Education, Maternal Kin, Other Documents, Virginia

To get up a school in the county.

On 19 August 1868, Thomas Leahey, Assistant Sub Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands (better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau), took pen in hand:

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Leahey’s brief letter suggests deep familiarity with Joseph R. Holmes, my great-great-grandfather Jasper Holmes‘ brother. He is telling Holmes that he has moved his office from Farmville to Charlotte Court House and wants him to notify Holmes’ “people” — the community he represented — where they can find him. Leahey’s invitation to meet at any time implies previous visits, though to date I’ve found no evidence of them in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Leahey’s inquiry “whether there is a School for colored Children at Keysville, and if there is not what are the prospects of getting up one.”

Just three days later, in a clear hand and with fairly sound grammar speaking to years of practiced literacy — though he was only three years out of slavery — Holmes replied. He advised that a small for-pay school operated in the Keysville area and expressed pleasure at Leahey’s interest in education. He apologized for not having been to see Leahey sooner — “I have been so busey” — and mentioned that he was headed to Richmond the following day. (Who was “Lut. Grayham” A lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s First Military District?) If “life last,” he promised, he would see Leahey on the next court day.

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Apparently, Holmes and Leahey did meet, then and perhaps on other occasions. The next bit of correspondence found between them is dated 24 November 1868, when Leahey sent Holmes a voucher for a school’s rent. Whether this is the private school Holmes referred to in his August letter or a school established by the Freedmen’s Bureau is not clear. Leahey asks that “Mrs. Jenkins” sign the rent voucher as well as triplicate leases for the school. (I haven’t found copies of either to date.)

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Who was Mrs. Jenkins? Below is a short stretch of the 1870 census of Walton township, Charlotte County, Virginia. It shows part of Joseph Holmes’ former neighborhood, just west of the town of Keysville. “Former,” because Holmes had been shot dead on the steps of Charlotte Court House in May 1869, as detailed here. There are his children, Payton, Louisa and Joseph Holmes, living with the family of Wat and Nancy Carter, whom I believe to be Holmes’ mother and stepfather. Two households away is 30 year-old presumed widow Lucy Jenkins, “teaching school.” Jenkins, born in Virginia, was no Yankee schoolmarm; I’m searching for more about her. Her commitment to the little school at Keysville, even after Holmes’ assassination, evinces some mettle.

1880 Lucy Jenkins

Records from “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, www.familysearch.org, citing microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration.

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