Chancery Records Series Introduction
One of the most rewarding aspects of historical research is the reminder that although the past does not change, our interpretation of “facts” absolutely must as new information is discovered. People often ask historians, “Why focus on events that cannot be changed or on stories which have already been told and accepted?” Our understanding of the past does change however as it is informed by the present and thus evolves to impact the future.
Contrary to conspiracy theory, the world is not flat as once believed; neither is history. It is a vibrant, fluid journey which offers each generation an opportunity to build upon the work of those who came before them. It is a constantly evolving story. It is a song enriched by collaboration and diverse voices.
Digitized archival records provide a phenomenal portal to the past allowing us to time travel with an expanded itinerary. Inclusive storytelling requires that every note in the composition of our collective song is heard. As our access to documents increases via technology, we have the opportunity to restore the missing pages of the score. A community’s history is its soundtrack with many songs and composers, but ultimately one shared story.
The Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memory digital archives contain “vast and varied collections of print materials, manuscripts, archival records, newspapers, photographs and ephemera, maps and atlases, rare books, and fine art that tell the history of the commonwealth and its people.” Included in that collection are King William County’s Chancery Records. In this series, we will explore several stories related to West Point, VA which provide a glimpse into the stories of some of the earliest residents in their own words.
Beverly Allen Sr.
Beverly Allen Sr., one of the earliest property owners in West Point, VA, testified in 1906 as part of a case involving a property boundary dispute. The primary focus of this series however is not on the details or merits of any case. It is about storytelling. In this record, we hear from Beverly Allen Sr. directly about when he was born, what year he arrived in town, his employment and his neighbors. We walk with him down the hill toward the York River and with some imagination, we time travel. Through his lens, we see the gate posts at 7th and E Streets. We envision Allmond’s Oyster House and ferrymen Horace and Lewis. We discover that in addition to serving as councilman, Beverly Allen Sr. was an early policeman in town.
Below is an informal transcription of the portion of the record which includes Beverly Allen Sr.’s testimony. Readers are encouraged to examine the original images as the text below is provided for ease of access only. Enjoy your time travel journey as you experience early West Point VA as a story from Beverly Allen Sr. in his own words. Stay tuned for additional summaries from the chancery records related to West Point, VA and expanded research for the information Mr. Allen shares below.
©REACH Consulting 2018
Prepared for the Beverly Allen Historic Preservation Foundation, West Point, Virginia
This series is meant to highlight answers to a few questions and encourage further dialog. If you are interested in having additional research for a particular property, family history, or court case, contact Theresa Sirles with REACH Consulting for a quote: (804) 843-3495, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text at (804) 310-0516. Follow us on Facebook and join the conversation!
Beverly Allen, a witness of lawful age, being first duly sworn, deposes and says as follows:
1st Question by T.H. Edwards, counsel for the defendant.
1st What is your age, residence and occupation?
A. I was born in 1828, On the corner of 3rd and “E” Streets,
West Point, Va. Fishing and Oystering.
2nd, How long have you resided in West Point?
A. I come here the 2nd year after the war, the surrender, on the third of April.
3rd, Were you acquainted with West Point before you came here to live?
A. Yes sir.
4th, What positions in the Town government have you held?
A. I first was policeman here, sir. Then next I was one of the Councilman of West Point.
5th, About what time did you hold these positions?
A. Well that, I am a poor hand on figures, so I can’t exactly tell. It was about the first part of the history of West Point.
6th, Please state if you have any recollection of the existence of any public ferries at West Point during the time you have referred to, and, if so, describe its location?
A. What I know about a public ferry is down at the lower end of the point running on “E” Street, near the Terminal, on the bank a little on the left. Not on the side, just a little to the left of the bank, left of the Hotel as I spoke first, just opposite to the steep bank, where the boat could get to the shore. The boat was a round bottom, with a keel.
7th, Please state if the landing place of the ferry was in the foot of what is now known as “E” Street?
A. Yes sir it was because I have crossed there many a time myself with a horse and wagon. It was the only place I could get aboard at.
8th, Have you any recollection of a public road running through West Point before and during your residence here, and, if so, please describe its direction and state if it terminated at the Ferry you spoke of?
X. Same objection is understood by counsel.
A. That is all the public road I know of. Its direction, it used to come right by my house, driving.
9th, Please state if the public had used the foot of “E” Street for an approach to the water since your residence in West Point, and, if so, have they continued to do so?
A. Well yes, they have been using it ever since I have been there, the public has.
10th, Please state if the public continued to use the foot of “E” Street from 1st Street to the water during the time that Mr. Henly and Mr. Adams conducted the Terminal Hotel?
A. Yes sir, the public have been using it ever since Mr. Adams and Mr. Henley were keeping the hotel for the purpose of loading and hauling boats where it was convenient.
1st Question by H. I. Lewis, counsel for the plantiffs.
Is the foot of the “E” Street still used as a ferry landing, and, if so, by whom?
A. It is not used now, sir, for a ferry landing.
2nd, When was it ceased to be used as a ferry landing?
A. Well I couldn’t tell you when it was stopped using as a ferry landing.
3rd, Can you come within twenty-five or thirty years of it?
A. Of course I didn’t take much notice of the stoppage of the ferry, but I know that after they come to use these flat bottom boats they could land pretty much any where on half tide, you know.
4th, Do you intend to state there ever was a time when the ferry landing from Dudley’s Ferry landed in West Point only in the space between what would now be known as “E” Street, if extended to the water?
A. Well this has been landing since the war sir. I have known her to land up here about Carlton’s oyster house, just about third Street, on the Mattaponi.
6th, How do you know that the foot of “E” Street was the only proper place for the landing of the ferry boat and no other place was proper?
A. Well sir that was the only place that she could get ashore at on only half tide, because I have had to wait until the tide would come up so that could get aboard with my horse and wagon, and there was no other place that I could get aboard.
7th, Where did the foot boats land?
A. The foot boats used to land right where Carlton’s Oyster house is, on Mattaponi River, about 2nd Street.
8th, Was there any public road down to the point where the foot passengers landed on the Mattaponi River?
A. Yes sir, there was a road that ran down to the river, and the foot passengers when it was low water, walked up the shore, where the old walk used to be, and turned and come in on 4th Street.
9th, Did the horse boat land on Marsh or on high ground?
A. Along side of the marsh, that boat they had then could not come up on the dry ground, and they had ladders in the boat to pull out for running our the buggies out, so that they would strike the high land clear. You could almost take a small schooner up along side of that marsh, and that ferry boat was almost as large as a small schooner.
10th, Was the landing on the Mattaponi the ferry landing or the landing at the foot of “E” Street?
A. The landing for the horse boat was on “E” Street sir. The landing for the foot boat was on the Mattaponi.
11th, Is it not a fact that the only reason for landing at the foot of “E” was because the keepers of the ferry did not have a suitable boat to land at the ferry landing on the Mattaponi and that as soon as a suitable boat was secured, they have always landed on the Mattaponi?
A. Well sir, that has always been the public landing for the horse boat and for travelers ever since I have known it. I have know that to be the case before the war and I have crossed, putting boats back and forward myself. What make I know it I cooked here for the confederate soldiers during the war and when they landed they always landed at that point down at the foot of “E” Street.
12th, Please tell me when you last saw the last boat land at the foot of “E” Street with vehicles for Dudley’s ferry?
A. Well I couldn’t tell you that because I never took much notice.
13th, Do you mean it was so long ago you can’t remember?
A. No I don’t mean that because it hasn’t been so long ago I couldn’t remember.
14th, You seem to have a distinct recollection of the exact location within a space of fifty feet where the ferry boat landed before the war, and during the war, and a distinct recollection of the kind of boat used, have you no recollection of what has happened since the war in regard to this ferry?
A. The recollection I got about that when it came to boats the boat they had that used to land where they traded it off with Mr. Brown over here for a flat bottom ?
15th, Then I understand you that as soon as they secured a suitable boat they began to land the horse boat on the Mattaponi River at the regular Ferry and have continued to do so ever since?
A. A suitable boat, after they got a flat bottom boat they could land most any where they pleased, but that did not change the public landing at the foot of “E” Street.
16th, What do you mean by the public landing at the foot of “E” Street, do you mean the ferry landing?
A. The ferry land, yes sir, the ferry landing.
17th, Do you intend to state that Dudley’s Ferry landing at the present time is at the foot of “E” Street?
A. Well they made their landing somewhere else sir. Of course it is not now, because they land somewhere else.
18th, Now when did it cease to be a ferry landing?
A. Well that I couldn’t tell you, because I didn’t notice, didn’t keep no dates on it, and it didn’t interfere with it, because I never took no particular interest, it was no interest of mine.
19th, Is it not a fact that Mr. W. G. Brookes ran around bottom horse boat with a sail in it from the Mattaponi River across to Dudley’s Ferry?
A. Yes sir, he did have a sail on her, but that round bottom boat she couldn’t land anywhere on half tide anywhere except it was at the end of the point, and that is well known, and if you will allow me to say that I asked the question why they go down there, they said that is the main landing, strikes the main road on the other side of the river. I have done that in crossing myself.
20th, By that round bottom boat in your last answer do you refer to the Brookes’ boat that W.G. Brookes ran?
A. It was Mr. Brookes’ boat, but he had Ferrymen running it, he had had two Ferry men, one was Horace and Lewis.
21st, Do you intend to state that the boat run by W. G. Brookes above referred to did not land regularly on the Mattaponi River for carrying horses, vehicles, across the river?
A. She didn’t unless she had a very high tide, she couldn’t get ashore.
22nd, When was the last time that you ever crossed that river in a vehicle?
A. Well I couldn’t say, because I couldn’t keep count of the date. I didn’t take notice.
23rd, Is it not a fact that prior to the building of the terminal Hotel boats landed all along the sore at what is known as the point or did they confine themselves to the fifty foot space known as “E” Street?
A. Well that was the most proper landing place for all of the boats that come up the river.
1st Question by Mr. Isaac Diggs, counsel for the plaintiffs.
You spoke of a public road running to the ferry down near 4th Street to the Mattaponi River, wasn’t that the regular public road that led to the ferry where the foot passengers used to get off that you spoke of, that got off near the foot of 2nd Street?
A. No sir, it wasn’t the regular road that — because there was a wharf there that belonged to the Railroad Co., and the walk way that they had, Capt Allmond, Walter Allmond, cut them off.
2nd, Where was Capt. Allmonds’ Oyster House, wasn’t it below 2nd Street?
A. Right in front of it, almost
3rd, Do you mean to say that Capt. Allmonds’ Oyster House was in the foot of 2nd Street just like you say the ferry landing was in the foot of “E” Street?
A. Exactly sir. It was.
4th, Don’t you know that it wasn’t in front of 2nd Street, but that is was on his lots that he owned, and that he bought?
A. Well he had his lots right in front of the Street, and the Town made him take his shells away, as they were right in front of the Street, but they are laying there now and his building of the house of his oyster house is a little eon the side of the Street a little xx to right coming up. I worked there opening oysters.
5th, Are you certain about the public road landing at the foot of “E” Street as you are that Allmond built his oyster house in 2nd Street?
A. I more sure as to the public road running down to the foot of “E” Street, because I have traveled it.
6th, Are you any more certain about the one than you are about the other?
A. Yes I am more certain about the road coming down to “E” Street, because I have traveled that with teams.
7th, What team?
A. Horse and wagon sir.
8th, What did you go there for?
A. I went over to carry a load of sturgeon sir several times.
9th, When was that before the Town was incorporated or after?
A. After it was incorporated.
10th, When was the Town incorporated?
A. Well I couldn’t tell you sir. Not the day. I don’t keep no running as to that.
11th, When was the public road running down to the Mattaponi along 4th Street that you spoke of, was that before the war or not?
A. Yes that was before the war.
12th, Did not that road remain open to the public until the Town was incorporated?
A. No sir, they used to go down to the foot of “E” Street sir.
13th, Was the 4th Street road stopped up?
A. No sir, it won’t stopped up.
14th, What made people stop using it?
A. Well they didn’t use it for teams.
15th, What did they use it for?
A. Walking going down to the boat to go across the river.
16th, You were a resident at West Point before the Town was incorporated, won’t you?
A. Yes sir.
17th, Did you as a citizen of West Point ever work on either one of those roads as a public road before the Town was incorporated?
A. No sir. I walked on the public road, but never worked here in Town.
18th, Where bouts did you work on the road at?
A. Commencing from the hill here by the brick kiln up to Cypress Swamp, and a little the other side.
19th, Do you remember who was the overseer of the road under whom you worked at that time?
A. Yes sir. Mr. Sam D. Pilcher. The father of Mr. Monte and Richard Pilcher, who are now residents of West Point.
20th, And about what Street is that Hill or Brick Kiln that you spoke of?
A. I couldn’t say what cross Street, but it leads into “E” Street, and is up on the Hill.
21st, Ain’t it about one Street above where Mr. Jim Denmead now lives.
A. I couldn’ tell you sir. I never took notice of the Streets above there. It is above where Mr. Jim Denmead now lives.
22nd, Ain’t that about 15 or 16 squares from the beach?
A. Now I can’t tell you that Mr. Diggs, because I have never taken notice, never counted them.
23rd, When you worked on the road under Mr. Pilcher, is that you commenced working at all the times that you did work on that road?
A. That is where we commenced every time.
24th, You never worked on that road any further down than that Hill. Is that correct?
A. Yes sir.
25th, Uncle Beverly I suppose you are the oldest citizen remaining in West Point, are you not?
A. No sir, I expect I am not. I may be the oldest colored one, but there are some white ones that have been here as long as I have.
26th, Did you ever know since you have been living here of the overseer of the road working on any road lower down than the hill that you spoke of.
A. No sir. I never knew of their coming any lower than the hill.
27th, Who owned the land where West Point is located now before the war do you know?
A. Yes sir. William P. Taylor.
28th, It was a large farm was it not, in cultivation?
A. Yes sir. Tremendous farm.
29th, You say that the road that you used to work on ran into “E” Street up on the Hill?
A. Yes sir.
30th, Then did it run right straight from there down to the ferry landing at the foot of “E” Street on the York River?
A. Yes sir.
31st, Do you think it ran in a straight line right down to the ferry landing?
A. Yes sir, because they cut the hill down to make it level, so as to have a straight road right down.
32nd, What houses, if any, did it pass, in running right straight down to the foot of “E” Street?
A. It passed old man Treat’s house is one, and other houses that were built up now were not there then. Morgan Treat’s father lived there then.
33rd, What houses did it pass up on the Hill?
A. There were no houses up there then. I think there is one building Dr. Duval’s building that was there then, the house that Mr. Wheeler owns now. There is a house there now owned by a man named Cuzzin, and Mr. Broaddus’, Sam Walker’s house, and Rosa Richie’s house George Walker, Mr. Shelton’s, Mr. Pilcher lives in one of those buildings, Mr. Herbert Guthrie lives in one of the next buildings, then next is Mrs. Bray’s house, then Mrs. Richardson, the school teacher, then next Mr. Hudson’s, I believe, and on the opposite side Dr. Gatewoods two buildings, then Mrs. Henley’s and Dr. Gatewoods opposite. The road then runs straight on down “E” Street to the water.
34th, Is it not a fact that the old road that came down from up the county passed along by Gen. Cook’s place, and came on down by the brick kiln down what is now known as “D” Street or Main Street down to the old Grove Hotel or New’s Hotel?
A. They used to come in that road, but was not the road go across the river. I am speaking about the passengers coming in to take the public ferry.
35th, How did the passengers go that wanted to go across the ferry, did they go down “E” Street by Mr. Broaddus?
A. They had to come into “E” Street after they come in here, I know they used to have a gate on the opposite side, but they done away with it after the Town bought the place, the Company. I mean the old West Point Land Company. The gate posts were located on 7th and “E” Streets. I know because they were there when I first arrived here, and the whole place was in corn and wheat.
36th, Who lives at the corner of 7th and “E” Street now?
A. I think the widow Lee lives on one corner, and I think Capt Henry Marshall on the other.
RE DIRECT EXAMINATION
1st Question by counsel for the defendant,
You have stated that you worked upon the public road above the hill of the Town sometimes, please state what was the usual condition of the road from the hill to the ferry?
A. Well it was not in very good condition because the bushes and things off each side down to the river, on the left side, and of course the road was improved after the citizens commenced settling here.
2nd, Who were in the habit of improving the roads from the hill to the ferry?
A. It was the citizens of the place.
3rd, After the laying out of the Town into Streets and alleys, did the public continue to use the foot of “E” Street from 1st to the water?
A. Yes sir, as far as I know, they used it all the while, continually.
RE CROSS EXAMINATION
1st Question by Mr. H. I. Lewis, counsel for the plaintiffs.
Did the public use any other portion of the point except the exact space occupied by “E” Street?
A. No sir. Not that I know of. Not for a crossing in boats.
2nd, Well did they use it for any other purpose, and, if so, for what?
A. I don’t know any thing about the using of it, the public for crossing the river, without it is down at the foot of “E” Street, the ferry horse boat you understand.
3rd, Do you not know that the boats from down the river, especially from Hockley Creek have always until the building of the terminal Hotel landed all along the shore at the point?
A. They have always has landed there since the Terminal Hotel was build, and for some reason they were stopped, and now have to go to Marshall’s Wharf.
FURTHER THIS DEPONENT SAYETH NOT.
Source: King William County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1868-1913. Richmond Bland, etc. vs. Town of West Point, 1906-016. Local Government Records Collection, King William County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia