George Washington Custis

George Washington Custis
The owner of White House and Arlington

Friday, September 12, 2014

To the Farmers' Register- 1834

I find the 4th and 5th paragraphs, with the correspondent's candid observations about slavery, to be most interesting. 1834 was three years after Nat Turner's Rebellion and some two years after the great slavery debate in the General Assembly of 1831-32.

The Farmers' Register was the publication of Edmund Ruffin.

      To the Editor or the Farmers' Register.
New Kent December 14TH, 1833.

A few days ago the "Farmer's Register," Vol. 1st; No 7th, fell into my hands, being the first No. I had ever seen: although the publication itself is highly spoken of by the best practical farmers in this and the adjoining counties, yet, the Register is not so widely diffused as (I believe,) it ought to be. It should be in every man's house, there to be read and studied, and such improvements as are therein recommended, should be put in immediate practice.
I very much regret, that when you were James City county, at Mr. Archer Hankins', did not come into New Kent, before you returned home. New Kent abounds in what is generally termed marl and your very presence on that score alone, would have roused numbers of us from that supine, lethargic state, into which we have unhappily fallen in regard to the improvement of farms. Man is an imitative animal; and because father and grandfather never raised manure any sort- never used any other plough except trowel-hoe passing through a pole like a cart tongue- the son, nor the son's son will not do otherwise. It is recorded, that a certain race of men formerly made their beasts of burden draw by their tails; and it required the force of the bayonet to make them alter their mode of gearing, &c. so strong is education.
The different marls beds that I have examined are mostly exceedingly rich. The one owned by Mr. A.W. Hockaday, is imbedded in a red sand, with some red clay between that and the marl. The shells are all entire, and of one kind only, the clamshell: the very same species of animal that may be now taken in a abundance at York Town. The bed owned by Mr. A. Mitchell is, in my opinion, by far the richer of the two, and is composed of shell, chiefly of cockle shells, with here and there an oyster shell. In this bank about four feet from the surface, I discovered a rib-bone, petrified, that must have belonged to some enormous animal; the kind can now no where be seen. It must have belonged to the mammoth, if the Indians are right in their notions of the existence of such an animal formerly. This rib was six feet long, nearly three inches broad, and two thick, and this appeared to be but a part of what it was originally. Mr. Mitchell's marl is surrounded, (except at the bottom) by a red, dark, soapy clay: in the centre of the marl may be seen a stratum of marl so calcined, or so pulverized, as to resemble cheese in the cutting; and at what I term the bottom of the marl, is a stratum greatly resembling ready made mortar for plastering, except that it is not so wet. Under this is a stratum of marl petrified, from one to four inches in thickness, rough and uneven. This last we throw aside as useless; although if burnt, I believe it would make good rock lime. The best marl I have ever seen is owned by Mr. Archer Williams of this county; and I speak advisedly, when I say that he owns a sufficient quantity to cover every foot of level cleared land in New Kent, one half inch in depth. If analyzed, I believe there would be found ninety parts of pure lime to the one hundred, with perhaps some magnesia To the credit of Mr. W., I speak it, that: he freely gives to all persons what they may choose to haul away.
One insuperable barrier, there is, however to improvement in Virginia; one that I fear, will remain till "tongues shall cease, and knowledge shall vanish away"- to be plain, I mean slavery. It has tainted our morals, manners and language- corrupted us in a thousand ways, and yet we cling to the accursed thing, and hold it dearer than life itself! Slaves are not intrinsically worth more than half what they were some twenty years ago. They are by far less governable, tractable and obedient- will do only what they choose, and when they choose. They are daily more insolent, thievish and lazy, and if punished they may abscond, and be protected in Philadelphia or New York- or possibly remain to do worse.
I verily believe, not one farmer in ten, clears one per cent on the cost and charges of his slaves. The owners barely can breathe, and not unfrequently are compelled to sell one or more every year to square their accounts. But like the Jew of Bristol, who lost seven teeth by order of the King of England, and was to lose one per day, till he paid or advanced the needy king 10,000 marks, these same men had much rather sell their teeth, than their slaves. Unhappy inglorious state of things.
I pray you, sir, recommend in strong terms, that an agricultural society be formed in every county of the state. New York is seventy-five years a head of us in agriculture. The Flemings one hundred and fifty years. The British one hundred. New York has an agricultural society in every county, and the great benefits arising therefrom are seen and felt to an astonishing degree.     
Our lands for the most part are sandy, and any information in regard to the improvement of this kind of soil, will be of great benefit to most persons from the head of tide water to the Atlantic?
Query.- If we were to sow oats, and roll them when ripe, and marl on them, would it not be a more speedy and cheaper way of improving than hauling leaves, &c. from the woods?
Query.- Is there no grass that we could profitably sow, to take the place of hog weeds and carrot weeds, with which our fields that lie fallow, abound?
Query.- How is wire grass to be destroyed?
Query.- If every citizen were compelled by law to keep his own stock on his own farm, and not permit them to roam at pleasure on every man's land, for a scanty subsistence, would it not be better for one and all? Would it not be a saving of limber for ship building, house building, &c. a great saving of labor and time,(it requires three years in every ten,) in making dead fences?
If these desultory remarks are worthy of your attention it is well- otherwise it is well. If they appear in the Register for January, perhaps some of your correspondents may furnish some information to satisfy the querist.

                Yours with respect,  W.X.Z.

- The Farmers' Register, February, 1834
Vol. I, No. 9

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Little Tragedy in a Big War

. . .
At the residence of her father, in New Kent county, on the 29th of August, of typhoid fever, Emma J. Davis, daughter of John A. and Mary J. Davis, aged eight years five months and nine days.

Dearest Emma, thou has left us,
We thy loss most deeply feel;
But 'tis God who hath bereft us,
He can all our sorrows heal.

-The Daily Dispatch (Richmond) August 31, 1864. 

John Davis, age 29, was a small landowner in the Dispatch station area of the county. I assume this is the same John A. Davis who was postmaster at Tunstall's 1873-75,78-81, and 1885-88. And presumably the same John A. Davis in 1864 serving in Co. F of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry, New Kent Troop.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Smuggling Along the Pamunkey- 1863

When the train from Richmond on the York River railroad neared the site of the White House, on the Pamunkey, yesterday morning, it was fired into by small body of Yankee cavalry, perhaps seventy-five or a hundred in number, who had visited that point as an escort of a gunboat. The train was at once backed off and returned to this city.
The only damage known to have been done by the marauders was the destruction by the gunboat of two oyster pungies, which were lying at the White House wharf. On of these pungies was the property of Mr. WILLIAM BROWN, a fishmonger of this city.

-The Richmond Examiner, January 9, 1863

THE CONTRABAND TRADE- AN INCIDENT.- The visit of the Yankees to the White House last Wednesday night, and their destruction of the oyster craft then lying in the Pamunkey River have already been mentioned. But no notice has been made of the most important capture effected by them on that occasion.
On the morning of Thursday, January 8th, Mr. _____, of Baltimore, a well known blockade runner, having with him four wagons loaded with assorted merchandise, was in the county of King William, making his way to the White House, from which point he designed to ship his goods to Richmond by the York River railroad. When within three miles of the White House, being chilled by the night air, Mr.____ got out of the wagon in which he had been riding and walked ahead of the train. He had walked but a short distance when he was met by a horseman, who, reining his horse to the side of the road, halted to survey the wagons. Mr.____, not liking the appearance of this apparition and presuming him to be a soldier, enquired of the man to what regiment he belonged. Without making any reply the unknown wheeled his horse round and rode quickly off in the direction from which he had come. This conduct excited the worst apprehensions in Mr.____, and he at once began to revolve in his mind what it was best for him to do, but before he could come to any conclusion his fears were realized by hearing someone in the road twenty yards in front of him, say in a voice of command, "Bring these wagons in front of the troops." The word troops satisfied him that he had fallen into the hands of the Yankees, as one which they invariably use in speaking of their voices great or small: Thinking the he might possibly save himself if not his property, Mr.____, without a moment's hesitation, crept over a fence by the road side, and throwing himself into a ditch drew a blanket carefully over his head. In this position, fearing every moment to be pounced upon he heard his wagons driven off, and a few moments after the road scoured by Yankee horsemen, who he felt certain were in search of himself. In the course of an hour everything having become quiet, he ventured to peep forth from his hiding place. It was then broad daylight and at first there seemed to be no enemy in the neighborhood; but on approaching the road carefully and looking up and down, he discovered a villainous blue coated cavalryman half concealed in the skirt of wood not fifty yards distant. Dropping back on his hands and knees he crawled to a neighboring thicket and started for Richmond. After a terrible tramp through swamp and woods he reached the York River railroad just as the train was retreating from the White House.
Mr.____ estimates his loss by this adventure at forty thousand dollars. He had many goods which are needed by the government, beside others which were bought on private orders. This is the third time since he embarked in smuggling that this gentleman has lost his goods and himself barely escaped capture. The profits of the business are so great, however, that there is no reason to believe that the dangers attending it will ever lead to an abandonment of the business.

-The Richmond Examiner, January 12, 1863


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Body Found! Mysterious Case!

 . . . but first, lets hear about this dogs running loose case.

                                               New Kent Notes

ROXBURY, VA Dec. 12.- There is being tried today a case in which much interest is manifested. Mr. E.J. Clopton of Quinton has issued a warrant against his son-in-law, Mr. G.C. Tate, for damages done his sheep by the dogs of Mr. Tate, as he claims. This Mr. Tate denies.
Mr. Tate is a prosperous well-to-do farmer and lumber merchant. He has employed Hon. R.T. Gregory, of Tunstalls, to defend the case, which will be heard by Squire Charlie Tunstall.
There are no developments in the mysterious murder case. Mr. Roy Ford found the body of a young white man near Roxbury on November 29.
Murder most foul was undoubtedly committed by some party or parties unknown. No doubt the mysterious persons- two women and one man, who frequently visited the section where the body of the young man was found have some clue, as days were spent in digging along the banks of the main stream. They had a chart and followed it closely going in 20 rods of the body. When there they came to a stream of water and stopped. Had they crossed this little stream, ten feet from the stream was the body of young man, covered with leaves, a log, resting on each arm and one leg, to keep the limbs down. Had he recovered from the murderous blow he was so pinioned down that nothing was left but slow agonizing death.
One dozen hair pins, a little gold ring and little faded photographs of some girl, a little ribbon bow was all that was found on the body.
A rural route will soon be established from Quinton as the inspector has been here.Mr. W.R. Ruckles will apply for the place of carrier and will no doubt be appointed as no one opposes him.

-the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette, December 16, 1905

One of the most strangely written articles I have ever come across.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fog of War

Another Rumor.
It was currently reported yesterday that the enemy had landed a force at the White House, on the Pamunkey river, twenty-four miles from Richmond, and that their advance had reached Tunstall's station. The numerical strength [ of ] this force is not mentioned, but those who credit the report believe that it is a body on raiding purposes intent. A well informed gentleman, who left King William county yesterday morning, gives it as his opinion that the story is entirely without foundation.

-The Daily Dispatch (Richmond) August 29, 1864.

The rumor that the enemy had landed in force at the White House, on the Pamunkey river, is without foundation. There might have been a small party in the vicinity on Saturday morning, though this is doubtful. An official dispatch, received on Sunday evening, states that there was no enemy there at that time.

-The Daily Dispatch (Richmond) August 30, 1864.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Snark I Think

The West Point Star thinks that Richmond can never be made a great commercial city if she depends for her communication with the sea upon the James River, and hopes, that this being the case, the people of Richmond and of the State generally should assist the half dozen West Pointers to make their town a great commercial city.

-the Richmond Enquirer, January 31, 1873

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jim Crow at Work

                                                          In New Kent
                                            (Special Dispatch to The Times.)
    NEW KENT C.H. VA., October 9.-The registration in this county is very satisfactory to the Democrats. It is as follows: Weir Creek- white 81; colored, 16. Cumberland- white, 112; colored, 21. St. Peter's- white, 56; colored, 20. Black Creek- white, 60; colored, 19. Total white, 318; total colored, 76.
Previously the white registration has been about 400 and the colored 800. New Kent is now a white county and safely Democratic.
-The Times(Richmond), October 10, 1902

This is what the new state constitution of  1902 had been designed to do.