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November 23, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part V

Courtesy Carl Weaver, Find A Grave.

To catch up, follow this link: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part I

The next name on Jordan’s list is very-well known in, and far beyond, Buckingham County. Alexander J. Bondurant was the son of Thomas Moseley Bondurant, publisher of Richmond’s Whig. By 1870, he had removed to Nelson County, thus, did not remain active in politics in Buckingham. Again, his service for the Confederate States of America, would seem to make him a peculiar entry on Lt. Jordan’s list.

In 1868, Alexander J. Bondurant served the county as a Superintendent for District No. 2.

In March of 1910, his brief obituary was printed in Lynchburg, Virginia. It reads as follows:

 A. J. Bondurant, Lynchburg.

Lynchburg, Va., March 7. — Alexander J. Bondurant, of Buckingham County, Virginia, aged seventy-four, died here today of appendicitis. He served in the civil war in Malone’s brigade, and from 1896 to 1901 was a tobacco expert in Victoria, Australia. Since that time he had been professor of agriculture at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Last year he celebrated his golden wedding, and his wife survives. Among the surviving children are A. L. Bondurant, professor of Latin at Mississippi University, and G. P. Bondurant, an attorney-at-law at Birmingham, Ala.

For much more about this family, put Bondurant in the search box at Slate River Ramblings and enjoy the results.

Coming next: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part V

November 20, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part IV

Courtesy Historic Buckingham

In early 1867, a dozen men were recommended by Lieut. Col. John W. Jordan as fit for leadership in Buckingham County’s new Reconstruction-era government.  Their names are listed here:

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part II

The first name on Jordan’s list was Thomas H. Garnett of Curdsville. In 1877, a Thomas H. Garnett served the county as coroner. Beyond that, at present, his involvement in post-war politics or government remains a mystery. Slate River Ramblings reader, Harry Holman commented:

“Thomas Henry Garnett lived near “Garnett’s Chapel,” on Hooper’s Mountain. The property adjoined my Grandmother Ellie Hooper Holman’s old home where the Hoopers lived since colonial times. This Thomas H. Garnett was born in 1819 as Thomas Henry Garnett, son of Mr. Garnett and Mary Cooke Garnett and grandson of Stephen Cooke, a brother to Mrs. Elizabeth Cooke (Col. George) Hooper of “Hooper’s Mt.” Thomas Henry Garnett married Ann Elizabeth Eldridge, daughter of Thomas Kidder Eldridge and Mary Ayres Eldridge, the daughter of Rev. John Ayres of “Edgehill,” Buckingham County. My grandmother fondly referred to Thomas Henry Garnett’s two children as Uncle Tom and Aunt Polly.”

Harry Holman, believes that Garnett died on September 7, 1906, age eighty-eight. “At that time he was a member of Smyrna Methodist Church and was buried on the western slop of Willis Mt. It was said of him that he was ‘one of the best known and beloved citizens of the county….’”

The second man on Jordon’s list was Thomas Leitch of New Canton, the son of Irish immigrant and wealthy planter, William Leitch. Educated at the University of Virginia, Thomas M. Leitch (1826-1886) was a Lieutenant in the 18th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, making him an odd candidate for one who was “originally opposed to the secession movement and those among them who have in any way given encouragement to the Rebel Cause did it reluctantly and because they were compelled to do it to protect themselves & property.” The family lived at Mt. Ida, near New Canton. In 1880, Thomas Leitch was still living in Buckingham County with his wife, Martha, and nine children. Harry Holman offered these details about Leitch’s life and family:

“Thomas Maurice Leitch (1826-1886) was born the son of William and Mary Ann Langhorne Leitch. Thomas married as his second wife Martha G. Spencer (1839-1892), the daughter of Nathan and Martha Meredith Spencer of Buckingham and granddaughter of Judith Ayres Spencer–eldest child of Col. Nathan Ayres (d. 1822). Among the Leitch children were Mildred Fontaine Leitch, who married John Ayres Gary and lived at “Locust Hill,” on James River across from Columbia. My Grandmother Holman frequently visited her and called her “Cousin Mildred.” Her brother was a distinguished Methodist missionary (educated at Randolph-Macon and Vanderbilt) and principal of a high school in China. He died young–no descendants.”

Click here for more about Mt. Ida.

Next named was J. B. Finklin of New Canton. Thus far, Mr. Finklin is a somewhat elusive character, though, he did enter post-war politics. In 1868, Ficklin served the county as a Superintendent for District No. 5 and, in August of 1879, a brief article in Richmond’s Daily Dispatch mentioned him as a canvasser in the Sixth Congressional District, specifically the Buckingham Senatorial District.

If a Slate River Ramblings reader can expand on the life of J. B. Finklin, please comment below.

Coming next: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part V

November 16, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part III

In early 1867, a dozen men were recommended by Lieut. Col. John W. Jordan as fit for leadership in Buckingham County’s new Reconstruction-era government.  Their names are listed here:

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part II

When the Buckingham County courthouse burned in 1869, records documenting the county’s immediate post-war transition were irreplaceably lost, making Jordan’s recommendations for new public servants all the more valuable.  Whether or not these men ever served their county is another matter.

Census records, historic newspapers, Jeanne Stinson’s abstracts of the county’s “Board of Supervisors minute book 1870–1887,” and other scattered sources offer clues to Buckingham County’s postwar experience.

Following the surrender at Appomattox, in July of 1865, elections were held in Buckingham County. Robert K. Irving continued in his job as County Clerk. Dr. Charles E Davidson, one of the men on Jordan’s list, was elected to join the “Overseers of the Poor.”

On August 22, 1865, a revealing article was printed in Richmond’s Whig entitled, “Virginia. Expressions Of Public Sentiment.” Dr. Davidson, chaired the committee, expressing fidelity to the Federal Government. Buckingham County’s statement read as follows:

Public meeting in Buckingham. — At a meeting of the citizens of Buckingham county, convened at the Court House, on the fifteenth instant, on the motion of Col. W. W. Forbes, Dr. Chas. E. Davidson was called to the chair, and Ro. K. Irving was appointed Secretary.

On the motion of Col. W. W. Forbes, the following preamble and resolutions were submitted, and unanimously adopted, viz:

Whereas, since the surrender of Generals Lee and Johnston, the fidelity of the people of Virginia to their pledges solemnly made to support the Federal Government, is questioned, we therefore adopt this mode of expressing our opinions and vindicating our loyalty.

Resolved, That, as honorable men, we will, in good faith, abide by all the legitimate results of our defeat.

Resolved, That our pledges of fidelity to the State and Federal Governments were honestly made, and will be faithfully observed.

Resolved, That the conduct of President Lincoln and President Johnson since the close of the Rebellion, has been characterized by a spirit of moderation and a laudable desire to adjust conflicting opinions and existing difficulties upon a firm and solid basis.

Resolved, That Governor Pierpont has gained our good opinion by conciliatory deportment, and we cheerfully tender him our thanks for his efforts on behalf of our State, and trust he may speedily affect our restoration to the Union, and full participation in all its advantages.

Resolved, That the foregoing resolutions to be published in the Richmond newspapers, and a copy be forwarded by the Secretary of this meeting to Governor Pierpont.

Ch. E. Davidson, Ch’n.

Ro. K. Irving, Sec’y.

City papers please copy.

Coming next: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part IV

November 13, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part II  

Courtesy Bibb Edwards

In the spring of 1867, Lieut. Col. John W. Jordan provided Gen. Orlando Brown of the Freedman’s Bureau with a list of men, both white and African-American, whom he felt were qualified to lead the Buckingham County through the post-war Reconstruction.

Click here to catch up: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part I

Here are the names he provided:


Thomas H. Garnett, Curdsville

Thomas Leitch, New Canton

J. B. Finklin, New Canton

A. J. Bondurant, Mt. Vinco

John R. Gilliam, New Store

Dr. E. C. [Charles] Davidson, Court House


John Scott, Curdsville

Woodson Washington, Rock Mills

Cesar Perkins, Court House

Solomon Brown, Curdsville

John Stanton, New Canton

Peter Fontaine, New Canton


Lt. Col. Jordan had searched far and wide for evidence that these men been had not been in favor of the secession of Virginia from the Union, that they supported the new freedoms imposed by Federal law, and believed them all to be fit to serve in governmental duties.

Who were the men who made up this diverse list? If a Slate River Ramblings’ reader recognizes any of these names, please comment below.  In the posts that follow, their biographies and their forays into the challenging and evolving public sphere will be explored.

A special thanks to Bibb Edwards for sharing this important document.

Coming next: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part III

November 9, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part I

Courtesy Bibb Edwards

On March 28, 1867, Lt. Col. John W. Jordan, stationed in Farmville, Virginia wrote to Brevet Brigadier General Orlando Brown, the Assistant Commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau in Richmond. Jordan had been instructed by confidential communication to provide a list of “names of white and colored citizens” who were residents of his sub-district, recommending potential Magistrates “acceptable to both classes.” The “classes” being the white and the now free African-American male citizens of Buckingham, Prince Edward, Cumberland, and Charlotte counties. Jordan explained:

They are without exception men of high character and among the most reliable & influential men in the locations in which they reside and enjoy the confidence and [ —] of the communities generally and far as I am able to judge were originally opposed to the secession movement and those among them who have in any way given encouragement to the Rebel Cause did it reluctantly and because they were compelled to do it to protect themselves & property.

This Report has been delayed by reason of the fact that I was obliged to go over a vast deal of territory in order not only to find men who were qualified and acceptable but men who were not clearly disenfranchised. This in connection with the fact that it was extremely difficult to get at satisfactory information concerning their political antecedents without personal interviews in such case has seriously operated against my sweep.

I have no doubt however that these men can be relied upon in any position in which they would be called upon to act officially. As far as I am at this moment able to judge—they are actuated by the kindest feeling toward the freedman and are anxious for this advancement in every respect.

Coming next: Reconstruction in Buckingham County, Part II

November 6, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

 Buckingham Slate: Hollywood Cemetery, Part II

Courtesy The Richmond Dispatch

Over the decades, Buckingham County’s famous slate has often graced buildings located far beyond the constraints of the county.

In 1898, The Richmond Dispatch printed an article about the new mortuary chapel at Hollywood Cemetery, which was topped with Buckingham County slate. The architect was Capt. M. J. Dimmock. Gothic in design, the building was built using James River granite. For more details about the “new” chapel, click and enlarge the image above.

Also visit: Buckingham Slate: Hollywood Cemetery


November 2, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

 Buckingham Literary Academy: Part II

Traveler’s Rest, Courtesy Richard L. Nicholas

Click here to catch up: Buckingham Literary Academy: Part I

In 1960, Lulie Patteson introduced readers of The Daily Progress to Buckingham County’s Literary Academy, founded by Welshman William Evans. She described the membership:

One meeting at Traveller’s Rest calls the role for Yancey, Bolling, Patteson, Cabell, Shepard, Robinson, Eldridge and Howell.

The club was organized for discussions of current topics of interest, poem composition, etc. Political discussions were abolished because one such debate almost had broken up the club.

There seems to have been no prizes awarded for good poems or prose other than the honor of having the group listen to the recital and sharing in the public dinner.

Evans kept the minutes, copying into the records the winning poems and prose compositions. Meetings were held at various places — Curdsville, Warminster and Maysville, for example.

Evans died in 1840 and is buried in the old Merioneth Cemetery. He was a brilliant man of sharp wit. Long after his death his satirical remarks were much quoted and the not–to–sympathetic jokers would mimic his one-sided walk caused by a wound at Germantown.

This Evans family devotion to literature filtered down to William Evans’ grandson, Dr. George W. Bagby, whose lyrical and humorous sketches entertained readers for decades.

For much more about Dr. Bagby, consult “At a Place called Buckingham,” Volume Two.


October 30, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Literary Academy: Part I

Photo by Lulie Patteson. Courtesy Daily Progress and University of Virginia

Stories about Arvonia and the Welsh settlement in Buckingham County are always popular at Slate River Ramblings. In 1960, Buckingham County historian Lulie Patteson shared some of that history with Charlottesville’s Daily Progress in an article entitled “Welshman Organized First Buckingham Cultural Group.” Miss Patteson opened in her typical evocative style:

Those who remember Richard Llewellyn’s book, “How Green Was My Valley,” will recall the passionate devotion of the Welsh people to singing and reciting poems.

Buckingham County has benefited from these gracious Welsh assets.

The first benefit was from the Buckingham Literary Academy, the first of the cultural organizations in the county, which was conceived and set in motion at Merioneth by William Evans, a Welshman.

Miss Patteson went on to explain that William Evans’ father settled in Pennsylvania before the Revolutionary War. William moved southward, lived in Augusta County, Virginia and, for his service during the war, received several thousand acres of land in Ohio and the land grant in Buckingham County at the southern end of Willis Mountain. There he built his home, which he called Merioneth, remembering his ancestral home in Wales. Patteson continued:

William Evans was a great reader. He constantly had the newest and best books sent to him from England. This passion for cultural reading was the genesis of the first self-improvement organization in Buckingham.

This club, or Academy as they designated it, seems to have had a small membership, if we are to depend on the scraps of minutes from their meetings.

Coming next: Buckingham Literary Academy: Part II

October 26, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Lucy Scruggs, Part V

Lucy Scruggs, Death Record

Click here to catch up: Buckingham Notables: Lucy Scruggs, Part I

Slate River Ramblings’ readers have been charmed by Lucy Scruggs’ life story, including Tom Almquist, who quickly produced her death certificate after reading Part IV.

In it, we learn that Lucy lived to be 110, dying in Prince Edward County, Virginia on March 4, 1964.  What a life she led!  Humble as it was, the former slave ultimately owned her own home outside of Arvonia.

Prior to her death, she was taken from Buckingham County to Southside Hospital in Farmville, where she died of a heart attack. The doctor noted that she had 1st degree burns on both legs. Did she fall near the fireplace, precipitating her death?

Her parents were given as Lou and Jim Reese.  Her deceased husband as Lee Scruggs.  Her son, Oscar, provided the details for the death record and she was buried in Highway Mission Holliness Church cemetery in Buckingham County.

A long and thoughtful life was laid to rest.  How fortunate that Boyce Loving and The Daily Progress preserved her story for us to discover nearly sixty years later.

Many thanks to Tom Almquist and to Phil James for sharing Lucy’s interview.

October 23, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Lucy Scruggs, Part IV

Lee Scruggs, Death Record

Click here to catch up: Buckingham Notables: Lucy Scruggs, Part I


In 1958, Lucy (Reese) Scruggs was the subject of a touching profile in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.  Boyce Loving honored the former slave who was soon to be 104 years old.

In the interview, Lucy Scruggs was quick to admit that her life had been hard and she would not like to live it over again. While her emancipation from slavery had improved things a little, she felt her life had not improved significantly. She had lived through the first and second World Wars, and hoped never to see another. During the Civil War she had struggled to “keep body and soul together,” food and clothing being scarce.

She did not care for modern times. Automobiles were “all right,” however, she showed no great enthusiasm for riding in them. She enjoyed church services and listening to hymns on the radio, though, regular radio programming was of no interest to her. She had never gone to a motion picture theater and had no plans to do so.

She recalled with amusement, her innocent youth:

She said a rainbow appeared in the sky and her mother told her that, if she went to the foot of the rainbow, she would find a pot of gold. She said she started out on a run and “I run till they had to come and hunt for me,” she concluded. At this, she threw back her head and laughed, “fit to kill.”

In recent years her white neighbors have been “mighty good” to her, Aunt Lucy said. She mentioned Mrs. Mildred Beazeley, at whose home this interview took place, and Mrs. Mamie Childress, of Bremo Bluff. She said they had given her food, brought her wood, sewed for her, and performed other acts of kindness.

Aunt Lucy has the gentility and good breeding of another age and is “quality.” It was a pleasant experience to chat with her and to hear her give a first-hand narration of conditions and incidents about one ordinarily only can read. The writer’s parting wish was that “the Lord’ll let” Aunt Lucy live till Christmas morning—and far beyond that date. She is a credit to her race (or any race, for that matter) and her community will suffer a real loss when “she joins the saints,” as she hopes to do. Aunt Lucy is one of the fast vanishing tribe, the more’s the pity. God bless her.

It is good to know that Lucy Scruggs had kind neighbors and devoted children. To date her death record remains elusive. There’s a good chance, though, that she lived until Christmas Day in 1958.