The Magazine of Albemarle County History, Vol. 74, 2016
Magazine of Albemarle County History
An annual journal of local history published since 1940
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Featured below are excerpts from just a few of the articles featured in the current addition of the Magazine of Albemarle County History.
Featured Articles -
A Ship Named "Charlottesville": The WWII Experience at Home and Afloat
By: James P. Bailey II
On July 30, 1943, at 12:50 p.m., in front of approximately 3,000 shipyard workers and their families in Superior, Wisconsin, USS Charlottesville (PF-25) splashed into the Hughitt slip.1 On that warm afternoon, she became the fourth ship launched from the Walter Butler Shipyards in nineteen days, with a fifth ship scheduled for launch just thirteen days later on August 12.2 Mrs. J. Emmett (Helen S.) Gleason, the wife of Charlottesville’s mayor, performed the traditional sponsorship role at the Charlottesville’s unveiling. Gleason broke a bottle of champagne across the bow prior to the launch, and made a dedication speech after the ship was afloat (fig. 1).
Against a backdrop of worldwide conflict, USS Charlottesville joined a fleet of thousands of ships, built as part of the increased military armament efforts undertaken by the United States during World War II (fig. 2). Though her official time in American service was brief, she played an important role in US defense, just as the citizens of the city for which she was named performed important civic and defensive duties at home and abroad during the war. Reexamining the wartime efforts of such civilian organizations as the Civilian Defense Force, the Red Cross, and local manufacturers, as well as the military installments of the 8th Evacuation Hospital and the Monticello Guard, provides an inspirational picture of the ship’s namesake city.
"The Smartest Chap in Town": The Life and Times of Kathleen Clifford
By: Hailey Stoudt
Kathleen Clifford (1887?–1962) led what many people would consider an exciting life (fig. 1). A successful vaudeville headliner turned silent film star, Clifford traveled the globe performing on numerous stages. While her talents in singing and dancing launched her career, she was best known for her comedic impressions as a male impersonator, earning the moniker “The Smartest Chap in Town.” After retiring from the stage, she turned her passion for flowers into a career by starting a floristry business. She also channeled her energy into writing and published several works, including a children’s book. Clifford toured across the United States and England, calling many places home, but she claimed Charlottesville, Virginia, as her birthplace.
The true life story of Kathleen Clifford, however, is difficult to decipher. Early in her career, Clifford often fibbed about her origins and identity in order to gain popularity as an entertainer. Press coverage, as well as contradictory census data and other government documents, clouded the facts even further with mismatched information recorded decades apart. This article will attempt to unravel the mysteries of Kathleen Clifford’s origins and her personal life outside of her stage persona, tracing the fascinating life story of this supposed Charlottesville native.
Cash and Currency: Antebellum Banks and Banknotes of Albemarle County, 1830-1865
By: Henry Hull
In the 1830s, Albemarle County localities adamantly campaigned for the establishment of banks in their respective areas, citing exhaustive reasons for the growing need for local financial institutions. Over the next three decades, several local banks took root. The banks provided a much-needed system of local currency, and produced banknotes rich with cultural symbolism (figs. 1–2). The success of these institutions, however, was short-lived, as the challenges posed by the Civil War economy led to their ruin. This retrospective of Albemarle County’s antebellum banks offers an extensive examination of the founding and operation of the earliest local banks, and considers the role of extant banknotes as symbolic records of Virginia’s historical identity and cultural legacy.
The Campaign for Banks in Albemarle County
Beginning in 1833, appeals to the Virginia General Assembly for a Charlottesville bank reasoned that transportation, business, and the University of Virginia were “subjected to great inconvenience by [the] present system.”1 On January 30, 1835, a coalition of professors and the proctor of the University of Virginia requested a bank in Charlottesville because of the town’s emergence as a transportation nexus, and because “merchants and farmers are put to very serious inconvenience for lack of banking facilities.”2 An 1836 claim stated that Charlottesville merited a bank because of “its convenient and central location and its distance at present from all the established banks,” and advocated for “the great benefit the University of Virginia would receive from a bank.”3
The Rise and Fall of New York, Virginia
By: Sam Towler
Growing up, I remember hearing stories about my mother’s family, the Baileys and the Hayses, founding a town near Greenwood, Virginia (fig. 1). Originally hailing from eastern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, respectively, the Baileys and the Hayses had lived in western Albemarle County since the mid to late 1700s. Two family heirlooms show evidence of this early residency: First, a book of Irish poems, published in 1797, that bears the inscription “John Hays, Albemarle, 1808” inside the front cover, along with several other notes written by various Hays family members; and second, the “Hays table,” which was said to have been a wedding gift from the Hays family when Mary C. Hays married James H. Bailey in 1829. A fine example of solid wood construction, the Hays table has no metal nails or screws, apart from a remnant of a metal lock on the drawer.
My mother, Virginia, thought the town that the Baileys and Hayses had founded was New Town, near Greenwood. She only knew her family’s oral history as it was passed down through the generations, and had never done any formal genealogical research. So to learn the full story of the town and my ancestors’ central role in establishing it, I undertook an extensive consultation of courthouse records. I soon discovered that the town in question was not New Town at all, but New York—a town that disappeared from county records in the mid-1850s. Using historic maps, deeds, and land and court records, I have reconstructed the framework of the town’s earliest days and the people who built it, and theorized the reasons for New York’s eventual decline.