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Surry County, Virginia, Historical Society and Museums, Inc.
P. O. Box 262, Surry, VA 23883   Phone (757) 294-0404
E-mail address: surryhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.
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Newsletter and December 2001 Meeting Notice

Please note that the meeting will be on the First Monday, December 3, 2001, at 7:00 P.M., at The Surry County, Va. Recreation Center, which is not available on our normal second Monday.

Our speaker will be Nicholas Luccketti, Archaeologist. He will speak on his work at Mount Pleasant Plantation. This historic Surry County plantation has changed hands recently. The new owners are Shelly and Nick Schorsch of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. They are researching and working on Mount Pleasant and planning to move there, with their five children and lots of animals. Nick Luccketti is undertaking an extensive archeological survey of the property for them.

Part of the property is known as Pace's Paines. Little has to be said of its importance to our early settlement. Two names suffice: Richard Pace and Chanco. Actions that took place here in 1622 literally saved the Virginia Colony.

When you talk about property, you hear location - location - location. In addition to the importance of Point Pleasant and Pace's Paines, their neighbors include Four Mile Tree and Swanns Point. What more can we say?

Nick spoke to our Society three years ago on his dig and study of Smith's Fort. Now you can hear him speak on another of our early jewels. Don't miss it!

OUR FIRST PUBLICATION FOR SALE!

We are pleased to offer for sale the Society's first publication, It Took A Village, by Gray Rowell Henry, better known as "Doody." It describes her remembrances of what it was like to grow up in Surry, Virginia, 1926 - 1944. Nothing written before gives as much of the life, fun, spirit, history and tales of Surry. With Charlie Gray and Ethel Rowell as her parents, how could she not be interested in and be steeped in Surry history.

It is around forty pages of information delightfully told, bound in a permanent folder. We thank Gray Rowell Henry for her permission to publish this book. Order this special publication..

Welcome to the Sussex County, Virginia, Historical Society

The Surry County Historical Society welcomes the formation of the Sussex County, Virginia, Historical Society. As our younger sister county, its history was part of Surry's until 1754. Many of our members have roots in both counties. We welcome them and look forward to working with them in our common and joint history. The following paragraph has been contributed by their society.

[p. 2]  New Historical Society Formed

We are pleased to announce the organization of the Sussex County, Virginia, Historical Society. A group of committed Sussex County residents have been meeting for several months to get the Society up and running, and their organizational meeting will be held on December l1, 2001, at 2:00 P.M. in the board meeting room of the historic Sussex Courthouse. A membership application is included.

Barbara Prince
President
Sussex County, Virginia, Historical Society

~~~oo0oo~~~

JOHNSHEHAWKIN SWAMP: What's in a Name?

By James E. Atkins

Early colonial names for many places, swamps, creeks, and other geographical features are often difficult to understand. They are even more difficult when the names are Indian or of Indian origin.

Johnshehawkin Swamp is perhaps an extreme example of this confusion. It is a small swamp, approximately seven miles long, all in Surry County, Virginia, which empties into the Cypress Swamp and then drains into the Blackwater Swamp or River. From there it flows into the Chowan River in North Carolina, and then into the Albemarle Sound., before providing fresh water to the Atlantic Ocean. John Shehawkin Swamp has special meanings to me. As a youth I fished, gigged frogs, trapped and hunted around it. I even swam in Burgess Mill Pond, with the snakes. Today, I cannot believe I did it!

This swamp was first identified in a land patent to Bartho. Owen on 14 May 1673. Owen's patent, recorded on page 452 in patent book 6, mentions an earlier patent to John Vincent. Unfortunately the Vincent patent is missing.

It seems doubtful that over 40 land owners have ever abutted this swamp at any one time since the earliest settlement. The area has always been rural and most of its watershed has always been wooded, with a few farms on higher, drier land. A number of small "patch" farms have returned to forest. There were two grist mills and ponds on the swamp, Spratleys and Burgess/West etc. By the very early 1700s two paths, including John Parsons Rolling Road, crossed it providing a path to Cabin Point/ Low Point to sell tobacco.

Being a small short swamp, all in Surry County, it would seem that keeping its name straight should have been easy. The County Surveyor and Clerk of Court of Surry County kept excellent records, evidenced by the vast majority that have survived. Generally, these county officials held office for many years, insuring consistency and continuity in our records. Yet I have found 37 spellings from the first hundred years since its first mention.

Which spelling is correct? Are any correct? Who knows? It is a name that apparently cannot be spelled right or wrong. I am reasonably certain all of the following spellings, with the earliest date of

[p. 3] record noted, are describing the same swamp.

John Chekawkins [14 May 1673]: Chon Chehocone [1684]: Johnchecohunk [20 Apr. 1684]: Johnchokuck [20Apr. 1684]: Johnchokehocunt [20 Apr. 1684]: JohnChekokuck [20 Apr. 1684]: John Chehokan [20 Apr. 1685]: John Chawcon [20 Apr. 1685]: Johnchokonnock [5 Nov. 1688]: Johnshekokan [5 Mar. 1689]:John Skokokosm [9 Apr. 1689]: Jno. Chehacon [20 Oct. 1689] Jno. Shekocan [20 Oct. 1689]: John Chehocon [ 20 Oct. 1689]: John Checkeron [5 Nov. 1689]: John Checkockon [6 June 1690] : Johnokocan [ 1 Mar. 1691 ] : Johnchehoconk [ 1694] : Johnchawkin [ 19 Sept. 1702]: John Chawkin [19 Sept. 1702]: Joneheocan [3 July 1705]: Jonehencan [2 July 1705]: Johns Chawkin [16 June 1714]: Chansehawkin [21 Jan. 1718]: Johnshahoaken [14 Aug. 1722]: John Sehawcon [1724]: Johnhnsehawcon [22 Feb. 1724]: Johnseehawcon [1729]: Johnsehawkin 24 July 1730]: Johnsheawcon [15 May 1733]: John Schawcon [15 May 1733]: Johnsehawcon [5 June 1736]: Johnsehawken [24 July 1752]: Johnccchhawkin [15 Dec. 1755]: John Chehaucon [21 July 1757]: Johnshehawkin [Nov 1766]: Johnshakawkon [3 Aug. 1771]:

These names are gleaned from approximately 100 documents mentioning this swamp from 1673 through 1771. Sometimes the name was spelled differently in the same document. Overall, every third document spelled Johnshehawkin differently.

Who were these Indians?

Indians have been in this area for over 6,000 years, evidenced by dated artifacts found locally, and highly likely much longer. Which Indian tribes were in this location in the late 1600s? Records show different tribes, or the same tribes with different names in the county at various times. Those easily found in books on Surry County history include Quioughcohanoch, Powchayicks, Seacocks, Copperhoncks, Paspaheigh, Appomatok, Wanocks, Weyanockes, Tappahannocks, Nottaways, Paspihes, Rapahanna and Meherrin.

Were all these different tribes? Not likely, just different names at different times. Were some tribes combinations of other tribes? Likely. Are they spelled correctly here? Not likely, but who knows. I would certainly like to see someone prepare a genealogical listing and timeline of these tribes in the 1600s and 1700s. This is a challenge to our readers.

Which tribe with which Indian language was the basis of the word Johnshehawkin? Most, if not all, of the above mentioned tribes supposedly descended from the Algonquian Indian Nation and spoke its language. They are believed to have originated in present day Canada and New York State. Numerous groups of Indians broke away and slowly migrated to and through eastern Virginia. Taking different paths over many hundreds of years, certainly their dialects were quite different.

The peace treaty that ended the Indian war of 1644-1646 between the settlers and Necotowance, King of the Indians, was signed in 1646. The Indians agreed to move from the north side to the south side of the Blackwater River, a few miles south. This was 27 years before the first found recorded mention of Johnshehawken Swamp. Perhaps an outcast stayed rather than follow his tribe. Perhaps he served the English settlers as an interpreter or a guide. Both were necessary for trade with the Indians.

What Does Johnshehawkin Mean?

[p. 4] A 1714 land patent shows a property line as the Cabin Branch which empties into the south side of Johnshehawkin Swamp. No record of earlier settlers or land patents has been found in this area. Was this cabin / hut / hogan the home of a remaining Indian? Was his given the English name John? Maybe, probably. Chei, Che [she] sometimes meant leather, such as deerskin. Yehawkins,Yohawkin, Yeahaukin, Yaahawkin and Youck-huck were all interpreted as Indian houses, some as early as Captain John Smith's writings in 1612. This is probably as close as one is going to get.

How Could this happen?

The roots of Johnshahawkin were in an unwritten language. The Algonquian language changed over time as different tribes, taking different routes over different centuries, came to what is now Surry County. The words often had more than one meaning. These native words were heard by a settler who may not have known how to read or write. They may have passed orally through several settlers before they were written. Each passed on what they remembered hearing and there was no one to correct them if they were wrong. Indian words were written using English phonics, even if spoken by an Indian interpreter. County officials such as Surveyors and Clerks of Court in turn wrote what they thought they heard. The settler likely had little or no knowledge or opportunity to correct them.

Proofreading of early records was rare. As many as three spellings occurred in one document. No time was spent in referring back to spelling in previous documents. When patents, deeds and other records were recorded, errors were seldom corrected, even by striking over and rewriting. Often you find differences from the official recorded copy of records and the rare surviving copy given the settlers. Paper was expensive and time was money, then as now.

In Conclusion:

Ever since, our ancestors continued to act as if they knew how to spell Johnshehawkin Swamp. We still spell it in various ways. Surry County and U. S. Geological maps use Johnchecohunk. I used my favorite, Johnshehawkin in this article., but who knows whether it is right, wrong or even close. At least the early settlers knew what it meant, maybe, I think.

This example clearly illustrates one of the challenges researchers face when using Surry County's early records. Wouldn't it be great to have a dictionary of these hard to understand words, giving their spellings, meanings and locations. By the way, did you catch my mistakes in spelling Johnshehawkin?

Surry County, Virginia, Courthouse records, and alternatives.

Questions continue to arise concerning the accessibility of, and ability to copy, Surry County's records. Here are some guidelines that may answer some of these questions.

First, some records can be copied from the originals. Some in binders from which pages can be removed may be copied at $0.50 per page. Those in bound books may not be copied due to the damage that could degrade the records. Some records also may not be available for viewing, For many years the Clerk and Judge have made the determination if their condition is such that handling could seriously harm the records.

[p. 5] Many recent records are on the computer and copies can be printed without help. Copies are $0.50 each.

Microfilm is available for many of the older records. A filmstrip reader and copier is available. These filmstrips are not kept in the public area, due to several that were apparently taken from the courthouse. You can check them out and make copies there for $0.10 per copy. Prices of copies are set by Virginia code. I might point out that Microfilm printers are often cantankerous, and sometimes do not work well.

Small portable digital scanners or cameras that do not require additional light or touch the records may be brought in to make copies from those records available for viewing.

One of the largest problems of historians and genealogists is the uncopied loose papers and records in the Courthouse. Many of these are simply unavailable to the public. All of us wish all were available. While court records tell of lawsuits, wills etc., often loose papers tell what really happened..

It would be a massive and expensive undertaking to copy these records. It would require immense local labor to identify, sort and index the records. Then they must be copied by microfilming or scanning. While grants may be available for certain aspects of such a project, there will be large local costs. Considerable additional help in the courthouse would be required. It should be done. A lot of Surry tourism depends on availability to our wonderful old records.

Finally, we must recognize that the first duty of the Clerk of Court and her staff is conducting the business that comes before her office. Recording court cases, filing deeds and wills, and other current business has to take first place. Nothing will change this.

Another resource is the Library of Virginia in Richmond. They have over 70 rolls of Surry County records on microfilm and many copiers are available at the cost of $0.25 per copy, or $0.50 for a better digital copy. These are 11" x 17" and often cover two pages. There are also many other Surry County records on microfilm, as part of other collections. Included are Confederate Pension records, Reels 51, 194, 227, 228, 229, 230 and 231. Copies of book pages, etc. cost $0.15 each. These prices are only if you go to the Library and do the copying.

The Society has a list of records available by mail from the Library of Virginia. Ordering by mail is unquestionably much more expensive. Most copies now cost $25.00 or more. Some, such as wills, inventories and appraisals may include all of these for $25.00. Others such as chancery records, the entire case costs you $50.00. As you know, labor is the big cost to find and properly copy these old records. The Society has order forms for ordering records through the mail.

Copies of some records cannot be ordered through the mail. Included are Births, Deaths, Marriages, Census Records, Military Service Records and the Virginia Colonial Records Project. Genealogical research can take an unknown amount of time and the Library of Virginia does not do it.

New [old] information being researched.

Tucked in the back of Surry County Court Orders - 1776 - 1785 are forty nine pages of the business accounts of Jacob Faulcon. These accounts prove his very active work in buying supplies throughout Virginia and the Carolinas to support the Revolutionary Forces of the fledgling United States of America. Hogs, pork, tobacco and salt were purchased in very large quantities. Shipping by sailing vessels was arranged.

Much was sold through Carter Braxton, merchant and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Willing, Morris and Company also handled much of the goods purchased.

[p. 6] Dennis Hudgins is studying and transcribing these accounts and other collaborative records. They are very descriptive. As an example, hundreds of hogsheads of tobacco bought gives hogshead number, gross weight, tare weight, net weight and the value of the tobacco. History records that Southside Virginia was the breadbasket of the American Revolution. It appears that Jacob Faulcon and Surry County were in the forefront of these activities.

As stated in previous newsletters, Surry's part in the Revolutionary War has been obscured by time, and documentation is incomplete. Slowly, surely, it is surfacing. We have documented two blacks who served from Surry County. An example of our need is a list of soldiers who served from Surry County. We have a list of officers. What unit did they serve with? We need extensive research and documentation on the British forays through Surry County. We are trying to collect as many Revolutionary War land grants as possible. Please share with the Society any information you may have. Much research remains to be done.
Dennis Hudgins and JEA

Important Notice:

Paige Weiss, from The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, is helping us to have Rogers Store become fully listed in the National and Virginia Register of Historic places. We expect to be listed alongside the other gems of Surry County.

We also are preparing specifications, and will soon put out to bid, the work to restore Rogers Store. This will not be a complete restoration, but will allow the most urgently needed work to be done. Approximately $50,000.00 for restoration will be available.

~~~oo0oo~~~

A little packet of letters!

James E. Atkins

Cleaning out a home after parents have passed away is a slow and often agonizing task. So much there, so many memories, so many decisions to be made. Yet, hidden in the closets and drawers we sometimes find a precious jewel, an unknown window to our past.

Cleaning out my mother's chest of drawers in my parents' home at Carsley in 1988 yielded a packet of over twenty letters with a ribbon around them. All were written by my grandmother, Laura Maud Parsons Stallings, living in Victoria, Va., to her sister, Mae Parsons Cox, at Spring Hill in Sussex County, Va. They were written from December 1909 through January 1920 in pencil on yellowed note paper. Sometimes she wrote around the margins, with those last thoughts.

These frank letters from sister to sister described their life and problems. There were joys, pains and concern for the family. They have given our family a previously unknown view of their life.

There was the apology for not visiting with her children. Mr. S. [Stallings] had been laid off from the railroad. The children had nothing fit to wear, and the visit had to be delayed until he went back to work.

There was the winter letter, telling of horrible cold and snow, and sick neighbors with no food or money. Their neighbors brought them food and kept their fires going. A later letter said they had recovered and were well.

There was the letter telling Mae that they had running water. You just had to turn the spigot and the water gushed out. They had a bucket to collect the drainage, which they spread on the garden. Mr. S. was going to put in a drain as soon as they could afford the pipe.

There was the thanks for a package of outgrown clothes sent. She gave reports on how her two daughters were doing in school. Their health and the health of their garden was reported.

How did these letters end up in my mother's home? After all, my grandmother mailed them to her

[p. 7] sister. My Aunt Jenny gave the answer. My grandmother Maud died early, when Mother was a young teenager. The household was broken up. Mother had no furniture and few remembrances from her childhood home.

Aunt Mae came to help Mother when I was born in 1931. Undoubtedly, she gave my mother this precious little packet of letters.

JEA

Surry and Sussex County's really hidden history!

Virginia's Department of Conservation and Recreation owns a jewel of our history. First, lets put its history in perspective!

  • Ca. 1407. A tiny Bald Cypress seed falls into the edge of what we now call Blackwater Swamp. The water being low, it germinates and becomes a seedling.

  • 1607.     The tiny Bald Cypress seedling that germinated 200 years ago is now a robust and growing tree.

  • Today.    A huge Bald Cypress grows in the edge of Blackwater Swamp, called Dendron Swamp. 179 Acres were recently given to the State of Virginia by Hancock Timber Resource Group to protect this untouched, uncut ancient wetland. This great Bald Cypress is estimated to be 600 years old. It may be the oldest living thing in Surry and Sussex Counties. This tree ended up on the Sussex side of the swamp. Think of what has transpired during its lifetime!

  • Ca. 2507. If conditions remain good, and the Gods continue to smile upon this Bald Cypress tree, it could be still observing our history for another 500 years. Watch what you do!

Grace Episcopal Church at Cabin Point 1858-1953

The A. P. Hill Camp 167 SCV is selling water color prints of the Cabin Point Church in order to erect a sign giving the history of the church at Cabin Point, VA. It will cost approximately $1,500 to have the state make the sign. The prints, which are 11 inches by 14 inches, are for sale at a cost of $45.00. This fee includes shipping and handling of the print

The Grace Episcopal Church was erected on land given to the church by William Allen, owner of Claremont Manor Plantation. The church was erected in 1858-1859. Bishop I. Johns consecrated the church on May 6, 1860. The last service was held in 1932 with the Reverend F. P. Thornton officiating. The church was demolished November 1953.

The most notable person to worship at Grace Episcopal Church may have been General Robert E. Lee. On Sunday May 8, 1870, General Robert E. Lee worshipped in the noble Cabin Point Church. After the service it is said that he requested that all of the old Confederate soldiers present come up and shake hands with him. Robert E. Lee died October 12 the same year.

There will be a print on display at the December Meeting of the Historical Society. There will also be order forms for those who wish to order prints. Anyone wishing to make a donation to this worthy cause may send a check made out to A. P. Hill Camp 167 and send it to Mrs. Barbara Hopper, P. O. Box 25, Claremont, VA 23899.

[p. 8] 2002, Surry County's 350th Anniversary Celebration

  • Birthday Kick-off Celebration January 19, 2002. Guest speakers, music, cake, punch, fireworks and more. Learn more at <www.toursurryva.com>.
  • Garden luncheon with keynote speaker in late April/early May at Bacon's Castle.
  • Guest From Surrey, England one week in mid July 2002.
  • Surry, Virginia to Surrey, England tour begins on October 1, 2002.
  • Interfaith program in November 2002.
  • Speaker Series throughout the year. Special workshop on Black genealogy in Surry County.
  • New celebration road signs, special Surry County decals.
  • Merchandise/ Souvenirs/ Program/ 2002 Celebration Books for sale.

Surry to Surrey - October 1, 2002.

Plans for our trip to Surry, England next fall are almost complete. As tragic as the events of September 11 have been for all of us, one of the results has been that travel today is safer than it has been for years. Regrettably, it seems that it took such a horrific act to tighten airport security that had become increasingly lax over the years. The Surry to Surrey trip offers us an unique opportunity to explore the roots of our country and our county. In addition to the exciting itinerary you have received, there are many other features that will make this a special tour.

  1. You will travel with friends.
  2. You will have not one, but two, highly experienced tour directors- Mrs. Alice Elmore and Cantor International, the British group handling the details in England.
  3. You can speak the language and recognize the food.
  4. The tour is designed for relaxed travel, staying at the same hotel throughout the tour.
  5. Most importantly, we will be the guests of wonderful friends in England. The letter included in this newsletter from Dr. Brian Coffin, Chairman of Surrey County Council, expressing their concerns about the events of 9/11/2001 reflects the warm relationship developing between our county and Surrey County, England.

Please contact Alice Elmore for detailed information and to make your reservations. The tour will be firm when we have the first twenty reservations, and a maximum of forty can go on the tour. Last possible date to sign up and deposit to be received is March 15, 2002.

Note from JEA: I [and my wife] plan to be on the airplane. Come and join us.

[p. 9]

Surrey

[p. 10]

Adventures in Wonderland - With Alice


Fax and Phone [804] 834-2446
P. O. Box 27 Waverly, Va. 23890

Dear friends of Surry,

In anticipation of our upcoming tour to Surry, England, I have a few thoughts that I would like to share with you. First, and foremost, you will need a valid passport. Please check the expiration date if you are currently holding one. Make an early application if you need one to avoid last minute tension. I recently had a group where one person's expired while on tour-not the best circumstances and very costly.

Your tour has been arranged to reflect the interests of our group; it is not a brochure tour. Jim Atkins has been invaluable in advising on content. My English tour operators are local professionals and are very knowledgeable in the area that we are visiting [they live in nearby Kent]. Great care has been taken to make this tour affordable. Your hotel accommodation is 3 star, very comfortable, with private bath, but certainly not deluxe. We will be staying in Guilford for all 7 nights. There will no time lost packing, checking in and unpacking. We want to spend our time on more productive endeavors.

Our flight is group air out of Washington - Dulles on Virgin Atlantic. Departure is Flight #22Q at 7:00. P.M.. October 1, 2002. Arrive London Heathrow October 2 at 7:05 A. M. Return air on October 9, flight # 21Q at 11:30 A. M. and arrive at Dulles at 2:40 P.M. Please note that the cost is based on a group fare traveling with an identical itinerary. Any deviation from this will result in increased cost. Cancellation., once ticketed, is subject to penalty by airlines in amount of $175.00. I would prefer that Vista Travel issue your connecting ticket as well, to insure that you are connecting to the correct carrier with plenty of time to do so. A seamless ticket is desirable if you miss a connection. It then becomes the responsibility of the airline to assure that you reach your ultimate destination as expeditiously as possible, at no additional cost. Please indicate your gateway city. For those who are located close by, we hope to have a bus starting in Surry and picking up in Richmond. This of course, is provided that we have sufficient numbers to make it economically feasible.

You will receive a brochure for travel insurance that is strongly recommended. Please note that if you buy insurance within 14 days of your initial deposit for this tour, pre-existing medical conditions are waived and there are a number of bonus benefits as well. Cost of insurance is determined by the cost of your tour and your age. There is a free 888 number in the brochure. Read your coverage and services carefully. If you have any questions, please call that number. After deposit, you will receive from time to time some suggestions as to money, clothing, weather, hotel address and phone number, etc.

And lastly, please accept my sincere apologies for my fortunate circumstances. Dr. Elmore retired this past January and we are spending a great deal of time at our vacation home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and are back and forth between there and our home in Waverly. This will not facilitate our communication. The very best way to be in touch is via email if you have access to that medium. My email address is acelmore@aol.com I have a computer in both locations and check my mail daily. If this is not possible, drop a note in the mail. I do have answering machines on my phones, but sometimes the message box is full and messages are lost. Waverly, Va. [804] 834-2446 and Southern Shores, N. C.[252] 255-0750. Copies of all my records are kept at Vista Travel Service, 1912-C Boulevard, Colonial Heights, Virginia 23834. Phone [804] 526-1353 or 1-800-526-1388. If you are unable to reach me in an emergency, please call Vista Travel.

Looking forward to meeting each of you and creating memories to savor for a lifetime!
Sincerely Yours
Alice Elmore

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