Thursday, December 20, 2007

Petersburg Benevolent Mechanic Association - PBMA

Looking of the current location of the Petersburg Benevolent Mechanic Association (PBMA) 1825-1921, original ledgers, the microfilm versions refer to the Petersburg Library as holding the originals., however they seem unable to locate them.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Robert Bolling Tobacco Warehouse Burns, 1799

Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Begun and held at the capitol in the city of Richmond, on Monday the second day of December, one thousand seven hundred and ninety nine.

Reported the Virginia's House passage of an act making compensation for the tobacco destroyed by the burning of Robert Bolling's warehouse. December 23, 1799.

Publication Information: Richmond: Printed by Meriwether Jones, printer to the Commonwealth,, M,DCC,XCIX. [i.e., 1800].Reference, Evans 38954

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dinwiddie County Historical Society

FROM 2:00 TO 4:00 P.M.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A New Book Worth Reading

Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation
By David W. Blight Harcourt.
307 pp. $25
In American mythology, the freeing of the slaves is a top-to-bottom affair: Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and after that it was up to government to ensure their rights, though for about a century government didn't exactly do a good job of it. David W. Blight makes plain that it never was as simple as that. After careful study of two recently discovered memoirs by former slaves, John M. Washington and Wallace Turnage, Blight writes: "American emancipation was always a complex interplay between at least four factors: the geographical course of the war; the size of the slave population in any given region; the policies enforced at any given time by the Union and Confederate governments through their military forces; and the volition of slaves themselves in seizing their moments to embrace a reasonable chance for freedom. Turnage's and Washington's narratives throw into bold relief and confirm the significance of each of these factors. To the perennial question -- who freed the slaves, Lincoln or blacks themselves? -- the Turnage and Washington stories answer conclusively that it was both. Without the Union armies and navies, neither man would have achieved freedom when he did. But they never would have gained their freedom without their own courageous initiative, either." This is somewhat slippery ground, for inherent in it is the danger of generalizing from the particular -- and in this case, an exceedingly small and selective particular. At the time of emancipation, only about 10 percent of freed slaves could read and write; Washington and Turnage were in that 10 percent. Though reliable documentation of the slaves' response to the Emancipation Proclamation is sparse, we know that if their general reaction was jubilation, some also expressed caution and uncertainty. And, of course, in the places where the proclamation was intended to take effect -- the states of the Confederacy -- emancipation was nothing more than Union rhetoric unless and until federal forces arrived. By no means was it guaranteed even then, as the racial views of many Union soldiers were not discernibly different from those of Rebel soldiers, and their enthusiasm for enforcing emancipation was decidedly limited.

Friday, November 16, 2007

American Colonization Society - Petersburg

I'm wondering if anyone can help by identifying any other individuals on these manifest as having once resided in either Dinwiddie County or Petersburg?

Ship Harriet's company, arrived at Monrovia March 24, 1829
Lists Joseph Jenkins Roberts as "J.J Roberts" and his family

Ship Carolinian's company, arrived at Monrovia December 4, 1830
Lists Thomas Day's brother John Day, "cabinetmaker" and his family. Thomas Day had been rised and born in Dinwiddie, before moving on to N.C.. where became N.C.'s most noted cabinetmaker prior to the Civil War. John spent his life in Liberia, doing God's work.

Roberts emigrated to Liberia with his widowed mother, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters in 1829. He established one of the most prosperous trading firms in Liberia. He was Liberia's first African American governor in 1841 and its first president in 1847 [Huberich, Political and Legislative History of Liberia, 1:770-71, by Wiley, Slaves No More].

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Flowerdew Hundred

Flowerdew Hundred closed its doors to the public last month.

For 388 years, the Prince George County plantation was a home or museum. In 1978, a commemorative representation of Flowerdew Hundred’s 17th-century windmill was built. It was recently restored. Flowerdew Hundred, which was once the home of the Prince George County Heritage Fair, announced its closure over the summer. “It’s a tragic loss of a terribly important part of our history,” said Joe Leming, chairman of the Prince George County Board of Supervisors.We agree with that assessment. The past of the plantation is long and illustrious, but the future is unclear.The land that would become Flowerdew Hundred was claimed by the Virginia Company of London. In 1619, the Virginia Company ceded the initial 1,000 acres to Gov. George Yeardly. He named the land Flowerdew Hundred in honor of his wife Temperance Flowerdew. Flowerdew Hundred changed hands several times and the property shrank due to subdividing the land. By the 1850s, the original 1,000 acres of Flowerdew Hundred, plus an additional 400 acres, were reincorporated into Flowerdew Hundred. Around 1970, David Harrison III and his wife, Mary, purchased the property and, under their ownership, Flowerdew Hundred became the site of archeological digs and a history museum. Along with the windmill, several replicated structures are on the site, including a detached kitchen, and visitors could have viewed the spot where General Ulysses S. Grant’s pontoon crossing of the James River ended in 1864. In 2001, the Flowerdew Hundred Museum underwent upgrades and remodeling. The museum itself was located in a 19th-century school house that was built for the Wilcox family.During its time as a museum. Flowerdew Hundred amassed more than 200,000 artifacts, which include items from prehistoric eras. What will happen to the grounds and the museum is still unclear. Officials at Flowerdew have not disclosed any details as to why the museum has closed and what may happen in the future. As Flowerdew is privately owned, it is not accountable or answerable to public oversight. We understand that. And we sympathize with the Harrison family. The family poured untold hours and dollars into renovating the plantation, its museum and the property. And for that we all owe the family our thanks. But we have now lost a treasured piece of the region’s past and a piece of the area’s historic tourism effort. It would be nice if the public could at least get some kind of answer about what is to become of Flowerdew Hundred.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Establishing Black Institutions and Leadership–1776 to the Early 20th Century

Public workshop: “Establishing Black Institutions and Leadership–1776 to the Early 20th Century”

The above-named workshop on Petersburg’s rich African-American history will be held this Saturday, November 10, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm

at First Baptist Church [map] in Petersburg.

The featured speaker will be Professor Melvin Ely of the College of William & Mary, the Bancroft Award-winning author of Israel on the Appomattox and Adventures of Amos ‘n Andy. The workshop is free and open to the public.

This workshop is the second of four public workshops that constitute the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project entitled “African-American History in the Context of the Atlantic World–Case Study Petersburg.” The project is sponsored by the Department of History and the Institute for the Study of Race Relations at Virginia State University, in association with Petersburg 2007. It is also sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with special designation as an NEH “We the People Project.”

In addition to Professor Ely, presentations will be made by professors Christina Proenza-Cole, Arthur Abraham, and Paul Alkebulan of the History Department at Virginia State University.
A tour of the church, which houses the oldest black Baptist congregation in the nation, will be available after the workshop.

Petersburg's Celebration of the Centuries

Come celebrate four hundred years of Virginia history

April 25, 26 and 27, 2008 (times TBD)

Throughout the last four centuries, Petersburg has been at the crossroads of this country’s most pivotal events, from the time of the early native Virginians who lived here before Jamestown, through the City's participation in the War of 1812, to the epic battles of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, all the way up to World War I and the Civil Rights Movement. This festival will focus on Virginia’s earlier years, and reflect many of the areas of our history that people the world over have come to love about our state. Petersburg’s Old Towne and adjoining historic districts are some of the most visually striking examples of historic urban architecture in the nation. The area has been part of many historic events, and will provide an unparalleled backdrop for festival activities.

Visitors will be invited to:
Walk down streets where Revolutionary War battles were fought
Drink and eat food from various historical eras, dance to period music & play traditional children's games
Talk with reenactors and experience history come to life
Watch weapons demonstrations and old-time crafts being made
View buildings struck by artillery fire during the Civil War
Visit the village of Pocahontas - one of the most important centers of early African American life in the country
Stand next to the ruins of Peter Jones' Trading Post - a once bustling frontier trading center
Stroll along the Appomattox in American Indians' footsteps

The program will be put together in a manner that is tasteful, culturally inclusive, family-friendly, historically accurate, full of activity, and visually exciting. Over the coming months, the Old Towne Merchants will be looking for Traditional Artists and Craftsmen, Living Historians, Private Collectors and Exhibitors, Early American Demonstrators, Performing Artists and Educators who want to bring this important history into public view.

In an effort to create an event with the highest integrity, a committee will be formed to establish participant standards and guidelines.

The types of individuals and groups needed to make the festival a success include:

Craftsmen who recreate period trades in costume using authentic tools and techniques
Craftsmen who create works using traditional and natural materials in ways reflective of cultural traditions
Artists who focus on subjects of Regional, Natural, or Historic interest
Private Collectors and Exhibitors who display their collections in a manner consistent with modern museum values
Living Historians and Re-enactors, Military and Civilian, who are historically accurate and can communicate effectively with modern audiences
Performing Artists who specialize in historic and traditional presentation
Vendors who sell period appropriate wares and foods
Credentialed individuals or groups who can act as guides and docents
Horse-drawn carriage operators and other appropriate horse-culture related contributors
Early American Agriculture, Farming, and Early Industry hobbyists
Early American boating and maritime history hobbyists

If you have an interest in participating, sponsoring, or helping with this proposed event, please get more information by clicking the links below, or contact Old Towne Merchant’s Group.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Edgar Allan Poe to Hiram Haines - April 24, 1840

My Dear Sir,
Having been absent from the city for a fortnight I have only just received your kind letter of March 24th and hasten to thank you for the "Star", as well as for your offer of the fawn for Mr' P. She desires me to thank you with all her heart--but, unhappily, I cannot point out a mode of conveyance. What can be done? Perhaps some opportunity may offer itself hereafter -- some friend from Petersburg may be about to pay us a visit. In the meantime accept our best acknowledgments, precisely as if the little fellow were already nibbling the grass before our windows in Philadelphia.
I will immediately attend to what you say respecting exchanges. The "Star" has my very best wishes, and if you really intend to push it with energy, there cannot be a doubt of its full success. If you can mention anything in the world that I can do here to promote its interests and your own, it will give me a true pleasure.
It is not impossible that I may pay you a visit in Petersburg, a month or two hence.
Till then, believe me, most sincerely Your friend
Edgar A Poe
H. Haines Esqr
Office Gentleman's Magazine


Please add all data on Poe's friend Hiram Haines of Petersburg and the Office Gentleman's Magazine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Virginia Historical Society's Banner Lecture Series

Decoding the Meanings of Thoroughbred Horse Racing in Early America, 1790–1840
Thursday, October 18, 2007 (noon)
By Ken Cohen
Banner Lecture Series

Although horse racing was a popular pastime in early America, historians have often missed the social and economic meanings of attending the races and owning racehorses. This lecture will explore sporting art, period race courses, and betting to reveal that horse racing in early America was different from how we have nostalgically represented it and in fact was much like racing today. Mr. Cohen is a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's McNeil Center for Early American Studies and a doctoral candidate at the University of Delaware. This lecture is cosponsored by the VHS and The Friends of Sporting Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Given the rich history of Dinwiddie County's and Petersburg horse racing this lecture is a must attend.


Lee and Grant
Thursday, November 1, 2007 (noon)
By William M. S. Rasmussen
Banner Lecture Series

The two great opposing military commanders of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, towered over their contemporaries. In a major exhibition and book created in the 200th anniversary year of Lee's birth, the VHS explores the parallel lives of these two American heroes. In an illustrated lecture, co-curator and co-author William M. S. Rasmussen will examine Lee and Grant and their influence on our history. Dr. Rasmussen is the Lora M. Robins Curator of Art at the VHS.

428 North Boulevard, Richmond, Virginia 23220

Mail: P.O. Box 7311, 23221-0311 Phone: 804.358.4901

Friday, October 12, 2007

John Hubbard, later Gov. of Maine teachs at Dinwiddie Academy

A letter was recently sold on Ebay...
Poplar Grove Va, 28 Octr, a 25 cent rate, and is addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett, Dresden, Lincoln co., Maine, and is a lengthy three page letter written by Sarah Hubbard to her mother. The headline is Dinwiddie, Va, Oct. 26th, 1828.

Some abstracts:
"I did not inform you of Capt Wade's visiting us last June, yet I mentioned in letters so that you probably are not ignorant of his being here, which you well know could afford us no little gratification. I had for some time been waiting his arrival in Richmond or Petersburg, which was his calculation when he left us. I said if he then should return to Maine he would carry me home if I could leave, which would be a very favorable opportunity for me to embrace."
"The Dr took the trouble to send our servant boy to that place [City Point] to learn the certainty of it, but found him not there, but learned he was at Warwick, 6 miles from Richmond ..."
"Eliza & myself together with my little daughter started, rode on about 18 miles before the Dr overtook us, he rode with us to Petersburg where he was compelled to stop on business to select & purchase books."
"... one Physician was sent for, from Petersburg 12 miles only, his fee was 40 dollars, this with the other charges, board the loss of time expensive for him ..."
"Dr. Hubbard spent only a few hours with him in consequence of Mrs. Branch who lay & still lies very sick."
".... the Dr. haveing but 2 horses his buisness pushing him & the care of a sick negro patient at home & my child with me as mischieveous & noisey as possible the Capt unable to converse but very little & that in the greatest misery oweing to the deep salivation, & my blacks at home relardless of interest of any kind save their own, you will say I had sufficient to hurry me back, but on our way we had the good fortune not to break our necks or bones ... [writes about the Gigg upsetting] ..."
"It was oweing partly to carelessness & viewing a fine quantity of corn which the blacks were gathering, rode so near the fence that a rail or sta[??] run between the spokes and sent us out without any ceremony ..."
[on margin] "Mrs Branch she has the typhus fever. It is generaly healing."

The writer of this letter was the wife of John Hubbard. From an online biography:
"John Hubbard (March 22, 1794February 6, 1869) was the 18th Governor of Maine in the United States.
After his graduation he became Principal of the Academy at Hallowell, where he taught two years to earn money to pay the debts incurred in college. He then accepted a flattering offer to go to Dinwiddie County, Virginia, to teach an academy. Here he remained two years, and having decided to take medicine as a profession he entered the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1820, receiving his diploma as Doctor of Medicine in 1822."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Prestwould Plantation, Mecklenburg County, VA


Sir Peyton and Lady Jean Skipwith and their plantation offer a glimpse into the life of grace and elegance of the few in Virginia who owned most of the land. An appreciation of the plantation comes from the diligence of Lady Skipwith in writing about life in that time and her sense of the land and the people working there. Sir Peyton Skipwith, Baronet, was born in the United States where he acquired large tracts of land on the Roanoke River.His acquisitions were attributed to gambling, specifically, a three—day poker game with William Byrd III. The story is a reasonable legend, the gentlemen having not only card house son their properties, but card tables with special storage space for casks. Sir Peyton was married with children, but lost his wife in childbirth. He attended her family, the Millers, in England,and eventually married his sister-in-law, Jean, with whom here turned to Virginia. The remarkable Lady Jean, who had four children after the age of 40, managed the grounds of the plantation, established a 300-volume library in her home, and kept impeccable records of all of the activities and gardening. Her notes on the gardens of Williamsburg helped restorers plan the grounds. When Sir Peyton died, Lady Jean managed the over 10,000 acre plantation, including its ferry service across the Dan River on the banks of the property. Prestwould is unique in its use of native stone, since many homes at the time were constructed of materials shipped from Britain. Research indicates that Sir Peyton planned his home for thirty years, and may have completed the construction begun in 1794 by master builder Jacob Shelor. The house stands on a hill over looking the confluence of the Dan and Roanoke Rivers, now the reservoir, Buggs Island Lake. The copper-roofed house has a central hall and large rooms complete with the original wall-papers ordered by Lady Jean. Scalamandre provided wallpapers for the restoration, and the web site illustrates the incredible result. The wooden outbuildings include a school house, playroom, weaving room, office, ice house, dairy and smoke house, card house, and slave quarters. The plantation was like a medieval village surrounded by stone fences. Sir Peyton and Lady Jean’s graves in the plantation cemetery are engraved only with dates and the Skipwith family crest. The gardens of Prestwould include a giant oak believed to have been witness to meetings of the Occoneechee tribe. The tree, over 300 years old, along with Magnolia grandif lora, Buxus, pecan, and pear trees over 200 years old, frame garden plots set out by Lady Jean. As noted by E.F. Farrar and E. Hines in their book, Old Virginia Houses, Lady Jean “meticulously recorded everything that was planted, what seasons it flowered or produced, its description, and where she had obtained the plants or seeds.”Her journals are invaluable in restoration of Prestwould. Of interest is the early purchases of furniture from various Petersburg craftsmen, Samuel White and Joel Brown. The distance to this plantation in Mecklenburg County, VA off route I-85 from Petersburg, is about 85 miles, shows how much reach the early 18th century urban center of Petersburg had on its outlaying regions. Prestwould is open for afternoon tours until October 31.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Forged Slave Passes & Certificates of Freedom

Extract of a letter from Petersburg, Virginia, dated August 19, 1785.

Some days ago it was discovered that a person unknown in this town was selling out Certificates of Freedom and Passes to the Slaves, and forging such people's names as were most likely to answer the purpose. By the activity and vigilance of some gentlemen in town, this dangerous villain was apprehended last night, about ten o'clock, in company with some slaves, and just as he had finished a pass for one of them. He was carried before a Magistrate, who committed him to prison for further trial. He at first called himself Joe Thompson, but says his name is Thompson Davis. When he was first apprehended, he entreated one of the gentlemen to shot him with the pistol he had in his hand, and discovered such a behaviour as thoroughly indicated that he suspected some other charge against him, besides the forgeries he had committed and upon tracing his conduct during the time he has been in this place, he is render still more suspicious, wherefore the following description is given of him. He is a native of Ireland, about 5 feet 4 inches high, stout made, sloops a little, short dark brown hair, a deep scar on the right side of his forehead, just below his hair, the right eye is a little remarkable, having the appearance of a film on it, appears to be about 38 years of age, says he is a baker by trade, and that he came last from Richmond, where he had been some time soliciting his pay as a dragoon in Col. Baylor's regiment.

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, September 7, 1785.

Dinwiddie's Thomas Day noted in the 2007 NAACP Resolutions

The NAACP made a 2007 Resolution that noted the
Inaccuracies in the Depiction of Africans and African Americans in Social Studies Textbooks
and called for…

WHEREAS Strategic Initiative Nine- Enhancing Educational Excellence, Goal 2, states:

Examine a broad range of educational structures and practices with the objectives of advocating for educational equity and student achievement" and WHEREAS the practice of presenting and perpetuating the general perception of the Africans in school history texts as innately inferior as justification for slavery and the treatment of the freedmen following emancipation, does not advocate educational equity and student achievement of African-American students, and WHEREAS the omission of specific data in documents in today's school history textbooks disproving the statement of inferiority continues, and is a criminal assault upon the hearts, souls and minds of African-American students, and WHEREAS the omission of such data denies African-American students a knowledge of historical facts that would engender pride in their inheritance, and WHEREAS the skills of Africans brought to America with their forced entry upon America's shores are not given full credit in school history texts, and WHEREAS photographs, graphs, drawings, and other illustrations denoting the skills and abilities of slaves are omitted from school history texts, students are denied knowledge about the inventive and creative abilities of the Africans and their descendants in America during the Ante-bellum period in America, and WHEREAS school history texts glorify with many illustrations the product of slave labor, but not the unpaid laborers, describing it as "King Cotton" which made this country and countries abroad economically wealthy, and WHEREAS the many skills, arts, crafts, and creative abilities in music, (examples, Negro Spirituals and names of singers, like Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, born a slave, a talented singer who performed for Queen Victoria) who were slaves and 'free people of color" are not written about nor illustrated with photographs, therefore, blatantly omitted from school history texts, and WHEREAS the service of Africans and African-Americans in each of America's wars is presented only in statistical numbers without quotes from documents attesting to the extent of their leadership and battlefield courage and a description of the dire and unsatisfactory conditions under which their service was rendered are omitted, and WHEREAS the service of fugitive slaves in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War is not described with sufficient credit in school history texts, even though their service earned for thousands, freedom, and WHEREAS the service of fugitive slaves, called contrabands in the Civil War, fled to Union lines and by their presence in thousands forced attention to their plight and fight for freedom, served as scouts, guides and spies, and at times saved entire Union regiments from Rebel forces, and WHEREAS, the contrabands enlisted when restrictions were lifted, also became like encyclopedias to Confederate territory with their knowledge of the topography of the land, its roads and bridges and with their eyes and ears gave reliable information to the Union unavailable from any other source, and with their strength and abilities gave service in non-combat tasks which freed soldiers to fight led the Union to victory, earned their freedom, and WHEREAS, blacks served in the United States Navy in great numbers, little space is given to this service in the Civil War. WHEREAS, persons in the racial likeness of Benjamin Bradley, a slave inventor, are included. Bradley, "at the age of sixteen, showed great mechanical skill and with pieces of steel and other materials constructed a working model of a steam engine and after the sale of his first steam engine, built an engine large enough to drive the first cutter of a sloop-of-war at the rate of sixteen knots an hour." (Katz, Eyewitness, The Negro in American History, 1967, pp.115-116), and THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that an active protest movement begin with the examination and evaluation of the school history textbooks of Scott Foresman, Houghton-Mifflin, Harcourt and other publishers for omissions, distortions, bias, and insufficient coverage of the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to America with emphasis upon the ante-bellum period, and that efforts are made to effect changes in the books, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this committee demand that publishers' textbooks include the skills brought to America by Africans, and that the craftsmanship of persons the likes of Horace King, a slave bridge builder; Thomas Day, a free man of color and furniture maker,[1] and Gilbert Hunt, a slave carriage maker and blacksmith, and numerous others are included in their books, and if available, their photographs are included, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the committee demand that the inventive ingenuity, and creative abilities of slaves and "free persons of color" be included in their books to the extent that the "inferiority perception" is entirely disproved with documentary evidence, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, Norbert Rillieux whose invention revolutionized the production of sugar; slave Henry Blair, inventor of a seed planting machine; and Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer, mathematician and planner for the location of the Capitol and other federal buildings in the nation's capitol-- along with other inventors' biographical summaries are included in school history texts to further substantiate the fact that the black race is not an inferior race, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the committee demand that textbooks admit the wrongs of slavery even though the proponents of freedom declared in documents that "all men were created equal..." and furthermore that both George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and each president prior to Abraham Lincoln owned slaves.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that all students and especially, African-American students, will be able to read in their school history texts an accurate account of the contributions of African-Americans (in all fields of endeavor) to the settlement, growth and development of this country.

My footnote...
[1] In 1801 Thomas Day was born, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, a free black, the son of John and Morning Day, also free blacks. His father John Day was a carpenter and cabinet-maker in Southside Virginia. Their relationship with the area Quakers, and others, within Dinwiddie County and Petersburg has as yet not been well researched. Thomas’ brother John would go on to Liberia, where he would lose his family due to sickness, and retain high governmental office there. Thomas Day would later become North Carolina’s largest furniture maker at Milton, NC., which afforded him to send his children to private school in the north. He died abt. 1860/61 and was buried at his home site in Milton, NC.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pocahontas Museum a work of African-American Folk Art

Richard Stewart stands in front of his museum and looks at the small houses scattered around the area known as Pocahontas Island. Then he points toward Interstate 95, visible in the distance, and he shakes his head. "They drive by, 80 miles an hour, day after day," he says. "And they never know that all this history is right here, so close by."
Stewart does his part to let people know. In a region that's filled with African-American history, this small area - whose residents claim it is the oldest black community in the country - has a particularly interesting background, dating back 200 years as a neighborhood largely populated by freed slaves.
Stewart, at age 63, is a lifelong resident of Pocahontas Island, which is not really an island at all - more like a small peninsula almost entirely encircled by a bend in the Appomattox River.
About four years ago, Stewart - a retired civil servant - bought this small house for a little over $20,000 and decided to turn it into a museum dedicated to black history, with an emphasis on the local region but also covering a wide variety of related subjects. "But it's not just black history," he says. "This is a historic house without prejudice. It's about blacks and whites and Jews - it's our history."
The Richard Stewart-Pocahontas Museum does not fit the common preconception of a museum. Not from the outside (it's a small clapboard house on a rundown street), and not on the inside (which resembles a cluttered curio shop). Its truely a piece of African-American Folk Art in its being.
If you sit down with Stewart and listen to him tell the story of the area, of his family, of this museum, you'll be fascinated by what you learn. And if you let him take you from room to room, explaining the significance of the various photos, documents and artifacts, he will make American and African history come to life for you.
Some of it is sad, such as the material focusing on the legacy of slavery or the matter-of-fact newspaper coverage of lynchings. But other material in the museum focuses on black heroes, the Civil Rights movement, and the culture of several African nations. The museum's scope is broad, and its lack of strictly themed exhibits allows guests to wander and explore.
The museum sits across the street from a house that was used as a stopping point for the Underground Railroad. Slaves attempting to escape the South would stay there until they could be safely moved farther north - because Pocahontas Island was predominantly composed of free blacks, the escaping slaves were able to blend into the neighborhood during their stay.
The Underground Railroad house isn't open to the public, but Stewart can explain to you its significance and is one of the few in Petersburg who can tell you about the Keziah Affair, in which a schooner attempted to smuggle five slaves out of Petersburg in 1858.
Looking around the neighborhood, Stewart explains that there are fewer than 100 people still living on Pocahontas Island - mostly older people who have lived here their whole lives, many of them related to one another.
The neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but Stewart wonders how much longer it will be around. Eventually, he admits with a sigh of resignation, it most likely will be bought by developers and used to build new homes or businesses. But for now, Stewart works every day to keep the area's history alive.

Info: 804-861-8889. The Richard Stewart-Pocahontas Museum is open on weekdays, but its hours are irregular. If you're planning a visit, it's best to call ahead and arrange a tour.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Josiah Flagg's 1786 letter about Petersburg

Josiah Flagg wrote from Petersburg in 1786 to his “Dear Coz” as follows:

“This is the most dirty place I ever saw. Nine months of the year the mud is half leg deep, it is a very sickly place owning in great measure to its situation, the Streets are very Irregular, and not a Respectable Building in the Borough, it stands upon the River Appomattox, the water thereof is almost Stagnant as it is navigable for ships of 500 tons one hundred and twenty miles, the Vapors arising from it contaminate the air, with the most pestilential disorders. Agues and fevers of every kind prevail.
“What is the reason that so many merchants are induced to Established Houses there and sacrifice their health? Why their own private emolument. As it is in the heart of a rich County, where remittances may be easily made to their correspondents. The soil is peculiar to the culture of Tobacco, Rice, Corn &c. which are staple commodities. The Virginians as a people are given to luxury and dissipation of every kind, ad are supported in their extravagance by Africa’s sable sons, who they consign to the most Abject Slavery.
A young lady is not valued here for her accomplishments or personal charms, but for the number of Negroes and plantations she possesses, so that merit is out of question. I have not seen a handsome figure since I have been in the place, nor indeed one whose rusticity is wholly obliterated. As to the language, they have as many barbarisms as our most countrified market girls…”[1]


Josiah Flagg was born: 24 Jul 1763, Boston MA, the son of Josiah Flagg (1738-1795) and Elizabeth Hawke (1741-1816); died September 16, 1816; buried Cemetery of the Circular Church Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina. Working as a miniaturist in Boston, 1783 and Baltimore, 1784, He was also a musician and practiced dentistry in Boston. He is credited with making in 1790 the first true dental chair, adding a headrest and an extended armrest to a Windsor chair. He apparently had some training in silversmithing with Paul Revere, especially its use in dentistry. A piece of silver with mark attributed to Josiah Flagg has been located in Cutten Collection indicating he may have worked as a silversmith at one time. Whether this is his mark or that of his son, is not known. Listed by other silver authorities. 3 What he did for work while in Petersburg in 1786 is unknown. He married Hannah Collins, about 1788.

[1] New Engaland Hist. & Gen. Register, Vol. 27, 1873, p. 251-2.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lowndes Stoneware

Visit the Siege Museum in Old Towne Petersburg - Learn about one of Petersburg's oldest documented businesses in operation from 1806 to 1855, and discover how artifacts found on the pottery site reveals clues to how people lived and worked two centuries ago.

10:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. Daily
(804) 733-2401

"Homely Women of Dinwiddie County"

From a letter signed by Captain Joseph H. Prime of the 7th U.S. Colored Troops.

Dated ''Friday April 7th 1865,'' entry reads in part: ''went down the road today to find some wounded Rebel Prisoners left here by Sheridan [at] Fords Station we found a Rebel Lt. Colonel and seven (7) enlisted men in the houses at the Station one fellow said that they were in about the same condition the American army was in the war of the Revolution at Valley Forge that Rebel Colonel (Hudson) was a very gentlemanly appearing man and I liked him very much or as much as I possibly could like a Rebel We have heard heavy firing nearly all day at the front.

Dated ''Half past four oclock P.M.,'' entry reads in part: ''our army took six (6) Rebel Generals yesterday and among the rest was General Ewell and they also took thirteen thousand men prisoners at Amelia Court House and General Lee retreated fifteen (15) miles last night towards Farmville where they are fighting hard today. General Lees army must be getting rather small.

Dated "Saturday April 8th,'' entry reads in part: ''McGrady told us that Mr. Echols daughter was the handsomest girl in this (Dinwiddie) County all I have to say is God save me from being obliged to look upon the homely women of Dinwiddie County''

The 7th U.S. Colored Troops served in and around Richmond in the final months of the war. Joseph H. Prime began his service with the 13th New Hampshire Infantry, mustering in 19 September 1862. He was discharged for promotion 29 October 1863 and joined the 7th USCT as a Lieutenant. He was promoted to Captain 15 November 1864 and resigned 24 May 1865.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Workshop concerning Petersburg's Area African Americans

Establishing Black Institutions and Leadership

1776 to early 20th century
Saturday, August 18, 2-4 PM

Tabernacle Baptist Church

444 Halifax St., Petersburg

OUTSIDE SCHOLAR: Dr. Suzanne Lebsock, Rutgers University
LOCAL PRESENTERS: Dr. Edward Mills, M.A. VSU, ABD University of Illinois/Champagne, Dr. Arthur Abraham, Dr. Christina Proenza-Coles, Lucious Edwards

Numerous free black residents of Petersburg received pensions for Revolutionary War service, owned property, and purchased slaves in order to manumit them. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Petersburg residents proved instrumental in founding the West African nation of Liberia. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a successful African-American merchant, emigrated to Liberia in 1829. Roberts served as Liberia’s first black governor and the first president of independent Liberia as well as the first president of Liberia College. His brother, another Petersburg native, served as Liberia’s first black bishop. Thousands of African Americans migrated from Petersburg to Liberia and hundreds more pursued missionary work in neighboring West African nations.
African Americans who stayed in Petersburg developed the region’s strongest center of black
educational institutions. They chartered Peabody High School, which became the first publicly supported black high school in the state in 1880. Two years later, the city’s black leaders pushed the state government to charter the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University), the first fully state supported, four-year institution of higher learning for
blacks in America. Unlike most black colleges at that time, VSU’s faculty and Board of Visitors were of African descent. These faculty and administrators repeatedly and successfully fought to keep VSU a baccalaureate-granting institution, rather than follow the Tuskeegee model of vocational education. VSU’s first president, John Mercer Langston, became the first African American elected to Congress from Virginia.
Focus Questions:
1. What are some of the factors and forces that underpinned the success of Petersburg’s black
institutions in the past?
2. Local Episcopal churches, AME churches, and Baptist churches sponsored trips,
emigrations, and even the first Liberian college. How does this case study illuminate the relationships between religion and education?
3. We know relatively little about Liberian emigration. To what degree did this outward migration impact the black church and black educational institutions in Petersburg?
How, if at all, did the city’s churches and educational institutions work together towards “earthly freedoms”?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Looking for early Dinwiddie County Records check out...

Dinwiddie County records held on microfilm at the Library of Virginia, Richmond...

Robert Leslie, Esq., a Petersburg Merchant

Robert Leslie was a Petersburg Merchant, who had retired by the 1860 US Census, wherein he's noted as being of considerable wealth. He was known to have held a female slave for a number of years, but apparently never married. If anyone has any information on him it would be greatly appricated.

Meeting of the Dinwiddie County Historical Society

A membership meeting of the Dinwiddie County Historical Society will be held Sunday, June 10, 2007 at the Old Dinwiddie County Courthouse on US Rt 1, Dinwiddie, VA, at 3:00 P.M., with a board meeting occuring at 2:00 P.M., the next quarterly meeting of the Dinwiddie County Historical Society will be held on September 9, 2007.
For further information call (804) 732-2778.

Monday, May 28, 2007

William Phillips died from typhoid fever in 1781 while at Petersburg

William Phillips (1731-1781) decided on a military career early in life. He became a Cadet at Woolwich in 1746 and eventually joined the Royal Artillery, where he had a distinguished career. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming Quartermaster of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Phillips later became well known throughout the British army for his exemplary service at the Battle of Minden. By the time of the American Revolution, he had risen to the rank Colonel in the British army, though within the Royal Artillery he was officially still a captain. Phillips was sent to Canada in 1776 where he was finally promoted to major in the Royal Artillery and then, within the next several months, he became a major general in the British army. He served with General Burgoyne during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777. Captured with the rest of Burgoyne's army, he was held prisoner until he was paroled to New York in 1779. Phillips was officially exchanged in 1780 for American Major General Benjamin Lincoln, who had been captured at Charleston. In 1781, he was sent with 2000 men to link up with Benedict Arnold and his forces in Virginia. Phillips then assumed overall command of the combined forces. He contracted typhoid fever and died in Petersburg on May 13, 1781, one week before Cornwallis and his army entered the town to begin the campaign that would end at Yorktown. He is buried in an unmarked grave near Blandford Church in Petersburg.

Friday, May 11, 2007

c1793 Jewish Letter Sent From Petersburg

"All the people who hear that we are leaving give us their blessing. They say that it is sinful that such blessed children should be brought up here in Petersburg. My children cannot learn anything here, nothing Jewish, nothing of general culture. My Schoene (my daughter), God bless her, is already three years old; I think it is time that she should leansomething, and she has a good head to lean. I taught her the bedtime prayers and grace after meals in just two lessons. I believe that no one among the Jews here can do as well as she. And my Sammy (born in 1790), God bless him, is already beginnig to talk." Rebecca Samuel

Her husband was Hyman Samuel, a Silversmith, from London, who was operating in Petersburg from 1791 thru 1795. He advertised, April 27, 1791, that he made and repaired watches in Petersburg, and also "all kinds of silver and goldsmith's work, jewellery, engraving on silver, gold, and other metals." See VA Gazette and Agricultural Repository, June 16, 1791.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dinwiddie County & Petersburg's Silversmiths

James Geddy & Sons (Abt.1780-1810)
James Geddy, Jr., m. Eupha Armistead, April 30, 1789 in Dinwiddie/Petersbrug, they had Elizabeth on Feb. 14th and had her baptized July 7, 1773. He also is listed on Dinwiddie County Rent Role of 1779.
In December 1790 an advertisement mentioned the firm as goldsmiths and jewelers of Petersburg, continuing to carry on its business in all its branches. Six shillings per once cash and six shillings and eight pence in exchange for work were offered for old silver.
William Waddill GeddyWas born about 1768, in Williamsburg, Virginia, to James Geddy, Sr., born 1731, Scotland, d. 1807 Dinwiddie County, Virginia and in 1755 married Elizabeth _______, born January 22, 1773; d. 1779, Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
On August 16, 1793, he was one of sixty men of Bollingbrook Street, Petersburg who signed a petition to the governor asking that if a certain negro were liberated from jail he be required to leave the State.
On November 17, 1796, Rev. Andrew Syme married him and Elizabeth Prentice.
On May 22, 1799, he wrote the governor requesting the remission of a fine for not attending the muster of the 39th Regt., which he considered unlawfully assessed on him.
On the 1810 Petersbrug/Dinwiddie Census, with five children and his wife.
On September 20, 1811 he was unable to attend to his business, he would rent for a term of years the tenement he then occupied on Old Street, Petesburg. He added, “If a person of my profession should apply, he can have at his discretion my silversmith and watchmaker’s tools.”

Please add any additional information below...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Dinwiddie Collection

Saving America's Treasures
During the middle nineteenth century the famous English autograph collector Henry Stevens assembled an extraordinary collection of manuscript items relating to the service of Robert Dinwiddie as lieutenant-governor of Virginia. When it was offered for sale at auction in the early 1880s, W. W. Corcoran, a prominent American banker and collector in his own right, secured the papers and donated them to the Virginia Historical Society, an organization of which he was then vice president. The Society, recognizing the collection's immense value as a historical resource, commissioned its corresponding secretary, Robert A. Brock, to produce an edited version of the documents, with copious annotations and transcriptions of some additional, related documents from other sources. That two-volume work, The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1751–1758 (1883), has provided the primary access to this collection for more than a century.

Contents of the collection
The Robert Dinwiddie papers consist of twenty-two separate items. These include four letter books, which contain contemporaneous copies of letters written by Dinwiddie as lieutenant-governor of Virginia (the absentee governor's personal appointee directly responsible to the British crown and ministry) from the date of his arrival in Virginia in 1751 through his retirement from office in 1758. These copies were made by clerks in the governor's office, but also include emendations in the hand of Dinwiddie himself. More than 900 in number, the letters provide a remarkable window on the administration of Great Britain's largest, wealthiest, and most influential North American colony. They focus squarely on the coming and early years of the war against France and its Native American allies on the colonial frontier. In addition, the collection includes seventeen letters written by George Washington, then a young militia officer, between March 1754 and April 1756, primarily to Governor Dinwiddie, as well as a contemporary record of a court martial of a Virginia militia officer in 1756 related to wartime events on Virginia's western frontier.

About Robert Dinwiddie
Robert Dinwiddie's name is little known today, but this Scottish merchant turned government official played a key role in the coming of the French and Indian War (known as the Seven Years' War in England and Europe) and in early successes in it by the British in North America. Frank Grizzard, former senior associate editor of the Papers of George Washington, in turn describes this collection of Dinwiddie’s papers as "the foundation of our understanding of the American colonial experience during the early years of the French and Indian War."

Restoration of the collection
Given the significance of this collection, its restoration has long been a goal of the VHS, one that has now also garnered the support of the Save America's Treasures program jointly administered by the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Battle of Five Forks - Dinwiddie County

In 2006 the Virginia Historical Society acquired an oil painting, measuring 40 x 65 inches, capturing a scene from the April 1, 1865, battle of Five Forks. Charging Union cavalry, led by a flag-waving Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, are shown slamming into a wall of Confederate defenders near the important crossroads west of Petersburg. The scene represents a dramatic moment in the pivotal battle of the last major campaign of the war in Virginia.
The battle of Five Forks ushered in the final moments of the nearly ten-month-long siege of Petersburg. Since June 1864 the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had extended its entrenched positions to the south and west of that rail center to protect the army's supply routes. By April 1865 the only major one open to Robert E. Lee's army was the Southside Railroad, which entered the city from the west. Ulysses S. Grant saw an opportunity to cut that rail line and compel Lee to abandon his Petersburg defenses. To accomplish this, Grant ordered his aggressive subordinate, Philip Sheridan, to take a combined force of infantry and cavalry and attack the thinly held right end of the Confederate line, located on the White Oak Road. Beginning at 4 p.m. and lasting for three hours, roughly 17,000 Federal troops under generals Sheridan and Gouverneur Warren collided with 10,000 Confederates commanded by generals George E. Pickett and W. H. F. "Rooney" Lee. The fighting ended after the Union troops successfully overwhelmed both flanks of the southern line, which was centered on the crossroads that gave the battle its name. Sheridan's losses numbered around 800 men, while Pickett lost 3,000, most of whom were captured in the fight. Lee's last major supply route had been broken. The next day, after suffering an all-out assault against the remaining Confederate positions around Petersburg, his army began a march that would end at the small village of Appomattox Court House.
In 1879 the French artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux (1846–1923) came to the United States to paint a memorial cyclorama of the battle of Gettysburg. That 360-degree circular oil painting depicting Pickett's Charge went on display in Chicago in 1883. Another version of the cyclorama ended up at Gettysburg, where it remains today. Other Philippoteaux Civil War paintings are on display at the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Mass. Around 1885, he turned his talent for capturing military combat on canvas to the battle of Five Forks. It is that painting that the VHS acquired. The Battle of Five Forks, given in memory of Peter Charles Bance, Jr., by his mother and father, is now on display in the long-term exhibition, The Story of Virginia

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tell Congress to save the NHPRC

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)--the grant-making arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)--is targeted in the President's proposed FY 2008 budget for zero funding for grants and zero funding for staff to administer the agency and its programs. For FY 2008, the National Coalition for History supports full funding for national grants at $10 million plus an additional $2 million for staffing and other administrative costs. Now is the critical time to contact Congress and make your voice heard on saving the NHPRC!The newly created House and Senate Financial Services and General Government appropriations subcommittees have jurisdiction over the NARA appropriation, including the NHPRC. These subcommittees currently are drafting appropriations bills for the programs under their jurisdiction.If you support funding for the NHPRC grants program, please contact your Congressional representatives now, especially if they are members of the House and Senate subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government. The two subcommittees can be accessed at:
To contact your Members of Congress about funding for the NHPRC grants program, go to the Humanities Advocacy Network at
The website allows you to send a pre-written electronic letter to your Member of Congress or to edit the letter to include your own story and express your own views.You can also fax letters or call your Congressional representatives and senators asking them to support $10 million for the grant-making arm of the NHPRC, and an additional $2 million for staffing. All Members of Congress can be reached through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. In addition, most Members of Congress list their fax number on their website. Find your representative at
and your senator at:

If you can, give specific examples of NHPRC funded projects in your congressional district or State. For more information about lists of grants made in your state, visit the National Historical Publications and Records Commission grants program website at:
The NHPRC is the only grant making organization, public or private, whose mission is to provide national leadership in the effort to promote the preservation and accessibility of historical records and to publish the papers of significant figures and themes in American history. If Congress allows the NHPRC to be zeroed out of the federal budget, this important program, which has played an essential federal leadership role and has an outstanding success record of using a small amount of federal funds to leverage other contributions, would come to an end. This would be devastating to projects such as editing and publishing the papers of nationally significant individuals and institutions; the development of new archival programs; the promotion of the preservation and use of historical records; regional and national coordination in addressing major archival issues; and a wide range of other activities relating to America's documentary heritage.Please take a minute to contact the members of these key subcommittees or your Members of Congress and let them know how vital the NHPRC is to the historical and archival communities. Without your help today, the NHPRC may be eliminated!

The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Humanities Caucus, Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Phil English (R-PA), have prepared a "Dear Colleague" letter, which is currently circulating in the House of Representatives, in support of a $36 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in FY 2008. The deadline for signing on to this letter is Tuesday, April 24. You can view the text of the letter at This increase would return funding for the agency to its 1994 nominal level and signal that the Congress is ready to make a significant new investment in the nation's education and research infrastructure through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Please call, email, or fax your Representative and ask him/her to sign on to this letter today.
The easiest way to show your support is through the Humanities Advocacy Network. The website allows you to send a pre-written electronic letter to your Member of Congress or to edit the letter to include your own story and express your own views.A large number of signatures on the "Dear Colleague letter," particularly if they represent both sides of the aisle, will send a very important message to the leadership of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee as they begin to work on the mark-up of the FY 2008 spending bill for NEH. All members of Congress can be reached by phone through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dinwiddie County's Politcal Grave Yard

Please post additions.....

Time's Recent Articile on "Slave Quilts"

Shame on Time Magazine for yet again giving essentially positive exposure to the Tobin and Dobard book and all its followers. Pseudo-history does not need main-stream support; it gets all the exposure it needs and far more than it merits. Poor Ms. Tobin is"frustrated" that her nonsense is under attack and she laments that she is not "allowed to celebrate this amazing oral story..." Not allowed? With exposure on Oprah, in the New York Times, on NPR (favorably!), and now in Time, it is hard to understand who is not "allowing" this story to be celebrated. And as for Ms. Lopez in Plymouth, Michigan, all we can do is to keep trying to make meaningful distinctions between knowledge and lore, history and fantasy to counter her slurs and her tribute to the uses of ignorance. The worst slur is perhaps against fugitive slaves themselves. To suggest that they needed to see symbols on quilts hanging on clotheslines or in windows to know what to do and where to go insults their intelligence.

Carl Sandburg was right when he wrote: "And when has creative man not toiled deep in myth?" But he was right for reasons that our modern day Underground Railroad myth makers do not really understand. Oh what a lovely deflection from reality of past and present the "quilt codes" provide.

Time now owe sits readers a story on how slaves actually escaped - and did not escape.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Lucy v. Zehmer 1952

BUCHANAN, JUSTICE. This suit was instituted by W.O. Lucy and J.C. Lucy, complainants, against A.H. Zehmer and Ida S. Zehmer, his wife, defendants, to have specific performance of a contract by which it was alleged the Zehmers had sold to W.O. Lucy a tract of land owned by A.H. Zehmer in Dinwiddie county containing 471.6 acres, more or less, known as the Ferguson farm, for $50,000. J.C. Lucy, the other complainant, is a brother of W.O. Lucy, to whom W.O. Lucy transferred a half interest in his alleged purchase.

The instrument sought to be enforced was written by A.H. Zehmer on [Saturday] December 20, 1952, in these words: We hereby agree to sell to W.O. Lucy the Ferguson Farm complete for $50,000.00, title satisfactory to buyer," and signed by the defendants, A.H. Zehmer and Ida S. Zehmer.
The answer of A.H. Zehmer admitted that at the time mentioned W.O. Lucy offered him $50,000 cash for the farm, but that he, Zehmer, considered that the offer was made in jest; that so thinking, and both he and Lucy having had several drinks, he wrote out the memorandum" quoted above and induced his wife to sign it; that he did not deliver the memorandum to Lucy, but that Lucy picked it up, read it, put it in his pocket, attempted to offer Zehmer $5 to bind the bargain, which Zehmer refused to accept, and realizing for the first time that Lucy was serious, Zehmer assured him that he had no intention of selling the farm and that the whole matter was a joke. Lucy left the premises insisting that he had purchased the farm.
Depositions were taken and the decree appealed from was entered holding that the complainants had failed to establish their right to specific performance, and dismissing their bill. The assignment of error is to this action of the court.
The defendants insist that the evidence was ample to support their contention that the writing sought to be enforced was prepared as a bluff or dare to force Lucy to admit that he did not have $50,000; that the whole matter was a joke; that the writing was not delivered to Lucy and no binding contract was ever made between the parties.
It is an unusual, if not bizarre, defense. When made to the writing admittedly prepared by one of the defendants and signed by both, clear evidence is required to sustain it.
In his testimony Zehmer claimed that he "was high as a Georgia pine," and that the transaction was just a bunch of two doggoned drunks bluffing to see who could talk the biggest and say the most." That claim is inconsistent with his attempt to testify in great detail as to what was said and what was done. It is contradicted by other evidence as to the condition of both parties, and rendered of no weight by the testimony of his wife that when Lucy left the restaurant she suggested that Zehmer drive him home. The record is convincing that Zehmer was not intoxicated to the extent of being unable to comprehend the nature and consequences of the instrument he executed, and hence that instrument is not to be invalidated on that ground. C.J.S. Contracts, §, 133, b., p.483; Taliaferro v. Emery, 124 Va. 674, 98 S.E. 627. It was in fact conceded by defendants' counsel in oral argument that under the evi- dence Zehmer was not too drunk to make a valid contract.
The evidence is convincing also that Zehmer wrote two agreements, the first one beginning "I hereby agree to sell. Zehmer first said he could not remember about that, then that "I don't think I wrote but one out." Mrs. Zehmer said that what he wrote was `I hereby agree," but that the "I" was changed to "We" after that night. The agreement that was written and signed is in the record and indicates no such change. Neither are the mistakes in spelling that Zehmer sought to point out readily apparent.

The appearance of the contract, the fact that it was under discussion for forty minutes or more before it was signed; Lucy's objection to the first draft because it was written in the singular, and he wanted Mrs. Zehmer to sign it also; the rewriting to meet that objection and the signing by Mrs. Zehmer; the discussion of what was to be included in the sale, the provision for the examination of the title, the completeness of the instrument that was executed, the taking possession of it by Lucy with no request or suggestion by either of the defendants that he give it back, are facts which furnish persuasive evidence that the execution of the contract was a serious business transaction rather than a casual jesting matter as defendants now contend..
If it be assumed, contrary to what we think the evidence shows, that Zehmer was jesting about selling his farm to Lucy and that the transac- tion was intended by him to be a joke, nevertheless the evidence shows that Lucy did not so understand it but considered it to be a serious business transaction and the contract to be binding on the Zehmers as well as on himself. The very next day he arranged with his brother to put up half the money and take a half interest in the land. The day after that he employed an attorney to examine the title. The next night, Tuesday, he was back at Zehmer's place and there Zehmer told him for the first time, Lucy said, that he wasn't going to sell and he told Zehmer "You know you sold that place fair and square." After receiving the report from his attorney that the title was good he wrote to Zehmer that he was ready to close the deal.
Not only did Lucy actually believe, but the evidence shows he was warranted in believing, that the contract represented a serious business transaction and a good faith sale and purchase of the farm.
In the field of contracts, as generally elsewhere, "We must look to the outward expression of a person as manifesting his intention rather than to his secret and unexpressed intention. `The law imputes to a person an intention corresponding to the reasonable meaning of his words and acts.'" First Nat. Exchange Bank of Roanoke v. Roanoke Oil Co., 169 Va. 99, 114, 192 S.E. 764, 770.
At no time prior to the execution of the contract had Zehmer indicated to Lucy by word or act that he was not in earnest about selling the farm. They had argued about it and discussed its terms, as Zehmer admitted, for a long time. Lucy testified that if there was any jesting it was about paying $50,000 that night. The contract and the evidence show that he was not expected to pay the money that night. Zehmer said that after the writing was signed he laid it down on the counter in front of Lucy. Lucy said Zehmer handed it to him. In any event there had been what appeared to be a good faith offer and a good faith acceptance, followed by the execution and apparent delivery of a written contract. Both said that Lucy put the writing in his pocket and then offered Zehmer $5 to seal the bargain. Not until then, even under the defendants' evidence, was anything said or done to indicate that the matter was a joke. Both of the Zehmers testified that when Zehmer asked his wife to sign he whispered that it was a joke so Lucy wouldn't hear and that it was not intended that he should hear.
The mental assent of the parties is not requisite for the formation of a contract. If the words or other acts of one of the parties have but one reasonable meaning, his undisclosed intention is immaterial except when an unreasonable meaning which he attaches to his manifestations is known to the other party. Restatement of the Law of Contracts, Vol. I, § 71, p.74..
An agreement or mutual assent is of course essential to a valid contract but the law imputes to a person an intention corresponding to the reasonable meaning of his words and acts. If his words and acts, judged by a reasonable standard, manifest an intention to agree, it is immaterial what may be the real but unexpressed state of his mind. C.J.S. Contracts, §32, p. 361; 12 Am.Jur., Contracts, §19, p. 515.
So a person cannot set up that he was merely jesting when his conduct and words would warrant a reasonable person in believing that he intended a real agreement...
Whether the writing signed by the defendants and now sought to be enforced by the complainant was the result of a serious offer by Lucy and a serious acceptance by the defendants, or was a serious offer by Lucy and an acceptance in secret jest by the defendants, in either event it constituted a binding contract of sale between the parties. .
The complainants are entitled to have specific performance of the contract sued on. The decree appealed from is therefore reversed and the cause is remanded for the entry of a proper decree requiring the defendants to perform the contract in accordance with the prayer of the bill.
Reversed and remanded.

Cities of the Dead

William Blair. Cities of the Dead: Contesting the Memory of the Civil War in the South, 1865-1914. Civil War America Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. xii + 250 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $ 34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8078-2896-0.

William Blair's Cities of the Dead is among several recently published books treating on the formation of historical memory in the post-Civil War South. It goes without saying that southern memory has been overwhelmingly influenced by the experiences of slavery and civil war. What is less obvious is how the study of southern memory has itself progressed. There have been two main trajectories. The first has charted how white southerners established the myth of the Lost Cause in order to cope with defeat, re-establish white supremacy, and facilitate the reconciliation of the white North and South by the last decades of the nineteenth century. The second trajectory is of more recent vintage. Its focus has been on how black southerners, as well as other non-dominant and marginalized groups in the South, have preserved memories of slavery, the Civil War, and other episodes of the southern past at odds with or varying from the dominant white version. Only in the past five or so years have scholars begun to consider the two trajectories together, in order to highlight how these memories collide, complement,and contest one another. Blair's study contributes to this most recent trend in several ways. Drawing from the work of Eric Hobsbawm and others, Blair considers how white and black southerners in postwar Virginia claimed public space through their various commemorative acts. The claiming of public space expresses, as readers of these authors know, political tensions and claims to political power. For Blair, the focus on public space leads him to his central thesis: commemorative events such as the Memorial Day rituals performed in Confederate "cities of the dead," and by southern African Americans in their freedom celebrations, were both shaped by and helped to shape near-term political outcomes in the postwar South. His close reading of how commemorative acts reflect and help shape ongoing political contests also leads him to question the threefold model of Civil War memory offered by David Blight in Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001). Whereas Blight's sweeping account sought to illuminate the sources and ideological applications of the emancipationist, re-conciliationist, and white supremacist memories of the war, Blair's political focus reveals how different commemorative practices often conflicted with one another, at times negotiated space with each other, and on a few occasions even overlapped. Most important,rather than consider public memory in the context of ideology formation,Blair considers commemoration as an essential, public part of politics. Organized into an introduction and seven chapters, Cities of the Deadproceeds chronologically to consider the evolution of black and white commemorative practices in Virginia from the end of the war to the on set of World War I. Primary sources include era newspapers, periodicals, correspondence, government and local records. The opening chapters begin familiarly enough, by describing the origins of black freedom celebrations and white southern decoration days in the immediate post-war period. Blair's focus on public space and politics, however, results in a different take on matters, as he considers these commemorative actions less for their ideological significance than as public rituals invested with political content. In the case of the black freedom celebrations,they were, as might be expected, contested early on by white southerners and protected for a period of time by federal authorities. For a period of time they were also racially mixed, and white Republican participation often turned the proceedings into de facto political rallies. Given that African Americans were almost entirely denied access to public space during slavery, these celebrations were significant at a personal and political level. Black Virginians used the occasion to demonstrate their support for the Union and advocate for political rights. In the case of white southern memorial observances, the decoration of graves and other mourning rituals provided a non-confrontational means for expressing political resistance to northern occupation. Significantly, it was white southern women who functioned as the principal commemorative agents, as federal authorities prevented southern white men from engaging in public rituals immediately following the war. White women therefore leveraged their traditional roles as caretakers for the dead to political use, a fact that did not go unnoticed by federal officers. Blair's attention to the gendered aspect of public commemoration rituals extends to considering the role of African American women in freedom celebrations and other public occasions. In this case, the presence of black women in public spaces was viewed by whites as a formidable challenge. In contrast to their white counterparts, however, black women occupied public space more openly, both to enhance notions of African American manhood (considered an indispensable element in claiming citizenship) and to demonstrate their keen interest in political matters.With the decline of Radical Reconstruction, emancipation celebrations lost their bi-racial aspect and endured overt hostility from whites. For its part, white southern commemoration moved from surreptitious political messaging to open celebration of the Lost Cause. Here again,Blair's narrative agrees in its main outline with existing scholarship on commemoration in the Gilded Age. However, his attention to memory's use in politics reveals instances when southern whites supported (or at least tolerated) black commemorative events for political purposes. Independent political parties in the South, including the bi-racial coalition in Virginia, provided the political space within which black public commemoration continued to maneuver. As Republicans waffled in supporting African American civil rights, black leadership sought out alternate alliances: the movement was the most promising instance of bi-racial cooperation aimed at challenging elitist white politics. Faced with a potential revolution from below, white Democratic and Conservative supporters initiated a commemorative counterattack, intended to drive a wedge between lower class whites and blacks. From memorializing the exploits of Confederate leaders, white apologists moved to celebrating the heroism (and sacrifice) of the common soldier. On the African American side, the period also witnessed a growing ambivalence towards the memory of slavery, frustration with the Republican Party, and greater assertion that the freedmen had proven their worthiness as citizens and thus should be accorded full rights without delay. Blair concludes optimistically by suggesting the 1880s offered a chance at commemorative harmony, however fleeting. His case in point is Grover Cleveland's first inaugural procession which included a regiment of Confederate veterans garbed in gray followed by a regiment of African American veterans in Union blue.The final period, from the 1890s through 1914, witnessed the growing segregation of southern commemorative practices, and the apparent de-politicization of black commemoration in favor of approaches emphasizing economic self-help. Drawing from Kevin Gaines's study of black political leadership (Uplifting the Race [1996]), Blair points out that instead of a single approach, black freedom celebrations actually ran the gamut from accommodationism to a militant wing advocating electoral independence. In the atmosphere of increasing Jim Crow, lynching, and federal abandonment, black leaders continued to use public commemorations as a vehicle for asserting their political presence and rights. Gradually, however, they adopted Booker T.Washington's vision of racial up lift through economic self-help. On the white side, the 1890s and early 1900s witnessed the triumph of are conciliationist and white-supremacist memory of the war whose tangible markers included federal funds to care for Confederate graves and the acknowledgment, on national commemorative occasions, of Confederate heroism and loyalty. As noted earlier, it is the focus on political particulars rather than ideological content that distinguishes Cities of the Dead. Furthermore, while other recent works have analyzed the politics of memory (see, for instance, Paul Shackel's essay on the faithful slave monument at Harper's Ferry in the work cited below), this is not the same as analyzing memory in politics. The former concerns how politics influences the construction of a particular monument or commemorative event. It is static in the sense that it views the event or monument as the end product of various political forces and tensions. Memory in politics, on the other hand, views the commemorative event as an active force, capable of influencing present and future political outcomes. The commemorative event constitutes a political action in the public sphere. Commemoration as politics and the politics of commemoration are not always easy to separate, and there are places where Blair could have more clearly distinguished between the two effects. But over the course of his study he provides enough detailed accounting of how commemorations performed political work to demonstrate his main argument. However, in the process, Cities of the Dead also resurrects the problem of relating symbolic action to tangible social and political outcomes. We know the linkages exist -- as do political strategists and marketers -- but can we establish with any certainty the political effect of a given symbolic (commemorative) act? The recent work on memory is itself en-meshed in some very compelling present-day contexts. Many of these studies, including Blair's, seek to demonstrate the contingent nature of memory formation. In so doing they join a broader stream in current historical practice aimed at countering mainstream America's continued fascination with the Lost Cause with narratives stressing the Civil War and Reconstruction as struggles for racial justice. Re-covering the memory of the Civil War as a war to end slavery is a crucial academic task. The arguments for memory's contingent nature and political utility are essential underpinnings for this effort. The more clearly we understand how commemorative activities have functioned in the past to influence political out comes, the more effective we can be in the present.

Other recent works include Paul A. Shackel, Memory in Black and White: Race, Commemoration, and the Post-Bellum Landscape (New York: Alta Mira Press, 2003); and W. Fitzhugh Brundage, The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2005); and Kathleen Ann Clark's Defining Moments: African American Commemoration and Political Culture in the South, 1863-1913 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Americas 400th Anniversary

Please check out the latest at Jamestown -- The Queen is coming...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

VHS - New Exhibit - Pocahontas

Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend
February 10, 2007 – June 24, 2007

This exhibition examines the life and legend of one of the most beloved and famous of all Virginians—Pocahontas. Despite the familiarity of the Pocahontas story, many questions remain today about this eye-witness to the convergence of two disparate cultures. It must be remembered that what we know of her has been lifted from the narratives of English males, all of whom brought their particular fantasies and prejudices to bear on their representations of the New World and its people. Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend will evaluate both her life and the jarring interaction between cultures that gave it meaning. Presented during the anniversary year of the founding of Jamestown, the exhibition will feature more than 60 objects, including paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculpture, artifacts, books, manuscripts, broadsides, and sheet music.

Would the Real Pocahontas Please Stand Up?
Matoaka. Rebecka. Pocahontas. She was known by many names in her lifetime. More than 400 years later, she is still an enigma to most—a famous Native Virginian who forged an alliance with the English settlers despite her powerful father's objections. Popular culture has used her image and legacy to market everything from toys to cartoons. It has also left many Americans and Europeans confused as to the real story of Pocahontas.
"For centuries the Pocahontas story has appealed to Americans," says Dr. Robert S. Tilton, co-curator of the exhibition. "She was born into a culture that had some knowledge of Europeans, and after they settled on the outskirts of the territory controlled by her father, she was apparently drawn to the new strangers. A number of the chroniclers of the Jamestown founding mention Pocahontas by name and note her interactions with the English settlers."
A legend would be developed around this Powhatan girl, who perhaps saved John Smith from execution and who would as a young woman be kidnapped as a political pawn, converted to Christianity, married to a settler, and taken to England as an example of the potential of the New World for cultural indoctrination. It was among members of her adopted nation that she took sick and died, at age 22, as she attempted to return to her homeland.
Despite the familiarity of the Pocahontas story, many questions remain today about this eye-witness to the convergence of two disparate cultures. What we know of her has been lifted from the narratives of English males, all of whom brought their particular fantasies and prejudices to bear on their representations of the New World and its people. Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend will evaluate both her life and the jarring interaction between cultures that gave it meaning. The exhibit will attempt to lay to rest such issues as Pocahontas's relationship with John Smith, her effectiveness as a peacemaker (and whether that was her intention), and how she should be remembered.
"The show will also investigate her mythology," adds co-curator Dr. William M. S. Rasmussen. "Over the centuries the Pocahontas narrative has been retold, embellished, and so frequently adapted to contemporary issues that the actual, flesh-and-blood woman has been hidden behind it. The myths tell as much about their creators as about the figure whom they celebrate."
The exhibition will present more than 40 objects, including paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, books, and sheet music. A catalog will accompany the show. The exhibition will be on view at the VHS from February 10 through June 24, 2007. Educational programs include a Gallery Walk conducted by Dr. Rasmussen on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 (noon) and a Banner Lecture Thursday, June 14, 2007 (noon) by Helen Rountree. Visit for more information.
This was the start of Miscegenation (Latin miscere “to mix” + genus “kind”) is the mixing of different ethnicities or races, especially in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations in America. Interracial marriage or interracial dating may be more common term in contemporary usage. But the English word useage has a clear history of ethnocentrism.
Frederick Douglass, second wife Helen Pitts, who was white, and whose daughter Eva, were a 19th century American example of miscegenation. Miscegenation was not un-common in early Dinwiddie County, several early examples can be found. A rather in-famous example would be Armistead Burwell fathering 'Lizzy' the daughter of Agnes, his slave, who gave birth to her daughter in Feb 1818. Later Lizzy was known as Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly or whose last name often mis-spelled Keckley, Lizzy spelled it Keckly. Even earlier examples are known.

Major-General Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott was born on the family estate near the Old Dinwiddie Courthouse, Dinwiddie County, Virginia, on 13 June 1786; attended William and Mary College briefly and studied law in the office of David Robinson.

He enlisted in Petersburg’s cavalry troop, 1807, and became a captain in the regular service, May 1808; received a one-year suspension for open criticism of General James Wilkinson, 1810; served in New Orleans on General Wade Hampton’s staff, 1811–1812; was promoted to lieutenant colonel, July 1812, and colonel, March 1813; served on the Niagara front in the War of 1812, was captured and paroled, then participated in the actions at Fort George, where he was wounded, and Uphold’s Creek; was promoted to brigadier general, March 1814; as a brigade commander, was largely instrumental in American successes in the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane (where he was seriously wounded); for his valor, was brevetted major general, July 1814; supervised the preparation of the Army’s first standard drill regulations and headed a postwar officer retention selection board, 1815; visited Europe to study French military methods, 1815–1816; held regional command in the Division of the North, 1816; married Maria D. Mayo, 1817; was president of the Board of Tactics, 1815, 1821, 1824, and 1826; commanded the Eastern Department, 1825 In 1832 President Andrew Jackson appointed Scott military guardian of federal authority during the nullification controversy in South Carolina. Scott also oversaw the forced removal of the Cherokee from Georgia to the Indian Territory of the West along the "Trail of Tears."

In 1841 Scott was appointed general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, and in 1847, after the beginning of the Mexican War, he was appointed commander of the U.S. forces in Mexico. He led his troops in a series of victories, at Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, and Chapultepec. On September 14, 1847, he occupied the national palace in Mexico City. Scott returned to the United States in 1848, and in 1852 Congress raised his rank to lieutenant general, the first since George Washington. At the start of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Scott was still general-in-chief of the U.S. Army. Scott conceived a long-range strategy to achieve Northern victory. Except for underestimating, by about half, the length of time and number of men it would take to succeed, Scott had sketched the broad strategy the North would use to defeat the South. When Scott retired in November 1861, George B. McClellan took over as general-in-chief. Winfield Scott is appropriately buried at West Point, and the museum there has many wonderful items that were his.