May 2003 Newsletter, Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc. Surry County Virginia Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
P. O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883   Phone (757) 294-0404
E-mail address: [email protected].
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Newsletter and May 2003 Meeting Notice

Please note that the meeting will be at 7:00 P. M. at the Surry County, Va. Recreation Center.

Our Speaker will be Donald L. Sadler, an archaeologist currently working on a colonial dig at Chestnut Farm on the James River near Chippokes Plantation. Mr Sadler earned his Bachelors of Anthropology from William and Mary College in 2001 and completed the course work there for his Masters in Historical Archaeology in 2002.

As a student he won a scholarship for study abroad and participated in archaeological evacuations in "The History of the City" program in Athens, Greece. In the summer of 2000 he worked at James Fort for William Kelso and the APVA. The summer of 2001 was spent at the excavation of the 1613 Smiths Fort in Bermuda, working with Professor Norman Barka and Dr. Edward Harris. In the fall of 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Jamestowne Society Fellowship to study the 17th century Chestnut Farm in Surry County. This farm, the home of Margaret Sue Berryman, was settled in the first few years after 1607. He is currently employed as a supervisor of 17th and 18th century historical sites for Archaeological and Cultural Solutions Inc. of Williamsburg. Don't miss this program! How often can you see and learn of artifacts newly found in Surry County from the very earliest years of our settlement?

President's Report

As I age further into my 60s, far past becomes more vivid than the recent past. For the first twenty years of my life I spent most summers in Surry County with my parents, and my sister. These were good times.

My first remembrances of summers in Surry were probably during the Second World War. In 1940, the year I was born, my father Willis Bohannan bought Pleasant Point and all its adjacent land from Crouches Creek to Cobham for just over five thousand dollars. He bought it from his cousin Willie Morrison who had lived in it during the 1930's. Our family spent summers at Pleasant Point. My father commuted daily to and from Petersburg. Pleasant Point, when we bought it, had no modern conveniences. Our first priority was water. I have vague remembrances of the out-house we used during the early 1940's. Daddy had someone build a ram pump that pumped water from an artesian spring at river level. This spring was several hundred feet from the house. We soon had running water thus making life better for our family which also included my maternal grandmother at that time.

During much of the 1940's, we did without electricity. I remember Daddy reading in the library at night by the kerosene lamp. It probably was about 1947 when we got electricity at Pleasant Point. This gave us better lighting at night. We also bought a refrigerator. Before then, the ice man, Mr. Green, delivered ice which we stored in the basement.

At first, the floor of the basement was of dirt, as it probably had been since the mid-seventeenth century, except for a portion that had been converted to a make-shift kitchen which had a concrete floor.

As far as an eight-year-old boy was concerned, the highlight of having electricity was listening to the radio at night. I remember my favorite radio program during the late 1940's was I Love a Mystery. It came on each weekday night for fifteen minutes. It was a serial where each episode had enough adventure to force young people, as well as older listeners to "tune in tomorrow". I remember my maternal grandmother and I would listen to the radio nightly upstairs in her room.

During this time in the late 1940's, Daddy realized that managing two houses was becoming too expensive. In 1950 he sold Pleasant Point to a Mr. Carpenter For a few years, our summers were spent at home in Petersburg. The whole family missed country living.

In a future issue, I will describe more of what I remember of my summers in Surry County.
Bo Bohannan


Terms of office of three board members expire with our May meeting. Our bylaws allow two three year terms. Board members whose terms expire are Amy Edwards Harte of Surry, Va., Michael Harrison of Claremont, Va. and Claude Reeson of Spring Grove, Va. In addition, we must fill the unexpired term of our late member Lily Fields of Carsley. The nominating committee consisting of Harold Brown, chairman , Shirley Cockes, Faye Grandison, Michael Gee and Fay Savedge have met and nominees are:

Aubrey Kent Harrell of Claremont, Va.
Dr. Phillis Wacker of Surry, Va.
Rev. Robert Palmer of Carsley, Va.
To fill the unexpired term of Lilly Fields ---- Shirley Cockes of Elbron, Va.

Elections will be held at this May 12, 2003 meeting. Additional nominations may be made from the floor.

The Society wishes to thank our outgoing board members for their outstanding service, dedication and hard work since the beginning of the our Historical Society.

The Tournament
by Ollie Hux

The Tournament of the Horse was a popular sport in England in the 1400's. Jousting was a part of this tournament, but numerous deaths from this sport led Popes and English kings to ban the sport. For the most part, this enhanced the popularity of the sport. An offshoot of this sport was another sport called Ring Spearing. The description I found of Ring Spearing is very close to the tournaments I remember being held at local fairs. This and dressage are present day adaptations of England's Tournament of the Horse. Ring Jousting is Maryland's Official State Sport.

I don't know the year in which the first tournament was held, nor do I know how many years they were held, but I remember the tournaments at the Surry County Fairs that were held in the 1940's. I rode in tournaments at Surry and at Wakefield and seems to me they were also run at Waverly. I don't recall any riders at Surry who were not from either Surry County or Sussex County.

No particular attire was required though one year we wore capes in the parade which was held before the tournament was run. I'm sure all or most of the capes were made by family members. Mine was green and yellow, made by my mother and I still have it. I won't try to name the participants because I surely don't remember them all. However, some are fixed in my mind due to some special circumstances. Dick Pittman rode a black horse with a black saddle and bridle decorated with silver conchos. Herman Truehart Burgess rode a horse that had been in the US Cavalry. It's likely that Wilson Cofer rode in more competitive tournaments (such as at Richmond) than anyone else who rode at the Surry County Fair. He dressed more formal than most of us and his horse was constantly switching his tail when he ran.

We weren't big on formality in Surry but certain rules and niceties were followed. People rode English or western and I remember a McClellan saddle being used. You might see shoes, boots, riding britches, ties, open neck shirts, jackets or most anything else that was decent. I never saw a rulebook and I don't know that there was one, but I don't recall a dispute either. Everyone seemed to know the basic rules.

The course was laid out on the old S, S and S roadbed where it ran through the schoolyard. There were 3 arches 30 yards apart and the course started 20 yards before the first arch. They were called arches but they were more like the number 7 with the long end stuck in the ground. The ring was suspended from the left side of the 7. You were allowed 10 seconds to ride through the course. Each rider rode one trial ride and three rides for record. If you picked up three rings in each of the three rides, you participated in a ride off to determine the winner. The ring size decreased during the ride off. The lance I used was 9' 6" long and 1 1/2" in diameter at its largest point. It's hanging on the wall here at home. The steel tip is 21" long and has a slight curve so that you can sight along tip with the lance held under your arm. The rings I have are 1 1/2" OD covered with red cloth. I think that's the size used for the three rides before the ring size was decreased for the ride off. Rings were hung from the arches approximately 6' from the ground. They could be raised or lowered, within limits, at the rider's request.

There was a judge or judges who determined that the rules were followed. A Ring Steward (I'm not sure of that title.) removed the rings from the lance as the rider returned to the starting point after each ride. It was a courtesy to reverse your lance so that there was less danger to the Ring Stewart when he removed the rings. He held the rings up for the judge and score keeper to see and confirm. If a rider caught the cloth wrapping on the tip of his lance, he lowered the lance and returned to the Ring Stewart. When the lance was presented to the judge, he would determine that the lance tip was on the inside or the outside of the ring. If it was inside the ring counted. The judge would also determine whether or not the rider had lowered his lance during the ride and deserved a reride for the remaining rings.

A Coronation Ball was held in the evening after the Tournament was run. The winner of the Tournament crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty and their court was made up of the 3 or 4 runners up and their lady of choice. I don't remember any ladies riding in a tournament at Surry so there was never any question of role reversals here. However, if my memory is up to par, I saw a lady ride in a tournament in Waverly. The Coronation Balls that I remember were held in the S, S and S warehouse just off Route 10 in Surry.

Anyway, that's the way I remember it.

Note: Ollie Hux, from near Dendron, Surry County, Va. is a member who now lives in Millarsville, Alberta, Canada. JEA


Our talented historian, Dennis Hudgins, is now living in Richmond, Va. He is completing the transcription of Volume 8 of Cavaliers and Pioneers, Virginia's records of our original land patents and grants. This volume covers the pivotal time when The United States of America was formed. He visits and continues to work on Surry records regularly. Dennis can be reached at: 2026 West Grace Street, Apt. 17, Richmond, Va. 23220 or by e-mail at dhudgins1@comcast. net.

Aurelius W. Bohannan's notes: Whitfield S. Cooper.

A. W. Bohannan wrote Old Surry which was first published in 1927. His notes were used by his son, Willis W. Bohannan, to write Surry County at War in 1963. A. W. Bohannan spent a great amount of time and effort in talking with the "old timers" of Surry County. He kept a notebook in which he wrote of these conversations. Other notes are on whatever piece of paper he had at the time. While much of the information in his notes made it into Old Surry and Surry County at War, much information remains unpublished.

This article is an example, both of his notes and the amount of work necessary to collect and publish them. The article first was found on the Internet on Feb. 8, 1999, posted by Elizabeth Veserat. E-mail determined that she was great-granddaughter of A. W. Bohannan. These notes made their way back east to "Bo" Bohannan. The notebook was then copied by the Historical Society. This particular article, three pages of loose papers, remained undiscovered until just recently.

Once found, the first order was to insure it was transcribed as correctly as possible. (Who better to do this than Dennis Hudgins?) Finally, we had what we believe is a correct transcription, except for the initials of a Mr. C. M.? Ellis. From the notes we knew, however, that his grandfather was Bolling Ellis. We went to our member and expert genealogist, Fay Savedge, who has studied the Ellis family in detail. She and several others spent over an hour at the Society studying the original document and Ellis genealogy. The consensus was C. M. for Cornelius Moody Ellis. Finally, we were ready to publish the Article below.

Nov. 17,1929       W. S. C. born 1859

Mr Whitfield Cooper says his grandfather was John S. Cocke and his brother Wm. H. Cocke went to Prince George Co. near City Point. His mother was a Lucas. The place on which Mr. Lucius Bishop lived was a Lucas place. His grandfather and grandmother are buried there. There was another Lucas place on the Salisbury Road. His mother was a Carsley pronounced "Kersley." The place on which he now lives was a Carsley place. Yankee cavalry come there when he was a boy, came there one night and went upstairs looking for someone. The Yankees passed by Carsley at other times going in a southerly direction. He says that a man named

[Pg. 2]   Joe Gwaltney (no kin to Mr. C. H.) kept store at Carsley during the War b. St. and that Mr. W. S. Burt was there once during war when a considerable body of Yankees suddenly appeared over near the Church. Mr. W. S. B. saw them ran out cut his horse loose, mounted, and rode off down the road followed by the Yankees. They might have overtaken him, but he turned off in the woods and escaped. Mr Cooper says he understood that a man named Grant who lived where Dr. Baird lived later was killed by the Yankees as he was sitting on the porch with a gun when they came up. His father Jonathan W Cooper served in the Artillery (Pegram's]

[Pg 3]   Battln or Battery). He was wounded when a cais-san blew up. Shell fell in caisson. His trousers were set on fire. He found some water in a ravine and put the fire out. He was conscripted in 1863. Came home in Sept 1864 and never went back. Hid in a hole he dug where two branches of a swamp met. Had a chimney to it. Kinnie Gwaltney went in army in place of his father Joe Gwaltney. Carsley Church was built on land belonging to a man name Carsley who owned a large tract here. Says he under- stands church was organized in 1790 but first building was erected in 1811. Mr Bolling Ellis, grandfather of C. M. Ellis owned land all the way from Carsley to Blackwater swamp.


Surry Black Civil War Sailors
by David C. Hart

Recent research has uncovered the fact that over 20,000 Black Civil War sailors served in the Union Navy. It is puzzling to understand why it was so difficult for the Federals to recruit and field Black troops, while the Union Navy eagerly sought and engaged Black sailors at the onset of the war. It is understandable how it was easy to recruit free Blacks as sailors in northern seaports and other cities, but how was this accomplished in the south?

The Blacks from the south made significant contributions to the make-up of the Union Navy. In most cases they had to seek out, stalk or come upon a Union ship in Confederate waters in order to enlist. There were over 3,000 Black Union sailors from Virginia who served in the Union Navy. Of this amount approximately 45 were from Surry County and it's environs. John C. Hart, my grandfather, was one of them and I am going to relate how I conducted research on his Surry and Naval history and shed some light on his Surry companions, hopefully, this revelation will inspire descendants of Black Surry Civil War sailors to discover and research their ancestors.

My grandfather, John C. Hart, was born in Surry County, VA March 30, 1846. 1 came upon my grandfather's history in 1968 when my father presented me with John C. Hart's diary of his Civil War experiences in the Union Navy. This is a 153-page account of his naval enlistment in 1862 through January 1865 when he was discharged. After his discharge in 1865, John Hart located in Washington, D.C. where he worked in the Navigational Department, which was under the administration of Admiral Thornton A. Jenkins. From December 1862 through January 1865 John Hart served under then Captain Thornton A. Jenkins as a Cabin Boy on the Union Ships USS Oneida, Hartford and Richmond. Captain Jenkins was from Orange County, Virginia and his biography states that he refused an offer to serve as a Commander of the Confederate Navy and chose to serve the Union.

Armed with a copy of my grandfather's diary, my sister, Jeanne Fitzgerald of Washington, D.C. researched the records at the National Archives and uncovered his pension records. The pension records verified accounts of his service on various ships, his place of birth, mother, father, siblings, and whether he was free or a slave at the time of enlistment. Being that John Hart was literate from the age of seven, his pension application revealed this information written in his own hand and only had to be verified by naval records. For persons with scant information about military service during the Civil War the National Archives is a must. There was a number of Black Civil War women nurses and other service women who received pensions for service, which is among the records.

Accompanied by my grandfather's memoirs and naval records, I started my research at the Surry County Court House in 1992. Jane Emerson, the Surry County Assistant Clerk was most accommodating to me being that I was a research novice. Even though I live in Detroit I traveled approximately once a year to Surry County to continue my research on my grandfather. Doris Stone, a well-known genealogist in the area provided invaluable service to my research.

I confirmed through the Surry Court Will Books that John Hart was freed in 1853 by the probation of the will of Nicholas Hart, his father. Finally, a May 1857 Court Order revealed:

May Court 1857, Pages 230 and 231

Whereas by a decree of the Circuit Court of Surry County made the 13th day of May 1857 in a suit styled "Harts exor: against White & Co:" it appears that John son of Hannah, a slave who was by the will of Nicholas T. Hart emancipated is entitled to his Freedom whenever he shall assert the same in a proper manner after the 23rd day of May 1857. therefore on the motion of said John, the court doth order that said John be registered as a free negroe in the Clerk's Office of this court according to law. And the court doth further order that an Overseer of the poor in district No. I in this County, bind out said boy John now about the age of sixteen years, to William P. Underwood, said Underwood (is to) pay to said John on his arrival to full age the sum of fifty dollars per annum with legal interest thereon from the end of each successful year.

Although this document states "John now about the age of sixteen years," he was actually eleven years old. It further states that he was assigned to the Court Clerk, William P. Underwood as an apprentice. As an apprentice it is likely that John Hart assisted in writing some of the Surry County Court records. This is currently being investigated using his handwriting samples. John Hart's occupation was listed as an apprentice on his naval enlistment papers. I didn't know what kind of apprenticeship he was serving until I read this court document.

Following John Hart's account that he enlisted in the Navy on August 15, 1862 at Jamestown Island, Virginia, on the Union gunship USS Aroostook, I sought out the Aroostook log book at the National Archives. To review the log you must present proper identification, order the book from a separate room and wait an hour of more for it to be sent to the library where you can review it. In the interim, I reviewed books that contained the history of all US warships, which listed all of the naval personnel who served on it. I picked the USS Hartford, which was the flagship of Admiral David Farragut where I had known that my grandfather was in service with Captain Thornton Jenkins. To my surprise my grandfathers' name was not in the index as a sailor on the ship. None of the books written about the history of the Civil War Union Ships contained names of the Black sailors. It appeared that the record of naval service by Black Civil War Union sailors could only be obtained from pension records and from research of ship logs, which included muster rolls.

John Hart's diary states that he enlisted on the Union gunboat, USS Aroostook at Jamestown Island on August 15, 1862. My research indicated that he was not alone. There were 14 other contrabands taken aboard the Aroostook on that day. When I examined the ship log of the USS Aroostook for that day, I found no entry of my grandfather being mentioned as an enlistee. Upon reviewing the front of the log book I found the names of 15 contrabands taken aboard on August 15, 1862. John Hart was included as one of the contraband, which was in error as he was a court documented free Negro at this time. I am sure John Hart told the Aroostook seaman who enlisted him, that he was a free man, but he wasn't believed. The 14 contrabands listed were:

1. Brown, John, 1 st Class Boy 8. Main, Gilbert 2nd Class Boy
2. Corner, John 1st Class Boy 9. Punch, Alfred 1st Class Boy
3. Harris, Albert 1 st Class Boy 10. Punch, Junius 1 st Class Boy
4. Herbert, William 1 st Class Boy 11. Spradley, John 1 st Class Boy
5. Jones. Moses 1 st Class Boy 12. Spradley, Peter 1 st Class Boy
6. Johnson, Nelson 1st Class Boy 13. Lee, Wilson 1st Class Boy
7. King, Van 1 st Class Boy 14. Sam, William 1 st Class Boy

The surname of "Spradley" was probably Spratley, a well-known name in Surry during this time. It was common for the Navy to classify all Black enlistees as "Boy".

One reason for visiting Surry was to trace the footsteps of my grandfather. He had written about his boyhood and mentioned that he would go to the banks of the James River and watch the steamboats on the line from Norfolk to Richmond. He observed two boats named the "Curtipect and the Argusta" He had never been aboard a steam vessel but expressed a "boy like anxiety to go aboard one". I followed Rte. 31 to Scotland and viewed the banks of the James River. Being a clear day I could see Jamestown Island. I was curious to know how John Hart and 14 contrabands knew to approach the Aroostook, which was docked at Jamestown Island.

Upon reading the history of the USS Aroostook, I found that it entered the Hampton Roads in April 1862 and engaged in skirmishes up and down the James River. On May 8th the flagship Galena ran aground off Hog Island. It took the Aroostook and the Port Royal 36 hours to free the Galena. John Hart and others who planned to escape to the Union Navy probably viewed this event. The Aroostook continued skirmishes in the James River and on June 9, 1862 it proceeded to Jamestown Island and landed a party and took control of the abandoned island. During July and August, John Hart and his cohorts probably watched the movements of the Aroostook from the riverbanks, and while doing routine fishing in small boats. I am convinced that this was a well planned escape by 15 men over a period of time. These 15 men had to cross the James River by boat, know that the Aroostook was docked at Jamestown on August 15 and present themselves en masse for enlistment. The Commander of the Aroostook, Lt. Samuel Rhodes Franklin, asked one of the slaves if he was afraid of being shot for attempting to runaway. He answered, no. On the morning of August 16, 1862 the town of Surry had to notice that there were 15 less male Negroes.


As I have noted there are other African American Union Civil War Navy Sailors from the Surry area. Some enlisted with my grandfather and some came from Claremont, Swanns Point, Curls Neck, etc. Many were from the Isle of Wight. African American who have roots in Surry and throughout Virginia should be aware of the research opportunities provided by Howard University's eight-year research project identifying 18,000 African American Civil War Union Sailors. In conjunction with the National Park Service they created a web site

In addition, Howard University Professor Dr. Joseph P. Reidy has written articles titled "Black Men in Navy Blue During The Civil War" which have been published in the Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration Fall 2001, vol. 33, no. 3. Their web site is

A copy of this document is in the Surry County Historical Society Archives.

I met the Howard University Researchers in the National Archives in June, 1995. They were excited to learn about my grandfather's diary and I was informed that it was one of three known diaries written by a Black Civil War Sailor. As the result of my connection with the Howard University Project, ABC Nightline became aware of the John C. Hart Story. They aired a story on African American Civil War Sailors in July 2001. John Hart's story is one of the features, which includes some filming of Surry County. The 21 minute tape is available in the Surry County Historical Society Archives.

There is some irony in the John C. Hart story. I thought for many years that my maternal and paternal roots were in Northern Virginia. I attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) from 1948-1952 never knowing that my grandfather was born in Surry just across the James River. I plan to continue to visit Surry to complete my research and work on the book about John C. Hart, the Surry Sailor.

Note: David C. Hart of Detroit, Michigan is the Grandson of John C. Hart.


Virginia laws made plain!

This book was written in 1913, and copies were distributed by the Bank of Waverly, Va. in adjacent Sussex County. Last week, Charles M. and C. Morgan Rogers, Society members and descendants of Watt Rogers who owned Rogers' Store, visited me and gave the Society a copy of this book. It was previously owned by John Thaddeus Rogers. This book was written in a manner that plain folks could understand Virginia law. I will copy some paragraphs of interest.

Speed limits- Except where local ordinances provide otherwise, it is unlawful to drive a machine at a greater rate of speed than 12 miles an hour within the corporate limits of any city or town. Outside the corporate limits of any town a speed limit of twenty miles an hour is permitted, except going around curves, down sharp declines, or at the intersection of cross roads, or over the crest of hills, or in passing vehicles or riders on the roadway. At these times a greater speed than eight miles an hour is unlawful.

Duties of the Driver - When the driver of a machine approaches a horse coming from the opposite direction, and being either ridden or driven, he must slow down his machine until he has it under absolute control, and give ample roadway to the driver of the horse. If the driver requests it, he must bring his machine to a full stop and allow ample time for the driver to pass. If requested, the driver, if a male, must lead the horse past his machine. When the driver overtakes a horse he must not pass at a greater rate of speed than is necessary in order to pass, and if the horse becomes frightened, he must, if requested, hold the horse until he becomes quiet.

Poor debtors exemptions - Each householder is entitled to hold exempt from levy or distress these exemptions, among others, cannot be waived: The family Bible, family pictures, school books and library for the use of the family, not exceeding in all one hundred dollars in value; A seat or pew in any public place of worship; A lot in a burial ground; All necessary wearing apparel for the debtor and his family; all beds, bedsteads and bedding necessary for the use of the family; and all stoves put up and kept for the use of the family, not exceeding three; One cow and her calf until one year old, one horse, tools of his trade, etc-etc.

Fence Laws - Fence enclosing Railroad tracks- It is the duty of every railroad company within this state to enclose its line with fences, closing the openings at intersections of roads, etc. with cattle guards. If any company fails to do so and cattle or other property is destroyed on the tracks, the claimant does not have to prove that the injury was caused by any negligence of the company.

Liability for fires - Whenever any person suffers damage from fire by sparks or coals dropped or thrown from an engine, the company is liable for the damage sustained, whether the fire originated on the company right of way or not, and whether or not the engine was equipped with proper spark arresting appliances. JEA


Rogers' Store update.

Restoration complete. Thank you, Roger Atkins for a job well done. Buildings are sound and solid. Electrical service replaced. Counters and stove are back in the store. Inventory, fixtures and records being but in place. Old kerosene pump restored and installed. New signs being painted. Much cleaning and work to be done. Help needed! Look for open houses summer - fall...

Surry County Courthouse Update.

A petition requesting a referendum on the Courthouse project sponsored by a local group, Surry County Organization for a Responsible Electorate, [SCORE] had well over the number of signatures necessary for it to be certified. With 1535 signatures of registered voters needed, approximately 2000 signed. It asks that a new courthouse be built adjacent the County administration offices, with a maximum cost around $4,000.000.00. It was certified by the Surry County Registrar as having more Surry County registered voters signatures than necessary. Once certified, it was then given to Judge Robert O'Hara. It now is in his hands to take whatever action he decides. It could be approved and an date set for voting on the referendum. It could be contested, revised or rejected. Who knows!

Also no financing for the courthouse project is presently in place. The previous bank loan commitment was not used by the date specified and has been withdrawn.

The Surry County Board of Supervisors has stopped (at least temporarily) all actions previously approved concerning the addition to the existing courthouse.

The latest action is a motion by the Surry County Board of Supervisors to halt the referendum. It asks to quash the petition filed on behalf of the local group [SCORE], and proceed with the original plans. A hearing on the board's motion is scheduled for May 7.

So - we have no idea what will happen. Something will, and we will keep you informed. JEA


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