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February 22, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: The Winter of 1872, Part III

Rev Caesar Perkins. Courtesy E. Renée Ingram and Charles W. White, Sr.


Click here for Buckingham County: The Winter of 1872, Part I

When M. B. D. wrote his letter to Richmond’s Whig in December of 1872, he strove to balance his condemnation of some irresponsible men with the steadfastness of others. His dislike for Radical Republican Frank Moss was shared by many, however, his criticism of Rev. Caesar Perkins is a bit surprising. His letter concluded:

About the Crops.

                Notwithstanding the exceeding unfavorableness of the year for all manner of crops, they have not been injured to anything like the extent which was anticipated. Two colored men, James Clark and Ben Moseley, renting land from William Merry Perkins, Esq., working two yoke of oxen, made ninety barrels of corn, several hogsheads of tobacco and other crops, oats, etc. George Shepard and Zach Griffin are two other names from the colored ranks to be placed on a roll of honor as men farming in a farmer-like manner, and living as worthy, upright citizens, supporting their families in independence “laying up something for a rainy day.” How different are these men from Frank Moss (“Hippopotamos”) and Caesar Perkins, of whom it is said that the brutal insolence of the one and the fawning duplicity other, have set them apart as objects of scorn and contempt of all well minded persons

M. B. D.

Click for more about Frank Moss.

Click here for a series of posts about the widely respected accomplishments of Caesar Perkins.


February 19, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Happy Presidents Day

Even though today’s holiday remembers the combined birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the folks at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello are celebrating too.

Haven’t read The Jefferson Brothers?
You can buy a copy online and support Monticello. Visit the Book Store.

If you shop before February 23rd, you can save 20% off purchases totally $125 or more.

February 19, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: The Winter of 1872, Part II

Click here for Buckingham County: The Winter of 1872, Part I

In December 1872, Richmond’s Whig printed a letter from Buckingham County, M. B. D.  Following a description of lasting drought, the author (whose education included that ability to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet) condemned irresponsible black men, whom he saw abandon their families to winter’s cruel winds.

Winter In The Country.

     Big log fires are very comfortable, and in this well-wooded country they cost little but the trouble of making. Still, they do not answer for clothing or glass and shattered windows. They will not rehang a door swagging on broken hinges, or daub a wall “to expel the Winter’s flaw.” Nor, yet, answer for food for the hungry, nor medicine for the sick, and families there are about the country who know and suffer these privations. In many cases this is the result of the most abject laziness, but instances have come within my observation of negroes who have left their families destitute of food and clothing (and in some cases almost without shelter) and have gone off to the railroads, from whence they only return to vote for some Radical office-seeker and hurry back to the railroad again, perhaps leaving a few dollars to be expended in frippery at some auction stand on court days, leaving wretched, ragged children at “home” to starve to death or burned alive in the flames that often consumed their wretched hovels.

In his final comment, M.B.D. names several honorable black men in Buckingham County, while condemning others.

Coming Next: “About the Crops”

February 15, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

 Buckingham County: The Winter of 1872, Part I


In December 1872, Richmond’s Whig printed a letter from a Buckingham County correspondent. It was signed only with the initials M. B. D.  What began as a description of cruel weather during 1872 turned into an opportunity to both criticize and praise black freed man in the county, naming farmers and two men who represented the county in Richmond. The letter’s lengthy title aptly describes the breadth of its author’s focus.

The Winter Drouth—Cold Weather—Negro Improvidence—

Energy of Colored Farmers—Black Radicals

Buckingham C. H., December 12th, 1872.

A rude gauge, constructed on the most primitive plan, but accurate withal, indicates a decrease of nine inches in the rain-fall of the present year, compared with that of last. This test was obtained about the center of this county, and I suppose is about an average of the Southside section embracing at least one hundred square miles. The drouth has continued into the Winter, and the mills dependent on small streams, as a consequence, are all standing still. The little brooks are reduced to silvery threads winding through the sedge fields, and in the forests they are hidden ‘neath the fallen leaves, and are now frozen. The absolute lack of humidity in the atmosphere gives peculiar zest to the cold and adds a considerable percentage to the doctors’ bills for curing frostbite.

In his next statement, our correspondent found that both Man and Nature could be cruel.

Coming Next: “Winter in the County”

February 12, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: Weddings

One hundred years ago, December weddings were extremely popular. On January 4, 1905, the Appomattox and Buckingham Times printed the following about a Buckingham County union:



                Miss Anne B. Rosin and Mr. R. T. Davidson, were quietly married at the bride’s home, “Oakland,” on December 18, [1904]. Rev. W. E. Bullard officiated. Mrs. R. I. Morgan was matron of honor and Mr. R. I. Morgan was best man. The parlor was beautifully decorated with holly, ferns and juniper. Mr. and Mrs. Davidson took the C. & O. train at Dillwyn for their new home in Ashland. Attendants were as follows: Miss Bessie Rosin and Mr. Humphrey Steger, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Morgan, Mr. Charles Rosin, Mr. D. M. Word, Mrs. Shellie Saunders and Mr. Irby Saunders.

                Mr. C. R. Rosin has just returned from the Valley of Virginia where he received a good price for his cattle and his old friends were very glad to see him.

February 8, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham History: William G. Shepard


Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute

Over the twentieth century, several individuals contributed significantly to the history of Buckingham County. Each  had their special interests. Some, including Lulie Patteson and Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki, wrote for daily newspapers. Others, including Rosa Williams and Elizabeth McCraw, focused on places in Buckingham and contributed to the Virginia Historical Inventory.

Another Buckingham historian, William Gamaliel Shepard, published numerous articles in William and Mary Quarterly. Keenly aware of losses due to the Buckingham Courthouse fire, he was particularly interested in preserving the contents of original documents, many of which had survived in his family papers. His multipart article tracing the history of Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute is invaluable. During 1937, Shepard also served as an informant for several Virginia Historical Inventory surveys, again providing details about his family homes and surviving papers.

Like so many other aspects of Buckingham County’s history, the works of these individuals are scattered far and wide, and many are destroyed. But all is not lost! A biographical essay of William Gamaliel Shepard can now be found in “At a Place called Buckingham,” Volume Two.


February 5, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Arvon Presbyterian Church: Burned

Courtesy Arvon Presbyterian Church

Many Slate River Rambling readers may recall that, on January 15, 2009, the Sanctuary of Arvon Presbyterian Church was destroyed by fire. The attached annex was spared major damage. Built in 1885, the church was a Buckingham County treasure.

Fortunately, it has been rebuilt as closely as possible to the original design. On Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012, services were resumed at the church, once again scheduled for the first and third Sundays of each month.

Arvon Presbyterian Church has a wonderful website, which also features histories for Fork Union and Trinity churches. Click here for Arvon Presbyterian Church.

A stunning gallery picturing the fire is also available at the website: Arvon Fire.

Many thanks to Pastor Joe Allmond for getting in touch with Slate River Ramblings and sharing these details.

February 1, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Mrs. Owen John Williams

Courtesy the Daily Progress. Photo by Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki.

In 1959, Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki reported that Mrs. Owen John Williams was the oldest member of Arvon Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Wojnicki’s lengthy article, “Welch quarrymen organized church in Buckingham” (The Daily Progress), concluded with details about Mrs. Williams life. At that time, she had been a member for almost fifty-two years, joining the church when Rev. Plummer F. Jones was pastor. For over forty years, Mrs. Williams taught junior classes in the Sunday School, only taking a break when her sons were born.

Mrs. Williams remembered when the adult Sunday School classes were taught in Welsh. In 1959, Welsh hymnals were still kept in the church.

Born Sarah Louisa File, on December 26, 1872, at Ransons, Buckingham County, Mrs. Williams was a first generation American on her father’s side. Her father came to Virginia from England and her husband, Owen John Williams, emigrated from Wales in 1891. Mr. Williams first worked in Vermont as a slate maker, later moving to Arvonia. The couple was married in 1907 and, from 1928 to 1934, Mr. Williams served as Treasurer of the church. When he died in 1934, Mrs. Williams took over as Treasurer, serving until 1958.

Mrs. Wojnicki also noted that while Mrs. Williams was the oldest member of Arvon Presbyterian Church, her ten-year-old granddaughter, Anne File Williams, was the youngest.

For much more about Arvonia and its slate quarries, search the archives at Slate River Ramblings and enjoy the results.

Special thanks to Phil James for sharing the article from Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.

January 29, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Arvon Presbyterian Church: The Early Years

Courtesy The Daily Progress.

In 1959, Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki described the early years of Arvon Presbyterian Church in her article for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, “Welch quarrymen organized church in Buckingham”:

Arvon Presbyterian Church was constructed on land donated by the Slate Corporation of Edwards and Roberts. Much of the material used in its construction was given by the people of the community.

The Rev. W. H. Wilson became pastor in 1890, a short while before the completion of the new church. The church was dedicated November 23, 1890, by Rev. W. W. Moore, D. D., of the Union Theological Seminary.

A series of pastors followed and, in 1904, Rev. Plummer F. Jones became the regular pastor. Rev. Jones was also an official weather observer. Click here for more Buckingham County: Earthquakes.

Many church records from the early years survive, and as with other churches at that time, members were suspended for infractions such as drunkenness or profanity. Those accused who failed to explain their misconduct were dismissed from the church.

Coming next: Buckingham Notable: Mrs. Owen John Williams

January 25, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

 Founding Arvon Presbyterian Church

Courtesy the Daily Progress. Photo by Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki.

Published in 1959, Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki’s article for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, “Welch Quarrymen Organized Church In Buckingham,” highlighted the history of Arvon Presbyterian Church, as well as its many pastors and its membership.

She noted that the village of Arvon was founded in 1867, at the suggestion of John R. Williams, the Slate manufacturer. It was named in honor of Caernarvon, Wales. Before there was a church, meetings were held at the home of Michael E. Jones. Known as “The Old Castle,” the building was razed in 1958. Initially, services were conducted in Welsh to accommodate the immigrant population. As more villagers spoke English, both languages were used. In the early days, Sunday School meetings were held at boarding houses. John W. Edwards erected a “Brush Arbor” at his home, used for summer gatherings.

Mrs. Wojnicki continued: “About 1880 a community house was built on land given to the village by William Pierce. In this building, religious services were held. The Rev. William S. Thompson, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, preached once a month.”*

Later, Rev. M. B. Lambkin took over as pastor of Trinity and headed a committee assisted by elders W. W. Holman and John W. Risson, who were sent to Arvon to organize the new church. This was accomplished on September 26, 1885 and the first elders were W. G. Edwards (Clerk), William Pierce, John McLave, and Thomas R. Jeffrey. Mrs. Wojnicki went on to list the church’s charter members, including many familiar Arvonia surnames such as Pitts, Jones, Morgan, and Pierce.

Click here for more about “The Old Castle.”

*According to Bob Jeffery, the land was given by his ancestor, Elizabeth Saes Pierce, wife of William Pierce.

Coming next: Arvon Presbyterian Church, The Early Years