Joyful Birds



Mr. Whitehead
please send me 1 yard if [of] that lead colored goods like I got [?] cut [?] there Tuesday it was 25 per yard send it by return mail
Mrs. J [?]. H. Thornton

[addressed to] Mr. JW Whitehead

postmark unreadable
probably in the 1910’s

Note: lead [gray] cloth sample glued to postcard. The typography is so Victorian-esque, although I think the postcard is later. (By the way, two family members have birthdays in the next couple of days, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish happy birthday to them both!)

– From the J. W. Whitehead collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia


Letters from WWII: “Will Fight till the Finish”

Hello Dad and All;

They have been drilling the heck out of us and for the last two weeks I have stood it so far, so I guess I can take the rest of it.

I like it better than I did at first. I realize that it’s a job to be done. I am going to do my best. I have had 20 years of my fun in a free country; I want my brother to have his in a free country too. I am going to do my part. I will fight till the finish.

Dad, I have had some pictures made. I will send you one so you can see how I look in a uniform. They look just like me.

Well, as news is short, I will close for this time. Tell all hello and to write soon.
I enjoy hearing from everyone. All be good and may God bless you. Love to all.

Pvt. Lloyd H. Gammon.

(Pvt. Gammon writes to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Gammon of Chatham, Route 4.)

Published in the Chatham, Virginia newspaper on Friday, April 23, 1943.

Returning From the Fields



Mr. Whitehead please send me 2 yds of white ribbon 1/2 in. wide Will bring or send pay soon.
Minnie Manning
Elba, Va.

Addressed to Mr. J. W. Whitehead,

Postmark possibly E[lba]
4 PM

An artistic postcard, evidently No. 138 in a series.

– From the J.W. Whitehead Collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia.

Generically Gretna



Mr Whitehead. Please send me samples & prices [or pieces?] of pink and blue linens and pretty samples of gingham. Also white [sk??t] good..
Virginia Fitzgerald

Addressed to J.W. Whitehead & Sons

Date possibly 1918, and postmark perhaps Gretna

Probably the postcard was made with a stock photo, and the name of various towns or cities was printed on the card.

– From the J.W. Whitehead Collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia.




Easter Postcard



Mr Wyatt
Please send me 1 yd of good [underlined] rubber [maybe? hard to read] by this evening mail

Ealine Strickland R. ? D. No. 1

Addressed to Mr. J.W. Whitehead Jr.

Postmark may read WITT,

It seemed to appropriate to post an Easter postcard on Easter. I wish everyone a joyful and blessed day!

– From the J.W. Whitehead collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia.


Virginia Hotel, Gretna, Virginia

Postcard5A Postcard5B

Dear Sir:

Thanks for trying to get the cloth, I have gotten it now.
Thanks to you.
Helene Fitzgerald

[column of numbers]
[addressed to]
Mr. J.W. Whitehead

Postmark Gretna M? 27

If anyone has information on the history of the Virginia Hotel in Gretna, please leave a comment!

– From the Whitehead collection, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia.

An electric lamp


Dear Sir
Will you Please get me a elictric [electric] lamp and send it in tomorrows mail. I guess you know what I mean I dont know the name of them but I went the bell lamp like they have hanging in the stores in town. truly
yours Russell D. Dunn [?] Java VA

[addressed to]
Mr. J.W. Whitehead

postmark Java July 9 P.M. 1913 Va.

Postcard is of Belle Grove Plantation, near Chatham, Virginia.

Electricity came to Pittsylvania County in stages. Some areas had it pretty early (presumably Mr. Dunn’s house in Java had it in 1913), and others did not get it until the 1930s (in fact, I have heard of houses being built without electrical service in the 1950s or perhaps even later).

Historical Research

This is the start of a series on the resources and “how-to” of historical research.

I have been doing research in the clerk’s office at the  Pittsylvania County Courthouse for a number of years, and occasionally research at other courthouses (including in Danville). My advice is specifically for Southside Virginia courthouses, but some of it may be applicable at other courthouses and research institutions.

I also plan to write about research online, and at some libraries and other institutions.


Bake Me a Cake, As Fast as You Can . . .


baking march 19 1954

Photograph dated March 19, 1954. Probably these men were photographed for an upcoming fundraiser; the man in the middle is holding a Calumet baking powder container, and the man on the right is holding a mixing bowl. But hopefully the shovel was not going to be used!

Preston Moses practiced an early form of Photoshop — he actually drew in details on the photographs! If one looks closely, many details of the men’s aprons and collars are drawn in. In other photographs, eyes or other features were adjusted or changed.  (One can either find that charming or somewhat aggravating, especially when details are obscured by the drawings.)

Photograph courtesy Pattie Moses Lilley.