Grain production, milling, and transportation were long staples of the Shenandoah Valley. Across Clarke and other valley counties grist mills of varying states of preservation can be found. CCHA, of course, owns and operates the Burwell-Morgan Mill, located in Millwood. It was built by Nathaniel Burwell of Carter Hall, and has remained in near-constant operation since 1785. While countless histories have been written about Nathaniel Burwell and his associate, Daniel Morgan, an entire group of people have been left out of the narrative: the enslaved. It's easy to forget the black faces that powered the milling operation when you walk into the Burwell-Morgan Mill. While the location is original, much of the landscape around it has changed over the past two centuries. Foliage has grown back, roads have been added, houses built, etc. To those who visit for the first time, the building and water wheel are awe-inspiring. But we cannot forget about the countless, nameless human beings who worked day in and day out at a thankless job: agriculture.
CCHA is working to revamp our interpretation of the mill and those peoples associated with it. Our goal is to bring to light voices that have been traditionally left out: the enslaved. This post is a brief look at what we know so far.
Religion has been central to many households throughout the history of the US. Practicing Christians typically have some form of family Bible in the house, and often it's been passed down from generation to generation, and was used to record important family information like births, marriages, and deaths.
Below is the Garver Family Bible, given to us by the Stella Moore Estate. The pages themselves are very typical, but it's what's been added to them that's the most interesting. In addition to the several newspaper clippings pasted to the covers, family information dating back to 1833 is recorded. Often times Family Bibles serve as invaluable resources for genealogists and researches alike, as birth, marriage, and death records were not always recorded and archived as they are today.
How does your family record important vital information?
There has always been a stigma around owning slaves. Even large plantation owners knew holding humans in bondage was "wrong" (a loaded term we won't unpack here) and it was also incredibly expensive, requiring a huge investment and a bit of a gamble. But what was a small(er) farmer or a family in town to do if they just needed a little extra help, without the negative implications of purchasing a human being? They rented one, of course.
Please note: the author is not implying that the rental of enslaved persons was in any way less immoral than outright purchasing one. We are discussing this through a historic context, and it should remain thus.
We have a new exhibit coming! Thanks to COVID, we're exploring a digital route. This format will not only make our exhibit available for anyone with web access, but it also doesn't have to be taken down every 3 months for care and maintenance. We're very excited to explore the potential for future exhibits! Because the formatting has taken up so much of the archivist's time, we've included a link here to preview the progress:
PLEASE NOTE: this is nowhere near the final product! It's simply a little snapshot of where we are in the process of designing an exhibit that spans over 30 years.
Art at the Mill is a huge event that has, in one way or another, touched the lives of many Clarke County residents. We'd love to include your stories, memories, and pictures in our exhibit! If you're interested in sharing, please reach out to our archivist, or comment below!
This week's post is brought to you by the mystery that is Israel Spencer Jackson and his first wife, Dora. A few weeks ago, Archivist Melanie did a program with the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War about her current research project, centering around Israel and Dora. After the program, while digging around in some categorized archive files, this document was found:
Now that Virginia is in Phase 3, and we are allowed to gather in large numbers, are you planning any big dinners? If so, let us help!
These recipes come to you straight from the Clarke Courier, and could really take a good meal and make it great.
This week we bring you a brief look at the life of Ellen M Locke. Like many women of her era, little is known about her directly, but we can surmise many details from looking at her family records, specifically census documents. Here is what they tell us:
This week's blog is a very brief look at the American Colonization Society, which had a small following here in Clarke County. Much has been written on the subject at large by other institutions, so look for further reading suggestions at the bottom.
This week's blog post is a reminder that Clarke County was built on the backs of thousands of men, women, and children who were held in perpetual bondage, and it is a tribute to those men, women, and children who's voices have been silenced within the narrative.
To make sure their voices are coming through loud and clear, there will be no interpretation or explanation given to accompany the following images. Some have been transcribed for ease of reading, but that is all.
The Archivist, the author of this blog, invites you to join her in these conversations, and to help bring these voices back to the present.
Divorce is no small matter, particularly in 1835. In the United States, it wasn't until well into the twentieth century that divorce became somewhat less stigmatized, although divorces in general still favored men over women. Women were, throughout history, left to bear the brunt of social stigmatization over divorce and other matrimonial troubles. It was usually seen as a woman's duty to ensure the happiness of her household, and for rich women, the burden was especially high. More was a stake in a marriage between two wealthy families than was for more common families.
Exploring the intricacies of marriage in the 19th century would fill dozens of blog posts, so if you want to read more, check out this lecture, written by Hendrik A. Hartog of the University of Wisconsin Law School entitled Marital Exits and Marital Expectations in Nineteenth Century America.
While digging through the Clarke County deed books, we once again found some intrigue - record of the divorce in 1835 of John W Byrd and his young wife Mary F Page, the second daughter of Ann Meade Randolph Page of Annfied. Seeing written evidence of a divorce this early in the century is intriguing enough, but reading further, the questions grow.
Clarke County Deed Book a:111-113
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.