Lura Royall was a Lunenburg County girl. Her relatives remember her as a pretty woman who never married—a retired school teacher full of life well into old age. But there was a part of her life that remained a secret from her living relatives. It was a secret recently revealed in 97 letters and postcards, written across a span of 21 years, to her from a Russian émigré, Vladimir Sournin, her fiancé.
These letters, part of several cubic feet of papers left in the old courthouse by former Lunenburg County clerk John L. Yates, were stashed among bills, statements, and personal business correspondence. How the letters ended up in Yates’ file cabinets is uncertain, but they reveal an on-again-off-again relationship between Vladimir and Lura that started in 1898 and lasted until at least 1925.
Vladimir Sournin’s life is a little known historical footnote now, but he was no ordinary man. Ambitious and talented, his career and interests led him to three continents where his path intersected with major world events and some of the most well-known people of his day. His letters reveal him to be supremely confident in his abilities and fearless in attempts to achieve his goals. This same persistence is evident in his effort to woo Lura Royall.
Sournin was born in 1875 into a military family in Mstislavl, Russia. In St. … read more »
On 16 December 1895, 12-year-old Mamie M. Yates wrote a letter to Santa Claus. It read:
Dear Santa Claus,
I will write to you to tell you what I want you to bring me. I want a sled and Robinson Crusoe and a pair of nice gloves and some ribbon for my hair and a writing tablet and some candy, oranges, nuts, raisins, banannas [sic] and caramels and apples and a cap for my doll.
Your little girl,
Mamie M. Yates
The letter did not make it to the North Pole. It somehow ended up in the Lunenburg County courthouse filed in the clerk’s records and became part of the Lunenburg County (Va.) Clerk’s Records of John L. Yates, 1878-1934 circa (Barcode 1046171). John L. Yates, Mamie’s father, was the circuit court clerk for Lunenburg County at the time the letter was written. Although the letter did not reach its destination, I’m sure Santa had a good idea about what to bring Mamie for Christmas.
-Greg Crawford, Local Records Coordinator… read more »
After a new courthouse was built in Lunenburg County in 2006, Circuit Court Clerk Gordon Erby asked the Library of Virginia’s Local Records staff to help identify what remained in the record room of the old courthouse.
I found this broadside − advertising a game between the Maroon Wave of Victoria High School and the team from Courtland High School − while processing the papers left there by John L. Yates, who served as clerk for 56 years, from 1878 to 1934. The year is not specified but, judging from the month and day, the game probably took place between the early 1900’s and 1930’s. Victoria, which grew up around the railroad, is one of two larger towns within Lunenburg County, the other being Kenbridge. Courtland High School may have been located in the town of Courtland in nearby Southampton County.
Yates left desks and drawers in the old courthouse stuffed with correspondence, personal financial records, and other pieces of ephemera. He or someone in his office used the backside of this poster as scratch paper for a running total of figures written in pencil. His papers comprise nearly 4.5 cubic feet and are open to the public. A portion are processed but most remain unprocessed.
Lunenburg County had several high schools before consolidation in 1969 and its students are now served by Central High … read more »