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A Little Book and a Lot of History

The interesting thing about history is how it can lead a researcher in unanticipated directions. This small handmade booklet, with a heavy decorative paper cover and tied with silk ribbon, is a good example. Described in the museum catalog as “handmade library register” a closer look reveals a richer story beginning with the following inscription “Books issued out of the lybrary [sic], Emeline A. Miller’s class.” The register contains a list of female names and an accounting of books (identified by a number) checked out on certain dates. Where was the library? Who were these people?

Emeline Miller Craig (1813-1892) in circa 1890. (Montgomery Museum Collection, gift of Archer Lackey family.      

Emeline A. Miller (1813 – ), the daughter of Dr. Joseph and Matilda Miller of Christiansburg was the niece of the folk artist Lewis Miller. She became the wife of John Craig in 1835. Craig inherited the large Hans Meadow estate in Christiansburg after the death of his father, Captain James Craig, in 1834. The museum received the booklet as part of a gift from the Sherwood Flagg estate in 1988, Miss Flagg was the last descendant of the Craig family to own Hans Meadow. 

The booklet begins in June 1833 and goes through June 1835; weekly dates for each month are recorded as days when books were taken out. An online historic calendar tells us that these were all Sundays. Emeline Miller joined the Christiansburg Presbyterian Church in 1832; her future husband was also a member. .A picture is now forming of Miss Emeline Miller, prior to her marriage, teaching a Sunday School class in Christiansburg for girls. Several of these girls have been identified.

Frances A. S. Douthat was born in 1821 (making her age 12 in 1833). She was the daughter of Robert and Mary Douthat who lived in a log house in the 100 Block of West Main St., Christiansburg. She married Daniel W. Akers in 1839.

Mary A. Wade was born around 1821 to William and Emily (Milly) Wade. William Wade joined the Christiansburg Presbyterian Church in 1831 and was a ruling elder for 25 years. Mary A. Wade married James Barnet in 1839.

Ann Bowyer was likely the daughter, born around 1821, of Thomas Bowyer and Nancy Craig Bowyer. Nancy was the daughter of Captain James and Ann Craig. Ann Craig was a founding member of the Christiansburg Presbyterian Church.

Emeline Snider may have been the daughter of John and Lucy Snider, born about 1824. John Snider was a hatter in Christiansburg.

Handmade booklet containing books checked out by girls in Christiansburg Presbyterian Sunday School, 1833-1836. (Montgomery Museum Collection. Gift of Archer Lackey Family.

Further research into the history of Christiansburg Presbyterian Church reveals that the fledgling church had been without a pastor for about three years when Rev. J. H. Wallace answered the call in 1832. It may not be a coincidence that Miss Miller’s Sunday School came about during this period of reinvigoration. The Sunday School seems to have ended shortly before Miss Miller’s marriage to John Craig on August 31, 1835.

From a humble little book we have learned so much about the early life in Christiansburg Presbyterian Church. It is these stories that give meaning to the mission of the museum to preserve these objects.

By: Sherry Joines Wyatt, Curator

Sources:
Christiansburg, Virginia by Roy Kanode
www.timeanddate.com
www.familysearch.org

A Quilt and Its Many Connections

Research often leads you in directions you never considered.  An unfinished quilt top in the Pine Burr pattern, now on exhibit at the museum, is intriguing because it is a friendship quilt made by at least twelve women whose names or initials are on the quilt top. A color guide for historic fabrics provided an approximate late-nineteenth century date. To learn something about the women who made the quilt top, we started with the genealogy of the Stanger-Silvers family, who donated the quilt and other items in 1988. Women whose first and last names were on the quilt were also researched. We found that many of the women had lived in the Belmont community of Montgomery County. 

Pine Burr pattern friendship quilt top made in Belmont Community circa 1890. (gift of Bob and Yvonne Silvers)

Marriage records were the logical place to find out more. The marriage dates of the women could lead to a more accurate quilt date, since friendship quilts were often done in honor of a marriage. In fact, even more information came to light! Two of the women were married by the same minister: Reverend D. Bittle Groseclose. This was a new idea – what if the women were not only neighbors or relatives, but also attended the same church.

 

Three women believed to be connected to the quilt were married in 1890, 1892, and 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. Rev. Groseclose served as chaplain at Virginia Polytechnic Institute from 1897-1902 and organized New St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the Glade community of Montgomery County in 1903 shortly before he moved to South Carolina. A search of all the marriage records for 1889-1903 revealed that Rev. Groseclose had married 98 couples. These couples ran the social gamut including African Americans and whites, miners and farmers, railroad wo

 

rkers and physicians. An additional twelve couples related to the quilt makers were married by Rev. Groseclose. In the end, the study of Rev. Groseclose created a richer history of the lives of these women.

Although there are still many questions and suppositions, we believe the quilt top was made for Amanda Linkous (1864-1906), probably upon her marriage to Sylvester Stanger (1866-1942) in 1890. The identified quilt makers are thought to include: Mattie Hawley, who may have been the daughter of James and Catherine Hawley; Mary Keister, who may have been the daughter of James Ballard and Nancy Hawley Keister; Hattie B. Long who is thought to have been the daughter of William and Rebecca Long; and Luvenie (or Louvenia) Sheppard who was married to James C. Stanger in 1896 by Rev. Groseclose. The fifth name on the quilt top is partially illegible: “ ___ Linkes” [sic, Linkous]. Are you able to identify this Miss Linkous?

Join us to see the Pine Burr quilt top and many other quilts during the museum’s exhibit: A Pieced History: Quilts in Montgomery County.

A Pieced History

Photographs Give a View into the Past

The museum owns a large number of photographs. While many are identified, there are hundreds more of people and places whose names have been lost to time. Are these photos of any value? In most cases, the answer is “yes!” Let’s look at one of the museum’s “mystery photos” and see what we might be able to learn.

This image is part of the large Craig Family Collection that came to the museum in 1988 from the estate of Miss Sherwood Flagg; the last of the Craig family to own Hans Meadow. It is a “cartes de viste” photograph, meaning that it is a thin paper photograph (sepia tone) mounted on 2 ½” x 4” cardboard. Cartes de viste were very popular from the 1860s into the 1870s, when they began to be supplanted by “cabinet cards” which measured 4 ½” x 6 ½”.

The photograph shows an Asian woman carrying a young girl on her back. The cardboard mat is embossed with English and Asian characters and carries a lily design on the reverse making it similar to the later cabinet cards, which often carried ornamental logos. The image is dated and is partially identified: “For Wm. Sydner 2. J.1. Flagg from his friend, Kinar [?] George, June 29 ’94, age 13 mos.” The date is probably 1894; the meaning of the superscript numbers is unknown. We know the William C. Flagg, Jr. family owned and resided at Hans Meadow, but this name does match any of those known. We also do not know who George was. The interaction of East and West during the late-nineteenth century is well-known however. For example, Christiansburg native Rev. William M. Junkin traveled to Korea as a missionary in 1892 remaining there until his death in 1908. Is this photograph related to Junkin in some way? Or is this yet another example of an American missionary working in Asia? It would be easy to think that the woman and child were merely posing for tourist souvenirs, but the girl’s age is given suggesting that she was part of George’s family. The child also seems to be wearing Western-style clothes. Was the woman a servant? We may never understand the story this photograph is showing, but our ideas about local communication with far-away places during this historic period are significantly expanded when we look at this photo.

The Unforgotten Henry King

Henry King (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Henry King was born on a farm in Elliston, Virginia, in 1886. Growing up he attended school in Lafayette, Virginia, where he was passionate about one act plays and recitations. These passions led him to pursue a career in acting and directing that would span six decades and resulted in his making over 100 movies.

A visit by “Doctor” Alward’s traveling medicine show to Lafayette enticed young Henry King to leave his hometown. King worked with several tour companies during his traveling show career and performed nine shows a week in various towns. He received his first small directing role with a stock company in Chicago.

King’s traveling show work took him to Hollywood and in 1913 the 27-year old began acting in silent movies. He appeared in a dozen films such as, “The Devil’s Bait,” “Shadows and Sunshine,” and “Should a Wife Forgive.” He sometimes performed his own stunts without any safety precautions. During his acting career he began writing screenplays. In the 1915 movie “Who Pays,” for example, a violent fight sequence was based on a fight that he had witnessed at the train station in Elliston. King choreographed and directed the scene; it was his first experience in film directing.

King would go on to make many hit movies: “Twelve O’clock High,” “Jesse James,” “Carousel,” “Tender Is the Night,” and more. King directed the 1921 movie “Tol’able David,” which was filmed in Highland County, Virginia. A box office smash, it is considered his masterpiece. In 1930, he was hired by Goldwyn United Artists where he would spend the rest of his career.

King won almost 20 academy awards and a Golden Globe for best director for the film “The Song of Bernadette.”  He worked with stars such as Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, Rock Hudson, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, and Tyrone Power during his expansive career.

Henry King passed away at his home in Toluca Lake, California in 1982 at the age of 96. A pioneer in the motion picture industry King is credited with directing more than 160 motion pictures between 1915 and 1961. Yet his work and dedication to the film industry are largely unnoticed today. Henry King deserves to be remembered in his native Montgomery County.

A Story of Emancipation in Christiansburg

Slaveholding was widespread in Montgomery County.  By 1840, enslaved persons made up twenty percent of the population.  In Christiansburg, enslaved persons resided in half of the town’s households. Yet, not everyone was satisfied with the institution of slavery. Among those locally who wanted something different was Dorthea Bratton, the daughter of a prominent Staunton physician and statesman, Col. William Fleming and the widow of Captain James Bratton. Mrs. Bratton became convinced that the plan of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which was founded in 1816 to help freed black people immigrate to Liberia in West Africa, was the best choice for the slaves under her ownership.

In August of 1847, Nicholas Chevalier, the pastor of the Christiansburg Presbyterian Church and principal of both the Montgomery Male and Montgomery Female Academies, wrote a letter to the secretary of the American Colonization Society (ACS) on behalf to Dorothea Bratton, who wanted to free twenty of her enslaved persons and send them to Liberia. Chevalier said that Mrs. Bratton, then 70 years of age, was financially unable to pay their passages and supplies. Concerns about the project from Mrs. Bratton, the potential emigrants, and the opposition from her son-in-law, Dr. Hugh Kent, warranted the assistance of ACS. Reverend Chevalier wrote that this was “exactly one of the cases contemplated by the ACS founders & those who contribute to its funds.”  

Chevalier’s personal feelings about slavery may have been complex. He was born in Connecticut, a non-slave holding state, and professed to the ACS secretary that he was a life member of the society. Yet, census records show that he held three enslaved persons (a young woman and two children) in 1850 and four enslaved persons in 1860 (a young woman and three children).  However, Chevalier’s wife, Bethany Stuart, was a Southerner with strong ties to slave-holding. She was the sister of Confederate General J.E.B Stuart and her father, Archibald Stuart held many slaves on his Patrick County plantation.

After a legal battle, Mrs. Bratton was able to emancipate two families as well as four children without their parents. On December 22, 1847, this party left Christiansburg for Baltimore accompanied by an ACS agent. On February 5, 1848, they sailed for Liberia aboard the Amazon arriving in Monrovia, Liberia on March 14, 1848. Two of the Bratton members died shortly after arriving, probably from malaria. Like so many other black immigrants to Liberia, the party was plagued by sickness and other troubles during the early part of their settlement, but there is some evidence that by September 1848, they were sending more favorable reports of their situation.

Photograph of Dorothea Bratton’s Grave Stone Courtesy of FindAGrave.com

Despite the difficulties both to herself and her first group of emigrants, Dorothea Bratton undertook to send a second group of twelve emigrants to Liberia in July 1848, but in the end only four made the journey. In 1850, the census found Dorothea Bratton with only a ten-year-old free black named James Brown in her household. Mrs. Bratton died August 6, 1852 and is buried in Kyle Cemetery in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Cruisin’ Christiansburg with Kids Pinewood Derby

The Third Annual Cruisin’ Christiansburg will be held by the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center on Saturday May 12, 2018 from 3:30-7:30 p.m. This is a free, family-friendly event.

A cruise-in is a gathering of people who drive their classic or muscle cars on a regular basis and people who just like to look at cars, especially the classics.  Members of the Blue Ridge Mountain MOPAR Club will participate in the event.  A variety of classic cars will be parked along Main and Hickok Streets. Come to see and explore these classic cars, talk with other people who are interested in cars, and make new friends with a shared interest. Want to bring your classic car? Contact Dale Echols atdjechols@aol.com.

The Hot Diggity Dog food truck will be selling hot dogs and hamburgers at the event.  Snacks, water, and soft drinks will be available for purchase at the museum tent.  Music from the 1950s will add to the fun!

Artists have been invited to attend and create “plein air” artwork at the event.  Plein air painting is all about leaving the four walls of the studio behind and experiencing painting and drawing in the open air. 

Continue a Cub Scouting custom or make a new family tradition, by creating cars from a block of wood and racing in the Pinewood Derby sponsored by Cub Scout Pack 145. The derby will be held at Great Road Hall (the former Main Street Baptist Church) at 100 W. Main St. in Christiansburg from 3:30-7:30. Racers can bring their own already-made Pinewood Derby car or build a new one from a Pinewood Derby kit. The kits are available for purchase for $5 from the Montgomery Museum at 300 S. Pepper Street in Christiansburg. All ages are encouraged to build and race on the track provided by Pack 145.  All children who race will receive a special Pinewood Derby patch.  The race will be an “outlaw” version, meaning there will be no weighing or measurements.  The only requirement is that the car fit on the track.

Come out and join us for this exciting multi-faceted event in downtown Christiansburg! 

Thought Provoking New Exhibit by Alex Crookshanks

Alex Crookshanks is the featured artist in the newest exhibit at the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Art Center.  His work incorporates both digital and traditional media by layering images, emotions, text and reflections that both appeal and challenge viewers to look deeper, through the surface.

When someone views a piece of artwork, they tell their own stories based on their personal experiences and perception.  Alex’s work uses that moment of interpretation to insert the viewer into his pieces through reflection, so their own personal interpretive stories literally include themselves as a subject.

Once a piece of artwork has begun its creation journey, either digitally or traditionally, Alex then layers on translucent elements, text and other up-cycled items to provide the viewer with images covering all aspects of beauty, love and acceptance. By using reflective and translucent layers, he invites the viewer to become a part of the piece as their image is reflected into the work.

The exhibit at the Montgomery Museum is titled “Rainbows in Cages.”  Alex says that it speaks to our “need to contain that which is beautiful.  We’ve done this with animals and women and any other being or thing we don’t understand, but feel we must control.  Sometimes we do this to ourselves.  We bottle up the weird and wonderful that is who we are for fear we won’t be accepted by those around us.  We cage the rainbow inside hiding our feelings and hiding our hearts.”  He wants to let the love we have shine through all that we do and to find beauty in being content with life and love without comparing ourselves with others.

This exhibit uses several techniques: screen-printing, monoprint, stencil, and stamping.  The traditional techniques have been “smashed up” with his brand of pop-art-mixed-media-layering.  The square format was chosen as a way to play on social media formatting and online interaction, or lack thereof.

 

A reception for this exciting exhibit will be held at the Montgomery Museum on Thursday, May 3 from 5:00-7:00.  Come join us  to be part of this unique experience and have a chance to meet and talk with Alex Crookshanks.

 

 

An Untold Story of Troubled Times

How do we learn about the past? So often the items that are passed down to us are random and incomplete – chance often has a role to play.  That is what happened in 2014 when Jim Page found a packet of letters concerning the Mary Snider Sullivan family of Christiansburg in his father’s papers. Though the Sullivans had no relationship to the Page family, the letters survived and were donated to the Montgomery Museum. These letters have an important story to tell.

Letter to Lake Sullivan from her mother, Mary Snider Sullivan, 1869.
(Montgomery Museum Collection)

Two of the letters give a window into the Reconstruction era between April 1865 and 1870 when Virginia was readmitted to the Union. The first letter was written by Mary Sullivan on June 9, 1869 to her daughter, Lake, a teacher in Tennessee. Buried in Mrs. Sullivan’s rambling, gossipy letter is an account of an inflammatory re-election speech made by then-Governor Henry H. Wells, a Union general who was appointed as provisional military governor in 1868.

                    . . . Governor [Wells] spoke here about ten days ago you never heard of anything that could equal the advice
                    he gave the negroes. . . He told them to let the plow rot in the furrow . . . the grain rot in the field rather than
                    be kept from the poles [polls] and if needs be whet there [their] daggers and use them . . .

Mrs. Sullivan goes on to say that in the evening, there was nearly a “row” after Rice D. Montague was struck by a black man. In response, “white men and boys flew to his rescue with clubs and anything they could get in their hands and made the negroes fly. . .”

Without the benefit of a second eye-witness account for this event, we must remember that Mrs. Sullivan’s own attitudes may have affected her descriptions. History adds only that Rice D. Montague was highly respected among the local white community and served as Montgomery County Clerk of Court between 1831 and 1858. A former slave owner, he held 28 slaves in 1860.

The story of a community bristling with racial tension is continued in a second letter on July 25, 1869 to Lake from her brother Arthur O. Sullivan, who was a wounded Confederate veteran. Like his mother, he informs his sister of local happenings, but he also discusses the tense racial and political atmosphere reporting that “I have not been able to find a white man that voted for Wells – he will say that he did not.” Governor Wells was soundly defeated by his opponent, Gilbert Walker, in the July 6, 1869 election. Of even greater interest is Arthur Sullivan’s mention that the runner-up in the political race for the Montgomery County representative to the Virginia Legislature was a widely respected Montgomery County African American blacksmith, Minnis Headen. Dr. Dan Thorp found, in the research for his book Facing Freedom, that this letter is the only known evidence that Headen was the first Montgomery County African American to run for office.

How easily these stories could have been lost! The preservation of these letters by the Page family has added to our understanding of the past and serves as a reminder of what you can do by thinking of the museum as a repository for historic things.

Learn more about the history of Montgomery County African Americans in Facing Freedom, now on sale in the museum book shop.

Sources:

Roy Kanode, Christiansburg, Virginia

Dan Thorp, Facing Freedom

Familysearch.org