Tobacco-Mecklenburg’s cash crop

Gray sisters: Martha Moseley, Dolly Taylor & Nannie Kidd (from Jim Kidd)

I love this picture of 3 sisters linked arm in arm. I think they look adorable! I like to imagine from the way they look here that they were friends, and stood by each other through both good times and tough times. This is the only picture I know of, with my Virginia family on a farm. Tobacco was a huge part of their life. Peanuts, squash and sweet potatoes were also important crops. There was often a huge kitchen garden for the family near the house. They ate what they grew. Obvious to farmers, but not so obvious to me who grew up in cities and rarely saw family vegetable gardens. This picture was probably taken in Mecklenburg about 110 years ago. In the late 1890s, Nannie Gray Kidd remained in Bracey, her siblings moved to Danville, VA. Martha and Dolly (pictured) lived in Danville at the time of this picture, but as they lived in the city; I’m assuming Martha and Dolly came to visit Nannie in Mecklenburg when this picture was taken in the early 1910’s.

2007 Lindbergh Tudor

Lindbergh Tudor told me his hair was always a mess as a young boy, even in school pictures. He explained there was usually sticky tar in his hair from working in the tobacco fields and it hurt to comb that out. He also designed his wagon to work well with transporting tobacco leaves. He made spaces between slats to hold tools, which was also a good width to tie tobacco leaves to the slats. I love the inventiveness of farmers! I really enjoy meeting farmers and asking about their farms’ history.

2004 Mary Walker & sister Pearl. Farmed tobacco in LaCrosse

Mary Walker told me that as a young girl, her large family lined up in the field. The youngest children held bundles of tobacco leaves together, while the older children tied the leaves together. Teenage siblings carried the tied stalks to the wagon. They all had various jobs. They also helped and worked together with their neighbors, who were often close relatives.

I was repeatedly told that picking off hornworms and tar that stuck to them, were their least favorite part of tobacco farming; that and being exasperated with the heat and humidity . Some people told me it was their job to squash & kill hornworms to save their family crops. Those are huge, fat, scary, gross looking bugs! I’m glad I’ve never had that job!

tobacco barn

Most people I’ve interviewed from Mecklenburg told me tobacco was their cash crop, and a big part of Mecklenburg’s history and economy. I’ve heard some tobacco was hung to dry, in taller barns. I found this shorter barn pictured above near Boydton. Growing up a city girl, I’d never seen a structure like this before. I took a picture to show people and ask what it was used for. I was told the tobacco was cured differently with this type of barn. Sort of smoked dry to cure it before a lot of the crop was lost to humidity. People told me this was where Brunswick stew was big. The curing process took several days and lots of hands. People camped around the barn during this harvest and enjoyed Brunswick stew.

I’ve been asking everyone I meet for interviews about their chores when they were children. Everyone tells me farming was hard and exhausting work, even at a young age. But it was necessary for survival, to have enough food to eat, and keep the farms running. There was no big equipment, they farmed (and often still farm) with simple tools “the old fashioned way”. Not many had tractors, because they couldn’t afford it. Everyone had to work long hours with shovels, hoes, resourcefulness and as a team effort. People told me they understood why a lot of their kids and grandkids didn’t want to continue farming. They could get more money and have their finances more secure with other types of jobs. Old farms, older farming methods, and their stories are starting to disappear. So I want to preserve and share as many stories and pictures as I can find.

Do you have pictures or stories about your family farming? What were your family’s cash crops? Comment below, even if not from Mecklenburg. If you have a Mecklenburg related farming picture you’re willing to share, please let me know! I’d love to post it on this site.

tobacco barn for hanging tobacco (Brunswick VA 2006)

Charles Tudor-WWII Veteran

Charles Allen Tudor

This picture of Charles Tudor was his parent’s picture. It’s still hanging up on the wall of his parent’s old house. I asked about the frame and was told that’s how the military pictures were framed, with the eagle frame and rounded glass. The rounded glass broke, but the frame and picture were untouched. New, flat glass was put into the frame, which thankfully is much easier to make a copy of the picture.

Charles was the son of James Oliver “Ollie” Tudor and Nancy Elizabeth Kidd. Charles was the 6th of 11 children. I met Charles’ younger brother Lindbergh Tudor. Lindbergh told me he had several older brothers in the war, but he was too young to enlist by just a few months. Aubrey Tudor, another sibling of Charles and Lindbergh will be the next veteran spotlight post. I met Elva Kidd White who told me she wrote letters to her cousins oversees every Sunday. (Elva’s father and Charles’ mother were siblings.) She showed me a copy of his last letter home, written 27 Nov 1944. This letter was received, then the next day, the family found out he had died. Here is Charles signature and the last paragraph of the letter, about lots of rain and asking about Thanksgiving:

Charles Tudor’s signature
Note: J O Tudor was Charles father
Charles Tudor’s name on the Virginia War monument in Richmond, Virginia

What is a chancery? Kidd land example

I love the genealogical treasures you can find in chancery cases! In this post, I’ll try to explain what a chancery case is, and how they help me with family history; using the chancery of Jimmy Kidd’s estate as an example. Chancery records are not “beginner genealogy”, but it’s so worth it to learn more about these records because they tell us: women’s maiden names, when people died, relationships stated under oath, depositions about how people are related or how they know the plaintiff or defendant, copies of wills, copies of plats, etc. It depends on the type of complaint in the chancery case how much of that is included. In Virginia, all chancery cases before 1930 were sent to LVA (Library of Virginia), also before 1930, divorce cases (which were part of the circuit court) were sent to LVA, and are part of the chancery collection. LVA has an amazing searchable index which is available online. You can search by county for plaintiff, defendant, or just surname(which includes “other”, like a witness). I always search “surname” which includes searches for all 3 categories (see image below). When I first started researching my Virginia ancestors, I was disappointed that my family didn’t have any wills. But then I discovered that because they didn’t have wills, their estates were divided in chancery, with much more information in the chancery case than a will would have contained. Chancery records are some of the best proof I know for family links, especially if you are researching Taylors & Jones.

The LVA site says “There are over 272,000 cases indexed in the database and nearly 11 million images of chancery causes available online.” Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties have not yet been digitized, so I go to the actual LVA to see the originals. Orange county has them microfilmed, so I view those microfilms at LVA. Madison County has them digitized. You can scan through the folder and view the whole case on the LVA website. The search results will tell you about the case, the surnames in the case, and the format so you will know how you can view it.

There are several parts to a chancery case. The genealogical information is usually in the bill of complaint and answer. There’s also the judge’s answer (decision). If the complaint is that a will is not being fulfilled, the will is usually included. If the complaint is that a person died without a will and has land to be divided between heirs, a plat may be ordered and land divided. If someone promised to free their slaves at death and the slaves aren’t freed, there may be written proof and probably depositions of people saying they were told by their friend (or brother etc) that the slaves were to be freed. Other reasons for cases I have seen include: debts or bonds signed, secured with land, but the debt has not been paid by the promised date. The judge would then order the land to be sold to pay the debt. I also have seen debts involving slaves, owners loaning their slaves to build houses, harvest crops etc and charging fees with interest, that the other person could not pay by the due date. Large chancery cases are often full of receipts of people paying debts in payments or receiving payments. After the civil war, many people went to chancery court, because they had no money to pay their debts, or executors could not fulfill the will anymore. This is a link to an LVA document which explains chancery cases in detail. Page 3 gives more detail about the parts of a case. https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/rn22_chancery.pdf

There are over 272,000 cases indexed in the database and nearly 11 million images of chancery causes available online.

Library of Virginia

The legal language of chancery cases can get confusing. I bought a Barron’s dictionary of legal terms (written for non-lawyers) to help me better understand what some of the more complex cases I copied mean. One thing that confused me when I first started, was why a sibling was suing all his other siblings, yet asking for equal inheritance for himself and all his siblings?! He wasn’t actually suing as we might think of today, but rather this was the legal language used to get the case into court so they could equally receive their inheritance.

What is the difference between a chancery court and other courts? One big difference is that in chancery, a judge decides the result, not a jury. One observation I have is that cases usually involve money, property or land. LVA has a great write up about that as well, here is their explanation: https://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/chancery/faq

Example of Jimmy Kidd chancery case:

I did not know this land was in chancery until a friend found this newspaper article for me. This includes 2 pieces of land owned by Jimmy Kidd and his wife Nannie Gray. I knew that one of these farms was John Gray’s old farm. The other was the farm where Nannie & Jimmy lived. I did not see this chancery case in the LVA chancery index. I took this newspaper article to the LVA archivists and they told me they did not have this case. This is right about the time courthouses were sending older cases to LVA but keeping current cases. I went to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and they did have it! And it was all typed!

This was a rather large case which included lots of documenting receipts. I copied the complaint, answer and depositions, which are in this file that you can download here. Everything in the chancery was typed, but there was one handwritten page by Ewing Kidd (TE Kidd, Thomas Ewing Kidd), so I copied that as well. The case was still folded & held together in legal folders with clips, so they aren’t all copied straight and even. Here are the pages I copied, if you’d like to view the case:

Chart to go with chancery case. Formatted to legal size 8.5×14

Scanned copy of Jimmy’s will at the courthouse

This chancery case gives a typed copy of Jimmy Kidd’s will, which says he leaves everything to his wife Nannie, then after she dies, the estate is to be equally divided between his children. This chancery case was filed because the heirs didn’t feel the two properties could be divided equally between 8 children. Depositions were taken of neighbors, asking if they felt the land could be divided equally, or if the land should be sold and the money divided equally between the 8 heirs. One important note is that Benjamin Bart Kidd died in 1925, before this case began. So his share was to be divided between his 3 children. Bart’s widow had remarried and she now went by the name of Bettie Johnson. This map shows the two pieces of land in the chancery case, letter A & letter B. The men who gave depositions are also noted with their names on their property locations. Note: Edwin Lambert would have lived above his store at old Bracey, just a little to the west of where this map cuts off.

The judge decided to sell the 2 parcels and divide the receipts of the sale between the heirs. Edwin Lambert bought parcel A, the farm his wife grew up on. Adolphus Kidd bought parcel B, which used to be the Gray farm.

map to go with depositions

Here are some highlights from the 1930 depositions, about land and relationships.

signatures of Bart Kidd & Alma’s children
1935 signature of Bettie, the widow of Benjamin Bart Kidd
Ewing Kidd’s handwriting

DT Ridout picture & family

Dave Ridout sent me this picture to share. A cousin gave him a copy, but they aren’t sure which of the two DT Ridouts this could be. One DT Ridout is David Thomas Ridout who lived from 1820-1876. He was first married to Mary E. Thomas, a daughter of Robin Thomas and Rebecca Jones. His second wife was Rebecca Wells.

The second David T. Ridout I know about, lived from 1838-1908. He was the son of William Ridout and Calissa Barker. His uncle (his father William’s brother) was the other David T. Ridout, which I assume he was named after. This younger David was married to Mary Elizabeth Taylor, a daughter of Isaac Taylor. David Ridout and his next door neighbor John C. Jones married sisters the same day, 14 Dec 1865. They lived on adjoining land that was the women’s father, Isaac Taylor’s land. (Pre-1815 that land was part of Peter Thomas’ estate). This younger David T. Ridout is buried with his wife, daughter Lorena Ridout Kidd, and some grandchildren; on this land described, which is near the corner of Tolbert & Blackridge Rd.

  1. Place #1: An old Ridout Store in Old Bracey. Store no longer standing. Belonged to John Henry Ridout, son of Jesse James Ridout & Anna Caroline Ridout.
  2. Place #2: Ridout Cemetery. Children and grandchildren of the older David Thomas Ridout and Mary E. Thomas are buried here. Including Jesse James & Anna Caroline Ridout.
  3. Place #3: Old home of Jesse James & Caroline Ridout. Allen Tudor lived here as a young child.
  4. Place #4: David T. Ridout, the younger, was buried at this cemetery, (Tolbert & Blackridge Rd) and their old home place was near the cemetery, no longer standing.
  5. The straight road running north to south, just to the east of DK’s home and the cemetery, is Ridout Road.
  6. Note: Barker’s land
  7. (not marked) DK Ridout’s home was on 619-Nellie Jone Rd near the Rufus Kidd’s store.
  8. (not on map here, just additional info) James D. Ridout, son of William Ridout & Calissa Barker is buried at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg. Ward: Civil War Soldiers, Sec: Virginia, Sq. Soldier, Loc: Memorial Hill, grave #97

Lorena Ridout (pictured above) was the daughter of David T. Ridout (younger) and Mary Taylor. So is Lorena the daughter of the man in the picture? Or is Lorena the great-niece of the man pictured beside her? (Her grandfather William Ridout’s brother.) (See chart above)

I discovered something else about this same family I’m very curious about. In the Richmond Enquirer Newspaper I found that William Ridout was murdered on 26 Sep 1843. Was the man murdered the brother or father of the man DT Ridout in this picture? These two articles are all I know about this story. This second article ran for two months, saying that Allison C Dugger, (male) was still at large. In deed records, my friend and I found there was an Allison C. Dugger junior and senior. One of the Allison’s was made a constable about a week before the murder. I don’t know which man was constable and which murdered William. The newspaper article does not reference the constable part at all.

Ridout Murder in 1843!

Richmond Enquirer Newspaper

William Ridout and Calissa had 3 children: David T. (possibly the man pictured), Polly and James. After William died, Calissa and her children moved in with her parents Ben Barker and Judith Jones. (source: 1850 & 1860 Census)

Have you seen this picture before, of DT Ridout? Or do you know enough about clothing and style to better estimate the time period of this picture? Do you have other Ridout pictures we can compare to Lorena and DT Ridout? I’m curious about what David is holding in his hand, and why was that important to be in the picture? Have you heard about this murder before? Or have you seen info about the conclusion of this story? If you have any further info or comments, please comment on this post. Note: Ridout is spelled both with and without an “E”, Rideout or Ridout. But Ridout Road, this picture and the cemetery don’t use the “E” so I omitted the “E” in this post.

Thank you Dave Ridout for sharing this picture and for adding to my map!

Gray Family Picture-Can you help?

Mattie Floyd with an older couple

I was given a copy of some Gray family pictures so I could help ID and date them. All the other pictures in this picture group are children of John Gray and Sarah Jones. I didn’t want to share my theory before, because I didn’t want to bias anyone’s opinion. I realized I’ve now had this picture for 17 years, and not been able to find anyone who could identify this couple. So, today I’m sharing my theory with a picture comparison, in the hopes this might lead to finding a labeled copy.

My theory is: this picture is Mattie Floyd, standing behind her in-laws John Gray and Sarah Jones, about Jan 1881 in Mecklenburg, Virginia. It is possibly taken the day of Mattie and Charles’ wedding 15 Jan 1881. I’m looking for people who can confirm or dispute this theory.

The woman standing behind the couple has been identified as Mattie Floyd, daughter of Sarah Tudor and Wyatt Floyd. Mattie Floyd married Charles Gray 15 Jan 1881, at age 20. So Mattie would technically not be “Gray Family” in a Gray picture before 1881. I am curious about the book Mattie is holding. I wondered if it could be the James B. Jones family Bible, because John Gray’s children’s names were written in that Bible. But I’m told no, the Jones Bible is much larger than this book. Was Mattie a teacher? Or why else was this book important?

I do not think the couple in the picture could be Mattie’s family. I’ve seen a picture of Mattie’s father. He died in the Spotsylvania, Virginia Courthouse battle when Mattie was only 3 years old. Her mother, Sarah Tudor actually died the day Mattie and Charles Gray married. I also don’t think either Mattie or Lelia look like the older couple. My theory is this picture is to celebrate Mattie’s engagement or recent marriage. Maybe to show that she’s now a part of the family? Or could this be a wedding day picture? I assume this picture was taken in Mecklenburg, VA. Possibly at John Gray and Sarah Jones farm. In the year 1881 when Charles and Mattie married, John Gray was age 71 and blind. Sarah was age 56. People who farmed outdoors a lot, looked much older than compared to people the same age today. See example below for Fannie Gray:

Here are some pictures of the children of John Gray and Sarah Jones compared with the picture of the older couple who I theorize could be John Gray and Sarah Jones, in about 1881.








If you have a picture of any of John Gray and Sarah Jones children, or any of Sarah’s siblings you can compare it to, please let me know. Sarah was the daughter of James B. Jones and Martha Newman.

John Gray: his family, his land

My ancestor John Gray was born in Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland about 1810. I’ve been trying to figure out where he lived in Mecklenburg for at least 10 years. Now I know that he raised his family and farmed on Hall Rd, near Rehoboth Church, near the big curve in the road. I still haven’t found a plat, but I know I have found the area my family lived.

John’s birth year fluctuates as much as 10 years on various records. But the average record says he was born about 1810. John Gray was a linen weaver at Colonel Blacker’s estate. Large areas of Northern Ireland were going bankrupt; With warehouses full of linen, fleece and merchandise, but no one buying. Colonel Blacker wrote in his journal about these financially difficult times, the year that John Gray immigrated, in 1838. (Before the famine.) John was married to Ann Purdy, immigrated with Nicholas Purdy’s family and lived by Robert Joyce in Mecklenburg who was married to an Elizabeth Purdy. Not sure how closely they are related, but we know John was related to and lived near Purdy’s in both Ireland and Mecklenburg County, Virginia. John and his family arrived in the New York, New York port 27 Jul 1838. A year and a half later, (19 Dec 1840) he was purchasing land in Mecklenburg, VA, near Rehoboth Church in Blackridge. John remained on that same property for the rest of his life.

John Gray, his wife Ann, his daughter Elizabeth (who also immigrated with him), and a boy under the age of 5 are counted on the 1840 Census. I’m not sure who the boy is, I’ve not yet found a record for him. John’s wife Ann died sometime before 22 May 1847, when John married Sarah Elizabeth Jones. Sarah’s father James B. Jones and mother Martha Newman lived on the adjoining property.

On the 1850 Census: There’s John, his wife Sarah, daughter Martha and daughter Sarah (less than a year old). The boy from the 1840 Census is unaccounted for. John’s daughter Elizabeth was at school in Brunswick County, VA in the home of William Jones. (Not related to her step mother’s Jones family that I can see.) In 1857 Elizabeth married Washington Clary.

(This download button is for the 11×17 chart shown above)

John Gray’s children with his 2nd wife Sarah Elizabeth Jones were:

  1. Martha Ann Gray, who married William H. Moseley
  2. Sarah J. Gray, who lived to be age 16
  3. Louisa V. Gray, who married Robert J. Lynch
  4. Charles Robert Gray, who married Mattie Floyd
  5. Rebecca “Dolly” Gray, who married George C. Taylor
  6. Nannie Elizabeth Gray, who married Jimmy Kidd
  7. Frank Jones Gray, married 1) Elizabeth Clary 2) Eula Bernard
  8. *Alginon “Nonnie” Gray, married 1) Theresa India Dortch (my line), 2) Martha Dortch (sister of his first wife)
  9. Thomas Beasley Gray, married Lelia Edenbeck (half sister to Mattie Floyd. Their mother was Sarah Tudor)

These children’s births as well as Sarah Jones Gray’s birth and death date are recorded in the James B. Jones family Bible. Pictures of all of James and Sarah’s children, except Louisa, are on this site under “Gray Family Pictures”. I don’t have an exact death date for John Gray. But, he was listed as deceased when Henry Mayo bought the Jones land in 1889. After John and Sarah Gray died, their children: Martha, Louisa, Charles, Dolly, Frank and Thomas moved their families to Danville, Virginia. Alginon moved to various places as a carpenter. Only Nannie remained, which I believe is why all the siblings sold the family farm to Nannie and Jimmy Kidd.

Edwin Lambert bought the house where Nannie and Jimmy lived as a surprise for his wife Lula. When she asked him after the auction, “Who bought the house?”, Edwin told her “You did!” He bought the place where his wife grew up as a surprise for her. The other property, which is where Nannie grew up, (the Gray farm) I was unable to find out what happened until this weekend. I went to Library of Virginia to see this chancery case. They have cases from 1930, but not this case. This past week, my friend helped me find the deed. D.A. Kidd bought the land at auction and was given the deed in 1932. After several record searches, I realized DA was Adolphus Archer Kidd. The “A” was dropped on the deed. Henry Mayo’s son Tom Mayo inherited the land they purchased from James B. Jones. On the 1940 Census, I see Tom Mayo and Adolphus Kidd were neighbors and living on Hall Rd. (The Rt 620 in the far left margin). Dolphus who bought the Gray Farm was a first cousin to Jimmy Kidd (grandsons of John B. Kidd). Adolphus was son of Allen Burl Kidd. Jimmy was son of Bartlett Kidd.