Chilhowie Milling Company and Benefits of Business Records

Here at Special Collections, one of our goals is to acquire materials that people use for research and personal interest. On the blog, we talk a lot about different formats of collections, different topic areas represented, and even different uses for those collections. When we work with researchers, especially students, we talk about collections as primary sources: first hand accounts of events, place, people, etc. One of the forms that these primary sources can take (and one we don’t talk about quite as much as personal letters or diaries, for instance), are business papers. But, collections of business papers (letters, ledgers, account books, and the like) can tell you plenty. This week, I thought I’d share one such collection: the Chilhowie Milling Company Correspondence from 1916 and 1917.

You can view the finding aid for this collection online, though it isn’t one we have had a chance to digitize in its entirety just yet. You may notice that the finding aid says this collection was previously processed, but in 2015, we did some additional organization and description. We don’t have the time and opportunity to revisit every collection, but when we can, we like to try and improve access. In this case, there was a brief description of the collection, but no contents list or detailed notes. Plus, we discovered that the collection had originally been described as the Chilhowie Mining Company Correspondence. The milling company corresponded with a number of mining and ore related companies, but its mission wasn’t mining.

So, why look at a collection like this? It can tell you about business in the context of local history (or local history in the context of a business)–in this case, a business that existed in Smyth County, Virginia for over a century. You can get a sense of what it took to run a large business, the corporate partners and/or suppliers needed, the raw materials gathered, and, in this, what it took to renovate and rebuild. In a two year period, the Chilhowie Milling Company wrote back and forth with nearly 40 different parties. To name a few specialized companies, this list included:

  • Bank of Glade Springs
  • B. D. Smith and Brothers Printers
  • Bristol Door and Lumber Company
  • Crystal Springs Bleachery Company
  • Ferger Grain Company
  • Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills
  • Gruendler Crusher and Pulverizing Company
  • Invincible Grain Cleaners Company
  • Millers National Insurance Company
  • Norfolk and Western Railway Company
  • State of Virginia Dairy and Food Division
  • Virginia Iron, Coal, and Coke Company
  • Virginia Leather Company
  • Virginia Portland Cement Company
  • Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company

In the cases of some other business history materials at Special Collections, there might be even more to be learned! Interested in the personnel rosters of a textile mill? The account ledgers of a local grocery store? Records from a Saltville salt supplier during the Civil War? You might want to stop by and see us. You never know what new tidbits are to found, what reflections you might find on a given economic situation, or even what family history you can discover in business records!

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Literature in Southwest Virginia

Author Lucy Herndon Crockett wasn’t born in Southwest Virginia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add her to the list of American writers with ties to the area. She moved to Seven Mile Ford (Smyth County), Virginia, later in her life in 1947, and worked on several books and manuscripts there. Born in Hawaii in 1914, she travelled as a speech writer and secretary for the chairman of the American Red Cross, and served as a Red Cross worker in World War II, spending time in the South Pacific and Asia. This time abroad was a strong influence the books she wrote during and after the war. Crockett was also an illustrator, creating drawings for her books and the books of others. One of her first publications, from the 1930s, was actually a short booklet on decoupage and decoration. Her interests were as varied as her subjects.

The gallery below includes images items in Special Collections, including an inscribed edition of Pong Choolie, You Rascal–! and typescripts with Crockett’s edits to published and unpublished manuscripts.

During her career, Crockett wrote 11 books and illustrated many more. Since 2011, Special Collections has acquired copies of all of her authored works (see the list below), though a few are still in cataloging. They should be available soon. Crockett’s audience varied. Lucio and His Nuong and That Mario are related books (Lucio and Mario are brothers) written for children and younger adults. Popcorn on the Ginzo, Teru, and The Magnificent Bastards reflect her experiences living in Asia after World War II, as well as her other later works, were for adult readers.

 

Bibliography
c.1930s?- Decoupage: The Pleasures and Perplexities of Decorating with Paper Motifs
1939- Lucio and His Nuong: A Tale of the Philippine Islands
1940- Capitan: The Story of an Army Mule
1941- That Mario
1949- Popcorn on the Ginzo: An Informal Portrait of Postwar Japan
1950- Teru: A Tale of Yokohama
1953- The Magnificent Bastards (Later made into a movie- The Proud and Profane)
1957- Kings Without Castles
1960- The Year Something Almost Happened in Pinoso
1963- Pong Choolie You Rascal!
Unpublished manuscript, dated 1972- “Bus Station Blues”

 

You can read more about the collection and Lucy Herndon Crockett in the finding aid online. You can also visit us to see more of the collection. There are many authors with connections to our area, and Crockett isn’t the only about whom we have papers and manuscripts–we’ve recently acquired materials by and about Sherwood Anderson, for example. However, Crockett is a lesser-known name in many circles. By preserving and providing access to these papers, we can offer a little insight into her creative experience, and hopefully, introduce her to a new audience in a new century.