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August 21, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Book News: The Blackest Sheep

The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris & Chicago’s Club Alabam.

When my extended Harris family, including my grandmother Minnie Garland Harris, left Buckingham County, Virginia to settle in a small town in southern Iowa called Leon, my great-grandfather, Clay Harris, married again. His son, Eugene Alexander “Gene” Harris, my grandmother’s half-brother, became the first in my very long line of Harrises to be born outside of Virginia.  As the 20th century unfolded, Gene led an exciting life far from his bucolic Buckingham County roots.

I’m delighted to announce that my newest book was inspired by my great uncle’s career operating the popular Chicago nightclub, Club Alabam. The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam goes on sale September 3 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers. You can pre-order now.

This history of Chicago after dark was great fun to research and write. The book covers six decades of the city’s history, introduces a kaleidoscope of fascinating characters, and is laced with scandalous tidbits about nightlife in Chicago before, during, and after Prohibition.

If you love local history, especially the world of entertainment, please consider following my blog about the research and writing of the book at or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.

August 19, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

 Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church, Part III


Deed Maps for John Patteson’s Land. Courtesy Les Campbell.

To catch up on the discussion of Maynards Church, click here:

Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church

Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church, Part II


Following my post on August 12, 2019, Slate River Ramblings follower Les Campbell help located John Patteson’s land holdings in Old Buckingham County (today Appomattox County).

An index for mapping software contains several entries for John Patteson beginning in 1746. Results show that Patteson’s land was scattered, though some of it lay near Nicholas Maynard’s property. We know that Patteson acted as Reader & Sexton at Maynards Church but the location of his residence remains unclear. By 1793, Patteson was deceased.

Nicholas Maynard also owned more than one property. Les noted that a 19th century map shows a branch or tributary of David’s Creek known as Maynard’s Creek.

Les Campbell shared the following:

I used several different search strings, but using the word “church” in Appomatox county’s metes/bounds file for Deed Mapper turned up a few mentions of pointers (lines or points) either on or crossing “church road”. These were in the 1796 deed for Robert Phelps and the 1781 deed for Wm. Patteson.

Exporting the coordinates onto Google Earth, it *looks* like (I’m no map expert) that what they’re calling “church road” is 616 highway / Wildway Road about 3/4 mile southeast of Liberty Chapel Baptist Church.

These locations are near lands owned by Nicholas Maynard.


It is always exciting when Slate River Ramblings readers are eager to solve a Buckingham County mystery. There is no doubt in my mind that Maynards Church of Tillotson Parish was established outside the boundaries of today’s Buckingham County and the location has continued to serve worshipers ever since. Thanks to all of you for sharing pieces of the puzzle!

In a future post, Nicholas Maynard will emerge as a Buckingham Notable.


To learn much more about the establishment of Tillotson Parish in Colonial Buckingham County and its first minister, Rev. William Peaseley, consult my book “At a Place Called Buckingham.”

August 15, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church, Part II

Liberty Baptist Chapel Church.

Courtesy Liberty Chapel Baptist Church – 1775 Facebook Page.


To catch up on the discussion of Maynards Church, click here: Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church

Following my post on August 12, 2019, I received many comments and emails concerning the location of Manyards Church and John Patteson’s land in today’s Appomattox County, as well as information about the Nicholas Maynard, probably the man behind the church’s name. Combining these, we have a much bigger and better picture of this neighborhood in early Buckingham County.

Slate River Ramblings follower Karen Williams supported the idea that Maynards (or Maynard’s) Church shared a location with Liberty Chapel Baptist Church at Bent Creek in Appomattox County, asking, “Couldn’t Liberty Baptist have morphed out of Maynard’s Corner/Chapel.”

Just as Rev. Rene Chastain and the congregation of Buckingham Baptist Church took over the structure of the original Buckingham Church, it is entirely possible that a similar transition happened at Bent Creek. References in the book Appomattox County Virginia, 1845-2000 offer some details:

Liberty Chapel Baptist Church dates its origin back to 1775 when a band of believers met at Maynards Corner, five miles south of Coppersville (now known as Bent Creek), organized a Baptist Church calling it Maynard’s Church. The church was used by the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterians. In 1830 the church was known as Harmony Baptist Church.  In 1840 it was re-organized and named Liberty Chapel, the name it carries today. (p 32)


Liberty Baptist Chapel Church.

Courtesy Liberty Chapel Baptist Church – 1775 Facebook Page.


 The first 55 years of Liberty Chapel Baptist Church’s history are very sketchy. We do know that in 1775, a small band of believers met at Maynard’ s Corner, which was five miles south of Coopersville (now Bent Creek) and organized a Baptist Church. In letters, the church is referred to as Maynard’s Liberty Chapel. (p 38)


Slate River Ramblings reader Les Campbell added, “The present site of Liberty Chapel is about 1.75 miles (as the crow flies) from the 1781 property boundary of John Patteson.”

Kathie Phelps Mann contributed an important clue, “You also see it listed in old patents and tax lists as “Mainyards” Church- say it with a French accent and you realize it was a phonetic spelling of Maynard.”  Kathie’s Phelps family lived in the neighborhood.


Now we have a new mystery. Was Bent Creek previously known as Coppersville or Coopersville?

Coming next Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church, Part III

August 12, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Mysteries: Maynards Church

Buckingham Baptist Church (foreground section, Old Buckingham Church).

Photo by Joanne Yeck.

In 2013, I posted the following about Buckingham’s four original, Colonial-era churches:

The “mother” church, known as Buckingham, was located near present-day Gold Hill . . . this first glebe land was in the northeastern part of Buckingham, not far from Hunt’s Creek. By 1774, there were four churches in Tillotson Parish. In addition to Buckingham Church, Buck and Doe Church was named for a stream near Willis Mountain and New Store, in the southeastern section of the county. Maynards was the third, and Goodwin’s Church (a.k.a. Goodlin’s and Goodings) was located about eleven miles north of Buckingham Courthouse, near today’s Highway 20.

Following the American Revolution and the severing of ties with the Anglican Church, Tillotson Parish’s mother church, Buckingham, was eventually claimed by Rev. Rene Chastain and the congregation of Buckingham Baptist Church. The exact timing of this is unclear but the Baptists used the structure long before they finally held a deed to the property in the late 19th century.

If anyone can help with the location of Maynards Church, please let me know.


Slate River Ramblings reader, Ed Ayres wrote to me with the following helpful information:

In his History of the James River Baptist Association 1832-1982 Robert L. Wood says that in 1775 a group met at “Maynard’s Corner” to start Liberty [Baptist] Chapel. He located Maynard’s Corner about five miles south of Bent Creek – which would put it in present day Appomattox County. Another clue can be found in the few remaining Tillotson Parish vestry records. From 1772 through 1775, John Patteson was paid 1,250 lbs. of tobacco each year for acting as “Reader & Sexton [at] Maynards Church.” Presumably he lived near the church so if anyone knows where he lived it may give another clue. It does seem Maynard’s Church was in the southwestern part of Buckingham as it was defined in the 1770s.

Does a Slate River Ramblings reader know where John Patteson lived in the 1770s?

To learn much more about the establishment of Tillotson Parish in Colonial Buckingham County and its first minister, Rev. William Peaseley, consult my book “At a Place Called Buckingham.”


August 8, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Virginia Chronicle: Civilian Conservation Corps Newspapers


During the initial months of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created, quickly becoming a significant and successful economic stimulus program.

Buckingham County was home to CCC Camp P-56, Company 1367 (commonly called Camp Buckingham), located at the foot of Willis Mountain. It operated for nearly one year when, on June 7, 1934, it was “reconstituted” as a “Negro” camp. Until the camp’s closing in 1937, the men of this all African American Corps contributed greatly to the building of roads and bridges in Buckingham, as well as fighting forest fires.

Each CCC Company created a camp newspaper. A copy of “Camp Chatter,” published in Dillwyn, survives and can be viewed (and downloaded) at the Library of Virginia’s online collection of historic newspapers, Virginia Chronicle.

Click here to read “Camp Chatter,” August 1935.

The collection of CCC newspapers at Virginia Chronicle also includes issues from neighboring Cumberland County’s “Camp Messenger” and “Voice of 1367.”

Click here for the entire list: Civilian Conservation Corps Newspapers.


My book “At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two contains a lengthy essay about the CCC in Buckingham County, “Spirit and Industry: Buckingham County and the Civilian Conservation Corps.” Click here to learn more: “At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two.


August 5, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Holman-Hooper Family

“Dolly” (Hooper) Culbreth (1881–1976). Courtesy Harry S. Holman.

Following the April 4, 2019 Slate River Ramblings post concerning the Holman-Hooper wedding, Harry Stuart Holman elaborated about the families involved.

Click here to read about the marriage: Buckingham County Weddings: Holman-Hooper


According to Harry Holman:

This wedding took place 119 years ago at “Hooper’s Mt.” located two miles west of Willis Mt. in Buckingham County. The formal invitations had been sent out to the guests by W. A. Hooper. She was the former Willie Ann Holman, daughter of Tandy and Judith Hales Spencer Holman of “Oakland” and educated at St. Mary’s in Raleigh with Mildred Lee and at the Institute. The mother of the bride was the widow of Powell Hooper, son of Capt. Benjamin and Permelia Moseley Hooper of “Hooper’s Mt.,” who had died when Ellie was about thirteen. The groom that day was Henry Smith Holman. He was two years her elder–a kinsman, son of the late William Holman (who was born at “Humanity Hall” in Buckingham County) and Wortley Smith Holman of “Greenwood,” near Cartersville, Cumberland County.

The couple made their home at “Greenwood,” located about one mile from Cartersville. Henry Holman engaged in farming pursuits involving an acreage of almost 500 acres. He gradually spent less and less time farming, spending more and more time with various government jobs–principally Game and Fish warden for Cumberland County. They lived at their country home in marital bliss for forty-eight years, until the death of “Miss Ellie,” which occurred in January of 1948. She died peacefully at home, having been sick only about two weeks. She was survived by her husband, one sister, two brothers, six children, and six grandchildren (the seventh grandchild–myself–was not born until the next year).

Some of the survivors of Ellie Hooper Holman were at one point well-known in Buckingham County. Her sister who survived was Mrs. H. C., “Dolly,” Hooper Culbreth of Dillwyn–and later of Charlottesville. Her two surviving brothers were Holman Hooper of Howardsville (father of Mrs. Virginia (Frank) Agee of Dillwyn), and Rev. Dr. William P. Hooper of Huntington, W.Va. One of her children was also well-acquainted in Buckingham circles. He was Harry Hooper Holman of Cartersville, Virginia.

Click on the following links to learn more about the Holman-Hooper family:

Buckingham Correspondents: Mrs. H. M. Culbreth

Buckingham County Genealogy: The Holman Family

August 1, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Houses: Oakland & The Holman Family

Tandy Holman of Oakland. Courtesy Harry Stuart Holman.

A post earlier this year about the Buckingham County’s “Oakland” prompted these comments from Slate River Ramblings reader Harry Stuart Holman:

This was a very unique-appearing home with its three different levels of roof. Two massive oaks stood in the front when I was a child. Grandmother’s sister, Mrs. H. C. Culbreth of Dillwyn, went with me to see this house on one occasion and recalled having to take two steps descending from the hall to the parlor. Author Dr. George Bagby of Buckingham County noted that it was a constant step up or down in these old Virginia homes.

The door at the end of the hall led to outside. With having taken three steps down, one stepped on to a porch which was flanked by the outside to the left and right but straight forward one went into another room. This was originally the sewing room–which was high up over another basement room. It was here that my great-grandmother spent much of her day instructing the servants in sewing.

It was at this old Virginia home that a weary General Lee went after the surrender. My family invited him to dinner, but he requested only a glass of cream.

The importance of education was strongly emphasized in the Holman family. The older girls attended college and most of them taught school. This was the case of great-grandmother’s two sisters who lived at “Oakland.” Martha E. Holman, who taught the servants, and Mary Lou Holman Jones Wood, widow of Capt. Wood, who taught public school. She died in the early twenties, and her son, Tandy Jones, continued to live at “Oakland.”

Today, the seventh generation down from the original Holman owner still owns this place.

Harry also commented on an error in the original WPA account of “Oakland.”

The portion of the house which was thought to have been Tandy Holman’s father’s house is certainly not a part of this home because that house is still standing in its entirety on the original foundation. Tandy Holman’s father was William Holman of “Humanity Hall,” Buckingham County. He died in 1823, leaving the property to his children. They sold it to Col. Elijah Hanes in 1848. The children involved in the sale were Tandy Holman of “Oakland,” the heirs of Elizabeth Hales Holman Ford, William Holman, who was preparing to move to Cumberland County, and Mrs. Virginia (Col. Richard H.) Gilliam of Buckingham. I descend from both of William’s sons.

Click here to learn more: Buckingham County Houses: Oakland

For much more about Humanity Hall, consult my essay, “Elijah G. Hanes and Humanity Hall Academy,” in “At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two.

July 29, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

George Shumaker of Rolfeton, Part II

Shumaker Family at Rolfeton.

Courtesy Kimberly Shumaker Clark.


Need to catch up? Click here: George Shumaker of Rolfeton, Part I


At her blog, “Cultivating Family: Discovering the ancestors of Jesse and Vanessa Sykes Crews,”

Vanessa Crews continued her investigation of George Shumaker’s impressively large family, learning details about his second and third wives.

George next married Nannie Belle Sprouse, daughter of Henry Wesley Sprouse and Mary Jane Shephard, on February 11, 1886, in Buckingham County. Nannie Belle and George had seven children, including Jesse’s grandmother, Minnie Shumaker. “According to family legend, Nannie Belle was in bed sick and pregnant. George gave her a dose of turpentine to make her feel better. Not long after, she sat straight up in bed and died.” Nannie Belle was about 31 years-old when she died. Today we think of turpentine as paint thinner, but in prior years it had many medical uses. It was used to speed up childbirth and to stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Nannie Belle died between 1898 and 1900 when George appears as a widower in the 1900 census. George and Nannie Belle had seven children, of whom six lived to adulthood.

Nannie Belle (Sprouse) Shumaker. Courtesy Vanessa Crews.


Children of George E. Shumaker and Nannie Belle Sprouse:

  1. John E. Shumaker: September 15, 1886 – before December 1887.
  2. John Edward Shumaker: December 17, 1887 – November 16, 1945, married Nina Pearl Via.
  3. Charles Harrison Shumaker: July 4, 1889 – November 7, 1971, married Emma Goin.
  4. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker: September 19, 1891 – February 7, 1966, married Phillip Taylor.
  5. Alice Reems Shumaker: October 15, 1892 – February 27, 1978, married George Taylor.
  6. George M. “Reuben” Shumaker: March 17, 1896 – November 23, 1966, married Minnie Ragland.
  7. Minnie Virginia Shumaker (Jesse’s grandmother): May 18, 1898 – January 24, 1979, married Joel Peter Crews.

Shumaker Sisters Minnie and Mary.

Courtesy Vanessa Crews and Kimberly Shumaker Clark.

George’s final marriage was to Pauline Susan McFadden on October 1, 1903, in Buckingham County. This marriage produced one known child.

  1. Beulah Genevieve Shumaker: February 28, 1904 – December 12, 1980, married George Lann.


Vanessa credits the work of Kimberly Shumaker Clark, The Shumaker/Shoemaker families of Buckingham County, Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2008, writing:

I extend my sincere appreciation to Kimberly Shumaker Clark. Ms. Clark gave permission to publish the photos and records of George E. Shoemaker and his progeny. Virginia did not issue birth or death certificates until 1911 and it requires enormous effort to document pre-1911 families- especially one as large as that of George Shumaker. Some births and deaths were recorded at the county courthouse, but the dates can be wrong because the information was often supplied by helpful neighbors and family. Children could be entirely missed by the census taker. Sometimes the census taker spoke with someone who supplied incorrect information. Often individuals used different birthdays and even different names throughout their life. Putting together a record of George Shumaker’s 25 children was a challenging and still evolving task.


In 2014, Kim Shumaker Clark contacted me, sharing the photo above of the Shumaker family at Rolfeton and the photo below of George Shumaker with his granddaughter by his second marriage to Nannie Belle Sprouse, which provides a good view of Rolfeton.

Nannie Belle Shumaker Bryant, daughter of Charlie & Emma (Goin) Shumaker, and her son, Price Bryant.


Many thanks to Vanessa and Kim for sharing their work on the Shumaker family.

For more about the Sprouce family, click here: Buckingham County Notables: Henry Wesley Sprouse

July 25, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

George Shumaker of Rolfeton, Part I

George Shumaker. Courtesy Vanessa Crews and Kimberly Shumaker Clark.

Slate River Ramblings follower Vanessa Crews has investigated her husband’s deep Buckingham County roots and written about his family at her blog, “Cultivating Family: Discovering the ancestors of Jesse and Vanessa Sykes Crews.”

The following post written by Vanessa details the life of George Shumaker, who lived at Rolfeton in Buckingham County.

George is the great-grandfather of my husband, Jesse Crews. He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia on December 14, 1846. He probably never attended school as census records indicate George could not read or write. George was a farmer and did not own his home. Late in his life, George lived at Rolfeton, a beautiful country home. . . . He may have been a caretaker or renting the farm. He died in Buckingham County on December 1, 1935, from a cerebral hemorrhage. His eighty-ninth birthday was only two weeks away.

George married three times. His first marriage was to Laura Newton, daughter of James Newton and Mahala Ann Taylor. They married on January 25, 1867, in Buckingham County. Seventeen children were born to this couple. Only six of these children are known to have lived to adulthood. Laura probably died soon after the last child was born in July 1885. She was only about 38 years-old. The loss of seven little babies, two small children and their mother, all in the years before 1886, must have left a cloudburst of grief raining over the Shumaker home.

Children of George E. Shumaker and Laura Newton:

  1. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker (Newton): July 3, 1864 – February 26, 1939, married George W. Davis.
  2. Ida Shumaker: December 1867 – Abt. 1911: married Benjamin S. Robertson
  3. Unnamed Baby Boy Shumaker: February 1869 – February 1869.
  4. Jenny Shumaker: August 25, 1870 – Before 1880.
  5. Sarah Jane Shumaker: October 1872 – April 21, 1952, married Joseph Walker Doss.
  6. Margaret Frances “Maggie” Shumaker: September 12, 1873 – March 6, 1952, married Samuel J. Wharam.
  7. George E. Shumaker, October 1874 – Bef. 1880.
  8. Hattie Blanche Shumaker: December 24, 1877 – November 6, 1969, married Peter W. Doss.
  9. John W. Shumaker: 1877 – unknown.
  10. Emma Shumaker: December 1878 – May 1879.
  11. Laura “Dotsie” Shumaker: 1878 – September 17, 1913, married (?) Taylor.
  12. Emma Shumaker: March 10, 1880.
  13. Frank Emmett Shumaker: March 10, 1880. He was shot and accidentally killed by a half-brother. The 1880 census taker recorded that Frank was 3/12 months old and born in February. Two other infants, recorded on the same page by the same census taker, were listed as 3/12 months old. One was given a birth month of March and another April. Frank and Emma were apparently twins born in early spring of 1880. Emma did not survive and wasn’t named on the 1880 census.
  14. No Name Shumaker: March 1882.
  15. No Name Shumaker: June 1883 – August 16, 1883.
  16. No Name Shumaker: January 1884 – June 3, 1884.
  17. No Name Shumaker: July 10, 1885.


For more about Rolfeton, follow this link: Buckingham County Houses: Rolfeton

Coming Next: George Shumaker of Rolfeton, Part II

July 22, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Pluckett-Meeks Store at Clover Hill, Appomattox County

Post Office, Appomattox Court House. Photo by Joanne Yeck.

At least two of my ancestors ran general stores. My Buckingham-born grandmother’s great-grandfather, Alexander Cheatwood Smith of Cartersville, owned a lucrative store in Cumberland County. Some of his ledgers survive at the Library of Virginia. My grandmother’s father, Clay Harris, operated a more modest store in Buckingham County and later in Leon, Iowa.

Another ancestor and longtime Buckingham County resident, John M. Harris, never owned a store to my knowledge, however, he was a regular visitor to the Plunkett-Meeks store in Clover Hill, Appomattox County.  How do I know?  Miraculously, his name is preserved on a pigeon hole in the store’s post office, located at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. Harris left Buckingham in about 1857 and removed to Appomattox County where he lived on a farm close to the Plunkett–Meeks store and post office.

Plunkett-Meeks Store, restored.

Courtesy Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

Another Buckingham County connection. . . . When the Plunkett-Meeks store was restored and refurbished, historian and antiques expert Lucille McWane Watson, who assisted with the furnishings and restoration of buildings at Appomattox National Park, used pieces from Buckingham County’s Well Water country store to reconstruct the interior of the Plunkett-Meeks store.

Click here for much more about the Historical Park: Appomattox Court House National Historical Park