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March 27, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part II

Courtesy Wikipedia.

In 1840, when Mr. Rives was fêted at Buckingham Courthouse after a long absence, Buckingham County’s Whigs were enthralled.  The letter to the Richmond Whig continued:

Mr. Rives proceeded, after dinner, in the most masterly and splendid effort of his life. He triumphantly vindicated himself from the imputations of treason and apostasy. He arraigned the Administration at the bar of the country, reviewed its policy, and, with a mighty and unsparing hand, unveiled its corruptions. It was the spear of Ithuriel disclosing the naked deformity of a fiend. He then reviewed the military and civic character of General Harrison (Martin Van Buren’s opposition), and hurled back, with indignant eloquence, the foul slanders and false charges which the minions of power had heaped upon his head. He fortified his position from the records of his country’s history – the testimony of Shelby and Perry, of Richard M. Johnson and Thomas Ritchie. It would be idle to attempt to give an outline of this admirable speech, the delivery of which enchained the unfaltering attention of nearly one thousand people for the space of five hours. After Mr. Rives had concluded, amid thunders of applause, Colo. Edmund W. Hubard, (the Democrat candidate for Congress against Mr. Hill,) who was an attentive listener, and stood close by, as if with the design to reply, arose for that purpose. . . .

If a five-hour speech was not enough, the correspondent from Buckingham County went on and on, praising the day’s worthy host, N. H. Thorton. Many toasts were drunk by Col. Thomas M. Bondurant presiding, assisted by Col. Reuben B. Patteson, George H. Matthews, Esq. and Col. Thomas H. Flood, who were the Vice Presidents of the Committee.

After rapturous applause with which one toast was received, Mr. Rives rose and offer the following sentiment:

The People of Buckingham: Republican by nature, Republican by tradition – They will prove their continuing Republicanism by voting, in November next, for the Republican candidate for presidency, William H. Harrison.

For more about Edmund W. Hubard, a frequent subject at Slate River Ramblings click here:

Buckingham Notables: Edmund Wilcox Hubard.

For part one of this letter, click here: Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part I

March 23, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part I

Courtesy Wikipedia.



On July 11, 1840, Richmond’s The Whig printed special correspondence from Buckingham County describing a festival held in honor of Mr. Rives. It is a reminder of the fact that Administrations in Washington, D.C. can be “mentally agitating.” Nothing is new.







Pursuant an invitation tendered to Mr. Rives by the opponents of the present administration in this country (Martin Van Buren), to accept of a Public Dinner, and address them on those great political questions which are now agitating the minds of the whole People, that distinguished gentleman arrived here on the evening of the 12th instant. He was immediately waited upon by the Committee, and many others, who are desirous of an introduction. The 13th being Court day was the day appointed for the festival. Upwards of twenty years had elapsed since he had been permitted to mingle with his fellow citizens in this County, and great eagerness was manifested by all parties to see and hear one whose name was so widely extended, and whose political independence has rendered him the object of such unsparing and malignant persecution.

                The Court House being thought insufficient to hold the assemblage who were expected to be present on the occasion, a spacious awning was erected in the public square. At an early hour in the morning, crowds of people from all parts of the county, and numbers from distant and adjoining counties, began to pour into the village and by 11 o’clock, the concourse was swelled to one thousand or fifteen hundred anxious and excited expectants. The signs of the morning promised an unfavorable day – the sky being covered with clouds, and the air being oppressive and sultry. At the hour of eleven, Mr. Reeves was accompanied to the stand by the Committee, and commenced his remarks in a beautiful and feeling manner, to an attentive and breathless audience. He had not spoken long, before a violent storm rendered farther (sic) speaking under the awning impracticable, and the crowd rushed into the Court House to hear the conclusion of his address. It was quite insufficient, however, to contain the audience, and when the rain had ceased, the people were again invited to the awning. After having spoken on for some time, the ringing of the bells announced that dinner was ready – and a proposition was made and acceded to for postponing further discussion until the dinner was over. Notwithstanding these embarrassing and successive interruptions, so well calculated to confuse the mind and damp the ardor of the speaker, Mr. Reeves seem to redouble his exertions, and rise higher and higher at each succeeding struggle of his genius. All sympathized with the situation of the speaker, but all admired the increasing energy with which he met and conquered all these obstacles – which, to say the truth, were by far the most serious he met with during the day.

Visit Encyclopedia Virginia to learn more about Judge Alexander Rives.

Coming Next: Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part II

March 21, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Virginia Women in History: Louise Harrison McCraw

Library of Virginia. Photo by Joanne L. Yeck.  Slate Floor by Buckingham County.

If you are in the Richmond area on March 30th, I encourage you to attend this year’s celebration of Virginia Women in History. Buckingham County’s own Louise Harrison McCraw (1893–1975) will be one of the honorees.

The author of a dozen inspirational novels and co-founder of Richmond’s Braille Circulating Library, Louise’s work touched thousands, inspiring the blind and the sighted alike.

You can read more about Louise and her work in this month’s Buckingham Beacon.  If you aren’t able to pick up a copy, you can download a PDF at Fluvanna Review.

The award ceremony and reception will take place on Thursday evening, March 30th, at the Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad Street, Richmond.  There is no charge for the event.  Visit the Library’s website for detailed information:  Virginia Women in History.

For more about Louise Harrison McCraw at Slate River Ramblings:

Buckingham Notables: Louise Harrison McCraw (includes a list of her novels)

You can also learn much more about Louise Harrison McCraw and her “Life of Service” in my book, “At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two (Slate River Press, 2015).




March 20, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: Cow-Pox


In 1801, a Dr. Walker of Buckingham County advertised in the Virginia Argus alerting the citizens of Buckingham County that he was ready to inoculate with cow-pox:

Doct. Walker
Will commence inoculation at his Hospital in the county of Buckingham, on the 1st May, with the
Vaccine or Cow-Pox,

a disease that is so very slight, that it has caused many to doubt whether it is an antidote to the small-pox or not – the testimony from Europe in its favor has caused it to be adopted in many parts of America, and where its power has been put to the test by experiments, it has been found sufficient to prevent the body from smallpox, but to remove all doubt, sufficient trials will be made at the hospital before 1st May, for the purpose of giving– demonstration to the skeptical.
April 9, 1801.

It is quite probable that this Dr. Walker is the same physician who treated Randolph Jefferson at Snowden when he suffered from kidney stones. On August 18, 1801, Randolph Jefferson’s daughter, Nancy, was among the family members inoculated against small pox at Monticello. That day, her little cousins, Ellen and Cornelia Randolph were also treated. Former Snowden slaves, Ben and Cary, were inoculated as well, along with several members of the Hemings family.

For more about Randolph Jefferson, his family, and the lives of his slaves: The Jefferson Brothers.

March 16, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

The Courthouse Burned: Deed Book 1 (1869)

Lands of John M. Harris.  Photo by Joanne L. Yeck


Many nuggets of Buckingham County gold can be unearthed if you dig deep enough.

After the courthouse burned in 1869, many wills and deeds were re-recorded, including a deed originally made in 1856 by my ancestor, Col. John M. Harris, in the new Deed Book #1.

THIS DEED made and entered into this 13th day of November in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-six between Jno M. Harris and Harriet C. his wife of the county of Buckingham of the one part and Henry St. Geo. Harris of the County of Albemarle of the other part, all of the state of Virginia, Witness: that for and in consideration of the sum of sixteen thousand dollars, payable as follows . . . do grant unto that said Harris, all their rights, title, interest and claim, in and to a certain tract of land in the county, adjoining the lands of Ro. Bolling, his old place, Skyler Thomas, Geo. A. Scruggs, Est., E. G. Jefferson, James Harris and Dr. L. Bolling, containing nine hundred acres. . . .

For me, this deed rerecorded on September 13, 1869, is priceless Buckingham gold.

If you are looking for information about Buckingham County families prior to the courthouse fire, be sure to look into the new deed and will books beginning in 1869.

March 13, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

The Great Fresh of 1771

Virginia Gazette_masthead


In May 1771, a “Great Fresh” swept through Virginia. The flooding throughout the colony was devastating; however, the damage was highly selective.  On June 6, 1771, the Virginia Gazette reported:

. . . From the Mountains, to the Falls, the low Grounds have been swept of almost every Thing valuable; and the Soil is so much injured that it is thought not to be of Half its former Value, and a great Part is entirely ruined. . . . Appomattox has been little or Nothing affected, which proves that the Rains must have fallen high up the Country. . . . The Devastation on Roanoke is, if possible, still greater; in the Ruin of valuable Lands, Lots of Negroes, Stocks, Houses, &c.

The farms located at Buckingham County’s Horseshoe Bend, including Randolph Jefferson’s Snowden, did not escape the devastation. Today, in Scottsville’s canal basin museum, a monument stands to the town’s flood history, noting that at the Horseshoe Bend the river’s normal level is 4.6 feet. Dramatically etched at the bottom of the brick and slate tower is the following inscription:




Not long after the flood, Snowden’s immediate neighbor, Thomas Ballow, advertised the sale of his 1,000-acre farm on the James River in the September 12, 1771 issue of the Virginia Gazette, in which Ballow noted that the “Land [was] but little hurt by the late fresh.”  Did Ballow downplay the damage done or was his side of the river “little hurt”?

To be Sold by the Subscriber, in Buckingham County:

ONE THOUSAND ACRES OF LAND Lying on James River, and joining the Lands of Colonel Robert Bolling, at the Seven Islands. There is a Plantation in the low Ground that will work about eight Hands, with a very fine Apple Orchard, and the Land but little hurt by the late Fresh. About the same Quantity of Woodland on the River, not cleared.  For Terms apply to the Subscriber, living on the Premises, who will show the Land to any Person desirous of purchasing the same.


Ultimately, Thomas Ballow did not leave the Horseshoe Bend, remaining until his death on April 2, 1784.

The following year, Anthony Murray, Ballow’s neighbor at Buckingham County’s Horsebend, sold 60 barren acres of land to neighbor, Hardin Perkins. The property contained a demolished mill.  While it is unknown whether or not the Fresh of 1771 destroyed the mill, the coincidence of the date of sale suggests rising waters that year were the cause.  Mills were particularly vulnerable to flooding.  On May 26, 1771, the rushing waters of the Rivanna destroyed the Peter Jefferson-built mill at Shadwell. Thomas Jefferson called it, “the greatest flood ever known in Virginia.” That spring, the future squire of Snowden, fifteen-year-old Randolph Jefferson, was likely at Shadwell, helping with damage there. Any loss and resultant mess at Snowden, in Buckingham County, was probably the headache of the overseer.

For much more about life at Snowden, consult The Jefferson Brothers.



March 9, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Colonization of Buckingham County



On March 5, 1874, The Farmville Mercury, printed the following essay concerning the attractions and bounty of Buckingham County. Following the Civil War, many young men (and women) of intelligence and strength were leaving Buckingham County, looking elsewhere for their futures. Promoting the county’s riches was never more necessary, although, the hoped-for, east-west railroad would not become one of its assets.

Colonization in Buckingham.

The following report was read before the “Southside Virginia Board of Settlers,” at its meeting held in Chase City, on 2nd inst:

We, the undersigned, members of the Buckingham County Standing Committee of the Southside Board of Settlers, offer the following account of this county, and the multitudinous inducements it possesses to intending settlers to locate here:

                The county has bounded on the north by Jas. River, (having a frontage 70 miles long on the canal running parallel with this river,) on the south by the Appomattox River, on the east by the county of Cumberland.

                It is for the most part a rolling country, was almost all varieties of soil – deep red Clay, Sandy and chocolate loans, and in the neighborhood of the Court House, and north of it and almost black soil, which is considered inexhaustible, the soft hornblende rocks becoming disintegrated by the action of the frost, adds new life to the soil annually. The valley of the James River is considered second to no land in this country in richness and in productiveness.

                The Willis River, a tributary of the James, runs through the county, and on this stream will be found lands of first-rate quality. No portion of the world can be found more uniformly supplied with the natural advantages than this county. Minerals of all classes abound in large quantities. – Before the war several gold mines were in operation here, paying extremely well; also copper and Slate mines, the latter beating the world at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. Iron and coal predominate as minerals, and are found in profuse abundance here.

                Charters for two railroads through the county have been granted, and are expected to be put under contract speedily. One will be a continuation of the greatest of Virginia’s (or America’s should we say,) commercial arteries, “Chesapeake & Ohio,” running from west to east through the center of the county. The other, the Farmville & Charlottesville Road, running due north and south, so that very few portions of the county can be far removed from railway communications.

                This is a par excellance clover and grass region. An English settler asserts that he has grown larger crops here than he ever saw in England, where the land he is to farm their cost £4 sterling rental per annum.

                Heavy dark shipping tobacco is our staple crop. Wheat pays well for growing, if properly manured and cultivated. The soil is favorable to its growth. Maysville, our county town, has a population of 400 – in color about equally divided.

                In conclusion, we, as settlers, are pleased with the county and people and can recommend old Buckingham strongly to industrious and enterprising immigrants. Men of large capital would find very mines of wealth here, while the sturdy yeoman can get enough and to spare.

(Signed) J.W. HEBDITCH;

Eng. Chairman of Committee.


March 7, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Virginia Women in History: Louise Harrison McCraw



This month, Buckingham Notable Louise Harrison McCraw will be posthumously honored by the Library of Virginia as one of 2017’s Virginia Women in History.


Louise Harrison McCraw (1893–1975) was born in Buckingham County at the McCraw homeplace, The Pines, near Andersonville. From the age of five, Louise knew she wanted to be a writer. In 1911, she graduated from the Woman’s College of Richmond with a Bachelor of Letters degree. By 1920, she was a Grammar School teacher in Buckingham McCraw_Louise Harrisonand, sometime before 1925, Louise returned to Richmond where she and her sister, Elizabeth “Bessie” McCraw (1888–1941), lived in a boarding house on Park Ave. in the city’s Fan District. Bessie worked as a hospital nurse and Louise became a librarian.

As co-founder of Richmond’s Braille Circulating Library and the author of a dozen inspirational novels, Louise positively impacted thousands of people during her lifetime and left a legacy of service that deserves recognition.

You can read more about her in this month’s Buckingham Beacon.  If you aren’t able to pick up a copy, you can download a PDF at Fluvanna Review.

The award ceremony and reception will take place on Thursday evening, March 30th, at the Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad Street, Richmond. There is no charge for the event.  Visit the Library’s website for detailed information:

Virginia Women in History.

This post at Slate River includes a short biography and a list of the novels of Louise Harrison McCraw:

Buckingham Notables: Louise Harrison McCraw

You can also learn much more about Louise Harrison McCraw and her “Life of Service” in my book:

“At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two (Slate River Press, 2015).



March 6, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Humor


The following humor piece ran in The Farmville Mercury (published 1873-1881), on March 5, 1874.


They are strong, staunch, steady, stayed, stout, strapping, swift, spry, spruce, sprightly, smiling, smart, spirited, spunky, shiny, showy, sparkling, spicy, supportive, superlative, slightly, suitable, serviceable, well made, sized and shaped man, with steps free from strain, sprain, spavin, secretion, or sickness of any sort.


They are spur-galled, star-footed, string-halted, slight-carcassed, saddle-backed, shell-toothed, short-winded, slab-sided men, they slip, start, stop, shake, shackle, strike, and stop in stall or stable.

                The above description was repeated to me by the inimitable Sam, the famous Buckingham joker. Thinking it might be relished by the public I send it to your paper. Mr. Jas. S. Garnett who claims to be the originator of the above is a man of brilliant wit, and has always on hand an endless fund of admirable jokes; he was a gallant soldier, and lost a limb at “Cedar Mountain.” The old man would not consent to my sending his description to print unless I suggested that it might be the means whereby he could procure himself a wife, an article of house furniture he has been craving for, these many years. His face beamed up while I spoke, and he said, “You just put at the end of that thar piece if any middle aged female, who owns a yoke of oxen, in her own right, and wants Sam, all she has to do is to signify the same in a few lines directed to Gravel Hill, and she can git the original sure.”


Sent from “Saratoga,” on February 12, 1874.


“Saratoga” was owned by the Hubard family.

If a Slate River ramblings reader knows more about Mr. James S. “Sam” Garnett, please comment.

Interested in reading more in The Farmville Mercury?

Visit: Virginia Chronicles at the Library of Virginia




March 2, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: 1910


In the days when correspondents provided the news of Buckingham County to The Farmville Herald the often diverse tidbits both informed and amused. These were printed in the May 20, 1910 issue of the newspaper.

From Sheppards.

                Buckingham has six automobiles to Prince Edward’s three. And I heard it said that the two prettiest girls at the Normal [School] were Buckingham girls. So we can crow a little over Prince Edward even if you do beat us in some respects. . . .

                The new macadam road is alright throughout, and we feel when we drive over it that we are “almost persuaded” to wish we lived in Prince Edward.

From Buckingham [Court House].

                Strawberries and strawberry ice cream are the delicacies of the season and there is a bountiful of both, though the winter has been most too cold for one to want ice.

                Some garden truck was stung by the two frosts we had last week. . . .

                Our Arvonia people want a $10,000 high school building, and they are amply able to have it if they go to work about it in the right way. . . .

                The girlfriends of the Buckingham baseball team helped them in an entertainment here on the 10th and they made quite a neat sum to be spent in outfits for the ballplayers.