- We Remember: Bedford County and the 70th Anniversary of D-Day


Into the Jaws of Death, A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.  23-0455M, Chief Photographer's Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent - This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

On 6 June 1944, soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force stormed the beaches of Normandy as part of Operation Overlord, the largest seaborne invasion in history.  Thirty soldiers from Bedford, Virginia, members of Company A of the 116th Infantry assaulted Omaha Beach.  “By day’s end,” according to the National D-Day Memorial, “nineteen of the company’s Bedford soldiers were dead.  Two more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign, as did yet another two assigned to other 116th Infantry companies. Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200. Proportionally this community suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses.”  The Personal War Service Record of Virginia’s War Dead, part of the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission, documents the sacrifice of 15 of the 19 Bedford soldiers.

The Virginia World War II History Commission was established by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly approved on 8 March 1944. The commission was a policy-making body comprised of twelve non-salaried citizens appointed by the Governor. Its purpose was “to collect, assemble, edit, and publish. . . information and material with respect to the contribution to World War II made by Virginia and Virginians.”  One of the most important records created by the Commission were the Personal War Service Record of Virginia’s Dead, a questionnaire completed by the next-of-kin of Virginians killed during … read more »

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- Big Find Friday: A voice from the past

Here at the Library of Virginia, we love seeing patrons locate records that answer a long-held question, fill in branches of the family tree, or otherwise connect the present to the past.  We recently began collecting such stories from patrons eager to share their discoveries, gathering them as part of our “My Big Find” project.  You’ll see these stories popping up in various LVA outreach outlets, including here at Out of the Box in an occasional segment, beginning today, which we are calling “Big Find Friday.”


Robert Nisbet naturalization document, 1800. United States District Court Records, Ended Cases, 1800. Accession 25187. Federal Records Collection. Library of Virginia, Richmond.

It’s fairly common for someone to say that something–a work of art or literature, a photograph, or perhaps an archival record like the ones we preserve here—“speaks to” him or her.  In one of our latest “My Big Find” submissions, a patron found that expression to be particularly appropriate.  With a little help from Archives Reference Coordinator Minor Weisiger, patron Jennie Howe discovered a record of the 1800 naturalization of her third great-grandfather, weaver Robert Nisbet (1746-1812).  As she studied the document, she noticed that Nisbet’s birthplace of Ayr, Scotland, had been recorded as “the County of Ier in Scotland.” Howe explains that “I felt as if the over 200-year-old paper literally spoke to me, as the clerk recorded the ‘Ier’ he heard for the ‘Ayr’ that Nisbet said with his Gaelic accent.”

Has the past “spoken” to you … read more »

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- “We Are Not Saved:” The Land Boom & Real Estate Speculation in Montgomery County, VA


Plan D, Radford Land & Improvement Co., Deed Book 31, p. 259, Montgomery County Circuit Court.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Southwest Virginia was gripped with “boom” times as the Norfolk & Western Railroad opened up the region for development. Small towns and even previously non-existent ones exploded with growth seemingly overnight. Land development companies swooped in, mainly with northern capital, to carve up farmland into future cities. Montgomery County was no stranger to this concept as the “boom” swept through its borders. Central Depot at the far western edge of the county had been a small railroad community, but by the 1870s and 1880s, developers started devising ways to make it grow. The community would go on to become Central City as a fully incorporated town, then Radford, and then the independent City of Radford. A group of chancery records from Montgomery County bear witness to the “boom,” or more accurately to its aftermath, as the bubble burst on dreams for development. These cases, W.R. Liggon vs. George W. Tyler etc., T.E. Buck vs. George W. Tyler etc., and Nancy M. Liggon etc. vs. George W. Tyler etc. (1897-056) and R.B. Horne etc. vs. George W. Tyler etc. (1897-057) give fascinating insight on the inner workings of “boom” times.

In this period of extraordinary growth for many towns, real estate speculation was the name of the game. Huge profits could be made by buying land, dividing it into … read more »

- “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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