Tag Archives: children

- “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 »

Posted in State Records Blog Posts, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Also tagged in: , , ,
Leave a comment
Share |

- Montgomery County’s Prairie Flower Boys


The Moonbeam, page 005.

In the courthouses of Virginia, one can often find records that are not and were never under the official purview of the clerks of the court.  Newspapers, church minutes, private papers, and other records of these kinds turn up as the collections are searched by today’s researchers.  The private papers of Charles J. Callison are an example of one such find in the Montgomery County Circuit Court records. Discovered in a file cabinet drawer of court judgments and estate bonds, the Callison papers consist of two issues of a handwritten newsletter titled “The Moonbeam,” two bound booklets, and a loose sheet of paper.  Most of these seem to have been composed when Callison was a child or at least a young man.  They concern his interests in hunting, nature, and wild adventure stories.  There is no discernible reason why these papers should have found their way into the courthouse, but it is delightful to us that they did.

According to the 1880 federal census, Charles J. Callison was born in Virginia.  Eighteen years of age at that time, he lived at home in Montgomery County with his parents and his five brothers and sisters.  His father, Isaac, was a shoemaker according to the 1880 census and a farmer according to the 1900 census.  Other information about Callison is thin on the ground.  He served in … read more »

Posted in Chancery Court Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , , , ,
2 Comments
Share |