Found Pictures

From time to time, I buy pictures on eBay, or find them about to be picked up by the garbage truck, or someone gives me a box that they don’t know what to do with but can’t bear to throw away.

The above picture is one such image — I’m fairly certain it is a European mountain, but don’t know which one. (I made the picture a bit more artsy, using various computer programs.)

Kidnapped Boy Returns to Whitmell (1905)

On July 3, 1902, Luther Walton, age 11, vanished from his home in Whitmell in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Luther was the son of William J. (or James W.) and Agnes Walton. Mr. Walton was a well-to-do farmer in Pittsylvania County.

Mr. Walton had an older son named Percy, aged 29, who had been raised by an aunt. Percy was the half-brother of Luther (other siblings included Lottie Lee, Bertha, Corry, John, Elsie, Herbert, and George). Percy was a “rambling man” or tramp. He came to visit his father and other family members, and when he left to ramble on, he took Luther along.

Percy was charged with abducting Luther, and newspapers far and wide carried the story of the missing Luther and Percy, and his grief-stricken mother.

In the summer of 1905, Luther showed up again in Pittsylvania County. The newspapers reported that,

“The pair traveled together about a year. The child had got a touch of hobo life and continued his wanderings alone.

“While tramping through Ohio this month he saved up enough money to buy a new suit of clothes and a railway ticked and utterly astonished everyone by turning up alone and well at home. . . .

“The parents of the child had given him up for dead years ago and were utterly surprised when he walked into his home.”

I have found no records that indicate whether Percy was ever found.

(References: The United States Census of 1900; The Daily Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, July 5, 1902; and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, June 9, 1905.)

Baptism in Pittsylvania County

Baptisms were often held in Pittsylvania County at the conclusion of revivals. A Rev. Mr. Lake wrote that at one baptismal held at Kentuck, Virginia in 1871, he baptized “forty-three persons — some far advanced in life — and some six or eight more will be baptized at our next meeting.” (The Christian Era, Boston, Massachusetts, August 17, 1871.) Baptisms were also often held at the conclusion of the Pentecostal Holiness camp meetings held in the summer in Dry Fork, Virginia, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Undated picture (probably mid-1900s) from the Preston B. Moses collection, courtesy the Moses family. Artistic touches added by Sarah E. Mitchell.

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.