In June 1936 in the Augusta County Circuit Court, Sylvia Elwood Huffman was convicted of first degree murder in the death of W.H. Riddle, an Annex merchant. Huffman shot and killed Riddle in a botched robbery attempt that netted him less than $5. He was sentenced to die in the electric chair at the Virginia Penitentiary on 7 August 1936. Governor George C. Peery granted Huffman four respites during his two appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court. On 27 December 1937 Governor Peery commuted Huffman’s death sentence to life in prison after receiving a report from the Board of Mental Hygiene that stated Huffman was not sane. Huffman had been a patient at Western State Hospital on two separate occasions (January-June 1924 and December 1931-June 1935) and Huffman’s defense attorneys unsuccessfully presented an insanity defense.
Huffman’s mug shots caught my attention because they showed how much he had aged in prison. I was curious why there were two negatives, one from 1937 and a second one dated 3 March 1959. Huffman’s entry in Prison Book No. 2 noted that he had been returned to the Penitentiary in 1959 for violating his 1957 conditional pardon. Governor J. Lindsay Almond, … read more »
The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. With this addition, one hundred boxes of Augusta County chancery covering the time period from 1867 to 1879 can be viewed online.
Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-058 includes a letter (image# 252-253) written by one of the plaintiffs when he was a soldier in the 25th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. In Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-072 (image# 20), a liquor manufacturer sued the city of Staunton claiming the city had no right to tax its liquor. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1877-029 (image #11-15) involves a dispute between a group of former slaves and the executor of the estate of their former master. A genealogical chart of the Dull family can be found in Augusta County Chancery Cause 1879-042 (image#1765).
These cases are representative of the over ten thousand found in the Augusta County Chancery Causes collection that document the rich heritage of Augusta County and western Virginia. This project is made possible by a partnership betweeen the LVA’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program and Augusta County Circuit … read more »
The first images from the Augusta County chancery scanning project have been posted to the Library’s Chancery Records Index (CRI). This initial posting represents the first 35 scanned boxes and includes over 550 case files ranging from 1867-001 to 1874-039. The cases can be viewed by accessing the CRI, selecting “Augusta” from the drop down menu and entering “1867” and “1874” into the two “Year of Case” fields.
The scanning portion of this 2-year project began in February 2011 with grant funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
All scanned documents undergo a vigorous review process to ensure image quality and that proper file-naming conventions are followed. The Library’s Imaging Services Section, a part of the Local Records Services Branch, completes a variety of quality control processes prior to the images being posted.
This will be the first of many announcements of Augusta images being posted to the CRI – we will continue to keep you informed as we add new content. In the meantime, please post a message and let us know what you think so far!
-Carl Childs Local Records Director… read more »
In July 1814, entrepreneur William Weaver made a chance investment in the Virginia iron industry along with his new partner, Thomas Mayberry. Weaver and Mayberry purchased Union Forge (later renamed Buffalo Forge), located in Rockbridge County, and two blast furnaces, Etna Furnace and Retreat Furnace, in neighboring Botetourt County. Later, Weaver would become a prominent and successful ironmaster in Virginia and one of the largest slaveholders in Rockbridge County.
Initially, Weaver staffed his furnaces with a mixture of white laborers and hired slaves, but in October 1815 he purchased 11 slaves. Weaver would use this group of slaves, which included a valuable ironworker named Tooler, to form the basis of his large crew of skilled ironworkers.
In 1825, Weaver filed a chancery suit in the Augusta County courts to dissolve his partnership with Mayberry. It was a rather acrimonious dissolution, with contention over who owned the slaves purchased in 1815. In a cagey move, Weaver had the bill of sale for the slaves made out to himself, rather than to the partnership of Weaver & Mayberry, claiming that Mayberry was against slave ownership. While examining volumes found at the Augusta County Courthouse, I discovered nine volumes belonging to Weaver and his iron interests, which had been used as exhibits in the case.
The volumes cover a variety of topics and document the purchases Weaver and … read more »
The long anticipated start of the Augusta County Chancery scanning project has begun! The first 50 boxes of chancery cases were transferred to LVA’s digital vendor (Backstage Library Works) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on February 4th. Scanning of the papers began last week on the portion of the collection dated from 1867 to 1912. Case files dated from 1745 to 1866 will be scanned at a later date after archivists complete additional arrangement, indexing, and conservation of these fragile papers.
The Augusta County chancery causes are the most voluminous of any locality in Virginia and are one of the longest and most complete continuous collections of chancery records of any locality in the country. They document an unusually large geographic area. For the period 1745 to 1770, the boundaries of Augusta County encompassed most of western Virginia and what became the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio, and parts of present-day Pennsylvania as far north as Pittsburgh. In fact, the Augusta County court held sessions at Fort Pitt in Pittsburgh when claim to that area, known as the West Augusta District, was in dispute. Even after the county was reduced to roughly its present size in 1778, the Augusta County Court continued to be the repository for chancery causes from 28 localities, which were heard by the Staunton Superior Court of Chancery from 1801 … read more »
The Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to support the scanning of the Augusta County Chancery Causes dating from 1745 to 1912. NHPRC, the grant funding arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), recognized the national significance of the Augusta County collection and validated the importance of and great benefits provided by LVA’s ongoing digital chancery initiative.
Chancery causes are invaluable to family historians and those interested in studying the history of a locality or region and its inhabitants. Chancery causes are legal proceedings that could not be decided readily by existing written laws. Decisions were made by a county justice or judge, not a jury, and on the basis of fairness, or equity, in place of the strictly formulated rules of common law.
The Augusta County chancery causes are the most voluminous of any locality in Virginia and are one of the longest and most complete continuous collections of chancery records of any locality in the country. They document an unusually large geographic area. For the period 1745 to 1770, the boundaries of Augusta County encompassed most of western Virginia and what became the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio, and parts of present-day Pennsylvania as far north as Pittsburgh. In fact, the Augusta … read more »
A group of Library of Virginia (LVA) archivists recently traveled to Staunton, Virginia, to visit the Augusta County courthouse. Their goal was to transfer more than 300 boxes of the county’s earliest chancery records in order to begin a large digital scanning project. Their lunchtime reward was the giant meringue pie at The Beverley restaurant two blocks away.
Augusta County’s chancery records hold special importance to Virginia and the country. The collection begins in 1745 and covers a period of time when the county stretched north to the Great Lakes and west to the Mississippi River – a large part of the early American frontier. County court was often held in what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The scope of the scanning project is enormous and will result in close to a million digital images being added to the Chancery Records Index (CRI) on Virginia Memory. LVA Local Records archivists will review the more than 340 legal-sized Hollinger boxes to ensure that they are up to current processing standards. These boxes comprise the part of the chancery collection from 1745 to 1866. In June 2008, a team of archivists at the LVA completed a processing and indexing project that yielded an additional 659 legal-sized Hollinger boxes of Augusta County chancery, covering the years 1867-1912.
Scanning more than 1,000 boxes of Augusta County chancery records will … read more »