Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Enumerable Bugs and Specimens of Insect Life Hitherto Unknown to Them"

A few nature scenes from the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 . . .

The whole Peninsula, that portion of Virginia between the York and the James River, was low and swampy and it was common talk at the time that one could not pat the earth three times with his foot anywhere without bringing water. Great mortality occurred among the troops, chiefly from malarial fever, and often, when a poor fellow was about to be laid away in the earth, his grave would be full of water before it had been dug two feet deep. Quinine and whiskey were issued daily, companies being formed in line for the purpose, and the ration was drunk under the supervision of the surgeon.  
- - - 
It was hot and muggy most of the time. It rained frequently and the men made the acquaintance of the "wood-tick, and enumerable bugs and specimens of insect life hitherto unknown to them. The very earth moved with "new life." Sticks and twigs were endowed with motion. The men would watch a black twig two or three inches long, apparently dead wood among the leaves, when it would scamper off and the acquaintance of a new insect called the "walking stick" was made, although it was a very old inhabitant of this section. They had the "Gold Bug" not the political specimen of later days but a handsome round yellow "feller." Lieut. James G. C. Dodge, of Company F, made quite a collection of these bugs.  
It was a common thing to see two or three men, huddled together, poking at something on the ground. Others would join them on the run. Soon a crowd would collect, running and yelling "What's Up?" Some one of the crouchers would answer, "Oh, got a new bug," and the crowd would laugh and disperse. Like everything else, this was soon an old story and "buggy" was immediately dispatched, given to the lieutenant for his collection, or allowed to fly or run. away. One specimen, however, stuck and abided long. It was the common louse. 

-History of the Nineteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865
Ernest Linden Waitt, 1906

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Title Says it All

Big  Melon- We saw yesterday at the Old Market a mammoth cantaloupe, raised by Mr. George Fisher, of New Kent. It weighed 23 pounds, and was sold for $1.

-The Daily Dispatch(Richmond), August 16, 1871

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Barren Deserts"

Camp near Harrison’s Landing, Va., July 7, 1862.

Maj. Gen. JOHN A. DIX, Commanding Fort Monroe.
GENERAL: The general commanding refers to your discretion the inclosed(sic) letter from Charles M. Hubbard and others, prisoners confined at Fort Wool, and directs that you cause all of those referred to in the letter who can be discharged with safety to the public service to be conveyed to some suitable point whence they may return to their homes. You will cause them to be provided with necessary subsistence during their return. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

FORT WOOL, July 4, 1862.
We propose to present to your consideration the following facts: There are now about 100 citizens of Virginia who have in no way been connected with the present war confined at this place. They were taken from their homes or arrested by bands of armed men, separated from their families, and are here imprisoned and not even informed of the charges if any there be on which they were arrested. They know not on what evidence they were arrested nor have they been confronted with their accusers. They are denied all intercourse with the world and are here confined with the same hard fare alike for the sick and well, good and bad huddled together without respect for their rights or person. When taken from their homes they were assured by the officers who arrested them that they would be detained but a few hours and then would be restored to their homes and families. They were then induced to leave home without a change of clothes and are now [covered with] vermin of this prison house, without a change of clothing. They are without funds with which they can procure the necessaries or comforts with which to promote cleanliness or preserve health. Their families are without any protection, surrounded by slaves and camp followers, from the unprincipled and violent hands of whom every species of wrong may be anticipated. From the rumors that reach us through the citizens who have been most recently sent here many of us believe that our slaves have left us; that our household furniture has been wantonly destroyed; that the provision designed for the use of our families during the present year has been forcibly taken from them, and that our growing crops have been wasted and destroyed, and that our homes except for the presence of loved wives and children are barren deserts.
Much more might with truth and propriety be said, but surely this is enough of the sad picture which has resulted from our effort to remain at our homes and protect those who are dependent on us, when we believed that our property and persons would not be violated by those who were seeking to restore a humane and liberal Government. Our friends advised us that it was best that we should remain at home. Our reason and judgment approved the advice and your proclamation inviting the citizens to remain at home and assuring them protection confirmed us in the propriety of that course. Alas! alas! How vain were our expectations! How we have been disappointed! Why are we here? We know that we are here and can well imagine the sufferings of all who are dear to us. How long shall this continue? We cannot believe that you have caused us to be imprisoned in violation of the assurances of your proclamation. We cannot realize that the Government of the United States thus refuses us our liberty, wastes our property and places our persons on this island of rock that we may by cruelty and oppression be taught to hate the Government under which we were born.
As citizens of Virginia we ask that we may be at once released from this prison.
CHARLES M. HUBBARD, of James City,1  
       JOHN P. PIERCE, of New Kent County,2   
       A. B. TIMBERLAKE, of Hanover,3   
       SAMUEL EDWARDS, of King William,
Committee in behalf of the whole.

Prisoners of State, Fort Wool. 
GENTLEMEN: I am directed by Major-General Dix to say in reply to your letter of this date that he will forward any proper communication from you to Richmond by the first flag of truce; that he holds you under orders from General McClellan and does not know for whom you are held as hostages. If you are in want of any articles needful for your personal comfort he will be glad to supply them. A personal interview he cannot at present conveniently grant. 
By command of Major-General Dix:
Yours, respectfully,
   Captain and Aide-de-Camp.

-The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.-series ii.-volume iv.
Correspondence, Orders, etc., Relating to Prisoners of War and State from June 13, 1862, to November 30, 1862.-Union Correspondence, etc

1. Charles M. Hubbard was the State Senator representing the district that comprised the entire Peninsula.

2.The John P. Pierce was New Kent's Commonwealth's Attorney at the time.

3.Archibald Burnett Timberlake, owner of Rutland near Atlee Station. He had two sons in J.E.B.Stuarts cavalry and the house was sometimes used as a base for the cavalry. Timberlake's health declined after his release and he died in 1863, being buried, rather notoriously, in a cast iron coffin with a viewing plate.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


In 2016 New Kent County was one of top 10 fastest growing counties in Virginia. That fact has been reported on by the County and in the local press.

What is less well know is, that based on growth from 2015 to 2016, New Kent for that time was the 29th fastest growing county IN THE UNITED STATES.¹

There are currently 3,142 counties(or equivalents e.g. parishes, districts, independent cities) in the United States. That would place New Kent within the top 1%.

¹ "Resident Population Estimates for the 100 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties with 10,000 or More Population in 2015: July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016"
-U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division- March 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"She Has Her Finger On The Pulse Of School Affairs At All Times."

                                                       NEW KENT COUNTY
The honor of being the first woman elected to trusteeship on a county school board in Virginia is claimed by Mrs. Belle B. Turner of Lanexa, New Kent county. The name of Mrs. Turner was placed in nomination at a meeting of the Trustee Electoral Board on October 4, 1920, and favorably voted on. She qualified as trustee of Cumberland district on November 23, 1920, her term of office to expire September 1, 1923. 
Mrs Turner is the proud mother of a bright-eyed little daughter and a partner with her husband in the successful operation of the Bellecourt Dairy Farm at Lanexa. Aside from possessing unusual business qualifications Mrs. Turner is familiar with the problems of the rural school, teacher having at one time been a teacher herself in the public schools of the State. 
Interrogated as to her opinion of the importance of the recent recognition of the active citizenship of women Mrs Turner had the following to say. The amendment to the Federal Constitution which gave women of this and other States the right to vote empowered them with a great privilege and a greater responsibility One of the most needed services women can render is that of helping to improve the public school system. In no other branch of public Service can women exercise to more advantage their new citizenship. 
"Women and especially mothers, many of whom have been teachers, are really the best judges of results in child training. Excepting the hearthstone, there is no place more propitious to the teaching of fine citizenship than in the schoolroom and on the school grounds. It is incumbent on every voter in the State to do his utmost to place on school boards men and women who are capable of passing on the merits of good and bad instruction." 
"The rural supervisor is a great asset to the rural school system. She has her finger on the pulse of school affairs at all times. She is the mutual helper of School board and school teacher. She is the friend to those who need her most- the children."  
"Our schools of today harbor our citizens of tomorrow Citizenship is the supreme aim of education. Teamwork and the recognition of the square deal must be taught our children. This is the surest way in the tangled skein of human existence to bridge the gulf of malice and distrust which separates in modern civilization for instance Capital and Labor. The day is coming thanks to an efficient school system when these two forces must pull together like two old tired farm horses." 
Furthermore good teachers are essential to good schools. Good teachers demand good salaries We cannot pay good salaries unless funds are available and the Surest way to have money available is to spend our money in Virginia. There is no reason why under the sun of new opportunities in Virginia the school system of this State should not stand second to none in the United States of America 

HERMAN L. HARRIS, Superintendent 

-Virginia Journal of Education,  February 1924- (Vol. XIV No.6)
Virginia State Teachers' Association, Virginia Education Association

The school trustees of that time corresponded to the school board members of our present day. If you are interested in their role . . .

23. The duties of boards of school trustees shall be in general as follows subject to be defined more particularly by the Board of Education and in other parts of this law to wit-  
First, To explain and enforce the school laws and regulations and observe the same.  
Second, To employ teachers, and to dismiss them when delinquent, inefficient, or in anywise unworthy of the position.  
Third, To suspend or dismiss pupils when the prosperity and efficiency of the schools make it necessary.  
Fourth, To decide what children, wishing to enter the schools of the district, are entitled, by reason of the poverty of their parents or guardians, to receive textbooks free of charge, and to provide for supplying them accordingly.  
Fifth, To see that the census of children, required by section twenty five, is taken in the proper time and in proper manner.  
Sixth, To hold regular meetings at fixed periods to be prescribed by the Board of Education and special meetings when called by the chairman or by any two members.  
Seventh, To call meetings of the people of the district for consultation in regard to the school interests thereof at which meetings the chairman or some other member of the board shall preside, if present.  
Eighth, On or before the fifteenth day of July in each year to prepare and return to the president of the county school board to be by him laid before the board at its earliest meeting, an estimate of the amount of money which will be needed in the district during the next scholastic year for providing school houses, school books for indigent children, and other school appliance and necessary, proper and lawful expenses.  
Ninth, To take care of, manage and control the school property of the district. And where in any school district a school house belonging to the public free schools of said district is unoccupied and unused for public free school purposes, because of want of school funds to employ a teacher therefor the school trustees for the district in which said school house is situated may permit the same, under such regulations and rules as to them may seem proper to be occupied and used for school purposes by any teacher though not employed by said school board: provided that such arrangement shall not in any wise interfere with or prevent said school house being occupied and used at any time by said trustees for public free school purposes.  
Tenth, To report on any special matter when required by the county superintendent of schools, and to report to him, annually, by the fifteenth day of August, down to the first day of that month, on all subjects indicated in the blank forms supplied for the purpose.  
Eleventh, To visit the public free schools within the district, from time to time, and to take care that they are conducted according to law, and within the utmost efficiency. 

--Virginia Journal of Education, February 1893- Vol. II No.2
Virginia State Teachers' Association, Virginia Education Association