Henrico Rec & Parks | (804) 501-PARK
Henrico History Progress
Fall 2022
Table of Contents:

  • A Letter from Our History Manager
  • Henrico's Register of Free Blacks
  • Canning for our Country
  • A Record of the Walsh Family
  • 250th Commemoration
  • Meet the Staff: Joanna Hewitson
  • Down on the Farm
  • Rec & Parks App
A Letter from Our History Manager

As the very welcome cooler weather descends on our community, we are back with our 8th edition of the Henrico History Progress Newsletter. When we began this venture during the pandemic, it was our hope to keep our public history audiences engaged with stories of local significance. Since that time staff is back out doing in-person programs at our historic sites as well as outreach to civic and community organizations.

Staff is also continuing to grow our partnerships with the county schools and libraries. In addition, we are busy with interagency projects with Henrico County Public Works as well as regional historical organizations like the National Park Service and the Library of Virginia. We are pleased and excited to see the increasing interest in our diverse local history as requests for historical markers and tabletop signage is on the rise!

Since our spring newsletter, we have over ten historical markers either in process or installed at various locations throughout the county. Staff hosted dedications for exhibit/program structures within two of our parks. On September 7, we welcomed former students and families associated with the Springfield Schoolhouse. The two-room African American school was moved in 2011 to Pouncey Tract Park and renovation was completed this spring. As part of the renovation, staff installed a panel exhibit on Henrico Schools during the Reconstruction Era including a history of the Rosenwald Schools, Virginia Randolph, and the Springfield Schoolhouse. On September 29, division staff and county leadership cut the ribbon on the reconstructed exterior kitchen at Meadow Farm/Crump Park. Members of the Henrico Historical Society, Friends of Meadow Farm, former staff, and volunteers joined in the celebration of over 20 years of successful research, programming, and fundraising. County staff looks forward to years of historic foodways programming with particular emphasis on the enslaved and later emancipated workers who provided sustenance to the family and workers at Meadow Farm for seven generations.

Some of the special projects we have been involved with include an expanded lecture series with Henrico Libraries called “Historically Speaking” as well as planning for the upcoming 250th commemoration of the American Revolution and the Ashland-Petersburg Trolley Trail, a regional effort to create a bike and walking trail connecting local jurisdictions. As a result of all this exciting work, we are transitioning from a triannual to a biannual newsletter. In the future, you can look for online editions and email subscriptions in April and again in October. As always, we encourage your feedback and suggestions about topics to cover.
Kim Sicola
Recreation Manager, History Programs
Henrico Recreation and Parks

Henrico's Register of Free Blacks
An Introduction
By Lisa Denton, Recreation Coordinator II, History Programs
*Author’s Note: Look for stories of specific individuals and families in future newsletters.

More than 155 years ago, free Black communities existed in Henrico whose story remains largely untold. They resided throughout the county, but a significant number lived in Varina clustered around Long Bridge Road in a community known as Gravelly Hill or Gravel Hill. This group lived with an increasingly difficult and ambiguous status – not enslaved but not entirely free and with the threat of being thrown into slavery at the seemingly slightest infraction.

Records are vague about how many free Blacks lived in Virginia and Henrico in the 1600s. In the centuries to follow the legal definitions of enslaved, indentured, and free people of color gradually became more restrictive. By 1723, an enslaved person could only be emancipated for meritorious service, as defined by Virginia’s governor and his council.

After decades of private and public advocacy, in no small part due to the Quaker community and other abolitionist allies, Virginia lawmakers passed legislation to allow for private emancipation by will or deed in 1782. Many Virginians took advantage of this new law to manumit their human property. By 1790, Henrico ranked in the top six of Virginia’s counties with a population of more than 450 free Black individuals.
Register’s Roots

After several years of private manumission contributing to a surge in the free Black population, many citizens and lawmakers became concerned with so many African Americans – free and enslaved – conducting daily life for themselves, employers, or owners. Some owners provided minimal to no supervision about the daily activities of the enslaved workers during work and in whatever spare time was allotted. White citizens worried about enslaved individuals impersonating one with free status as a method to allude capture. With Virginia’s cities growing in manufacturing and industry, populations surged making it difficult to easily determine the status of people seeking employment, housing, or transacting business. A persistent fear many white citizens expressed was that free Blacks “negatively” influenced the enslaved by encouraging them with information, supplies, and money to strive for self-emancipation.

With all these factors in mind, Virginia lawmakers passed an act in December 1793 for “regulating the Police of Town…and to restrain the Practice of Negroes going at Large.” Effective on January 1, 1794, any free person living or working in a city or town had to register with the local government. For a 25-cent fee, clerks recorded the name, age, color, height, and how the person became free into a ledger book, to be renewed every three years. The penalty for non-registration resulted in jail time until the individual paid the fee and officially registered. The law penalized any white person employing a free Black who did not have proof of registration with a $5 fine. By 1803, lawmakers expanded the act to include a new category describing any marks or scars on the face, head, or hands.

Every individual registered in the ledger appeared with the following information recorded in 6 categories: when registered, register number, name, age, color, description, stature, and by what instrument emancipated, and when and where it is recorded, or if born free, in what county or place. The type of information recorded about skin color and descriptions of these people becomes especially unsettling upon deeper reflection as it was not far removed from images of enslaved people being inspected prior to being auctioned. The laws did not specify a required age to register, so there are some children, some as young as 6 months old who registered in Henrico, but that was a rare instance. Most registrations were for teenagers and older.

The register is a gold mine of personal information since much of this population lived in years before photography’s widespread availability. Authorities required a level of detail to ensure no one could impersonate someone with an official certificate. It is also important to recognize that the motivation behind the creation of the register was to control, or in the words of the legislation “police,” the movements and decisions of both free and enslaved Blacks.

For the community of free Blacks living at Gravel Hill in Varina, the register adds even more information to a well-documented group of people living in the 19th century. Combining the register with other more commonly recognized period sources such as the various census schedules (population, agriculture, and mortality), wills, and deeds, the story of Gravel Hill emerges. Even military documents improve our knowledge of the Gravel Hill free Black residents since the Civil War arrived on their doorsteps in 1862 and 1864. Several residents filed post-war claims for reimbursement from the U. S. government.

It is easy to get lost in the transcription process - just typing away line after line, page after page, and not reflecting on the information being transferred. While these registers do conjure some difficult history to digest at times, they also provide clear evidence that free Blacks did not enjoy their full freedom on equal status with whites. Free Blacks lived in a state of quasi-freedom, their lives constantly complicated by the ever-growing list of laws meant to restrict how they lived and worked.

Canning for our Country
By Mary Ann Soldano, County Planner I
To preserve food by canning, or “putting by”, has long been a method of storage to access summer fruits and vegetables all year long. In the last few years, there has been an increase in local farmers’ markets, and therefore a renewed interest in canning. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns, consumers have been stocking up at farmers’ markets and harvesting their pandemic gardens. Canning became so popular that stores were running out of supplies.
Today, families enjoy gardening and canning a variety of new trending foods. However, there was a time when canning helped families get through the winter or to provide food at a time when funds were scarce.
During WWII, citizens were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens, first introduced during World War I, as the war garden movement. Due to food rationing, gas and rubber shortages restricting travel of food trucks to markets, and millions of pounds of food being diverted for the war effort, the practice of canning became a civic duty. The nation’s wartime supply of canned fruits and vegetables depended largely on home canning.
Henrico’s local Office of Civil Defense’s (OCD) Victory Garden project noted that interest in Victory Gardens had tripled by 1943. They kept a list of lots available for gardening, as well as names of men who could plow the ground. The OCD also provided canning demonstrators that allowed clubs or organizations to hold classes for their memberships. Amateur gardeners received instruction pamphlets with planting hints for Fall Victory Gardens from the Emergency War Food Production and Conservation Office. This information provided instruction on how, when, and where to sow, and offered suggestions of vegetables and the months they should be planted. The gardening effort was so well received, that the government began distributing canning and drying manuals to help people preserve their crops.
During this time, Richmond and Henrico County gardeners were also urged to take their produce to the county cannery at Virginia Randolph School. This former cannery building is located at the Virginia Randolph Recreation Area. The Henrico Board of Supervisors had approved the establishment of a community cannery for use by all residents. Operations began on August 1, 1944, with a capacity of 1,000 cans daily. The cinder block building, 48 feet long and 24 feet wide, was erected by the county at a cost of $2,800 and equipped by the State Department of Education and Federal Office of Education, under the food production war training program, at a cost of $1,000. An operator supervised the equipment, home demonstration agents were available to instruct canners, and custodial service was also provided by the county. In 1944, the only expense involved for the resident was the purchase of cans. The No. 2 size cost 3 cents each and No. 3 size cost 4 cents. This facility enabled Henrico residents to “put by” about 35,000 cans of food in 1944.
The next year, there was interest in eastern Henrico and a second cannery was opened in Varina on August 8, 1945. The Henrico County School Board exchanged one acre of land from the Varina Recreation Club for another portion of county school property. This former cannery is located at the Varina Recreation Area. The building contained a large canning room, a storeroom, two bathrooms, a screened porch, and a boiler room. The cinder-block building was completed and equipped at a cost of approximately $4,500. Home economics instructors and support were also available, like Virginia Randolph. In that first year, community residents produced 9,725 cans of food. The low output was attributed to a severe drought which damaged the crops.

The equipment for the two canneries that was supplied under the State-Federal program included steam-pressure cookers, vats, electric sealers, meat grinders, juice extractors, metal worktables, and washing trays. Due to the racial segregation the time, white residents used the canneries on different days than the African American community. In 1945, all the foods were canned in tin, and by 1946, residents were paying 7 and 8-cent rates for cans.

Richmond area residents reached the quota of 12,000 Victory Gardens in 1943. The citizens’ use of the canneries began to dwindle by 1949, and the two canneries were closed by the summer of 1950. Home canning met the necessity of food preservation during war times and is currently seeing a resurgence as people want healthy seasonal foods. Unlike the old canneries though, the new food trends in canning are likely to stick around.
A Record of the Walsh Family
By Haley Radvaney, History Programs Specialist
In Henrico County’s archives, researchers will find a handful of old family bibles that are part of the Crump family collection. They may look worn and fragile, but they help to give insight into the history of their previous owners.

Some family bibles will have general information related to family members’ birth, marriage, and death dates listed inside. One of the bibles in the collection known as the Collins family bible takes it a step further by listing detailed information related to each family member. This bible belonged to Elizabeth Adam Crump’s maternal side of the family. Caretakers of the book recorded information about Mrs. Crump’s parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

The Collins family bible is a great resource with documentation on when family members passed away and their cause of death. Researching an individual’s death may seem strange, but it helps to piece together the story of a person’s life. A great example of this is the information discovered in the family bible about Ada Virginia Collins Walsh who was the aunt of Elizabeth Adam Crump. 
Portrait of Ada Collins Walsh
Wedding Portrait of
William and Ada Walsh
Portrait of William A. Walsh
The Collins family bible contains three dates that pertain to Ada Walsh. The first is found on the page listing marriage dates. She married William Archibald Walsh on December 11, 1873. Research shows that William and Ada Walsh had a son named James, who was born in April 1876. The next date connected to Ada Walsh listed in the Collins family bible shows that the family of three would not be together for long. The Bible lists William A. Walsh died on July 25, 1876, from consumption. Consumption, also known as tuberculosis, is an infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. 
Tuberculosis would continue to be a common theme in the Walsh family. Ada Walsh’s name is listed directly under her husband’s. It states that she died from consumption on August 8, 1890. The Walsh name is not listed again in the bible’s family records, but further research shows that James Walsh, the son of William and Ada Walsh, suffered the same fate as his parents. His death record states that he died on January 7, 1918, and that his cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. James Walsh is buried with his parents at the Collins family plot in Hollywood Cemetery.
Even though the lives of the Walsh family were cut short by tuberculosis, items that belonged to them can be found in the Crump collection. Visitors can see one of the items on display at Meadow Farm Museum. A guitar case that belonged to James Walsh can be found in one of the bedrooms of the historic farmhouse. Thanks to the information found in the Collins family bible and further research, staff can have a better understanding of the history behind collection pieces and their previous owners’ family history.
250th Commemoration
Can you say Semiquincentennial? If not, start practicing!

The 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of our nation is approaching. National, state, and local groups are already underway to brainstorm, discuss, and plan ways to acknowledge these anniversaries. Our history staff is working diligently to lay the groundwork for Henrico County’s commemorative activities. We will be partnering with libraries, schools, public history sites, experts, and community organizations to develop an inclusive and diverse story of the county’s role during this important landmark in our history.

While each state and locality will have its time frame of events to emphasize, Henrico aims to begin programming in 2024 and continue through 2031. Our programs and events will focus on the people, places, and events from that time period in both Henrico and Virginia that contributed to the efforts to break away from Great Britain.
We would like to hear from you about what you envision our 250th commemorative efforts to include. Please consider completing a short survey (only 5 questions) to help us plan activities during these important years which will help us recognize our ancestors’ achievements and inspire us to strive to be a nation with liberty and justice for all. 
Staff Profile: Joanna Hewitson
Meet the Staff
Joanna’s love of art and history led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history with a history minor at Virginia Commonwealth University. As an intern at Wilton House Museum in her last semester of school in 2010 before graduating from VCU, she first became interested in museum collection management. It was a little over a year later that she began to volunteer with Henrico County Historic Preservation and Museum Services assisting with the care of their museum collection.

As a volunteer, she cataloged items from the Clarke Palmore collection while helping with annual inventories and routine cleaning of the collection at Henrico’s historic sites. After five years as a volunteer, she applied for a position as a museum technician and conservationist. She started this position in November 2016 and has enjoyed it ever since.

Since November of 2016, in addition to her weekly and monthly tasks she has helped move the County’s collection storage twice, contributed to the set-up and dismantling of displays and exhibits, helped rescue a bird from a stock room at the Recreation and Parks main office, and is about to assist with the opening of a time capsule. She loves contributing to the care, preventive conservation, and preservation of Henrico County’s historic sites and artifacts. When not at work, some of her favorite activities include cloud gazing, sipping coffee at local coffee shops, and spending time outside with family and friends. 
Down on the Farm
Mooooo! Hello to yoooouuuu! My name is Marigold and I’m a Jersey Cow, but not from the state of New Jersey, we’re from the Island of Jersey in Great Britain. My species of bovine was brought to the United States in 1850 and is considered a Heritage Breed. I’m the newest animal addition to Meadow Farm Museum’s cast of animal friends. I’ve been here over a year now, and I’m always ready for new adventures!
I know you all have “herd” the stories about my good friend Emily’s excursion over to the softball fields at R.F.& P. (as told by Tuck), but I must be honest, Emily tried to show me the ropes a few months ago. We decided one Saturday afternoon to check out the work in the garden. Yeah, we took a little walk over and smelled the flowers!! Full disclosure, I ate a few marigolds! But there’s another reason we took a walk, we were trying to get closer to the music and lasers! We could hear music and see lasers on the other side of the farmhouse, and we wanted to get closer to the action. It was for Independence Day! The staff told us that over 8,000 people came to the big party, and we weren’t invited. I know, I know, we shouldn’t have done it, but we were celebrating OUR independence too!!
Truthfully, there’s been A LOT going on at Meadow Farm lately. I’ve seen game nights, camps, scavenger hunts, programs for kids and adults, and school buses! I was so excited about that one night they put up a movie screen and we saw the mooovie, Babe. I’ve never seen that movie! It was so cool: a movie about farm animals! But next time they should show a movie about us cows. Mooove over little piggy, cows coming through.
There was a Grand Opening for the new kitchen too. I’m told there will be all kinds of new programs to come, and people have been asking us about the food being prepared in there. How am I supposed to know? My food is always out here waiting for me. I don’t have to clean it or cook it. It just grows! Over the past year, I’ve seen many things, but I’m also excited for what’s to come. Our school groups have been having fun with a new program called “Marigold and the Runaway Alphabet.” Did you hear that? A program about me?!? Yep, I lead the kids through their ABCs, and we learn together how to spell different words. I’m always game for a challenge, and this is probably the best one yet!
           All in all, Meadow Farm is a great place to live and play. The farm has its highs and lows, like the heat! Oh my goodness, it can be so hot out here! I am really looking forward to the cooler weather and what’s coming this fall. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, and we’ll all be on our guard to protect Todd the Turkey. Wait, what’s that Emily? Todd’s not on the menu? Oh, she said I have to go to the “T’was the Saturday Before Thanksgiving program” to hear more about it. A movie too? Hold on, they’re showing a movie about turkeys too?!? This can’t be true. Another farm movie and it’s not about cows? Emily and I will have to stage another breakout!!

-Marigold, the Jersey Cow
Translated by Julian Charity, Division Director
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