Happy New Year!
2016 was quite a year for the Littlepage Journal Project. New primary sources came to hand, errors in the transcript of what I am now calling CJ7 were discovered and corrected, and – best of all – more people became involved. This is now a true team project, and the better for it.
Round one of transcribing Caroline’s 1st journal, CJ1, was completed last month. Our merry band of volunteers did a wonderful job. Running from 18 February, 1855 to 17 April, 1857, the manuscript is about 180 pages. Proofing and footnoting are underway. We will soon start the process all over again for CJ2. That will take us to 15 March, 1858. Transcriber positions still available. Several options for what will happen with these manuscripts are under consideration. In other words, I have no idea what comes next.
We are closer to identifying the final resting place of Lewis, Caroline, and at least some of their children. More research is necessary, but it is likely these Littlepages are buried neither at Aspen Grove, Mount Hope, nor Woodbury. More on this later.
As these projects play out, I bring to your attention…
I will be speaking at the quarterly meeting of the King William Historical Society on Sunday, January 15. The meeting is planned for the King William County Administration Building behind the “old” Courthouse at 2:30 PM. This past year I had the opportunity to talk with three groups about Caroline’s Journal. They were fun. This presentation will build on those talks using as a point of departure the new Littlepage website.
Today marks the beginning of The Journal of Rose Littlepage. Lewis and Caroline’s third daughter kept a journal for the year 1853. That journal, and a transcript, was donated to the Virginia Historical Society at the same time as Caroline’s. Although regrettably shorter, I believe it is every bit as rich a document as her mother’s. I photographed each page last summer and, with the wonderful assistance of Ruthe Robbins, the original transcript has been tweaked, annotated, and is ready for prime time. In it we get to see the Littlepages and antebellum King William through different, younger eyes. Youth will be served. There will be daily entries that will finish up sometime in early 2018. And, as always, remember that it is a work-in-progress.
I am also scheduled to speak about this Littlepage Project to the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia (GRIVA) on April 25th, 7:30 PM, at Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W Huguenot Rd, North Chesterfield, VA. Even if you are able to attend the KWHS meeting this month, I invite you to attend this talk as well. The emphasis will be somewhat different.
Finally, I am excited to have been asked to talk about this project of ours in April to a meeting of college professors and graduate students, the Triangle Early American History Seminar (TEAHS). We will focus on the “Digital Humanities.” I have been attending these meetings at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park for longer than I have been working with the Littlepages. It is the nearest thing academically I could do short of becoming a graduate student. It has been a wonderful experience sitting around the table as professional historians talk shop. Now I might be able to participate in some giving back.
2016 certainly contained surprises for us all. (?!?) This new year is likely to do the same. Remember, we are all in this together. Stay tuned.
“There may even be an additional journal or two.”
Little did I know at the beginning of this month when I wrote the above that within a few days two more of Caroline’s journals would be discovered.
Perhaps “discovered” is not the right word. Volumes #1 and 2 (1855-1858) were donated to the Library of Virginia in 2012. Jenny Littlepage Wilkinson, who has been of enormous behind-the-curtain support as this website has moved along, was simply googling Caroline’s name one evening and a four year-old Quarterly Accession Report of the Library’s popped up. It contained details of the donation. A quick trip to the LOV’s online catalog confirmed they were sitting there patiently waiting on us. We were stunned.
A Maryland county genealogical society received the two volumes some years ago. Deciding they belonged in Virginia, they contacted the LOV which was happy to accept them. With all of the research I have done on the Littlepages in that building since then, one might have thought I would have noticed. I hope you are laughing with me.
So last week I made an emergency visit to the Library. Having no idea of the condition of the volumes, nor their length, I was a bit on edge by the time I saw the box. But in short, both are about perfect. Their condition is much better than Vol. 7, and the entries are of similar quality and length. Caroline sounds like Caroline, just a dozen years younger. Her children are a bit more child-like. And we now can learn something of husband Lewis, who she refers to as “The Maj.” We now have over six years of Caroline’s journal entries, hundreds of pages, about 300,000 words.
Well, there are still 5 journals missing, about 9 years worth. Jenny and Dudley Eichhorn are now vigorously tracing down leads. Cross fingers. If we are able to locate and assemble text from all the volumes we would have 15 continuous years of Caroline’s daily entries, and an additional ~half-million words to transcribe. That would be wading into some deep water.
As it is, decisions must be made about Volumes 1 & 2. At the very least, transcriptions are in order. Some of what I gleaned in the few minutes I have spent with the volumes has already proven useful in my understanding of our Vol. 7. I can’t wait to read more. But here is where I need your help. Would you like to assist with the transcription process?
I have already photocopied about a year of Vol. #1. (I love my iPhone.) As the pages are much easier to read than Vol. 7 we should have an easier time of it than did Peggy Dinehart. (My admiration of her work has grown with the eight pages I have transcribed from scratch so far.) When you volunteer I can send you a Dropbox link to several pages. You can work on them at your leisure, and then return the transcription to me via email. Easy. Just scroll down the About menu and use the Contact form. Once we have good transcriptions we can decide the next move.
Won’t you help?
Happy 2nd Anniversary from the Department of Corrections Department
Caroline’s Journal, the blog, is two years old today. We now have only a little over a year until Caroline finally buys that new blank book from Richmond, sets aside the old store ledger she has been writing in, and begins her Vol. 8.
There have been several background developments this spring which may interest you.
I had the opportunity a few weeks back to travel to the home of Dudley Eichhorn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He and his sister Lou Schroeder donated the journal to the Virginia Historical Society over a dozen years ago. Dudley, however, was the sibling responsible for having the volume transcribed. His long-time friend Peggy Dinehart, and her sister Beverly Pearce who did the typing, volunteered hundreds of hours of tedious labor to make the transcription happen. They were motivated by the same curiosity that brings many of you to the website daily. Without their efforts, and the stewardship of Dudley and Lou, this blog would have never happened.
I really enjoyed meeting Dudley. I was able to share with him the contents of the “Littlepage Box,” contents he knew of but had never seen. We were joined by his cousin Jenny Littlepage Wilkinson and her husband Jim. We had a great visit around his dining room table. Some family mysteries were cleared up, others remain. It was a fine trip.
I have not made as much progress as I would have liked fleshing out the bios under The Enslaved menu. Life sort of happens. This spring was filled with one diversion after another that made it difficult to make much obvious progress on this portion of the blog. My bad. I will redouble my efforts.
Over the past weeks I have been making silent corrections to the text, mainly to footnotes. Most are small and not significant enough to bring to your attention – nothing that changes the story line. But not all.
A descendent of the KW Robins family suggested I might want to revisit my identification of the “Cousin Jim” who Caroline frequently writes about. He appears most often as preaching at her church, Zion. I had footnoted him as John Armistead Robins, during those years, the Robins family patriarch. I was uneasy that his nickname was “Jim,” but with all the other odd nicknames in the Journal, I did not give it
much enough thought. After all his son James Armistead Robins was indeed called Jim. And this Jim soon became a very high profile church “speaking brother.” So I assumed the transcription was accurate and my identification plausible. We all know about assumptions.
A closer look at the actual text reveals “Cousin Jim” is actually “Cousin Lem,” Dr. Lemuel Edwards of Lanesville, my great-great grandfather. Peggy Dinehart wrote what she saw, as transcribers are admonished to do. Caroline’s penmanship varies, as does the condition of the pages. Her capital L’s and capital J’s look very similar. It was an easy mistake for her to initially make, and to roll with. It made enough “sense” to me that I did not ask questions. I should have caught it sooner, but didn’t. My thanks to Becki for making this correction possible, and the text and footnotes more accurate.
There are dozens of references to “Cousin Jim” that have been changed, and many modified footnotes. For those of you interested in one of the results of these revisions, see 13 November, 1864, the story about a stolen horse. If you see additional changes needing to be made, please let me know.
Finally, I continue to work behind the scenes to learn more about the Littlepages and King William County in those first years after the war. Finding the Freedman’s Bureau records for Virginia online and indexed has been a revelation. In about a year I should be able to provide a decent “what-ever-happen-to” for those of you, like me, who don’t want to let go. There may even be an additional journal or two. I had no idea when I started posting Caroline’s daily entries online where this would take us. I still don’t. But if the past is prologue, the coming years should be as interesting as the last two. Let’s do this together.
P.S. Thanks to Jenny, we have an improved portrait of Bill Littlepage on his bio.
A Mid-Course Correction
I have often written that this website is a work-in-progress. For better or worse, I have not been afraid to alter the format or add content. I am sure you have noticed that I am at it again.
One of my goals was that Caroline’s Journal would become a learning resource for us all. Surely Caroline would have liked that. Accordingly, I have done much research behind the scenes to identify the individuals Caroline writes about, explain some of the arcane terms she uses, and provide context for the events she and her family are a part of. Maybe I have overcooked a few footnotes, but I hope our readers have enjoyed and benefited from them. We have also been fortunate to have many of our readers contribute their analysis of the text, make suggestions, and deepen our understanding of Caroline’s words. Thanks to each one of you. All this will continue.
But, for the most part, I have been sharing with you what has come easy. The Littlepages and many of their neighbors left a relatively robust paper trail for me to follow. Our modern electronic resources has made research much easier, and results less prone to error. But this has also made it easier to chew up time following paths of least resistance rather than importance.
From the beginning I found Caroline’s Journal a wonderful window into the lives of the slaves of Woodbury, and their transition to free men and women. I have not yet done an actual word count, but the names of Caroline’s servants appear at least as frequently as those of her children. Maybe more. Her document is itself a testament to the vital role the enslaved and freed of Woodbury played in its daily operation. Yet, as individuals, they are difficult to flesh out from Caroline’s daily entries. First names are invariably all we get. Ages are only hinted at. Family connections obscure. While I had every intention of doing for the slaves of Woodbury the same level of research I was doing for the Littlepages and their neighbors, that has not happened. My bad. Until now.
The recent changes to the website will present the results of this new research. Woodbury’s slaves now have their own drop-down menu; biographies for all are in process. The Contact drop-down and Links (renamed Further Research) have been moved under About. The sidebar list of Littlepage family members, which was continually out of date anyway, has been removed. The content of The Littlepages drop-down menu is more complete anyway.
The result, I think, is a cleaner daily post page, but one that still provides easy access to further information. I invite you to click on the new The Enslaved drop-down menu.
Finally, in order to make the most of Caroline’s text, I am creating a database that includes all the references she makes of her slaves. Tedious? Sure. But being able to find and sort by individual, and group information in various ways, makes it much easier to learn about them and uncover patterns. The biographies of Addison and Albert are examples of work that was made possible using the database. When complete and polished up a bit, it will be available as an Excel spreadsheet for anyone who would like to do their own research.
I will be in Virginia next week doing history, and on vacation the following week. So don’t expect new biographies soon. But do expect them.
It is never dull around here.
Happy New Year, 1866 !!
We are about halfway through the text of Caroline’s Journal, 1864-67. What started for me as a chance discovery in the Reading Room at the Virginia Historical Society, and the rather off-the-wall idea to turn it into a 150 year-old blog, has taken me in directions I could not imagine at the time. And this trip is far from over.
If I had a defined goal at the beginning it was to use Caroline’s daily journal entries as a window into the vanished world of 1860s King William County, Virginia. That window, smudged and drafty as it may be at times, has served us well. The perspective it affords has proven rich and thought provoking. It remains in front of us.
However, whatever I learn about those lives and times from Caroline’s words – and the research that makes all those footnotes possible – will not be what I will remember most about this project. That would be the people I would not otherwise have met: Littlepage family members, descendants of the many people Caroline mentions, archivists and librarians who have assisted my research, scholars and just plain folks who have taken the time to contact me with encouragement. I smile just writing this.
But perhaps most of all I will remember our loyal, daily blog followers for whom my efforts are intended. Without you all my work, and Caroline’s labors with pen, ink and that upside-down old store ledger, would little matter.
I intended to write something different when I sat down this morning. Forgive, the above just came out. What I started to say was ….
Behind the scenes I am still working on what will come after Caroline’s last entry. Of course many will want to know about whatever-happened-to members of her family. Our related Cast of Characters is large, now approaching 300. I have my work cut out for me. However, I have already been contacted off-the-blog by descendants of people who have appeared in the text. Some have made inquiries; others have offered information. I would like to encourage this to continue. I don’t have a clear idea what form this rest-of-the-story will take. But I am going to need all the help I can get if we are to have a satisfying conclusion to this little project. And along those lines…
And as I mentioned earlier, I am hoping that sometime in 2017 some sort of gathering in King William will take place in honor of Caroline, and her family and community. I have some ideas, but I would like yours. (Anyone like to make Bake’s wedding cake ? Molasses Stew?)
Also behind the scenes I have had recently the great pleasure to assist some of you in identifying and visiting sites in King William related to your family. Even though I live some distance from King William (and I am working on multiple projects unrelated to the Littlepages) I hope opportunities for this will continue. If you are planning from afar a visit to King William and would like my help, please let me know. We can probably work something out.
Finally, several shorter period writings of the Littlepages also exist. If there is interest, I am considering if, when, and how to make them available. As always, your suggestions would be appreciated.
Again, Happy New Year.
29 September, 2015 – Two Announcements
While life at Woodbury has been slowly adjusting to a new normal after years of war, behind the scenes at this blog 150 years later it has been an exciting time. I have two announcements that may interest our readers.
The images of the portraits of Lewis Littlepage and Caroline/Pigeo used on Caroline’s Journal were scanned from the best black & white photocopies I could obtain. Sometime in the past someone had taken the time to make good photos and distribute them to family members. And for that we are grateful. However the location of the original 1849 John Toole portraits, their condition, or even if they still existed, was unknown.
But two months ago I was contacted by the owners of two old portraits which had been inherited from an aunt some years ago. While the portraits had been passed on, the identity of the individuals was only given as “Col. Littlepage and his wife.” Not knowing exactly who they were, nevertheless the family gave the portraits a good home and saw to their care. Then, while doing some online family research, the two images of Lewis and Caroline/Pigeo on this website came to their attention. They now knew who had been staring at them from the hallway wall for years.
After exchanging several emails I was able to visit with the family and they kindly allowed me to photograph the portraits for this blog. Starting today we present these more colorful and detailed images of Lewis, Caroline, and Pigeo. Just visit Lewis and Caroline’s bios under the dropdown menu, “The Littlepages.”
My thanks to Richard C. Wight, III and his wife Susan. Richard is a GG grandson of Lewis and Caroline through their daughter Lucy (Pigeo).
Second, it probably would surprise no one that from their colonial Virginia roots Littlepage family members would quickly disperse across the continent. That migration began well before our Lewis Littlepage was born in 1807. By the twentieth-century the descendants of New Kent’s Richard Littlepage (d.1688) were living around the globe. In the late 1930s some east-coast Littlepages organized a “Littlepage Family Association.” The goals were to reestablish family ties, provide a forum for the exchange of genealogical information, and hold reunions. Letters were sent, meetings held, and officers elected. Then came World War Two. The Association became dormant and never was revived.
The Association’s Corresponding Secretary was Mrs. Laviece [Roszell] Maslin of Baltimore. A descendent of Lewis and Caroline through William Thomas (Bill), Laviece exchanged letters for the Association in the 1930s and 40s with “cousins” from around the country and later continued to chronicle Bill’s descendants. While many of her relatives knew of her work, when she died in 1997 her collection of Littlepage family materials seemed to vanish.
I knew nothing of Mrs. Maslin or the Littlepage Association until last December when I received an email through Caroline’s Journal from the Ann Arrundell County (MD) Historical Society. They advised that under somewhat hazy circumstances they had received years ago “a donation of photos of the Littlepage, Roszell and related families.” And while they appreciated the donation it did not fit into their collection. They wanted to know if I had any interest in them. I replied that I would be happy to take the photos in trust for the Littlepage family, and that I would see they, or copies, ended up with family members or an appropriate historical society. At that point I had no idea what I was getting into. (Situation Normal)
When the box arrived I was
shocked pleasantly surprised. Although there were photos as described, there were also many, many letters, and several notebooks filled with newspaper clippings. In addition there were annotated historical publications, genealogical research documents, and, most fascinating, diaries. One of these was a short diary by Mag Littlepage written in 1857 in a medical notebook Dr. Ju used earlier as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. (More about this forthcoming.)
It took months to wrap my head around these materials, and even more to scan each item. Finally, I am ready to announce that the images are (more or less) organized and ready for distribution as .jpgs to whomever would like them. All 1,813. I am still working on a reasonably useful finding aid – and could use some help.
The Virginia Historical Society has expressed interest in receiving most of the collection. But items not relevant to Virginia will probably end up elsewhere. Outside of her role for the Association Mrs. Maslin focused mainly on her branch of the family, the descendants of Bill and Lou [Lipscomb] Littlepage, especially those who had moved to the Baltimore area. That included both her husband’s family and her father’s, the Roszells, both with deep Maryland roots. But there are many outliers.
If any of you are interested in further information about Mrs. Maslin’s collection, on which she worked for so long, please let me know.
One Year On
It has been a year since Caroline’s Journal went live. Anniversaries are a good time for reflection, so here goes.
First, I would like to thank our readers. It has been a year of satisfaction and surprises. Thanks to you it has never become a grind.
Daily page views have grown steadily; we now average about 125. Most visitors live along the east coast of the U.S., but we have mid and west coast readers as well. I know of no readers yet from Antarctica, but we continue to have hits from all of the other continents. I wish I knew who they are and why they visit. Ninety-one of you have requested daily notices of posts. The number of consistent readers is much higher than I supposed a year ago; y’all remind me daily to “get it right.”
Many of our readers have also made comments on the blog which have been useful for us all. Just as useful have been off-the-blog emails alerting me to errors or making suggestions for blog improvements. Thank you, and keep them coming.
Caroline’s Journal has also provided me with the opportunity to correspond with, and in cases meet, some of the descendants of the Littlepages and others Caroline writes about. That has been a special joy for me. If there are more of you out there, please let me know.
Second, through the lens of Caroline’s Journal I certainly have learned more of what life was like 150 years ago around King William Courthouse. I hope you have too. While Caroline’s words are responsible for most of the value of the blog, the research I have done which has enabled the occasional footnote has been fascinating. I have tried to avoid “spoilers,” so some of what I have learned I have kept to myself. When Caroline’s entries end in mid-2017 I will try to provide some answers to “what ever happen to…”
Third, I would like to share three personal goals…
By the time we finish the blog I hope to have enough material to offer a publisher a first-rate manuscript. Of course many things would have to fall into place for that to happen. The journal itself belongs to the Virginia Historical Society. While they have been exceptionally helpful in making this blog happen, a publication project would require additional institutional investment. Thus any book project would be, at least in part, their call. And while I have collected a considerable amount of supportive material, more is needed to supplement the text we have. If any of you know of additional materials – letters, photos, newspaper clippings, journals for example – that would illuminate Caroline’s life and times, please let me know.
Another project I would like to see happen is some additional conservation and high-quality digitization of the journal. While the volume seems in fairly good physical shape, it is fragile and the binding is weak. Every time it is opened causes a bit more wear. That bothers me. I have not approached the VHS about this yet. They are wonderful custodians of the manuscripts entrusted to them. But they do not have the resources to do everything they would like. In other words, eventually it comes down to money. I plan to consult with them soon to get an expert assessment of what is needed and what that might cost. So you “Friends of Caroline’s Journal” brace yourself for a possible appeal for funds in the coming months.
In about two years when this blog is “finished,” I would like to have a gathering of some sort in King William. I am not particularly disposed to southern ancestor worship. But I am fully invested in seeing ourselves as part of something larger, something that includes time. Accordingly, for those of us for whom Caroline’s Journal has added to our understanding of ourselves, some sort of commemorative event seems in order. As with other parts of this project, suggestions are welcome.
Finally, now that military hostilities between the Confederacy and the United States are over, with Caroline we enter into one of the most disturbing eras in U.S. history, Reconstruction. It was a time of great anxiety and complexity that has, until recently, been poorly served by historians. In June 1865 no one in the North or South, black or white, had any idea what the future would hold. All were making it up as they went along. To complicate things, Reconstruction played out differently in different places over time. The experiences of Virginians varied from place to place, and Virginia’s reconstruction was different from that of other states, often markedly so. But the period seems to have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. If Reconstruction was a Facebook page, it would have very few “likes” or “friends.” But when “everyone” agrees about something I get suspicious.
The greatest value of Caroline’s Journal for historians may be her eyewitness accounts from Woodberry of this period. But to understand the world she was seeing I have started reading about Reconstruction. Anything by Eric Foner is a good place to start; his A Short History of Reconstruction, Update Edition (2015) certainly works. But Foner does not focus on Virginia; Richard Lowe does. Lowe has written frequently over the years of the Old Dominion’s Reconstruction, mainly articles. I am currently finishing up his full size Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856-70 (1990). I recently finished Gregory Down’s After Appomattox – Military Occupation and the Ends of War (2015). Excellent. Reading that is drawing me back to the Freeman’s Bureau reports from King William I copied from microfilm at the Library of Virginia last year. Because documents concerning the experiences of King William’s residents during this time are fragmentary and scattered, we are all pioneers in learning just how Reconstruction played out there. Want to join me in the wilderness?
Goodbye and Hello
Among the documents I have collected about Virginia’s Littlepages are several manuscripts of family histories. In one of them I noticed Caroline’s seventh son, John Calhoun Littlepage, was known as “Uncle Zac.” The first time I saw this I simply assumed a typo or a misremembered conversation years ago. After all Caroline’s rendering of the first letter her son’s nickname certainly could be taken as a capital T.
And the transcriber consistently rendered his name Tac in her typed text of both Caroline’s Journal and Rose Littlepage’s 1853 diary. No Zacs anywhere. So I let the matter drop.
Recently though I saw another family history that also referred to “Uncle Zac.” Because that one was certainly written by a family member who could have personally known John Calhoun Littlepage – he lived until 1933 – I began to wonder. So I looked more carefully at examples of Caroline’s rendering of capital Ts and Zs. Since capital Zs are generally rare I was fortunate that the Littlepages attended Zion Church.
By happenstance I had a blurry photographic example where Caroline wrote both her son’s nickname and the name of their church next to each other, on 14 August, 1864. The capital letters looked identical. Here is a clearer example of her Zion.
Cataloging Caroline’s known capital Ts was a revelation. Most of the time her capital Ts were easily distinguishable from Zs, her Tuesdays and Thursdays for example. But there are at least three substantially different renderings of capital Ts in her Journal, one of which looks exactly as her capital Z. Caroline was not making this easy.
So I decided to make a special trip to the Virginia Historical Society to see if Rose’s handwriting in her diary would be conclusive. It was. Here is how Rose always rendered her brother’s nickname. It is much like her mother’s.
(Rose did not write about Zion because the Littlepages then attended nearby Jerusalem Church. It is possible Zion did not exist in 1854.) On the other hand those who Rose wrote about whose name begins with a capital T were rendered consistently differently from the first letter of her brother’s name. Here is are some examples.
So I believe the evidence is conclusive. We now say goodbye to Tac, and hello to Zac. This will take some getting used to for all of us.
So far I have no more understanding of how little J. C. Littlepage became Zac than I did Tac. But Zac is certainly a more common nickname and Virginian Zachary Taylor was President when the he was a child. And Lewis and Caroline had already named him after an admired southern politician.
It will take me a while to change all the occurrences of Tac to Zac. WordPress does not seem to have a site-wide find/replace function. Bear with me.
I thought from the beginning this project would be a learning experience. But I didn’t see this coming. So much for assumptions. And don’t ask me about cursive for a while.
Valentine’s Day, 2015
The last six months have really flown by. I hope this presentation of Caroline’s Journal is continuing to meet your expectations. The number of subscribers and daily page views has steadily increased. Comments and suggestions received as part of the website, separate emails, and personal conversations lead me to think many of you are enjoying getting to know Caroline and her family. It was my wish that the site would become interactive. And it has.
Caroline’s words speak so well for themselves. I have been trying to stay out of her way by making the “blog” as easy to use and transparent as possible. But behind the scenes websites like this one are made up of many parts, some of which are upgraded from time to time. Usually this presents more opportunities than problems. Usually. The Cast of Characters table is one example where an “after” was worse than the “before.” So I have recently replaced the table plug-in, adding a search feature and improving the sorting. I hope this makes it easier for you to keep up with who-is-whom. I have also created this Blog News page rather than burying my occasional comments as posts.
Doing the research for the footnotes has proven more time-consuming and rewarding than I had anticipated. I trust they are adding to your experience as much as they are adding to my knowledge of life around King William Courthouse 150 years ago.
I was optimistic that by starting this website new information about the Littlepages and their times would emerge. Indeed that has happened. An unexpected email from a Maryland historical society has yielded new documents about both the Littlepages and King William County. These materials are being processed and will be shared as appropriate. Already there is a higher quality image of both Lewis Littlepage and Caroline/Pigeo on this site as a result. Also there is a picture of young Bill now on his bio page, courtesy of one of his descendants, Mrs. Jenny Littlepage Wilkinson. I had the opportunity to briefly meet Jenny and her husband a few weeks ago and I expect to visit with them again soon. I am also planning to visit with Louise Schroeder, and eventually her brother Dudley Eichhorn, who donated the Journal and transcript to the Virginia Historical Society and made this blog possible. Another Littlepage descendant has also emailed me and we have discussed meeting in Richmond this spring.
But the most public event in the life of Caroline’s Journal was the 4 February Tidewater Review newspaper article. I have not been doing particularly aggressive marketing of this site, so the added attention and hits are certainly appreciated. My thanks to the Tidewater Review (Support your local newspapers!) and especially reporter Jackson McMillan. He got it right.
Wishing you and Caroline a Happy Valentine’s Day….
August 1, 2014
Caroline’s Journal – the blog – is now two months old; small indications of maturation abound.
Those of you with a keen eye have noticed a new menu item above, Cast of Characters. It is a table of all the proper names which have appeared so far, not including place names. We have about 100 at this writing. I was looking for a way to help readers keep up with who is whom. So if someone appears and you are not sure just who they are, look ’em up. The First Appears column is useful because that first entry is usually where a footnote provides background info. Hover your cursor over the heading and you will find little arrows which will allow you to sort. Neat. I will update the list as new names appear. To make room for Cast of Characters I moved Ethel under the About menu. Now more about those menus…
It is not entirely obvious but if you click on the About, The Littlepages, and the Woodbury menu headings you will be taken to a page with that title. The hovering drop-down menu feature may suggest those headings refer to what drops down. While they do, there is also top-level content there if you click on them.
A more obvious change is the new Archives calendar. The old Archives feature was very discouraging to use. That became more obvious as the number of posts in the archive increased. With the new calendar you can easily find a specific date, move from one date to another, and read them in order (catch up). This made redundant the Recent Posts list, which has vanished.
WordPress allows me to enter daily posts and have them appear later on a date and time of my choosing. Right now I have daily posts entered through January of next year without an additional mouse click on my part. But a couple of times I have been inattentive and a future post appeared immediately. For Subscribers that has meant an automatically generated email announcing a soon-to-be non-existant future post. I apologize for the confusion. I believe I have figured out a way to make this happen less frequently, as in never again. Wish me well.
And speaking of Subscribers, we are now approaching 60. I am amazed. But from the first I concluded Caroline’s words were well worth reading. Maybe I should not be surprised when others come to the same conclusion. Yes, looking over her shoulder as she writes daily is fascinating. But the full value of her contribution to our understanding of that place and time will become more evident when taken as a whole. Stick with us.
Finally, I would like to thank Suzanne and Bonnie for identifying a bit of text for us all on 27 July. Ferriages – a new word in my vocabulary at least. That worked so well I am planning to try it again. Keep an eye out for more opportunities to decipher mysterious text in the journal.
July 1, 2014
It has been about a month since Caroline’s Journal, the blog, went “live.” And a busy month it has been for me. The response – that is you by the way – has been greater than I expected. All those “hits” have made the work I have put into this project feel well-worth the effort. Thanks.
And I invite you to read beyond the daily posts. For example, those biographies I cobbled together of the Littlepage family might help you better understand Caroline’s entries. Follow those links. If you have another piece of the puzzle, throw it on the table. Help me better connect the dots and learn new metaphors. My wish for Caroline’s Journal is that it will be the start of something for each of us, not an end in itself. And I continue to invite your comments, questions, and suggestions. Let’s make this a group effort.
As I mentioned on the About page, this is a work in progress. While Caroline has put down her pen, I am still learning about the Littlepages and King William County in the 1860s. As long as I am still stumbling across something new, a fairly accurate description of my research skills, expect revisions. I am also embarrassed to report I have already discovered mistakes on my part, not just examples of my usually suspect judgement. My most grievous error – as far as I know – has been to spell Caroline’s nickname for her son Hardin as Hardee. It is clearly spelled Hardie in the transcription. I have no clue. I will be cleaning that mess up, one vowel at a time.
In order to reduce storyline “spoilers” I am trying not to post any information past Caroline’s latest journal entry. But I already have a considerable amount of material I plan to share about the Littlepages when we reach the end three years from now: The Rest of the Story. Hold on.
Now that I have made the rule, I will break it. When I started this project I knew few details of Hardie Littlepage’s naval career. I had ebayed copies of the 1974 Civil War Times Illustrated issues which featured wartime accounts he wrote many years before. That was about it. But since then I have read books on the CSS Virginia (Quarstein) and the adventures of the Confederate Navy in Europe (Spencer). I learned that Jon M. Nielson, who wrote the introduction to those magazine articles, also wrote a Master’s Thesis on Hardie. Through the magic of inter-library loan I was able to read the U.S. Naval Academy copy. In that I learned, like is mother, Hardie kept a journal, at least during the war years. Maybe one day I will be able to read that as well.
So the spoiler is that Hardie will soon successfully run the blockade and return to Woodbury.
I am also taking the opportunity to suggest revisions to the text of the transcription. The journal itself was an old and damaged store ledger before Caroline turned it upside down and began writing. Since then ink has faded, insects have feasted, and paper has grown brittle. Caroline’s handwriting, while often elegant, at other times seems hurried. I am sure she often wrote by candlelight. In short, reading and transcribing the journal is a challenge. Fortunately, my contributions are based on the excellent job done before me. Peggy Dinehart’s efforts were truly heroic; without her work this blog would not exist. But I have access to resources she probably didn’t – census and tax records, on-line databases, books and magazine articles about King William and its denizens, and other primary sources I have gathered over the years. I have digital tools unavailable to her and Google at my fingertips. It would be irresponsible of me not to use these resources to – hopefully – more accurately present Caroline’s words. So please do not take my text suggestions as criticism of the work already done. It is not.
I would once again like to thank Louise Eichhorn Schroeder and her family for making Caroline’s words available for us all, and the Virginia Historical Society for its high order of cooperation and service. I believe this journal is a treasure that deserves to join the ranks of standard primary source documents of its era. As you follow along over the next three years I believe you will agree.
P.S. Sorry about that “ebayed.” More of my suspect judgement and guilty pleasures.