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November 26, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: Norvell Family Cemetery

Norvell Family Cemetery. Courtesy Jeremy Winfrey.

The Norvell family cemetery has been documented and described by Jeremy Winfrey. His post at Find-A-Grave reads as follows:

William Brown Norvell Jr Family cemetery – Sharps Creek, Buckingham County, Va

There are only two stones present, as well as several field stones and obvious depressions. There is evidence of ten graves. Enclosed by an old, fallen, iron fence the area is large enough to support even more burials, although no evidence remains. It sits in a pine stand, and is somewhat overgrown.

The cemetery is situated in the western portion of what was once a rather large tract of Norvell property between present day SR 622 and SR 671. This line of Norvells resided on this tract since approximately 1830. William Brown Norvell Jr resided along Sharps Creek until his death in 1850. On the east side of the property there is an old home which still stands, whose brick portion dates to 1840s. This was the home of Thomas Benton Norvell. It is probable that there was, however, an older home on the west side of the property, ca 1800. William Jr lived on Sharps Creek. By 1850, both William Jr and Sr were deceased, and their property was split up among the heirs. William Jr’s widow and children all received Sharps Creek lands. Thomas B Norvell ultimately took over the 1840 home on the east side of the property about 1865, following the death of his mother. He raised his family there until his death in 1897.

It is important to note that the cemetery is quite far away from the still standing 1840 home, about a 30 minute walk. However, the present day property owner said there were traces of an old structure about 100+ yards away from the cemetery, when his family bought the property in the 1960s. An earlier generation’s home, would explain why Thomas and Mary were buried so far away from their house. William Jr and Elizabeth Toney Norvell probably lived in the home close to the cemetery and are buried there, probably in the two graves in the east corner.

J. Winfrey- 2019


Click here for more about the burials in the William Brown Norvell Jr Family Cemetery.

To read more about the Norvell Family, click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


November 23, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Holiday Gift Ideas

Slate River Press


In need of a gift idea this holiday season? Give the gift of local history!


My newest book, Peter Jefferson’s Snowdon: A History of Settlement at the Horseshoe Bend, is available at Amazon.


Here’s where you can purchase my books (and many others) about Virginia history.

Note: This holiday season hours may be limited or locations temporarily closed. Contact the shop to confirm available titles.


In Virginia

Amherst: Baine’s Books & Coffee (190 2nd Street)

Appomattox: Baine’s Books and Coffee (205 Main Street)

Buckingham: Adams Museum (13016 W. James Anderson Hwy)

Buckingham: Housewright Museum (U.S. Route 60, in the village of Buckingham)

Monticello: Monticello’s Gift Shop

Richmond: The Library of Virginia: The Virginia Shop (800 East Broad Street)

Scottsville: Baine’s Books and Coffee (485 Valley Street)


Shop online

Braughler Books

Read a preview of The Jefferson Brothers at Braughler Books: The Jefferson Brothers: Chapter One

Historic Buckingham Inc.

To order books from Historic Buckingham contact: 434-969-3292 or

Library of Virginia: The Virginia Shop

Monticello’s Book Shop

November 19, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part VI

Emma (Blackwell) and Hay Norvell. Courtesy Carole Jensen.

Need to catch up, click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


Slate River Ramblings follower Carole Jensen sent the following information regarding the next and last generation of Norvells to live in the house, Hay and Emma (Blackwell) Norvell:

This photo, dated April 1952, is of Hay Norvell (1880-1952) and his wife, born Emma Blackwell (1910-1997), standing in front of the “Norvell” home. Hay inherited the house and farm in 1911, after the death of his mother, Mary Evelina Miller Norvell. Hay and Emma were married in 1935. She was much-loved among the Norvell and Baber families. Hay Norvell died about three months after this photo was taken. Widow Emma moved to Richmond and later married Allen Hall Rice.

As an adult, Hay Norvell eschewed full-time farming, employed as a lumberman at a sawmill and as a carpenter. On the 1940 census, possibly retired from woodworking, Hay Norvell’s occupation was listed as farmer.

Hay was one of two children in the Norvell family who experienced a name change, presenting a genealogical challenge.  Carol Jensen shared these details, “Hay’s mother, Mary, changed the names of two of her children. On the 1880 census, Hay first appears as Robert H. Norvell.  Thereafter, he was Hay Booth Norvell.  Bernard Miller Norvell (1892-1981) first appeared on a census as Vincent B. Norvell.”


Since 1963, this Novell property has belonged to the Pruden family. Mrs. Pruden named it Breezy Hill Farm. Their original purchase included 107 acres and the house.


Outbuildings at Breezy Hill Farm. Courtesy Joe Pruden.

This photo, taken about 1965, shows the barn and the corn crib, complete with a classic Buckingham County slate roof. Mr. and Mrs. Pruden are standing on the right and in the center. A friend of Mrs. Pruden is pictured on the left. Years of snow accumulation eventually led to the collapse of both the barn and the corn crib. The remains of the barn was burned about 1999.


Many thanks go to Jeremy Winfrey, Carole Jensen, and Joe Pruden for continuing to investigate and preserve the history of the Norvell house and for sharing their collective knowledge about the Sharps Creek neighborhood to create these posts.

Coming Next: Buckingham County: Norvell Family Cemetery

November 12, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part V

Thomas Norvell Gravestone. Courtesy Jeremy Winfrey.

Need to catch up, click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


Thomas Benton “Tom” Norvell, the son of Averett (Toney) and William Brown Norvell, was a popular man in Buckingham County. His shocking and tragic death was reported in two obituaries in the Appomattox and Buckingham Times. He died on January 22, 1897.

The first article was submitted by “Artificer,” who frequently reported on the Well Water neighborhood:

Mr. Thomas Burton (sic) Norvell, one of the most prominent citizens of Buckingham county, residing near Sharon church, killed himself Friday the 22nd instant, with the razor cutting his throat from ear to ear and [ultimately ?] severing his head from his body. It is not known what caused him to commit the rash act. He was a successful farmer in good circumstances; was about 50 years old and leaves a wife and a large family of children to mourn his death. ARTIFICER.

The second was a reprint from the “News,” likely the Lynchburg newspaper:

Mr. Thomas Benton Novell (sic), a well-known and one of the most valued and popular citizens of Buckingham county committed suicide Friday. It is said that he walked out late that afternoon to the barn, and when found, about an hour afterward, he was dead, with his throat cut from ear to ear. He was lying in his barn, and a razor, with which the deed is supposed to have been done, near him.

Mr. Novell was about 54 years of age, and was an easy circumstances. He had a most delightful family consisting of a wife and six children, all of which seemed to be a great comfort to him; and for this reason the act caused great astonishment to his numerous friends. — News.

Mary Evelina Miller Norvell. Courtesy Carole Jensen.

Norvell’s widow, Mary Evelina (Miller) Norvell (1846-1919), long outlived her husband, rearing her large family in this house. In 1907, she applied for a Confederate widow’s pension. The application gave Thomas Norvell’s cause of death as suicide, with no further explanation.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part VI

November 5, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part IV

Norvell Family, c. 1897. Courtesy Carole Jensen.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


“Norvell House” owner Thomas Baber was a carpenter and it is believed that he worked on the house built by John L. Harris at Snowden, located at the Horseshoe Bend in Buckingham County, Virginia. On the 1850 census, Baber was enumerated with Harris, living at the plantation. Both men were bachelors, possibly residing in the soon-to-be or recently finished house.

According to Slate River Rambling follower Jeremy Winfrey, in 1867, Thomas Baber (born about 1811) married Judith Elizabeth Thomas (born about 1824), who was the widow of William Henry Baber. Thomas Baber died in Buckingham County on April 26, 1888. The death record gives his age as 84, his wife’s name as Judy, and his occupation as merchant.

Winfrey also shared that there is an old lock in the Norvell house with a patent date of 1869, likely installed by Thomas Baber. Between 1869 and 1873, Baber was taxed on the land and a dwelling valued at $600.

“Newman vs Baber,” a chancery case heard during 1872-73, reveals that Thomas Baber defaulted on payments for the property, which was confiscated by the Commissioner and sold to Thomas B. Norvell. The adjacent land to the west and north of the tract was already owned by Norvell. At the time, Norvell operated a store and held a liquor license. Jeremy Winfrey believes it was likely J. J. Newton’s old store.

From 1874 until his death in 1897, these 60 acres owned by Thomas Norvell, plus the dwelling, were taxed at about $500.  According to Winfrey, the Norvell family called the farm Spreading Oak.

Currently, it is unclear who was responsible for expanding the house with the wood frame addition, though, it was probably completed before 1890. Winfrey wrote, “This corresponds with Thomas Norvell’s improvements, taxed in 1887, which increased the value by a couple hundred dollars.”

Thomas B. Norvell, who had twelve children (nine survived to adulthood), certainly needed the extra space. Ultimately, the house was over 2,000 square feet, not including the basement area. Did Thomas Norvell hire carpenter Thomas Baber to do the work?

Norvell House floor plan. Courtesy Joe Pruden.


Visit this post to learn more details about the Thomas B. Norvell family pictured here:

Buckingham Mystery: The Norvell House, Part II

For much more about the house at Snowden, consult my article, “The Dwelling House At Snowden:

A Virginia Historical Inventory Case Study,” Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part V

October 29, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part III

Inscribed bricks, Norvell House. Courtesy Joe Pruden.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


In 1846, John Wilmerton Chambers sold the property to his neighbor, William Steger, who then sold the sixty acres and the house to John Jackson Newton in 1852.

According to Jeremy Winfrey, “John J. Newton was a merchant who operated a store on Spreading Oak Road, which, at the time, was the major thoroughfare from Scottsville to the courthouse.”

Additionally, Winfrey believes that the store was adjacent a sixty-seven acre tract owned jointly by my cousins, Thomas Meredith Agee and Thomas Moseley Agee. Thomas Meredith Agee was stepfather to my great-great grandfather, John T. L. Woodson. Thomas Moseley Agee was the brother of Woodson’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Agee) Woodson Agee. Surely they frequented Newton’s store. Unfortunately, there is no trace left of the building today.

As Jeremy Winfrey’s work reveals, the Sharps Creek neighborhood was not only home to my extended Harris family but also served as a crossroads for my Chambers and Agee families. No wonder they all intermarried!


In the brick section of the house, near a second story window, there are two bricks — one with “G.E.N.” etched into it and the other with “S. E. N.”

Winfrey believes that “G.E.N.” was Newton’s son, George Edwin Newton, born about 1840. In 1862, G. E. Newton died in the battle of Gaines Mill, age twenty-two.

“S. E. N.” is currently a mystery. In 1860, there was neither a son nor a daughter in the Newton household with those initials. Next door, however, lived Sarah E. Norvell, born about 1845. Could she be the mysterious “S. E. N.”?

In 1861, John J. Newton sold the property to a non-resident of Buckingham County, Henry Newman, who immediately sold it to Thomas Baber in 1862.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part IV

October 22, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part II

Norvell House, 2020. Courtesy Jeremy Winfrey.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


Seven years after I first inquired about this house, its history has significantly expanded. In June of 2020, Slate River Ramblings follower Jeremy Winfrey contacted me, writing:

I have been steadily working on the Norvell family properties of the 19th century and have stumbled upon an undeniable fact…. This house was NOT built by the Norvell family and I am presently working on a report which entails the ownership of the property over the years, going back to 1800.

It seems to me, the brick portion of the home was probably built by John Wilmerton Chambers around 1838, when he purchased the property from the affluent land owner Hardin Lewis.

The present owner believes the brick section of the home was built about this time. John W. Chambers probably lived here for about eight years and then, in 1845, moved to Tennessee immediately following his marriage to Mariah Ayres.

I was particularly excited to learn this new information about the probable original builder. John W. Chambers (1815-1877) was the brother of my ancestor, Elizabeth Holman (Chambers) Saunders. Once in Tennessee, he and Mariah (a.k.a. Maria Ann) reared at least ten children.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part III

October 15, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I

Norvell House, c. 2012. Photo by Joanne Yeck.

It all started in January of 2013. . . .

I posted the following, hoping to identify a house I’d seen while driving in Buckingham County, Virginia:

Anyone who has conducted research in Buckingham County knows all about “brick walls” and apparently unsolvable mysteries. From time to time, I will post a photo of a house or an individual or a family in the hopes that someone can make a positive identification of the image. Here’s my first mystery image.

Driving in the general vicinity of Sharps Creek or Diana Mills (I don’t know precisely where I was), I saw this substantial dwelling, complete with requisite Buckingham slate roof. This is my Harris family’s old stomping ground.

Can anyone identify it? If you can identify a family who owned the house at one time (or now), please let me know approximately the decade and century as well as the family surname. Thanks!

This post was followed by two more, relating that the home once belonged to the Norvell family.

To learn more details, click on these two links. Be sure to read the comments.

Buckingham Mystery: The Norvell House

Buckingham Mystery: The Norvell House, Part II


Recently, Slate River Ramblings follower Jeremy Winfrey contacted me with new information about what was once the Norvell home. Take some time to catch up and prepare to read more!

Coming next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part II


October 8, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1857, Part V

 Caroline’s Journal, 1855-1858. Courtesy Bibb Edwards.

Need to catch up?  Click here: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1857, Part I

On July 14, Caroline Littlepage was finally back home at Woodbury in King William County, writing:

Wednesday, 15th July, 1857

We certainly have had more wet weather this summer than ever was known before. – – I find upon investigation that Liv had been a fine housekeeper everything is in complete order. A nice parcel of butter made, & every thing else well attended to. – – He & Hardie find in returning from the oat field this evening that two of the mules are drowned. . . . The mules we judge must have been drowned last Saturday evening after the rain, which came in torrents & swept every thing before it. Carried away whole lines of fence not leaving a rail behind.

Liv is Caroline’s son, Lewis Livingston Littlepage.

On July 16, 1857, Caroline wrote in her journal that the trip to Buckingham County had taken a toll on her: “I don’t think I shall get over my trip for a fortnight. I never suffered so from fatigue of travelling.”


Today, Caroline Littlepage’s 1857 visit to Buckingham County and the Female Institute would take only a few hours by car. She reminds us of the effort that went to such a trip, not to mention the excitement a jar of pickles could generate!


Click here to learn more about what took place during commencement exercises at the Institute: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute, 1854

Also, consult “A Noble Idea: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute,” my book, “At a Place Called Buckingham.”


Many thanks go to Bibb Edwards for creating the wonderful Caroline’s Journal. It continues to be a unique and fascinating resource for those interested in everyday life in 19th-century Virginia!

October 1, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1857, Part IV

James River at New Canton, Buckingham County. Photo by Joanne Yeck.


Need to catch up?  Click here: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1857, Part I

Soon, Caroline and Hardie began the long trip home to Woodbury in King William County, Virginia.

Thursday, 9th July, 1857

The day is very pleasant. We took the stage at eight o’clk for New Canton. Arrived there at eleven & became so tired waiting for the packet that we crossed the river & procured some fishing poles & amused ourselves fishing in the canal. Hardie is quite a nice little escort. We have Miss Gildermeister, one of the teachers, & Miss Carson along with us. The boat arrived at three.

Caroline continued the next day:

Friday, 10th July, 1857

We arrived in Richmond at six o ‘clk took a hack to Mrs. Terry’s, got our breakfasts & shoped (sic) till ten, then took a hack to Mr. Hanes; found all very well & much pleased to see us. Engaged the hackman to come for us on Monday.

On July 11, Caroline was enjoying the company of daughter Mary’s “two sweet interesting children.” Mary was the wife of Garland Hanes, Jr. According to Bibb Edwards, “Her husband’s father was a prosperous farmer, successful Whig politician, and Richmond public official. Garland, Sr. lived at Edgewood, situated just north of Richmond on a road between Brook Turnpike and Meadowbridge Road, today’s Ladies Mile Road.”

Coming Next: Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute 1857, Part V