Henrico County Historical Society
PO Box 90775   Henrico, VA 23273   (804)501-5682   hchsinfo@yahoo.com
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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 2021, First Quarter

President's Message

I hope this finds you and your family doing well. We had hoped for a better situation with the pandemic and are very disappointed to cancel the March 7th quarterly meeting. It is encouraging that vaccinations are well underway which will enable us to meet with each other once again. We tentatively hope to resume our schedule with a meeting on June 4, unless otherwise notified. We miss seeing you!

Taking advantage of a recent snow day, I worked on organizing HCHS files of past meetings, excursions, and events, bringing up many fond memories of the wonderful speakers we were fortunate to have and the associations we were honored to make. To note some:

Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Museum hosted an HCHS meeting and spoke with us. William (Bill) Kelso gave a presentation during an excursion to Jamestown for their 400th anniversary commemoration that included a tour of the newly constructed Archaearium building. Also, during the Jamestown commemoration, we had the pleasure of meeting with the delegates and Mayor Pat Oakshott of Gravesend England, where Pocahontas is buried. Dr. Randolph Turner made one of the most significant archaeological finds in North America, the site of Chief Powhatan's settlement Werowocomoco. He spoke with us, and some of us were fortunate to join one of the last public tours of the site. It is now designated a National Park and is, at this time, closed to the public. John Zeugner, President of Friends of Bryan Park, spoke with us when we met at the newly opened Nature Center. Donald Gunter, who worked on the Dictionary of Virginia Biography project at the Library of Virginia did a wonderful presentaton on entertainer and Henricoan, Tommy Edwards. Henry Kidd, author and artist, met with us; and he also provided the art work for the revised History of Henrico County written by historian Louis Manarin and Chuck Peple, who have also shared their knowledge with us. Director of the Virginia War Museum Clay Mountcastle hosted an HCHS meeting during the 75th anniversary of WWII and spoke with us. Former University of Richmond president Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, himself a WWII veteran who traveled famously on his Harley-Davidson in support of veterans and especially "Gold Star Mothers," was the keynote speaker at an HCHS-sponsored event at Sandston Recreation Center, a former USO center in WWII. Chris Semtner, curator of the Poe Museum, spoke with us. After his presentation, we had the special opportunity to tour the old Henrico County Courthouse at 22nd and Main Street, graciously hosted by owner, Kim Zimmerman. A War of 1812 historic marker dedication presented by HCHS and hosted by Antioch Baptist Church included a patriotic performance by Henrico Concert Band with Randy Abernathy conducting. Remarks were given by Stuart Butler, historian and author, Mike Lyman, Sr., past president of the War of 1812 Society in Virginia and Mark Wagner with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. This event actually had to be postponed and rescheduled because of weather conditions, but we carried on, and it was a splendid event.

In addition to the above, other excursions included: Attendance of the last two USS Henrico reunions held at Norfolk, VA and St. Louis, Missouri; a John Brown Walking Tour of Charlestown and Harper's Ferry, before which we visited the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races (everyone came back a winner!); Lincoln's Cottage and Ford's Theatre; a History and Boat tour of Henricus. We had the pleasure of meeting at the Richmond Railroad Museum and viewing the collection, much of which related to Henrico history. The Henrico 400th commemoration presented much opportunity for recognition of the region's rich history including an event at Tree Hill Farm, one of the most scenic and historic properties in Henrico County. Henrico native, Donna Dean performed, and a delegation from Henrico sister city of Saarpfalz-Kreis Germany was in attendance for the festivities.

Other events included the 12th Night Galas hosted by the 12th Virginia living history presenters; participation in the 150th anniversary of Emmnauel Episcopal Church, including a tour of historic "Brookhill;" teas and dances with the Colonial Dance Club of Richmond; the Walkerton Amusement Garden event, reminiscent of the 18th century amusement parks in London and interestingly, also held in Richmond, VA; bake sales; plant sales, book sales; festivals. Too many to mention! All with the help of HCHS volunteers.

We sure had a lot of fun!

I hope mention of these events brings back fond memories for you, too!

Sarah Pace,

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March Meeting Cancelled

So stay safe, healthy, and ready to meet when conditions allow.

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HCHS Dues are Due!

It's time to renew your 2021 HCHS dues. Renewal payment can be made at www.henricohistoricalsociety.org/shopping.html.

Thank you for your support and being a part of our HCHS community!

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Inventive Henricoans

The world did not beat a path to Thomas Wise's door despite his 1884 patent on what he saw as a better mousetrap. His relatively complex little device seems to have a bit of Rube Goldberg in its design and a bit of Medieval torture in its execution of the victim.

Thomas Wise's 1884 patent for his mouse trap.

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Meadow Farm Kitchen Project Update

Henrico County officials have resolved to proceed with the 19th Century Interpretive Kitchen Project this year and have been facilitated by a County Budget Amendment before the County Board in February. This will authorize external expenses to advance the project into construction by fall of this year. HCHS will monitor planning and construction progress and comment as appropriate.

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Aeronauts Announce an Ascension, Inflate the Balloon, then It's...Up, Up and Away

The area around Parham Road between Three Chopt Road and I-64 features normal-sized suburban lots and almost no open spaces of any size; so it was quite surprising a number of years back to see a low-flying hot-air balloon slowly descending over the houses, obviously seeking a spot to land. Fortunately, the pilot spotted what was surely the only space available for a touch down - about an open acre on Bronwood Road directly behind a line of small brick homes on the east side of Parham where children used to play baseball. Our curiousity aroused, my wife, daughter and I followed the balloon's path to the lot. Others had obviously followed the descent as witnessed by the number of cars pulled to the side of the road and the stream of people headed toward the deflating balloon.

The balloonist was actually reenacting a scene that, while not commonplace, was a good deal less rare in the nineteenth century. Those balloonists, then referred to as "aeronauts," created quite a local sensation - but also for the sometimes problematic landings.

Hot air balloon Intrepid being inflated.

The most significant balloon flights in Henrico County were certainly those made by Chief Aaeronaut of the Union Balloon Corps Thaddeus Lowe in 1862, for reconnaissance during the Battle of Fair Oaks. In the picture left, Loew is inflating the Intrepid, his gas balloon. But a number of aeronauts and their local ascensions, successful and unsuccessful, preced him by almost thirty years.

Accounts of balloon liftoffs, flights and disasters both foreign and domestic appeared in local newspapers from the earliest part of the 1800s; however, it apparently wasn't until 1834 that an aeronaut made a local attempt at an ascension. It was on September 18 of that year, according to the Daily Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser, that Isaac Elliott and Samuel Bennet would launch their balloon from Mr. Sands' Lot, head of 14th Street, near the Old Council Chamber" in Richmond. It was apparently quite an exhibition with the inflating taking place at half past two, the launching of a small pilot balloon which would indicate the direction of the wind at three, and the actual ascension scheduled for half past four - all for the one dollar admission (fifty cents for children under twelve). The audience would also hear from "A Band of Music," and were assured that the men had "engaged...a sufficient number of Police Officers to preserve good order." Additionally, "The Clergy and Scientific Gentlemen of Richmond" were "respectfully invited to attend."

Sadly, it seems that the ascension failed, for no account of its results could be found after a long search through newspapers around the date. However, a balloonist did suceed in the following year. The Richmond Enquirer of 26 June 1835 wrote that "We too have witness the labors of an Aeronaut - Last year an experiment was tried in Richmond, but it failed. Three weeks since, Mr. Mitchell made the first ascension ever effected here." Z. Mitchell then provided an account of that flight. Curiously, he wrote that after he cut the cord restraining the balloon, he "ascended gradually...distributing my verses as I rose - after which I sent down my parachute with a young cat." The poetic cat-fancying aeronaut then proceeded eastward, reaching an altitude of 12,000 feet and meeting with an air temperature of 31 degrees. Nine miles out of the city, he "discharged a portion of...gas" and descended low enough to toss a grappling iron to several men on the ground who had followed him. So, while the first local balloon ascension was in Richmod, its termination was apparently in Henrico County. From there, the aeronaut was carried back to his car then up to "Main street amidst the cheers of the citizens."

It would be almost twenty years before Henricoans had another close encounter with balloon flight; and like the first one, this one also began outside the county and ended within it. It began in Hanover County at Slash Cottage, a resort developed by the RF&P Railroad on land now occupied by Randolph-Macon College. The of 15 July 1854 gave an account of the previous day's ascension by George Elliott, a native of Chesterfield County. His flight began at quarter to six to the accompaniment of the Army Band playing "Jordan is a hard road to travel;" and in 100 seconds, he disappeared into a heavy cloud cover. Blown in several different directions by changing air currents, he soon reached a height of four miles when "difficulty of respiration induced him to descend." (On flights that exceed 15,000 feet, supplemental oxygen is required for each person in the aircraft). He "passed into a third current of air, and proceeded towards Short Pump, direction West South West in Henrico county." By six thirty he was ready to land in a field he spied owned by a Mr. Leake about a mile and a half from Short Pump. However, he overshot the field and landed in a stand of pines. When help finally arrived, he dropped down the rope he had, pulled up rope the help had brought and secured the balloon to the tree. Then he leaped from the gondola to the "flexible limbs of an oak below him" and reached the ground going limb from limb. This situation led the journalist to note the "prophetic mood" the Armory Band had clearly been in when they performed the aforementioned send-off. Elliott spent the night in Henrico County with Mr. Maxwell, who conveyed him the next day to the RF&Ps's Hungary Station from which he took the train back to Richmond.

How he eventually freed the caft from the tree was never explained, although the article did indicate that the balloon was "injured to some extents by its contact with the pine, but how much has not yet been ascertained." Damage was surely to be expected since the balloon was made of silk enclosed in a rope netting that contained it and connected it to the car below.

Elliott, or Professor Elliott as he was sometimes called, was ever the showman, and one of his more unusual stunts was attempting to perform an ascention on horseback. According to a 6 September 1855 account in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania's Jeffersonian, Elliott performed this in St. Louis, where he harnessed his horse to the aerial car and ascended into the regions of air." The horse, it was said, "never for a moment 'clawed the air,' but he contented himself by gazing at the peculiar situation of things" Undoubtedly, the audience also similarly gazed.

The aeronaut announced numerous local attempts at recreating the flight, some from Slash College, and some from the Fair Grounds, which at the time was in the Monroe Park area, just inside Henrico County. In the 8 December 1855 Daily Dispatch, Elliott announced an upcoming attempt at a horseback ascension from the Fair Grounds on 12 December while expressing his "regret and mortification" for "his late failures." For this flight, he would ascend in the St Louis, a "MAMMOTH BALLOON" which was 65 feet in length, with a diameter of 40 feet and a circumference of 126 feet and named for the city where it had been constructed.

1864 Smith Map of Henrico County marking two sites of George Elliott's balloon landings.

Inflation of the balloons before ascension was all a part of the show, and time of inflation was regularly mentioned in the announcements. It involved the production of hydrogen, or coal gas, by dumping iron filings into sulfuric acid and piping the gas into the balloon - not only interesting but also dangerous. Unfortunately, this inflation would bring more regret and mortification. According to the 13 December 1855 Daily Dispatch, Elliott filled the balloon at the city gas works and after attaching the horse to the cords, "found that the gas had begun to decompose rapidly, and that the balloon would not take the two up." However, all was not lost because A.L. Carrier and the twelve year-old Virginia Hodgdon joined Elliott in the balloon and "floated gently over the city in full view of thousands of spectators." Ms. Hodgdon, daughter of Ivery P. and Lucy A. Hodgdon of Richmond (Ward 1 Henrico), was actually a fairly regular fellow balloon traveler with Carrier and Elliott on other ascensions. The gas was clearly not so badly decomposed because the followin day's edition noted that the trio had "made a safe landing on Mr. Carter's farm, near the New Kent line, about eighteen miles from Richmond, where they apparently spent the night. The circled areas on the 1864 Smith Map of Henrico County mark two sites of George Elliott's balloon landings. The top circle points out the Leake farm, and the bottom circle indicates the Carter farm.

Ad for an airborne wedding celebration.

This one didn't fly: The 24 December 1855 Daily Dispatch carried this announcement for an airborne wedding celebration. However, a later edition reported that rain prevented the ascension.

It is a bit surprising that Carrier took part in the above flight, given Elliott's experience with him in a previous ascension where Carrier essentially hijacked the balloon. The 3 November 1855 Daily Dispatch covered the previous day's events including a parade of the Rough and Ready Rangers, their tournament and a balloon flight. A little after four o'clock at the Armory, Carrier "who had been assisting Mr. Elliott...asked the privilege of making a brief ascent, held by the cords." Elliott acquisced, not suspecting that once in the air, Carrier would cut the restraining cord and sail away. According to the paper, Elliott was so affected that he fainted and "suffered so much...as to compel friends to call in two physicians last evening."

Perhaps, Carrier's appropriation of the balloon should not have been so surprising since he had been piloting balloons for the entire year. In fact, the 3 January 1855 Daily Dispatch had called him "Our Aeronaut - Our own Carrier" when it carried an account of an ascension. It gives some insight into how some balloonists controlled their height because Carrier was nearly frozen when he rose too high after he "threw out too much of his clay ballast." Despite his miscalculation, the paper gushed that Carrier "promises to be one of the most successful balloonists of the age."

During the rest of the year, Carrier made ascensions around the state, including ones from the Fair Grounds here, many from Lynchburg, and others from Cluster Springs in Halifax County and Buffalo Springs in Mecklenburg County. In all of these ascensions in the Pocahontas, he was accompanied by Virginia Hodgdon. Other flights took place in Fredericksburg, Norfolk and Alexandria, where high winds badly damaged his balloon.

Like his one-time collaborator, Carrier was also sometimes referred to as "Professor," and reference to them and their ascensions trail off as the 1850s ended. But over fifty years later, it seems quite likely that an individual participating in a balooon ascension in Henrico COunty is George Elliott. There was a political primary, and a "Wind-Up Rally" was held at Terry's Hall, a brick three-story store/dwelling/tavern at the corner of Ashland and Washing Streets. That location is now in the City of Richmond in the area occupied by Clark Springs Elmentary School. The 30 August 1903 Times-Dspatch, announced that "Professor Crew will arrange a balloon ascension, Mr. Elliott is making the trip." If the passenger is George Elliott of aeronatuical fame, he must have been quite elderly and had ascended from obscurity like his very old balloon had ascended so many times below. But, like balloonists who never know where they will land and history buffs who never know where their interests will lead them, we just don't know.

Joey Boehling

Two often used launch sites: For local ascensions, aeronaut George Elliott often used Slash Cottage (below) in Hanover County on the land now occupied by Randolph-Macon College and the newly established Fair Grounds in the Monroe Park area (below), now in the city but then in Henrico County.

Fair Grounds in Monroe Park, 1854. Slash Cottage.

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Barreling Along, Ready for a Fall

Annie Edson Taylor and her barrel.

On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor of Auburn, New York celebrated her sixty-third birthday in an unusual way. She climbed into a crudely cushioned oak barrel, was set adrift from a rowboat in the Niagara River and became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in such a craft. About twenty minutes later, she was recovered from the base of the falls with a bloody head. She told the press, "If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat...I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall."

While she was the first human to perform the feat, her cat actually beat her to it. Ms. Edson had tested her barrel by stuffing the animal in her padded barrel.

Annie Edson Taylor leaving her barrel.

It took another decade before anyone else accomplished the feat. This time the barrel's passenger was Englishman Bobby Leach, an established stuntman who performed for years with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. On 25 July 1911, he strapped himself into his specially designed steel barrel with wooden bumpers and became the first male barrel rider to successfully go over the falls. This earned him two broken kneecaps, a fractured jaw, and a six-month hospital stay.

Bobby Leach with his steel barrel.

All told, nineteen people have tried to ride over the falls in a barrel, or some such vessel. Four died, six were stopped before they could try it, and nine lived to tell their adventure.

Two firsts: In the photograph at the far left, Annie Edson Taylor poses with the Maid of the Mist, her padded wooden barrel in which she became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The small picture in the middle shows her being helped ashore after her barrel had been retrieved. Directly at the left, Bobby Leach poses with his steel barrel in which he became the first male to survive the barrel drop over the falls. He carries a cane, a reminder of the multiple injuries he sustained in his trip.

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What Do You Know?

Above are two views of a metal, wood and leather object. The metal cylinder has a radius of 3.5 inches. The rectangular wooden base measures 5 x 8 inches.

Do you know what it is?

Email your answers to jboehling@verizon.net.

What Do You Know object. What Do You Know object.

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Now You Know

Not much room for a view in ... Stanhopes.

We congratulate Katherine Ridgway from DHR and Mary Jo and Haywood Wigglesworth, who, after gentle hints, identified the last issues object as a Stanhope charm, an ancestor of today's plastic keychain viewers. What are missing from our object was a tiny lens and microphotograph which was originally inside.

While our object was a charm, these novelty souvenirs ranged from pens to sewing accessories to jewelry. The subjects of the tiny images inside included famous events, people and places. Ours is made of Satin Spar, a crystal that allows light to pass through it; and the charm celebrated Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Technology developed by John Benjamin Dance made Stanhope viewers possible. He was able to produce microphotographs by attaching a microscope lens to a daguerreotype camera. Parisian portraitist Rene Dagron then invented the Stanhope by affixing a micro-image to a lens. The lens was a polished glass rod approximately 7mm in length and 3mm in diameter. One end was convex, outwardly curved, to allow high magnifications for a short focal length. Fixed to the flat end was the microphotograph. By holding the lens with the convex side very close to the eye, the viewer could see the image contained in the viewer. The name "Stanhope" came from the inventor, Lord Charles Stanhope. The name is actually an inaccurate attribution because Stanhope died in 1816, before photography had been invented; and the lenses are actually called Codding Magnifiers, invented by Sir David Brewster.

A few of many Stanhopes. At the top is our mystery object from the last issue, and beside it is the photograph that should been in it. Of course, this printed image is greatly magnified in size since the original had to fit on the end of a lense that fit through the opening in the barrel. Also pictured are three other examples - a pair of bone binoculars, a bible, and a special knife ordered by Anheuser Busch, of which there are many different variations, most of which apparently contained images of founder Adolphus Busch.

Stanhope. Niagara Falls images. Bone binoculars. Lord's Prayer bible. Anheuser Busch knife.

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News 2021: First Quarter
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