Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2016

Contact: Randy Jones
Department of Historic Resources
(540) 578-3031 / Randy.Jones@dhr.virginia.gov.

 12 NEW STATE HISTORICAL HIGHWAY MARKERS APPROVED

-—New markers cover topics in the counties of Alleghany (Clifton Forge), Clarke, Lancaster, New Kent (4); and cities of Colonial Heights, Lynchburg, Poquoson, and Richmond, —

-[The full text for each marker is reproduced at the end of this release.]-

 RICHMOND – The now-vanished Virginia State Penitentiary, the liberation of 69 enslaved African Americans during the War of 1812, and a colonial-era town on the Pamunkey River are among the topics covered in 12 new state historical markers recently approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

 In Richmond a new marker will rise to commemorate the site of the Virginia State Penitentiary, which was authorized by the General Assembly in 1796, “during a penal reform movement aimed at rehabilitating convicts through confinement and labor,” according to the forthcoming marker. The penitentiary opened in Richmond in 1800 with the original building. Among its earliest inmates was former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. Inmates sentenced to death were executed at the prison between 1908 and 1990, the year it closed. The prison complex was razed in 1992.

In Lancaster County a marker will recall that during the War of 1812 three enslaved men who escaped from the Corotoman Plantation later guided British barges back to carry off friends and relatives. The liberated people included 46 children and represented “the largest group of slaves to leave a Chesapeake Bay plantation during the war,” the approved marker’s text states. “About 2,400 enslaved African Americans in Virginia escaped to the British during the War of 1812,” the marker will read.

Two other signs will be erected alongside the Cumberland Town marker.

The French Cannon at Cumberland Landing marker will discuss the recovery in 1816 of a bronze French cannon from the Pamunkey River. New England ship captain Gilbert Chase used a patented diving bell to recover the Revolutionary War-era cannon, which was 12-feet long, 5,240 pounds, and decorated with mottoes and coats of arms. Virginia claimed the recovered cannon as state property but in 1817 the Virginia Superior Court of Chancery ruled in favor of Chase, who retained possession of the cannon.

Another sign, “McClellan’s Camp at Cumberland Landing,” will recall the site’s role in the Civil War during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. As Union forces advanced up the Pamunkey River toward Richmond, McClellan used Cumberland Landing as a headquarters and supply depot between May 13 and 16. “Nearly 110,000 troops, possibly the largest American army assembled to that date,” in the future marker’s words, camped in the vicinity. James F. Gibson, a Civil War-era photographer, shot photographs of the sprawling tent city Union soldiers erected.

A sign for the 17th-century English settler George Poindexter also will rise in New Kent County near the intersection of N. Courthouse Road (Route 155) and Poindexter Road. Poindexter arrived in Virginia by the 1650s and settled at Middle Plantation, now Williamsburg. He eventually rose to prominence as a tobacco planter, owning land in at least three counties and many enslaved African Americans.

Virginia’s colonial history will also be featured in two other signs.

The Brick House at Conjurer’s Neck” marker, slated for Colonial Heights, will recall that Richard Kennon and his wife Elizabeth (Worsham) settled at Conjurer’s Neck soon after purchasing the land in 1677. A peninsula formed by Swift Creek and the Appomattox River, Conjurer’s Neck was occupied by Native Americans as early as 1000 to 3000 BC and the “general area supported a substantial Appamattuck Indian settlement by AD 1600,” the marker will note. The site today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Conjurer’s Neck Archaeological District.

In the City of Poquoson a marker will be erected to commemorate Footeball Quarter Creek Plantation. A former carpenter’s helper, Thomas Kirby, who arrived in Virginia by the 1630s, purchased the plantation in 1642. His success as a tobacco planter earned Kirby the status of gentleman by 1660. “Late in the 20th century, descendant James L. Kirby Jr. sponsored an extensive archaeological investigation of [the Footeball Quarter Creek Plantation] site that revealed evidence of the original house, outbuildings, stockades, and palisades,” the forthcoming marker will read.

Four other markers were approved by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources during its quarterly meeting in June:

  • In Clarke County’s Berryville a marker will rise to honor Lucy Diggs Slowe. While attending Howard University, Slowe “became a founding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first Greek letter organization for African American women,” the marker will read. Slowe also won the national championship in women’s singles at the segregated American Tennis Association’s inaugural tournament in 1917. During her career as an educator, Slowe was president of the National Association of College Women, a Howard University English professor and the university’s first Dean of Women. Slowe died in 1937. 
  •  A marker in Clifton Forge (Alleghany County) will summarize the history of the Neo-Classical Revival-style Masonic Theatre, built in 1905. The Masons used the third floor of the theatre for meetings between 1906 and 1921. With a 500-seat capacity, the theatre hosted plays, vaudeville shows, movies, and community events. Performers reportedly included Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Burl Ives, and the Count Basie Orchestra. The building has been renovated and is re-opening this July.
  • A Lynchburg marker will honor Lucille Chaffin Kent, who was “among the first Virginia women to earn an instructor’s rating in aeronautics,” the marker will read. During World War II, Kent became “ground school director for the Civilian Pilot Training Program” in Lynchburg and instructed about 2,000 future military pilots at Lynchburg College and elsewhere in the city. She was also the author of a comprehensive aeronautics manual. Kent died in 1997.
  • In Richmond, a marker will be installed that recalls the settling of Richmond Hill, today’s Church Hill. Richard Adams, one of Richmond’s most prominent men, built a now-vanished house on the hill by the 1790s. A second home built on the site around 1810 still stands. The latter house was remodeled into the Italianate style in 1859. In 1866, the Order of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary established a monastery and school on the hill and erected a chapel in 1894-95. The monastery “was purchased in 1987 by an ecumenical Christian community, which named the property Richmond Hill and opened it as a retreat center and place of prayer for the city,” the marker will read.

The Virginia highway marker program, which began in 1927 with installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Rte. 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most of which are maintained by Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.

The manufacturing cost of each new highway marker is covered by its sponsor.

More information about the Historical Highway Marker Program is available on the website of the Department of Historic Resources at http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/.

Full Text of Markers:

(Please note that some texts may be slightly modified before the manufacture and installation of the signs. Also locations proposed for each sign must be approved in consultation with VDOT or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT authority.)

Lucy Diggs Slowe (4 Jul. 1883-21 Oct. 1937)
Lucy Slowe, educator, was born in Berryville. In 1908, while attending Howard University, she became a founding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first Greek letter organization for African American women, and was elected its first president. In 1917 Slowe won the national championship in women’s singles at the segregated American Tennis Association’s inaugural tournament. During her career as a public school teacher and principal, president of the National Association of College Women, English professor at Howard University, and Howard’s first Dean of Women (1922-1937), Slowe w
orked to combat gender inequities and to prepare African American women for leadership.

Sponsor: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Locality:
Clarke County
Proposed Location:
313 Josephine St., Berryville
Sponsor Contact
: Addie Whitaker

69 Slaves Escape to Freedom
About 2,400 enslaved African Americans in Virginia escaped to the British during the War of 1812, encouraged in part by a proclamation issued on 2 Apr. 1814 offering them freedom and resettlement in “His Majesty’s Colonies.”
Three enslaved men from Corotoman, a plantation two miles west of here, fled on 18 Apr. 1814. Several days later, they guided British barges back to carry off friends and relatives, including 46 children, the largest group of slaves to leave a Chesapeake Bay plantation during the war. Some settled in Nova Scotia or Trinidad. British reparations later compensated some owners for departed slaves, including, in 1828, those from Corotoman.

Sponsor: Lois Williams
Locality:
Lancaster County
Proposed Location:
Route 3 near north end of Norris Bridge at Rappahannock River

Lucille Chaffin Kent (1908-1997)
Lucille Kent, born near here, was among the first Virginia women to earn an instructor’s rating in aeronautics. In 1939 she began teaching meteorology, navigation, and civil air regulations at E. C. Glass High School. During World War II, she was ground school director for the Civilian Pilot Training Program (later War Training Service) in Lynchburg and instructed about 2,000 future military pilots at Lynchburg College, in commandeered facilities at the Miller Home for Girls, and at Preston Glenn Airport. After qualifying as an instructor on the Link Trainer, a flight simulator, Kent taught pilots how to navigate using instruments. She later wrote a comprehensive aeronautics manual.

Locality: Lynchburg
Proposed Location: 2211 Memorial Avenue 

Virginia State Penitentiary
The Virginia General Assembly authorized a state penitentiary in 1796 during a penal reform movement aimed at rehabilitating convicts through confinement and labor. Benjamin H. Latrobe, who later designed the United States Capitol, was the primary architect. The penitentiary opened here in 1800, and other buildings were added later. Early inmates included f
ormer U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, incarcerated in 1807 while awaiting trial for treason, and British prisoners captured during the War of 1812. Virginia’s executions took place here from 1908 until the penitentiary closed in 1990. Latrobe’s structure was razed in 1927, and the rest of the complex was demolished in 1992.

Sponsor: Dale M. Brumfield
Locality:
Richmond City
Proposed Location:
Belvidere St. just north of the intersection with Spring St.

Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill was an early name for Church Hill. Richard Adams, one of the most prominent men in Richmond, built a house on this site by the 1790s, and a second house, still standing, was constructed here about 1810. William Taylor remodeled this residence in the Italianate style in 1859, adding the second story and porches. In 1866, the Order of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary established a monastery and school here, and they erected a chapel in 1894-95. The monastery, known as Monte Maria, was purchased in 1987 by an ecumenical Christian community, which named the property Richmond Hill and opened it as a retreat center and place of prayer for the city.

Sponsor: Richmond Hill
Locality: Richmond City
Proposed Location: 2209 E. Grace St.
Sponsor Contact: Janie Walker 

The Brick House at Conjurer’s Neck
Conjurer's Neck, located on this peninsula formed by Swift Creek and the Appomattox River, was occupied by Native Americans as early as 1000-3000 BC. This general area supported a substantial Appamattuck Indian settlement by AD 1600. Richard Kennon, a Bermuda Hundred merchant who later served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, purchased the Neck in 1677. He and Elizabeth (Worsham) settled here soon after, and their firstborn son was laid to rest here in 1688. By the mid-18th century, the Kennon family had built the Brick House, for years a navigational landmark on the river. The Conjurer’s Neck Archaeological District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sponsor: Old Brick House Foundation
Locality:
Colonial Heights
Proposed Location:
131 Waterfront Drive
Sponsor Contact
: George Schanzenbacher

Cumberland Town
Richard Littlepage III established Cumberland Town on the south side of the Pamunkey River in 1748. A busy shipping center, the town offered a tobacco inspection station, warehouses, wharves, and a ferry. The Virginia House of Burgesses briefly considered Cumberland Town a candidate to replace Williamsburg as the colonial capital in 1748. During the Revolutionary War, a public supply depot and a military hospital were established here. During the Peninsula Campaign of the Civil War, Cumberland was the headquarters of Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan from 13 to 16 May 1862. Nearly 110,000 troops camped here before moving toward White House.

Sponsor: Southwestern Holdings, Inc.
Locality: New Kent County
Proposed Location: 9007 Cumberland Road
Sponsor Contact: John Poindexter 


French Cannon at Cumberland Landing

Gilbert Chase, a New England ship captain,
recovered a bronze French cannon in the Pamunkey River off Cumberland Town in June 1816. Two members of his crew descended in a diving bell patented in 1806, which Chase had acquired the rights to use. The 12-foot-long, 5,240-pound cannon, lost during the Revolutionary War, was decorated with mottoes and coats of arms. Virginia claimed it as state property, but Chase argued that the patent authorized him to keep what he salvaged and that the state had forfeited its rights by abandoning the cannon. In Nicholas v. Chase (1817), Virginia’s Superior Court of Chancery ruled in favor of Chase. The cannon was likely melted down during the Civil War.

Sponsor: Southwestern Holdings, Inc.
Locality:
New Kent County
Proposed Location:
9007 Cumberland Road
Sponsor Contact
: John Poindexter


McClellan’s Camp at Cumberland Landing

In May 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign, the Union Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan advanced up the Pamunkey River toward Richmond, while Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army moved to defend the city. Cumberland Landing, just northeast of here, served as McClellan’s headquarters and supply depot from
13 to 16 May. Nearly 110,000 troops, possibly the largest American army assembled to that date, camped nearby. James F. Gibson, a pioneer in Civil War photojournalism, captured striking images of the sprawling tent city, ships on the river, and formerly enslaved African Americans called “contrabands.”     

Sponsor: Southwestern Holdings, Inc.
Locality:
New Kent County
Proposed Location:
9007 Cumberland Road
Sponsor Contact
: John Poindexter 


George Poindexter (ca. 1627-ca. 1693)
George Poindexter (Poingdestre), a member of a prominent family on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, arrived in Virginia by the 1650s and settled at Middle Plantation, now Williamsburg. He acquired land in at least three counties, prospered as a tobacco planter, owned a number of enslaved African Americans, and controlled an interest in the merchant ship Planter’s Adventure. In 1679 Poindexter was elected to the vestry of Bruton Parish. He and his wife, Susanna, moved to New Kent County in the 1680s. Their descendants owned several plantations in this area, including Cedar Lane, Criss Cross, and Moss Side.

Sponsor: Southwestern Holdings, Inc.
Locality:
New Kent County
Proposed Location:
Route 155 at intersection with Poindexter Road
Sponsor Contact
: John Poindexter


Footeball Quarter Creek Plantation
Thomas Kirby, a former carpenter's helper who arrived in Virginia by the 1630s, purchased this 450-acre plantation in 1642. Successful as a tobacco planter, he attained the status of gentleman by 1660. At that time he entered into an unusual contract with physician Peter Plovier for lifetime medical care in exchange for 100 acres of his plantation. At his death in 1668, Kirby left a wife, Mary, and a son, Robert. Late in the 20th century, descendant James L. Kirby Jr. sponsored an extensive archaeological investigation of this site that revealed evidence of the original house, outbuildings, stockades, and palisades.

Sponsor: Footeball Quarter Creek Foundation
Locality:
Poquoson
Proposed Location:
30 Robert Bruce Road
Sponsor Contact
: Wade Kirby


Masonic Theatre

Low Moor Lodge No. 166, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, commissioned this Neo-Classical Revival–style opera house and lodge, erected in 1905 at a cost of about $40,000. The Masons held meetings on the third floor from 1906 to 1921. The theatre, able to seat more than 500 people, hosted plays, vaudeville shows, silent and talking films, community events, and political addresses. Live performers reportedly included Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Burl Ives, and the Count Basie Orchestra. The theatre, later renamed the Stonewall, closed in 1987. Major restoration work during 2015-2016 brought it back into full operation.

Sponsor: Masonic Theatre Preservation Foundation
Locality:
Clifton Forge
Proposed Location:
Intersection of Main St. and Ridgeway St. (Route 60)
Sponsor Contact
: John Strott, Lha5xo@aol.com

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