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The Clarke County chancery causes, 1838-1912, have now been indexed, conserved, and digitized. They are freely accessible to researchers via the Chancery Records Index (CRI).

Clarke County is the ninety-ninth Virginia locality to have its historic chancery causes made accessible digitally through the CRI.

These equity suits help document Clarke County’s economic and social development from its creation into the early 20th century. In the court documents, researchers will find information on land and business ownership, the construction of railroads and turnpikes, the leadership of religious organizations, and documentation of familial and communal connections and dissolutions.

Clarke County Courthouse

Some of those family ties stretch across oceans, like the ones referenced in the cause styled Admr. Of Lucy M. Clayton vs. Evelyn Byrd Nelson Page &etc., 1890-033. The case involves the estate of Coryndon Carpenter (1731-1776), an attorney and mayor of Launceston, Cornwall, in England. The bill of complaint included extensive genealogical notes describing the connection between the British Carpenter family and the Dixon family of Gloucester County, Virginia, through various generations. Weaving a twisting tale of burned county records, marriages without children, unhelpful solicitors, and a Gordian knot of English estate law, the complainant lays out their claim to the estate. This decades-long saga is a genealogist’s dream.

The chancery causes also include historical information about Clarke County’s Black community. John Alexander & wife vs. Heirs of Brister (Bristoe) Holmes, 1893-019, is a suit involving the heirs of Brister (Bristoe) Holmes, a formerly enslaved man credited with establishing the Bristow community, one of nearly 20 villages in Clarke County settled by newly emancipated Black residents after the Civil War. A plat filed as part of a contract dispute denotes another African American community in Clarke County. The map, filed in George C. Ricamore vs. Berryville Land & Improvement Co. &etc, 1894-023, shows Josephine City along with the lands of the Berryville Land & Improvement Co.

Broadside advertising sale of Grey Buck, Jr. from case file 1896-022.

Traces of Clarke County’s long agricultural history are also referenced in the chancery causes. For example, both W. W. Hutchinson vs. Exx. of William Clagett, etc., 1903-022 and Daniel T. Wood, Creditor  vs. Widow of John B. Larue &etc., 1896-022, discuss the sale of valuable horses with names like Nelly Alpine, Signet Girl, and Grey Buck, Jr.

The processing and scanning of the Clarke County chancery causes, 1838-1912, was made possible 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.

Vince Brooks

Local Records Program Manager

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