Tag Archives: railroads

- “We Are Not Saved:” The Land Boom & Real Estate Speculation in Montgomery County, VA


Plan D, Radford Land & Improvement Co., Deed Book 31, p. 259, Montgomery County Circuit Court.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Southwest Virginia was gripped with “boom” times as the Norfolk & Western Railroad opened up the region for development. Small towns and even previously non-existent ones exploded with growth seemingly overnight. Land development companies swooped in, mainly with northern capital, to carve up farmland into future cities. Montgomery County was no stranger to this concept as the “boom” swept through its borders. Central Depot at the far western edge of the county had been a small railroad community, but by the 1870s and 1880s, developers started devising ways to make it grow. The community would go on to become Central City as a fully incorporated town, then Radford, and then the independent City of Radford. A group of chancery records from Montgomery County bear witness to the “boom,” or more accurately to its aftermath, as the bubble burst on dreams for development. These cases, W.R. Liggon vs. George W. Tyler etc., T.E. Buck vs. George W. Tyler etc., and Nancy M. Liggon etc. vs. George W. Tyler etc. (1897-056) and R.B. Horne etc. vs. George W. Tyler etc. (1897-057) give fascinating insight on the inner workings of “boom” times.

In this period of extraordinary growth for many towns, real estate speculation was the name of the game. Huge profits could be made by buying land, dividing it into … read more »

- The 2014 Alan M. and Nathalie Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography

The 2014 Alan M. and Nathalie Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography will be held at the Library of Virginia on Saturday, 12 April.   This year’s lecture features two guest speakers:   Dr. Maury Klein, “Railroad Maps as Promises of the Future,” and William C. Wooldridge, “Tracks on Maps:  Showcasing Virginia’s 19th Century Railroads.”  This event includes a special one-day exhibition of maps relating to the talks from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Out of the Box presents a sneak preview of two of the maps from the Library’s collection that will be on display.


Map and Profile of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, 1856, call number 755 R15 1856, Map Collection, Library of Virginia.

Railroad construction boomed in 1850s Virginia. Railroad companies drafted and published maps to raise support for and to alert the public about ongoing railroad track construction. One example is the Map and Profile of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.  This shows the railroad track from Lynchburg to Bristol, Virginia, and highlights the technical surveys of the project in tables printed below the map. Coalfields and coal pits are shown.


A Map of the rail roads of Virginia, by Lewis von Buchholtz, 1858, Board of Public Works (BPW 672), Map Collection, Library of Virginia.

In 1858, A Map of the Rail Roads of Virginia by Ludwig von Buchholtz was lithographed by Ritchie and Dunnavant, a Richmond publishing firm. The map clearly shows the railroad lines completed in the commonwealth, those in progress, and those proposed. When compared to the 1848 Internal Improvements Map of Virginia drawn by Claudius Crozet it clearly shows … read more »

- Kicking Up A Stink In Virginia Beach


Map of Virginia Beach Owned by the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company, Portsmouth City Chancery Cause 1911-015, A. Johnson Ackiss for etc. vs. E. H. Morrison.

Here at Out of the Box we’re still celebrating Archives Month 2013, and while getting ready for the Library of Virginia’s 30 October event “Homegrown: Celebrating Virginia’s Cultural Heritage in its Archives and Special Collections,” we’ve had many conversations about local food movements and urban farming.  Some issues that came up included land use and neighborhood development—especially when it comes to animals. Some people just don’t want a rooster or goat living next door. Livestock in the city limits is certainly not a strictly modern issue. In fact, we uncovered an early 20th-century Portsmouth City chancery cause in which a horse was causing problems in the summer resort town of Virginia Beach.

The Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company purchased land in Princess Anne County in 1883 to create a “high order summer resort” called Virginia Beach.   The company hoped to attract refined and cultured people to purchase land to build cottages and residences. The original deeds sold by the company included seven covenants that were to be followed for the construction of buildings and use of the property.  One of the covenants forbade the building of public or private stables on the lots.   According to B. P. Holland, a real estate agent, the covenants were made “to have a high order of summer resorts and to do away with … read more »

- I Fought the Railroad and Won, or Did I?


Drawing of a cross-section of consolidation in an engine boiler filed in the judgement Gatewood vs. Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company, June 1885. James City County/Williamsburg Judgments, 1877-1891, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

While examining the James City County/Williamsburg court records recently, I came across a civil suit titled Gatewood vs. Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company that contained two oversize exhibits.  The first was a plat, which is not unusual since plats are commonly found in court records; however, the second oversize exhibit was unusual.  It was an illustration of the engine boiler of a steam locomotive.  The sketch included numerous tiny arrows showing the direction of air flow in the boiler.  The exhibit piqued my curiosity so I read the suit to determine its purpose.

The plaintiff, R. E. Gatewood, filed a civil suit against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company in James City County Circuit Court on 3 November 1884.  In his statement to the court, Gatewood blamed C&O Railway for a fire that caused extensive damage to his property on 14 October 1884.  Greenwood claimed that a C&O steam locomotive passing through his property did not have a spark arrestor or, if it did, the spark arrestor was not working properly. (A spark arrestor was a wire netting designed to prevent sparks or other tiny flaming debris from escaping the locomotive’s “balloon stack.”)  As a result of the “careless negligence” of the defendant, the plaintiff’s property was set on fire by sparks emitted from the steam locomotive.  Valuable timber including oak, chestnut, walnut, and pine … read more »

- Lee Co. Chancery Goes Digital!


First issue of Emory and Henry College's the Emory and Henry Casket, John Slack vs. John W. Carnes, etc., Lee County Chancery Cause 1882-052.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Lee County Chancery Causes, 1857-1912, are now available on the Chancery Records Index. Because they rely so heavily on the testimony of witnesses, chancery causes contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information and are especially useful when researching local, state, social, and legal history. The Lee County chancery collection offers a glimpse of life in Lee County during the 19th and early-20th centuries by documenting the African American experience, women’s history, Southern business and labor history, and the impact the railroad’s arrival had on a region. Following are a few suits of interest found in the collection.

Lee County chancery causes contain several suits illustrating the experiences of women in the westernmost part of the commonwealth. In Mary V. Pennington by etc. vs. M. C. Parsons, etc., 1887-019, Mary Pennington sought to gain control over land gifted to her by her father. The land was being sold by her husband, William Pennington, who had become “indebted and greatly embarrassed.” In 1907, Elizabeth Smith faced a similar dilemma. Elizabeth R. Smith vs. J. K. P. Legg, etc., 1907-045, protested the sale of Smith’s land sold for a set of blacksmith tools. Elizabeth Smith did not agree to the sale, but her husband, Samuel L. Smith, “commenced … read more »

- Petersburg Chancery Hits the Rails


Map showing the Chesterfield Railroad from where it left the Town of Manchester to its terminus position near Rocketts Landing in Richmond.

The latest images from the Petersburg chancery causes digitization project are now available on the Chancery Records Index. The scanning project is funded by the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program along with a $155,071 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Chancery causes for Petersburg can now be viewed online through 1888. The following is an example of an interesting suit found in this latest addition.

Petersburg chancery suit 1850-025, Chesterfield Railroad Co.] vs. Richmond & Danville Railroad Co.] and Richmond & Danville Railroad Co.] vs. Chesterfield Railroad Co.], is a rich resource for research on the history of the rail and mining industries in the Richmond area. The suit concerns a dispute between the mule and gravity powered Chesterfield Railroad Company and the steam powered Richmond & Danville Railroad Company over access to the Manchester coal yards on the James River opposite Rocketts Landing. Since 1830, the Chesterfield Railroad Company held a monopoly on transporting coal from the Midlothian mines to the James River. The railroad used gravity to transport coal-laden railcars downhill and draft animals to pull them uphill. The company emptied the railcars on James River docks in Manchester, and the mules and horses brought the empty railcars back to the mines. The Richmond & Danville Railroad emerged as a competitor to the Chesterfield Railroad Company in the … read more »

- IRON, WHISKEY, RAILROADS, AND RACE ARE FINDS IN NEWLY PROCESSED CHANCERY COLLECTIONS

A page from a stock certificate book used as an exhibit in the Craig County case of Kanawha Valley Bank vs. Manganese Iron & Coal Co., etc., 1911-011.

Transcript of Sen. Glasgow’s letter.

(Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that scanning has now been performed on the Craig County and Pulaski County chancery causes. The digital collections are now available online through the Chancery Records Index.)

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that processing and indexing of the Craig County and Pulaski County chancery causes is now complete.  Each of Virginia’s circuit courts created chancery records that contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Virginians from the early 18th century through the First World War. The indexes for both counties have been added to the Library’s online Chancery Records Index and are now available for research.

Craig County chancery covers the years 1853-1942, with the bulk of the cases falling between 1853 and 1912.  One suit of particular interest to researchers of African American education is the suit of Paris W. Compton vs. Admr. of Cornelius Compton, 1913-009, in which Paris was suing his father’s administrator to receive his inheritance.  In his bill, he states that he and his mother had moved to “Ardmore near the city of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania, at which place your complainant has been attending school, for the … read more »