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June 18, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Healing Waters: “Premium Bitters”

Advertisement c. 1894. Courtesy Peachridge Glass.


In 1855, “going to the springs” or “taking the waters” was part of standard medical practice for restoring health and curing specific disorders. In May of 1855, a testimonial from J. W. A. Saunders of Buckingham County sent to Elisha Baker, singing the praises of a bottled water called “Premium Bitter,” was printed in the Richmond Enquirer:

COTTAGE, May 17th, 1855,

Near Curdsville, Buckingham Co., Va.

Mr. Elisha Baker:

Dear Sir. My wife having been for many years affected with Liver Complaint and Nervous Debility, hearing of your “Premium Bitters,” she was induced to give them a trial. After trying a half dozen bottles, she found her health much improved, and her digestive organs greatly strengthened; and as a tonic she finds it is indispensable in her case, and continues to use it to her improvement. —It is a very popular medicine with many of my neighbors, and it is becoming almost in general use as a tonic in this section.

With my best wishes,

I am yours, truly,

J. W. A. Saunders

N. B. —Several influential gentlemen in this County will send you certificates of most important cures affected by your Premium Bitters and their families. We all concur in its being the most valuable medicine ever introduced to the section of the country.


J. W. A. Saunders.

The manufacturer, E. Baker of Richmond, responded to Saunders, providing a long list of druggists who carried the product, including Walter H. Middleton in nearby Farmville.

Learn much more about E. Baker and Premium Bitters at “E. Baker’s Premium Bitters – Richmond.”

For more about healing waters, consult “’Going to the Springs’ in Buckingham County,” in “At a Place Called Buckingham,” Volume Two.


June 14, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Sally Hemings and The Jefferson Brothers

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is preparing for a massive event, launching their new exhibit of Sally Hemings’ quarters at Monticello.  On the program. . . .

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Monticello will unveil exhibitions and newly restored spaces, including the opening of the South Wing and The Life of Sally Hemings exhibit. This landmark conclusion of a major restoration initiative at Monticello will also commemorate 25 years of the Getting Word oral history project. Monticello will welcome the largest reunion of descendants of Monticello’s enslaved families in modern history and host a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln and generously loaned by David M. Rubenstein.

For complete details about the event, click here: LOOK CLOSER

In conjunction with the new exhibit, the Foundation has announced, “Monticello Affirms Thomas Jefferson Fathered Children with Sally Hemings.”  Their statement begins:

The issue of Jefferson’s paternity has been the subject of controversy for at least two centuries, ranging from contemporary newspaper articles in 1802 (when Jefferson was President) to scholarly debate well into the 1990s. It is now the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s view that the issue is a settled historical matter.

Click here for the full statement: “Monticello Affirms Thomas Jefferson Fathered Children with Sally Hemings.”


Occasionally, I am asked, “Couldn’t Randolph Jefferson be the father of Sally’s son Eston Hemings?” Based on the DNA evidence, it is possible.  Based on historic evidence, it is highly improbable.

In my essay, “A Most Valuable Citizen: A Profile of Randolph Jefferson,” (Magazine of Albemarle County History, 2011), I addressed this question at length.  Curious to learn more?

You can purchase an issue at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society’s online store:

Magazine of Albemarle County History (2011)

To read much more about the life and times of Randolph Jefferson, consult The Jefferson Brothers (Slate River Press, 2012).


June 11, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County: 1855 Runaway Slave


Advertisements for runaway slaves were a common thing in mid-nineteenth century Virginia newspapers. Few were as persistent in finding their property as Robert H. Johnson of Buckingham County.

On January 3, 1855, his “Negro boy,” named Harrison, commonly called Dick, absconded from New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia. Dick was described as twenty years of age, very black, and 5 feet 1 or 2 inches tall. Initially Johnson offered a reward of twenty dollars if the slave would be delivered to him at his house in New Canton.

Late in summer, Johnson continued to advertise, elaborating, “He may have passed himself off as a free boy, and be in the company of some white person. He has heretofore been advertised, with a reward of $50.00 if taken out of the State and $20 if taken in the State and delivered to me.”

Did Harrison, known as Dick, have a white friend who was an accomplice in his escape?

In October, Johnson advertised again, determined that Dick be returned to him, this time under a headline $100 Reward.

We will likely never know Dick’s fate.

If a Slate River Ramblings reader recognizes Robert H. Johnson of New Canton, please comment below.

June 7, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Hatton Ferry

Hatton Ferry (c. 1910), Courtesy Historic Buckingham

Occasionally at Slate River Ramblings, an old post gets a new comment, shedding light on its content.

In the June 22, 2013 post concerning Hatton Ferry, I wrote: “I have a special fondness for the Hatton Ferry and for the photo above.  My ancestor’s brother-in-law, Matt Layne, is sitting in one of the buggies.  He married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lavity Harris on July 7, 1886 in Buckingham County.”

Recently, Janet B. Goode, commented, “I just wanted to say this is one of my favorites also. The lady in the middle of the picture is my Grandmother Sarah Frances Ripley/Brown. The boys behind her are her grandsons.”

In 1900, a woman named Sarah F. Ripley, age thirty-three, was enumerated in Buckingham County, living with her husband and five children, ages twenty-one to four. Is she our ferry rider?

Can anyone (including Janet) date the photo above and name the grandsons?

If you enjoy reading about ferries, please consider, “Ferrying across the James,” in “At a Place Called Buckingham” Volume Two.

June 4, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notable: Rev. William H. Taylor     

Rev. William Harris Taylor (4 August 1811-24 October 1889).

Courtesy George Cauble.

Rev. William Taylor, who preached at Buckingham Baptist Church and Mount Zion Baptist Church for over forty years, is one of Buckingham County’s best known ministers. One church history notes:

Rev. L. R. Thornhill delivered the address October 25, 1889 on the occasion of the burial of Rev. Taylor. At the time of his death, there were only 2 members still living that were there when he first came to Mt. Zion. A slate marker enclosed by an iron fence was erected at his grave [on church property at Mt. Zion] and his picture continues to hang in the church sanctuary.

Despite Rev. Taylor’s prominence, his parents and lineage remain a mystery, one of his descendants would like to solve.

Rev. Taylor was born in Buckingham and genealogist Harry S. Holman believes that Taylor’s parents were also from Buckingham County.  In 1860, Tabby Taylor, eighty, was living with Rev. Taylor and his wife, Mary W. (Ferguson, a.k.a. Fergersen).  She is likely Rev. Taylor’s mother.

Census data reveals that Tabby (Tabitha?) Taylor was a widow by 1840, indicating that Rev. Taylor’s father died before that date, probably in Buckingham.

Notably, Rev. Taylor officiated at many weddings, including ceremonies for at least three of his daughters: Elizabeth Ann (Taylor) Putney in 1848, Mary F. (Taylor) Smith in 1862, and Pattie W. (Taylor) Gardner in 1866.

Can a Slate River Ramblings reader shed light on Rev. Taylor’s parents?

Also, does anyone have information about where his wife, Mary, is buried?

May 31, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

For Sale: Chellow

Chellow, Buckingham County, Virginia.

Courtesy Virginia Department of Historic Resources.


In 1847, the Bolling-owned plantation, Chellow, was offered for sale. Located in Buckingham County, east of Willis’ Mountain, Chellow was conveniently situated five miles from Ca Ira (Cumberland County), five miles from Curdsville (Buckingham County), and eleven miles east of Buckingham Courthouse. Both towns offered “merchant mills” and markets, particularly for the selling of tobacco.

The terms of the sale were typical, asking for one fourth cash in the balance to be paid in three annual installments. P. A. Bolling resided at Chellow and Robert Bolling, who placed the advertisement, asked that communications be addressed to his brother at Ca Ira, Cumberland County or to himself, at Virginia Mills, Buckingham County. If the property was not sold privately, it would be offered at public auction on Thursday, September 23, 1847.

The advertisement which ran in the Richmond newspapers described the plantation as well as the mills. It read as follows:


The subscriber offers this valuable Estate, and beautiful country residence, for sale. Situated in a healthy region of country, and in a wealthy and refined neighborhood, it presents an opportunity for investment rarely to be met with. The improvements are very excellent, consisting of a large and handsome dwelling house, and all necessary yard and farm buildings.

Chellow contains 1,780 acres of land; about 150 acres of bottomland, well adapted to grain and grass, 7 or 800 acres of timber land, in original growth, mostly oak and hickory. The land is well adapted to planting and farming, with a large body of good tobacco land to clear.


The subscriber, also, offers the Chellow Mills for sale which is now being thoroughly repaired. The wheat mill has all necessary convenient fixtures for manufacturing flour and a corn mill, with a large custom. The mills are well situated in a wealthy neighborhood, and afford a capital stand for a country store. The subscriber will sell the whole together, or the plantation and mills separate, to suit purchasers.—If mills are sold separately, 50 acres of land will be sold with them.

Click here for more about Chellow.

Click here for more about Powhatan A. Bolling.



May 28, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Auction: White Hall (Dillwyn)

Dillwyn, Buckingham County, Virginia. Photo by Joanne Yeck.

In 1904, as a result of a decree in the Buckingham County Circuit Court, land and machinery were to be auctioned at White Hall, later called Dillwyn. The sale was the result of a suit by Della M. Hall against the White Hall Company, et. al.

The property to be auctioned included 200 acres of land, already developed with many stores and other valuable buildings, plus an additional 100 town lots which had already been surveyed and laid off. An advertisement in Richmond’s Times-Dispatch stated: THE IMPROVEMENTS ARE EXCEEDINGLY VALUABLE. The Buckingham Branch of the C. & O. Railroad ran through the village. There was a public school house and churches, as well as stores. The advertisement went on to say:

The machinery and engines are in first-class condition, and are suitable for the manufacture of all kinds of lumber, hickory handles, etc. White Hall is a prosperous and growing village, in a fine farming region, and a valuable tobacco and lumber trade is now carried on there. It would be a most excellent location for a furniture or wagon factory.

The terms were typical, one third in cash and the balance in equal installments. The purchaser was required to keep the buildings insured until the purchase money was fully paid. The advertisement was signed by the court-appointed Special Commissioners: F. C. Moon, Lynchburg, Virginia; John R. Moss, Buckingham Courthouse; S. S. P. Patteson, Richmond, Virginia.

Attorney Frank C. Moon also maintained a residence at Snowden in Buckingham County.

May 24, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham News: White Hall, 1899

By the spring of 1899, the Appomattox and Buckingham Times was a well-established newspaper. Correspondents from Buckingham County contributed columns on a regular basis, including one from the village of White Hall. The enthusiastic correspondent was identified only as “R.”  On April 27, 1899, the newspaper published:

White Hall.

Since the weather has been fair and favorable for work, the population has been very busy getting their potatoes planted and some have begun to plant corn.

Our town, while not actually on the boom, is building up in a quiet way. The sound of the saw and the hammer is heard, as new buildings are going up.

Mr. W. R. Silvey is having a residence put up. He has purchased the farm of Mr. George W. Garratt, which lies adjacent to this place.

Mr. Geo. W. Garratt and family have removed from their home here to some place in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Robert Smith of this neighborhood, and Miss Jesse Garratt, of this place, were married last week; Rev. W. E. Grant officiating. We hope for the parties much happiness in their married life.

Our Mr. Jefferson Davis is returned last week from New York.

Mrs. H. M. White, accompanied by her son Wilbur, left last week to spend some weeks visiting relatives and friends at Warrenton, Va. we wish her a pleasant visit and a safe return.

Mrs. Wm. R. Silvey is this week visiting her relatives near Rival, Va.

Miss. Susie Harden, of this place, is visiting friends at Gravel Hill.

Mrs. Willie A. Moss is visiting her relatives at Mount Vinco. On her return, we think our friend Willie will have everything already for health we are glad to have them with. . . .

We are glad to see letters from several Buckingham correspondents. Let’s keep our paper to the front.


Within a few years, the development of White Hall would suffer a significant setback.

Coming next: Auction: White Hall (Dillwyn)

May 23, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

Even More Book News

Shopping from home?

Peter Field Jefferson: Dark Prince of Scottsville & Lost Jeffersons

Available now at most Internet bookstores.

May 21, 2018 / Joanne Yeck

 Humanity Hall Academy: Haunts of Vice

Healthy, peaceful Buckingham County, Virginia. Photo by Joanne Yeck.

Many advertisements in 19th-century newspapers described Buckingham County as both prosperous and healthy. Compared to the malaria-ridden waters further east in Virginia, residents of Buckingham did enjoy a comparatively healthful environment, making it a safer place to send your children to be educated. Elisha G. Hanes, founder of Humanity Hall Academy, stressed this in his frequent notices in the Richmond newspapers. Perhaps just as important to prospective parents was the fact that a country education removed their children from various dangers of city living. This particular advertisement ran in late 1850:


The annual exercises of the school will be resumed on 15th January, 1851. Board, tuition, washing, lodging, &c. will be furnished for $100, for a term of ten months. The school is located midway between Buckingham Court House and the Female Collegiate Institute, in a remarkably healthy and desirable neighborhood, remote from the haunts of vice and dissipation. Very particular attention will be paid to the moral development of those entrusted to my care. Address Chambers Mills, Buckingham county, Va.

                                            ELIJAH G. HANES.

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