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January 18, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

The Ladies of the WPA

Buckingham_WPA Sample

From time to time I will quote documents written in the 1930s by two women of Buckingham County: Rosa Garnett (Agee) Williams of Dillwyn and Elizabeth McCraw of Andersonville.  Together, during the mid-to-late 1930s, they wrote approximately 450 reports about a variety of people, places, and things in Buckingham County. Eighty years after their dedicated work, these surveys stand as one of the largest single collections of information about Buckingham’s elusive past.

They worked for the Virginia Historical Inventory (VHI) which was designed to document the state’s quickly vanishing past, particularly everyday buildings built before 1860. Funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and created under the umbrella of the Virginia Writers’ Project, VHI field workers across Virginia conducted interviews, photographed a wide variety of structures, and wrote statistical reports. Today, the resultant collection is housed at the Library of Virginia and consists of more than 19,300 survey reports (approximately 70,000 pages), more than 6,200 photographs, and 103 annotated county and city maps. This remarkable effort, made by historically-minded Virginians, remains one of the many significant legacies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In addition to the documentation of dozens of old homesteads, the women gathered pension declarations and family lineages from Bibles. They transcribed wills, grants, deeds, and old letters. They interviewed life-long residents of the county about mills and schools no longer standing. Today, in many cases, their accompanying photographs are the only known visual record of structures long destroyed.

I am very interested in collecting biographical information about these two women and photos of them and/or their families.  If you can contribute anything about Mrs. Williams or Miss McCraw feel free to comment here or write to me at


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  1. Lynn F. / Aug 28 2013 7:22 pm

    Rosa Kate Claiborne (not Clairborne) is the daughter of Temple Irving Claiborne and Martha “Pattie” Scruggs, and Temple Irving’s parents are Thomas O. Claiborne (CSA) and Laura Garnett. Garnett was used as a family name quite often within the line of Claiborne descendants.

    Temple Irving Claiborne is my g.g.grandfather.

    • Joanne Yeck / Aug 28 2013 7:53 pm

      Thanks, Lynn. There will be more about the Claiborne family in up coming posts.

      • Lynn Ferebee / Aug 28 2013 10:01 pm

        Joanne, I’m happy to share info/photos I may have, if you’re interested. I didn’t go into much detail in the post, but the father of Thomas O. Claiborne is Leonard Claiborne, who served in the Revolutionary War. I’m still trying to prove/disprove some of the oral family history that was passed down.

        Best regards, Lynn

      • Joanne Yeck / Aug 29 2013 6:42 am

        Lynn, write to me at You are so fortunate to have oral history. Something we’ll pursue in posts to come.

  2. Harry Stuart Holman / Jan 18 2013 4:52 pm

    Dear Reader:

    Making a search in the Buckingham County portion of the U. S. Census records, we find one Elizabeth McCraw of Andersonville who fits this time period: Miss Elizabeth E. McCraw, who was born about 1889. This would have put her in her forties during The Depression. The Census further reveals she was earlier listed as Elizabeth E. McCraw, Jr., child of William E. and Elizabeth E. McCraw of Andersonville. Her father appears in the Census as William E. McCraw born in 1849, son of C. H. McCraw of Andersonville, who was born about 1801.

    The family of Cary H. McCraw–Cary Harrison McCraw includes two correspondants of mine. One is a direct or collateral descendant of Cary’s and the other is a collateral descendant of Cary’s. The latter is Mr. Jim Cooke of Virginia who relates that he is a direct descendant of Capt. Robert Miller of “Millwood,” Buckingham County, child of William Armistead and Elizabeth H. Pittman Miller. Being that I descend from William Armistead Miller and his first wife, Lucy Woodson Daniel of Cumberland County, I have collected some notes on the Millers. A good deal of my info has come from the McCraws. Jim Cooke relates that the second Mrs. William Armistead Miller was the daughter of Capt. John and Elizabeth McCraw Pittman. He shows the latter was the daughter of Francis McCraw and his wife, the former Mary Woodson.

    The McCraw family notes show that Francis McCraw, Jr., who married Miss Word was the father of Cary Harrison McCraw (b. ca. 1801). He and his sister Elizabeth H. McCraw Pittman (Mrs. Capt. John Pittman) were the children of Francis and Mary Woodson McCraw. Francis, Jr. was educated for the Anglican priesthood in England, however, became an attorney in Buckingham and died in 1834. His children Frank and Cary have their names appearing in the Miller correspondence which has been furnished to me by the McCraws. Amongst the children of Francis McCraw, Jr. were not only Cary Harrison McCraw and Frank McCraw, but also a brother Dr. Miller Woodson McCraw of Arkansas.

    Because many of us have the Woodson blood, I shall make an attempt to show Miss McCraw’s connection to us. Recalling from the paragraphs above that she had great-grandparents Francis and Mary Woodson McCraw, I shall show her Woodson connection. The latter was the child of John Woodson and his wife Mary Miller. The latter was a member of the Millers of Lancaster County, Virginia, who were also prominent and connected to the Lees of Virginia. John Woodson was a member of the Virginia Convention of 1776, which makes his descendants eligible for S.A.R. and D.A.R. He was a son of Benjamin and Sarah Porter Woodson. They are not only the ancestors of Miss Elizabeth E. McCraw, late of Andersonville, but also the ancestors of my Cousin Willa Woodson Sanger Yeck, mother of Dr. Joanne Louise Yeck of Kettering, Ohio, who coordinates and directs the research on this blog. Benjamin Woodson and his sister Elizabeth Woodson Lewis (my ancestor) were the children of Col. Robert Woodson of Henrico County (b. 1634/35). In the year 1707, he executed a deed to two of his grandsons, Joseph Woodson and William Lewis, Jr. (brother to my ancestor Joseph Lewis, Warden at St. John’s Church, Richmond) in which his name appears as “Col. Robert Woodson, aged seventy-three.” He was a wealthy Quaker of early Henrico County, an ancestor of Mrs. Dolley Payne Todd Madison, wife of President James Madison. At the age of ten, he was placed in a potato hole under the floor of their home upon learning of the approach of a band of twelve Indians. His brother John was placed under a wash tub. Their father, Dr. John Woodson, had gone on a medical call and was not at home when this occurred. He was killed within sight of the house by this band of Indians. They likely would have killed Mrs. Woodson had it not been for the aid of their neighbor Col. Thomas Lygon (also an ancestor of many of us). Having taken up the long, long Woodson gun, he eliminated ten of the invaders, while Mrs. Woodson personally took on two : one she stabbed with a roasting spit and the other she killed by scalding with boiling water. She had been a Miss Winston and had married Dr. John Woodson early in the first years of the History of Virginia. Dr. Woodson arrived here as a British surgeon in the year 1619, arriving on “The George” along with Sir George Yeardley, the new Governor of Virginia. The ship brought the Great Charter which created the first representative government in the New World. The painting which depicts this event is currently on display in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Dr. Woodson was thirty-three years of age at this point and had for some years been a surgeon. He was sent to be the surgeon for a troop of soldiers who were assigned to protect the settlers on the frontier. In the year of 1604, at the youthful age of eighteen, he enrolled at St. John’s College, Oxford, where he prepared for his profession. He was killed on the Virginia frontier–in Henrico County–in 1644, aged approximately fifty-eight years of age.

    Harry Stuart Holman

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 18 2013 6:02 pm

      Harry, that was an astounding recitation! You’ve aptly demonstrated how deeply interrelated the old Buckingham families are. We will be hearing more about the Woodson family, who populated Buckingham County and environs.

    • Bill Davidson / Jan 18 2013 7:52 pm

      The John Woodson who arrived at Jamestown in 1619 had a granddaughter or great-granddaughter, as I recall, who was named Miss Elizabeth Cannon. Elizabeth Cannon married Abraham Childers “III,” and their daughter Tabitha Childers (who married Hezekiah Davidson; he died about 1793 in Cumberland Co., VA) was my ggggg-grandmother.

      I know that at least one descendant of the referenced John Woodson is in the Jamestown Society….so I suppose that I (and other such descendants) could make a “legitimate attempt” to also be accepted into that Society. Such applicants, of course, would need to provide sufficient evidence to the Society of each “connecting generation.”

      • Joanne Yeck / Jan 18 2013 7:56 pm

        Well Bill, good to know another Woodson cousin! And, yes, there are many Woodsons in the Jamestowne Society. It is my understanding that Woodsons were among the founders.

  3. Elizabeth Nuckols Lee / Jan 18 2013 4:25 pm

    I was so excited to see my Nuckols Family Bible included in the report. It filled in a lot of holes in my research.

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 18 2013 4:37 pm

      Yes, the Nuckols Family Bible was recorded by Mrs. Williams in 1937 and can be viewed on line at the Library of Virginia’s website.

  4. Joanne Yeck / Jan 18 2013 1:51 pm

    Thank you, Bill. I hope someday to learn how these two women were picked for the job of field workers. Their work has proved invaluable for those of us interested in the history Buckingham County.

    • Bill Davidson / Jan 18 2013 2:42 pm

      I would have to check the Library of VA website to be certain, but I believe that one of those WPA/VHI reports exists for the old Davidson home in Buckingham called “Cherry Hill.” As I recall, that land had belonged to the Berryman family before Joseph Cornelius Davidson bought it. I believe that Joseph bought 300 acres and a Dr. Moseley bought another 300 acres, but it appeared (from what I could understand in the old records) that Dr. Moseley encountered some financial troubles….so I think that Joseph C. Davidson ended-up owning all of that land (but I have not looked at those “details” in quite some time). As you stated, those WPA/VHI records are a fantastic resource.

      • Joanne Yeck / Jan 18 2013 2:48 pm

        Yes, there is a survey of “Cherry Hill” written in 1937 by Rosa Williams. There are also two photographs. I’ll use it for a future post!

  5. Bill Davidson / Jan 18 2013 1:40 pm

    Here is a little on the family of Mrs. Rosa Garnett (Agee) Williams. Rosa was apparently out of Mathew (Mattieu) Agee and his wife Ann (Cecilia Ann) Godwin (Gandovin), via their son named James Agee, Senior (born circa-1724) who married Elizabeth Ford (Foure). I assume that most, if not all, of the Agee family members in the Buckingham Co., VA area were out of Mathew/Mattieu, but I have not done a great deal of research on that family. James Agee, Senior and his wife had many children, and two of their several sons were named James Agee, Junior and John Agee. One of those two sons was apparently the ancestor of Rosa, while the other son was apparently the ancestor of the Mary Frances Agee (a daughter of an Edward Agee) who married first to a Mr. Garrett and second to Reuben Poindexter Davidson (that second marriage was in 1867, as I recall; Reuben was a brother of my gg-grandfather Joseph Cornelius Davidson).

    Cornelius Hamilton Agee (a son of Garland Price Agee) and Rosa Kate Clairborne were apparently the parents of Mrs. Rosa Garnett (Agee) Williams. So….we can find the “Garrett,” “Garnett” and “Garland” surnames all associated with the above Agee family. I note that some of the other marriages that involved members of this Agee family included marriages to other “familiar Buckingham surnames” such as “Bondurant” and “Snoddy.”

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