Once a neglected subject, the role that African American slaves played in Southern colleges has become the focus of new research. Virginia being no exception, our oldest and most established institutions of higher learning such as the University of Virginia, William and Mary, and Hampden-Sydney College all relied on slaves for providing the colleges with necessary services. Often, the slaveholders in neighboring areas allowed their own slaves to be hired out to the colleges as servants. The slave’s master was then paid a salary, typically at a yearly rate, for the services that his slave provided to the college. These African Americans worked to construct buildings, provide general upkeep and maintenance of the college grounds, and act as servants to faculty, students, and staff.
Found in the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Collections is a City of Lynchburg judgment, A. D. Dickinson vs. Hampden-Sydney College, which sheds light on this often under-studied type of Southern slavery. In this case, A. D. Dickinson sued Hampden-Sydney College for not paying him the proper amount of money for the services that his slave, David Ross, provided the college. Charles Martin, the college curator, and A. D. Dickinson agreed that Hampden-Sydney would pay Dickinson a yearly sum of $150 for Ross’s work. The tasks that Ross was expected to fulfill were specified in the deposition given by Martin … read more »
While examining Prince Edward County court records for chancery suits, former Local Records Archivist Catherine OBrion found a group of declarations to the justices of the peace of Prince Edward County. The declarants were Revolutionary War veterans seeking to obtain pensions under an act of Congress passed on 7 June 1832. The applicants present detailed testimony of their time of service during the Revolutionary War. Information found in the declarations include date and location applicants entered into service, names of military companies they served in, names of military commanders they served under, names of fellow soldiers they served with, length of service, their ages, and their places of birth. The declarations also include affidavits from witnesses who could verify information provided by applicants.
The predominant portion of the declarations consists of narratives of the veterans’ tours of duty during the Revolutionary War. William Hines, age 78, presented an account of his service under General George Rogers Clarke in present-day Kentucky. Clarke’s army was pursuing Native Americans along the Ohio River. Hines shared how, during the campaign, he was severely wounded by two musket balls which broke both bones of his right arm below the elbow. Hines was personally assured by General Clarke that he would receive a pension. William Worsham, age 80, presented an account of his service from the time the war began … 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 »
Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the Virginiana section of Virginia Memory.
The beautiful maps in the Voorhees collection and those that reside in Special Collections are well known to Library of Virginia researchers. Yet thousands of rough but informative maps exist in the Library’s local government records collection. Often classified as “plats,” these detailed property maps were created and filed as part of county land records, chancery records, or other legal proceedings.
Some of the most interesting local plats are found within criminal papers. Murder trials occasionally required jurors to consider a particular crime scene, and the resulting sketches created for this purpose offer fascinating glimpses into landscapes and violent episodes. One is featured on the Library’s 1997 web exhibit The Common Wealth: Treasures from the Collections of the Library of Virginia. This drawing shows a portion of Manchester, Virginia, in 1869, at the time of a barroom-related shooting, complete with building facades and streets. And in her 2003 book A Murder in Virginia, based on three Commonwealth Causes against Pokey Barnes, Solomon Marable, and Mary Abernathy, historian Suzanne Lebsock drew upon a court-directed plat from Prince Edward County to illustrate the scene of an infamous 1895 crime involving four black defendants.
While processing Henry County’s criminal causes, I came across a number of particularly gruesome plats. The most remarkable one … read more »
INTRODUCTION The two transcribed letters below are found in the Prince Edward Chancery case Gdns. of Jacob Michaux vs. William Smith, 1788-001. The case has been scanned and is available through Virginia Memory.
The first letter is from William Tompkins, a London silk weaver with mercantile aspirations, and is written to Jacob Michaux, his wife’s cousin in Cumberland County, Virginia. (The part of Cumberland County in which Michaux lived became Powhatan County in 1777.) Tompkins’ wife was a member of the Michaux family, Huguenots who fled France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and settled in England and in Virginia. Tompkins lived in Spittlefield, an area of London with a high concentration of Huguenot weavers. His letter concerns family matters and a recent shipment of goods he made to Virginia. Unfortunately the shipment arrived a few days before the flood of 1771, one of the worst floods in eighteenth-century Virginia.
The second letter is Jacob Michaux’s reply to William Tompkins. Jacob Michaux, grandson of Abraham Michaux of the Manakin Town (Virginia) Huguenot settlement, was a planter and ran a ferry across the James River. Michaux’s letter describes in detail the flood of 1771, the loss of Tompkin’s goods, consumer tastes along the upper James River, and family matters.
Chris Kolbe, Archives Reference Coordinator