My colleague Eddie Woodward has taken the lead for the last two CCRP Records Road Trip installments, so I begin Part One of closing out my 2023 travel with August travels (leaving my remaining visits through November for a later post). For this year’s CCRP blog series, we’ve tried to mention each locality and highlight a volume, item, or situation of particular interest at each one.
My August visits involved only two overnights. First stop: the records room of Clarke County Circuit Court Clerk April Wilkinson in Berryville, Virginia, one of the northernmost of Northern Virginia counties, established in 1836 from Frederick County. The drive up I-95 and VA-17 and the short stint on I-66 are typically busy, but I always feel I can breathe easier once I pass through Delaplane. Soon after, I turn north on Route 255 and 340, and it’s an even more beautiful drive. Once inside the records room, I’m ready to work! Many of Clarke County’s oldest records that needed conservation have already been treated, so I’ve also begun examining other record types there.
While the CCRP does not fund grants for processing loose records, there are certain circumstances in which loose records may be item conservation candidates: if a locality has few volumes remaining to submit for conservation; if the loose records do not require extensive physical or intellectual arrangement requiring the work of an archivist; and if they need to be flattened, cleaned, mended, and deacidified so they can perhaps be made available digitally also.
Although marriage licenses are often popular loose records for item conservation, Clarke County has already flattened and organized theirs satisfactorily, so those may be a more suitable reformatting project. So, I examined a few woodruff drawers’ worth of their earliest bundled, trifold wills and deeds, among which were deeds of emancipation, which are always exciting to find.
I spent the night in nearby Winchester, grabbing a sub sandwich and chips and picnicking at Jim Barnett Park, near Shenandoah University. I liked the area so much that I woke up extra early the next morning to go running before sunup, as it had great paths and disc golf trails.1 That was a perfect way to start my day!
After packing up, I traveled a few miles down the road to neighboring Front Royal to visit Warren County Circuit Court Clerk Angela Moore. She has an ongoing project conserving marriage licenses, but there also were a few other early volumes I recalled from earlier visits that I thought I should take another look at. During what I thought would be a simple examination of early minute books, I noticed three loose leaves tucked in the front cover pocket of one of them. These turned out to be pages 53-58 of a heretofore unknown free Black register. The entries, #213-234, dated between 1856 and 1859.
Where was the rest of this register? Why were these pages here? I browsed through Minute Book C 1853-1861 and part of Minute Book D through 1866, and located the corresponding entries, so I knew there must have been a few more pages beyond p. 58 also missing. Upon returning to LVA I did identify one other leaf in a collection of Warren County records housed here, which happened to be, surprisingly, p. 59-60. Ms. Moore was happy to coordinate with Lydia Neuroth, Program Manager for Virginia Untold, to have each of these leaves scanned and made available digitally in Virginia Untold.
Traffic on the trip back to downtown Richmond from northwestern Virginia can be unpredictable, as I’m usually traveling in mid-to-late afternoon. Sometimes instead of returning down VA-17 and I-95, I instead take Route 522 to Sperryville, 231 to Gordonsville, and then VA-15 to I-64. However, before departing, if I am ever within a few miles of I-66 and the Linden exit, I MUST take the Linden exit and stop at the Apple House and buy one (or a pack of six) apple butter cinnamon donuts.
My first visit there was 25 years ago with family, and although the site has grown, the donuts are still a must-have for any donut lover. And there is extra seating behind the store, near Bigfoot.
One other overnight trip took me to Staunton, where I spent the first day at Staunton City Circuit Court, and the next at Augusta County Circuit Court a few blocks away. I love staying in Staunton because running in the downtown area is beautiful. I always run with my cell phone and often take photos of interesting sites along the way.
The City of Staunton was incorporated as a town in 1801 and as a city in 1871. Most of their volumes that warranted conservation have been treated, including the Free Black Register for the Corporation of Staunton, 1810-1864. Part of my visit involved accepting a temporary transfer of it from clerk Staci Falls so it could be scanned at the Library of Virginia for inclusion in Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative.2 (This was completed quickly, and I returned the volume in November.)
Staunton Circuit Court also has fascinating loose records still housed there, in a secure location, as those may involve more in-depth processing in the future. So, the focus for CCRP item conservation grants this visit was early marriage licenses.
Augusta County dates from 1738 with its government established in 1745. Its original boundaries extended exponentially beyond current boundaries, to include parts of what is now West Virginia, as well as Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.3 Having served as a Superior Court of Chancery for the Staunton District from 1802-1831, with jurisdiction of multiple localities, its records room and basement are brimming with records and volumes, many in need of conservation. Clerk Steven Landes consistently has submitted item conservation grants for these materials.
Fluvanna County Circuit Court in Palmyra was my only day trip in August. Although I typically drive the most direct route there (I-64 West to the Zion Crossroad exit, then south on VA-15), I’ve found the return trip is more peaceful, scenic, and less traffic-laden if I continue south on VA-15, catch Route 6 through Columbia to Goochland, and then hit I-64 into Richmond. (While I’ve never had the time to take advantage of this, at the courthouse I also have parked in the lot near the Palmyra Rail Trail Nature Walk).
In recent years, item conservation here has included an ongoing project conserving and reformatting marriage licenses, but during this visit, clerk Tristana Treadway also wanted to target over 200 well-worn and heavily used aerial photographs which are torn, surface-soiled, and were mended or reinforced years ago in now-yellowing, sticky masking tape. A few photos serve as “thumbnail” indexes to help locate the storage location of the others, but since all are individually stacked on shelf ranges, there is potential for misfiling. Because photographic paper cannot be deacidified, the clerk would like these mended and cleared of tape and surface soil, then digitally reformatted and returned in archival boxes, so that her staff can ensure that they are placed in order, in pH-neutral folders for posterity.
While this wrapped up my trips for August, when the new CCRP grant cycle was announced, I still had more travel to do over the next few months for some localities to prepare for it. Thus, my next post will highlight those visits, and close out this year’s CCRP Records Room Road Trips for me!
Road Trip Roundup
Miles traveled: about 520 miles
- Clarke County (Berryville, est. 1836)
- Warren County (Front Royal, est.1836)
- Fluvanna County (Palmyra, est. 1777)
- Staunton City (Staunton, est. 1761, incorporated as town 1801, incorporated as city 1871)
- Augusta County (Staunton, est. 1738, with government est. 1745 )
Oldest record viewed: Augusta County Deed Book 3, 1750-1751
Soundtrack/Songs: August and Everything After (Counting Crows); Dog Days Are Over (Florence + The Machine); and of course: WNRN—independent music station
Best food: Apple butter cinnamon donuts at The Apple House (Linden, VA)
Virginia landmark: Mary Baldwin College (Staunton, VA)
- On a future visit I might check out the Green Circle Trail system.
- Images for the Staunton Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes, 1810-1864: https://lva.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01LVA_INST/1cgm05i/alma990015686830205756
- For more information on the history of Augusta County and the national and local significance of its records, see: Bari Helms’ 2013 blog post, “Augusta Co. Images All In!” and Greg Crawford’s 2012 blog post, “Augusta Co. Chancery Reveals Pioneer Stories of Western Virginia”
Header Image: A view of a portion of the Augusta County Courthouse basement records room storage. Notice the historic metal Woodruff drawers and roller shelving.