Henrico County Historical Society
PO Box 90775   Henrico, VA 23273   (804)501-5682   hchsinfo@yahoo.com
Open by appointment only

Henrico County Historical Society's motto, which is Preserving the Past in the Present for the FutureSkipwith Academy in Three Chopt District, Henrico County, Virginia.Log Cabin in Tuckahoe District, Henrico County, Virginia.Mankin Mansion in Fairfield District, Henrico County, Virginia.Dorey Barn in Varina District, Henrico County, Virginia.Bethlehem Church in Brookland District, Henrico County, Virginia.

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News 2009, Second Quarter

President's Message

After the passing of a beloved uncle, John Wade, I reflected on my family history.

John was the third in a family of six children, my father the oldest. The Wade family lived on Three Chopt Road for several generations, and the name can be found on the Smith map of 1853. One family story is that their silver was hidden from the advancing Union forces but one of the very young children told the soldiers where to find it. It was Dahlgren's forces that marched along Three Chopt Road on their way to destiny in 1865. Another generation lost two children, one 17 years, the other 10 months old on the same day from an outbreak of the flu in 1906.

They are buried at Ridge Baptist Church cemetery.

Inez Wade married Mr. Dabney Henley, who operated the Short Pump Store at the corner of Three Chopt and West Broad Street. In the next generation, my father, Jim Wade, served his country in World War II; his brother, John, although never in Korea, served during the Korean War. Their brother Bobby and a brother-in-law were in Germany at the same time when Russian forces faced those of the U.S. across the Berlin Wall. The same brother-in-law, Bob Kirtley, was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

A more recent connection to history in Henrico County is an effort to save the Blackburn House from demolition. The Blackburns were neighbors of the Wade family. One of the Wade homes still remains on Three Chopt Road, built after a fire destroyed the original.

Our family history, yours and mine, reflect not only local history, but also the history of our nation. As part of the 400 year anniversary of Henrico County in 2011, we would like to collect family histories. If you have interesting stories to tell please submit them for possible inclusion in future newsletters.

Also in 2011, the nation will commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. On April 29, 2009, a signature conference titled "America on the Eve of Civil War" was held at the University of Richmond. The story was told from three perspectives: North, South, and African-American. Many events will lead up to the commemoration through 2015. On May 9, 2009, the Henrico County Historical Society sponsored a tour of Henrico battlefields lead by Dr. Louis Manarin in recognition of the commemoration. Jimmy Price, Assistant Curator of Education for Henrico County, began with a tour of newly restored Dabbs House, site of Robert E. Lee's headquarters. Patty Kruszewski, an award-winning reporter with the Henrico Citizen, also joined us for the tour. Be sure to look for her article about the tour in the June issue of the Henrico Citizen.

This tour was the first in a series to be sponsored by HCHS. Harpers Ferry (the site of John Brown's raid), Gettysburg, Petersburg Battlefield, Fredericksburg Battlefield, Fort Monroe, Arlington Cemetery, Appomattox, and the Lincoln's cottage along with Ford's Theatre are among possible destinations for future tours. The schedule is to be announced at a later date. I hope you join us as we travel back to an earlier time, when the future of our nation depended on the outcome of a conflict in which Henrico played a strategic role.

Sarah Pace

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Henrico County Historical Society seal.


Gayle Davis will present the slate of candidates for Officers and Director of the Fairfield District at the June meeting. Candidates include Debbie Shuck for Treasurer; Lurleen Wagner for Corresponding Secretary; and Trevor Dickerson for 1st Vice President.

Thank you!!

We would like to thank Linda Dickerson, Dudley Lanthrip, and Beverley Davis for their years of service!

June - Time to Renew Your Membership

The Henrico County Historical Society is an all volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Henrico County's history, historical structures, and artifacts. The Henrico County Historical Society relies largely on member dues to accomplish its mission. You are invited to join and members who might have forgotten are reminded to remit.

Membership plans and dues can be found on our membership page.

Payment may be sent to:
The Henrico County Historical Society
P.O. Box 90775
Henrico, VA 23273-0075.

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What You Missed at the Last HCHS Meeting

A taste of history:  Members sample refreshments made by the Friends of Meadow Farm according to historic recipes.  Dishes included Jumbles and Mrs. Robert E. Lee's gingerbread.

A taste of history: Members sample refreshments made by the Friends of Meadow Farm according to historic recipes. Dishes included Jumbles and Mrs. Robert E. Lee's gingerbread.

Author Sylvia Hoehms Wright, who wrote A Path Worn Smooth: The Story of a Millenium Woman's Heritage, addresses the March meeting and recounts her efforts in preserving her family cemetery.

Author Sylvia Hoehms Wright, who wrote A Path Worn Smooth: The Story of a Millenium Woman's Heritage, addresses the March meeting and recounts her efforts in preserving her family cemetery.

Friends of Meadow Farm President Ken Murphy addresses the March meeting to explain the kitchen restoration program planned for the facility.

Friends of Meadow Farm President Ken Murphy addresses the March meeting to explain the kitchen restoration program planned for the facility.

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We Congratulate...

  • Henrico County Television for five programs at the 42nd annual World Fest-Houston International Film Festival.
  • Henrico County School System for being named for the 10th consecutive year one of the best communities for music education by the NAMM Foundation.
  • Marcel Crump of Varina High School for winning the Times Dispatch 2009 Student Cartoon Contest.
  • Winslow Goodier, culinary-arts instructor at Hermitage Technical Center and chairman of the board of the Virginia Chefs Association for winning a President's Medallion from the American Culinary Federation.
  • Kendra D. Johnson of Varina High School for having been named the Virginia High School League's 2009 Student Journalist of the Year.

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Genealogy Corner

A request in the last issue of the newsletter got this response from Frankie Liles. Its suggestions should be of help to anyone involved in genealogical research.

I was glad to see a genealogy column in our newletter. I would like to offer a suggestion on how to use the Henrico County records to learn more about your ancestor, Seth Davis (born 1805). First of all, you should read all of the censuses containing information on him (the first two Virginia censuses are missing). Learn the neighborhood from the census entries.

Then my recommendation would be to read the will/probate indices for the Davis family in an attempt to locate the father of Seth Davis. These indices are located at the Henrico County Circuit Court Clerk's Office and also at The Library of Virginia (the library only has the early records).

You also should check the chancery case files for your family. These have been processed and indexed for Henrico County. Go to http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/ to search for your family's names. These loose paper files are located at the library. They also have been placed on microfilm at the library.

You also can find genealogical information in the following state records: land tax records and personal property tax lists. These records were state records that began in 1782. You should locate Seth Davis' land on the land tax records during his lifetime. Then you should search the deed indices and obtain all of the deeds for this family. There is sometime some valuable genealogical information in deeds and other land records. If there were land patents, these have been digitized as well (http://lva1.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/F/?func=file&file_name=find-b-clas30&local_base=CLAS30&_ga=1.251616198.1174163022.1442104145.

You must perform a chain of title search (backwards) on the Davis land, back to the original land patent holder for this land. If you do this research, then you can go to the Deed Pool at Direct Line Software (http://www.directlinesoftware.com) to obtain more information on where the land was located. Most of the original Virginia land patents in Henrico County have now been placed. It is helpful to purchase the DeedMapper software and a map of Henrico County from Direct Line Software (although access in the Deed Pool information is free). If you purchase a county map, I would recommend that you ask for a map showing waterways and roads.


I would like to contact any descendants of William Walker (died 1723 in Henrico County) and his wife Elizabeth (died 1727 in Henrico County).

I am primarily interested in information on Henry and/or Joel Walker, sons of William and Elizabeth.

John David Walker

I am researching for the parents of Robert Browning born around 1820, married to Parthenia Thorp 1844 and John Browning born around 1822, married to Elizabeth Alley in 1850. Lived in western Henrico County. Their parents may have been John Browning and Martha Whitis but have not been able to verify.

Dorothy Browning Hair

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Second Annual Henrico Harvest Fair

Come attnend the 2nd annual Henrico Harvest Fair, Saturday, September 19, 9-4 at Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview.

It's back! Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 19, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Armour House and Gardens at Meadowview, located in eastern Henrico County.

Admission is free. You'll find gardening demonstrations, children's activities, garden vendors, and more.

For a small fee, you can take classes on horticulture and related topics such as fall lawn care and maintenance, how to build a rain barrel, or how to make hypertufa containers.

For more information, call (804) 501-5160. The registration form will be available soon at http://henrico.us/extension/

The Henrico Harvest Fair is sponsored by the Henrico Master Gardener Association in cooperation with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Henrico County Recreation and Parks.

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Crossing Over

Informational Sources:

Chitwood, Oliver Perry. “Justice in Colonial Virginia.” Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science. Series 23, No. 7-8, 1905.

Hening, William Waller. Hening’s Statutes at Large. Transcribed for the internet by Freddie L. Spradlin, Torrance, CA. http://vagenweb.org/hening.

“The Woodson Family.” http://www.jcsisle.com/woodson.html.

“Traversing The 18th-Century Landscape.” http://www.history.org/History/teaching/enewsletter/April03/travel.cfm.

Top picture:  John H. Earl of Milford, VA, builds model boats and keeps a webpage at www.modelboatyard.com.  This photograph shows his model of an eighteenth-century ferry.  Bottom picture:  An engraving of Gray's Ferry, a typical early ferry, over the Schuykill River in Philadelphia.

Top picture: John H. Earl of Milford, VA, builds model boats and keeps a webpage at www.modelboatyard.com. This photograph shows his model of an eighteenth-century ferry.

Bottom picture: An engraving of Gray's Ferry, a typical early ferry, over the Schuykill River in Philadelphia.

The James River provided the earliest settlers with the route they followed as they expanded their exploration, but it also provided the settlers with a major obstacle once they established their settlements. Crossing the river, of course, proved problematic, and a solution was sought. The answer - ferries.

The manner in which the earliest recorded ferry was established is a bit surprising. In Accomac County in 1638, a man who had been found guilty of the sin of fornication was ordered to build a ferry boat for the use of the people.

There is also evidence that by 1640, public ferries were established in Virginia. Henry Hawley asked for the right to keep a ferry at the mouth of the Southampton River. The request was granted, provided that he should charge only a penny for the transportation of each passenger.

An Act of Assembly established free ferries in 1641-43, requiring a levy made by each county to pay its ferrymen who worked within its boundaries. No fee was allowed for transport, and the ferryman was expected to be available to transport passengers from sunrise to sunset.

Funding this system proved to be a burden on planters of limited means, so county courts were given the power to establish ferries only when absolutely essential and commissioners were given the authority to determine times of service and rates. Obviously, they were no longer free.

However, in 1673, the General Assembly established free ferries again and appointed the commissioners to designate convenient places for operation. Ferrymen were paid in tobacco, and the Records of Henrico County (original volume, 1697-1704, p. 257) indicate that the ferryman would be paid two thousand pounds of tobacco for a service of twelve months.

In 1690, that tobacco apparently went to a woman, Sarah Browne Woodson. She was the widow of John Browne and then John Woodson, and she informed the court that she had operated the ferry that her son, Jeremiah Browne, had been contracted to maintain.

By 1696, there appear to be only two ferries operating in Henrico County. One was at Varina and only operated on Sundays and on days when the justices convened. The persons in charge were remunerated with eight hundred pounds of tobacco. The second ferry was located at Bermuda Hundred. A slight change allowed keepers to charge a fee, and it appears that a rider and horse would pay twelve pence and a foot passenger six.

The August 1702 General Assembly passed "An act for the regulation and settlment of ferryes and for dispatch of public Expresses, and for the speedy trasnporting of forces over rivers and creeks in time of danger." It read as follows:

WHEREAS a good regulation of ferryes in this her majestyes colony and dominion prove very useful for the dispatch of publick affaires and for the easy and benefit of travellers and in business.

Be it therefore enacted by the Governour, Councell and burgess fo this present generall assembly and the authority thereof, and it is hereby enacted, That ferryes be constantly kept at the places hereafter named, and that the rates for passing that said ferryes, be as followeth:

On James River.

In Henrico county of Varina, the price for a man six pence, for a man and horse a shilling.

The act went on to identify other locations and charges for various ferries. The 1705 Assembly dropped the charge to three pence three farthings for a man and seven pence and a halfpenny for a man and a horse. It also set the price fof passage at Henrico's Bermuda Hundred ferry at six pence for a man and one shilling for a man and a horse.

Of course, Henrico was much larger then, and the 1726 acts set the rate for passage "from Archer's Point, in Henrico county, over Appamatock river, to the county of Prince George, the price for a man, two pence, and for a horse, two pence."

In 1732, a man could be ferried over the James River at Branch's in Henrico County for three pence and a horse for the same; from Bermuda Hundred Point to the City Point in Prince George for three pence each. The same ferries appear again in the laws of 1740 and apparently continued to operate for quite a while.

Ferries were found all along the James, and they transported carts, wagons, livestock, and travelers, but they were less than reliable and sometimes dangerous because of sudden storms. Ferry schedules were not reliable since ferrymen commonly operated their service along with another job, so travelers often found the ferryman unready. They often had to wait while someone fetched the ferryman. and, it seems, that ferrymen weren't always likely to adhere to the letter of the law, for in 1781, the General Assembly in establishing rates for passing from Williiam Black's land in Chesterfield across the James to the public landing at Rockett's (then in Hernico County) added the following:

If the ferry-keeper shall presume to demand or receive from any person or persons whatsover, any greater rates than is hereby allowed for carriage or ferriae of any thing, he shall, for every such offence, forfeit and pay to the party grieved, the ferriages demanded or received, and ten shillings; to be received with costs before a justice of peace of the county where such offence shall be committed.

Ferries continue to ply the waters of the James River, and just recently the Virginia Department of Transportation proposed to continue round-the-clock operation of the Jamestown-Scotland ferry. It seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Arrow Arum: Tuckahoe

Informational Source:
Rountree, Helen C.The Powhatan Indians of Virginia. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

We're all familiar with the word tuckahoe. We know about Tuckahoe Plantation, Tuckahoe Creek, the Tuckahoe District and Tuckahoe Elementary and Middle Schools. Some of us even know that the word refers to a plant important to local Native Americans.

Drawing of Arrow anum or tuckahoe plant with illustrations of spathe, spadis, and seeds, which would turn blackish.

It is properly known as Peltandra virginica and commonly known as Arrow arum or flag root. This aquatic perennial with arrow-shaped leaves grows to about 1-2 feet tall. The leaves (4-30 inches long and 3-8 inches wide) are fleshy with prominent veins. Its flower has a wavy margin with a thin tapering leaf-like spathe curled around and mostly concealing a pencil-sized spadix. The berries are in clusters and are yellow to blackish-green. These plants grow in clusters along water's edge.

Because it was available in the months before planted corn became edible, "Tockawhoughe" was a staple in the Powhatan diet, and early English settlers called it "wild potatoes." While the plant was important in the Powhatan's diet, it's probably not advisable to rush out to find some and start eating. It was thought to be poisonous, and it is relatively toxic, burning the mouth and throat.

Arrow anum or tuckahoe plant in its natural setting along the water's edge in a marshy area.

To prepare the root for consumption, Indians piled the gathered roots, covered them with leaves, then threw dirt on the mound. They then built a fire on each side of the mound and let the fires burn for twenty-four hours. The process rid the roots of the acid they contained. Pounded into meal, then boiled or baked, it could be made into a bread.

Its berries were called ocoughtamnis by the Powhatans, who dried them in the summer sun for storing. The English settlers, who anglicised the word to cuttanemons, noted that the berries could only be eaten after they had been boiled "neare halfe a daye, for otherwise they differ not much from poyson."

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Remembering Browning's Store

Browning's Store.

Travel west on Three Chopt Road. When you get to the intersection of Church Road and Three Chopt, stop and turn back the clock. Watch the road narrow and the small strip malls fade away. Of course, Deep Run Church would look much the same. But as the years roll back, Browning's Store would reappear at that intersection around 1986, the year it was razed. And as you travel back farther, you would see just how important this gathering place was to the community.

Robert Browning ran the store, and his family had deep Henrico County roots reaching back to the middle of the 1700s. In 1822, Robert's great-grandfather bought 15 acres of land near Deep Run Coal Pits and Deep Run Church by Three Chopt Road for $599.47. The land stayed in the family; and two generations later, Robert's father James bought land at Three Chopt and Church Roads adjoining his father's. This was to become the location of Browning's Store.

Browning's Store.

Robert Browning and his wife Lucille lived on the site and dispensed gasoline, groceries, and good will from the early 1900s until Robert's death in 1948, when his daughter, Erma, with the help of sister Dorothy and brother Louis and his wife, kept it in operation. When Erma married Frank Stone, they took over th store and kept it open a few more years before selling the property in 1966.

In an article in the August 1986 Short Pump Express, Erma reminisced about her childhood memories of the store:

Every Staturday night was like one big party. I remember it best when I was about seven or eight years old. Papa would go down to Nolde's and get pies, and then to Sealtest for ice cream all packed up in dry ice, and he'd sell pie and ice cream for five cents.

There would be five or six cars parked out in the yard. The Eubanks and the Ramkeys and the Bowleses and the Williamses and the Kennedys would sit around the old pot-bellied stove and visit. We children would be outside playing games.

Dorothy Browning Hair of Tierra Verda, Florida, daughter of Robert and Lucille Browning, grew up in the store attending Short Pump Elementary from 1938 to 1946 and then Glen Allen High.

She was kind enough to send us these recollections of her childhood home:

My parents were very hard workers, much respected in the community. They were always helping families in need with groceries, clothing,and money. They had a garden and sold fresh veggies in the store. They also had two large chicken houses and sold chickens and eggs. They raised some pigs and every fall butchered several and sold them in the store. I had 150-200 white rabbits, and my Dad took them to the markets in town (I thought for pets back then but am sure they ended up on someone's dinner table). My Dad drove each year to Chincoteague Island and would purchase several wild ponies, and we would train and sell them.

On Saturday mornings I'd go with my dad to "The Bottom" down by the old train station and courthouse. There were warehouses there, and we'd purchase fresh fruit and veggies for the shopping crowd. Most all other items were delivered to the store throughout the week - many arriving at 6:00 a.m.

The store wasn't like markets today. The store was one big room with counters all around and shelves all over the walls where food and items were placed. When customers came to shop, they would give us their orders, and we would actually obtain the items from the shelves or display cases, then add up the cost and then package the item. The store was open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. weekdays and a short time on Sunday mornings. There weren't many stores around in those days, and customers were always knocking on the door after hours for food or gas.

Oh, to have a time machine and a few coins to spend at the old Browning's Store.

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Now You Know

We congratulate Marion Boshart for correctly identifying the item pictured in the last What Do You Know? as a laundry agitator.

We congratulate Marion Boshart for correctly identifying the item pictured in the last "What Do You Know?" as a laundry agitator. She wrote:

Not really sure, but it sure looks a lot like laundry agitators I have...one with a slide handle, one without. Probably where the modern day plunger came from.

To use this agitator, you stick it down into your washtub full of clothes and plunge it up and down. The funnel end contains several baffles built into the inside to mix the water, and there are exit holes for the water at the tip of the funnel near the handle. These exit holes are covered to direct the exiting water back down into the washtub.

You might think these things would have completely disappeared but they're still being manufactured. One version, the Rapid Washer, is available online at Lehman's (https://www.lehmans.com/p-2643-rapid-laundry-washer.aspx) for $15.95. A quick check of various blogs seems to indicate that the device is a favorite among poeple who are living "off the grid".

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What Do You Know?

Pictured here are four household instruments.  The longest is about 3 inches long and are made of plastic or celluloid.  Answer announced in next newsletter.

Pictured here are four household instruments. The longest is about 3 inches long and are made of plastic or celluloid.

Do you now what they were used for?

Email your answers to: jboehling@verizon.net. All correct respondents will be recognized and congratulated. Suggestions for future "What do you know?" topics will be gladly accepted at the same email address.

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News 2009: Second Quarter
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