Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


We note, with pleasure every token of improvement and of religious advancement among the people of colour in the South. The circulation of the Bible among them depends upon their demand for it and their ability to use it. Churches and schools add greatly to their calls for the word God. The statements made below by Lieut. Goodyear, of the Freedmen's Bureau, indicate progress, and illustrate the value of our Bible work. Acknowledging the reception and presentation three pulpit Bibles, for three coloured churches King William and New Kent Counties the writer says: 
A brief history of church and school operations in this field may be wished by the Society.  
In August, 1867, when sent here by Gen. Howard as bureau officer there was no house, either in King William or New Kent Counties where the coloured people could meet for religious worship. Partly by the efforts of the freedmen, and partly by bureau help, three schools (both day and Sunday) and three churches have been established. Over 300 scholars attend the day schools, and over 400 the Sunday schools. Each church has a coloured minister, and has a meeting every Sunday, generally well attended. The interest in the good work is constantly increasing. The field is a large one. This work is but the nucleus for more extended effort in the same direction. I am now preparing a fourth building near West Point, Va., in New Kent County, for church and school purposes and a fifth will be built mainly by the freedmen, at West Point Church, Va. The progress of the children in both Sunday and day schools is wonderful, and is full of encouragement to those who are anxiously watching the course of these poor and despised people, so lately slaves.

-The Bible Society Record, Vol. XIV no. 3- March 1869
New York

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving- 1908

Roxbury News. 

Roxbury. Va.. Dec. 1- Thanksgiving day was very generally observed in New Kent. The day was spent in many ways of enjoyment. Fox hunts, bird and rabbit hunting and deer hunting parties were had. Much game killed, while the family had their turkey and fine dinner. Many visitors from Richmond spent the day with their friends. At Liberty Hall, the hospitable home of Mr. and Mrs Provo, were Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Long. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Rich and Gentry and Mr. Clarence Satterwhite. At Mulberry Grove, the home of Mrs. D.A. Bailey, were Mr. and Mrs. James Wright and Mrs. Bettie Gilliam, of Richmond. At Poplar Grove, the home of Mr Lee Leber, were Mr. Chris Leber and Mr Luther Robinson, of Richmond.  
Mr. W.P. Tunstall, Jr., student of William and Mary, spent the day with his parents at Locust Grove.  
The wrestling match between two Roxbury sports. Mr. C.S. Taylor and B.H. Ewan, was witnessed by a large crowd. Mr. Ewan won after a hard fight, by standing Mr. Taylor on his head, that portion of his anatomy being stuck in a stove. Mr. Ewan who is a great favorite of the boys and a pet of the ladies, has been lionized by his friends since winning the friendly bout.  
Mr. Kennie Post was referee and his hearty laugh caused the jars on the shelf to tremble. 
Mr. C. D. Binns was on hand with a supply of sticking plaster but his services were not needed.  
Miss Mary Bailey has been appointed as teacher for the White House school. She entered upon her duties Monday.  
The new telephone line owned by local capitalists, through New Kent is working finely. Many applications have been made by private parties for phones to be installed in their their homes. Like the rural mail delivery once in service never cab be done without. 

                                                                          Truthful Jeems

-Virginia Gazette, 5 December 1908

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Lost Account from the War of 1861-1865

I had been aware of this account in Confederate Veteran magazine for sometime, but had never got around to reading it. Imagine my surprise when finally siting down to do so and finding that the article was entirely about incidents on the Pamunkey River, not the James. The title was, I assume, just a mistake on the part of the magazine.



Although it is thirty-seven years since the boom of artillery and the defiant Rebel yell were heard in the harbor of Charleston at the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and the opening of the war thus inaugurated, the incidents unnumbered, of every shade of interest, which followed in the four eventful years still continue to come forth from the memories of those who were engaged in the mighty struggle, and are being given to the rising generation to preserve as precious relics gathered from "flood and field" in the greatest civil war of which there is any record. 
I give an account of the first Federal gunboat which appeared in the inland waters of Virginia as it came under my own observation, as well as that of others who were with me as members of the party of which I was the commanding officer in charge. As first lieutenant in the corps of engineers of the Army of Northern Virginia, I received the following order from Capt. Alfred L. Rives, acting chief engineer of the bureau at Richmond, under date of March 25, 1862:

"Sir: You will form a party or parties at once and proceed to the county of New Kent to reconnoiter and survey the country, especially noticing the streams, woods, marshes, and landings, to determine up to what points the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Rivers are navigable. Examine the rivers also with a view to obstructing them rapidly and at low points, if possible."
 The following one was issued, on my personal application by John Withers, A. A. G.:

"The following men are detailed for temporary duty in the Engineer Department, and will without delay report to Lieut. John B. Tapscott, of the provisional engineers, in this city: H.L. Heiskell, Company G, Twenty-Seventh Virginia Volunteers; W.M. McDonald, Company G, Second Virginia Volunteers."
Before leaving for the field my friend, John Harmer Gilmer, Jr., of Richmond, joined the party. 
Having been equipped with the necessary instruments and appliances for the work, and having a permit from the provost marshal "to visit West Point and country between James River and Rappahannock, upon honor not to communicate in writing or verbally for publication any fact ascertained, which, if known to the enemy, might be injurious to the Confederate States of America," we proceeded without delay. 
Taking the Richmond and the York River railroad to West Point, a distance of thirty-nine miles, I concluded to make a beginning at the Pamunkey river and opposite the Mattapony, the two rivers forming the York river. Getting a boat, we crossed over to the tongue of land formed by the rivers to examine some defensive works that had been thrown up there. I wrote a report only of their condition, as I knew full drawings of them were on file in the war office. 
Returning to the town about noon, I asked a darky if he knew where we could get dinner, and he said, "Yes, sah! right ober dah," pointing to a queer-looking old house having a centenary look in all respects. The first story was of stone, and on this was one of weatherboards, the wood looking old and dingy. Above the cone of the roof an immense chimney top rose, built of English brick brought over as a ballast in vessels more than a hundred and fifty years ago. It was finished in a very peculiar style, and resembled many others I afterwards saw in other parts of the country. I took a peep into this old rookery before dinner. Imagine my surprise when I saw a clean, sanded floor, with a snow-white cloth spread over a long table, on which was an abundance of dishes and plates nicely arranged and ready to receive the dinner about to be served. In half an hour we sat down to enjoy a feast that I shall never forget. The season was just opening for shad, and we found this queen of all fish on the table, being fried, baked, and boiled; also York River oysters, fried ham and eggs, and all the vegetables of the season, together with different kinds of bread, fresh butter, sweet milk, buttermilk, and winding up with a dessert of custard pie. Ample justice was done this fine dinner. 
Having the order to make examinations of the Pamunkey river in regard to obstructing it for the purpose of intercepting Federal gunboats, we commenced the ascent of it, carefully noting everything bearing upon the object intended to be effected. Sketches were made, noting the topography at many points along its hanks, also the names of landings and their connections with the main county roads leading to Richmond. These observations were continued until we reached White House Landing, fifteen miles from West Point. 
Sundown on the first day found us near a farmhouse, on a little elevation back from the south bank of the river, and. concluding to seek its hospitality for the night, we called on the gentleman, stating our business in that part of the country, and were received most cordially. After a fine supper we were delightfully entertained by his daughters and a couple of young lady visitors from the neighborhood. We had music and dancing, and the hours, winged by pleasure, flew charmingly along, leaving pleasant memories with all. The next day we reached the head of Cook’s Island, two miles below a small settlement called Cumberland. Here was the only point that I considered practicable for placing obstructions for the intended purpose. We then continued the work to the end. Returning to Col. Cook's, whose residence was on the bluff, near the head of the island, I made a survey and sketch of the position, reporting to the department at Richmond: "It appears that the upper end of the island could be easily obstructed. The bottom of the river is composed of mud and sand, and there would be no difficulty in sinking piles. The timber necessary could be obtained along the river, and within three miles of the island — white oak and spruce pine. Near the main elevation, which enfilades the river, is Chestnut Grove Landing. Artillery could be hauled up rapidly by making a rough trackway, or, if the road should be dry, it could be transported over the natural surface. The country presents an irregular profile for some distance back from the river. The landings have roads leading to the ridge roads, and connect with the county and stage roads to Richmond. The rains in April and May would not prevent the advance of the enemy, as the roads dry rapidly, the water being absorbed and carried off in subterranean channels. Cahoke Station is twenty-eight miles from Richmond. There are but two mails per week, Wednesdays and Fridays. 
The sketch I send is sufficiently clear to enable you to determine the practicability of placing obstructions at the point as designated. Supplies are getting scarce in this region, the army on the peninsula having pretty well exhausted them." 
We went from Col. Cook's to New Kent C. H., and began the survey of the county, which occupied the greater part of the month of April. Having received a subsequent order to make a hydrographical survey of the Pamunkey river, beginning at West Point and extending to the railroad bridge beyond the "White House," we did this work, and on its completion returned to Cumberland. Before this Yorktown had been evacuated and an immense quantity of military stores of every description which were there had been loaded on schooners and sent up to White House Station, near the railroad bridge, to be transferred on trains to Richmond. The department at Richmond having been notified that a Federal gun-boat had started up York River and would continue its course up the Pamunkey, with a view of destroying the property which had been carried away from Yorktown, it was determined by Gen. Lee to intercept it by obstructing the river at Cook's Island, as suggested in my report, and I received a note from Capt. Charles A. Carrington, of the quartermaster's department, who had been sent to take charge of and secure the same if possible. He wrote: "I ask you to come to this place with all possible speed to aid me." On reporting to him as requested, I received this additional order, dated May 4, 1862: "You are hereby ordered to take charge of any vessels at Cumberland loaded with wood or long forage, and, detailing any force which may be necessary, discharge their cargoes and use them in obstructing the Pamunkey river against the passage of the enemy's vessels. You are further ordered to apply to the farmers to aid you in the discharge of this duty." 
Another note from Col. R. T. Cook, which I received at Cumberland, stated: "We are all on our heads nearly. I am just on my feet creeping about the house. We don't know what to do. You are called to the 'White House' by Gen. Lee. A boy came down here after you posthaste. If you come down here, call." 
It being arranged to have the vessels unloaded and sent to me at the place to be obstructed, we returned to Mr. Tolers', at Cumberland, to spend the night. The night, I may say, was an eventful one, and the incident which occurred was in striking contrast to those which transpired the three days following it. I bring it forth as an amusing episode which was altogether unexpected. After having enjoyed a delightful supper and the pleasant social intercourse of the family for two or three hours after it, we were shown to our room by Mr. Toler, all bidding us good-night, with wishes for refreshing sleep and happy dreams. We were not long in disrobing. Gilmer got in bed with me, and McDonald in one just opposite. Being pretty well worn out, it was some time before I could settle to an easy position in bed. I heard several low growls coming from the direction of McDonald's bed, and very soon more of them came — when all of a sudden the cover on the bed rose up, and quick as a flash it descended to the floor, with McDonald following it, lighting upon his feet. "What's the matter?" I said. "There are rats in there," he answered; "and I don't propose to be a bedfellow with them." Gilmer was awakened, and he said: "Let's rout 'em out." I got up, struck a match, and lit the candle, McDonald standing just where he had landed from the bed, and facing it, robed in a red flannel undergarment of very full dimensions; and, unadorned otherwise, he presented a sight that was amusing and picturesque. Gilmer, finding a couple of canes in the room, gave one to McDonald and held the other himself. The bed was pulled out a few feet from the wall, and they went behind it. I got on top, with the candle in one hand to give light, and was to bend the mattress back until the varmints came in sight. All being ready, I took hold of the side of the mattress near them and commenced raising it, and when halfway up I gave it a sudden jerk, and behold! a little pet squirrel came in sight, and sat upon his haunches, pluming his tail and looking at us with his big eyes, as much as to say: "What are you disturbing me about?" The canes were dropped, and Gilmer, throwing his vest over the little fellow, gathered him up, and, finding his box in the room, put him in it, and we then returned to bed, and were soon wafted to the land of nod. The next morning we had a fine breakfast, and, thanking our friends for their kindness, left to begin the work of obstructing the river. 
We found two schooners awaiting us, anchored a short distance above the line to obstruct. Raising the anchor of one, we let it float with the ebbing tide to position, dropped the anchor again, to hold it, and ran the bow close to the channel edge by a mud flat which ran out a hundred and fifty feet from the New Kent side of the river and terminated in water fifteen feet deep. We then scuttled the vessel at the water line, midway between bow and stern, and in less than half an hour it filled and sunk to the bottom. The other one was worked in the same way, and in line with the first, extending toward the island. Late in the after-noon five others came, and, although a cold drizzling rain commenced falling about sundown, we worked straight along all night, getting the last one in position about sunrise. While at breakfast my boatman informed me that four more schooners were in sight, making eleven in all, the number necessary to finish the work in the New Kent channel. The rain continued to come down, and it was chilly. 
We were now expecting the gunboat at every moment, so we used all the energy within us to sink the remaining vessels, which would finish the most important part of the work, as the pilots knew nothing about the channel on the King William side of the river. Not taking time for dinner or rest, we completed the obstructions as intended late in the afternoon. 
Four other schooners were sent down to be sunk in the King William channel. They came about sundown. Taking advantage of the ebb tide, we got two of them in position, after losing a great deal of time in getting around shallows and sandbars at the head of the island. These were sunk before midnight, and the two others left anchored until the flood tide ceased and the ebb commenced again. This would not occur until about nine o'clock in the morning. 
We concluded to take a little rest, and went up to Col. Cook's, giving orders to a picket to notify me promptly on the appearance of the gunboat. About sun up there was a heavy pounding on the door of our room, which I found was made by the picket, who informed me that the boat was coming up the river slowly, and was about a mile distant. We were soon in our clothes, and determined to burn the vessels remaining at anchor, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. Having our boat at shore nearby, we started to carry out this purpose, and just as we were in the act of ascending the side of one of the vessels the gun-boat appeared, coming around a short bend in the river less than half a mile away. It was a dangerous-looking object. Its hull was painted black and appeared to sit low in the water, and came moving along with dense smoke rolling from its stack. Knowing that we were in short range of its guns, the idea at once suggested itself that our best chance to escape its fire was to deceive the officer in command by making the impression that we were the crew of the vessel instead of Confederates. I told the boys we would return to the shore, but to make no hurried motions in rowing back, to keep cool, and not to look toward the Federals. We moved slowly along, expecting every moment to see the puff of gray from the explosion of the bow gun and hear the hissing of a shell or the screech of grape coming from it; but we got safely to shore, and, pulling the boat up a gulley near a fish house, I told them to remain there and I would go up on the bluff and see what would be done by the enemy. Creeping through the undergrowth and weeds, I got within a few hundred yards of them, getting a full view. They approached the obstructions very slowly, and, seeing an open space of about one hundred and fifty feet where there appeared no vessels had been sunk, they made for it, evidently with the intention of passing on up the river to carry out their purpose of capturing or destroying the military stores taken from Yorktown by the schooners; but this was the mud fiat spoken of heretofore, which the tide yet covered, and, going into it before knowing its character, they stuck fast, and puffed and swung around right and left for half an hour before they got off again. Being once more in the channel, they tried to force a way through the obstructions, attempting it at several places, but failed to do so; the vessels would not yield, the work being well done, and they were thus disappointed. This was on the morning of May 7, 1862. A launch was then lowered from the boat. and twenty armed marines got into it, and after making a few soundings they captured a negro on the island, who had been left a prisoner by the tide carrying off his skiff. Taking him to the gunboat, they then crossed the obstructions and started up the river. Having reason to believe that the darky had betrayed us, and as we were greatly in the minority, and having no arms to fight them, we left at once for New Kent C. H., and from thence crossed over to the railroad near White House Landing, and returned to Richmond on a freight loaded with some of the Yorktown supplies that still remained at the station  I afterwards learned that the two vessels which were not sunk were carried off by the Yankees, and that no further attempt was made by the enemy to force the obstructions after he returned down the river with the captured vessels. 
The party now disbanded, having successfully carried out all the orders given, and were afterwards assigned to different lines of service. Altogether, we had a pleasant time in the prosecution of the work, and many pleasing incidents in connection with it are still
treasured in memory by me, and will never fade from it.

-Confederate Veteran. Vol. VII.
S. A. Cunningham, Editor and Proprietor.
Nashville, Tenn. 1899.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Politics and Potatoes and Such- 1911


Roxbury. Va.. November 13- After the political storm there is a calm. The victors and vanquished have settled down to business again. In New Kent county especially that for supervisors the fight was a hot one. Black Creek district was the battle ground between Mr. R. Southall (Democrat) and Mr. Lemuell L. Ellyson (Republican). In this precinct there were 72 qualified voters, and 66 out of 72 voted. Mr. Ellyson got 36, Mr. Southall 30. For justice of the peace. J. A. Wright, 65; C.C. Tunstall, 18. For constable, G.W. Moran, 62. All the others for state office has no opposition. 
The saddest part is life long Democrats, some of whom voted in the primary, forgot their pledge went over to the Republican camp. Mr. Ellyson won his laurels on a determined fight, not one derogatory word was spoken by either candidate of each other. Mr. Ellyson like his father, is a Republican from principle not for graft, and will be as faithful in the trust confided to his keeping as in his dramatic life. All will watch the actions of the members of the board with an eagle eye. They go in as reformers. So may it be, all hope, for the county is heavily in debt, a burden heavy to bear on the tax payers. The new courthouse¹, the automobile highway, the six head of mules and road implements. All came against young Southall, who has been on the board 14 years and believes in public improvements. Many can not see it that way. 
Many new homeseekers are here today looking after Peninsula farms. Several farms have changed hands the past week. Looks to this writer now as if all the far western people are now heading for the country between Richmond and Newport News. 
On the farm of Mr. Bock at this place is an exhibition sweet potatoes 3 feet 8 inches long; Irish potatoes measuring 6 inches in diameter. 400 bushels to the acres. The latter raised on the farm of Mr. R.D. Provo, Liberty Farm. 
Mr. T. W. Marston has on farm several white partridges among the brown. Where this strain of birds originated none knows. None like them were ever seen in this section before. Mr. Marston is guarding them with care. The party who kills or captures these prettys will be severely dealt with. Notices have been posted everywhere to be careful of these birds. A few months ago a pair of white squirrels made their appearance here. One was killed, the other captured and became as gentle as a kitten. Mr. W. P. Tunstall, Sr., killed a fine old doe a few days ago and Mr. Roy Ford killed an old buck weighing after dressed 165 pounds. This section is stocked with deer so plentiful that much corn and green vegetables are being destroyed. This month closes the hunting season east of the Blue Ridge mountains for deer. The watchful eye of the; game wardens are keeping the pot hunters and triffling(sic) negro with a gun off, so game is plentiful.   
Four men from Richmond were arrested by Game Warden Moran a few days ago. They begged off the fine, promising to pay the costs. This they have failed to do and Sheriff Apperson will look after them. Before these arrests Richmond pot hunters swarmed in Chickahominy swamp, shooting all day Sunday as if it were a week day. It is different now.

-Virginia Gazette, 16 November 1911

1- New Kent had decided after years of controversy to build a new courthouse which was finished in 1909 for the sum of $7,700. Then work was started on a new jail for $2,500.

2- The highway funds for Peninsula highway.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

More 1911- Warm Politics

Warm Politics in New Kent. 

Quinton. Va., October 16- As the general election for state and county is near at hand, any new faces will be seen as many who have served their people for years will have to retire to private life. The most important places to be filled by the county people is that of supervisor. In New Kent county for some time, as well as in our adjoining counties, a sea of unrest is beneath the surface. Taxes are higher than ever before, schools worse, roads not one bit better than 25 years ago.  
The board of supervisors for New Kent, for it is the object of this reporter to begin to sweep the trash from his own door before he goes to his neighbor's, there are already two new members of the board elected in the primary against another, and perhaps another, if not the other two. All hope that our young chairman of the board, who has filled the place for years with honor to himself and his people, will be reelected. I refer to Mr. R.T. Southall. He is only 35 years old, left when an infant without a father, but brought up by a christian mother. At her knee he learned the lessons of honor, sobriety and industry. Rather than great riches to be chosen, there was a better thing- a good name. All this he has followed through life. Not until the hearts of all hearts is known will be known the good he has done for the poor and afflicted of this county. Many a poor widow and the old have had the wolf driven from their door by this charming young man.  
Mr. Southall will be opposed in the general election by Mr. L.M. Ellyson, the  Republican candidate, he too like Mr. Southall is quite young and popular in his neighborhood. Both candidates are for the honor. To let Mr. Southall go down in defeat will be a great mistake as his long service has placed him in a position to understand the needs of his people. 
Mr. W.P. Tunstall, who defeated Mr. R.C. Apperson, Sr., in the primary,is another young man who has already won honors for himself and will make a good supervisor. 
The three cornered fight in between Messrs. Eggleston, J.B. Richardson and Eddie Boswell is  a hot one to the finish. Mr. G.E. Fisher, our popular treasurer, will be opposed by George Sweet. Mr. Fisher is one of the most popular you men in the county has filled the position with honor to himself and his people. All the candidate are Democrats  except Mr. Ellyson. There is going to be brought out every voter in the county on November 7th, and people are watching with interest the result.

 -Virginia Gazette, 19 October 1911