April 2015 Article

This Month's Article:  April 2015
Finding new historical documents on the Nelson & Albemarle Railway
For over a year, we've been anticipating the deposit of long-lost documents from the founding of the Nelson & Albemarle Railway into the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.  An estate sale in Schuyler, Virginia provided Laird Ramsey with the opportunity to purchase these historical items and he immediately realized the importance of sharing these with either the Nelson County Historical Society and/or our own Nelson & Albemarle Historical Society.  The best recommendation for Laird, however, was to add the documents to the collection of Nelson & Albemarle Railway and the various soapstone company records already located at the University of Virginia based on donations previously made by Garth G. Groff (author of "Soapstone Shortlines:  Alberene Stone and its Railroads") who is also employed by the Library of UVA.  The collection point is the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library.  This state-of-the-art archive facility is basically underground of the entrance lawn. **  The finding includes "in excess of 100 distinct documents, comprising original charters, by-law and merger documents, railroad operating agreements, deeds of trust, bond issuance, memorandum of understandings, inventory of rolling stock, car loading/revenue reports, minutes from board meetings, and general business correspondence" according to Laird..  ** When Laird explained the finding of these items, it became the title for the collection in the Library, "Schuyler Desk".  He had stumbled across the papers in an old metal desk in a garage in Schuyler during an Estate Sale.  It can only be imagined how this desk came to be in that garage though stories could easily be imagined as the desk was sold at a sale of old and no longer needed furnishings at the soapstone mill office.  Brought home and placed in the garage, the plan was probably to use the desk at some point, but that use never materialized.  Another thought might be that an employee of the soapstone mill retired and their desk was given to them as a memento of their service.  Relegated to a spot in the garage where it was left unattended, the papers long since forgotten, the desk became a part of an estate being sold off after the death of the owner.  **  Whatever the story, the finding of these papers from about 1897 to 1915 (with report and map of results of prospecting at the Virginia Alberene property from 1925) is significant to tell the earliest stories of both the soapstone works and the N&A Railway.  Laird has shared that there is discussion on purchase of passenger coaches from the Pennsylvania Railroad that was previously unknown, so additional detail related specifically to the railroad side of the business is likely there also.  The donation to the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library is tremendous in providing this early history to a regional industry and rail service.  As this data is researched and explored during a scheduled visit to Charlottesville and UVA upcoming in August, more articles will come out of this collection and expand on our background and knowledge of how the soapstone industry and it's rail line existed in those earliest years when their was significant growth and expansion of the mills and railroad operations.

Send email to NelsonAlbemarle@comcast.net if you have any comments or questions or wish to contribute to future articles. Copyright 2015 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.