Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Newsletter 4 December 2000 Surry County Virginia Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
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Newsletter and Meeting Announcement

Volume 3, Number 4, December 2000

To: Society Members and Friends:

The December 2000 meeting of the Society will be held on December 4, 2000, at the Surry Recreation Center at 7:00 P. M. Please note that this is the first Monday of December, due to the Recreation Center's not being available on our regular second Monday. This date was picked to avoid having our meeting closer to Christmas.

News of importance and interest.

Report on the September meeting. Our speaker, Mr. Joe McAvoy, spoke and showed slides on the Cactus Hill archeological dig in Sussex County. His talk was extremely well received. This dig is likely the earliest documented site of human occupation in America. Joe has researched the site for over 10 years. We understand that National Geographic Magazine will have a major article on this dig in the December issue.

A Major gift has been given to our Historical Society: An extensive collection of slides depicting life in Surry and Sussex county in the twentieth Century, by Lorena Leath. Lorena Wilcox Leath was born in Surry County on January 20, 1902. She started her work in photography with pin hole cameras as a youth. She studied photography at what is now Longwood College, where she graduated. Photography became a life long hobby for Lorena. with the help of Jimmy Leath, her husband, assistant and the subject of many of her pictures. Route 603, the road fronting their farm, Bowling Green, was named Camera Road in honor of Lorena.

Lorena was the first person in Virginia to receive The Photographic Society of America's highest honor, the Five Star Award for color slides. The subjects of most of her slides were rural scenes in Surry and Sussex County, often on their farm. Many were national first prize winners. She amassed thousands of slides during her long life. Many have seen the slide programs she gave over the years. No other collection shows as much of rural life in Surry and Sussex county.

Lorena died on Oct. 4,1991, and Jimmy, on September 4, 1994. Jimmy's and Lorena's heirs, Floyd and Virginia Carr of Yale, Virginia, have given her entire collection of slides to The Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc. The collection is both art and history.

It will take considerable time to identify and sort the collection. As caretakers of the collection we must insure it is preserved for future generations. We expect to show some on the Society's web site.

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Hopefully in the future we can offer prints of the most popular slides to our members.

We thank Mr. and Mrs Carr for this wonderful gift. Background on Lorena Leath.

Our December program will be a presentation on and a selection of Lorena Leath's slides, the first public showing in nearly twenty years. The display will be some of the awards Lorena won. Don't miss this program!

Included with this issue is a copy of the new Surry County, Virginia brochure. This has been created and printed by the Surry County Tourism Bureau, Inc. with support by Surry County. It will be used to promote the county through our 2002 celebration. Please read it and pass it on to those that should be interested. Copies will be available in the Society's office at Surry, Va. It's a job well done!

The Surry side of the Jamestown Settlement celebrates 350 years in 2002. The Surry County, Virginia 350th Anniversary Committee is refining the three main events to celebrate the county's 350th anniversary in 2002. The kickoff birthday celebration will be in January 2002, a July major event with plans to invite dignitaries from our sister county of Surrey, England and a closing ceremony during Thanksgiving 2002. Approximately 20 locations have been designated for signs throughout the county, pending approval by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Logo designs for the promotional items and the signs were approved at the Committee's October meeting. A time capsule will be buried containing items of today for future generations. Work is being coordinated with the churches of Surry County to publish a booklet giving their history and current information.

The committee is seeking five volunteers to create the new written program utilizing the program prepared for the 1952 celebration, bringing our history forward to today. A treasurer is also needed.

To receive their newsletters send $5.00 to: 350th Anniversary Committee. P. O. Box 387, Surry Va. 23883, or send your E-mail address to [email protected] to receive it free. It will also be posted on the county's web site at Get involved. The next meeting of the Anniversary Committee will be on January 22, 2001 at the Surry County Parks and Recreation Building at 7:00 P. M. You are invited.

Janet Appel and P. J. Watson, CO-Chairs, will present an update on the plans for the celebration of the County's 350th birthday at our December meeting. Much work remains to be done. To insure a successful celebration will require the help of all of our citizens. Let's support this great celebration fully.

Advance Notice! Plans are under consideration for a Surry, Virginia, to Surrey, England, tour in 2002 as part of the 350th anniversary celebration. More information will be forthcoming as plans are developed. We expect the tour will be for a week to 10 days, and plans are to hold the cost down as much as is prudent to allow a good tour. Start saving your money.

Surry and Sussex - twined at birth - Mother and Daughter

From the earliest settlements south of the James River, the land all the way to what is now North Carolina, was considered part of the Virginia Colony. When James City County was formed in 1632, it included all this land. When Surry county was separated in 1652, it included all the land south of the James River to the present North Carolina border.

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Before Surry was split from James City, the settlers made the first of many treaties with the Southside Virginia Indians. It appears that the Southside tribes of Indians were relatively weak, and hardly had enough warriors to protect themselves. This treaty provided help from the settlers, should other marauding tribes of Indians attack them.

The settlers wanted no Indians to live in the area they had settled. They also wanted information only the Indians could provide on the marauding tribes coming into the area to attack both the local Indians and the settlers. They also needed the trade with the Indians that had been established.

The Blackwater River became the dividing line. Indians South, settlers North. This agreement in 1646 settled the Indian War of 1644 - 1646.

This treaty between the inhabitants of this colony and Necotowance, King of the Indians settled (temporarily) relations with the Indians. Article 5 of the treaty states "And it is further enacted that neither for the said Necotowance nor any of his people, do frequent come into hunt or make any abode nearer the English Plantations than the lymits of Yapin the black water, and from the head of the black water upon a straite line to the old Monakin Towne, upon such paine and penaltie as aforesaid."

Article 8 is quoted "And it is further thought fit and enacted, that upon any occasion of message to the Governor or trade, the said Necotowance and his people the Indians doe repair to Forte Henery alias Appomattuck Forte or to the house of Capt. John Floud, and no other place or places of the south side of the river, at which places the aforesayd badges of striped stuff are to be and remain."

Thus, Indians were banned north of the Blackwater and Capt. Flood's plantation was one of two routes the Indians could go to Jamestown from the south side of the James River. [See The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century by Warren M. Billings, page 227.]

Surry County inherited this treaty when it was formed in 1652. It was no problem for the settlers at that time. It took nearly another 50 years before most of the land north of the Blackwater was settled.

There were some exceptions to the treaty. Benjamin Harrison purchased 350 acres from the Waynoak Indians in 1686. Others received Patents that did not clearly identify the location. Whether any of these were actually settled is questionable. Likely many were trying to be first in line when the land opened for settlement.

By 1700, the restriction on settlement was a problem for the Surry settlers. Surry was fully settled to the Blackwater River, although there still were pockets of unsettled land, mostly smaller parcels of land. There was pressure to change (abandon) the treaty of 1646. Like all their treaties with the Indians, the settlers changed or abandoned them when they got in the way of settlement.

Another problem was facing the Surry settlers. The only way to get a Land Patent was with headrights. Each settler coming in to Virginia received the right to 50 acres for himself and any family members or others that they paid for the trip to Virginia. This had worked well in the early years but now there were settlers who had been here for several generations.

There was little land available for purchase, and the farm patented several generations ago would not support all of their descendants. In addition, tobacco wore the land out in just a few years. Many of these settlers had accumulated some wealth, mostly by raising tobacco. There was a growing demand to change the Land Patent system to allow payment to receive land patents. The land patent system was changed by April, 1701.

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The first day patents were allowed to be filed on land south of the Blackwater was April 25, 1701. Patents for 19,918 acres were filed that day, over 31 square miles, and another 16,858 acres later in 1701. Thus over 57 square miles were patented in 1701. The largest patent was 5400 acres and the average acreage was 835 acres, much larger than patents had been north of the Blackwater River.

This was America's first land rush. Those with the most land north of the Blackwater got the most to the south. While it did not have the glamor of the west with thousands of settlers racing their horses across the plains, it was much more effective.

Most, if not all, were patents to Surry County citizens. Obviously this action was anticipated for years by Thomas Swann, surveyor of Surry County. Surveys for these patents are dated as early as 1695. Swann obviously had surveyed land for his friends years before it was legal to do so. Surry citizens were prepared and ready when the laws changed. There was little or no opportunity for outsiders to get first choice of the land below the Blackwater.

Because of these actions, the bloodlines of the settlers of the area below the Blackwater were nearly identical to those north of the Blackwater River. They also took their indentured servants and slaves with them as they settled this southern part of Surry County. In some instances, only the indentured servants and slaves inhabited the land in the first years after the patents were given. Tobacco production also moved south. Soon, little tobacco was raised north of the Blackwater. Later, these settlers repeated this action in later settling Greensville and other Southside Virginia Counties. Soon Virginia was settled to the North Carolina border.

With this swift, massive settlement, the area of Surry County south of the Blackwater increased in population very quickly. It took nearly a century to settle Surry south to the Blackwater. By 1728, after 27 years of settlement, there were more settlers south of the Blackwater then in the originally settled area to the north. These new settlers petitioned the Governor to move the courthouse near the center of the counties population.

Surry County's court house was moved from near the James River to the land of Howell Edmonds, south of the Blackwater River near or at Shingleton Plantation in 1728. This site is off Rt. 40 just as you cross the Blackwater River and enter present day Sussex County from Surry.

This area south of the Blackwater continued to grow in population, while the area north of the Blackwater did not. Completely settled, there was little if any usable land left unsettled north of the Blackwater. In 1754, the part of Surry south of the Blackwater petitioned the Virginia Council to be separated from Surry to form the new Sussex County. It was granted., although the power of the Allens saved little Surry for Surry County. Sussex is south of Surry, just as Sussex is south of Surrey in England.

Surry County moved its courthouse back close to the James River at Troopers, while Sussex moved theirs further south, close to Littleton.

The two counties have now been politically separate for nearly two and a half centuries. Surry is the smallest of all the counties formed from its land. Surry and Sussex remain tied however, by blood, geography, climate, agriculture, roads, history and friends. The history of one is the history of both.

The First Farm in Colonial America

Up and down the tidal James River Basin in Virginia you find farms claiming to be the first, the longest under cultivation, the most years owned by a certain family, the first to raise tobacco, or other similar accolades.

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Agriculture started immediately upon the landing of the settlers in 1607. The instructions from the Virginia Company of London given the settlers, to be opened when they arrived in Virginia included "30 others you may employ in preparing your ground and sowing your corn and roots".

Having little food when they arrived in Virginia, it became imperative that agriculture be practiced immediately. Recent reports of a large drought in Virginia in 1607 likely added to the settlers problem.

The settlers had to ask the Indians for food. The Quiyoughcohanocks, in what is now Surry County provided help. "Choapock: weeroance of the Quiocquahanocks did always at our greatest need supply us with victuals of all sorts, which he did notwithstanding the continual wars which we had in the rest of the country, and upon his deathbed charged his people that they should forever keep good quiet with the English. Pippisco now weeroance doth not forget his predecessor's testament". [See Jamestown Narratives, page 148 by Edward Wright Haile. From John Smith's "A True Relation"]

John Rolfe is the first to be credited with bringing Nicotiana Tobacum, a west Indian strain of tobacco, to the Jamestown settlement in 1612. It provided the income to keep the Jamestown settlement moving forward for many years.

Like the many quotes "George Washington slept here", many claim to be the first farm or to have raised the first crop of tobacco. When was the farm started? When and where did they plant tobacco? Does anyone really know? Can anyone prove their favorite site of the first tobacco crop? At times it seems that John Rolfe must have farmed most of the James River waterfront up to the falls. If there is any definitive proof as to where the first tobacco was planted, it has not surfaced, or I have completely missed it.

The location of the first farm is easy, and provable. There is not just one record, but several, by no less than John Smith and William Strachey, both of whom were here at the time.

"Thirty or forty acres we digged and planted. Of three sows in eighteen months [one year in the proceedings] increased 60 and odd pigs, and near 500 chicklings brought up themselves without having any meat given them. But the hogs were transported to this "farm", where we also built a blockhouse with a garrison to give us notice of any shipping: and for their exercise they made clapboard and wainscoat and cut down trees against the ships coming." Obviously it was also the first commercial lumber operation. [See The General History, Bk. 3, chapter Xl, by John Smith, who was certainly at the Jamestown settlement at that time. It is copied in Jamestown Narratives by Edward Wright Haile, page 319.]

On January 9,1609, Master Scrivener, Capt. Waldo, Master Anthony Gosnoll and eight others were killed in a storm going to visit this "farm". See John Smith's The General History, Bk. 3, Ch. 9 and Edward Wright Haile's Jamestown Narratives, page 308.]

It is documented ca. 1609 that there were homes built on the "Salisbury Side". It was named for the patron of the South Virginia Colony, the Earl of Salisbury, prime minister of England. They were called "The plantations across the Water". Sure sounds like a farm.[ See Colonial Virginia by William Broaddus Cridlin, page 43, for documentation.]

Captain John Smith unfortunately had to return to England in 1609, following his tragic wounding by a blast. He reported that he left "Besides Jamestown that was strongly palisadoed, containing some fifty or sixty houses, he left five or six other several forts and plantations." At least two, one which was this farm, and likely three were in what is now Surry County. [See John Smith's The General History, Bk. 3, Ch. 12 and Jamestown Narratives, by Edward Wright Haile, page 335.]

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Ca. 1609, the Indians under Chief Powhatan attacked this farm and killed all the hogs, around 600. He was trying to drive the settlers out of Virginia. Sounds like our first hog farm. Even in those early days, obviously some inhabitants did not want a hog farm here. [For documentation, see A True Reportory, part 4, by William Strachey, again transcribed by Edward Wright Haile in Jamestown Narratives, page 433 and 441.]

So - Is this the first farm in the Virginia Colony? Could there have been an earlier farm somewhere? Possibly so, likely no. There surely were gardens at Jamestown Island this early, but likely not farms At least, those on the site at the time did not identify any farms there. If you disagree, present the proof.

The important point here is documentation. If there were earlier farms, provide your documentation, not any "I think", or "I believe", or "I have heard", "or local lore tells", or "we found an old English hoe at some place or another".

Where was this first farm? It could only be at Hog Island, Surry County, Virginia. Were we part of the original Jamestown Settlement? Yes, it is more easily provable than the fact that the first farm was here. More to follow. JEA

The First Virginia Lottery: We are all familiar with the Virginia Lottery. We see its ads and promotions regularly. This lottery is not the first Virginia Lottery, however.

The London Virginia Company was issued its third charter on 12 March 1612. The final provision called for the company to set up a lottery in England. Sales of subscriptions for shares in the Virginia colony had fallen off drastically. This was to help the financing of the colony at Jamestown by offering chances to win shares in the Virginia colony. It was successful for a few years.

The Quakers and their Meeting House in Little Surry: Elizabeth Harris is acknowledged to be the first follower of Fox, a Quaker, in Virginia. That she was in Surry is documented by page 118 - 120 of Surry County, Virginia Court Records 1652 - 1663, book 1. Recorded on 8 July 1657 is an indenture for her son, John Phipps, four years old, to James Murrey, planter. Witnesses were Jno. Grigorye and Edward Pittway. Thus the Surry Side was arguably the first area in Virginia to witness the religion of the Society of Friends. Records are sparse and names and dates sometimes conflict. It is believed that Elizabeth Harris returned to England.

The following article is contributed by our member Camille Bailey Donaldson.

Black Water Monthly Meeting House

[Also called Surry, Burley and Gravelly Run Monthly Meeting before 1800]
  • Established: 1672, 1692, 1702 or 1737 depending upon the record, continued after 1752 as Surry or Black Water. Surviving records began in 1752.
  • Divided: 1800 into Blackwater Monthly Meeting and (The Upper Gravelly Run, Burley) Monthly meeting.
  • Discontinued: 1807.

This is one of the mystery meetings of early America. It seemed to have been the same, or closely allied with the organized Pagan Creek Monthly Meeting of 1738, which sends its roots back to the very beginning of the organized existence of the Society of Friends in the Virginia Colony.

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Old Surry Monthly Meeting [1702] was a sister meeting of those original meetings of Curles, Chuckatuck, Warwick-York, Nansemond and Pagan Creek. Exactly when these meetings were organized or by whom we do not know. It is therefore to be deplored that the records of its earliest days have long since disappeared, for we would particularly like to know more of its origin. Whether this Surry Monthly meeting was organized in 1672 or just prior to 1702 is unknown. We know that by 1691 there were Quakers in what is now Prince George, Surry, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Southampton Counties. In the first decade of the eighteenth century there was a large settlement of Friends in Southside Virginia.

For proof that Surry was merely another name for the Black Water Monthly meeting, the following is offered: 1759, John Cornwall produced a certificate to Henrico Monthly Meeting from "Surry Monthly Meeting". Referring to Blackwater Meeting files we see this same certificate was issued by that monthly meeting. In Nov. 21, 1770, in Western Branch Monthly meeting records "Surry Monthly meeting " is mentioned by name. Previous to this time many references are made to "The monthly Meeting held at Black Water in Surry County" and later referred to as both Surry and Black Water, showing they are the same. Representatives for 1702 from the Surry Monthly Meeting were Samuel Cornwell and John Tuck [Tooke].

The earliest civil record we have of the presence of Friends in Surry County, Virginia, is from a Militia list of 1687, which names the following as being Quakers and available as "horse soldiers" and "foot soldiers". The first group is: William Seward, Thomas Partridge, William Bartlett and John Barnes. The second group is: Thomas Wolves, George Morrell and Robert Lacy. We can thus prove there were Quakers in Surry before 1687 and had organized a Monthly meeting by 1702. Little Surry was the center of Quaker activity during most the time they were in Surry.

From 1752 until the Meeting closed in the 1807 we have the minutes of the Blackwater [Surry] Meeting. Many names are very familiar as their descendants are still in Surry today.

During the Revolutionary War period, houses and property of Quakers were plundered, "chiefly for military requisitions". Twenty Quakers recorded as having "suffered for refusing the test or to contribute for the support of the war". The Blackwater Monthly meeting was more persistent on the tax and test issue than others and consequently suffered more. The monthly meeting books describe this as a " time of calamity and close trial". Examples are:

  • April 4,1806, Exum Bailey reported taken from him by William Harrison, one hat and a gun under the militia law.
  • April 4, 1780, Chappell and Peter Binford reported taken from them, 1 mare, 3 barrels of corn, 1 bed and some furniture for refusal to take "the test" and contribute to the support of the war.
  • April 4,1806, Joseph Sebrell reported taken from him by William Harrison, two wool hats under militia law.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s many friends from Blackwater moved into North Carolina and eastern Ohio. In 1770, Pattison, who formed the particular meeting in Amelia, was abandoned as all of the members has migrated with the exception of the William Bott and William Reams families. The Ladd, Sadler, Ward and Durham families formed new congregations in Mecklenburg and Brunswick Counties.

The westward migration began among the Surry Quakers about 1804 when three men, William and Jesse Bailey and William Wrenn, asked and were given permission to fulfill "a prospect they had of traveling into the State of Ohio to view that part of the country".

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One would suspect they were scouts, for they returned five months later and the following year William Bailey Sr. and Micajah Bailey and their families migrated, followed by many others.

Before they left Virginia practically every male had suffered persecution from fines and seizures, showing the immediate source of pressure that drove these men and women westward. By 1832 Quakerism had almost vanished from Southside Virginia. Of those who stayed, many joined the newly forming Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784 and later.


Notes: Our Open House at the Rogers Store in September was well attended. There were around 100 visitors. We also hosted an open house for the Rogers Family Reunion with attendance around 50. Most of these were kin to Watt Rogers who operated the store. Many remembered visiting the store when it was open.

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We are still trying to work out the details with the State for the matching funds to be made available for restoration work on Rogers' Store. We also have applied to the Camp Foundation for funds.

Work is progressing on the project to transcribe, index and cross reference the loose papers from the courthouse that are the working file of the Register of Free Negroes. One half of the $8,400.00 grant toward the project from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has been received.

David C. Hart could not come and speak at our last meeting because of illness in his family. Having to travel from Detroit, Michigan, he felt it was best to postpone his talk until warmer weather next year. We look forward to his program on his grandfather, John Cornelious Hart.

We are trying to do a better job of responding to all inquiries to the Society. The quantity is increasing at a great rate. Not only are we getting many letters, but also many inquiries through the Internet.

In less than 11 months we have had over 3700 hits on our web page. Our membership is now approximately 446.

We Are

The plantations across the water

The Salisbury Side



We are the Surry Side

Of the Jamestown Settlement

Surry County, VA, USA

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