Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 103

I spent the morning getting my records organized for the Richmond experience. It is always interesting going to a large, regional library. You never know what you will find or whether it will be available. Taking back streets, I was in downtown Richmond in 15 minutes and - gloriously - there is a free parking garage for the Library of Virginia.

Combing through the online catalog, I found microfilm of some of Edward Cunningham's accounts and letters. Edward Cunningham and his brothers emigrated from Ireland in the last quarter of the 1700s. They established a variety of businesses that dealt with the raising, growing and exporting of tobacco, wool, and cotton. They were highly successful and moved from rural Virginia to Richmond and later established plantations along the James River. Edward's sister Sarah married John Atkinson in Ireland. Their son George was born in 1793. By 1803, George was orphaned. He came to America on his own and was taken in by his uncle Edward. Edward treated George like a son, sending him to the best schools and giving him practical experience in the family's import-export business. As importantly, he connected George with key movers and shakers - e.g., James Madison, Chief Justice Marshall, and John Randolf of Roanoke.

Back to today - the letters on microfilm. The letters were written by Edward on visits to London, Dublin and Church Hill, County Down, Ireland. Church Hill was the Cunningham family homestead and several of the letters reference the estate of John Atkinson, George's father. I haven't had time to read through all the letters but am excited to learn more about the relationship between the Irish and American parts of the family. The rest of the afternoon was spent compiling references on other manuscripts to read - a To Do list for Monday. I am also requesting some manuscripts and photos pertaining to Howard's Neck, Edward Cunningham's plantation on the James River. I am heading that way tomorrow but I don't have much confidence that I will get close to the property since it is privately held. Unfortunately, the family cemetery is also on the property.

At the end of the day I made my way to the site of the old Tredegar Iron Works. A former flour mill was purchased by Edward and John Cunningham in the 1820s and called the Virginia Foundry Company. The foundry combined with rolling mills to create Tredegar which eventually became the largest iron works in the south and the 3rd largest in the US. After some faltering in the 1840s and 50s, Tredegar made cannons for the south during the Civil War and was key to Richmond's choice as the Confederate capital. After the war, Tredegar changed to railway components, switching back to munitions for the two world wars. The picture below is what I could take, staying outside the "no trespassing" signs.

No comments:

Post a Comment