This spring, the Society will celebrate its third anniversary. The accomplishments since it was established in 1998 clearly reflects what dedicated people can do working together. Your commitment to the purpose of the Society in bringing forth our history is truly a cause for celebration.
As we look forward in the new year and millennium, take a few moments to review our short history. It gives confidence and hope in the future contributions the Society can make to our county in the years ahead.
On March 4, 1998, we were incorporated by the Virginia State Corporation Commission as The Surry County, Virginia Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Our first annual meeting was on May 11, 1998. On September 29, 1998, our application to the IRS for nonprofit 501 [c] [ 3] status was approved without change. This approval allows us to accept tax exempt gifts, benefiting the Society, with tax advantages to the giver. We were pleased to be extended the use of an office in the old Cox Ford building across from the Post Office in Surry, Va. by the Town of Surry. We had a home. By December 1998, we had over 250 members.
In that year, The Society was presented with a major opportunity to promote our county's history. The Rogers family offered the Society the Rogers' Store Property at Carsley for use as a museum. Studies showed that a store had been operated from these premises since the 1820s. Practically all the records from 1880 - 1951 were included in this gift. Our mission and scope increased before we were fully organized! This gift has been professionally valued at 585,000.00.
The first resolution of the society was approved in May, 1998. Its importance makes it worth restating.
Whereas, We the members of the Surry County, Virginia Historical Society and Museums, Inc. recognize and celebrate the rich and varied diversity of our ancestors, black, white, native American, free, indentured and slave; and
Whereas, our history is an interlocking history of all who made Surry County, Virginia what it is today; and
Whereas, our goal and purpose are to preserve, publish, present and promote the history of our land and of all who were here before us, and the rich legacy they left us; and
Whereas, we recognize that specific interests of members will vary widely and Resolved, that any involvement or participation in divisive racial or ethnic activities violate the purpose of this Society and will not be tolerated in the Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
By January 1999 we had received the title to Rogers' Store in Carsley. It includes 1.22 acres of land. Also in January 1999, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Historic Resources, approved our application making Rogers' Store eligible for inclusion in the National Registry and the Virginia Landmarks Registry.
By May 1999 we had over 300 members, and our treasury was increasing. Today, our membership stands at 450, in approximately 40 states and three foreign countries.
Our programs have been outstanding, and emphasize the Society's purpose.
At our December 1998 meeting, Nicholas Luccketti, Senior Archaeologist, gave an informative report on Smith's Fort. Luccketti conducted the 1981 archaeological dig at the fort, and showed [for the first time in Surry County] the artifacts found there.
In March 1999, Mark Wenger, Architectural Historian of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, reported on Rogers' Store, dating it back to the 1820s.
In May 1999, Col. George King showed us how to use computers and the Internet in research. As data bases increase, more and more information is available.
In September, 1999, Kathy Wright, Director, gave us in depth information on Chippokes Plantation, one of our jewels.
In December, 1999, Dr. Edgar Toppin, Distinguished Professor of African American history at Virginia State University and visiting Professor of History and African American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke on the Civil War and reconstruction days.
In March 2000, Researcher Dennis Hudgins discussed his extensive work on Surry records. Dennis has transcribed the last four volumes of Cavaliers and Pioneers [soon to be five], our record of the Land Patents of Virginia from the king of England. Among other projects, he is mapping Surry County to these patents.
In May 2000, Suzanne Flippo, Chair of Programs and Events for the 2007 Jamestown Celebration, was our speaker. We learned of the unfolding plans for the largest celebration we will see in Surry County in our lifetime.
Our speaker in September 2000 was Mr. Joe McAvoy. Joe has conducted the Cactus Hill archeological dig at Cactus Hill, in Sussex County for over ten years. The authentication of this site and its history which predates the Clovis sites in western North America is rewriting our earliest history of human occupation.
Our December 2000 program introduced one of our latest gifts. Your president showed slides, photographs and awards won by Lorena Leath, photographer of rural Surry and Sussex County scenes. Her color slides were the first from Virginia to win the coveted 5 Star award from the Photographic Society of America.
The Society has received a $110,500.00 Matching Grant from the State of Virginia for the first phase of restoring Rogers' Store. We expect that some, if not all, will become available soon, and we anticipate other gifts to help release this grant.
We have applied to the Camp Foundation for matching funds for the Rogers Store restoration and are awaiting a response.
The Society has received a $8,400.00 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to transcribe, index and present the Loose Papers that are the "working files" from which the Surry County, Virginia Register of free Negroes was created, 1793 - 1861. This file has not been found in any other county.
Other grant applications will be submitted in the coming months.
Historical Collections and gifts.
The gift of Lorena Leath's slides by Floyd and Virginia Carr was mentioned in comments on our programs. This gift includes thousands of slides from Ca. 1920 - 1980. This gift has triggered the gift of other early pictures of Surry County. Synergy! More are expected.
The Society has received the World War 1 uniform of Joseph Wheeler Rowell. A Confederate uniform has been promised.
Books, periodicals, brochures, news clippings, church histories and personal family histories continue to come in at a fast rate, expanding our knowledge and available research material.
We must include our web site as part of our collection. We had over 4000 visitors to our site last year. You will be surprised at how much information is available. ttp://sites.rootsweb.com/~vaschsm/
Facilities: looking to the future.
Any member who has visited our office can attest to the obvious fact that the Society has clearly outgrown its present space.
The Surry County Board of Supervisors has approved use by the Society of the one story brick building behind the Courthouse. It has the space necessary to store and file the material we have and should have for some time in the future. This will not to be a long term home. The county has preliminary plans to expand the Courthouse, bringing it up to State standards. When this takes place, this 1907 building will likely be a casualty.
The long term - permanent facilities.
At our November 2000 board meeting, future permanent facilities for the Society were discussed. The discussions focused on the needs of the county in promoting its assets. These discussions indicate that a combination Society office and Surry County Tourist Center would best serve the long-term needs of the county. It could incorporate the activities of our Society, the Tourism Bureau, 2002 Committee, and later, 2007 Committee, and the Chamber of Commerce. Each group should have their own office. For our small county, it would be the " First Stop" for all coming to see Surry County and explore our history.
The sense of the board was that we should have a small museum with historical displays, brochures and maps of all of our attractions, historical and business. In 2007, it should serve as an entry point to Jamestown, and promote and sell tickets to all of the festivities. There should be space for meetings. Ample archival storage for artifacts and records should be available. Internet connections for both members and guests should be available. Parking for cars and busses should be plentiful. It should be within easy walking distance of the Courthouse and our extensive records. For whatever reason visitors come, this would be where they begin their visit to Surry County. To control our destiny, we expect the Historical Society to own the facility.
Pipe Dream? not exactly.
When your board of directors approved this approach, it was just long range planning, looking for a sense of direction. That has changed. The Society has since received a gift of the absolutely best parcel of land in Surry County for this purpose.
Mr. and Mrs. B. A. Seward Jr. have given two and one half acres of land in Surry to the Society, 100 yards from the Courthouse. It has 55 feet of frontage on Church Street across from Surry Baptist Church. The lot is 520 feet deep, with over 300 feet of frontage on Bank Street. It meets every requirement for a great site of a Historical Society and Tourism Center for our County.
There are no buildings on the property. We are exploring the possibility of using one or two office trailers initially [gift]. Long range, spelled three to five years, we expect to have a permanent center on the property.
So this is, in part, what has been accomplished in three years. Clearly, the need and the interest is here, and the support is broad for our organization and its goals.
To build on this significant beginning, for the first time the Society asks for your financial support beyond your dues. Some specific areas of support for your consideration are outlined below.
In preparing for proper handling of gifts, the Society has:
In closing, a Special Request.
Being settled simultaneously with Jamestown, our history started at the beginning of this great country. The Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc. is actively striving to preserve and promote that history. By bringing together Surry history in Surry County, we will insure that we do not lose or forget our past. Foundations that support activities such as ours expect substantial support by members. Your gifts are critical to our success in this area as well as making significant contributions to the education of future generaions. To keep the momentum going, we need your help. Please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] if you would like to discuss any of the projects or other needs in more detail.
If you would like to give a gift to the Society, please CLICK HERE!
James E. Atkins