19 February 2015
“Mama,” the letter begins, “I suppose you will have heard before this reaches you of the fight we had yesterday at Greenbrier River.” The letter was written by a Confederate soldier – Fluvanna doctor Richard C. Bowles - in 1861. In the letter, Bowles described the details of the battle, asked after family and community members, and sent information about other members of his unit, the Virginia 44th. The battle was part of Lee’s campaign at Cheat Mountain in what is now West Virginia.
This fragile, faded letter, the most recent accession to the Fluvanna Historical Society, is just one of the history-rich treasures to be found in the archives collection.
The archives collection of the Fluvanna Historical Society is kept in “Maggie’s House,” built in 1854, in Palmyra’s Court Square. The archives room is part of an addition built onto Maggie’s House in the early 1900s.
“The Archive room” said Historical Society Executive Director Judith Mickelson, “was originally used in the early 1900s as the Palmyra Post Office, hence the exterior door and the little porch, as a separate entrance.” One entire wall of the archive room is lined with shelves, which hold archival boxes filled with ephemera – paper items like letters, meeting minutes, and photographs. All in all there are over 100 boxes of carefully maintained papers pertinent to the history of Fluvanna County.
Mickelson describes the collection as “impressive” and calls the archives the society’s “most prized asset.”
These archives are open to the public, and the society’s archive volunteers will assist visitors to Maggie’s House with any research they wish to do. Volunteers also handle research requests that come in by mail or email, or telephone. Requests come from all over the country – sometimes from outside of the country – and are sent in by genealogists, amateur historians, doctoral students, and writers.
“The service we provide to the public is well-known and well-respected,” said Mickelson. “Researchers of family history, descendants of early Fluvanna families, other historical societies and curious history lovers are able to utilize the collection to help further their inquiries.”