A Guide to the Executive letter books of Governor Philip W. McKinney, 1890-1893 35358

A Guide to the Executive letter books of Governor Philip W. McKinney, 1890-1893

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 35358


Library of Virginia

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Processed by: Craig Moore

The Library of Virginia
Accession Number
Executive letter books of Governor Philip W. McKinney, 1890-1893
6 v. (3658 p.)
Virginia. Governor (1890-1894 : McKinney)

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

For preservation purposes, please use microfilm (Misc. reel 6194-6196)

Preferred Citation

Executive Letter books of Governor Philip W. McKinney, 1890-1893. Accession 35358, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information unknown

Alternative Form Available

Also available on microfilm (Misc. reels 6194-6196)

Biographical Information

Phillip Watkins McKinney, son of Charles and Martha Guerrant McKinney, was born on March 17, 1832 at New Store in Buckingham County, Virginia. McKinney graduated Hampden-Sydney College in 1851 before studying law under Judge Brockenbrough at Washington College. Following his education, he opened a law practice in Buckingham County and, in 1854, married Anne Fleming Christian. The marriage produced one son, Robert Christian McKinney. McKinney officially entered politics in 1857 with his election to the House of Delegates where he served until resigning in 1861 to join the Army of Northern Virginia. A Captain in Company K of the 4th Cavalry, he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Brandy Station and left the military in 1864, briefly returning to the House of Delegates before opening a law firm in Farmville in 1865. Widowed in 1859, he re-married in 1884 to Anna Clay Lyle who gave birth to a daughter, Frankie Irving, in 1887.

McKinney's political career following his first term in the House of Delegates mixed achievement and failure. He served as the Commonwealth's Attorney for Prince Edward county briefly in the 1860's and 70's, and for longer terms in the 1880's. Unable to immediately repeat his earlier success, he failed to win election in several campaigns including a U.S. Congressional race in 1872, the House of Delegates in 1875, State Attorney General in 1881 and Governor in 1885 before successfully campaigning for the Governorship in 1889. Governor from 1890 to 1894, McKinney focused on improving the state's economy and strengthening the Virginia Democratic party. In 1891, he oversaw the passage of Olcott Settlement, a reorganization of the Government debt that provided the means for the State to extricate itself from a worsening financial situation. McKinney also addressed problems in the state fishing industry with passage of a bill to regulate the shellfish harvesting that included the creation of Shellfish Commission to regulate natural oyster beds. Although not acted on during his tenure, other ideas initiated under McKinney that would later help to strengthen the Democratic party included curbing the influence of lobbyists and railroads and enacting a state income tax. Retiring from active politics at the conclusion of his governorship, McKinney and his wife retired to Farmville where he died on March 1, 1899. He is buried at Farmville Cemetery.

Scope and Content

The executive letter books contain the outgoing correspondence of Governor Philip W. McKinney, including letters from private secretary Cazneau McLeod to McKinney while McKinney was away from Richmond during the summer months. The correspondence largely consists of typed carbon copies on onionskin paper, with occasional handwritten letters. An alphabetical index of correspondents (by first letter of surname) is located at the front of each volume, with page numbers. Much of the correspondence involves appointments to positions or requests for pardons.

Other topics include boundary disputes with Maryland and Tennessee, rewards for fugitives and the return of fugitives from other states, the state's psychiatric institutions, surveys and legislation on oysters, the installation of the Lee statue on Monument Avenue, hiring out of convicts for railroad work, various schools and institutions in the state, the division of federal funds for schools, the Lodge Force Bill of 1890, the Direct Tax Bill and the direct tax refund, the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, preparations in case of a diphtheria epidemic, and the funeral train for the reburial of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. After the election of Grover Cleveland, McKinney wrote to the president many times with recommendations of Virginia Democrats for federal positions. He also inquired of different institutions on the potential dangers of electric lights and petroleum.

Notable correspondents include General Jubal Early; shipbuilder and industrialist William R. Trigg; Morton Marye; Martin McMahon; Colonel Thomas Whitehead; Redfield Proctor; former governor Fitzhugh Lee; Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison; U.S. Secretarys of War, State, and the Treasury; the superintendents of state schools and psychiatric institutions; the governors of Maryland, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Rhode Island regarding oyster legislation; and the governors of southern states on a regional immigration convention.


This collection is arranged into the following series:

Series I. Executive letter books of Governor Philip W. McKinney, 1890-1894.

Arranged chronologically.

Index Terms

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

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