At A Place Called Buckingham

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

BUCKINGHAM – Last year, many Herald readers became acquainted with historian and author Joanne Yeck through her monthly articles written in conjunction with Buckingham's 250th anniversary.

“My intention was simply to help celebrate the county's 250th anniversary,” stated Yeck. “As the year progressed, however, my goal became to make Buckingham's past visible once more in a more permanent way.”

That more permanent way is her new book, At a Place Called Buckingham. The 12 articles serve as the basis for the book's 12 chapters.

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A must read for those wanting to learn more about Buckingham's past, the book offers those articles in expanded versions.

Yeck begins by providing insight into the inception of the county and the possible origins of its name.

She chronicles the county's involvement in the American Revolution and the Civil War in a way that brings history into a realm that highlights the personal commitment and concerns of a community and its residents.

Delving into the Incalculable Loss: The Burning of Buckingham Courthouse, Yeck shares accounts of that night on February 24, 1869, when the courthouse was destroyed. Moreover, she details speculations about the cause of the fire as well as possible motives.

In the chapter about Tillotson Parish and Reverend William Peaseley, Yeck describes ministers who were not only responsible for their parishioners but also “managed the county's 'social services,' which included charity toward orphans, widows, the poor, and the infirm.”

Writing about the state's first chartered college for women, Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute, Yeck draws her readers into a time when “the 'collegiate' experience was available exclusively for young gentlemen and for precious few of them.”

Throughout the book, there are revelations about the daily lives of those who helped formulate Buckingham's illustrious history.

Yeck aptly weaves their personalities into the historical data with storyteller charm. Names linked with Buckingham's history become real people caught in the every day struggles of life.

In the chapter about F. N. Maxey and His Community at Well Water, the author not only offers insight into this man's character but also the economy and culture during the mid-1800s to the turn of the century.

After reading about Maxey's business attributes, his successful ventures in farming, and how he established a mill, post office and a two-story schoolhouse for his community, traveling Route 20 to Scottsville through land still owned by Maxeys now sparks a reminder of this “Merchant Farmer” and his contributions to His Community.

Likewise, Yeck's chapter on Carter G. Woodson provides information and insight about his extended family and their commitment to education, religion, and politics.

She shared, “Carter G. Woodson grew up in close proximity to his Riddle uncles, James Buchanan and John Morton, whose rise from slavery to community leaders inspired young Carter. When he was not needed in the fields, Carter sporadically attended a one-room schoolhouse established by the Freedmen's Bureau. His teachers were none other than his uncles…”

Moreover, Yeck ties together many references about Peter Francisco to yield a more personal depiction of this renowned Revolutionary War hero.

The numerous photographs included in the book provide true snapshots of history. Taken from family albums, historical archives, and private collections, the pictures offer a vivid stamp of reality to the printed pages.

In the last chapter, The One and Only Buckingham, Yeck writes, “Much of Buckingham's wealth has come from beneath the ground.” From Buckingham's gold rush and its “endlessly giving slate beds,” to kyanite mining, she details their impact on the county's economy.

However, those details take on even greater depth with a photograph of laborers on a mountain of slate.

Another enlightening photograph, featured in the chapter Greenville: A Town at Buckingham's Courthouse, captures the amazing amount of activity and the crowds that converged on Court Day circa 1930.

Sketches, maps, and documents also add graphic dimension to the written narratives. Additionally, the notes and references at the end of each chapter offer countless pathways to explore Buckingham's past.

In the book's preface, Yeck wrote, “I first dove into Buckingham's past following the origins of my maternal grandmother, Minnie Garland Harris, who was born near Well Water in the spring of 1891. The search for her beginnings blossomed into a deep interest in the community, as well as in my many Buckingham cousins.”

Yeck continued, “Since 1995, I've been digging up rare nuggets of Buckingham gold, treasure hunting in attics, churches, deed rooms, libraries, and historical societies. Today, I see no end in sight to this marvelous adventure in Virginia History.”

However, she readily admits that her love for Virginia, especially Buckingham County, has translated into a full-time occupation.

Explaining that when she first set out to discover her family history and learned that the courthouse burned in 1869, Yeck said she realized that digging into her Buckingham roots might not be so simple.

She shared, “Along the way, many cousins who had never lost contact with Buckingham's people and places came to my aid, sharing memories, family stories and photographs. It was not long before I had fallen down a very deep rabbit hole and in love with Buckingham County.”

Yeck, who resides in Kettering, Ohio, explained that this is not her first book but is her first self-published book. She said she authored numerous articles on Classic Hollywood and American Popular Culture; and, co-authored Movie Westerns and Our Movie Heritage.

Reiterating that the articles for the county's 250th anniversary sparked a desire to make Buckingham's past visible in a more permanent way, Yeck offered, “That led to this book, which contains considerably expanded versions of the articles, including citations pointing to more sources concerning Buckingham's past.”

She added, “My hope is that the reader will come to see the beauty of Buckingham's people and culture, particularly as it was in the 19th century.”

Acknowledging that the contributions of personalities such as Peter Francisco and Dr. Carter G. Woodson are well known far beyond the county, Yeck offered, “Over the years, I have come to know many other men and women who, in much quieter ways, determined and enhanced Buckingham's culture. Their values and hard work touched the lives of my ancestors and, by extension, me.”

Elaborating, she stated, “Readers will get to know individuals like Frank N. Maxey, who built the Well Water community after the Civil War, and Miss Lulie Patteson, whose dedication to Buckingham's past inspired her newspaper articles, many of which appeared in The Farmville Herald.”

Without a doubt, Yeck truly provides her readers with much more than lessons about Buckingham's history. She offers them a connection, a bond, with the people who made this community what it is today-At a Place Called Buckingham.

Historic Buckingham, Incorporated is hosting a program featuring Yeck on Sunday, March 11, at 2:30 p.m., at Maysville Presbyterian Church. The public is invited. She will also be at the Scottsville Library on March 9 at 3 p.m.; and at Barnes and Noble in Farmville on Monday, March 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.