Enthusiasm for the people, places, and events of Buckingham County just keeps expanding. Its history never grows old, always waiting patiently for a new generation to discover.
A few readers of Slate River Ramblings have already ordered multiple copies of “At a Place Called Buckingham” to give as gifts this holiday season. What a great idea! Thank you!
Here’s a brief summary of its contents:
“At a Place Called Buckingham” . . . Historic Sketches of Buckingham County, Virginia covers 250 years of history in central Virginia. In a dozen engaging essays, historian Joanne Yeck recounts important events in Buckingham County beginning with its formation, through the American Revolution and the Civil War, and beyond the Great Depression. Local heroes and heroines spring to life, revealing the tenacity, intelligence, and ingenuity of Buckingham’s people. New material gleaned from county records, 19th century newspapers, and numerous private collections offers a fresh look at Buckingham’s past. The result is a rich tapestry, which interweaves well-known figures and historical moments with little known tales of hard times and personal triumphs.
Click this link to order: “At a Place Called Buckingham”
If you are in Buckingham County, copies are available at Historic Buckingham, signed by the author.
If you are in Albemarle County, copies are available at Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
Axtell Academy, Courtesy Historic Buckingham
Thanks to the great-granddaughter and great nieces of Meta (Logan) Cabell, the mystery of the origins of Mrs. Cabell’s Library is solved.
The collection of over 3,000 books, donated to the Buckingham County Library c. 1898, came from Axtell Academy, established by Meta’s father, General T.M. Logan, who likely provided the books for the school library.
According to The Courthouse Burned (Book II), by Margaret A. Pennington and Lorna S. Scott, Axtell Academy was located at the Logan farm, Algoma, near Howardsville. The Academy building was completed in 1892. Professor Irving Sale, a graduate of the University of Virginia, taught the basics, as well as Latin and French. His wife taught music, drama, and some of the elementary subjects. The first commencement was held on June 3, 1893.
An article in Charlottesville’s The Daily Progress (September 1, 1960) proclaimed: “Axtell Academy once showplace of early education in Buckingham.” The Academy’s glory was, however, apparently fairly short-lived and Meta (Logan) Cabell donated its library to Buckingham County c. 1898.
Still to be solved: When Polk Miller gave his benefit concert (November 12, 1901) for the Buckingham County Library, where was the library housing Mrs. Cabell’s gift?
Polk Miller (1844-1913)
Mark Twain was quoted as saying, “I think that Polk Miller, and his wonderful four, is about the only thing this country can furnish that is originally and utterly American.”
Polk Miller was born James A. Miller (1844-1913) at Green Lawn, the Miller plantation near Burkeville, is just across the Nottoway County line in Prince Edward County. In the early 20th century, he toured both North and South with what was called “An evening of story and song on Old Time Down South.” Accompanied by a dignified quartet of African American men, Miller’s one-man show included stories, sketches, and songs.
Publicity claimed that his act was “Absolutely Unique. The Only Entertainment Of Its Kind Before The Public.” Wherever he went, Polk Miller drew a large crowd. Undoubtedly his benefit performance for the Buckingham County Library on Friday, May 3, 1901 was no exception.
I have yet to find a notice of his appearance in Buckingham County; however, there is evidence that Miller raised funds for other libraries, including Richmond’s Library Fund Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church. On November 12, 1901, he performed at the YMCA Hall raising money for the Richmond library. General admission was $.25. Reserved seats cost $.50.
Liberty Hall, Nelson County, Courtesy Small Special Collections, University of Virginia
Recently, a cousin sent an intriguing fragment of Buckingham County history, a brief mention in the Appomattox and Buckingham Times, printed on May 1, 1901. It said simply this:
About three years ago Mrs. Hartley Cabell (nee Logan) presented the village of Buckingham with a magnificent library of several thousand volumes – and the Library Association continues to add new books from time to time. Next Friday Night Polk Miller will give an entertainment in the Courthouse for the benefit of this library.
A little research and help from Coz. Harry Holman revealed that the generous donor was probably Mrs. Joseph Hartwell Cabell, nee Margaret “Meta” Polk Logan. In 1900, the couple lived in Cincinnati, Ohio where Mr. Cabell worked as an attorney.
Many questions raised by this notice are yet to be answered.
Which Cabell family had amassed this impressive collection?
Did the volumes come from Joseph Hartwell Cabell’s homeplace in Nelson County, Liberty Hall?
Why were the books given away c. 1898?
Where was this magnificent library to be housed in the village of Buckingham?
Can any Slate River Ramblings reader offer more clues?
Many thanks to Coz. Mary Eleanor for sending the clipping from the Appomattox and Buckingham Times.
Coming next: Polk Miller and His Negro Quartette
Shaft mining in central Virginia, c. 1865 (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine)
On July 14, 1838, a letter to the Editor ran in the Washington D.C. newspaper, Madisonian, for the Country. It was in response to “extracts from the New York Gazette, on the subject of Gold Mines in Virginia.” The letter discusses several Buckingham County gold mines which were active in 1838 and was signed, simply, BUCKINGHAM.
The Booker mine went into the hands of a company in the fall of 1836, and some thirty or forty thousand dollars were expended in preparation of machinery upon a very large scale, (to be propelled by two steam engines,) and in sinking a shaft, which was unfortunately located and failed. But this plan was changed last fall – a cheaper one adopted – and machinery, propelled by one of the Engineers, has been recently put to work. The vein has been opened some fifty feet deep, and their prospects appear very flattering. The vein is large and the ore productive. The machinery consists of stamps and washers, which the superintendent is increasing in number, with full confidence, it is said, of producing an abundance of good ore, and making the establishment very profitable. There is little doubt that the Company will realize a handsome profit, with proper management, notwithstanding the expenses incurred, delay, &c.
For fifty-six years William Emmett McCraw (1846-1920) was a deeply involved member of Enon Baptist Church, long-time superintendent of the Sunday School, and for forty years Clerk of the church. He died on May 23, 1920.
On May 29th, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a lengthy obituary for Emmett McCraw of Buckingham County, a rare tribute to a man from a rural county. It read, in part:
William Emmett McCraw, the youngest son of Cary Harrison McCraw and Mary Gilliam, was born at “Elysian Grove,” in Buckingham County, on April 20, 1846. At the age of 16 he became a volunteer in the Confederate army, serving with Company K, Fourth Virginia Calvary, and although a mere boy, he was known among his comrades as one of the bravest and most daring of Stuart’s men. He was twice wounded, but as soon as he could lay aside his crutches he set out to fill again his place in the ranks, only to be turned back by the news of Lee’s surrender. During the dark days of Reconstruction he met his difficulties like the soldier that he was and began to build a bright future on the saddened past.
In his early twenties he was married to his boyhood sweetheart, Miss Bettie Gilliam, of Buckingham also, and through the years of the their long and happy life the love which began in school days seemed only to grow and ripen as they fought the battle of life together. Before the end came this mutual affection had approximated perfection as nearly as is possible for a human emotion. Upon his children he lavished the love and devotion of which only a self-sacrificing nature, such as his, is capable. To the guest in his home he displayed always the hospitality of an old Virginia gentleman. Besides his widow he is survived by five children, Richard Miller McCraw, Edward Cary McCraw, Mrs. N. W. Kuykendall and Misses Bessie Edmonia and Louise Harrison McCraw. . . .
But it was in his church associations that he was able to render his most definite service to the God to whom he had consecrated his life. For fifty-six years he was a member of Enon Baptist Church, for a long period superintendent of the Sunday school, and for forty years clerk of the church. Always willing to bear more than his share of the burdens, and in every other way living the faith which he professed he set an example for his associates of Christian purity and fidelity. It was not strange that as he was nearing the end he should have had no fear of death. . . .
Before I discovered Buckingham County, for years, I wrote about Classic Hollywood.
In the 2013 issue of the Magazine of Albemarle County History, I had the extraordinary opportunity to combine my love of the movies with a story about central Virginia in the article, “Hollywood Comes to Howardsville: The Making of Virginia (1941).” It begins:
In 1940, Hollywood motion pictures shot on location were relatively rare. Most movies were made on studio sound stages, on studio back lots, or filmed outdoors at studio-owned ranches in the greater Los Angeles area. The majority of releases during that period were also shot in black and white. Technicolor films were comparatively expensive, the three-strip Technicolor cameras were unwieldy, and film processing was proprietarily controlled by the Technicolor company. At that time, to combine an on-location shoot with color film was even rarer. Thus, in 1940, when Paramount Pictures decided to shoot Virginia on location, transporting cast, crew, and Technicolor cameras to faraway, rural Albemarle County, Virginia, it broke significant new ground.
Hollywood’s invasion of the rather sleepy James River town of Howardsville was not without challenge and mishap. The lovely Madeline Carroll captured many a heart in Albemarle County and Fred MacMurray proved to be just a regular guy who liked to go fishing.
Errors happen and “Hollywood Comes to Howardsville” is no exception. For many details in the article, I relied on the work of Alan Bruns, one-time reporter for The Daily Progress. Spell check can be a blessing and a curse. In the article, regrettably, the letters in his name were transposed to “Burns.”
For more about Alan Bruns, please see Ruth Klippstein’s article, “A Different View,” in the June 2011 issue of Scottsville Monthly.
If you are not currently a member of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, you can purchase the 2013 issue online: Magazine of Albemarle County History