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220-year-old court-order book taken by a New York captain during the Civil War comes back to Stafford for a brief visit, will be preserved for posterity by the Library of Virginia

 The 1791 ledger, found at the Jersey City Free Public Library, was given to the Library of Virginia in October. It's one of the few Stafford records known to survive the Civil War.
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Date published: 12/2/2011


"This is the first time I can remember that such a unique historical document has been returned to Stafford," Decatur said. "I can only imagine the stories behind the entries in the ledger, stories that are now part of Stafford County's history."

Stafford historians Conner, Barbara Kirby and Jerrilynn Eby immediately began pouring over the ledger, gently turning its pages, and exclaiming again and again as new information came to light. Kirby uttered at least five "wows," making discovery after discovery.

Top county officials took a good look, too. Word of the ledger's presence lured sheriff's deputies and a custodian to the Judicial Center's jury assembly room to get a peek.

Compiled by deputy court clerk John Fox in 1791, the volume summarizes county court records from 1749 to 1755--"warts and all," said Carl Childs, director of the state library's Local Records Services. One entry notes a person fined for cursing in church. Another details a slave's theft of Samuel Washington's blue broadcloth coat. The bondman was hanged for his crime; the state paid his owner his value at auction.

But before research can start, the book is in dire need of conservation work that takes time and money, Childs said. The state library will clean the pages, stabilize the ledger, then scan and convert it to microfilm and digital images, he said. The Stafford clerk will have a copy of the log, which will also be available to the public at the state library's Reading Room and by interlibrary loan.

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com

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The "Adopt Virginia History" program of the Library of Virginia Foundation, a tax-deductible nonprofit, seeks donations to conserve the state's collective memory. To contribute, contact the foundation and reference the Stafford County Order Book, 1749-1755. On the Web, see lva.virginia.gov/involved/adopt.asp.