Henrico County Historical Society
PO Box 90775   Henrico, VA 23273   (804)501-5682   hchsinfo@yahoo.com
Open by appointment only

Henrico County Historical Society's motto, which is Preserving the Past in the Present for the FutureSkipwith Academy in Three Chopt District, Henrico County, Virginia.Log Cabin in Tuckahoe District, Henrico County, Virginia.Mankin Mansion in Fairfield District, Henrico County, Virginia.Dorey Barn in Varina District, Henrico County, Virginia.Bethlehem Church in Brookland District, Henrico County, Virginia.

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News 2011, Second Quarter

President's Message

The original Henrico Shire "extended along the James River from its junction with the Appomattox River to the Blue Ridge Mountains." During this year commemorating Henrico's 400th anniversary, the historical societies of the counties that were once part of the Henrico Shire are hosting events. It has been my pleasure to visit each county and put a face with those who are the stewards of our shared history. Our visits made us realize the vastness of the original territory and to marvel at the pioneer spirit of the early settlers.

Historic Buckingham, Inc. was the first stop. Mother Nature does not always cooperate. The second day of the Civil War Camp event they hosted at The Historic Village at Lee Wayside was dusted with the last snowfall of the year. The following weekend on April 2nd, the occasion of Buckingham County's 250th anniversary was celebrated.

On April 8-10 at Clover Hill Village, the Appomattox Historical Society partnered with other organizations to host the first of a series that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War called "The Long Road Home" leading up to the 150th anniversary of the surrender.

Cumberland County Historical Society celebrated Patriot Day on the weekend that a series of storms passed through the area. They were an inspriration in that they moved the entire festival indoors at the Cumberland High/Middle School, complete with band, vendors, and children's games. They even unveiled a historical marker on stage. The marker commemorates Cumberland's "First Call for Independence" from Great Britain at the Virginia Convention as the first governmental body to do so.

Amherst County also celebrated its 250th birthday with a great big birthday cake and ceremony. We purchased local products from Amherst Milling Co., in business since 1813, and met Jane Hughes whose uncle, Isaac Proffitt, was killed at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Civil War. We were told residents of Amherst pronounce their county name with a silent "h". We met Chief Kenneth Branham of the Monacan Tribe and took photos of the Monacan Nation Museum located in Amherst County. The Monacan tribe is the only one left in the former territory of the Henrico Shire.

Upcoming events to be reported on in a later issue will include the unveiling of a historic marker in Nelson County and a historic home tour. Hosted by Goochland Historical Society, author Edward Lengel will give a presentation on his latest book, "Inventing George Washington: America's Founder in Myth and Memory".

The Albemarle/Charlottesville Historical Society will feature a Memorial Day tribute in Maplewood Cemetery, the final resting palce of many prominent Charlottesville residents, on Saturday, May 28. On October 29, Chesterfield Historical Society will sponsor "Colonial Market & Court Day" on the historic 1917 Courthouse Green. HCHS will host a tea and colonial dance on December 4th. The Fluvanna Historical Society will feature an "Old Fashioned Village Holiday" event in the Village of Palmyra on the 10th of December.

What an exciting year!

For additional information on all events, call (804) 839-2407.

Sarah Pace, President

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HCHS March and June Quarterly Meetings

Scenes from the March meeting:

Sarah Pace and Clair Culbertson. Author Brenda Dabney Nichols.

HCHS President Sarah Pace instroduces Steward School sophomore Clair Culbertson, who served an internship digitizing our USS Henrico holdings.

Author Brenda Dabney Nichols discusses her book, African Americans of Henrico County.

Dr. Louis Manarin and Mr. Welford Williams.

Dr. Louis Manarin presents Mr. Welford Williams with a sign reflecting Mr. Williams' service in World War II.

...and information about the June meeting:

We'll have a "Triple Header" program featuring three presentations:

Elvin Cosby will speak of the history of Coal Pit School

Melvin Anderson will speak on the history of Springfield School that was recently saved from demolition.

Trevor Dickerson will present the video he made of the Springfield School relocation. Video is now available online:

Time to Vote!

It's time to elect Henrico County Historical Society officers. Here is the slate of nominees:

  • President: Sarah Pace
  • 1st Vice President (Programs): Trevor Dickerson
  • 2nd Vice President (Membership): Alice Baldwin
  • Recording Secretary: Diane Brownie
  • Corresponding Secretary: Lurline Wagner
  • Treasurer: Debbie Shuck
  • Brookland Director: Allan Wagner, III
  • Fairfield Director: Welford Williams
  • Three Chopt Director: Cathy Boehling
  • Tuckahoe Director: Ruth Ann Kramer
  • Varina Director: Yet to be filled

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Henrico's Dr. Robert Bluford Named "Virginian of the Year," by VPA

The Rev. Dr. Robert Bluford Jr. was honored Friday, April 8, as 2011 Virginian of the Year by the Virginia Press Association during the VPA/Associated Press Annual Advertising and News Conference.

The native Virginian founded one of the first free clinics in the Commonwealth, was a motivating force in preserving hundreds of acres of Civil War battlefields and other historic sites - including Hanover County's Historic Polegreen Church - and was instrumental in bringing about a new awareness of the fight for religious freedom in Colonial Virginia.

Bluford has worked quietly and tirelessly for change thorughout his life, preferring to remain humble about his own role. According to the judges, this made him the ideal recipient of the VPA's annual award, which for the first time emphasizes humanitarian accomplishment over celebrity.

Born in Richmond in 1918, Bluford graduated from John Marshall High School in 1936, when the country was still in the Great Depression. Not having the money to go to college, he worked as a clerk filling out invoices as well as other jobs. A Sunday School teacher who took an interest in him asked him, "Have you ever considered the ministry?"

"I'd never dreamed of it up to then," Bluford confessed.

He enrolled at Hampden-Sydney College in the autumn of 1941, the oldest man in the student body. History interrupted the college education he had just begun. In May 1942, Bluford joined the Army Air Corps and learned to fly planes. He became a B-24 "Liberator" pilot and was assigned to the 8th Air Force in England, where he flew 18 combat missions over enemy-occupied Europe as squadron leader.

Bluford resumed his education on the G.I. Bill, graduating from Hampden-Syndey in 1947 as Valedictorian and Class President. In 1950, he graduated cum laude from Union Theological Seminary and was ordained a Presbyterian minister. He subsequently earned a master's and a doctorate in theology.

Bluford and three others founded the Fan Free Clinic. Within a short period of time, the free clinic had been duplicated 58 times in other Virginia localities, and the Fan Clinic had served a quarter of a million patients in need, all without charges.

Although Bluford was interested in history as a boy growing up among the statues along Richmond's Monument Aentue, he came about his passion for historic preservation, as he tells it, almost by accident.

"My daughter...was a percussionist and that takes up a lot of space," Bluford noted. "She needed a place to keep her stuff. There was an abandoned Presbyterian church in Laurel that was being used by a man as a storage building. I asked him if he was willing to sell it.

"He said, 'I'll give it to you if you'll take the building next to it.' That resulted in my moving both buildings across the Laurel golf course.

Richmond Industrial School for Boys.

Bluford researched the structures. The other building turned out to have been the former home of the Superintendent of the Richmond Industrial School for Boys. The buildings were saved from eventual destruction, restored and are now part of the Laurel Community Historic District.

In the 1980s, Bluford led a long and sometimes frustrating quest to preserve the lands around the site of Historic Polegreen Church, where another Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Samual Davies, once preached and lauched the battle for the right of Colonial Virginians to worship how they saw fit. Rev. Davies went on to become President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), but not before inspiring young Patrick Henry with his ideals of personal and religious freedom.

Bluford said he became alarmed that so many historical sites in Hanover County and elsewhere in Virginia were falling under the bulldozer blade of residential and commercial development to be lost forever.

He succeeded in obtaining 3.4 acres of land through the Hanover Presbytery. "They said ' All right, Bluford, you've been interested in this a while. Come here and tell us what to do with it.' Within a year, I came back with a plan and created the Historical Polegreen Church Foundation," Bluford related.

The original church building had been destroyed by artillery fire at the beginning of the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864, so the site had additional significance as a Civil War battlefield. An archaeological study helped locate the church foundation, and in 1991, Bluford obtained drawings of the original structure made by a Union soldier. The striking structural sculpture that now stands at Polegreen Church was modeled on those sketches by architect Carlton Abbott.

Blueford researched the life of Samuel Davies and wrote the historical novel, "Living on the Borders of Eternity," published in 2004. The Historic Polegreen Church Foundation has preserved an additional 107 acres and added a visitors' center and a Timeline of Religious Freedom walk.

Bluford gathered up acorns from the historic "Lee Tree" near Gaines Mill after the massive 400-year-old white oak was felled by a storm. He arraged to have sapplings grown from them. Their sale funds the acquisition of additional historic sites through the Douglas Southall Freeman Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.

Bluford was given the Virginia's First Freedom Center Distinguished Service Award in 2004, honored by the Virginia General Assembly in 2004, and in 2008 received the Carrington Williams Battlefield Preservationist of the Year Award from the Civil War Preservation Trust.

And, just last year, 65 years after he flew missions over Europe in WWII, the 91-year-old Presbyterian minister was invited to go aloft in a restored B-24 bomber and when handed the controls, he flew it quite capably.

"It was quite a thrill for me. I've very grateful," he said afterward.

From press release by Virginia Press Association

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Glen Echo to be Renovated

Glen Echo - Saved!

The Henrico County Board of Supervisors heard concerns from historic preservation groups and the School Board and decided to renovate the 72-year-old Glen Echo School building on Nine Mile Road in eastern Henrico.

The 1938 Glen Echo School building was one of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal projects and was one of two schools funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA) built in Henrico County.

The Building, whose architecture reflects a Colonial Williamsburg influence, was originally slated for demolition this spring, and it was to be replaced with a new structure to house the health department clinics currently in Glen Echo. Now, the supervisors have ordered the construction of a new building to house those clinics.

The Henrico Historical Society, the Association for the Preservation of Henrico Antiquities, and the Henrico Preservation Advisory Commission raised concerns about the historical value of the building. The School Board reconsidered its earlier decision and asked that the county preserve the building.

The school was once home to supervisors' meetings and is the current meeting place for the School Board. It will be renovated at an estimated cost of $4.0333 million.

The project will provide the School Board with twenty-first century amenities in a historic headquarters - linking past and present in a fitting way to celebrate the county's 400th anniversary.

During the planning and construction phase, the School Board will hold its meetings at the district-owned New Bridge School, on Nine Milie Road.

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Congratulations to Henrico County Police Chief

Henrico County Police Chief Col. Henry W. Stanley Jr. retired after decades of area police work. Stanley served a 16-year tenure as police chief and 49 years overall as a police officer.

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In Memory...

Our condolences to the family and friends of:

Jean Franklin Flippo
HCHS charter member
Former board member
Permanent substitute at Varina High School


Neville Elizabeth "Nel" Langhorn
Silhouette artist at Cheswick

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Celebrating Patriot Day in Cumberland County

Celebrating Patriot Day in Cumberland County. Cumberland County Historical Marker.

HCHS President Sarah Pace addresses the audience assembled for the festivities. They included the unveiling of a historical marker, which reads as follows:

Near this place from the porch of
Effingham Tavern on 22 April 1776,
Carter Henry Harrison, a member of the Cumberland Committee for Safety,
read the resolutions of Cumberland
County to citizens gathered there. These
resolutions called for the colonies to
"abjure any allegiance to his Brittanick
Majesty and bid him a goodnight
forever." The freeholders approved these resolutions, and Harrison was
instructed "positively to declare for
an independency" at the Virginia
Convention. On this historic occasion,
Cumberland made the first call by a
governmental body for independence
from Great Britain.

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Upcoming Celebrations in Our Sister Counties

Go to: http://henricohistoricalsociety.org/generalevents.html.

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2012 HCHS Calendar - It's in the Works, and We Want Your Help

The Calendar Committee needs your help with the 2012 Henrico County Historical Society calendar. With a planned publication date of late August, this calendar will be the fifth in a series of historical calendars published by our society. Each calendar contains a wealth of information about our county's history, and we are excited about the next one.

As part of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War, we would like for next year's calendar to feature images and information about life in Henrico County during the 1860s, and we need input from you to make this happen.

If you have any photographs, documents or artifacts related to Henrico County during the antebellum period, the war, or the Reconstruction years that you would be willing to share with us, we would like to examine them for possible inclusion in the 2012 calendar. We are looking for things related to life on the home front as well as the battlefield.

To make arrangements for sharing your photographs, documents, and artifacts with the calendar committee, contact Joey Boehling at jboehling@verizon.net or 282-7281. With your help, we can make the 2012 calendar the best one yet.

Our first four calendars are more than just date books; they are informative keepsakes. If you missed out on any of the first four, why not order one now? You'll learn a lot about Henrico County and its history. Call Sarah Pace for more information (839-2407)


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Surrender Tree Marks Fall of Richmond

Surrender Tree.

We're looking for the oldest tree in Henrico County and for other trees with historical significance, innate beauty or magnificent size.

The majestic Surrender Tree in the photo certainly fits all three categories. It spreads its mighty limbs at the intersection of Route 5 and Osborne Turnpike in the county's east end. Beside it is a historic marker that reads:

At daybreak on 3 April 1865, Federal troops
formed to march into Richmond. A cavalry detachment
under Majors Atherton H. Stevens, Jr. and
Eugene E. Graves moved up the Osborne Turnpike
to its junction with New Market Road. Here they
met Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo, who handed
Stevens a note of surrender for the city. Stevens
accepted the note and had it forwarded to Maj.
Gen. Godfrey Weitzel. At 8:15 A.M. at Richmond's
city hall, Weitzel formally accepted the terms of
surrender. The Union forces assisted in extinguish-
ing the fires, started at around dawn by Confederate
soldiers; by midafternoon order had begun to be restored to the city.

Please tell us about any really old, beautiful or historically significant trees that you are aware of in the county. Photographs are welcome. Contact Joey Boehling at jboehling@verizon.net or Sarah Pace at sarah.pace@verizon.net.

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Now You Know...

With some hemp rope, a feather tick and a bed wrench, you could really "sleep tight"!

Congratulations to Kermit L. Johnson of Taos, New Mexico, and again to Ron Axselle (identifier of the December issur's cherry pitter - Ron apparently knows his obscure stuff) for correctly identifying the item pictured in the March "What Do You KNow?" as a rail from a rope bed.

Before the introduction of bed springs, rope was woven in web on the bed frame to support the feather tick- a large, usually blue or black and white striped sack, filled with down, or straw for the not-so-well-to-do.

Closeup of top of rope bed rail. Rope bed rail.

The leftmost image is a closeup of the top of the bed rail pictured on the right. The pegs extended all the way around the four rails on a bed like that shown at the bottom left. Notice that there are grooves worn on the edge of the rail. This resulted from the rubbing of the rope as the bed was used over the years. The normal roping, it seems, should only have yielded a single groove, so it seems that as the bed was reroped from time to time, the direction of the roping was changed.

Rope bed. Rope bed.

The small inset shows the corner of a bed that has been roped, the quilt and tick turned back to expose the web of rope.

Roping the bed usually required two people, one to pull the rope between two pegs and one to maintian the tension while the next length was stretched. Using hemp rope (cotton and other fibers stretch too easily) the roping was begun at the head of the bed at one corner. The rope was knotted around the first peg then run down to the corresponding peg at the foot of the bed and then around the peg beside it and back to the top. This continued until the entire length of the bed was roped.

Then the rope was run to the closest peg on the side rail, and the roping continued across the bed, weaving it over and under the long runs. When the web was complete, the rope was tied off, and it was bedtime.

Rope bed. Rope bed wrench.

Other rope beds, like that pictured left, used holes in place of pegs, and the ropes were run through the holes in the same manner. For such a bed, the wrench shown right was used to tighten the ropes by slipping the open end over the section of rope running on the outside between two holes and turning it. A peg would hold the rope tight while the wrench was moved to the next point.

Good tension on the ropes made for a more comfortable bed, and that accounts for one saying, "Sleep tight!"

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What Do You Know?

Surrender Tree.

In this photo is a handmade wooden object. The long portion is broomstick-sized, about four feet long. The thicker piece is attached by a rope through a wooden loop.

Do you know what it is? Email your answers to jboehling@verizon.net.

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News 2011: Second Quarter
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