This week, I have Prestons on the brain. Actually, it’s been going on for a while. In May, I gave a presentation about Special Collections’ holdings relating to the Preston family in Virginia and Smithfield/Solitude history. In about two weeks, I’ll be taking a small selection of materials to display at the Preston Family Reunion weekend at the plantation house. Branches of the Preston family held land all over Virginia, South Carolina, and Kentucky in the 18th and 19th centuries. William Preston built Smithfield, the plantation on the edge of what is now Virginia Tech. His grandson, Robert Taylor Preston, built Solitude, located near the Duck Pond on campus. The land the main campus is on was bought from Robert Taylor Preston in 1870-1871.
A single blog post isn’t enough space to talk about everything we have (it’s barely room to talk about one collection!), but it is a good place to talk about an item or two.
Robert Taylor Preston served as a colonel during the Civil War. Many of his papers in the collection relate to these years (and many are worth a future post!). One of the stand out items, however, is the pardon he received after the war ended. The pardon itself is large and is stored in a large flat file. Along with the pardon, Preston was sent a certificate of the pardon’s authenticity. The last image is of Preston’s letter of receipt, written from Solitude, which reads in part: “[I] hereby signify my acceptance of the same, with all the conditions therein specified.”
We are currently working on digitizing all of Robert Taylor’ Preston’s papers and updating the finding aid. Once done, we’ll have them up on the web to see. We’re excited about being able to share this collection, since it’s one we are asked about often. So be sure to check back with us in the future!