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March 2, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

Arvonia & Buckingham Slate

Buckingham_Big Quarry_Robert Jeffery

Quarrymen at “The Big Quarry,” beside Hunts Creek and next to the old railroad station.
Courtesy Robert Jeffery

You can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers – old or new!

Recent posts at Slate River Ramblings, “Arvonia: A Bit of Old Wales” and “Old Castle,” quoted a full-page story that ran in the March 29, 1936 Sunday Supplement of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While the prose was evocative and charming, the facts behind the story were less than complete.

Slate River Ramblings reader, Robert Jeffery, who has deep roots in Arvonia, commented:

Interesting post today. I’ve got to think the Times-Dispatch is somewhat misinformed here. There was extensive slate mining in the area from the 18th century on. The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond was roofed with slate from the quarries there in 1785. The Nicholas Tract, later purchased by my relatives John R. and Evan Williams, was well known to Thomas Jefferson.

The best source I know for information about the slate industry is an unpublished thesis by Laurie Pitts Jones (of the Arvonia Pitts’ and Jones’), “The History of the Slate Industry in Buckingham County Virginia.” I quote: “Two brothers, Evan R. Williams and John R. Williams, were the first of these Welshmen to arrive in Buckingham. In 1871, the same year of their arrival, they purchased a small tract of land along Hunt’s Creek near the present day site of Arvonia from William Price and his wife.” My great-grandfather, Robert Owen Jeffrey, married Jane Williams, the sister of the Williams brothers, and became the superintendent of the Williams Slate Quarry.
Bob Jeffery went on to note that the Edwards and Roberts quarry was developed in the 1880s and 1890s and that M.E. Jones and Hugh Hughes were also Arvonia residents and quarrymen.

Interested in learning more about the quarries in Arvonia? I highly recommend, “’Of the best quality’: Buckingham Slate,” by S. Allen Chambers (Virginia Cavalcade, Spring 1989).


Leave a Comment
  1. Iwan Hughes / Jun 3 2016 7:47 am

    Very interesting! Have recently come across many detailed articles in the Welsh-American press about Arvonia and the district! Am in contact with a branch of the Williams family in Iowa. Just ask if you need translations into English. I’m in Wales!

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 3 2016 7:53 am

      Iwan, Many thanks for your comment. Hello to Wales! Are these Welsh-American newspapers online? Are they in Welsh and/or English? If you haven’t already, put Arvonia in the search box and enjoy the results. Best — Joanne

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