Celebrating Women’s History Month 2022: Pearl Randolph, Local Hero

25 Mar
Pearl Randolph holding the plaque she received after winner the school bus contest. (Goochland Gazette)

Pearl Randolph, a School Board member and the mother of 11 children, will always be remembered as the woman who won a new school bus for Goochland County. In 1972, the Wayne Corporation, a major supplier of school buses, held a nationwide contest seeking suggestions to improve the safety of its buses. Ms. Randolph entered the contest, submitting a suggestion to incorporate noise reduction into the buses. From among 5,000 entries, hers was selected as the winner. As a result, Goochland County received a new, free school bus. She and her husband, Elwood, were flown to Richmond, Indiana, headquarters of the Wayne Corporation, where they were treated to an awards dinner and a tour of the bus-building plant. Shortly afterwards, a shiny 66-passenger Lifeguard bus arrived in the county where it served for many years.

At the time of the award, Mrs. Randolph had been a School Board member for only two years. In addition, she was a member of the Board of Directors for Citizen Development, Goochland Board of Community Action; and was actively involved in the Parent-Teacher Association and the Goochland Assembly and Recreation Center. While she contributed in many ways to improving life in Goochland County, she will always be remembered for her innovative suggestion that won the county a school bus.

Mrs. Randolph lived in Goochland until her death at age 86.

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2022: Mary Soule’ Bowles Served Her Country in World War II and After

16 Mar
Mary Soule’ Bowles, Technician 5th (T/5) [c. 1943] 
The round blue patch with the seven-pointed stars indicates the 7th division
The two stripes with the “T” indicate Technician 5th Grade (T/5)
Above her blouse pocket, is the gold and green Women’s Army Corps Service Military Ribbon and the red with white striped, Army Good Conduct Military Ribbon

Mary Soule’ Bowles, born October 1, 1921 in the Cardwell area of Goochland County to Malcolm Everitt Bowles and Edna Soule’ Watkins Bowles, served her country in World War II and after. Mary graduated from Goochland High School in 1939; by 1941, she had moved to Prince George’s County, Maryland to live with her mother’s sister. It was while living and working there that she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

The WAAC was authorized by Congress on May 14, 1942, as a voluntary enrollment program for up to 150,000 women to join the U.S. Army in a noncombat capacity. The program allowed women to serve their country in a variety of jobs, including those of medial care professional, welfare worker, clerical worker, cook, messenger, military postal employee, chauffeur, and telephone and telegraph operator. Mary signed up for the WAAC not long after its creation, enlisting December 11, 1942, in Washington, DC and entering with the rank of Aviation Cadet. According to her enlistment record, she was single at the time and worked as a file clerk. It is unknown where she completed her basic training, but she ultimately served as a medical technician at the Yakima (Washington) Training Center.

Mary left the Army in 1946 to return to Virginia where she enrolled in the Medical College of Virginia (now Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine). She graduated in 1950 as a registered nurse and re-enlisted in the United States Army, entering as a First Lieutenant. Mary served as a nurse with the 12th Army Battalion Medical Unit in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. There she met Paul O. Barrick, Private Second Class, whom she married in November 1952. After marriage, she resigned her commission and moved to Newville, Pennsylvania with her husband. However in 1958, Mary, Paul, and their three children moved back to Goochland County where she lived until her death in December 2005.

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2022: Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett, the Right Hand of Maggie L. Walker

11 Mar
Lelia W. Bankett (left) and Maggie L. Walker (Right). (Courtesy National Park Service, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site)

Born in Goochland’s Dover District in 1885, Lelia Lesett Williams moved first to Lynchburg and then to Richmond to complete her education. There she married John E. Bankett and took a job with a prominent woman of historical importance Maggie L. Walker, the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke. At the time Mrs. Walker was building it into a large and powerful organization. Lelia assisted in this effort and deserves some credit for both Mrs. Walker’s success and the success of the Order.

Following the Civil War, insurance companies owned by whites denied the black community access to disability and life insurance. By 1895, and over the next 30 years, the Independent Order of St. Luke grew from what was primarily a burial society for the black community to a fraternal order and life insurance company, providing its members with a social outlet, as well as security, including the payment of death benefits.

By 1899, Mrs. Walker had taken complete charge of the Order. It was a time when the need for economic independence was critical to improving the lives of African Americans. Her ability to inspire and organize led to record accomplishments for the Order over the next few decades. Membership campaigns grew the treasury, allowed prompt payment of insurance claims, and led to lower premiums. Her vision focused on contributing to the development of modern, autonomous African American communities. Further, her vision offered African American women the opportunity to work as professionals. Lelia Williams Bankett was one of those women, having joined the Order in 1903. Due to her executive ability, she moved up in the organization, becoming Mrs. Walker’s private secretary, then traveling agent, and finally General Field Secretary.

Then as now, success of any fraternal society hinges on membership recruitment and payment of dues. While Lelia may have begun her career at the Order by working as a stenographer, her real contribution was in field work; she excelled in growing membership. It was her outstanding ability to bring in new members that made her invaluable to Mrs. Walker, eventually leading her to be named her assistant in 1921. In today’s world, Lelia’s job would probably be considered that of a community organizer. It required a combination of enthusiastic selling and sound management.

By 1924, the main office had 50 individuals serving 50,000 members in more than 1,500 chapters. A few years later, it was said to have a presence in 24 states with 80,000 adult members and 20,000 youth members. Maggie L. Walker died on December 15, 1934. Despite Lelia’s strong campaign at the Order’s 1935 convention, she was not elected Secretary. Although she never succeeded in obtaining its highest leadership position, she made a significant and lasting contribution to its success. Lelia served the organization until her death in 1939. She is buried in Goochland.

The above is based on the article “Lelia Williams Bankett: Building an Empire” by Eleanor Andrews, which appeared in Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, Vol. 50, 2019.

Home, Sweet Home

23 Feb

Alec and Rose Winston, with their son Davey, sit outside their home in western Goochland in 1918. Alec was born in 1876 and Rose about 10 years earlier. At the time the photo was taken, Davey was a teenager. For many years Alec worked on a nearby farm belonging to W.C. Duke. In the days before tractors, mules working as singles or in teams plowed the fields and hauled wagons when crops were harvested or wood or ice was cut and gathered. Alec was responsible for selecting and overseeing the mules. While he trained other farm workers in handling them, he often drove them himself. According to stories Mr. Duke liked to tell, once Alec had trained a mule, he or she could be directed solely by voice commands. While Mr. Duke was not in the mule trading business, occasionally he would sell one. Alec’s reputation for training mules was well known in western Goochland; as Mr. Duke liked to point out, mules trained by Alec Winston always brought the best price.

Celebrating Black History Month at the Goochland County Historical Society

10 Feb

Faces & Places in Goochland is a photographic exhibit that celebrates the county’s African American heritage; it will run through the month of February, celebrating Black History Month. The Jackson Blacksmith Shop, Second Union Rosenwald School, Emmaus Baptist Church, and First Baptist Church represent selected places, while nine portraits represent men and women from the 19th century to the present. They include Dr. Arthur Gilbert Blakey, Dr. James Harold Bowles, Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett, Josephine Turpin Washington, Henry Turpin, William P. Moseley, Sarah Ann Carroll, and World War II military Matt Archer Allen and William Edward Fleming.

The Jackson Blacksmith Shop, Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett, and Josephine Turpin Washington have all been subjects of articles in recent issues of the Goochland County Historical Society’s Magazine. (Jackson Blacksmith Shop, 2018 issue; Lelia Lesett Williams Bankett, 2019 issue; and Josephine Turpin Washington, 2020 issue.)

The Faces & Places in Goochland exhibit runs through the month of February at the Society’s headquarters, 2924 River Road West, next to the Goochland Courthouse Green. The Society is open to the public Wednesday through Friday, and every second Saturday, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Lost Goochland – New Market

27 Jan

Near Othma, Virginia, the Payne family built several large homes in the 1700s. White Hall, the largest and oldest of the homes, is now long gone; however, it is remembered by the road that still bears its name. Another home, Cleveland, was saved and moved to the eastern end of the county. Hickory Hill still stands where it was built, also on a road that bears its name. A fourth Payne home, New Market, has been somewhat more elusive.

In the “American: Early Republic Gallery” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts hangs the painting “Alexander Spotswood Payne and His Brother John Robert Dandridge Payne, with Their Nurse.” The c. 1790-1791 work was one of 10 portraits painted for the children’s father Archer Payne, in Goochland by an unknown artist, known as the Payne Limner. Just behind the young African American nurse is a corner of a house, possibly the first known “image” of New Market. This tantalizing glimpse led to a quest to see if any other images exist of this long gone Payne family seat.

Luckily, we struck gold almost at once. The Mutual Assurance Society Against Fire on Buildings of the State of Virginia began issuing policies in 1796, shortly after the property was deeded in 1775 to Archer Payne by his father John Payne. The Goochland homes that were covered in the policies featured a flattened depiction of the home being insured. However, at the bottom of 1801 policy for New Market is a detailed drawing of the home. The New Market drawing is a happy anomaly. Since photography didn’t exist in 1801, this may be as close as we can get to an image of this lost Goochland home.

New Market is listed in the policy as being a “wooden dwelling house 54 feet long by 30 feet wide. Two stories high, with two wooden wings of 16 feet by 20 feet, each one story high.” The house sat 3 feet off the ground on a brick foundation and was valued at $3,000.00 in 1801. From the drawing, it must have been quite impressive for the time period. One thing the policy makes clear is that New Market was not a new home and was discounted for “decay or bad repair.” New Market was listed in two policies, 1801 and 1805; however, only the first policy featured the dramatic drawing of the home.

According to the Works Progress Administration Historical Inventory, the house called New Market that made it into the twentieth century was built around 1830. This could mean that Archer Payne’s New Market possibly burned in the 1820s. When Payne died, he was listed as being “of White Hall” which would make sense if New Market was already gone. Sadly, the second New Market is also gone as is White Hall. Hickory Hill and Cleveland remain to commemorate the grand houses of the Payne family that once thrived in Goochland County. The Society’s ongoing exhibit “Lost Architecture of Goochland” which features photographs of some of the lost architectural treasures that once occupied land in the county, does not now include New Market. Since this new information has come to light, New Market soon will be added.


10 Sep
Contention c. 1900 (Goochland County Historical Society)

The Pleasants family have deep roots in Goochland. The first members of the Pleasants family to settle in Goochland were Quakers seeking refuge from the religious intolerance that pervaded a colony where the Church of England was the only recognized church.

The most famous member of this family was James Pleasants who lived at Contention (near Crozier) and became the third man born in Goochland to become governor of Virginia. (Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Mann Randolph II were the others.)1

The story of Contention’s name change has become the stuff of legend in the County. Originally known as Pleasant Green, in an 1890 Richmond Dispatch article about old mansions, the unnamed writer spun a story that had passed down in the Pleasants family about the name Contention.

The cause of the name of this old mansion was a singular one. It was once the property and in the possession of Charles Woodson, Sr., whose son Tarlton was a general and whose son Frederick was a major in the Revolutionary War. He was a very strong-minded but singular man. His wife being a Pleasants, he acquired the home by her and his right was disputed by his connection, Mr. Pleasants, an ancestor of the Governor.  A tedious action of ejectment had been slowly proceeding when Mr. Pleasants’s counsel told him he never could recover as long as Mr. Woodson held possession, but that if he came in possession Woodson count not recover the land, “Possession being nine points of the law,” Mr. Woodson living in Powhatan and having houses elsewhere kept the house at Contention locked and carried the key in his pocket. On one of his regular and periodical visits, in attempting to open the front door, he found that Pleasants in his absence had put a pad-lock on it and had thus locked Woodson out. Finding that he could no enter without breaking a lock, which he had defied Pleasants to do, he said: “I didn’t know that Bob had so much sense, and I will give him the place.” He stuck his key in the lock  and left the place, which has been called Contention ever since.2

Contention c. 1970 (Jane Saunders Collection, Goochland County Historical Society)

According to Adelaide Nuckols, who once lived at Contention, the original Colonial era Pleasants home (pictured at the beginning of this post) was demolished in 1917 and a new home (pictured above) was built on the spot. It is some contention among locals that instead of being demolished, the old home was simply swallowed up by the new one as a core of the much larger mansion. Contention will continue to live up to its name.

  1. Cece Bullard, Goochland Yesterday and Today: A Pictorial History (Virginia: Donning Company, 1994), 84. 
  2. Richmond Dispatch, 1890

National Corn on the Cob Day

11 Jun
Background photo created by topntp26 – www.freepik.com

There is an old saying that “every dog has his day.” However, nowadays it seems that just about anything you can name has its day and June 11 is National Corn on the Cob Day.   

Over the years, Goochland County farmers have produced many an ear of corn. No doubt, the Monacan Indians who once lived in the area, were the first to raise corn. The low grounds next to the James River proved especially good for raising corn. It is believed that the Monacans grew corn there along with squash and beans, a combination of crops known as the “three sisters.” From 1728 when the county was officially established until at least the early 20th century, people took their corn to local grist mills to be ground into meal for human consumption. Corn was also fed to a variety of livestock, ranging from pigs to chickens. Today, if you don’t grow corn yourself, you can pick up the freshest ears at the Goochland Farmers Market. (To learn more about the Goochland Farmers Market, check out its Facebook page.) https://www.facebook.com/GoochlandFarmersMarket/

Should you not like corn on the cob or perhaps you just want to try something different, there is always corn pudding. Favorite Recipes of Goochland County, 1776 – 1976, published by the Goochland County Historical Society as part of America’s Bicentennial celebration, contains no less than 8 recipes! While most called for canned creamed corn, two requiring fresh corn off the cob, stand out.  Give Mrs. Willie Condrey’s or Mrs. Watkins Gathright’s recipe a try. In the cookbook, they appear as “Corn Pudding III” and “Corn Pudding V” respectively.

Corn Pudding III – Mrs. Willie Condrey

  • 1 quart tender corn
  • 2 cups sweet milk
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or lemon flavoring
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 small or 1 large egg

Beat eggs, sugar, and butter until fluffy; add flavoring, salt, and flour and mix together well. Combine milk and corn in deep baking dish; then combine with other ingredients. Cook in a slow oven until thick and slightly brown on top.

Corn Pudding V – Mrs. Watkins Gathright

  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Dash of pepper

Combine all ingredients; pour into greased baking dish and set in a pan of hot water. Bake at 350 degrees until set (about 50 minutes). Yields 6 servings.

From the Collection: Gathright Family Cameo Jewelry

2 Jun

In 2006, Justina Bowles Hundley donated several items to the Goochland County Historical Society including a jewelry box and several cameos (above). In her donation letter, Ms. Hundley stated the jewelry box had belonged to her cousin, Heath Gathright. One can only assume the cameos came with the box since an online picture of Mrs. Gathright (below) shows her wearing similar cameo jewelry.

Cameo jewelry has been popular for centuries. Cameo artworks are crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, the top of which protrudes from its background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. The ones in our collection are set in gold surrounds. Two could be used as pins or on a necklace and one is a ring.


The jewelry box (above) is from the early part of the twentieth century. It was a popular form for ladies to collect and can be found on online auction sites. It is painted wood with a lithograph under glass for its cover. A mirror is just under the top.  

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