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Virginia Department of Conservation and Development, Division of History, Records, 1927-1950. Accession 24806a-c, 25913 and 41571, State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Accessions 24806a-c transferred from History Division, Virginia State Library on 30 June 1958; Accession 25913 transferred from Historic Publications Division, Virginia State Library on 21 November 1963; Accession 41571 transferred to Archives on 29 November 2004.
The Virginia State Commission of Conservation and Development was created in 1926 to consolidate and coordinate a number of conservation agencies including the Water Power and Development Commission, the State Geological Commission, the State Geological Survey, Office of the State Geologist, Office of the State Forester, and the Division of Parks. Governor Harry F. Byrd appointed his campaign manager William E. Carson (1870-1942) as the Commission's first chairman. Between 1926 and 1950 the Commission changed names several times: Virginia State Commission of Conservation and Development (1926-1938), Virginia Conservation Commission (1938-1948) and Department of Conservation and Development (1948-1985). Chairman of the Commission included: William E. Carson (1926-1935), Wilbur C. Hall (1935-1939), N. Clarence Smith (1939-1942), and William A. Wright (1942-1948). In 1948, the General Assembly, as part of a reorganization of state government abolished the Virginia Conservation Commission and created the Department of Conservation and Development. The new agency took over the function of the Conservation Commission, State Port Authority and the State Planning Board. Governor William Tuck named Wright as director of the new Department of Conservation and Development.
In 1927, Carson created the Division of History and Archaeology within the Commission to preserve and develop the historical resources of the state. The new Division was lead by Dr. H.J. Eckenrode, Director; Colonel Bryan Conrad, Assistant Director; and M.F. Pleasants, Field Assistant. Carson believed that Virginia needed to publicize Virginia's wealth of history and tradition especially to out-of-state travelers. He decided to have markers placed on the states' highways to provide information of historical events that had happened in their vicinity. By the beginning of World War II, the Commission had erected more than 1400 historical markers across Virginia.
In addition to the historical marker program, the Division of History assisted in the development of Virginia history in many other ways. It cooperated with the federal government in studying the battlefield of Yorktown and in the development of the Richmond Battlefield Park. The Division photographed thousands of colonial era houses and other significant structures. The Division sponsored the Federal Writers' Project for Virginia and conducted the WPA's Virginia Historical Inventory.
The Commission suspended the historical marker program during World War II because of rationing of metals. In its place, the Commission inaugurated a War records program including a newspaper reference file and a correspondence program in which a non-salaried correspondent from each locality sent reports about local war time activities and local war activities and reaction to the war. In addition, the Division began a program to locate and mark the graves of distinguished Virginians. Finally in 1949, the Division published The Hornbook of Virginia History that included a brief history of Virginia and other historical information.
The Department of Conservation and Development, Division of History, Records are housed in 108 boxes, 3 oversize boxes, and 1 oversize map case drawer. The collection is arranged into five (5) series. Series have been designated for: I. Correspondence; II. Virginia War History Project; III. Graves of Distinguished Virginians Project; IV. Records; and V. Historical Material. These records include addresses articles, correspondence, maps, magazines, minutes, newspapers, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photographs, postcards, programs, radio addresses, reports scrapbooks and telegrams. These records document Virginia state government's development and promotion of the Commonwealth's history and historical resources.
The creation and administration of Virginia's Historical Marker program is well documented in the records (Series I). This series provides a wealth of information on the Division's approach to markers, their construction, inscription, installation and maintenance. Of note to the Civil War Historian, this series also contains records on the creation of the Richmond Battlefield Park. Included are correspondence, maps, pamphlets and aerial photographs taken of the battlefield in the 1930s.
For researchers interested in the life on the home front during World War II, there are some records of note. The Division of History collected reports on home front conditions. Topics include local opinion and reaction to war events and news, rosters of local service men and women, activities of local organizations, economic conditions and religious conditions (Series II).
The Division of History and Archaeology also attempted to locate graves of distinguished Virginians (Series III) and created a reference file on Virginia History and eventually published The Hornbook of Virginia History (Series IV). The Historical Material files is essentially a ready reference collection containing newspaper clippings and historical sketches on historic sites and events. (Series V).
Oversize items are filed in 3 boxes and 2 map case drawers. The oversize records consist primarily of maps and newspapers. Oversize items, which were part of the regular sized filing unit, were removed from their perspective folders. A separation notice listing the item(s) separated and their new location was put in its place. For location and content list of oversize folders, see the listing at the end of the container list.
It is recommended that the researcher read the series level scope and content notes thoroughly before accessing the collection.
Organized into the following series:I. Correspondence, 1927-1950 (Accession 24806a) II. Virginia War History Project, 1942-1946 (Accession 24806b) III. Graves of Distinguished Virginians Project, 1944-1950 (Accession 24806c) IV. Records, 1929-1950 (Accession 25913) V. Historical Material, 1927-1950 (Accession 41571)
The Correspondence series is housed in 70 boxes with oversized material separated and is arranged into two subseries. Subseries have been designated for Correspondence and Correspondence, Dead File. It is unknown why some correspondence were separated from the general correspondence (Subseries A) and grouped with the correspondence, dead file (Subseries B), because there is some overlap between the subseries. The series consists primarily of incoming and outgoing correspondence from Division of History staff members including: Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode, Director (1927-1949), J.R.V. Daniel, Director (1949-1950), Bryan Conrad, Assistant Director and M.F. Pleasants, Field Assistant. This series comprises a large and important section of the Division of History records. In this series, researchers have a complete view, from 1927- 1950, of most of the correspondence sent and received by the Division of History. These correspondence provide insight into the workings of the historical marker program including inscriptions, locations, and manufacturing, instillation and maintenance of markers, and the Division's promotion of history and other activities.
This subseries is housed in 55 boxes, one oversize box and two oversize map folders and is arranged alphabetically with subdivisions for general correspondence, additional correspondence and topics. This is the larger of the two subseries and contains a variety of letters from individuals across the county interested in Virginia history and the historical marker program. Topics include historical inquiries, historical marker inscriptions, investigation of the historical marker program by other states, and the Richmond Battlefield Park. Other topics include work of the Division during World War II, Shenandoah National Park, birthplace of the Wright Brothers mother, and biographical information on Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode and Bryan Conrad.
The History Division responded to general historical questions concerning Virginia history from historians, history buffs and students from every part of the country. Virginia's historical marker program was a model for other states and there are inquiries about the program from individuals from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Many of these letters provide detailed information about the marker system (Eckenrode to Douglas Arant, 31 August 1938) and a summary of how to install markers (Pleasants to Arthur Adams, 24 April 1931).
This subseries is a great source of information on the creation of the Richmond Battlefield Park . Included is a booklet by Eckenrode titled "History of the Richmond Battlefield Parks" dated 23 February 1932, aerial photographs of the park taken in the early 1930s by the United States Army Air Corps as well as correspondence, memorandums and reports on the creation of the park. Several maps of the battlefield from the early 1930s are filed under oversized. Additional information on the Richmond Battlefield Park is located with the correspondence of William E. Carson, Douglas Southall Freeman and Branch Spalding (Subseries B, Correspondence, Dead File).
Correspondence with William A. Wright , chairman of the Virginia Conservation Commission (1942-1948) include a report on the work of the History Division during World War II (5 August 1947) and two memorandums from Eckenrode describing the Division's plans and work during the war (12 August 1944 and March 1946). Information on the Shenandoah National Park includes newspaper clippings, the dedication program of the park (3 July 1936), and three pamphlets: "Shenandoah National Park Project" (n.d.), "A Brief History of the Beginning of the Movement for a National Park in Northern Virginia - Now Known as the Shenandoah National Park" (ca. 1934), and "The Shenandoah National Park Travelogue" (1937). Correspondence between Orville Wright and Wilbur Hall (1932-1933 filed under Wright Brothers ) concern the birthplace of Wright's mother in Virginia. Biographical information on Eckenrode ( Rowland Egger ) and Conrad ( P. Tulane Atkinson , 14 July1945) is also included. Other notable topics include the Bell Tower ( John Garland Pollard , 26 February 1931, 11 October 1932), the State Seal (Pollard, 25 August 1931) and the Growth of the Conservation and Development Commission (Box 13, Folder 9) that includes a brief history and newspaper clippings.
Correspondents include William Sumner Appleton, John Stewart Bryan, Harry F. Byrd, Arthur Kyle Davis, Sr., E. Griffith Dodson, Dr. J.D. Eggleston, E.O. Flippen, Douglas Southall Freeman, Richard A. Gilliam, Wilmer L. Hall, Douglas McArthur, John Garland Pollard, Branch Spalding, and William A. Wright.
This subseries is housed in 16 boxes and one oversize box and is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and subject. This subseries consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence from Division of History staff members. Topics include the historical marker program, historical marker inscriptions, installation, and maintenance, published guide to historical markers, Richmond Battlefield Park, and reports of History Division activities.
The most significant correspondence are between William E. Carson , chairman of the Virginia Conservation Commission from 1926 to 1934, and Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode. These letters provide insight into the development, administration and problems of the historical marker program. Other topics include the Richmond Battlefield Park. Topics of a personal nature include Carson's fall in 1933 and death in 1942 and Eckenrode's bachelorhood.
Notable correspondence concerning the historical marker program include letter to Carson from Eckenrode asking him to sooth Conrad's hurt feelings over mistakes Carson made in marker inscriptions (29 November 1927); letter to Carson from Eckenrode describing delays in the installation of Lynchburg markers (11 March 1930); correspondence regarding marker orders and delivery problems (23 October 1933, 25 October 1933, 16 February 1934, 24 March 1934, 18 August 1934, and 20 August 1934); correspondence describing problems with marker maintenance (17 February 1933, 10 March 1933, 11 April 1933, 27 September 1933 and 7 October 1933).
Of note within the collection are correspondence describing the development of the Richmond Battlefield Park, especially between 1931 and 1934. Significant correspondence for 1931 include (5 January, 8 July, 9 July, 10 July, 17 July, 21 July, 30 July, 14 August, 18 August, 19 August, 20 August, 4 September, 8 September, 8 December, 11 December, 17 December and 18 December); for 1932 (29 March, 15 April, 21 April, 26 April, 28 April, 2 May, 18 May, 10 August, 12 October, 13 October, 19 November, 21 November, and 14 December); for 1933 (22 May, 7 June, 14 July, 20 July, 24 July, 27 July, 4 August, 23 August, 8 September, 11 September, 15 September, 20 September, 11 October, 23 November, and 25 November); and for 1934 (10-13 January, 17 January, 7 February, 14 February, 15 February, 19 February, 12 March, 15-17 March, 10 April, 14 May, 16 May and 14 July).
Topics of a personal nature in the correspondence include Carson's fall, injury to his arm, and recovery in 1933 (12 August, 13 August, 16 August, 15 September, 18 October, 20 October, 23 October, 24 October, and 27 October) and Carson's poor health shortly before he died in 1942. Throughout their correspondence, Carson teased Eckenrode about being a bachelor and encouraged him to find a wife (10 September 1929, 6 November 1929, 7 November 1929, 27 September 1930, 22 December 1930, and 10 June 1941).
The correspondence of Bryan Conrad , contain both business and personal letters, though most relate to his employment with the Division of History. Almost all of the office correspondence are between Conrad and Eckenrode. Topics include Conrad's employment status (27 June 1927, 28 March 1929) and field work installing markers including weekly reports (1927-1928). Personal letters between Conrad and his sister, Carter Bryan Conrad of Washington, D.C., are also included within Conrad's office correspondence. Topics include Conrad's divorce (19 October 1932), family and politics (8 May 1933, 19 September 1933, 9 January 1934, 6 December 1934). Also included are Conrad's personal correspondence, including a letter to Carter Bryan Conrad regarding the Edith Maxwell case and Franklin D. Roosevelt (17 November 1937), and correspondence with his daughter, Georgia Conrad (15 March 1935, 20 September 1935 and 18 May 1936 newspaper clipping).
Correspondence between Douglas Southall Freeman and Eckenrode include Freeman's comments on marker inscriptions. Additional correspondence discuss the Richmond Battlefield Park (20 June 1933, 21 June 1933, 7 July 1933, 10 July 1933, 21 August 1933, 18 September 1933, 22 September 1933, 23 September 1933, 25 September 1933, 23 November 1933, 15 January 1934, 25 January 1934 and 5 February 1934).
Wilbur C. Hall was chairman of the Conservation Commission from 1935 to 1939. Topics included in correspondence between Hall and Eckenrode are the Richmond Battlefield Park (23 February 1935, 6 April 1935 and 11 June 1935) and the WPA Historical Inventory Project (28 May 1936, 20 August 1937 and 4 December 1937).
The correspondence of M.F. Pleasants , Field Assistant for the Division of History, describe the installation and maintenance of the historical markers. Additional information can be found under the headings Highway Department and Markers .
Also of note is a typed 17 page transcript of the diary of Dr. John Waller Reins describing his ocean voyage from Norfolk, Virginia, to California, between 2 April 1849 and May 1849, filed with the correspondence of Mrs. Harris E. Willlingham and reports of the Division's work during World War II ( Virginia World War II History ).
Additional correspondents include E. Griffith Dodson, Elmer O. Flippin, Dr. H.R. McIlwaine, N. Clarence Smith, Branch Spalding, and Dr. E.G. Swem.
The Virginia War History Project series is housed in 10 boxes with oversized material separated and is arranged into two subseries. Subseries have been designated for Counties and Cities. The series consists of booklets, correspondence, lists, newspaper clippings, newsletters, pamphlets, photographs, programs, reports, and rosters.
In September 1942 the Virginia Conservation Commission's Division of History and Archaeology, under the direction of Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode, began a war records collection program. Unable to continue the Division of History's historical marker program because of wartime rationing, Eckenrode sought to "record the history of the Old Dominion's war effort while the history is still fresh in the making, rather than wait until after the war when the events and details would be more obscured." The Conservation Commission began a correspondence program in which a non-salaried correspondent from each locality sent reports about local war activities and local effects and reaction to the war. The local correspondents also assisted the Virginia World War II History Commission with its' questionnaire, "Personal War Service Record of Virginia's Ward Dead" completed by the next of kin of Virginia's deceased servicemen.
Most of the information in this series contains correspondence reports on local wartime conditions in Virginia from local correspondents mainly during 1943 with a few from 1944 and 1945. Topics include local opinion and reaction to war events and news, rosters of local service men and women, activities of local organizations, economic conditions and religious conditions. Unfortunately, the quantity and quality of these reports varied widely. Many only submitted a few reports. However, other localities submitted a substantial number of records. In addition, there are correspondence between the History Division and local correspondents related to the administration of the "Personal War Service Record of Virginia's War Dead" questionnaire on behalf of the Virginia World War II History Commission. These records were transferred to the Virginia World War II History Commission and are part of Record Group 68, accession 24805. A few localities submitted casualty lists.
This subseries is housed in 9 boxes and one oversize box and is arranged alphabetically by county. This subseries consists of incoming correspondence and reports from local correspondents and replies from Division of History staff members. A few also include newspaper clippings about local soldiers and events. The bulk of the reports cover portions of 1943 and some 1944. The quality and frequency of the reports varied widely. Notable county reports include Arlington County (clippings from Washington, D.C. newspapers), Bedford County (reports on D-Day, 6-8 June 1944), Buchanan County, Buckingham County (1942-1943 issues of Seabees Buzz), Dinwiddie County (reaction to the war by Camp Lee service men, ca. 1944), Essex County (critical attitude), Fluvanna County, Halifax County, Henry County, Isle of Wight County, Loudoun County, Nelson County, Patrick County, Prince William County, Stafford County (including "Story of Stafford Evacuation" by Elizabeth Russell Powers, describing removal of 650 families for enlargement of Marine Base at Quantico in 1942), and Surry County.
A few localities (Alleghany County, Franklin County, Giles County, Prince George County, Sussex County and Wise County) also gathered biographical information about soldiers often listing the soldiers name, age, physical description, name of parents, residence, education, marital status, and a brief military record. A few records include newspaper clippings and photographs.
This subseries is housed in 1 box and one oversize box and is arranged alphabetically by city. This subseries consists of incoming correspondence and reports from local correspondents and replies from Division of History staff members. Very few localities submitted any reports. Most of the correspondence concerns the collection of "Personal War Service Record of Virginia's Ward Dead".
The Graves of Distinguished Virginians Project series is housed in 5 boxes with oversized material separated and is arranged into two subseries. Subseries have been designated for Correspondence and County Files. The series consists of correspondence, lists, maps, newspaper clippings, and reports.
In October 1944 the Virginia Conservation Commission's Division of History began a "Graves of Distinguished Virginians" Project. Funded by a $2000 appropriation of the General Assembly, the project's goals was to identify and, if necessary, mark such graves. The bulk of the work on this project was between 1946 and 1948.
This subseries is housed in 3 boxes and one oversize box and is arranged alphabetically by correspondent with some correspondence and topics separated out. The series consists primarily of correspondence between Division of History staff members, Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode, Bryan Conrad and J.R.V. Daniel and interested citizens concerning the graves of distinguished Virginians. Topics include: tombstone inscriptions and information on the location of graves.
This subseries is housed in 3 boxes and is arranged alphabetically by locality. The series consists of lists of distinguished Virginians buried in each locality and an approximate location of their grave. A few localities include tombstone inscriptions and newspaper clippings about the project.
The Records series is housed in 7 boxes with oversized material separated and is arranged into two subseries. Subseries have been designated for Reference Files and The Hornbook of Virginia History. The series consists of correspondence, minutes, newspapers, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photographs, postcards and scrapbooks.
This subseries is housed in 4 boxes and two oversize folders and is arranged alphabetically by subject or correspondent. The series consists primarily of topical reference files. Notable subjects include: Bell Tower, Covered Bridges in Virginia (including some photographs and WPA Historical Inventory Forms), Division of History and Archaeology (organization and reports), and George Washington. The material on Washington includes several issues of Clip Sheet, published by the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission. In addition to the subject files, the subseries also consists of correspondence between Division of History staff members, Dr. Hamilton J. Eckenrode, Bryan Conrad and J.R.V. Daniel and individuals concerning the Division's work. It is unknown why these correspondence were separated from the main Correspondence File (Series I.). Notable correspondents include: W. Edwin Hemphill and Alexander Weddell.
This series is housed in 3 boxes and includes information on the publication of The Hornbook of Virginia History by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Development, Division of History in 1949. Notable records include: minutes of the 21 March 1947 meeting of the History Advisory Committee, correspondence, comments and revisions to brief Virginia histories written by Everard Kidder Meade and H.J. Eckenrode, reviews, scrapbook, and requests for copies.
The Historical Material is housed in 17 boxes with oversized material separated and is arranged alphabetically by county followed by a separate section of newspapers and magazines arranged by sections. City historical material is interfiled with the nearest county. For example City of Richmond material is filed with Henrico County. A 3x5 card files provides a rough topical index to the collection. The series consists of historical sketches, maps, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and photographs.
Contents include historical data on counties and information on historic sites and places of each interest within each locality. Notable records include two photographs from the Great Dismal Swamp. The first photograph shows gnarled cypress roots in Lake Drummond, near Norfolk (no date); the second, dated 1899, shows the locomobile of John Wallace, Norfolk, the "first motor vehicle other than by electric power" (Norfolk County, Box 103, Folder 1). Other items of interest include: The Spirit of Orange: A Pageant Portraying a Few High Points of Orange County History in Relation to Local, National and International Affairs , 3 May 1930, official program for forty-third annual reunion of Confederate Veterans, in Orange, 16-18 September 1930 (Box 103, Folder 4); Glen Mary: Past and Present by A.V.S. Milbourne, 1935, photograph of commissioners and historians at Skyland, including W.E. Carson and Harry F. Byrd, (Page County, Box 103, Folder 5); newspaper clippings concerning the case of Odell Waller, a Pittsylvania County sharecropper executed for murder on 2 July 1942 (Box 103, Folder 6); photographs of Wanda Hawley, a silent motion picture actress, Helen Wainwright, Olympic swimming and diving champion, and Helen Hentschel, an outboard motor boat racer, at Virginia Beach, Princess Anne County, n.d. (Box 104, Folder 3);and Directory of Surry County, Virginia , 1932-1933 compiled by Gordon C. Berryman (Box 105, Folder 9).