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February 21, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

The Buckingham Road Revisited, Part I

Traube Tavern, Old Buckingham Road

The December 6, 2018 post at Slate River Ramblings, “Buck and Game Road,” generated a lively conversation.

Click here to read the original post: Buck and Game Road

Today’s Old Buckingham Road starts in Midlothian, joining the current Hwy 60. After winding passed Powhatan County Courthouse, the road veers off towards Farmville. Several Slate River Ramblings readers attested that this highway, dotted with historic inns and houses, never went to or through Buckingham County.

Another blog follower pointed out that the exceptionally useful historic road orders, collected by the Virginia Highway Transportation & Research Council and originally edited by Nathaniel Mason Pawlett, contained no reference to a “Buck and Game Road.” These road orders do, however, contain references to “Buckingham Road” [1738–1748] in the relevant reports for Goochland County [1728-1744] and Albemarle County [1744–1748], the once much larger versions of these counties which encompassed today’s Buckingham County.

Slate River Ramblings reader Randy Crouse suggested that anyone interested in the history of the Buckingham Road should consult Agnes Evans Gish’s scholarly and definitive book: Virginia Taverns, Ordinaries and Coffee Houses: 18thEarly 19th Century Entertainment Along the Buckingham Road (Heritage Books, 2012).  I concur.

Then Randy Crouse shared some of his own research. . . .

Coming next: The Buckingham Road Revisited, Part II

February 18, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Business: Prosperity, 1920

Buckingham Courthouse, 1914, before the concrete fence was proposed.

Courtesy Small Special Collections, University of Virginia.

In January of 1920, cash was flowing into and around Buckingham County. Prosperous times resulted in a new concrete fence around Courthouse Square. According to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, the new fence added greatly to “the looks of things.”

There had been a cold spell and, as a result, much harvesting of ice while the temperatures were low. Thrifty farmers were already plowing for spring crops, even before the year-end holidays.

The newspaper went on to report new costs to the county: “Immense qualities of lumber have been hauled on the new sand-clay roads in auto trucks, and the roads have been much injured by the running of these immense machines heavily loaded.” One price of progress!

All in all, Buckingham County was beginning the new decade on a high note. Mr. Thomas D. Eason, state inspector of agricultural schools, had recently visited and commented positively on advancements being made in Buckingham County’s high school’s agricultural department.

Thanks, as always, to Phil James for sharing gleanings from the Daily Progress.

February 14, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Business: Wages, 1920

At the dawn of a new decade, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress printed current wage information for employers hiring in January of 1920. What was labor in Buckingham County worth?

Farm laborers expected $2.50 a day and board.

Wood choppers were asking one dollar for cutting a cord of wood in 8 foot lengths. They got $2.50 per cord for cutting pulpwood.

Miners who had returned from the coal fields, presumably in West Virginia, were saying that when they were able to get work in the mines, they earned $10 -12 per day.

The article also noted that the price of farm land had increased an extraordinary 100%. As a result, many properties had changed hands.

Coming next: Buckingham County Business: Prosperity, 1920

February 11, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

 Buckingham County Business: Prices, 1920

Sugar & World War I

On January 1, 1920, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress printed year-end financial news Buckingham County including the fact that farmers had sold a good percentage of their tobacco crops, raising prices to a new high. “From fifteen dollars to sixty-five dollars has been paid for the dark tobacco raised in the section, and wrappers have sold on the local markets as high as one dollar a pound.”

The newspaper went on to note that this money was circulating throughout the county. Foodstuffs were plentiful, only sugar had been scarce. Merchants were receiving notes from wholesalers stating: “No sugar to be had. Will ship sugar as soon as we get some.” Neighbors were sharing with each other and this shortage was not yet considered a hardship.

Prices were generally high, though hog meat was an exception. Revenue from sales was not covering the cost to raise the swine.

Coming next: Buckingham County Business: Wages, 1920

February 7, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Business: Boom, 1919

$20 in 1920 is equivalent to about $200 purchasing power in 2019.

Following World War I, Buckingham County and other rural communities experienced an unusual influx of cash. In a society that had long relied heavily on barter, lots of people were “flush.” Some of the consequences may have been a bit startling.

Charlottesville’s the Daily Progress reported the phenomenon on April 15, 1919:


Money is handled more freely than ever before and some negroes and also some whites who are getting money, from the government cannot be employed for anything. One washwoman whose husband is in the army got a check at one time for $125, and some people have been getting money from relatives who were sent to war. One man who had never owned a home has bought a farm, expecting to pay for it with the insurance he gets ($57.50 a month) on account of the death of his son, who died in camp.

Other financial news included the fact that seed potatoes were selling for less than usual. Eggs milk and butter were plentiful. Not many people had “put up ice” over the winter. Perhaps this was, in part, because an ice plant was opening soon at Dillwyn.

Thanks to Phil James for sharing this “news.”


February 4, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Business: Williams Company Store

Williams Company Store. Courtesy Bob Jeffery.

Arvonia and its slate quarries remain a favorite topic at Slate River Ramblings.

Adding to our knowledge about the community, Bob Jeffrey consulted John Williams’ privately printed autobiography, Five Generations, which includes several passages concerning the Williams Company Store, pictured above.  Mr. Williams grew up in Arvonia during the 1930s and recalled the following:

“This store, started by our grandfather and his brother (John R. and Evan R. Williams), included food, meats, animal feed, clothing, shoes, hardware, roofing materials, window sash, ice cream and candy. Many other items were included, and because of transportation problems and an extreme shortage of money, this truly had to be a “country general store.” (p. 78)

“All quarry workers had a charge account at the Company General Store, but payment in full was expected on Friday payday.  ‘Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt, I Owe My Soul to the Company Store,’ certainly rang true in Arvonia, Virginia.” (p. 81)

The Williams Company Store was originally located next to the main quarry and the railroad depot. Within sight of the Williams brothers’ houses, it probably opened c. 1880 when the Williams Slate Company was established.  The business was still operating in 1950 when John Williams returned to Buckingham County, taking over as President of the company. During the early 1950s, a new company store opened at the quarry on Arvon Road, above Hunts Creek.

For more about the Williams brothers of Buckingham County, follow these links:

Buckingham Slate: The Williams Brothers

Buckingham Slate: John R. Williams



January 31, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part XI

Willis Chambers (1790–1850)


Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part I


William Allen, 1824 will, continued

When William Allen wrote his will in 1824, it was not unusual to add a provision covering the possibility that a widow remarried. The underlying assumption was that her new husband would provide for her and the estate could then be divided amongst the children of her previous marriage. William Allen did just that, instructing:

In case my wife should marry my wish is, that my land where I now live and two hundred acres in the state of Alabama; my house hold furniture &c. may be sold on a credit from one to three years, and the money arising from the sale and the negroes to be equally divided amongst my children. . . .

Interestingly, Allen stressed that this property was to be divided equally among his children, male and female. In the 19th century, sons most often inherited land. Sometimes daughters only inherited their personal belongings, such as bedding, and a personal servant.

If Nancy Allen remarried, she still got her choice of a horse, feather bed and furniture, and five hundred dollars. Additionally, at her death, slaves in her possession, as well as any increase from the females, would return to her deceased husband’s estate to be divided amongst their children or their heirs. This protected his estate from children that his widow might have with another husband.

1820 Census, Buckingham County, Virginia.

The witnesses and executors of William Allen’s will reveal more trusted friends and relations. First he named his son-in-law, Willis Chambers, who was a neighbor and a cousin. Sometime before 1820, Chambers had married his first cousin and William Allen’s daughter, Mary Ballard Allen.

The second executor was to be his eldest son, George H. Allen (1799–1842).

The third executor was Walter C. Allen, no doubt Walter Clopton Allen (1801–1848), who was the Allens’ third child and who moved with his family to Tennessee.

Witnesses included Finch Scruggs, a neighbor. A man named Hector W. Scruggs would marry George Hunt Allen’s daughter, Mary Ann (b. 1817).

Another witness was John Cox, who lived close to William Allen in 1820. He owned eleven slaves and was a mature man over the age of forty-five.

Witness William Smith signed with his mark, possibly indicating that he was elderly. In 1820, a man named William T. Smith (over age forty-five) lived adjacent the Allens.

The will was recorded at Buckingham County courthouse on March 8, 1824. Rolfe Eldridge was Clerk.


These three surviving Allen wills are chock-full of historical and genealogical clues, waiting to be expanded with complementary sources such as printed genealogies, tax records, and census data. Any and every surviving will from the period prior to the burning of the courthouse in 1869 are nuggets of Buckingham County gold. The Allen wills are no exception.

Special thanks to Jean L. Cooper for transcribing these wills.


Science is changing history. For those of you who are members of the Allen family, there is an active Allen DNA project, “The Allen Patrilineage 1 Project,” headed by John B. Robb. Learn more at:


Available at Amazon: Central Virginia Heritage (Fall 2018)

Also featured in this issue is my article, “Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire: Tracing My Harris Ancestor from One Burned County to Another.” Don’t be frustrated by the lack of county documents when the local courthouse burns. Complementary and duplicate records can help solve many mysteries!

January 28, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part X

Mary Ballard (Allen) Chambers (1797–1849).

The Fall 2018 Issue of Central Virginia Heritage includes three Allen family wills transcribed by Jean L. Cooper. These wills inspired “The Allens of Hunts Creek.”

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part I



The third and final will was written on February 14, 1824 by another William Allen. The nephew of William Hunt Allen, his parents were George Hunt and Mary (Ballard) Allen of Buckingham County. Born on April 5, 1771, this William Allen married his cousin Nancy Allen, the daughter of Samuel and Mary (Mimms) Allen. Dying in middle age, he left a widow with children yet to rear and educate.

Allen’s first desire was that his estate stay whole as long as his wife remained unmarried. She was given her choice of a horse, a feather bed and furniture, and allotted five hundred dollars. It would be a very long time before the estate was divided, for Nancy Allen did not die until June 18, 1855, at which point she was living with some of her children in Tennessee.

William Allen directed that the land he inherited from William Hunt Allen be sold and the proceeds divided among his sons, as William Hunt Allen had directed. Additionally, William Allen owned between 500 and 600 acres adjoining that tract, which he also wished to be sold.


As sometimes was the case in the healthier climates in Virginia, this William Allen owned more slaves than were necessary to cultivate his plantation. The excess labor, he wished to be hired out (a common practice at that time), hopefully producing additional income for his widow and his minor children.

According to Allen family genealogist Rev. Richard Fenton Wicker, Jr., William and Nancy (Allen) Allen had twelve children, their births ranging from 1797 through 1819. The youngest was born only five years before his father’s death. Allen’s will directed that his minor children be educated as though he were alive. When they came of age, if they needed assistance from his estate, he wished that they receive gifts equal to those he had already given to his adult children.

Coming next: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part XI




January 24, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part IX

Photo by Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Baptist Church, site of Tillotson Parish’s mother church.

It may be the church referred to in William Hunt Allen’s will.


The Fall 2018 Issue of Central Virginia Heritage includes three Allen family wills transcribed by Jean L. Cooper. These wills inspired “The Allens of Hunts Creek.”

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part I


William Hunt Allen, 1806 will, continued

By 1806, the repetition of names in this Allen family had become a genealogist’s nightmare, with multiple William Allens living in Buckingham during the late 1700s through the early 1800s. Without the work of someone like Rev. Wicker, this tangle quickly becomes unwieldy—a classic, infuriating genealogical mess. A perfect example is the decoding the bequest of about 200 acres to be sold after William Hunt Allen’s death.

In addition to his primary plantation, William Hunt Allen owned property in Buckingham County, which he wished to be sold. He described the property not by name but by its boundaries:

. . . my land lying above the road which leads to Buckingham church and adjoining the lands of William Allen deceased, supposed to be about two hundred acres, shall be sold by the person who may have the charge of Wm. Allen’s estate for the equal benefit of Philip Allen and John Allen sons of the said William Allen deceased and the money arising from the sale thereof to be laid out in lands on the western waters and then equally divided, between the said Philip and John Allen.

Was “William Allen deceased” William Hunt Allen’s father who died in 1751/1752? He had a son Phillip and a son John, both mentioned in his Albemarle County will. Son John, however, died in 1754 and Phillip died in 1771. On to the next generation to find these legatees!

William Hunt Allen’s brother, Phillip, had a son named William who was born in Buckingham County c. 1765 and died 1800/1, making him deceased when William Hunt Allen wrote his will in 1806. This William Allen had a son Phillip (1795–1869) and a son John William (1800–1855)—both alive in 1806 to receive gifts from their great uncle. It was these two great-nephews who inherited 200 acres on the road to Buckingham church.

Another tract in Buckingham County consisting of 500 acres was left to two sons of Samuel Allen of Amherst County—Samuel Hunt and John Allen. Samuel Hunt Allen also inherited a “negro girl” named Mary, while his brother George Allen received and oddly qualified gift, the proceeds from the sale of a “negro man” called Jim, should he live until “next fall.”

Two other tracts of land in Buckingham County, totaling 225 acres, were left to a younger William Hunt Allen, son of Jesse Allen. He also inherited a “negro girl” named Charlotte. According to land tax records, covering 1809–1823, this William Hunt Allen was a nonresident of Buckingham County.

William Hunt Allen concluded his last will by appointing Col. Samuel Allen, William Allen (son of George), and William M. Allen (son of Col. Samuel) as his executors. Witnesses to the Buckingham County were Boaz Ford, Milly Chastaine (her mark), and William Ayres. Buckingham County Clerk Rolfe Eldridge recorded the document.

Coming next: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part X

January 21, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part VIII

“A Typical Mammy,” 1897. Social Life in Old Virginia before the War, by Thomas Nelson Page.
Illustrated by Genevieve Cowles and Maude Cowles.


The Fall 2018 Issue of Central Virginia Heritage includes three Allen family wills transcribed by Jean L. Cooper. These wills inspired “The Allens of Hunts Creek.”

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part I


William Hunt Allen, 1806 will, continued

William Hunt Allen widely dispersed his slaves, especially to younger family members, some of whom did not live or remain in Buckingham County. Some African-American families may have been divided, though Allen did make an effort to keep at least two mothers together with their children.

Following his widow’s death, William Hunt Allen desired that the “negro girl” Aggy, go to his great-niece Elizabeth Gates. Also, without qualification, Elizabeth received the direct gift of Maggey and her daughter, Fanny. Elizabeth Gates died in Bedford County, Virginia, which may have been the eventual home for these women.

Also following Elizabeth Allen’s death, a “negro boy” named Archer was to be given to William Hunt Allen’s great-nephew, George. His brother, Walter Clopton Allen, received “a negro boy” named George as an outright gift. This Allen line removed to Tennessee, possibly taking their slaves even further from Buckingham County.

Other slaves stood a better chance of staying in Buckingham.

Martha A. (Jones) Cottrell, the mother of George and Walter Clopton Allen, was remembered by William Hunt Allen. Her current husband, Richard Cottrell/Cottrill, inherited two slaves—Candice and Tomboy. William Hunt Allen also left a “negro boy” named Vincent to a man named William Cottrell, who married William Hunt Allen’s niece, yet another Elizabeth Allen, daughter of George Hunt and Mary (Ballard) Allen.

Three sons of Col. Samuel Allen of Buckingham County received the following individuals: William was given Charity and her two children Cissely & Betty; John received a boy named Solomon; and Sutton Farrar Allen became the owner of a boy named Ben.

William Hunt Allen’s great-nephew, Benjamin Clopton Glover, also of Buckingham County, inherited a “negro girl” named Rhoda.

Coming next: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part IX