The Fluvanna Historical Society Receives 2023 Commonwealth History Fund Grant


The Fluvanna Historical Society is one of the 11 recipients to receive a grant from the Virginia Museum History & Culture’s (VMHC) Commonwealth History Fund. The Fluvanna Historical Society has been awarded $25,000.

The VMHC, in partnership with Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources (DHR), awards grants to history organizations and projects throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia through its Commonwealth History Fund. There are several key selection criteria to be considered for the grants, including the significance of the project or resource, its impact on its community and the Commonwealth, the focus on historically underrepresented topics and communities, and the need for funding and urgency of the project.

One of the largest initiatives of its kind, the Commonwealth History Fund is expected to award up to $2 million over its first five years. In 2022, the VMHC awarded $402,500 to fellow history organizations. Funds can be used for a variety of purposes including preservation, publications, artifact acquisition, research, conservation of artifacts and educational programming. Eligible recipients include Virginia non-profits, educational institutions, and state recognized Virginia Indian tribes. The Fund was made possible through the generosity of Dominion Energy and others. 

“The Commonwealth History Fund has quickly become one of the best tools we have as your state history museum to support history education and preservation efforts taking place in your local community,” said VMHC President & CEO Jamie Bosket. “We are so very thankful for this opportunity to invest in the work of our fellow history organizations, now and for years to come.”

We are incredibly honored to be one of the 11 compelling projects chosen to receive funding from the Commonwealth History Fund. Through this amazing opportunity, we will be able to give back to our communities by implementing a project that will help us to continue telling the story of Virginia and have a lasting impact on future generations.

The Fluvanna Historical Society will use this generous grant funding to create a new exhibit, “The Words They Left Behind Them: Legacies of Bremo” at its Old Stone Jail Museum in the historic village of Palmyra. This new exhibit will feature words written by both the enslaved men and women of Bremo and their enslaver, General John Hartwell Cocke. “We are designing this exhibit in collaboration with descendants of people enslaved at Bremo and with the kind assistance of Central Virginia public history professionals; our plan is to let these historic figures literally speak for themselves,” said the society’s director Tricia Johnson. These letters will help visitors to the exhibit gain insight into the lives of the enslaved, their agency, and how they navigated complicated relationships with their enslaver to support and protect their enslaved family members. Johnson added that a persistent undercurrent of the exhibit will be the painful reality of the separation of enslaved families.

 The exhibit will also contain letters and journal entries written by John Hartwell Cocke and his family members and will explore Cocke’s civic contributions. Cocke, a general in the War of 1812 and a protégé of Thomas Jefferson, was a noted architect who designed not only Bremo and the Bremo Slave Chapel, but Fluvanna’s historic 1830 Palladian courthouse and the 1828 Old Stone Jail itself. He was a noted proponent of agricultural reform, served on the founding Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, and, as founding vice president of the Virginia Colonization Society, spent much of his life advocating for the gradual emancipation of the enslaved. Despite his stated conviction that slavery was immoral, and his near abolitionist tendencies in his younger years, Cocke manumitted only 14  of the hundreds of men, women, and children he enslaved. 

More information on The Commonwealth History Fund can be found at

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