Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Excitement Continued

Brushing off the previous day's bomb scare, Sue and I fueled up with the hotel breakfast and headed to Heathsville.  We went in to the historical society first where we reacquainted ourselves with the wonderful volunteers we'd met before and set to work with books and papers.  My favorite part of the day was when Tom Wolf agreed to take me to the old jail for a look around. This jail building is under the protection of the society and sits within the same area as the courthouses.  We'd been loitering around it the day before. 
Northumberland County Jail, Heathsville, Va.

In the context of my book, this is the jail where Magnolia and her "accomplice" Albert Viehmeyer were placed after the murder indictment came down.  In fairly quick order Magnolia's lawyers had managed to get her out of the jail by citing frail health and she was lodged in the hotel, which you can see part of in the photos in my last entry.  (Viehmeyer was left here from his arrest in April until his release in December.)  At the time Magnolia was placed there in April 1895, there were no real separate areas for women.  I imagine she was taken to the upper storey, assuming the ground floor was inhabited by men.  There have been many changes to the inside of the building, of course, and where there were two large rooms with a central hall and stairway, these floors are now open so one can walk around the three barred cells, with the staircase on one end.  I paused close to an upper window and wondered if Magnolia had looked through it.  I even wondered if it had glass at the time since there is no mention of window glass in the records of the jail until 1897.
Did Magnolia gaze through this window?

I enjoyed my tour by Tom Wolf so much.  I never imagined I would be lucky enough to find such a knowledgeable source as Mr. Wolf to give me such insight into an event from 1895.  To stand in the court rooms as I have done, then the jail, is something I look upon as a gift.  These gifts inspire me to attempt the best book I can do.  There have been many gifts given me during this research.  Sue's interest and time and effort has been the biggest gift of all.  I feel it is her book project as much as mine.  Add to this people like Tom Wolf, Virginia Burgess and Blanche E. Jones, and you have a pretty bow.  Our meeting with Blanche took place the following day and having her as a guide to sites unseen is another entry.

What was our excitement this day?  After supper at a lovely cafe in Lottsburg that is attached to a tire supply/garage, we raced to the hotel ahead of a storm!  The news that evening was duly memorable for it highlighted two areas where we'd just been gallivanting. 
Tornado!
Once again we survived the day, of course!  The final part of our journey will be another entry.  Until then.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Who Says Excitement Is Good?

Days after my packet arrived from the University of Virginia I was reminded that excitement isn't always a good thing.  My sister-in-law Sue and I made our trip down to Virginia to do some planned land research.  We were also going to meet with a lovely lady named Blanche who is the granddaughter of Fuller Jones, the brother of Magnolia.  In the past she had sent me a few photos and some info, but we'd never met.  This time she was going to guide us on a little tour of certain sites such as where Magnolia's house stood.

We arrived at our hotel in Warsaw on Wednesday evening and used that time to go over notes and make lists of what we needed to search for in the courthouse the next day.  The new courthouse stands in the same area as the old courthouse and jail and the Northumberland County Historical Society, where we planned  to stop as well.  So after breakfast on Thursday we travelled about thirty minutes down the road to Heathsville.  Heathsville is a lovely little place and Sue remembered exactly where to turn to find the Historical Society and courthouse.  We were a little confused once we turned though, to find our way blocked.  There were people standing around under the trees on the old courthouse lot and I wandered over to ask what was going on.  Would you believe it was a bomb scare at the courthouse?

This shows the back of the Old courthouse. One of the men behind the building was the intrepid reporter of the weekly paper. Sue and I, along with one of the more bored firemen at the scene, dubbed him "Scoop Newton."

The road to the New courthouse (where we wanted to be) runs beside the white building.



Needless to say, there was no courthouse research to be done that day.  We weren't allowed to the Historical Society either, since it is just about a hundred yards or so behind and to the right of me as I shot those photos.  Sue and I wandered around, chatting up firemen if they didn't look too grumpy.  Consensus was that someone due for trial that morning left the dynamite-looking package at the courthouse that morning.  We did see the truck come in, pulling a steel boxy piece of equipment, which we found out was the box used to detonate explosives when found.  Later we learned it had been fake.  People were mostly nice and we were left to wander as long as we didn't get too close to the cones, but there are photos of Sue and I in the files of the Virginia State Police.  We asked the young fireman we talked to why the trooper had taken our photo and he shrugged and said, "Well, in case you did it."  Sue laughed.  "You tell me who did this and I'll get him!"  (You don't hinder Sue's research and expect her to take it, do you?)

We finally left, putting the authorities at ease I'm sure, and went exploring.  We hunted up some cemeteries we'd seen on previous trips and did another fruitless search for the grave of T. Ferdinand Williams, Magnolia's husband.  For someone who'd been buried twice, you wouldn't think it would be that hard to find a marked grave, but what do I know?  One of our first research trips turned up the odd fact that his death wasn't even recorded in the official record book at the courthouse.  But traipsing through cemeteries is always a fun thing for both of us so we didn't mind.  Back at Warsaw we stopped in the cemetery where the defense attorney William Atkinson Jones is buried.  Being that he was also a member of the House of Representatives from 1891 until his death in 1918, and that he had sponsored the Jones Act which promised ultimate independence to the Philippines, his grave is graced by a lusciously huge memorial given by the people of the Philippines.  Not hard to find.

That night we had dinner and spent the evening hooting over the news coverage of the bomb scare and trying to get by-chance unflattering photos of the on-screen reporter!  I scored big on that one.

I wonder if I should offer this to her for her portfolio?

We went to sleep that night hoping for good luck on Friday.  For the most part we got it.  But we also had another day with news breaking surprises.  I'll write that up next time.  Until then.