- “Oh Abraham Abraham!! Why hast thou forgotten me!”

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project has been travelling around Virginia and scanning privately held Civil War-related manuscript documents for the past four years. Recently, as I was cataloging some of the scanned materials, I came across a letter, written 14 August 1864 by Ole R. Dahl of the 15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, Company B. Dahl had been captured by Confederate forces and was imprisoned in Savannah, Georgia. Written to his son, Anton P. Dahl, the letter relates his suffering in prison, his concern for various family members, and his hopes for release. Dahl writes that if he knew “all the truble [sic] and suffering I since have been subject to I would rather be shott [sic] down on the spot before I would surrender.” What really caught my attention was the beautiful drawing at the top of the letter, assumedly done by Dahl. The drawing features two prisoners in camp washing and cooking, with areas labeled “the death line” and “guard line” surrounding the prison. Underneath the drawing was written ‘Oh Abraham Abraham!! Why has thou forgotten me!”


Detail view of drawing Lieutenant Ole R. Dahl, 15th Wisconsin infantry Regiment, Company B, included in his 14 August 1864 letter to son Anton P. Dahl while in a Confederate prison in Savannah, Georgia. Item scanned as part of the CW 150 Legacy Project. Original is privately owned.

According to information on the Wisconsin Historical Society website, Dahl enlisted on 9 October 1861 and was mustered into service on 13 February 1862 to serve with the 15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, Company H. In March 1863 he was promoted to first lieutenant … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Kenneth Frederick Thomas, No. 15150


Photograph of Kenneth F. Thomas, #15150, Escaped Inmate Card, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 42, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Kenneth Frederick Thomas, the subject of this week’s post, was either a bigamist or a decorated World War I hero.  Thomas’ version of his military service and his The Hangover-like courtship and wedding, stand in stark contrast to the evidence gathered by two Virginia governors.


Virginian-Pilot, 17 March 1918

Kenneth Thomas arrived in Norfolk in early March 1918.  On Saturday, 9 March, Thomas, dressed in the uniform of an aviator of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), attended a dance at the Fairfax Hotel where he met 20-year-old Rose Eugene Swindell.  Thomas wooed Swindell with tales of air battles with the Germans on the Western Front as a Canadian pilot.  Thomas’ stories, reported the Virginian-Pilot, “blinded the young girl and she married her romantic suitor” on 12 March.  The newlyweds lived at the Lorraine Hotel until the bridegroom was arrested 16 March by agents of the United States Department of Justice at the request of Canadian authorities.  Thomas was wanted for desertion and bigamy.


Virginian-Pilot, 25 March 1918.

Upon his arrest, Thomas told a very different story than the one he told his bride.  He claimed he was an American citizen, had never served in the Royal Flying Corps, and was a victim of mistaken … read more »

- Dwight D. Sunderlin, 1944-2014

 


Dwight D. Sunderlin, 1944-2014

Our valued colleague in the Imaging Services Section, Dwight Sunderlin, passed away on February 8 after a brief illness. He will be laid to rest this spring in his beloved hometown of Winchester, Virginia. During his lifetime, Dwight wore many hats as both a soldier and a civilian. He proudly served his country in the National Guard.  Here at the Library of Virginia, Dwight was a methodical, trustworthy coworker who was willing to assist in any type of situation–from changing windshield wiper blades to implementing the operational procedures for a new software program.

Dwight was an avid hunter throughout his life. As a civilian, he always scheduled his annual vacation in November to go deer hunting. The yearly trip had a three-fold purpose. First, hunting allowed him to apply some of the training that he received in the military. Secondly, it allowed him to practice his marksmanship using weapons from his extensive firearms collection. Hunting was a contest between him and the deer; however, the deer usually won. If he was successful, Dwight acted like a little kid and bragged about his prize!  He even took a picture of the trophy buck that he’d bagged and displayed it proudly on his desk. Finally, and most importantly, was the bonding time spent between Dwight and his brother, with few interruptions from the outside world.

Like … read more »

- Kaine Email Project @ LVA – Phone Call Edition



Governor Tim Kaine, WRVA's Ask the Governor, Richmond, 29 June 2006, Office of the Governor.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine records (electronic and paper).

During his administration, Governor Kaine did two call-in radio shows (Ask the Governor) each month hosted by WRVA Richmond and Washington Post radio (WTOP).  The governor would take questions from constituents and the shows’ hosts.  For Kaine’s final Ask the Governor show on WTOP on 22 December 2009, Lynda Tran, communications director, arranged for a surprise caller:  President Barack Obama.  Her email shows how much work went into making the 90-second call happen.


Anne Holton, Governor Tim Kaine, U.S. Senator Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, outside Executive Mansion, 17 February 2007, Office of the Governor.

On 17 December 2009, Tran emailed Patrick Gaspard, director of the White House Office of Political Affairs, with a personal request for Kaine’s final Ask the Governor program:  “What are the chances we could have the President call in for 90 seconds that day?”  Tran included a detailed event briefing form including message points for the president.  Two hours before the start of the show, Gaspard agreed that President Obama would call in.  Gaspard had one condition:  “I just need an ironclad assurance that we aren’t going to get crazy qs (sic) from mark plotkin (one of the show’s hosts).  It has to be a quick dial in and out.”  … read more »

- Library Makes Second Batch of Emails from Governor Timothy M. Kaine Administration Available Online


Governor Tim Kaine, Press Gaggle, Patrick Henry Building, 26 June 2008, Office of the Governor.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the release of an additional 44,534 emails from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine (2006-2010).  This second batch comprises emails from individuals in Kaine’s Policy and Communication/Press Offices.  Since January 2014, the Library has made 110,956 of the approximately 1.3 million emails from the Kaine administration freely available to the public online.

The Kaine administration online collection is arranged alphabetically by administration staff member and is full-text searchable.  The email messages reveal the real-time reactions of the governor’s policy and communication staff members to the issues facing the commonwealth.  Whether tracking legislation, coordinating projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, implementing the governor’s education initiatives, or weighing in on drafts of the governor’s speeches to the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly, the emails reveal the behind-the-scenes strategizing and communication among the governor and his staff.

Included in the Policy Office release (23,004 emails) are the email files of Steven Gould, Suzette Denslow, Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Gena Boyle, Jennie Moline, Maribel Ramos, Megan Root, and Barbara Reese.  The Communication/Press Office release (21,530 emails) includes the email files of Lynda Tran, Jeff Kraus, Gordon Hickey, Michael Kelly, and Amanda Howe.

United States Senator Jim Webb (left) and Brian Shepard, Policy Director, Virginia Congressional Delegation Meeting, Executive Mansion, 9 February 2009, Office of the Governor.

This release of electronic materials and the availability of the paper records of the Kaine administration in the Library of Virginia’s reading … read more »

- A Monument of Debt


Washington Monument, Carol M. Highsmith photographer, 2010. (Image used courtesy of George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

The Washington Monument is finally reopening on 12 May 2014 after undergoing restoration for damage caused by an earthquake in August 2011. I was curious what the Library of Virginia had in its collections relating to the monument and discovered an interesting footnote to the history surrounding its construction. The Washington National Monument Society, a private organization formed in 1833 to fund and build the monument, solicited donations and designs for more than a decade before construction finally began in 1848. In 1854, the Society went bankrupt, leaving a partial structure that stood unfinished until Congress assumed the duties of funding and construction on 5 July 1876. Arlington County Judgment Samuel Harrison Smith vs. Thomas K. Beale, dated October 1838, sheds some light on why the Society found itself bankrupt.

The judgment concerns the work of James M. McRea, an agent for the Society sent to Alabama to solicit donations “for the erection of a great national monument to the memory of Washington at the seat of the Federal Government.” Included in the case are three letters sent by McRea during his travels in Alabama. In the first, dated 2 April 1836 and sent from the then state capitol, Tuscaloosa, we discover that McRea did not travel alone but took along his family, causing a delay in his journey when his children were “attacked … read more »

- The Name Game


National Genealogical Society Logo

The Library of Virginia is pleased to welcome the National Genealogical Society 2014 Family History Conference to Richmond, Virginia, 7-10 May. If you’re inspired to start researching your own family tree, the Library of Virginia is a great place to start. In addition to our collections that contain a wealth of Virginia records, we offer guides on how to begin your genealogical research and on the genealogical resources available here at the library.

Chancery causes are great sources of genealogical information, and some even provide the names of numerous generations of family members. The following is an example uncovered using the LVA’s Chancery Records Index.

Four generations of the Osborne and Friend families of Chesterfield County can be found in Administrator of Thomas O. Taylor vs. John Metcalfe, etc., Chesterfield County Chancery Cause 1867-065. This suit concerns the estate of Thomas O. Taylor, who died without issue, brothers, or sisters in Powhatan County in 1835. The 1850 amended bill of complaint for this cause concerns the living next-of-kin who were entitled to Thomas O. Taylor’s estate.

Taylor was an only child, and his parents were deceased.  His father, Thomas A. Taylor, was from England and the court did not attempt to find any of his next-of-kin.  It followed that the brothers and sisters of his mother, Martha Osborne Taylor, were considered Thomas O. … read more »

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- Jackass: The Blog Post


Broadside advertising Don Alphonso, Lunenburg County (Va.) Clerks' and Miscellaneous Records, 1802-1925, (Barcode 1046170) Local Government Records, Library of Virginia.

When the first Saturday in May rolls around and the attention of the horse world gets fixated on Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, I like to remind our Out of the Box readers that Virginia is full of horse history, too. Broadsides advertising horses for sale or available breeding seasons are a frequent find in local court records. A recent fun discovery was a broadside advertising the stud season of Don Alphonso, a “Thorough-Bred Jack-Ass.”

Don Alphonso was not a cross between a Thoroughbred and a jackass but rather a well-bred jackass, as the term “Thorough-Bred” is used here to denote purebred. Described by his owner, Richard Bland, as being of “high perfection” and possessed of “as much vigor as any Jack I ever faw [sic]; and that I believe him to be as fure [sic] a foal getter as any on the continent.” Don Alphonso stood for six dollars for the season lasting 10 March to 10 August 1802.

A stud book for Don Alphono’s 1802 season was included along with the broadside, but when opened it did not reveal Don’s breeding transactions for that season. Instead, listed inside were the “Amount of Articles purchased for D. S. McCormick’s Negroes.” The list was an account of items such as fabric, shoes, and clothing purchased for McCormick’s slaves for the years 1847-1849. Two female … read more »

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- Paint Your Wagon


The Matchless No. 35, Hughes Buggy Company catalog, Frederick County (Va.) Chancery Cause Columbia Wagon Co. vs. John G. Crisman & Co., etc., 1903-058, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

A chancery case from Frederick County looked like any other business dispute except for a unique item presented as an exhibit. Columbia Wagon Company vs. John G. Crisman & Company, etc., 1903-058, involved the bankruptcy of the Crisman Company and the efforts of its creditors to collect on the debts owed them. One of the many parties involved in the case submitted an exhibit of their showroom catalog of wagons and carriages. The Hughes Buggy Company’s catalog reads like a modern day sale brochure by any major auto company selling a Ford Fusion or Honda Civic. The wagons listed in the Hughes Buggy catalog have their own unique names and descriptions for their particular style. “The Physicians’ Phaeton” was a canopy covered carriage with large wheels having “1 inch tread” supporting its carriage described as ideally suited for the traveling doctor making house calls. The catalog offered customized color options with purchase of this new buggy.

Another style called “The Matchless No. 35” implies the manufacturing quality and customer appeal was second to none:

“This wagon is without a doubt the most popular vehicle built in the United States today.  Every single item of material and workmanship is positively the very best that can be procured.  Every known improvement is substituted in this carriage without additional cost.

The price includes Fnenuatic Tires, Wire Wheels,

read more »

- African American Land Ownership and Loss


African American man plowing with a pair of horses in Hampton, Virginia, circa 1899. (Image used courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

Prior to the abolishment of slavery, the idea of landownership was an impossible dream for most African Americans, but in the years following the Civil War, African American landowners began to appear in Virginia’s chancery records. Unfortunately, these new landowners most often came to court because they were in danger of losing ownership of their property, or they felt they had been cheated out of the true value of their lands. With little support to aid in their pursuit of landownership, many minorities lost their property in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two such examples were found in the Patrick County chancery causes.

In 1872, Enoch Wilson, an African American, sold a parcel of land to Gabriel Hylton, a white man, at a price that was much lower than it was worth.  Hylton, regarded as a shrewd man and apparently not averse to taking advantage of others, vowed to pay Wilson $1.25 per acre for 217 acres of land.  The transaction even included an offer to allow Wilson to continue to reside on the property until his death.  Unfortunately for Wilson, the agreement was simply verbal and no money or documentation was ever exchanged.

Wilson’s grandson lived with him and was unaware of the verbal agreement with Hylton.  As the assumed heir to the property, he decided to grow and sell … read more »