Saturday, November 21, 2009

Early Artisans & Mechanics of Petersburg Virginia

Just published and now available from
Barne & Noble and

The Early Artisans & Mechanics of Petersburg Virginia, 1607-1860
The Building of a Multi-cultural Maritime Community
by Ronald Roy Seagrave

The Early Artisans Mechanics of Petersburg Virginia is a lavishly illustrated exploration of one of the South’s most historically significant cities. This scholarly yet accessible work examines the story of Petersburg through the records of those who built it—the individual artisans and mechanics that literally made Petersburg what it is today. Here are the enlightening stories and backgrounds of the carpenters, brick-layers, coopers, shoemakers, silversmiths, cabinetmakers, gunsmiths, publishers, bookbinders and so many more, gleaned from newspapers, periodicals, private letters and public records. From the town’s founding in seventeenth century through the American Revolution, Great Fire and Civil War, Petersburg emerges as a uniquely American city—where a stunning range of religions, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels came together to create a vibrant and important community.

The Early Artisans Mechanics is the ultimate historical reference for those interested in Petersburg’s roots, early-American society, or their own ancestry. And it’s a perfect companion for collectors, dealers and auctioneers.

     Seagrave is truly a historian’s historian. Michael D’Antonio, author of A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey and Forever Blue.

     Seagrave is a wonderful researcher, an imaginative scholar, and a person who cares about the neglected field of local history. William C. McDonald, Ph.D., Professor of German, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Virginia
Coverage Image Courtesy, Sumpter Priddy III, Inc.
Antiques & Collectibles, History - Reference & Study, Military History, Reference, United States History

Monday, November 9, 2009

Battersea Foundation

The Progress Index reported...
PETERSBURG - The Battersea Foundation has won a prestigious grant for $150,000 that will be used for the upcoming second phase of restoration at the historic home. The $150,000 grant must be matched by the foundation and will help rebuild the 1768 estate's chimneys, among other things. "The Battersea Foundation was selected as one of two projects in Virginia for the Save America's Treasure's Grant," said Ronald White, a representative from Congressman J. Randy Forbes office. "The preservation of history is one of the most important things in this country." White praised the organization for continuing to grow - now with more than 130 members - and for its new Web site and the array of educational programs the foundation is offering. "We must protect and preserve our future, we are the guardians of history," White said.

The grant announcement was made on Oct. 20 during the Battersea Foundation's annual meeting on the lawn of the historic home. Barbara Moseley, president of the foundation's board of directors, said that Richard Wolbers, an associate professor and art conservator with the University of Delaware, had recently completed some paint reveals inside the house. The reveals will allow the restoration of the original color of paint inside the house and the careful removal of later paints that were added. Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said that Battersea represents a supreme resource that must be cared for. "Architecture is the only form of art where we expect the art object to serve a utilitarian purpose," Kilpatrick said. She added that the foundation must find a way to put the building to good use, but that proper planning must be a part of that. She commended the foundation for starting the process of a strategic plan. "Planning is not just a done and done proposition." The meeting concluded with the presentation of the first annual Vanguard award to the Elmwood Fund, which has made numerous contributions to the Battersea Foundation. Battersea is an important Colonial plantation house that was constructed near the banks of the Appomattox River in 1768 for John Banister, first mayor of Petersburg, a Revolutionary delegate, congressman and framer of the Articles of Confederation. The sectional massing of Battersea displays the neo-Palladian style as popularized in England in the 18th century and embraced in Colonial Virginia.

During the Revolutionary War, British troops occupied the house on more than one occasion.

F.M. Wiggins may be reached at 732-3456, ext. 3254 or

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Candlelight ceremony honors veterans

DINWIDDIE - Among the more than 6,100 graves in Poplar Grove National Cemetery is that of William Montgomery, a member of the 155th Pennsylvania who holds the regrettable distinction of being the last enlisted man killed in Virginia in the Civil War. Much more regrettably, he was far from being the last American to fall in the service of his country.

On Saturday night, National Park Service rangers, volunteers and area residents lit candles on Montgomery's final resting place and all the others at Poplar Grove in tribute to those soldiers and all the other men and women who have served in the nation's Armed Forces.

The fourth annual lighting of luminaries at Poplar Grove in commemoration of Veterans Day drew dozens of volunteers, including Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, to place a white paper bag containing a candle on each grave marker at the 143-year-old cemetery off Vaughan Road.

As twilight fell, the soft glow of the candles emerged in long, neat, curving lines stretching across the grounds, in a solemn act of rekindling of memory and reawakening of gratitude for the nation's defenders.

The names of more than 4,000 of the soldiers interred at Poplar Grove are unknown, but visitors to the Petersburg National Battlefield visitor center recently were offered the opportunity to write names on the bags used for the ceremony, personal tributes to their ancestors or loved ones who served, or are serving, in the military.

As a result, there were reminders of every war America has fought, from "John Lumsden, Virginia Militia, Revolutionary War" to "Cpl. Ben Kopp, Army Ranger, died from wounds in Afghanistan, donated his organs so others could live, True American Hero."

And this testimony to new tragedy closer to home: "Pvt. Francheska Velez, Ft. Hood, TX, 5 Nov. 09. Love, Papo."

At William Montgomery's grave, Park Ranger Tyler Wilson stood in torchlight wearing the flamboyant Zouave uniform of the 155th Pennsylvania as he told visitors the details of Montgomery's death: Near Appomattox Court House, he "received a mortal wound from shrapnel from a Confederate battery that was retreating" on the very day Lee surrendered to Grant.

Other rangers explained how fallen soldiers' bodies were collected for interment during the Civil War, and why so many of those buried at Poplar Grave are unknown, and that among the graves there are more than 300 soldiers of the U.S. Colored Troops, the first African-Americans to serve officially in the nation's military.

Sutherland resident and admitted Civil War buff Robert Whiting and his wife, Nita, were among those who walked between the rows of softly burning lights and listened to the rangers' presentations. He said he had been to Poplar Grove before, in 2003 when three soldiers' bodies that had been discovered by relic hunters were reburied there with full military honors.

Poplar Grove was established as a resting place for the Union dead, and Whiting noted that he had ancestors or relatives who fought on both sides during the Civil War. "This is a very sacred place," he said.

- Michael Buettner may be reached at 722-5155 or

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In First Lady's roots, a Complex Path from Slavery

In First Lady's roots, a Complex Path from SlaveryBy Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Cantor, NY Times, Oct. 7, 2009

In 1850, the master of a South Carolina estate sold a 6-year-old slave girl named Melvinia for $475 and shipped her to a three-slave estate in Georgia. When she was a teenager, she had a child with a white man-an unremarkable event in the sad history of slavery, except that Melvinia and her child's father are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama. The New York Times has uncovered this unknown portion of Michelle's family history. Melvinia's son, Dolphus, migrated to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1888 and co-founded the Trinity Baptist Church, which helped lead the civil-rights movement and still exists today. He died at the age of 91 in 1950, and his obituary appeared in the same issue of The Birmingham World as an article with the historic headline, "U.S. Court Bans Segregation in Diners and Higher Education."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blog on Richmond History

Check out a "new" blog on Richmond history:

The Shockoe Examiner: Blogging the History of Richmond-in-Virginia:

Includes interesting essays and lots of images on all aspects of Richmond history. Visit the site and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hatton Ferry

Hatton Ferry apparently made the Today Show this morning! I didn't see it, but there's now a charming video clip up on MSNBC:

We cannot let the icons of our past disappear like this, else we will have no past to bequeath to future generations.
For more information on the fate of the Hatton Ferry, contact:
Steven Meeks, President
Albemarle/Charlottesville Historical Society
(434) 296-1492

If you’d like to make a donation to save the Hatton Ferry, mail it to:
The Hatton Ferry Fund
c/o Old Dominion National Bank
P.O. Box 321
Scottsville, VA 24590

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

New York Law School Professor Wins $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize
New Haven, Conn — Annette Gordon-Reed, Professor of Law at New York Law School, Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard University, has been selected as the winner of the 2009 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. Gordon-Reed won for her book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton and Company). The prize is awarded by Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. In addition to Gordon-Reed, the other finalists for the prize were Thavolia Glymph for Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press) and Jacqueline Jones for Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers). The $25,000 annual award is the most generous history prize in the field. The prize will be presented to Gordon-Reed at a dinner in New York City in February 2010. This year's finalists were selected from a field of over fifty entries by a jury of scholars that included Robert Bonner (Dartmouth College), Rita Roberts (Scripps College), and Pier Larson (Johns Hopkins University). The winner was selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale University. "In Annette Gordon Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, an enslaved Virginia family is delivered — but not disassociated — from Thomas Jefferson's well-known sexual liaison with Sally Hemings," says Bonner, the 2009 Douglass Prize Jury Chair and Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College. "The book judiciously blends the best of recent slavery scholarship with shrewd commentary on the legal structure of Chesapeake society before and after the American Revolution. Its meticulous account of the mid-eighteenth century intertwining of the black Hemingses and white Wayles families sheds new light on Jefferson's subsequent conjoining with a young female slave who was already his kin by marriage. By exploring those dynamic commitments and evasions that shaped Monticello routines, the path-breaking book provides a testament to the complexity of human relationships within slave societies and to the haphazard possibilities for both intimacy and betrayal." The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books. Previous winners were Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004; Laurent Dubois, 2005; Rebecca J. Scott, 2006; Christopher Leslie Brown, 2007; and Stephanie E. Smallwood, 2008. The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the 19th century. The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, was established in November 1998 through a generous donation by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, especially the chattel slave system and its destruction. The Center seeks to foster an improved understanding of the role of slavery, slave resistance, and abolition in the founding of the modern world by promoting interaction and exchange between scholars, teachers, and public historians through publications, educational outreach, and other programs and events. Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. The Institute serves teachers, students, scholars, and the general public. It helps create history-centered schools, organizes seminars and programs for educators, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, sponsors lectures by eminent historians, and administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in every state through its partnership with Preserve America. The Institute also conducts awards including the Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and George Washington Book Prizes, and offers fellowships for scholars to work in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. The Institute maintains two websites, and the quarterly online journal For further information on Gilder Lehrman Center events and programming, contact the center by phone (203) 432-3339, fax (203) 432-6943, or e-mail

Monday, September 21, 2009

Argall Towne

JAMES CITY — Local archaeologists have discovered Argall Towne, a short-lived village that was the first suburb of nearby Jamestown. The village was started in 1617 by Capt. Samuel Argall, then a colorful lieutenant governor of the colony. It thrived for three years, but his impetuous behavior led many of the settlers to move away to Martin’s Hundred near Carter’s Grove Plantation. Alain Outlaw of Williamsburg-based Archaeological & Cultural Solutions has been searching for the site since 1975. “It’s been a slow process,” said Outlaw, who is also an adjunct professor at Christopher Newport University. For two years, since he got access to the land, his students and volunteers have researched the site. Outlaw won’t pinpoint the locale for fear of relic hunters. The find is important because it represents the first major settlement in James City outside Jamestown, and it provides a key link to how settlers expanded outward from Jamestown. Argall Towne was built on strategically high land that was easily defended, and from that point small farmsteads spread inland. Posted on Friday, September 18, 2009

From October 16 to 18, a celebration and conference commemorating the 400th anniversary of Anglo-America's first coastal fortification -- "Fort Algernoune, 1609: Colonial Virginia's Maritime Rim" -- will take place at Old Point Comfort, the national historic landmark site of present-day Fort Monroe. "Algernoune Fort" was constructed at what's now called Old Point Comfort to guard approaches to Jamestown colony and the Chesapeake Bay. The October event is said to be planned "to consider how the maritime rim of colonial Virginia developed an egalitarian and culturally diverse society different from its Jamestown neighbor." Participants include James Whittenburg, William R. Pullen Chair, Department of History, College of William & Mary; William M. Kelso, Director of Archaeology, Historic Jamestowne Rediscovery Archaeological Project, Preservation Virginia; Ivor Noël Hume, OBE , Research Associate (hon.) Smithsonian Institution; Camilla Townsend, Professor of History, Rutgers University; David Harris Sacks, Richard F. Scholz Professor of History, Reed College; James Horn, Vice President of Research and Historical Interpretation, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; and Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Silver Professor of History, New York University. For more information, please see the links on the left side of the home page at the Web site of the Fort Monroe Authority (officially, that's the "Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority"),

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Below is information about the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond's tour of the 1781 Battle of Petersburg on October 17. Their web site is at, with meeting details at Please contact Bill Welsch with any questions.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION ROUND TABLE OF RICHMOND invites you on a bus tour of The 1781 Battle of Petersburg led and narrated by Dr. James H. Ryan, LTC, USA - Ret. Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 8:30 AM - 4 PM
As the American Revolution drew to a close, Petersburg's strategic location made it the focus of one of the last major battles leading up to the British surrender at Yorktown. We will travel to the British landing site at Hopewell and then follow their advance into Petersburg. We will trace their movements, as well as American counter maneuvers, visiting the locations of the various battlefield actions. After lunch at Eley's BBQ, we will visit Old Blandford Church, where British General William Phillips is buried, and the historic 1768 Battersea House. To reserve a seat, please send the completed attached sheet and a check for $45 per person, payable to ARRT-R to: Woody Childs, 13730 Bradley Bridge Rd, Chesterfield, VA 23838. Direct questions to or 804-755-1809. Seating is limited. You may board the bus in either Richmond or Petersburg. A BBQ lunch at Eley's is included, as well as a copy of Robert P. Davis' booklet "The Battle of Petersburg." The trip goes regardless of weather. Please join us for this unique day.
The 1781 Battle of Petersburg Tour Reservation Form

NAME: ____________________________

ADDRESS: __________________________

PHONE: ___________________________

EMAIL: ____________________________

I WILL BOARD THE BUS AT: RICHMOND: ___ PETERSBURG: ___ Upon receipt, confirmation, boarding locations, and specific details will be emailed to you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alexander Campbell

Thomas Campbell (July 27, 1777 - June 15, 1844) was a Scottish poet chiefly remembered for his sentimental poetry dealing specially with human affairs. He was also one of the initiators of a plan to found what became the University of London. In 1799, he wrote 'The Pleasures of Hope' a traditional 18th century survey in heroic couplets. He also produced several stirring patriotic war songs- Ye Mariners of England, The Soldier's Dream, Hohenlinden and in 1801, The Battle of Baltic.

A rare 1837 full leather copy of The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, including Theodric, and many other poems not contained in any former edition. Published in Philadelphia by J. Crissy, 1837. Bound in full leather with gilt titles, a marbled page block, 182 pages, plus 38 pages of notes. 7 and a half by 4 and a half inches, with marbled endpapers.

Born in Glasgow, Thomas Campbell was the youngest son of Alexander Campbell, of the Campbells of Kirnan, Argyll. His father belonged to a Glasgow firm trading in Petersburg, Virginia, and lost his money in consequence of the American Revolutionary War. Campbell, who was educated at the Glasgow High School and University of Glasgow, won prizes for classics and for verse-writing. He spent the holidays as a tutor in the western Highlands. His poem Glenara and the ballad of Lord Ullin's Daughter owe their origin to a visit to Mull. In May 1797 he went to Edinburgh to attend lectures on law. He supported himself by private teaching and by writing, towards which he was helped by Dr. Robert Anderson, the editor of the British Poets. Among his contemporaries in Edinburgh were Sir Walter Scott, Henry Brougham, Francis Jeffrey, Dr. Thomas Brown, John Leyden and James Grahame. These early days in Edinburgh influenced such works as The Wounded Hussar, The Dirge of Wallace and the Epistle to Three Ladies.

In 1799, six months after the publication of the Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge, The Pleasures of Hope was published. It is a rhetorical and didactic poem in the taste of his time, and owed much to the fact that it dealt with topics near to men's hearts, with the French Revolution, the partition of Poland and with negro slavery. Its success was instantaneous, but Campbell was deficient in energy and perseverance and did not follow it up. He went abroad in June 1800 without any very definite aim, visited Gottlieb Friedrich Klopstock at Hamburg, and made his way to Regensburg, which was taken by the French three days after his arrival. He found refuge in a Scottish monastery. Some of his best lyrics, Hohenlinden, Ye Mariners of England and The Soldier's Dream, belong to his German tour. He spent the winter in Altona, where he met an Irish exile, Anthony McCann, whose history suggested The Exile of Erin.

He had at that time the intention of writing an epic on Edinburgh to be entitled The Queen of the North. On the outbreak of war between Denmark and England he hurried home, the Battle of the Baltic being drafted soon after. At Edinburgh he was introduced to the first Lord Minto, who took him in the next year to London as occasional secretary. In June 1803 appeared a new edition of the Pleasures of Hope, to which some lyrics were added.

In 1803 Campbell married his second cousin, Matilda Sinclair, and settled in London. He was well received in Whig society, especially at Holland House. His prospects, however, were slight when in 1805 he received a government pension of £200. In that year the Campbells removed to Sydenham. Campbell was at this time regularly employed on the Star newspaper, for which he translated the foreign news. In 1809 he published a narrative poem in the Spenserian stanza, Gertrude of Wyoming -- referring to the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania and the Wyoming Valley Massacre -- with which were printed some of his best lyrics. He was slow and fastidious in composition, and the poem suffered from overelaboration. Francis Jeffrey wrote to the author:
"Your timidity or fastidiousness, or some other knavish quality, will not let you give your conceptions glowing, and bold, and powerful, as they present themselves; but you must chasten, and refine, and soften them, forsooth, till half their nature and grandeur is chiselled away from them. Believe me, the world will never know how truly you are a great and original poet till you venture to cast before it some of the rough pearls of your fancy."
In 1812 he delivered a series of lectures on poetry in London at the Royal Institution; and he was urged by Sir Walter Scott to become a candidate for the chair of literature at Edinburgh University. In 1814 he went to Paris, making there the acquaintance of the elder Schlegel, of Baron Cuvier and others. His pecuniary anxieties were relieved in 1815 by a legacy of £4000. He continued to occupy himself with his Specimens of the British Poets, the design of which had been projected years before. The work was published in 1819. It contains on the whole an admirable selection with short lives of the poets, and prefixed to it an essay on poetry containing much valuable criticism. In 1820 he accepted the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine, and in the same year made another tour in Germany.

Four years later appeared his Theodric, a not very successful poem of domestic life. He took an active share in the foundation of the University of London, visiting Berlin to inquire into the German system of education, and making recommendations which were adopted by Lord Brougham. He was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University (1826-1829) in competition against Sir Walter Scott. Campbell retired from the editorship of the New Monthly Magazine in 1830, and a year later made an unsuccessful venture with The Metropolitan Magazine. He had championed the cause of the Poles in The Pleasures of Hope, and the news of the capture of Warsaw by the Russians in 1831 affected him as if it had been the deepest of personal calamities. "Poland preys on my heart night and day," he wrote in one of his letters, and his sympathy found a practical expression in the foundation in London of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland. In 1834 he travelled to Paris and Algiers, where he wrote his Letters from the South (printed 1837). The small production of Campbell may be partly explained by his domestic calamities. His wife died in 1828. Of his two sons, one died in infancy and the other became insane. His own health suffered, and he gradually withdrew from public life. He died at Boulogne in 1844 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Campbell's other works include a Life of Mrs Siddons (1842), and a narrative poem, The Pilgrim of Glencoe (1842). See The Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (3 vols., 1849), edited by William Beattie, M.D.; Literary Reminiscences and Memoirs of Thomas Campbell (1860), by Cyrus Redding; The Complete Poetical Works Of Thomas Campbell (1869); The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell (1875), in the Aldine Edition of the British Poets, edited by the Rev. V. Alfred Hill, with a sketch of the poet's life by William Allingham; and the Oxford Edition of the Complete Works of Thomas Campbell (1908), edited by J. Logie Robertson. See also Thomas Campbell in the Unfamous Scots Series, by J.C. Madden, and a selection by Lewis Campbell (1904) for the Golden Treasury Series.

Jordan's Point

Breast plate recovered from this site.
The sites associated with the early 17th-century settlement known as Jordan’s Journey were located at Jordan’s Point near the confluence of the James and Appomatox rivers in Prince George’s County, Virginia. The property was initially occupied by Weyanoke Indians, one of the groups that formed the Powhatan chiefdom. About 1620, Samuel Jordan, his wife, Cecily, her two daughters, and their adult male servants took up residence at Jordan’s Point; this occupation is probably archaeological site 44PG302. Samuel Jordan died in 1623, and his widow married William Farrar, who moved to Jordan’s Journey. 44PG302 appears to have been abandoned by 1635.

Antiquarians and archaeologists have long maintained an interest in the sites located at Jordan’s Point, especially the Native American occupations. The sites described here concern the early 17th-century European component at Jordan’s Point.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prince George County Regional Heritage Center

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A Prince George County Regional Heritage Center Fundraiser
the First Annual Great Beefsteak Raid Commemorative Steak Dinner
Scott Park
5:00p.m -7:00p.m.
Food prepared by the Disputanta Ruritans.
All proceeds benefit the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center Center.
Tickets on sale, $20.
(804) 863-0212

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tyrone Power -- An Irish Comedian who preformed in Petersburg in 1834

Tyrone Power. Impressions of America during the years 1833, 1834, and 1835. Philadelphia, 1836.,+1834,+and+1835&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=uqn7NhGyXo&sig=NDd7E5V_km7NMWclPzJST8GG5wI&hl=en&ei=ZT2DSu2fAoGxmAfUx5SiDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=petersburg&f=false

William Grattan Tyrone Power (1795 – 17 March 1841), known professionally as Tyrone Power, was an Irish stage actor, comedian, author and theatrical manager.
Born in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford, Ireland to a landed family, he took to the stage achieving prominence throughout the world as an actor and manager. He is said to have purchased the land that would later be occupied by Madison Square Garden, New York shortly before his death at sea when his ship, SS President, sank shortly after departing for England. The lawyer who held the papers could not be found so the Power family were unable to claim right to the property.
He was well known for acting in such Irish-themed plays as Catherine Gore's King O'Neil (1835), his own St. Patrick's Eve (1837), Samuel Lover's Rory O'More (1837) and The White Horse of the Peppers (1838), Anna Marie Hall's The Groves of Blarney (1838), Eugene Macarthy's Charles O'Malley (1838), and Bayle Bernard's His Last Legs (1839) and The Irish Attorney (1840). In his discussion of these works, Richard Allen Cave has argued that Power, both in his acting as well as his choice of plays, sought to rehabilitate the Irishman from the derogatory associations with "stage Irishmen" ("Staging the Irishman" in Acts of Supremacy [1991]).
He had a number of notable descendants by his wife Anne, daughter of John Gilbert Esq. of the Isle of Wight:
Sir William James Murray Tyrone Power[1]1819–1911 Commissary General in Chief of the British Army and Agent-General for New Zealand.
Norah Power m. Dr. Thomas Guthrie
Sir Tyrone Guthrie British theatrical director.
Maurice Henry Anthony O'Reilly Power[1] 1821–1849 initially trained as a barrister but later took up acting.
Frederick Augustus Dobbyn Nugent Power[1] 1823–1896 civil engineer who left a large estate of £197,000 (a minimum of 15.6 million pounds sterling or 28 million US dollars in 2006 terms).
Clara Elizabeth Murray Power[1] (1825-)
Mary Jane Power[1] (1827-)
Harold Littledale Power 1833-1901 actor, wine merchant, mine agent & engineer.
Tyrone Power, Sr. (1869-1931) English-American theatre and silent movie star.
Tyrone Power (1914-1958) American Hollywood star of the 1930s–1950s.
Romina Power b.1951 American-Italian singer and film actress.
Taryn Power b.1953 film actress.
Tyrone Power, Jr. b.1959 American film actor.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Historic Linden Row Inn in Richmond recently completed a full renovation of its largest parlor suite that is named after Richmond preservationist Mary Wingfield Scott. The renovation was managed by Richmond based historic restoration specialist Gable Painter and included a complete restoration of the original wooden floors and crown molding in the suite, along with the installation of new furnishings. It is documented on next week's 30 minute episode of "Restorer Guy" on the TLC channel at 7 pm.

Architectural history buffs will remember that Linden Row, built in the mid nineteenth century, is located in the heart of downtown Richmond. Linden Row represents just one of the many properties in Richmond that Miss Scott saved from the wrecking ball or, in her words, the "bulldozing brotherhood." Local lore has it that Edgar Allan Poe spent time in a garden on the site as a child, and that this inspired his "enchanted garden."

More on Poe can be seen and experienced at the Library of Virginia's outstanding new exhibition, Poe: Man, Myth, or Monster? that runs through December 5, 2009; check out the special site
The land on which Linden Row Inn sits was originally part of a 100 acre tract owned by Thomas Rutherfoord, who amassed a fortune in tobacco, milling and real estate. In 1816, Charles Ellis acquired the eastern end, across from his home on Franklin Street. Ellis used the land as a garden which was known for its beautiful roses, jasmine, and lindens.
In 1811, Elizabeth Poe, an actress performing in a traveling company at the Richmond Theater, became ill and died, leaving two young children orphaned. Mr. and Mrs. John Allan, who raised Edgar Poe, gave him Allan for his middle name. On their return from a five year trip to England, they lived with Mr. Allan's business partner, Charles Ellis. It was in the gardens that Edgar Poe played with the Ellis children. Local legend has it that this was the "enchanted garden" that Poe mentions in his famous poem, "To Helen."
Between 1847 and 1853, the land was purchased by Fleming James, and Samuel and Alexander Rutherfoord, and a row of 10 houses were built. It was named Linden Square after the lindens that adorned the Ellis garden.
Just before and during the Civil War (1853 - 1865), the two most western houses were occupied by D. Lee Powell's school, the Southern Female Institute. From this location, Mrs. Dickinson, one of the pupils, remembered seeing President Davis riding horseback in the morning. A second famous girls school, Mrs. Pegram's school, was operated here from 1856 - 1866 by Virginia Pegram, a widow of General James Pegram, the famous Mexican war hero. From 1895 - 1906, the highly respected school of Miss Virginia Randolph Ellet, now known as St. Catherine's School, was located here. Among the early pupils were Irene Gibson, the Gibson Girl, Irene Langhorn, and Lady Astor, the first female member of British Parliament.
In 1922, two of the original buildings were razed in order to make way for the Medical Arts Building. Mary Wingfield Scott, noted local architectural historian, saved the eight remaining houses from being raised in 1950. In 1980, she later gave them to the Historic Richmond Foundation. At this time, the houses contained a number of offices and apartments.
After acquiring the property, the trustees of Historic Richmond came to the conclusion that both financial and preservation interests would be best served if Linden Row were redeveloped by the private sector with Historic Richmond Foundation guidelines. The proposal for the present Linden Row Inn was accepted since it ensured the retention of original interior features. Some modifications (such as bathrooms) were made to accommodate the 20th century traveler only enhancing its original charm.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

African-American scholar and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct after a confrontation with an officer at his home, according to a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police report.
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct.
According to the report, officers responded to a call Thursday from a woman who said she saw "a man wedging his shoulder into the front door" at Gates' house near the university. The report, obtained by CNN affiliate WCVB-TV, indicates Gates refused to identify himself to a police officer, claiming the officer was a racist.
Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department stated in the report that he told Gates he was investigating a report of a break-in at the residence. According to the report, Gates "opened the front door and exclaimed, 'Why, because I'm a black man in America?' "
Crowley wrote in the report that he warned Gates two times he was becoming disorderly. After Gates continued to yell and accuse him of racial bias, Crowley wrote he arrested Gates for "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space."
A statement by Gates' lawyer and fellow Harvard professor Charles Ogletree said that the incident occurred when Gates returned to his home after a trip to China.
Gates, accompanied by a driver, found the front door damaged.
He entered the house with his key through the rear door. Then, he and and driver were able to force the front door open, Ogletree said in his statement.
The statement was published on the Web site The Root, of which Gates is editor-in-chief.
An officer arrived and told Gates he was investigating a call about a breaking-and-entering at the residence, Ogletree wrote.
Gates identified himself at the officer's request, according to Ogletree.
"He [Gates] turned to walk into the kitchen where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver's license to the officer," Ogletree wrote on The Root.
Ogletree's statement also said that Gates asked Crowley for his name and badge number several times without success.
Then, when Gates followed Crowley to the front door, Crowley said, "Thank you for accommodating my earlier request, and then placed him [Gates] under arrest," Ogletree said.
The Cambridge Police Department would not release any information regarding the incident.
Gates has one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at Harvard University, according to WCVB, and joined the faculty in 1991. He is considered one of the nation's pre-eminent scholars of African-American studies. In 1997, Time magazine placed him on its list of the 25 most influential Americans.

Golden Ball Taverns

Golden Ball Tavern Dig Wraps Up With Many Important New DiscoveriesThe month-long excavation at the former Golden Ball Tavern at Old and Market streets in Old Towne Petersburg is about to wrap up, but a number of important new clues about the city’s early days has recently been revealed.
“The last few days we’ve been focusing on digging outside the walls of the first and second Golden Ball Taverns in an effort to determine the economies and life ways of the people of Petersburg during the 1760 – 1820 period (the years of the first tavern) and the 1820 -1944 (the time period of the second tavern),” said Dr. Chris Stevenson, a Virginia Department of Historic Resources archaeologist who is leading the three-year study.
The have recently unearthed a base to a bowl with the inscription “Success to the King of Prussia,” which was removed from a deeply buried layer in the back yard of the 1764 tavern. This Delftware ceramic was manufactured in the early 16th century to the late 18th century in the Netherlands and England. There are several known plates with this inscription, which were issued by the British to commemorate the 7 Years War (1756-1763), and, therefore, the plate would post-date the end of the war by several years. Stevenson believes this plate may have originated from the British visit to Petersburg in 1781, although he states there is no proof as to how it got here.
Additional findings unearthed earlier this summer include two ceramic pieces that may have once formed an early 1900s soap dish and pieces of English and other European pottery.
The excavators have also been able to extend their digging down into the periods before the first Golden Ball tavern, finding evidence of the earlier habitation by both early Europeans traders and Native Americans. Artifacts from this earlier historic period include pipe stems, which provide an excellent means of dating the site. Native American artifacts, dating back before 1600, include pottery fragments and flakes from stone tools.
“The artifacts found will help us to understand the material culture of early residents of Petersburg,” added Stevenson. “This includes eating habits and where items being used were from, either made here in America or imported from Europe. These artifacts include bones and shells, some of which are burned. They also include ceramics, glass, bone handles, iron, pipe stems, and bricks.”
The professional and volunteer archaeologists are spending the last few days of this summer’s dig also looking for the remains of outbuildings and dependencies to understand more fully how urban dwellers from the Revolutionary period and the 19th and early 20th century were living. Several postholes, a builder’s trench and other possible architectural features have been identified so far.
The three-year project began last summer. This summer more than 25 volunteers from all walks of life are volunteering with the dig from June 17 through July 19. Another month-long excavation at the site next summer will conclude the three-year project.
This summer’s volunteers have come from as far away as New York and Florida to assist on this dig. One young person is working on his Boy Scout Archaeology badge; another young person, an International Baccalaureate student at Prince George High School, is focusing on the Golden Ball Tavern for her yearlong project. Another volunteer is working toward her Master’s degree in anthropology with a focus on historic archaeology. And other volunteers include numerous central Virginia residents and college students.
At the conclusion of this summer’s dig, experts will conduct lab work and research the artifacts. The findings will be put into a presentation that will be used at local academic institutions.
Additionally, Stevenson will give a presentation on the results of the 2009 archaeological dig on November 12, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. at Richard Bland College. Also, on November 14 and 15, 2009 an exhibit on Taverns and Ordinaries, featuring the Golden Ball Tavern, will open at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center.
The property where an 18th-century Golden Ball Tavern once stood and then a later 19th-century one after the first was burned or torn down, has been a parking lot since the mid 20th century. It now belongs to the Historic Petersburg Foundation Inc., a partner in the archaeological project.
This collaborative project is sponsored by the Prince George County Historical Society, Historic Petersburg Foundation, Inc, Richard Bland College, Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the City of Petersburg, with generous funding from The Cameron Foundation.
For more information on the dig, call HPF at (804) 732-2096.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ronald Moring 1947-2009

Moring, Ronald

Quietly, during the afternoon hours of Monday, July 13th, 2009, God reached out and took the hand of his faithful servant Ron and carried him to his heavenly home where he is now fully healed of Metastic Melanoma Cancer. Ronald was the second son of Ruth Shelley and Vernon Moring, born on April 11, 1947 in Petersburg. He was a resident of Petersburg all his life and graduated from the Petersburg School System. An Air Force veteran, he served on active duty (6994 Security Forces) in Turkey and Viet Nam. He retired after 32 years of employment at Honeywell Inc. and then worked for the Bureau of Tourism in Petersburg. Ron was a man of great passions and love of all life. He loved his church, Washington St. United Methodist Church, its history and it’s spiritual and civic commitment. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to walk you through it’s beautiful sanctuary and tell its history. He served his church well. He loved his city. His time at the Tourist Bureau gave him the outlet to let everyone he met know of its history, its revitalization and its promise for greatness. A people person, he never met a stranger. His warmth and ability to communicate made people who had only known him for five minutes tell him their life’s story. Often these people continued to communicate with Ron, and felt as if they had known him, all of their lives as well. He had a great passion for photography, taking hundreds of pictures through out his lifetime. From the beauty of nature to the intrigue of people, he captured on film those things and everything in between. His life was also one of service to all things and people. His kitties he saved bear testament to this. Ron is survived by his wife and companion of 31 years Cheryl Anne Sculthorpe-Moring, his brother, Donald H. Moring and wife Kathy of Prince George. Nephew, Troy Moring and wife Donna, great-niece, Kaley and great-nephew, Brady of Ford, VA. His wife’s parents, Betty and Duke Sculthorpe and family. Also, many cousins and their families, beloved friends and neighbors.

Visitation will be held at J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral home, Petersburg on Thursday July 16th from 6:30 to 9:00pm.

A service of memories and music will take place at Washington St. United Methodist Church at 2:00pm on Friday, July 17th, 2009. Interment will be at Blanford Cemetery at the Moring grave site. Following the burial, all family and friends are invited to return to the church for a time of food and fellowship.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:
Washington St. United Methodist Church Restoration Fund
22 E. Washington St. Petersburg VA 23804
the Petersburg Animal Shelter,
1600 Johnson Rd, Petersburg, VA.

Ron Morning was indeed my friend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Minerva Books Closing in August

Kristy Bell, owner of Minerva Books, the only book store in Petersburg has announced the closing of her bookstore. Stating, "business is all about numbers and demographics. A town with an essentially stagnant population of approximately 32,000 is borderline for a business such as mine to begin with. Factor in the 42% illiteracy rate, disability rates that some sources estimate as high as 40%, and the highest real estate tax rate in the state, and you have a recipe for some frustrating days."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

James Dinsmore (1771, Ireland - 1830, VA) FL 1816/1817 Petersburg, VA

James Dinsmore and John Neilson, master carpenters were renting a cabinet-makers shop from Robert Bolling in Petersburg, Virginia during 1816 until Sept. 1817.

Does anyone have any details on what buildings they may have work on?

Or any details on them during this period. Where did they resided while working there?

Monday, May 18, 2009


Prestwould: Gracious Living on the American Frontier, 1790-1830
Thursday, October 9, 2009 (noon)
By Julian Hudson Banner Lecture Series
Virginia Historical Society

Prestwould Plantation, built at the end of the eighteenth century in a post-revolutionary Georgian style, is located on the bluffs above the Roanoke River near Clarksville, Virginia. Dr. Julian Hudson, the executive director of the Prestwould Foundation, has overseen the restoration of this historic property by leading preservation specialists. His lecture will illustrate the material culture represented by Prestwould, beginning with Sir Peyton and Lady Jean Skipwith and extending down four subsequent generations.
Located at Prestwood Dr, Hwy 15th North Clarksville, Virginia, 23927 (434)-374-8672 Open April 15 through October 31, seven days from 12:30 to 3:30 PM or by appointment, 434-374-8672. Cost: Adult $8, Senior over 65 $6, Child 6-12 $3
Constructed in 1700s, this massive combination Georgian-Federal style house amazingly stayed in the family of Sir Peyton Skipwith and Lady Jean (a cousin of Thomas Jefferson) until 1914 after being inherited by their second son. The interior of the home is best known for its original 18th and 19th century wallpapers, which have been copied in a special collection offered by Scalamandre. Tradition has it that the property, once home to Blue Stone Castle, was won by Sir Skipwith in a three day card game with William Byrd,II, of Westover on the James River.
A substantial African American interpretation exists on the property as well. An intact rare original slave quarters.

Given the strong period relationship with the early artisans and merchants of Petersburg had with supporting this plantation with goods this is an important site to visit. They maintain the largest collection of early period Petersburg crafted furniture. Skipworth sold his crops through Petersburg to England. Lady Jean purchase many of her books and household needs in Petersburg.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Early American Industries Association

The Early American Industries Association
will host a Gathering in the Shenandoah Valley
for all History and Tool EnthusiastsUlster Forge
The Frontier Culture Museum
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Everyone is Invited!
at the
Frontier Culture Museum,
Staunton, VA

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Matoaca Cotton Factory -- Report

Petersburg's Matoaca Cotton Factory

African American Stereotypes and Self-Expression Studied in New Exhibit

African American Stereotypes and Self-Expression Studied in New Exhibit

Virginia Historical Society Explores Images of Blacks Throughout Commonwealth’s History
Richmond, VA—When you think about pictures, portraits, drawings, or paintings of African Americans, have you ever thought about what those depictions convey about the subjects, or about the race as a whole? Can you tell the difference between an image of an African American created by a white person or a black person? Does the artist seem sympathetic, neutral, or demeaning toward the African American(s) depicted?
In The African American Image in Virginia, an exhibition opening at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) on February 1, various media are explored to show how images of blacks have changed throughout Virginia’s history. The nearly fifty images on display–from books, sheet music, newspapers, broadsides, photographs, and works of art—show visitors the way whites and blacks have depicted African Americans.
"This exhibition is about identity," said Dr. Lauranett Lee, VHS curator of African American history. "The images show a changing state and nation. As America has grown over four centuries, the idea of how African Americans present themselves and how they are presented by others has changed and evolved."
Most of the images displayed in the exhibition are by white artists and, with a single exception, men. During the 1700 and 1800s, drawings of individual African Americans tended to be realistic, but when blacks were not depicted as individuals but as generalized representatives, white artists often descended into caricature with demeaning stereotype features ascribed by popular white prejudices.
The African American Image in Virginia also explores the middle ground between portraiture and caricature. Sometimes called "Negro studies," these images by whites had a specific person as the subject, but the individual was unnamed. They were meant to represent a "type" of character. Often these works were sold as souvenirs to northerners, to whom blacks were an exotic feature of southern society, like magnolias or palmettos.
African Americans in Virginia were better able to express themselves artistically after slavery ended. Black churches gained autonomy; black artists received funding and had exhibitions; and black colleges created art departments. Because it was inexpensive photography became a particularly important means of self-representation and community documentation. A photograph of Leonie Holmes in the exhibition illustrates the sense of personal pride and social responsibility blacks felt to "uplift the race" and show upward mobility through education.
"This exhibition is intended to be thought-provoking," said Lee. "We want to help visitors understand what it is that they are seeing and what it means. We want visitors to understand the world in which the image was created, the era and attitudes of that time. Some of the images are degrading, but it is not cruel to show these ugly episodes of our past; if we hide them, we don’t learn. And then how can we grow?"
The African American Image in Virginia will be on display at the Society through December 30, 2009. An online version of the exhibition will showcase over twenty images featured in the physical one and will remain on the VHS website indefinitely. Curator Lauranett Lee will give a gallery walk on Wednesday, February 11 at noon.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), located within walking distance of the VHS, is also presenting an African American exhibition during Black History Month. The art exhibition, on display from February 5 to May 3 at VMFA, focuses on African American work from the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s to the Postmodern experimentation of the late 1990s.
Labor and Leisure: Works by African-American Artists from the Permanent Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will explore the polarities of daily life for American blacks in a variety of media. Included will be art by James VanDerZee (1886–1983), Leslie Garland Bolling (1898–1955), Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), Romare Bearden (1911–1988), Charles White (1918–1979), Lorna Simpson (born 1960) and Willie Cole (born 1955). For more information about Labor and Leisure, visit
"Visitors are fortunate that the VHS and VMFA exhibitions are on display at the same time and are so close," Lee said. "It is important to get different perspectives, and the more opportunities we have to explore these powerful African American images, the more we will understand about our past."

Free Educational Programs for Homeschoolers at the Virginia Historical Society

The Virginia Historical Society is offering special educator-led history presentations for homeschool students. Come early or stay after your program and enjoy the additional exhibitions.

Three one-hour interactive presentations are available Tuesdays and Thursdays in June and July 2009.Programs begin at 2 pm and are appropriate for children of all ages.

Call the Education Department to book your hands-on history program today!Telephone: 804.342.9652Email:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Preservation Pays.

That is the conclusion of an economic study, “Prosperity through Preservation,” released in January 2008 by the Department of Historic Resources. Conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy, in partnership with DHR, the study finds that Virginia’s state rehabilitation tax credit program created nearly $1.6 billion in economic impact in the Commonwealth and supported just under 11,000 jobs since 1997. The study determined that from 1997 through June 2007 rehabilitation state tax credit incentives spurred private investment of nearly $1.5 billion spent restoring more than 1,200 landmark buildings throughout Virginia. Significantly, VCU’s analysis, based on a survey of sponsors of rehabilitation projects, determined that of the nearly $1.5 billion investment, a full $952 million was tied directly to projects for which the state tax credits were identified as an essential driving force. In other words, without the rehabilitation state tax credit program, the projects would never have been undertaken. Read the summary, Prosperity through Preservation.

DHR’s report on Richmond’s historic “Burial Ground for Negroes” (ca. 1750-1816).

DHR’s report on Richmond’s historic “Burial Ground for Negroes” (ca. 1750-1816). DHR has gathered and assessed evidence about the location and probable condition of the former Richmond free black and slave burial ground known as the "Burial Ground for Negroes." The agency has concluded that the preponderance of evidence from available sources indicates that the Burial Ground and gallows are located under the north and south bound lanes of Interstate 95. However, a very small portion of the Burial Ground also may intrude upon a parking lot in Shockoe Bottom now owned by Virginia Commonwealth University. DHR also has concluded that the area likely to contain the Burial Ground has not been damaged by the recent construction of I-95, which deposited between 7-10 feet of fill on an area already covered with 8-10 feet of fill deposited since the middle 19th century. However, unknown 19th-century disturbance could have occurred.

See the slave burial ground report (PDF). (Updated 8-7-08)

Financial Incentives and Opportunities for Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Virginia

Now available: Financial Incentives and Opportunities for Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Virginia: This guide was compiled by DHR's Pam Schenian, an architectural historian and CLG program coordinator in DHR's Tidewater Regional Preservation Office. The 54-page document provides information on preservation funding opportunities that exist from local, state, and national sources. It provides funding options for museums, historic sites, homeowners, neighborhoods, localities, investors, and businesses. For information on DHR-sponsored or managed funds, visit Incentives & Grants.

Virginia Canals and Navigations Society

VCNS 2009 Annual Meeting

The 2009 Annual Meeting of the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society will be held in Richmond from May 22-24, 2009. Please check the VCNS website for developing details. The meeting will highlight the rich canal history in and around Richmond at a time when the West was the Appalachians and the canals were built to open the West.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The City of Petersburg proudly invites you to attend the 228th anniversary of the Reenactment of the 1781 Battle of Petersburg this April 18-19. This is an open event for all Revolutionary War re-enactors and sutlers. Our weekend encampment and re-created battles are held at Battersea, the home of Colonel John Banister, the first mayor of Petersburg and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. While Battersea is not the actual site of the 1781 battlefield, it was utilized by the British troops when they occupied the town in May of 1781.

Any phone inquiries may be placed to the Petersburg Visitor Center,
attention Frances Lilly-800-368-3595.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Crispus Attucks was killed today in 1770 at Boston

Crispus Attucks (c. 1723 – March 5, 1770) was one of five people killed in the Boston Massacre in Boston, Massachusetts.

He has been frequently named as the first martyr of the American Revolution and is the only Boston Massacre victim whose name is commonly remembered. He is regarded as an important and inspirational figure in American history.

Little is known for certain about Attucks beyond his involvement in the massacre. Fragmentary evidence suggests that he may have been of African American and Native American ancestry. In the early 19th century, as the Abolitionist movement gained momentum in Boston, Attucks was lauded as an example of a black American who played a heroic role in the history of the United States.

Because Crispus Attucks may also have had Wampanoag Indian ancestors, his story also holds special significance for many Native Americans.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Civil War Librarian

Please check out this blog

Richmond's Burial Ground

Slaves' History Buried in Asphalt, Maria Glod, Washington Post, October 27, 2008.Barely audible over the whirr of traffic, Duron Chavis offered a prayer as he poured water into the earth at the edge of a parking lot between a train trestle and Interstate 95. "We are here to honor our ancestors," Chavis told a group that encircled him one moonlit night this month. "Unfortunately, African Americans have been separated from our blood. We're disconnected from our languages, disconnected from our culture."For the almost two dozen people gathered here, this nondescript slice of pavement represents a long-hidden heritage. Beneath the blacktop are the graves of slaves and free blacks from the 18th and 19th centuries. The city gallows once stood nearby, where a slave named Gabriel was hanged for planning a revolt. Everyone agrees that the cemetery will be commemorated. But exactly how to do that has led to debate in a city that was once the capital of the Confederacy and still struggles with those ghosts.The state's largest school, Virginia Commonwealth University, bought the parking lot this year and has agreed to carve out a piece of it for a public memorial. But a prominent anthropologist at the College of William & Mary, along with many residents, contends that the graves probably extend beyond the strip that the university is donating. They are leading a movement to identify and reclaim the entire site. "We want all of it," said Dieyah Rasheed, who lives in nearby Henrico County. "It is sacred to me as a black woman. My ancestors were buried there. They were the ones who built Richmond. They were the nurses. They were the maids. They were the field croppers. They deserve some honor and respect." The 250-year-old cemetery, used until about 1816, faded from public memory as the city grew up around it. But several years ago, a local historian stumbled on records of its existence. Gabriel was executed there after a failed 1800 rebellion, and some historians believe he could be buried there. Last year, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) symbolically pardoned Gabriel and said his "quest for freedom was part of a great American legacy." In recent years, the city has made efforts to commemorate the trials and contributions of slaves. The Richmond Slave Trail Commission has created a walking tour from the James River port where slaves arrived, to a slave jail that is being excavated. The trail also includes a slavery reconciliation statue that was unveiled last year.Still, some African Americans note the proliferation of memorials here to the Confederate past. Monument Avenue honors Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. One exception is a statue of black tennis great Arthur Ashe. The drive to preserve the cemetery gained momentum after VCU bought the three-acre downtown lot for $3 million in February. A few months later, as the university took steps to repave the lot and improve its lighting, a small grass-roots protest raised questions about the project's impact on a place of historical interest. Work was halted to allow the state to delve into the land's history.In June, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources concluded that much of the old cemetery and the site of the gallows lay under the interstate and that old records don't define the burial ground's limits. It's unclear how large the cemetery was. But some graves are believed to extend past the highway and into the parking lot, under 10 to 15 feet of fill. The department, drawing on the work of a local historian, also considered the possibility that the graveyard's edges could be defined by a label on an 1810 map that notes "Burial Ground for Negroes." VCU, citing that interpretation, has agreed to turn over a 50- by 200-foot piece of the lot, worth about $350,000, to the city for a memorial.But last month, Michael L. Blakey, director of William and Mary's Institute for Historical Biology, said there was no reason to assume the mapmaker's label encompassed the entire cemetery. Blakey called the estimation of the boundary "implausibly small." He estimated that there could be graves under most, even all, of the parking lot, and recommended digging archaeological trenches, which would not disturb the remains, to determine the cemetery's scope. "If it is important to the community," Blakey said, "there is a way to know the truth about the extent of the burials."VCU officials said they recognize the site's historical and spiritual importance, and that is why they are ceding land for a memorial. But the only practical option is to use the remainder of the lot for student and staff parking because the university is relying on parking fees to pay for the purchase, said Don Gehring, VCU's vice president for government relations and health policy. "We have reached a consensus that this is the most reasonable way to memorialize the site and recognize its significance and at the same time go forward with our purpose for parking," Gehring said. He said VCU would sell the property -- for the $3 million it is paying -- to anyone who wants to preserve the entire site.
Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the historic resources department, said her staff reviewed available records and research to study the cemetery. "Nothing short of archaeology will determine the actual boundaries," she said. "But I don't want to lose sight of the larger goal, which is how best to memorialize the site. The issue is where we go from here to get it right, to honor the people there and to educate the public." She said the department has agreed to work with the Slave Trail Commission to raise money to buy the land. To some in the community, ownership of the land is a much deeper question than who holds the deed. "That land does not belong to Virginia Commonwealth University. It belongs to the black community of this city and this country," Phil Wilayto, a member of the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, a community group pushing for preservation, said this month at a community meeting. "If this was George Washington's mother buried here, it wouldn't be a parking lot. It would be a nice grassy area," said Chavis, of Richmond. "Though we have moved forward, with Obama running for president, there are still these issues that are with us."Richmond's is not the first such cemetery to be rediscovered. Freedmen's Cemetery in Alexandria, which opened in 1864 to bury former slaves, was forgotten for years but is now commemorated with a park. At the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, uncovered in the early 1990s in a construction project, more than 400 skeletons were examined and then reburied at a site that has become a memorial.Blakey, who was scientific director of the excavation and preservation for the New York burial ground, said the decision to excavate and study the Richmond remains should be the community's. Much of the recorded history of slaves was written by owners who considered them property, not people. But the New York graves, Blakey said, offered a glimpse of humanity. "A story is written in things that were placed in the ground," Blakey said. "There is real reverence. Small things matter: the choice that was made to leave a silver earbob in a child's coffin rather than to keep it and use it for the living. That small act has great meaning."Doug Egerton, a Le Moyne College history professor and author of a book about Gabriel, said the slave was 24 when he plotted to win freedom for slaves by seizing the capital and taking Governor James Monroe hostage. A furious storm disrupted his plan and the plot was uncovered. Gabriel stood more than six feet, unusually tall for the time, Egerton said, and his remains could be under the lot."I think in many ways finding the bodies, learning what we can and placing them back with some kind of dignity and honor would be a real signal that Richmond can come together," Egerton said. He noted that there is a statue of George Washington not far from the graveyard. "There's no reason we can't honor Washington on his pedestal, and a mile away honor these people who also fought for freedom."

Michael L. Blakey, a College of William & Mary professor, discusses the site of the burial ground at a community meeting this month in Richmond.
CWL asks, "Who owned the cemetery in 1810?" and can the chain of ownership be documented to 2008? Also, can't a parking lot at a downtown institution of higher education, where parking with limited/controlled access is nearly non-existent, be viewed as equal access to education for descendants of slaves who are enrolled students?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lumpkin's Slave Jail

Upcoming Event at the Virginia Historical Society

Recent discoveries from the archaeological dig at Lumpkin's Slave Jail will be discussed at Virginia Historical Society (VHS).

The 2008 excavation found the site of the notorious jail complex, collected many artifacts, and revealed a number of well preserved features.

On Saturday, February 28, 2009, from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., the community is invited to attend a conference about Richmond's African Americanhistory. Hidden Things Brought to Light: Finding Lumpkin's Jail andLocating the Burial Ground for Negroes takes place at the VHS and is free and open to the public.Speakers at the half-day conference will present recent scholarship ontwo downtown Richmond historical sites, the Burial Ground for Negroes and Lumpkin's Slave Jail, both of which have special importance for the history of African Americans in Virginia.
Speakers include:
  • Jeffrey Ruggles, curator of prints and photographs at the VHS, will speak about the historical background of the Shockoe slavery sites.
  • Matthew R. Laird, Ph.D., historian at The James River Institute for Archaeology, Inc., and principal investigator for the Lumpkin's Slave Jail dig, will discuss recent discoveries from the archaeological site.
  • Dr. Christopher Stevenson, an archaeologist with the Virginia Departmentof Historic Resources, will speak about locating the Burial Ground for Negroes in the present-day landscape.
  • Dr. Lauranett Lee, curator of African American history at the VHS, will moderate the event.
Graham T. Dozier Managing Editor of Publications Virginia Historical Society Post Office address: Box 7311 Richmond, VA 23221 Street address: 428 N. Boulevard Richmond, VA 23220phone: 804.342.9640 fax: 804.342.9697