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While working on a project involving the Middlesex County Chancery Causes, I noticed a case that was filled with scandal and intrigue.  The case is a divorce suit, Middlesex Chancery Cause 1907-033Andrew Courtney vs. Mary Courtney.  In the suit, both parties accuse the other of adultery.  Andrew claimed his wife ran off to Connecticut with a married man named Beverly Smith.  Mary claimed Andrew was guilty of adultery himself.

She produced as evidence several letters written to her husband by various women, one of which included a lock of hair.  That letter, dated 30 August 1906 from a Miss Ginny Davis, proclaimed “Here is a peice [sic] of my hair look at it and think of me.”

Vintage Valentine's Day card

Ephemera collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

While it is sad to think that some of the love letters that end up in the archives are the result of divorce suits and romance gone wrong in one way or another, it also proves the quest for love is something that is surely timeless.

The Middlesex Chancery Causes, including the above-referenced lock of hair, are available online through the Chancery Records Index on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory site. They are part of the growing list of chancery causes from various localities that have been digitally reformatted and made available through the innovative Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP), a cooperative program between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Court Clerks Association (VCCA), which seeks to preserve the historic records found in Virginia’s circuit courts.


–Mary Dean Carter, Local Records Archival Assistant

Mary Dean Carter

Former Local Records Archival Assistant


  • Craig Kilby says:

    Ohhh, oooh, love hurts. Darn you, now I’ve got Deep Purple stuck in my head for the day. Though this suit is a different time and place, it reminds of the XXX rated suit in the 1660s involving Sheriff Charles Ashton, Rev. Mr. Davis Lindsey and his wife Susanna. Susanna had some serious issues going on, but when she sent a love letter to the county court signed in her own blood, it was just a matter of time before the whole thing came to head. What’s interesting there is how so many other totally unrelated grievances came to put down in ink for all eternity. Accusations of poisoning, debauched drinking parties, and so on. Time really is timeless, isn’t it?

  • Craig Kilby says:

    I meant to add, this was in Northumberland County.

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