While working on a project involving the Middlesex County Chancery Causes, I noticed a case that was filled with scandal and intrigue. Middlesex Chancery Cause, 1907-033, Andrew Courtney vs. Mary Courtney is a divorce suit in which both parties accuse the other of adultery. Andrew claimed his wife ran off to Connecticut with a married man named Beverly Smith, and Mary responded by claiming that Andrew was guilty of adultery himself.
As evidence, Mary produced several letters written to her husband by various women, one of which included a lock of hair. That letter, dated 30 August 1906 from a Miss Ginny Davis, proclaimed “Here is a peice [sic] of my hair look at it and think of me.”
While it is sad to think that some of the love letters that end up in the archives are the result of divorce suits and romance gone wrong in one way or another, it also proves the quest for love is something that is surely timeless.
The Middlesex Chancery Causes, 1754-1912, are available online through the Chancery Records Index on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory site. The lock of hair reference above has also been scanned.
–Mary Dean Carter, Local Records Archival Assistant… read more »
Additional document images from counties or incorporated cities classified as “Lost Records Localities” have been added to the Lost Records Localities Digital Collection available on Virginia Memory. The bulk of the additions are copies of wills, deeds, and estate records of members of the Bell family from Buckingham County; these items were used as exhibits in the Nelson County Chancery Cause 1841-071, William Scruggs and wife, etc., versus Rebecca Branch, etc. The wills of Frederick Cabell, Dougald Ferguson, and William Woods–all recorded in Buckingham County and all exhibits in other Nelson County chancery suits–have been added as well. One document from Buckingham County was found in City of Lynchburg court records. It is an apprenticeship indenture dated 1812, made between Clough T. Amos and Betsy Scott, a free African American. Amos was to instruct Scott’s son Wilson “in the art and mystery of a waterman in navigating [the] James river above the falls at the city of Richmond.”
Documents from other Lost Records Localities used as exhibits in Middlesex County chancery suits have been added as well. They include the will of Edward Waller, recorded in Gloucester County; the wills of Patsy Wiatt and James Christian, recorded in King and Queen County; a deed between Henry Cooke and wife to William Taylor, recorded in King and Queen County; and the will and estate … read more »
The romantic landscape may seem ambiguous in 2013, but courtship in 19th-century Virginia was no different. Think those text messages are hard to decipher? Try reading an 1850s love letter full of rigid social etiquette. Dating and its inherent potential for rejection have always been hard. A letter found amongst chancery papers from Middlesex County attests to the fact that romantic rejection can happen to anyone, regardless of the time period.
One woman who had no use for ambiguity when it came to rejecting a would-be suitor was L. B. Powers. On 26 September 1849, she responded to Henry Sears’ letter requesting the “privilege of waiting on” her. She was to the point, not bothering to spare feelings, and offered up her reasons for refusing his courtship:
“I have no objection of your waiting on me but as you are in a hurry for a wife I think it is best for you to dispense with your conversation as I think there is no earthly chance of my agreeing with your proposal for it is something I never intend to give my consent to marry a man without I love them therefore I think it is best for us both to dispense with our writings and conversation as I cannot love you.
I do not think that my age will suit yours not
… read more »
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for the Middlesex County Chancery Causes, 1754-1912, are now available online through the Chancery Records Index on the LVA’s Virginia Memory site. Because they rely so heavily on the testimony of witness, chancery causes contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information and are especially useful when researching local, state, social, or legal history. They often contain correspondence, property lists (including slaves), lists of heirs, and vital statistics that are especially helpful in documenting the African American experience, family history, and Southern business and labor history. Following are a few suits of interest found in the collection.
The Middlesex County chancery causes contain many suits illustrating the experiences of African Americans in the tidewater region. In Simon Laughlin vs. Jacob Valentine, 1773-005, Laughlin sues for the recovery of funds he spent on boat and horse hire while traveling to a prison in Snow Hill, Maryland, looking for a runaway slave. In 1858, Elizabeth Thornton initiated two suits in attempt to get rid of unwanted slaves. In Elizabeth Thornton vs. Margaret Thornton, 1858-012, Thornton claimed that Jane had a “very bad disposition” and had become “almost worthless.” Jane supposedly was a “very bad girl, a notorious rouge,” and “very idle.” After successfully selling Jane, Thornton then sought to get rid … 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 »
Local Records archivists recently travelled to the Middlesex County Circuit Court Clerk’s office to transfer their pre-1913 chancery causes to the Library of Virginia as well as identify a large number of volumes stored in a small room separate from the main records room. While one group pulled the boxes of chancery causes, another group conducted an inventory of the volumes. They identified permanent records such as court minute books, bond books, business records, election records, and fiduciary records that dated from the 1790s to mid-1900s.
The archivists also located two boxes of early 1800s chancery causes that had been pulled from their original drawers in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of its inventorying of courthouses. This was a significant discovery given that much of Middlesex County’s loose records were destroyed during the Civil War. They were transferred to LVA along with the aforementioned pre-1913 chancery causes to be processed and indexed. Budget permitting, they will be digitally scanned and the images will be added to the Middlesex County chancery presently found in the Chancery Records Index.
The archivists also identified records that are nonpermanent, mainly printed material, of which the circuit court clerk can dispose. Moreover, the archivists identified volumes in need of conservation treatment including the county’s Free Negro Register, a record of great historical importance to African American … read more »