Deli takeout menu
  • Road map of Virginia
  • Chicken Box menu
  • Bojangle’s menu
  • A copy of Museum Movement Techniques: How to Craft a Moving Museum Experience by Shelley Kruger Weisberg

What can we learn about the staff of the Secretary of the Commonwealth from this anthropological find? Food, especially chicken and pizza, was very important them. And, judging by a photocopy of this image,

Image from: http://www.aaanything.net/40695/pictorial/funny/demotivate-july/attachment/survival-when-you-are-in-deep-trouble-say-nothing-and-try-to-look-like-you-know-what-youre-doing/ accessed on 2 May 2017

they had a sense of humor. As to the meaning of the Museum Movement Techniques book, I’ve got nothing.

This time capsule also spotlights the human … read more »

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- Pardon Me

Within the records of Governor E. Lee Trinkle (1922-1926) are several boxes relating to extraditions and pardons of prisoners. I came across one letter from Leroy Kittrell to the Governor, dated 12 December 1923, asking for a pardon after his conviction for running a still. In his letter, he appealed to the Governor for a pardon, stating that his son had recently been murdered , his wife had injured herself and could not work, and he was needed to support the family. I found an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch, 26 November 1923, regarding the shooting of Eddie Kittrell, a nine-year-old African American boy who is presumably Mr. Kittrell’s son.

I found this letter so interesting not only because of the sad story but mostly because of the beautiful hand-drawn images of Santa Claus, horse, carriage and snowy scenery. It is unclear if Governor Trinkle pardoned the gentleman, since the only thing in the files for Mr. Kittrell is this letter. It is highly doubtful that Governor Trinkle issued a pardon because he supported Prohibition and rejected most, if not all, applications for pardons that dealt with the illegal production of alcohol. Mr. Kittrell must have been a talented artist though. This is one of the prettiest drawings I’ve seen and thought others should get to enjoy it too.

-Renee Savits, State records … read more »

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- Drying Out Dixieland: The Confederacy and Prohibition

What do prohibition and the American Civil War have in common? More than you may think. The debate over prohibition in Virginia, which culminated in Virginia going “dry” on 1 November 1916, occurred during a period of sectional reconciliation between the North and the South. In November 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first southern Democrat elected President of the United States since the Civil War; Union and Confederate troops held a reunion in Gettysburg in July 1913; and in 1916, a Confederate Memorial was created at Arlington National Cemetery. However, as the country was becoming less divided over the war, new divisions arose over prohibition. Over the course of state and later national prohibition, both opponents and proponents used the memory of the Civil War and especially the Confederacy to support their positions.

A 1914 anti-prohibition tract from the Virginia Association for Local Self-Government proclaimed that “a large majority of Virginians are free and independent and will not bend to the lash of the invader’s whip.” The Anti-Saloon League (derisively referred to by opponents as the Ohio Anti-Saloon League) faced problems in much of the former Confederacy due to its northern origins, as well as the strong antebellum links between the temperance and abolitionist movements. Although organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) flourished in Virginia starting in the 1880s, the Virginia Anti-Saloon … read more »