The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that Nelson County Chancery Causes, 1808-1912, are now processed, indexed, and conserved; and the index is now available on the Chancery Records Index. These records contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse of the people of Nelson County from the early 19th century through the First World War. Following are a few suits of interest found in this collection.
In chancery cause Tobias~ vs. Heirs of John Campbell, 1816-005, Tobias, a free Negro, sues for the payment of a judgment won against the administrator of John Campbell. In chancery suit Eliza A. Figures vs. Christopher T. Estes, 1838-035, Eliza Figures was hired by Estes, a tavern owner, to take care of the house business and culinary affairs, and she sued for lack of compensation. In Eliza Ann Figures vs. Dr. Matthew Figures, 1840-013, the same individual is the plaintiff suing for divorce from her husband citing cruelty, abandonment and repeated acts of adultery. Daniel M. Harris, trustee vs. Christopher T. Estes, etc., 1846-017, includes a typical item found in many of Nelson County’s pre-Civil War chancery causes – a cash valuation of slaves. The effects of the Civil War are noted in Elijah R. Walker vs. … read more »
During the months of October and November, Local Records archivists delivered presentations on chancery suits to the Tazewell County Public Library, the Scott County Rotary Club, the Beautiful Older People in Dinwiddie County, and the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society. They shared with the attendees what chancery causes are and how they are useful not only for genealogy research but for learning local history as well.
The archivists offered numerous chancery suits as examples such as a Dinwiddie County case that involved the descendants of a free African-American doctor who also owned slaves; Tazewell County suits that referenced conflicts between the first settlers of Tazewell County and Native Americans; post-Civil War era Scott County suits that brought to light lingering bitterness between pro-Union and anti-Confederacy residents; and Middlesex County suits that showed slaves suing for their freedom. The archivists informed the attendees how they could access their locality’s chancery causes through the Chancery Records Index. The response to the presentations by attendees was very positive. Laurie Roberts, the director of the Tazewell County Public Library, commented: “You gave our audience an appreciation of the reflection of our social history we can find in this treasure trove of material and inspired us to delve into the records.”
If you are interested in scheduling a presentation by one of the Library’s Local Records archivists, please contact … read more »
The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. With this addition, fifty boxes of Augusta County chancery covering the time period from 1879 through 1895 may be viewed online.
Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1880-119 is a contract dispute that centered on the construction of an addition to Wesleyan Female Institute in Staunton. The case includes numerous exhibits such as the 1877-1878 school bulletin (image# 134-159), receipts for building materials (image# 195, 200) and two drawings of the addition (image# 213, 215). Augusta County Chancery Causes 1884-057 and 1895-023 are property disputes in which the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of doing harm to the value of their property. In the first suit, the plaintiff argues that heat and fumes from the defendant’s brick kiln adversely affected the value of his property (image# 41). In the second suit, the defendant built a slaughterhouse and stockyard near the plaintiff’s house (image# 491) polluting a stream and causing insufferable smells and noises all of which depreciated the value of the plaintiff’s property. Most notably, this portion of the Augusta County Chancery Causes includes suits that have their origins in the real estate boom and bust period of 1890s western Virginia. Many of the suits contain plats of … read more »
In 1896, Virginia Anderson, nicknamed Jennie, filed for divorce from her husband, Epps G. Anderson, in the Scott County Circuit Court. He was in his seventies, she in her fifties, and both had grown children from previous marriages. Like many other divorce cases, Virginia and Epps accused each other of a variety of shortcomings including abuse, abandonment, property mismanagement, and infidelity. Having come across cases like this before, I was not expecting it when half way through his deposition Epps stated that “after July the 4, 1896 there had been a knocking spirit down at Doc. Kyle’s. Jennie said she would go down there …when she came back said she heard it and seen it act and it knocked on her… and she said before she started she was going to bring it up here and run me off or scare me.” Epps went on to describe a two-hour episode occurring in the night, with chairs being knocked to the floor, doors blowing open, ghostly footsteps, and a spirit that answered questions by knocking on the walls.
Epps’ daughter, Mollie Edens, also testified in the divorce case and described an encounter with the entity in which Virginia asked the spirit if it was the good spirit or the evil one and told it to “knock three licks if the evil spirit, then [it] knocked three. … read more »
R.D. (Robert Davidson) Hufford was born in Wythe County in 1850. He studied medicine at the Medical College of Virginia and established a practice in Smyth County. In 1891, he moved to Tazewell County where he practiced until his death in 1898. Following Hufford’s death, all of his estate papers and account books were exhibits in a chancery cause heard in Tazewell County Circuit Court. Titled Foote and Johnson and others versus Administrator of R.D. Hufford and others (Tazewell County Chancery Cause 1903-043), the purpose of the suit was to settle Hufford’s estate. The estate papers and account books remained at the courthouse following the resolution of the suit. One of the ledgers eventually made its way to the Library of Virginia as part of a records transfer in the 1970s.
I came across Doctor Hufford’s account book while cataloguing the business records of Tazewell County. Looking through the pages, most entries contained scant information, e.g. “to visit … $4” or “to Rx … $1”. There were a few entries that provided some detail on the services Hufford provided. They included treatment for fevers, amputation of limbs, removal of teeth, and numerous pregnancies. And there was the odd entry such as using electricity to treat the wife of a patient and setting the leg of a horse that, for a nineteenth century doctor, perhaps … read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that the first installment of images from the Petersburg chancery causes digitization project have been added to the Chancery Records Index. This project has been funded, in part, through a $155,071 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Images for the first forty-four boxes of chancery suits have been added to the index (circa 1803-1845). The boxes are not strictly chronological, so not all images for a given year are available. Additional images will be added periodically as the project progresses. Be sure to check back!
Here are some interesting suits that archivists found while processing, indexing, and conserving the collection. Many other fascinating and complex stories will surely be uncovered once the project is complete and the collection is studied by students, scholars, and family historians.
Petersburg chancery cause 1827-003 involves a dispute over a runaway slave named Davey, alias Davey Smith. Exhibits found in the suit include a notice published in a local newspaper describing Davey’s physical appearance, occupation, and his escape (image 22). The suit also contains letters from Benjamin W. B. Jones of Alabama claiming that he was Davey’s owner (image 27).
Also in the newly released images there are two suits that involve an African American … read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Franklin County chancery causes, 1787-1912, are now available on the Chancery Records Index. Digital images are available for the years 1787-1912. The complete index covers the years 1787-1929, and original records 1913-1929 are available at The Library of Virginia. Additional post-1913 records are available at the Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. Following are a few suits of interest found in this collection.
Franklin County chancery cause 1873-050 includes a detailed report on the division of slaves (image# 10-12), including the ages of the slaves. There are suits such as 1836-009 and 1885-027 that involve Franklin County native son and Confederate General, Jubal A. Early, who practiced law in Franklin County before and after the Civil War. Chancery cause 1867-005 is a sad but scandalous divorce suit between James C. Smith and Lucy F. Smith. James Smith returned home from fighting in the Civil War only to learn that his wife had been unfaithful while he was away (image# 2-3). The suit includes depositions given by Mrs. Smith’s paramours describing their secret getaways. Chancery cause 1870-006 gives details on the many difficulties women encountered while managing estates. The plaintiff, Nancy B. Ferguson, entrusted the defendant, her nephew Thomas B. Ferguson, with running the day to day affairs of her estate which included … read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that the Accomack County chancery causes, 1727-1805, and Fluvanna County chancery causes, 1779-1882, are now available on the Chancery Records Index. The Accomack County material consists of chancery suits recovered from court records found in the attic of the clerk’s office in 1996. Additional chancery from Accomack County will be added at a later date. The Fluvanna County chancery causes were separated from court records housed at the Library of Virginia. Additional Fluvanna County chancery records are available at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.
A number of the Accomack County chancery causes for this date range concern the division of slaves. An example is Accomack County chancery cause 1799-019. This suit includes a report of a division of slaves (image # 7) among the heirs of William Taylor. Accomack County chancery cause 1783-013 (image # 13) contains a September 1777 letter that references British losses at the Battle of Brandywine. Accomack County chancery cause 1801-005 is a freedom suit filed by a slave named Mary claiming freedom on the basis of her mother’s Native American ancestry. She argues that her mother, Mall Cook, was “one of the native aboriginal Indians of this country” (image #2).
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 »
Additional Prince Edward County chancery causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. These additions span the years 1754 through 1883. Combined with the previously released images for Prince Edward County, the locality’s chancery causes have been digitized for the years 1754 through 1913.
Chancery cases are especially useful when researching local history, genealogical information, and land or estate divisions. They are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history and serve as a primary source for understanding a locality’s history. Chancery causes often contain correspondence; property lists, including slaves; lists of heirs; and vital statistics, along with many other records. Some of the more common types of chancery causes involve divisions of the estate of a person who died intestate (without a will); divorces; settlements of dissolved business partnerships; and resolutions of land disputes.
Here are a few of the cases you will find in the newly updated Prince Edward County chancery collection. To see more suits, go to the EAD guide and choose “Selected Suits of Interest” on the menu at the left.
1755-001- Bridget Braithwaite by etc. v. Edward Braithwaite. The wife sued for separate maintenance. Her husband abandoned her and was cohabiting with Joanna Sinclair, “a woman of ill fame and reputation” in the same parish and county. Bridget Braithwaite and her small children “are … read more »