Henrico Rec & Parks | (804) 501-PARK
Henrico History Progress
JULY 2020
A Letter from Our History Manager
Dear History Friends,

We are all familiar with the saying “history repeats itself.” This is perhaps truer now than it has been for generations. The current pandemic harkens back to the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak that claimed 675,000 American lives and 50 million worldwide. We can look at newspapers from that time and see ourselves grappling with the same fear and trauma that occurs when life as we know it comes to a halt.

Elizabeth Adam lamented to her future husband Sheppard Crump in a letter from October 13, 1918, “tell me Shep what’s a person to write about when the town is full of the flu and everyone is afraid of everyone else.” Those words could easily be used in correspondence or conversation today. Making sense of the loss of income, property, and human life become a daily struggle. Living in a world of uncertainty does many things to us as a society. We become instantly grateful for the individual and collective freedom we possess as a nation, which is drastically impacted in quarantine. We worry about family and friends who are at high risk and whose mortality may be threatened. We can also see with more clarity the social inequalities which impact not just this time of recovery but our progress as a nation.

Too often this is a hard-learned lesson for individuals who have not lived through such catastrophic events. This can also be said of the current state of racial inequality and the subsequent protests and riots that have surfaced across our nation in recent weeks.

The fear and anger engendered by racial conflict is not new to this country. When you do not live through the struggle and violence perpetuated by unequal treatment under the law, it is often difficult to recognize that this has been and continues to be a reality for many Americans. Again, it is our past that can teach us much about who we are and how we got to this moment in time.

As historians, when we read about the cruelty of slavery and pain of discrimination, we are obligated to seek out the truth and share the tragedies as well as the triumphs. African Americans have lived these struggles for centuries and have never been given a proper voice in the historical narrative of this country. History and historic house museums need to help fill that void. It is incumbent on us as a profession to document and share the history of American life from all perspectives.

At Meadow Farm Museum we are taking a step to further acknowledge and honor the lives of the enslaved. From 1800 until 1865 there were anywhere between 8 and 21 enslaved men, women and children who lived at Meadow Farm. These individuals farmed the land, maintained the buildings, all while raising not only their own children, but also serving the needs of the Sheppard family. Like many slave owners before the Civil War, the Sheppards bought, sold and hired out human lives for profit.

This is difficult for some visitors to accept. Many want only to know about “the grandeur of plantation life” or in the case of Meadow Farm, what they romanticize as a simpler bygone era.

I believe it is past time that we ask ourselves how this legacy has impacted our nation, particularly our African American friends and family. In museums, we can address this question by initiating the conversation of our past transgressions and providing a platform for continuing conversations. If we use acknowledgement and examination of our entire history as a reflection of who we are, it is then we may begin to heal.

As a staff, we are inspired by the stories of the people who came before us and are excited to launch this newsletter as a record and homage of all who contributed to Henrico’s past.

Kim Sicola
Recreation Manager, History Programs
Henrico Recreation and Parks
Dabbs House Added to National Historical Register
We are pleased to announce Dabbs House, located 3812 Nine Mile Road, is now officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service officially added this property to the National Register on December 12, 2019.

Historical Highway Markers
When you drive around the state of Virginia, you are bound to see roadside markers with a silver background and black lettering & trim on the side of the road. You will find 81 of these markers in Henrico County, the most of any county in Virginia.

These markers, managed by the Department of Historic Resources, are part of the Historical Highway Marker program started by Virginia in 1927 to highlight significant people, places, and events that are of state, regional or national significance. The program has grown from a handful of markers along Route 1 to over 2500 all over the state.

The markers in Henrico cover topics from Pocahontas, early English settlers, the Civil War to more recent people such as Tommy Edwards (1922-1969), a singer and songwriter with 12 albums and a number one hit in 1958 called “It’s all in the game”.

You can find out more information about this program and search the marker database on the Virginia DHR website.
From the Archives: Life during a Pandemic
Separated by war and a global pandemic, Elizabeth Adam and Sheppard Crump (pictured right) corresponded about world events that dramatically impacted their everyday lives. Yet, this isn’t 2020 but 1918; a year in which Americans found themselves fighting not one war, but two. As U.S. troops joined the front lines of World War I in Europe, a deadlier and invisible enemy began its attack on the homefront, including Richmond and Henrico, in the autumn of 1918.

Circle of Friends

Born in 1890, Elizabeth Adam grew up on Grove Avenue, which at the time of her childhood and early adult years still lay within Henrico’s Tuckahoe District. Sheppard Crump lived in several places during his early years, but eventually the family settled on Hanover Avenue around 1907, less than a mile from the Adam’s residence. While working as a bank clerk, Sheppard also joined the Richmond Light Infantry Blues in 1903.
It isn’t clear exactly when or how Elizabeth and Sheppard became friends. However, across the street front the Adams lived the Waddill family, including Joseph Temple. By 1918, a romance blossomed between Elizabeth’s younger sister, Dolly, and Temp (pictured left). After graduating in 1907 with an engineering degree, Temp joined the Blues. So, chances are Sheppard met Temp through their membership in the Blues and Temp introduced him to Elizabeth. Many people referenced in their letters have connections to the Blues and she often mentioned going to the local Army and Navy Club for dancing and socializing.

Life through Letters from “Over Here” and “Over There”

Sheppard left for the European western front in July 1918. Elizabeth and Sheppard wrote weekly, sharing news of their social lives, updates on friends and family, and news from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the war front. Their letters were chatty and light-hearted, with a fair amount of teasing and flirtation from both correspondents. Whether they were courting (dating) is unclear, but the letters show an established friendship (after the war, Sheppard and Elizabeth married). At 36 years old, Sheppard was firmly established in his career track, while 27-year-old Elizabeth still lived with her parents on Grove Avenue. Both could provide mature reflection on living during events momentous enough to make the history books; though neither the two events dominating their lives in 1918-1919 ever received much attention in books or Americans’ memories until recently.

The Letters’ Backstory

Henrico County’s archives is home to a variety of documents which belonged to the Sheppard and Crump families of Meadow Farm in Glen Allen. We are lucky the family carefully preserved papers that recorded their everyday life. While we don’t have every document the family produced, Sheppard and Elizabeth Crump preserved much of their correspondence from 1918-1919. Though the history staff was aware of these letters, in the past the letters received most attention through the lens of World War I. Recent events have provided the history team an opportunity to reexamine these letters focusing on what Elizabeth and Sheppard wrote about the influenza pandemic from the perspective of Richmond and France. At present, letters from mid-September through November 1918 have been transcribed. Of the 23 letters during this time period, all but 6 reference the pandemic. Sheppard comments much less in length and frequency regarding the flu, while Elizabeth’s letters nearly mimic the virus’ dramatic surge and gradual regression.

The “Grippe” Strikes Home
The flu hit the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the late summer/early fall of 1918. Sheppard noted in his September 11 letter to Elizabeth that “[t]here has been an epidemic of influenza here and lots of our men have been down with it but so far I have escaped.” But, Elizabeth would not receive the letter until the pandemic had already gained a foothold as the first case appeared at Camp Lee on September 13 and reached Richmond and Henrico within the week. During the second half of September, Sheppard recorded a decline in influenza in France as Elizabeth spoke with increasing concern. On September 27, she wrote to Sheppard:

“The camps are full of Spanish Influenza. I was dumbfounded this morning when I saw the account of Glen McLaughlin’s death from Influenza…You would have laughed if you had seen Dolly yesterday morning when I received a letter from Camp Lee. The boy said he had been in quarantine for Influenza you would have thought smallpox for she made me take the letter out on the porch to read it.”

By October 2, Elizabeth declared “…if this epidemic of ‘Flu’ isn’t over soon I don’t know what I’ll do. Everyday I hear someone else has it.” There was still no closing of public spaces, but she expected it to happen. Despite her fears of the flu, she still went to out to see a movie telling Sheppard “[y]ou would have laughed if you had seen the people looking around if they heard the slightest cough.” Elizabeth was like many at the time thinking this flu was like other past outbreaks, but the reality was that this strain was more deadly and targeting people her age. In her next letter to Sheppard on October 6 she explained that public gathering spaces closed that day, “…so the only thing we have to do is ride out in the fresh air.”

Elizabeth’s October 13 letter devotes the most space of any of her letters to the flu pandemic. It reveals a myriad of emotions as the number of influenza cases skyrocketed towards its peak the following week. Her opening lines reveal to Sheppard the desperate situation.

“Tell me Shep, what’s a person going to write about when the town is full of the ‘Flu’ and everyone is afraid of everyone else. All the churches, theatres, schools, soda fountains are closed and all public meetings dancing and anything else that collects a crowd. The John Marshall High School has been turned into a hospital and tomorrow they expect to turn two more schools into hospitals. Gee I hate to tell you everything morbid but knew you would be interested to know how everything was. They say they have the disease under control but there are three hundred and sixty new cases reported yesterday. I believe they have it in nearly every family in Richmond…Mr. William H. Sands died this morning of pneumonia and Arthur Cardwell’s wife died Wednesday of pneumonia and left an infant and little girl five years old.”

As October 1918 drew to a close, Elizabeth grew increasingly restless, but continued to be fearful as her letters reveal a growing list of friends and mutual acquaintances infected or dead from the flu and its complications. “Time seems to fly to so fast, yet there isn’t a thing to do but stay at home and knit.” The quarantine impacted lives from the mundane to the significant. Elizabeth shared with Sheppard the news that her friend Grace “…greet[ed] me with the sad news that the wedding had to be postponed indefinitely.”

In early November 1918, health officials lifted the ban on public gatherings, but Elizabeth noted the passing of a friend from the flu. Itching to get out, she went to see a movie in mid-November for the first time, but days later the threat remained. On November 24, she declared “I never heard of so many sad deaths. The Flu seems to be breaking out afresh in Ginter Park but I hope this cold weather will kill all the germs.” In her last letter of the month to Sheppard on November 29, Elizabeth shared some tragic news with Sheppard: “Logan Walford died on pneumonia a few days ago and his wife died yesterday.” 37-year-old Logan was buried in Hollywood Cemetery with his wife, Lola, placed next to him three days later.

Elizabeth’s experiences personalize a global pandemic. While a quarter of Americans were sickened with the flu, Elizabeth had many friends and family who battled it. The U.S. lost at least 675,000 people during the outbreak. Elizabeth’s letters put names to the numbers, revealing the little-known story of a second war fought in 1918.

Do you have a family member who lived in Henrico during this time period and would like to share your family’s story? Please feel free to contact us.
From the Collection
Richard Parsons: A Profile of Enslavement and Emancipation at Meadow Farm
In 1809, Mosby Sheppard of Meadow Farm purchased a woman by the name of Nancy for $291 from the estate of Benjamin Toler. Toler, who had died a year prior, resided at a 400-acre plantation called Goose Ponds in Caroline County. On September 25, 1811 Nancy gave birth to a child, Moses, and on November 22, 1813 another son, Dick, was born. The father of Nancy’s children is not recorded.

An account of their lives is not recorded by Mosby or his son, John Mosby Sheppard. Any type of detailed record of enslaved people is extremely rare. For the most part, the enslaved people were treated as commodities. That Mosby took note of the births and deaths of only certain enslaved people suggests that they may have held a special rank within the enslaved hierarchy, such as domestic servants, whose lives were more closely connected to the family than that of a field hand.

During this same time, Mosby was starting a family of his own. Four of Mosby’s six children, William A., Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth, and John Mosby were all born between 1810 and 1817. If Nancy served as a domestic servant or nurse for Mosby’s children, both Moses and Dick were likely an integral part of the Sheppard children’s upbringing.

The only mention of Nancy and her son Moses is in documents from the settlement of Mosby’s estate in 1831. Estate papers indicate that for the year 1831, Nancy, along with two enslaved men named John and George, are hired out to Mosby’s son William A. Sheppard. In 1832, Moses is hired out to a John Smith. There is no further mention of either Nancy or Moses after this date, so it’s possible that they were eventually sold off in order to settle the debt of Mosby’s estate.

Richard “Dick” Parsons

Dick, on the other hand, remains with Mosby’s widow, Mary G.C. Sheppard. In February of 1852, shortly after her death, John Mosby Sheppard purchases Dick from his mother’s estate for the price of $780. Dick is mentioned at least one time in the records of John Mosby Sheppard prior to emancipation. In 1855, Sheppard records an account of purchasing a “cap for Dick.”

Post-emancipation, the life of Dick and his family comes into greater focus. On March 1st, 1866, John M. Sheppard pays Dick wages for the previous year in the amount of $26.55. If this payment truly represents a full year’s wages, it suggests that Dick is back-payed from either the date at which Abraham Lincoln signs the 13th amendment, February 1, 1865, or from the date in which Virginia’s Restored Government passes the amendment, February 9, 1865, and not from the end of the Civil War. It’s also during this post-emancipation time in which Dick begins to be referred to alternately as either Dick, Dick Parsons, or Richard Parsons.
An 1868, written agreement between Sheppard and Parsons (pictured right) will essentially bind Richard to work at Meadow Farm for the rest of his life. In it, Sheppard agrees to provide Parsons with staple rations, including corn and fodder, along with $25 per year. Richard, on the other hand, must agree to “work faithfully on the farm during the year, and do anything on the farm when not engaged about the crops” as well as pay Sheppard $3 per month for the board of his wife, Mary, leaving him in debt to John Sheppard at the end of each year. There are receipts showing that his wife also worked for the Sheppards, perhaps to make up for the shortfall.

We know that by 1867, Richard is married to a woman named Mary. We also learn from census records that Richard and Mary are living in a separate house on the Meadow Farm property and are raising a family of their own. They raised at least four children, Joseph (c. 1870), Thomas (c. 1872), Cornelius (c. 1875), and Rosa (c. 1875). Two other children, Alice and Jimmy, appear in early census records, but by the turn of the 20th century they disappear from the record. They may have been extended family members living with the Parsons, or they may have passed away.

On January 29th, 1881, the Parsons reach a milestone that they more than likely never thought possible: they purchase their own land. For the price of $175, Richard acquires 4 and 7/8ths acres of the balance of the Melton property, located along the boundary with Meadow Farm on the south and east. Court records indicate that Richard built a small house on this property. Here the Parsons would live out the remainder of their lives, partly expanding out to leave their own footprint and partly remaining intertwined in the lives of the Sheppard descendants. The same court documents also suggest that Richard and his family may be buried on this land. Richard passes away sometime in the 1880s and Mary dies sometime between 1910 and 1920, leaving the house and land to the adult children.

Richard’s Descendants

Their eldest son, Joseph, is briefly married to a Hanover County woman named Mazie James. In 1902, they have their only child who goes by the name of Annie. Mazie leaves Joseph while Annie is still a child and moves to Asbury Park, New Jersey. Joseph continues to work the family farm until his death in 1929.

While none of the remaining Parsons children married, they did go on to lead their own lives. Cornelius worked as a section laborer on the RF&P railroad and Rosa worked as a cook for various local families, as and worked for a short time in New York City. Both Cornelius and Rosa acquired mortgages on property of their own near the Parsons homestead, but do not build on the property. They both die prior to Joseph and Tom, still owing money on their properties. Death certificates indicate that Richard, Cornelius, and Rosa are buried in the “family burial ground,” which is assumed to somewhere on the Richard Parsons tract.

Thomas Parsons stays involved with the Sheppard family, living and working at Meadow Farm for Sheppard and Elizabeth Crump until 1938. He dies alone at the City Home Hospital in 1939. He is also believed to be interred at the family burial grounds.

Ongoing Research

The Parsons story seemingly ends at this point, with the only remaining direct descendant, Joseph’s daughter Annie, disappearing from census records after 1920. Fortunately, chancery court records after the death of Joseph give detailed accounts of the family and their heirs. It’s here we learn that Annie’s given name is Annetta. Around 1924, Annetta married a Hanover County man named Alfred Edward (Eddie) Thompson. Shortly thereafter they moved to Fayette County Pennsylvania were Eddie found work in the coal mines. The descendants of Annetta Parsons and Alfred Edward Thompson still live in the Uniontown area of Pennsylvania today.

The Richard Parsons homestead in Henrico County has remained intact after all these years. After the death of Joseph, the land was sold at auction and changed hands a few times but was never developed. It’s now in the hands of an absentee landowner and landlocked to the north by RF&P park and to the south by the Deer Springs subdivision off Mountain Road.
Staff Profile: Mary Ann Soldano
Meet the Staff
Mary Ann Soldano is a county planner with Recreation & Parks. Mary Ann works in the history where her days are filled with the review of commercial developments, subdivision developments, property demolition, rezoning cases, Board of Zoning Appeals, Provisional Use Permits and Variances, cell tower installations, and real property site selections as they would impact a historical resource, archaeological site, recreation facility or park, battlefield/earthwork site, or cemetery site. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1997 she completed a Certificate in Public Administration from VCU.
In 1978, she joined Henrico Recreation & Parks as a part-time recreation instructor. In 1979, she became a full-time Recreation Instructor with Recreation & Parks working the summer day camp and the afterschool recreation program. She has worked in a wide variety of capacities; promoted to Field Supervisor, Technology Support Specialist, and presently Planner I.
Her present position provides the opportunity to research historical inquiries from the public and other agencies to further document historical people, places, and events related to Henrico.

Mary Ann provided research assistance in the publication of the books Field of Honor and The History of Henrico County. She provided field assistance and research for Henrico Cemeteries published by the Henrico County Historical Society, which won a NACO award. She was the lead on the preparation of the National Register Nomination for Dabbs House Museum awarded in 2020. Her current project is an inventory update of Henrico County historic properties.
Mary Ann’s motto: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” - Albert Einstein
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A Letter from Tuck the Lamb!
Hello everyone! My name is Tuckahoe, but everyone calls me “Tuck” for short. I’m one of the newest additions to the Meadow Farm family. I, and two other lambs, were born to the sheep flock at Meadow Farm just before Easter. 

I know with everything going on, many of you have not gotten the chance to meet me in person, so I decided to introduce myself and update everyone on some of the happenings at Meadow Farm this year.

           Since I am so young, I’ve been hanging out with my mommy most days, but I like to listen and watch all the activity of the farm. New things are happening all the time! Why just about two months ago, I looked up and there were people doing work on the historic farmhouse. They were taking the windows out of the house! I’m not an expert at these things, but I thought you needed windows in your house to keep out the bugs and the rain. So, I decided to ask the nice man, I think his name was Bryce, what was going on. He told me that some of the windows needed to be sent away and repaired, but they would be returning soon. Whew, what a relief! I thought the house looked really funny with those boards on it! Even the old buildings need some care and attention every now and then.

           All around the farm, new fences are going up. I asked my mommy about those and she told me that they were for our protection and the protection of the other animals. She told me a story about some of the animals, namely the cows, going on adventures and sightseeing around the area. Could you imagine, two cows going to play softball at R.F.& P. Park? Hmmm, I wonder who was the pitcher? The new fences also allow the people who visit Meadow Farm to better interact with us animal friends. We love to see people, but we’ve been told we shouldn’t accept food from them, it could hurt our stomachs.

           Lately there has been a lot of buzz on the farm, and it’s not because its summertime and the bees are around. It’s because I hear there are plans for new exhibits at Meadow Farm! This new exhibit is about all the people who have lived and worked here. Most people probably know the story of the Sheppard family who owned Meadow Farm, but have you ever heard the stories about the enslaved population who lived and worked on the farm or the Native Americans who inhabited Meadow Farm for thousands of years before the Europeans came to Henrico County? It’s an amazing story and we’d love to share it with you soon!
Stay safe and we’ll be baaaack soon!
Henrico Rec & Parks | (804) 501-PARK