On a map, the destinations of my recent CCRP travel appear somewhat scattershot. The 2024FY CCRP grant cycle opened back in August, and a few localities either had not yet been visited or the staff had particular volumes or records they wanted to bring to my attention. So some visits were targeted toward specific items, with the additional goal of examining others while I was there which maximized time, and possibly preempted a visit next year.
I had looked forward to visiting Rappahannock County with Virginia Untold Program Manager Lydia Neuroth in early September. The main purpose of the visit was for Lydia to examine the Free Black Register housed there for possible inclusion in Virginia Untold; upon returning to LVA, Lydia wrote an informative Facebook post with photos of the visit. I had tagged along in order to meet clerk Kaitlin Struckmann and to do reconnaissance for CCRP grant participation, as Rappahannock County had not participated in the grants program since 2008. There were plenty of potential item conservation grant candidates! For this brief visit, I focused on a few cellulose acetate laminated items, including 1830s property books and a volume of bound circuit court papers, as well as a few other non-laminated items.
Early property books are of particular interest because in addition to providing a glimpse of the types of personal property residents owned, they also included tithables, which were taxes on individuals—white males, free men of color, and enslaved people. Early 19th-century property books were often handwritten, while by mid-century, pages were pre-printed.
My next visit involved driving from LVA west toward Charlottesville, and then south to the records room of Circuit Court Clerk Deborah Mozingo in Amherst County. Ms. Mozingo has participated in the CCRP grants program for a number of years, but with many Amherst County records dating from the 1700s, many conservation candidates remain, with varying conservation needs. And, as always, examining volumes brings history to life for me. Will books often contain much more than just wills. Pages of Amherst County Will Book 8 1830-1834 contain detailed, hand-colored plats of divisions of property, boundaries which are marked by trees, creeks, stakes, stumps, or stones. Will books often include results of estate sales in which the purchasers of items, and of people, are also listed–a commonplace occurrence throughout the pre-Civil War South. A page of Amherst County Will Book 10 1838-1841 includes the sale of enslaved persons George, Nelson, Ned, Wiatt, Henry, Reuben, and Betsey and her two (unnamed) children.
The City of Charlottesville Circuit Court was my last visit in September. Clerk Llezelle Dugger and Deputy Clerk David Schmidt were great hosts, as I had not visited there before. Many volumes housed there were in good condition or had been conserved over the years outside of CCRP grant funding. I also accompanied Mr. Schmidt on a short field trip to their offsite storage facility, but my primary focus was in the main records room, where I examined a few volumes with pages that were stripped with tape or otherwise surface-soiled.
One volume of land tax books dating from 1889-1894 was particularly interesting, as it occasionally listed how the property had been acquired, and included notations for persons of color, including a reference to a town lot taxable to Piedmont Industrial Improvement Co., for land on “West Side Lynchburg Road” acquired from “Va Shackelford & children.” The organization, according to one website, “represents a remarkable late 19th century venture in African American real estate investment and community development” in the area. For more information about Piedmont Industrial Improvement Co. see this Storymap created for the Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery and the organization’s entry on CvillePedia.
My travel eased up in October with just two day trips. The first was just north of Richmond to Hanover County to meet with circuit court clerk Frank Hargrove. While the conservation of many items in the Hanover records room and in records rooms around the Commonwealth often involves encapsulation of individual pages, it is sometimes feasible to rebind an item in a deteriorating cover as closely to its original condition as possible. The before and after photos of an 1831-1840 sheriff’s execution book titled “Law Process Book” below shows this. An 1850-1878 execution book soon may be another such conservation candidate.
The second October visit took me slightly northwest of Richmond to Goochland County Circuit Court Clerk Amanda Adams. Goochland has participated in the grants program for several years, but they still have a large number of cellulose acetate laminated volumes and other volumes and records in varying degrees of disrepair. Among record types which have been targeted over the last few grant cycles are 18th– and 19th-century land books, which were all hand-bound in paper covers. Their extensive use over the last 200 or so years is evident!
Loudoun County and Fredericksburg
Two of my last three trips were abbreviated, in the sense that my goal was to examine one particular item. That involved a quick visit to the records rooms of Loudoun County and the City of Fredericksburg, under Circuit Court clerks Gary Clemens and Jeff Small, respectively. Both localities have archivists on staff with strong working knowledge of their historic records: Amy Dobrinen, archivist at Fredericksburg City Circuit Court, and Eric Larson, Historic Records Manager at Loudoun County Circuit Court. As an archivist myself, I always enjoy chatting with each of them about their historic records. Amy brought my attention to a particularly heavily used and tattered deed book and Eric explained the significance of a unique 19th-to-early-20th-century charter book. While at both localities, I made sure I had examined enough materials to select items for the following grant cycle as well as to minimize the need to make another trip.
Rockingham County remained my last regularly-scheduled CCRP visit. Clerk Chaz Haywood was unavailable that day, so I had planned to meet with Deputy Clerk Megan Schoeman, who also serves as archivist and law librarian. After discussing some projects she hoped to work on, she escorted me to the basement where many of their early land tax books are shelved. As we’ve seen, the condition of land tax books can run the gamut, and books in Rockingham County are in need of conservation as well. Several hours later I had examined enough to cover this grant cycle and get a head start on the next one.
And…this concluded my travel for the 2023 calendar year, in preparation for the 2024FY CCRP grant cycle. I’m happy to take a brief hiatus and look forward to next year’s travel. Happy trails!
Road Trip Roundup
Miles traveled: about 1,000
- 9/7 – Rappahannock County, (Washington, 90, est. 1833 from Culpeper County)
- 9/20 – Amherst County (Amherst, 90, est. 1761)
- 9/21 – Charlottesville City (66, est. 1762, incorporated as a city in 1888)
- 10/25 – Hanover County (16, est. 1720 from New Kent County)
- 10/26 – Goochland County (27, est. 1728 from Henrico County)
- 11/2 – Loudoun County (107, est. 1757 from Fairfax County)
- 11/8 – Rockingham County (100, est. 1778 from Augusta County)
- 11/29 – Fredericksburg City (53, est. 1728; incorporated as a town in 1782 and as a city in 1879)
Oldest record viewed: Amherst County Deed Book A 1761-1765
Virginia landmark: Drumheller’s Orchard – Passing through Nelson County on VA-29 in the fall is also a good time to stop for some apples in Lovingston, south on VA-29 toward Amherst.