Virginia Museum of Veiled History's Notable Events from October in Virginia History

by Larry Lamar Yates, Proprietor

Published October 2017



October 1, 1897. Lewis Ginter, a major Richmond business figure, especially as a cigarette manufacturer, died. Lewis Ginter's life with his companion, John Pope, is described in Lesbian and Gay Richmond, by Beth Marschak and Alex Lorch. Ginter never married, had no children, and lived with Pope for 20 years. One of the major beneficiaries of Ginter's will was his niece Grace Arents, whose relationship with her “close companion Mary Garland Smith” is described in the same book. Both Ginter and Arents were major philanthropists and helped to shape modern Richmond.

October 5, 1806 was the date of the first service at the Rader Church, a German-speaking church in Rockingham County. The announcement of that service was one of the first items printed by the Henkel Press, which served German Lutheran communities in the Valley and beyond for more than a century.

October 7, 1818. A broadside was published announcing the auction of the estate of John Puller, which included “15 to 20 Likely Negroes,” “1000 to 1200 Acres,” and other items.

October 11, 1776. May Webley wrote to the Virginia General Assembly, seeking compensation for damages when British vessels fired on Norfolk and burned it. She had been hit by a cannonball and lost her family home. She received ten pounds in compensation.

October 12, 1773. The "Public Hospital of Insane and Disordered Minds," today known as Eastern State Hospital, was founded in Williamsburg. The Hospital is most noted for its Superintendent from 1841 to 1862, John Galt, given credit today on the Hospital's website for introducing “all the components of the modern psychiatric hospital … human dignity for the mentally ill, therapeutic activities, talk therapy, calming medication, in-house research, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care.” Galt also admitted slaves as patients, and claimed to treat patients “without regard to race.” In 1868, segregated Central State Hospital was established to serve only “colored” patients.

October 12, 1818. Elizabeth Van Lew was born to a wealthy Richmond family. She went on to use her social position to be one of the most effective spies for the U.S. during the War of the Rebellion, alongside Mary Bowser, a former Van Lew family slave, who used her own social status to get into the “Confederate White House” as a servant. Van Lew was ostracized by most Richmond whites after the war for her heroic service.

October 15, 1859. John Brown, a follower of Christian principles, led a small group of social justice warriors into Harpers Ferry, then in Virginia.

October 23, 1917. Pauline Forstall Colclough Adams, a Norfolk suffragist, was serving time with 13 other women in the Occoquan Workhouse in Fairfax County for picketing President Wilson.

October 26, 1676. Nathanial Bacon died. Bacon led a rebellion against the colonial Virginia ruling class. He was apparently personally motivated by a deep hatred for indigenous people and a desire to become wealthier. However, his rebellion eventually included European- and African-descended working people of Virginia and their issues. The rebels threatened the colonial power structure, and burned down the colonial capital of Jamestown. Ted Allen, author of The Invention of the White Race, as well as other historians, consider Bacon's Rebellion to be the major motivator for the creation of the racial divisions used to govern Virginia and later the United States.

October 26, 1888. Richard Evelyn Byrd, the polar explorer, was born in Winchester, Virginia. The official Virginia historical marker on the site of his boyhood home fails to mention either of his brothers, one of whom was Harry Flood Byrd Sr., the most significant figure in twentieth century Virginia history.

October 29, 1781. The battle of Yorktown was fought between French and British forces, and the British were defeated. Some rebels against the British Crown were also part of the battle. Some of the French forces came from what is now Haiti.

October 30, 1800. James Monroe, the “Governor” of the Virginia slave-owning regime, ordered the execution of Gabriel Prosser, an African-American political rival of Monroe's who had attempted to carry out a revolution to gain freedom for all Virginians.

For more such information, check out the Virginia Museum of Veiled History on Facebook, at www.socialjusticeconnections.com, or at the Museum itself at 705 S. Loudoun St., Winchester Virgina, Friday-Sunday 11am to 7 pm or by appointment.