Minnie Alvis Makes a Most Sought After Pie!

31 Mar

Throughout the years, women have left their mark by sharing their recipes with others. Within a family, an aunt may be remembered for a special cake or a grandmother for her flaky biscuits. Mary Randolph, reputed to be the best cook in Richmond, made her name in 1824 with her cookbook The Virginia Housewife Or, Methodical Cook. In 1986, the Goochland County Historical Society re-published Favorite Recipes of Goochland County, 1776 – 1976, a cookbook created to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial, sharing the recipes of many Goochland women. It sold out. Looking through it, one finds many familiar names, as well as memorable casseroles, breads, cakes, and pies, not to mention all of those delightful cookies, brownies, and little appetizers.

For the Goochland County Historical Society’s 50th anniversary in 2018, longtime member Minnie Alvis baked her favorite coconut pie. After our anniversary celebration, the Society received many requests for the recipe; to say the least, this pie has a large following. Ms. Alvis has kindly given us permission to share her recipe, so here it is, in her own handwriting. We have named it:

Minnie Alvis’s Most Sought After Coconut Pie

Milly Pierce

17 Mar

Born a slave, Milly Pierce was manumitted by Tucker Woodson’s will of 1792, making her a free woman. A codicil to his will also manumitted her children. However, her husband John Pierce remained enslaved until 1816 when he was emancipated following the death of his owner, Dr. James Brydin. At the time, he served as the jailer for Goochland County, working under the sheriff; as such, he was responsible for maintaining the jail and taking care of those confined there. Milly cooked for the prisoners, as well as for the Gentleman Justices of the court, and looked after the courthouse.  

In her own right, Milly acquired a home and bought, sold, and rented property in the Courthouse area, with her real and personal holdings regularly recorded in the county deed books and tax ledgers. It is one of these records that indicates Milly and John were married at least by 1803 when Milly purchased 23 acres on Beaverdam Creek. By 1817, she paid tax on 56.25 acres. An 1822 land plat (detail shown below) clearly identifies her home (circled) and garden as one-quarter mile from the courthouse.

As a free woman of property in Goochland, she led a courageous, independent and busy life. Also, it must be said that she was a shrewd business woman who cultivated good connections and sought legal advice, thus allowing her to enjoy much economic success. Despite the fact that there are few surviving records about Milly Pierce, we know that she successfully navigated the restrictive and sometimes punitive laws of the time, while marrying, raising a large family, working for the justices of the county, attending to the courthouse, and assisting her husband John at the county’s jail.  

John died in 1833 or 1834, leaving Millie to carry on alone. She lived to be 80, dying in 1851. In her will, she left all of her land and possessions, save one, to family. She freed her slave Franklin French, having arranged for him to take over her old job as caretaker of the courthouse and having asked the County of Goochland to allow him to remain in the state. At age 59, the court allowed him to register as a free man of color. Milly’s character, hard work, self-sufficiency, diligence, and devotion to family were factors in her success. By anyone’s account, it must be said that Milly Pierce was a successful woman in 19th century Goochland—a woman worth remembering.

Henry Turpin, Representing Goochland in Virginia’s General Assembly, 1871 – 1873

26 Feb

Henry Turpin (1836 – 1908), one of nine children of Mary James, was born into slavery. In 1857, his father Edwin Turpin freed him, along with all but one of his siblings. An older sister Martha Catherine had been freed the previous year when she married Goochlander William P. Moseley. Henry became a house painter and during the Civil War, he was able to purchase land next to his father’s property in Goochland. 

In 1871, he won the nomination of the local Republican Party, replacing a white Republican. In the election, he beat a white Conservative Party candidate, winning a term in the Virginia House of Delegates. The election was contested and although the Conservative Party held the majority in the House, Turpin was declared the rightful winner.

While serving his term, he introduced an amendment to a bill that provided men who had lost limbs during the Civil War with artificial legs. His amendment required “Colored men who lost legs as soldiers or employees in the late war shall be entitled to the benefits of this act.” The bill passed the General Assembly with his amendment, thus allowing veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops, as well as those enslaved and free blacks who had been impressed into assisting the Confederates, to collect such special medical benefits.

During the second session of his term, Turpin joined with other black and some Republican delegates, opposing what they viewed as a partisan and unconstitutional plan by white legislators to elect county judges. However, the Conservative delegates who held the majority, along with other Republicans, refused to receive or even record their complaint.

Turpin participated in the Republican State Convention of 1873 where he was elected to the party’s central committee. While he was nominated back in Goochland for a second term, he lost to a white Conservative in the general election. Eventually, Henry Turpin left Goochland and moved to the Bronx, New York to be close to his brother Duroch and his family. There he worked as a porter for the railroad, finally marrying in 1886. He and his wife who was also from Virginia, had one child. He died in New York and is buried there in Woodlawn Cemetery. He is a Goochlander worth remembering.

Josephine Turpin Washington

20 Feb

Josephine Turpin was born in Goochland County on July 31, 1861, the daughter of Augustus Turpin and Maria Crump. Her father was a son of a former slave named Mary and Edwin Turpin, a grandson of Mary Jefferson Turpin.

Turpin was first educated at home and later at public schools in Goochland. After her family relocated to Richmond, she attended the Richmond Institute, later known as the Richmond Theological Seminary. She was among the 1886 graduating class at Howard University where during summer breaks she clerked for Frederick Douglass. After her graduation she taught mathematics at Howard University until her marriage in 1888 to Dr. Samuel Somerville Hawkins Washington brought her to Birmingham, Alabama.

Over her career Washington would serve on the faculties of Selma University, Tuskegee Institute (where her husband held the position of school physician), Alabama State University and Wilberforce University.

Washington’s first article accepted for print, “A Talk about Church Fairs”, appeared in the Virginia Star while she was still in her teens. She covered the gauntlet of issues concerning African Americans, including employment and educational opportunities, the raising of children, and the challenges that threaten the bond between women and men.

Washington died at the age of eighty-seven on March 17, 1949, at her daughter’s home in Cleveland, Ohio.

Volume 51 of the Goochland County Historical Society Magazine will feature an article about Josephine Turpin Washington entitled “Josephine Turpin Washington: Racial Uplift Advocate” by Rita B. Dandridge, a Professor in the Department of Languages and Literature at Virginia State University. Volume 51 will be available in the spring of 2021.

World War II Soldiers Remembered: Thomas Holman Owens

17 Feb

Thomas Holman Owens was born June 7, 1918 in Goochland, Virginia. He was 23-years-old when he registered in October of 1940.

According to his Registration Card, we know he was 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and had brown eyes and black hair. He listed his uncle, Ned Lacy, as his employer. Shown below are Ned Lacy, Thomas Owens, and Minnie Lacy in 1942.

Thomas Owen passed away on June 2, 2012.

“Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”

18 Dec

In a recent donation to the Historical Society were several issues from the Goochland High School’s The Spotlight from 1967-1968. One featured an editorial written by 1968 Class President and Valedictorian Alice Martin (pictured below) entitled “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” which seems a fitting post for the month of December. It was a time when turmoil and unrest was first and foremost on the minds of everyone. The late 60s were a turbulent time. A war was being fought half way around the world and events were taking place at home causing unrest for all. In this time of COVID, it is important to remember that other times have had their good and bad times as well. This too shall pass.  

“Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”

The Christmas season is noted for being a time of goodwill and peace. How ironic for us to talk of peace when there is a war in Vietnam, war is constantly threatened in the Near East and in Africa, and riots and revolts are staged weekly throughout the United States. Could the reason possibly be that each individual refuses to have a peaceful spirit of goodwill as he lets self-centered desires, jealousies, and dislikes overcome him?

“Peace on Earth” can only be obtained if each individual does his part. Don’t be the one who causes unrest during this special season or any other season. Develop a genuine love for life and for people and radiate a spirit of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” wherever you are.

Relic Recall: Aircraft Warning Service

4 Nov
What is it: Aircraft Warning Service armband, lapel pin, and identification, from World War II. Donated to the Goochland County Historical Society in 1991.

In today’s world, we take for granted an Air Traffic Control System that monitors all aspects of the thousands of flights that are in the air above us at any given time. What most of us do not realize is that, prior to World War II, there was little in place to handle this. Radar was a new technology and its use was almost non-existent. Pilots were on their own to get from one place to another and no one was there to monitor where the planes were or where they were going. An air attack along the coasts from the sea, similar to Pearl Harbor, would have never been detected.

The Army Air Corps, recognizing the need for an air defense system, established the Ground Observer Corps in the months leading up to the start of the war. They used airmen to man a limited number of observation posts in critical areas. Pearl Harbor changed all of that. It became necessary to greatly expand the air defense system but, at the same time, all able bodied airmen were needed in job more important than sitting in an observation post.

The Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) was created using an all civilian volunteer force to man over 14,000 observation posts were right here in Goochland County.

One such volunteer was Dorothy Rebecca Henley. The Henley family farm, located next to Luck Stone in Manakin was one of the observation posts. Dorothy Henley, a life-long Goochland resident, was born in 1903 and died in 2002 at the age of 99. She was 38 when se became a volunteer in the AWS. Volunteers had to go through extensive training to be able to identify any and all aircraft, both domestic and foreign. Along with Dorothy Henley’s AWS identification items, the donated items also include the training booklet, a set of aircraft identification flash cards, and a special dial device that could quickly identify any aircraft.

Margaret Walker was Dorothy Henley’s niece. She still lives in Manakin and, like her aunt, was also a volunteer in the AWS as a teen. She remembers going to her grandparent’s farm to man her scheduled post duties. The bluff behind the house overlooked the James River valley and provided a perfect spot to watch a large area of the sky. While it would seem that, in 1941, one would not see many planes in the skies over Goochland, Mrs. Walker says that was not the case. The Army Air Corps base was located at Byrd Field and training flights would fly up the river and use the islands located in the James in Goochland as targets for simulated bombing runs and attack missions. Upon spotting a plane, the observer would have to log information noting the time, identifying the type of plane, the direction it was seen, and the direction it was traveling. This was then called in by code to a special phone number in Richmond and then in turn was sent to a logistics center down in Hampton Roads, all manned by civilian volunteers. The information, usually coming from multiple observations, was triangulated and kept updated on a large map in the center. This process kept the observers on their toes and provided a built-in testing of each observer’s accuracy and effectiveness. Awards were given for those who received the highest ratings.

With the advent of radar installations along the coasts and the turn of the war to being more offensive instead of defensive, the volunteer system was deemed unnecessary and deactivated in May 1944.

Relic Recall is contributed by Phil Harris of the Goochland County Historical Society.

A.C. Knibb’s Waterwheel

21 Oct

Years ago, serendipity allowed us to come across a series of three articles on Goochland water mills by Abner Clopton Knibb. These articles had been published by the Goochland Gazette in 1956 and were re-printed in the Society’s Magazine in 2002. In March of 2020, the Society was made aware of an old mill, still standing on private property. After touring and photographing the mill, we did some research and found out it is the same mill written about nearly 50 years ago. The following is a re-print of the third article in the series accompanied by photographs taken in March of Abner’s still standing waterwheel mill.

The A.C. Knibb’s Waterwheel – Goochland Gazette, May 25, 1956

By A.C. Knibb

     Just why I loved the old water mill as I did, I don’t know, unless it was one of the few pieces of machinery that we had in the county, and I was very fond of machinery. As a chap, I made corn stalk water wheels with pine bark water troughs, and had wheels turning on the branches just for entertainment.

     My brother-in-law saw an overshoot wheel at a junk place, and knowing my fondness for water wheels, bought it for me. It was about 3 feet tall, and 6 inch on the face. To get the water on that wheel was my first job. I got in the creek, got wet and muddy from head to foot, got rock in place, that it would seem about impossible. Isn’t it remarkable what we can do, when we WANT to? Well, the water went on that wheel, and with some cog-gearing out of a mowing machine, I rigged up a churn sweep, carried my mother’s churn down there, and before she got to the springhouse next morning, I had the butter. I never did like a churn, and just to see the water splash over that wheel and turn it while the dasher knocked the butter out, was “glory for me,” and it did a better job, for I used to get tired churning, and stop to look in the churn to see if the butter had come, but that water wheel did not seem to care if the butter had come or not but kept knocking away. When mother found out what I had done, she came racing over the hill, talking as she came and declaring I had ruined her cream. When the sweep was stopped and she looked, she had the nicest, best gathered and firmest butter you ever saw. It was not only “glory for me,” but VICTORY.

     My father’s grinding stone was turned by hand, and my next job was to rig it up to run with the water power. Then when I wanted to grind an axe or a mower blade, or a cradle scythe, I did not have to get one or two girls to turn the grinding stone, while I held the axe or blade, but the water kept turning the wheel, and it turned the stone. Of course I whistled and sung over the advancements we were making. This wheel was not sufficient to grind corn or oats into chop as fast as one horse could eat it, and the little plant went down, when I left home.

     Did I abandon the idea of a real mill? No sir. All the time I was trying to learn how to preach (and nothing but death could stop me) the water mill was constantly coming up in my mind. Later, I entered the evangelistic field, and have rambled through about 40 counties of this State or parts of them and some in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and was allowed to preach once in Maryland. Whenever I crossed a stream, whether I was going to a funeral, a wedding or to begin a meeting, I looked up and down, to see how the water fall was, and when in 1916, I got back home to serve a group of the country churches, my salary was small, and I persuaded myself that the mill and the farm would be just the combination needed to help preach the gospel.

     I bought that over-shoot water wheel 16 feet high, 3 feet on the face, all steel. It came knocked down and had to be installed. That being accomplished, the wheel stood there with nothing else that looked like a mill and of course looked like the project of some half-crazy or whole-crazy somebody, and the folk began to talk.

     About the first thing I heard was “I think we have made a mistake in calling that man to this field. Anyone who thinks that he can ever get the water out of that creek on that wheel, is not fit for a pastor.” By and by the ditch to bring the water to the pond and on to the wheel began to show up, and then comes another saying, “Abner ought to have sense enough to know that the water will never run up hill.”

     The ditch went on and was nearing completion, and I was needing another ditcher, and asked a neighbor if he knew where I could hire one. “No,” he replied and then asked, “Abner, do you want to grind?” “Yes,” I replied. “Well go on to Richmond, and buy you a gasoline engine, and grind. You ought to have sense enough to know that water will never go where you are trying to make it go, and if it did, it would never run a mill.” The ditch was finished, the water went on that wheel, the mill ran and ground all the grain that came. Not always while the customer waited, for the storage pond was too small, and we had to wait for water. If the pond had been large enough to hold all the water that ran down, we could have ground from 20 to 30 bushels of bread meal per day.

     During the worst drought we ever had, we were able to grind while the mills on the Southanna and Northanna rivers could not turn a wheel.

     One morning while the mill was running, Col. Hamlin came by, and with a smile asked, “Do you think you will ever get your money back?” I replied, “I don’t know about that, but one thing I do know, I have water going my way.” That little stream that had been running, splashing, singing and playing, was now made to play a new game. It shot into those buckets, and then rode gracefully down to the bottom, and while it rode down to the bottom, it turned the grist or chop mill, the corn sheller, the grinding stone, the saw mill, lath saw or wood saw.

     The meal or graham that was made out of corn or wheat that grew on the old farm, and was carefully selected and ground in that mill, turned with that water and gauged as to fineness with these fingers of mine, all seemed to add to its flavor, and it seemed to give extra strength.

     What a time I had with the customers. I have always preached, “Carry your religion into your business,” and here I had such a fine opportunity to preach by precept and example. Christians who are anxious to do it can usually find the chance to introduce the religious topic, if they watch for it.

     When no one was around, I found the mill a fine place to prepare a sermon, or read a book or paper.

     I was on the program for a Convention sermon, and it found shape in the quiet meditation. So the mill was prayer and study room, as well as a factory for food.

     Why did I not keep that mill running? Oh, I would love to, to this minute and if I ever find the way to put the water back on that wheel, I am going to do it, but the income did not keep pace with ever-increasing wages, and I was financially unable to keep it going.

We are not including the location of the mill due to the fact that it is on private property and is not accessible to the public.

To learn more about Goochland water mills, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, Vol. 34, “The Old Water Mills of Goochland” by Abner C. Knibb.  These are available for purchase at the Goochland County History Center and online.

Saving a Nineteenth Century Dining Table

25 Sep

As reported in the November 2019 newsletter, the Goochland County Historical Society (GCHS) was donated a large collection of home furnishings that belonged to the family of Joseph R. Anderson, a wealthy industrialist who once owned Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and a tract of land in Goochland upon which his son Joseph R. Anderson, Jr. built the estate known as Thorncliff (above) in the early 1880s. GCHS is conserving furnishings and will display a collection of the furniture in the near future.

To prepare the furniture for display, some degree of conservation was required. One of the first items to be conserved, was also the largest, a three-piece dining table (shown above, c. 1920) that when put together is a whopping 14.5 feet in length.

According to Jay Gates of Gates Antiques Ltd., the table was probably made in Baltimore, Maryland in the early part of the 1800s. The construction dates for the table pre-date the building of Thorncliff, making this piece one of the earlier items donated by the Anderson family. It could possibly have been in the Richmond home of Joseph Reid Anderson, Sr. that once stood where the Jefferson Hotel stands today.

The two demi-lune end pieces (above), each more than 4 feet long, are mahogany with “plum pudding” veneer on the apron (below) and fluted legs with brass casters.

The center drop-leaf table (below) is also made from mahogany with a veneer apron but features plain legs and no casters. This was not uncommon since the center piece would not be as noticeable as the table ends, and may have been purchased at a later date to extend the demi-lunes.

One of the demi-lunes had apparently been in front of a window as its finish had faded to a very light tan (below before restoration). The demi-lune portions of the table also needed repair as the wood had become unstable and could no longer support the drop-leaves which had become detached. The center drop-leaf table was in better condition but had a large discoloration on the top. It also was sun bleached with some warping to the wood.

The work on the three pieces was done by Gates Antiques Ltd. They repaired the wood where necessary and the finish was hand-rubbed back to a rich mahogany color.

The table in its restored condition (above) is one of the pieces from the Anderson Collection that will be displayed at the Society when we debut “The Anderson Collection: Pieces from the Past.” Sometime in 2021. The gift of the furnishings also included funds for the restoration.

To learn more about Thorncliff, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 47, “Racehorses and Racketeers: The Story of Thorncliff” by James Richmond, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office and online.

Dover: A Tour

20 Mar

“Dover” once stood on Dover Road near Hebron Church. In the 1850s, the mansion was enlarged by James and Ellen Bruce Morson into the large home seen in the pictures below.

dover 1 In a sales brochure put out by the American Trust Company in the early part of the 20th Century, the home was described as “A beautiful country estate, highly developed as a gentleman’s country home, with every natural advantage for a private country club.” At the time, Dover consisted of 350 acres and included a beautiful barn and stone gazebo.

Dover 3

Typical of the time, the home was decorated in the Victorian style with colonial influences. The billiard room had an incredible frieze as seen in the following photograph.

dover 5

The brochure boasted about the incredible finishes and marble mantel that could be found in the drawing room.

dover 4

The size of the rooms is one reason that the sellers were actively trying to interest country clubs to purchase the mansion, it would have lent itself nicely to that type of use.

Dover 2

It is unclear if the brochure worked or if any sales came forward, but sadly the mansion was destroyed by fire on the afternoon of February 8, 1933. Newspaper accounts said the fire began when a spark flew out of one of the decorative fireplaces. The mansion was a total loss.

dover 6

The ruins stood near the road for years and were a popular destination for many locals looking for an afternoon adventure. Finally they were declared dangerous and taken down.

To learn more about Dover Mansion, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 “Dover – Memories” by Virginia Strange Kiser and Vol. 8, No. 1 “Dover” by Elie Weeks, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office.