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January 6, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Slate: “The Very Best Quality”

Buckingham_Slate-QuarryCourtesy Historic Buckingham


In my 1/5/13 post I mentioned the ubiquitous Buckingham slate. In the Gazetteer of the United States (1854), Thomas Baldwin reminds the reader that, “Valuable slate quarries have been opened on the bank of Slate River, and iron is found in the county.”  Indeed 1854, was just the beginning of Buckingham County’s reign as the King of Slate.

Unlike Buckingham’s “gold rush,” slate quarrying in the county has been a steady industry for more than 150 years. Buckingham’s slate belt is one of only six in North America with commercial value and runs for approximately five miles along Hunt’s Creek, a tributary of the aptly named Slate River. Beginning in the early 19th century and continuing today, the unfading, blue-black slate, glistening with mica, remains of “the very best quality.” Abundant and practical, in areas of Buckingham close to the quarries, slate was used to roof even the hen houses and the outhouses.

In the 1820s, the Thomas Jefferson-designed Buckingham Courthouse was crowned with it. In the 1830s, the tin-roofed buildings at the University of Virginia (the tin lasted only ten years) were re-roofed with Buckingham slate. In 1851, Edward Sims sent a sample of his quarry’s slate to the London World’s Fair, where it won at least honorable mention. Later, Buckingham slate took first prize at the nation’s Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876, was awarded first prize and a gold medal at the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893, and again won the gold at the St. Louis’ Universal Exposition in 1904.




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  1. Beth Leggieri / May 25 2015 10:25 am

    Joanne (in reference to your reply of last year, May 5, 2014), I would like to identify your Edward Sims as my Edward Sims. My tracking shows the same pattern of activity (Cumberland to Buckingham to Cumberland), specifically Edward Walton Sims (1800-1875) who was found in Ca Ira in 1850, later moving to Missouri taking most of his children with him.

  2. Beth Leggieri / May 5 2014 6:20 pm

    Searching for Edward Sims, a 1948 thesis filed with University of Virginia was located: Dated 4-1-1948, it is entitled “The history of the slate industry in Buckingham County, Virginia” by Laurie Pitts Jones. The PDF is found at:

    Comments and observations will be profoundly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Joanne Yeck / May 5 2014 7:17 pm

      Beth, Many thanks for this link to the 1948 thesis. I look forward to reading it. Joanne

  3. Beth Leggieri / May 5 2014 6:12 pm

    Do you have genealogical sources for Edward Sims?

    • Joanne Yeck / May 5 2014 7:21 pm

      Beth, I do not have genealogical information about Edward Sims. I believe his family is originally from Cumberland County. When he leaves Buckingham, he returns to Cumberland. Joanne

  4. Joanne Yeck / Jan 6 2013 2:32 pm

    You can get more than one award! Can you imagine hauling slate from central Virginia to London in 1851?

  5. Charlene / Jan 6 2013 2:20 pm

    Never knew you could get an award for slate!

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