September 2000 Newsletter page 1, 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].
Location Map
We are here!
Volume 3, Number 1 - September 2000, page 1
James Atkins, Editor

To: Society Members and Friends,

The September meeting of the Society will be held in the Surry County Recreation Center on Monday, September 11, 2000, at 7:00 P.M. Yes, we will have displays.

Do We have a program for this meeting! Yes, we have a double barrel program that should be of interest to everyone.

David C. Hart, whom we introduced at our last meeting, will give us the story of his grandfather, John Cornelious Hart, a Mullatoe from Surry County who served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. Not only did he serve, he kept a diary of his outstanding service. He did not come back to Surry County after the war, and therefore the immense amount of information he chronicled has never been available to our citizens. It will be given in his grandson's talk in this meeting. Like every page of our history, the Civil War has two sides. Let's hear the chronicle of John Cornelious Hart.

We are also very fortunate to have Mr. Joe McAvoy as a speaker for this meeting. His subject is The Cactus Hill archeological site - Is it North Americas first? Joe has led the dig at Cactus Hill in nearby Sussex County since it began over ten years ago. Artifacts have been found that are older than at any site in eastern North America - and - perhaps in all of North America.

This dig has drawn the attention of archeologists and many organizations throughout the state and far beyond. Many magazines have run articles on this find. His organization, Nottaway River Survey, is supported by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources and the National Geographic Society in this quest. Unquestionably, it is the most important site in the country being worked at this time.

Come and hear about this dig and study that may rewrite American history. Think about it! We have the oldest English settlement in America across the James River at Jamestown. We may have the oldest settlement - period - across the Blackwater River in Sussex County, which started as part of Surry. Our roots may run deeper than we can imagine. This is a program you should not miss.

News from the Society.

Our very first open house at Rogers Store will be held on Sunday, September 10, 2000 from 2 PM to 5 PM. This is on Rt. 615, west of Dendron. This is the day before our September meeting.We want to show our members and friends the store before any construction is started. The firstfloor of the 1894 store will be open. The second floor will not be open, as there are no railings on the stairway or fence around a skylight in the second floor. We will be able to see the 1820 Gwaltney's Store, and go into the area that has a solid floor. We recommend that you wear something casual, as the store has not been cleaned, and you will encounter considerable antique dirt.

At the same time are fortunate to also have an open house at Carsley United Methodist Church, across the road from the store. This church, formed ca. 1790, received its first property here in 1811, and meets today in their 1897 church. It is the oldest continuously operating church in Surry County. Its fellowship hall started its life as Rameys Store, Ca. 1880, which was originally located across the road from the church. The Rameys, Gwaltneys, and Rogers were kin, as were most who lived in the community.

Recent Gifts: The Society continues to receive many important gifts of records and artifacts. Recent gifts include:

Mrs. Frances Reibsamen has given the Society a fine old Holwick No. 4A coffee grinder for Rogers Store in Carsley. It is from their store at nearby Savedge, Va.

Mr. Thad Williams of Suffolk Va. has allowed the Society to copy his collection of private papers Ca. 1840 -1870 of Capt. Travis Taylor of Surry County. Mr Williams showed the collection at a Society meeting last year. This is an extensive collection of approximately 275 documents. They include many papers he held as guardian of estates, including the paying for education for the children of the estate before and during the Civil War.

The darker side of our history is also documented. The court ordered sale of slaves from the Fitchett estate is shown in an invoice from a Richmond Company. There are also invoices from the local doctor for care of the slaves in the estate.

The soldiers of Colonel Allen bought their uniforms from Captain Taylor at the very beginning of The Civil War, evidenced by over a dozen invoices.

This important collection is being sorted by subject and date, with notes and forward by our member, Faye Savedge. When completed, it will be available at our office in Surry.

Mr. Joe Rowell of Bristol, Tennessee, has given the Society the World War I uniform and toilet kit of Joseph Wheeler Rowell, born Dec. 19, 1897 in Surry County. He was grandson of Richard F. Rowell who served in the 13th Virginia Calvary in the Civil War. He also gave the Society a set of wood blocks used to print pictures of Surry County. We believe they were made to print the 1952 commemorative book on Surry's 300th anniversary. We hope they can be used to reprint some of these pictures.

Planning ahead to 2007. The Society, with approval of the Claremont Town Council, has sent a request to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, that the three replica ships, the Sarah Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery, come to Claremont Va. in full regalia on May 5, 2007. This is 400 years to the day that they came here before going to Jamestown on May 13, 1607 to start the first permanent English settlement. Surry County plans to take its rightful place in these festivities. If the ships could have anchored next to the shore, the first English settlement would have been established here in Surry County. This is well documented.

There will be many details and decisions necessary for this to happen. The current ships are old and in poor condition. The demands on all of our historical assets will be great. By making our request early we expect to succeed.

It's official: The Society has been awarded a grant of $110,500 from the State of Virginia for the restoration of Roger's Store. This is a matching grant, and we must raise funds to be able to claim all of the grant. It's a great opportunity to have two dollars to spend on this project for every one you give to the Society. Help us if you can.

In addition, we have been awarded a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy of $8,400.00 to transcribe and publish the files of the background working records of the Surry County Free Negro Register. This file of working papers has not been found in any other county in Virginia.. It includes many letters written to the Court certifying the freedom of hundreds of Surry County blacks. It adds much new information about our past from the late 1700s forward.

Housekeeping notes. We recently learned that some members and visitors have had trouble finding our office in Surry. Our office is in the brick building directly across the street from the Post Office. It is the small office in what was originally in the Ford dealership building. We also apologize for not having the correct web address in the last newsletter. Our correct web address is Our E-mail address is [email protected].

To fill a need, the Society voted at our last meeting to buy, and has purchased, a four drawer legal size fire proof filing cabinet to store some of our irreplaceable records and artifacts. Some are one of a kind, some are rare and some, like our working file of the Free Black register, would take weeks of work to reproduce. We will try to insure that the most rare, valuable and irreplaceable items are kept in this locked cabinet.

Elections: As reported in our May Newsletter, elections were held at the May meeting of the Society. The slate of officers and directors nominated and reported in the May newsletter were elected at this meeting. All officers and directors were reelected to their positions.

Coming Soon: The Surry County Tourism Bureau and the year 2007 Celebration group is publishing a new Surry County Brochure. We must thank them for their inspiration and hard work in completing and publishing this brochure. This thoroughly updated brochure will be used to promote tourism and business in Surry County. We hope to include one with our next newsletter.

Historical News:

Schools: New information has been found. Last year Dennis Hudgins found in Surry County Court Orders of May 25,1818, that School Commissioners were appointed. On August 25, 1818, Richard H. Edwards was appointed treasurer of the School Commissioners.

    This was puzzling. There were no known public schools until after the Civil War. Why were School Commissioners appointed? The answer was found in the Library of Virginia in Richmond and loose papers in Surry Courthouse.

    Virginia had formed a literary fund to help provide education to the poor children who were receiving no education. The ledger book with the accounting of counties and cities from 1818 through 1834 is in the Library of Virginia. This money was paid to private teachers. Surry County received $464.18 in 1818.

    Reports for 1831-1834 are more complete and give us the following information: The number of common [elementary] schools in Surry varied from 6 to 10. The average number of poor children were 146. The average number sent to school were 85. Days of attendance varied from 52 to 105. The teachers were paid four cents per poor student per days of attendance. The total cost per student varied from $2.30 to $4.67 per year for all costs of their education.

    The 1834 list below shows the commissioner who registered the poor children and names of School Masters and the number of poor children they taught. Some teachers are listed more than once, and may have taught at more than one place or taught poor children from more than one district.

School CommissionerName of School MasterNumber of Poor Children Taught
Peter T. SpratleyJohn C. Cocks  7
IIBenjamin W. Ellensworth  9
IIJohn L. Maynard  3
IIMary Burgess  9
IILemuel Warren  4
IIBenjamin Collier14
IIThomas Rowell10
IIAlmarine Delk  2
John N. SpratleyBenjamin W. Ellensworth  3
IIJohn C. Cocks  7
IIWilliam B. Avery  5
IIMichael I Nicholson11
Dawson WarrenAlfred White  7
IIJohn M. Williams  5
IIAlbert G. Southall  1
IIRichard Carrol  9
Samuel BootheBenj. Collier22
IIMichael I. Nicholson14
James W. SebrellRobert C. Maynard  3
IIJohn C. Cocks  1
Richard H. EdwardsAugustine B. Cocks  4  
Total poor children  240Total taught150
   Number of Boys  90
   Number of girls  60
   Number of student days taught8945

Another list shows the names of the poor students and their parents, days attended and cost to the Literary Fund. It is not our intention to publish this information, however it is available at the Society. Strict accounting was obviously required. It appears that the fund was maintained through 1837 at least.

     Like most new information, this information raises as many questions as it answers. Where were these schools? How many students paid their own way? It appears that Surry County had more widespread education than has been recognized. Noteworthy is the fact that both boys and girls received an education. Perhaps some readers can identify where these teachers lived. One, Mary Burgess, lived at Carsley.

We also have a copy of the work books that Mr. Cocke used to record the information used to make the tithable list in Guilford District, one half of Surry County for two years in the very late 1700s. If he did not have his book with him, he wrote it on a slip of paper and put it in the book with a straight pin. This is another Surry County record that has not been found elsewhere. He made every head of household sign the listing of taxable males, horses, buggies, etc. If not signed, they had to give an oath that it was correct and complete. 71% of the heads of household signed their own name, including some free Negroes. Around 56 % had a comfortable signature that indicates they were definitely literate! Put to rest the old tales that the settlers and farmers of Surry County were an uneducated group of louts.

Land patents to free Negroes: Patents from the King of England to free Negroes are rare. To date we know of only six that have been identified in the State of Virginia. Three of these are in Surry County.

We have known of the Patent to Benjamin Doll on December 17, 1656 of three hundred acres on the south side of the Cypress Swamp for some years. It is located in Patent Book 4, pages 71 and 72. He was identified as black, and we also have other records of him in Surry County.

Recently Dennis Hudgins, as the result of his studies and the synergy created by bringing together the research of Surry Families, located two more Land Patents. William Walding/Walden patented 43 acres on the South side of the Cypress Swamp on 11 July 1761. See Patent Book 33, page 1040.

William Walding also patented 27 acres on the South Side of the Cypress Swamp on 7 August, 1761. See Patent Book 34, page 925-926.

Of immense interest is the fact that these patents did not mention his race, as all known others have. It probably means that previous searches have been incomplete. We must compare all known free Blacks in Surry County with those who received land patents. We anticipate that more will be identified.

There were a number of land purchases by free Negroes in the 1700s. An example is John Banks who purchased 100 acres on the south side of the Cypress Swamp on 21 September 1756. See deed Book 7, page 276. More are sure to be identified in the future. It is also possible that we may be able to trace some to the importation lists of ships coming to Virginia.

As the Society builds its files and resources, more and more early connections will be made. Each family that gives us a copy of their research helps others find their roots. It's a never ending cycle.

A wonderful research resource. Sometimes we get so involved with all the new technology that we miss some old resources that can save an immense amount of time in our historical and genealogical research.

The Virginia Historical Index, four volumes written by Dr. Earl Gregg Swem, should be a first stop when doing Virginia research. He, while librarian at William and Mary College, 1919 - 1944, indexed many of the old records and journals, going back to Virginia's earliest days. Reviewing it for no more than 30 minutes, I found many hundreds of Surry County and Surry family references, four pages in small print.

In trying to cement our relationship with Surrey County UK I found around seventy family names from there. Many of them are Surry, Virginia names - Cocke, Collier, West, Lanier and many more. They are being researched for matches.

Of special interest to me were hundreds of my Atkins/Atkinson references. The Library of Virginia and The William and Mary College library not only have the Virginia Historical Index, they also have all of the records that are indexed. The Society has a copy of the index of Surry County. Few subjects are not covered. It should be a first stop for any research of our earlier settlers and history. JEA

Surry to Surrey
By James B. Atkins

Recently my wife and I returned from a trip to Surrey County, England, where we visited many of the historic areas of our namesake county. We visited the fields of Runneymede in Surrey County, where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. Walking across these fields, where the King of England and his army came from nearby Windsor Castle and met the forces of his subjects on this meadow next to the Thames River, is inspiring. On this open field, with no opportunity for intrigue or surprise, history was rewritten. For the first time, the people gained rights. Not the common man, mind you, but it was the beginning. Freedom started here. In this meadow there is a stillness and quiet that makes you sense it is hallowed ground.

The rights given in the Magna Carta, hundreds of years later, became the basis of the constitution and the laws of our country, The United States of America.

Surry County Virginia's location adjacent to Jamestown provided a similar situation in 1673. The first rebellion against the king's taxes in America took place then at Lawnes Creek Church, Surry County, Va. It was soon followed by the better known and more widespread Bacon's Rebellion in 1675. Yes, the ties of our counties are close.

In our travels in Surrey, we often found ourselves in places with familiar names. We went by the town [city] of Guildford and spent two nights at Cobham. We toured Hampton Court Palace, across the Thames River from Surrey. Windsor Palace is also across the river from Surrey. We passed Claremont. There is a Waverly, Blackwater at its west, and Southwarke Borough, which was bigger than any city in England except London in 1753.

Today, Surrey is the southern suburb of London. It has over 1 million inhabitants, passenger rail service to the center of London, the M25 Ring Road around London, and water front on the Thames River. Yet, it is the most forested county in England. The rolling hills of Surrey appear lightly populated, until you drive through them. There are over 100 golf courses in the county and many museums including the Brooklands Museum, the birthplace of British motorsports. Both Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are adjacent to the county.

Like our Surry County, Surrey's borders have changed over the centuries, losing land to London, and gaining land in other areas.

Surrey's recorded history is much older than Surry County in Virginia. Its ancient history is one of occupation by Romans, and many other nationalities. Waves of warring tribes and nations have overrun or attacked the county off and on from the beginning of recorded history through World War II.

Homes the age of our oldest are commonplace. Records of ca. 1300 are still being found. Roman roads crossed the county. We had lunch in the Ca. 1393 Bell Inn. We saw a plaque on the wall of an old home in Dorking commemorating it as the house of William Mullins, a Pilgrim Father who sailed to a later settlement in America called Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower on 16 Sept.1620.

A high point of the trip was meeting with Dr. Brian Coffin, Chairman of Surrey County Council, at their County Hall. We presented him with a resolution of greetings and welcome from the Surry County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors. We toured County Hall, their seat of government. Gifts and mementoes were exchanged. We were treated royally.

After meeting with Dr. Coffin, we drove to Woking, Surrey County, to the Surrey History Centre. There we met Mrs. Heather D. Hawker, past chairman of the Surrey County Council and the driving force behind their new History Centre. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, cut the ribbon at their dedication ceremony of this new centre several years ago. We were surprised to be met by a reporter and photographer from the local paper for an interview.

Archivist Bob Shrigley gave us a tour of the center. At a cost of around 10 million dollars, it is world class, with state of the art resources to restore, maintain and preserve the records of their county. It is a government facility, used to store official county records along with private records.

The Center's Director, County Archivist David Robinson MA, PhD, FSA, has worked there for over 20 years, and had the pleasure of helping plan and see through to completion this outstanding new facility. Our visit ended with David Robinson at a local pub for a very late and long lunch. Alan Bott, local historian,joined us. We could not have planned a more wonderful day. We expect this visit to be the beginning of an informal Sister County arrangement between our counties, and perhaps visits between Surry and Surrey.

Like all good things, our trip came to an end much too quickly. However, we will never forget the many wonderful, friendly people we met. In addition to those named earlier there were the waitress and server at the Moore Place Restaurant near Cobham, and the English family in an Italian restaurant in Reigate celebrating their son's l2th birthday. Memories!

Looking forward to seeing you on September 10 at the Rogers' Store Open House and on September 11 at our regular meeting.

we are

Dues - Dues - Dues. Yes, its time to insure your dues are up to date. If you are uncertain, our Treasurer, Martha Rollings, can tell you when you last paid. The Society needs your support! Having opened our office and added phone service, our expenses are rising substantially. The more services we render and the larger our files become, the larger our cost of operation becomes. Please support the society and its work

Very soon, we expect to have a date shown on all mailing labels that will show when your dues are due.

Membership Information for 2000
Please consider the highest level membership possible.

The Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
Membership Categories Dues
Member $  10.00
Sustaining Member $  25.00
Benefactor Member $100.00
Life Member $500.00
Student Member $   5.00

Get your Membership Application HERE!

Top of Page

Pages updated 20 May 2019. © Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.   Contact Webmaster