Tag Archives: Mecklenburg County

- “A Nest of Bad Men”: Locating the Lunenburg County Courthouse


Detail, Lunenburg County (Va.) Courthouse architectural drawing and bond, 1782. Barcode number 1175884. Local government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Processing county deeds is usually not the springboard to finding something that is, well, blog-worthy. Deeds are already recorded in county deed books that have been scoured by generations of genealogists, researchers, and historians; it’s unlikely that anything new or odd will come to light. But something new did come to light from those dusty bundles of tri-folded Lunenburg County deeds, and it illuminates a small part of Virginia’s architectural history.

The county court was held in a variety of locations during Lunenburg County’s first twenty years. This practice was common and practical since the county’s boundaries shifted frequently as the General Assembly carved eleven new counties from Lunenburg’s western borders. In 1765, Robert Estes agreed to build a courthouse for the county on his property near what is today Chase City in Mecklenburg County. Its design was based on the courthouse in Dinwiddie County. Joseph Smith, a tavern keeper, took over the property when Estes died in 1775.

The people of Lunenburg County faced an ironic problem in the 1780s; the area surrounding the county courthouse had become a hotbed of lawlessness and disorder. The courthouse grounds apparently became infested “with persons violently suspected of Horse-stealing and sundry other crimes,” not least among them Smith himself, according to a legislative petition signed by more than a hundred residents in 1782.

The petition asked that … read more »

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- Tractors on Rabbit Trails.

The inside cover of the B.F. Avery & Sons catalog/calendar showing the company's humble origins in Clarksville, Virginia.

When I found a little booklet titled “Presented with the Compliments of B.F. Avery & Sons…” in a box of oversized Smyth County Chancery Court papers, my first thought was how to, if possible, reunite it with the court case of which it was originally part. The booklet was part notebook, calendar, and company catalog, a common advertising tool. When I opened the front cover, I saw on its reverse side a picture of a log building with the caption, “B.F. Avery’s First Plow Factory, at Clarksville, Mecklenburgh (sic) Co., Va.” Then I wondered how I missed the connection between B.F. Avery and Clarksville. Was Clarksville really the starting point for one of America’s most famous farm implement companies? The temptation to chase down stories that may be unrelated to the work at hand, or go down a rabbit trail,  is a great danger in the archivist’s line of work.

After a little digging – on my own time – I found that the answer is yes and no. When Benjamin Franklin Avery (born 1801) set sail from New York City in 1825 on a boat headed for Virginia, he left behind his legal career and prominent family in upstate New York, according to Luther D. Thomas’s 2003 book B.F. Avery and Sons: Pioneer Plow Makers. His plan was to start a manufacturing operation to make plows. … read more »

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- Dear Governor

Note: This stack of envelopes from the Gravely Family Papers (Acc. 34126) is used as an illustration for this post. Actual letters from Governor Letcher's papers are scanned below.

Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Brent Tarter offers the following post, pointing out some interesting finds made by the creators of the Library of Virginia’s Union or Secession exhibition.

During Virginia’s secession crisis in the winter and spring of 1860-1861, men and women across the state wrote to Governor John Letcher to comment on public affairs. They wrote to tell the governor what to do, to ask for help, to offer advice and assistance, or to get something off their chests. While researching in preparation for the Library of Virginia’s exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide , we spent time looking through the letters received by Governor Letcher. Like the records of every Virginia governor since 1776, the letters are preserved in Record Group 3 of the state’s archives in the Library of Virginia. The Governor’s Office records are an extremely rich source for the beliefs and words of ordinary Virginians.

During 1860 and 1861 the governor received letters from men and women in every part of the state who expressed every possible opinion and political allegiance. “I would like to Know from you what is to prevent me from Voting for Lincoln,” Giles County resident John M. Smith asked Governor Letcher in September 1860. “As he is the man I prefer. the reason of this letter is that there is a great deal of threatning on … read more »

- Who Do You Think You Are?

Emmitt Smith in the Mecklenburg County courthouse. Photo by Kent Eanes courtesy of NBC.

Genealogists, take a break from the microfilm machine and those dusty documents! Find a seat on the couch and get ready to see your passion brought to life on the small screen.

The second season of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? begins this Friday, February 4, at 8 P.M. As you may know, each episode of the show follows a celebrity whose family tree is researched by experts – how fabulous it is to be a celebrity! The celebrities discover their hidden family stories and secrets as they travel to the archives that house their family records and the places where their ancestors lived. One episode last season featured Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith and revealed his family’s connection to Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Smith traveled to the county courthouse in Boydton to view records there and visited historic Boyd Tavern across the street.

This season promises more connections to Virginia with celebrity participants Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams, and Ashley Judd.

If you are inspired to begin tracing your ancestry after watching the show, the Library of Virginia is a great place to start. Our collection contains a wealth of Virginia records that cannot be found anywhere else. We also provide free access to Ancestry.com – a major sponsor of … read more »

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