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About: Vince

Vince joined the Library of Virginia in 1999. After serving in the archives research and private papers departments, he moved to the Local Records Services branch and his present position as a Senior Local Records Archivist. Vince has a Master's degree in Archives, Museum and Historical Editing Studies from Duquesne University.

Author Archives Vince

Vestiges of Vietnam: Gathering Stories of the Refugee Experience

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. An independent scholar from Arlington, Kim O’Connell spent the spring working on a forthcoming project The Saving Grace of Spring Rolls: A Story of Food, Place, and Family.


The author's parents on their wedding day. Courtesy of Kim O'Connell.

“No single story can capture the diaspora’s experiences,” wrote the Vietnamese author and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, speaking of the mass exodus from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in April 1975. This is one reason that, as a Virginia Humanities fellow, I’ve been gathering a range of stories about the Vietnamese immigrant and refugee experience here in Virginia.

Another reason involves my family. My mother, Huong, was born in Vietnam and met my father Dennis during the war. She had been hired by the U.S. Army to teach Vietnamese to American soldiers, and my father, then working in Army Intelligence with the U.S. Special Forces, was in her class. After a short courtship, they married on the military base in Okinawa, Japan, and he brought her back to America, where I was born. Immigrating via marriage, my mother was not a refugee, but in her own way she was driven by war from one life into another. By telling her story, I hope to better … read more »

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The Man Who Killed Richard Whichello: A Henrico County Legend


Dorthea Ann Farrington, Whichello Tavern (Henrico County, Va.), WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

At the end of the 1962 John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a reporter remarks, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The legend of Richard Whichello’s murder in April 1850 persists today, but it is precisely that, a legend. The persistent tale raises questions about collective memory and how stories color our recollection of the past. Like Ford’s archetypal Western, this tale also includes a horse, but let us begin at the beginning.

Whichello Tavern, also known as “Tall House,” sits on property in Henrico County once owned by the Randolph family of Tuckahoe. The land passed from a Frenchman named Druin down through his daughter and granddaughter (Catherine Woodward and Eliza Ann Woodward Winston, respectively) until  Richard Whichello bought it in 1838.

Whichello, who opted to open a rest stop for travelers heading to and from Richmond, has been characterized in lore as a miserly, abusive card-cheat, which makes him a much less sympathetic murder victim. The oft-repeated legend tells of a cattle drover, flush with cash after selling his herd in the city, who stopped at Whichello’s for rest and refreshment. The ne’er-do-well owner talked the boastful cattleman into a card game and swiftly relieved him of his riches. The cheated drover opted to stay the night to sleep off his bender and lick his wounds. … read more »

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Big Top or Crops?


Staunton Spectator, 16 September 1873, Virginia Newspaper Project, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

Traveling circuses, with their daring performers and ferocious animals, drew considerable crowds in the 19th century. The incredible feats of courage exhilarated the minds of visitors and broke the monotony of everyday life. Not everyone, however, celebrated circus excitement. In fact, as proven in an 1850s Smyth County court case, a circus could intrude upon the rights of others and even threaten to degrade their livelihood.

In 1859, a man by the name of W. D. Strother was troubled because of a “circus intrusion.” Strother owned approximately 15 acres of land in rural Smyth County, Virginia. He sold ten of those acres sold to Hubbard and Clark; the remaining five acres were later sold to Jones and Gilmore, who used their portion to grow and sell crops and shared proceeds with Strother. On the surface, the arrangement seemed harmless and Strother did not have an issue with the transactions. A road through the estate made the parcels easily distinguishable. The ten-acre lot was on one side of the road, with Strother’s residual five acres on the other. Everything seemed perfect, until the circus came to town.

Hubbard and Clark decided to rent their land to a traveling circus. The Robinson and Lake Circus was a popular antebellum troop known to travel across the country. They built temporary shelters to house the events and performers during their stay, which varied from city to city. It is fair … read more »

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Martha Ann Hobson: A Mother’s Day Story


Wells, Jacob, Fortress Monroe, Va. and its vicinity, [New York], Virtue & Co., c1862. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

While processing some City of Richmond court records from the Civil War era, I came across the remarkable narrative of a mother named Martha Hobson. A search of Richmond newspapers on Virginia Chronicle and additional city records revealed more about her experience. It is appropriate to share Martha’s story during Mother’s Day week.

Martha Ann Hobson was born enslaved in the early 1820s. We do not know the name of the person who first enslaved her, but sometime in the 1830s her husband, a free African American man named Richard C. Hobson, purchased her. Around 1840, they had a son named Robert C. Hobson. Richard emancipated his wife and son in a deed recorded on 8 July 1850 in the Hustings Court of the City of Richmond. Soon after her emancipation, Martha registered as a “free black,” and the Hustings Court granted her permission to remain in the commonwealth.

Over the course of the 1850s, Martha’s husband used the income he earned as barber to acquire property in Richmond. According to the 1860 census, Richard Hobson held real estate valued at $3,300, which equals nearly $100,000 in today’s dollars. The Hobsons lived in the Second Ward (east of 22nd Street) of Richmond where their neighbors were lawyers, merchants, underwriters, and the city sheriff, all of whom were white.

Around 1860, anticipating the limited educational opportunities … read more »

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Preservation Week 2019: Tips for Preserving Your Treasures


Pres Wk image

Surveys estimate that over 15 percent of collections in U.S. institutions need immediate preservation or conservation attention. In order to raise awareness about the state of our national documentary heritage and the potential danger of catastrophic events, the American Library Association launched Preservation Week in the mid-2000s. As the natural disasters of recent years have shown, the concern should not be limited to institutional collections. Private collections of family, personal, and community records are equally susceptible to damage, decay, and destruction.

 

Books, prints, photographs, and family papers become fragile as they age and are susceptible to damage when they are not carefully handled. Proper storage is especially important to prevent light, heat, and moisture from causing problems. Even so, there are plenty of simple measures you can take to make sure your paper-based items are protected.

  1. Keep things out of the light. Both daylight and artificial light are very damaging to paper items. They can fade and become brittle a lot faster than you might imagine, so don’t leave them out where they will be exposed for extended periods of time. If you want to display your original papers or photos, consider making good quality facsimiles for this purpose.
  2. Keep paper items in a controlled environment. Temperature and humidity fluctuations can also quickly destroy your treasures. Never store paper materials in basements or attics,
  3. read more »

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“Irrespective of race or color:” African Americans and the Making of a New Virginia Constitution


The State Convention at Richmond, Va., in Session, with Willis A. Hodges in the center front, published in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, February 15, 1868.

On 17 April 1868, exactly seven years after a Virginia convention had voted to secede from the United States, another Virginia convention voted to approve a new constitution. For the first time in Virginia’s history, African American men participated in framing the state’s governing principles and laws.

The Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography has recently completed a project to document the lives of these African American members of the convention, and their biographies are published online with our digital partner, Encyclopedia Virginia. These biographies (and many others) can be accessed through the Dictionary of Virginia Biography Search page or through Encyclopedia Virginia.

In 1867 Congress had required states of the former Confederacy (except Tennessee) to write

First Vote, from the cover of Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867.

new constitutions before their senators and representatives could take their seats in Congress. On 22 October 1867, African American men voted for the first time in Virginia. In the election conducted by U.S. Army officers, voters answered two questions: whether to hold a convention to write a new constitution, and, if the convention referendum passed, who would represent them. Army officers recorded votes of white and black men separately, and some or all localities required voters to place their ballots in separate ballot boxes. Many white Virginians refused to participate in the election or were ineligible because they were former Confederates who had not taken an … read more »

Virginia Courthouses: Wellsprings of Democracy

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the CCRP Newsletter.

 


Elwood Street, undated.

A long history of collaboration exists between the Library of Virginia and the state’s city and county circuit court clerks on the preservation of their records. In the early 1970s these preservation efforts became more formalized with the establishment of the Library’s Local Records Branch, and even more so in the early 1990s with the creation of the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program.

Over the years, several people have conducted surveys of the circuit court clerks’ offices across the state for various reasons. Some are more well-known than others, such as those performed by state archivist Morgan P. Robinson in the 1910s–1920s and by Local Records Branch director Connis Brown in the early 1970s. Less known are informal surveys conducted by Elwood Vickers Street (1890–1978), a Richmond social worker. Street was a competent writer and a regular contributor to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In 1941 and 1942, he wrote a regular column chronicling his courthouse visits, which was published in the paper on Sundays. Entitled “Wellsprings of Democracy in Virginia,” the series covered the historical significance of the localities he surveyed, with an emphasis on the public buildings and, in particular, the courthouses and the status of their records.

Exactly what prompted Street to write these lengthy essays … read more »

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“We Were Residents of Loudoun County”

Editors’ Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2019 Loudoun County Office of the Circuit Court Clerk Historic Records Newsletter, “Little Gems.” We are grateful to Gary M. Clemens, Clerk of the Circuit Court, for permission to publish this post. Individual names of enslaved people from this indexing project have been added to the Chancery Records Index for Loudoun County.

 


Map of Loudoun County,  ca. 1854, Philadelphia : Thomas Reynolds & Robert Pearsall Smith. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In the June 2018 newsletter I wrote about a project I was tasked with to compile a spreadsheet that listed the names and cases involving enslaved people in Loudoun County’s early chancery records. It took the whole of 2018 to complete the index, comprised of 3,990 lines in an Excel spreadsheet. Those 3,990 entries represent 3,990 names of enslaved people who were included in chancery cases from the years 1757 through 1866.

In this project, I reviewed 3,028 chancery cases, 550 of which involved a dispute over enslaved individuals. I documented names and case details in relation to each enslaved person. Chancery cases for this time period encompassed disputes over things such as land, crops, houses, estates of deceased individuals, tobacco, and just about anything of monetary value. It was interesting to notice trends in the number of cases in certain years.

From 1831-1835 there were 101 cases out of a total 487 cases filed that involved enslaved people. In those … read more »

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The Remarkable Hodges Family of Princess Anne County and Norfolk


Caricature of Willis A. Hodges published in Richmond Southern Opinion, December 21, 1867.

During the night of 23 April 1829, six African American men made a daring escape from the Norfolk County jail. One of them was William Johnson Hodges, a free man suspected of forging free papers and passes for enslaved Virginians. In this case, he had been convicted of changing the amount owed on a bill for another man and sentenced to five years imprisonment. He fled to Canada and later settled in Brooklyn.

 The Hodges family of Princess Anne County and Norfolk played an important role in Virginia’s postbellum political landscape. Four members of the family are included as part of the Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography project in collaboration with Encyclopedia Virginia to document the lives of African American legislators and members of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868.

William Johnson Hodges was the eldest son of Charles Augustus Hodges and his second wife, Julia Nelson Willis Hodges, free African Americans of mixed-race ancestry. Julia’s father was a white man who reportedly served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The family was one of the more prosperous of the free black families in Princess Anne County. Charles Hodges purchased three farms and his own father’s freedom, and arranged for his children’s education. At some point, almost every member of the family moved to New York to avoid the discrimination and … read more »

History in Your Hands: The Smartest Way to Explore 400 Years of History


Virginia History Trails promo

Love history? Love to travel? The Virginia History Trails app is for you! Developed by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, in collaboration with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities, the Virginia History Trails app is one of many endeavors commemorating 400 years of Virginia history and culture centering on themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity.

The Virginia History Trails app contains more than 400 stories highlighting important people, places, and events that shaped the state and the nation. Included in the stories are more than 200 historic sites, museums, and markers awaiting discovery. Each story contains an image, short description, and links to more information, as well as mapped directions from your location. You can find these stories with the keyword search function or by finding what is nearby with the app’s GPS option. If you are not sure where to start, there are 20 preloaded trails to explore:

  • African American
  • American Revolution
  • Citizenship
  • Civil Rights
  • Civil War
  • Conflicts
  • Culture
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Exploration
  • Immigration
  • Innovation
  • Military
  • Preservation
  • Presidents
  • Religious Liberty
  • Representative Government
  • Resistance
  • Virginia Indians
  • Women

Through these trails you can learn more about historical figures and events you know (or think you know) and discover other items of interest. Let’s say you know about Maggie Walker, the civil rights activist and pioneer businesswoman. The app shows the location of her home … read more »