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An Exponential Education: The Early Students of Hartshorn Memorial College

March 27, 2017

“Students 1892”

From 1883 until its 1932 merger with Virginia Union University, Hartshorn Memorial College served as Richmond’s premier (and only) school (both high school and college Booze3level) for African American women. As the first place of higher education specifically for African American women, its students combated the prejudice against educating Black Americans and against educating women. These brave Black women worked hard for their place in the world.

The alumni of Hartshorn include such notables as the civic organizer, Bessye B. Bearden, author/librarian Constance Hill Marteena, musician Revella Eudosia Hughes, and missionary/educator Eva Roberta Coles Boone. However, the vast majority of the graduates have gone unnoticed despite the fact that they made up the vanguard of African American education in the United States as some of the first Black college educated teachers.

These women not only pursued their own education in a difficult era, but then dedicated their lives to providing an education to others. Many of the early photographs that remain from Hartshorn are unlabeled, so it is very seldom that we can match a name to the faces


Booze’s Essay “Uses of Beauty”

of these educational pioneers but every so often a story or two emerges.

One of those stories is that of Mary Moore Booze Reaves, a typical student of the early years of Hartshorn. One of the few remaining records that remain from Hartshorn is a notebook of English essays from 1888. The beautifully handwritten essays written by eleven students cover a wide range of topics from “The Means by Which the Colored People Will Win Their Place” to  “Hygiene and Health” and “Honesty in the Teacher and in the Pupil”. (The author of the latter does not seem to agree with her own teacher’s methods).

In the midst of these essays is one entitled “The Uses of Beauty” by Mary M. Booze. The essay opines how there are many types of beauty. Starting with physical beauty but also “beauty in actions, motives and religion” and their effect on our lives and understanding of God. Booze’s examination record shows a firm grasp of Algebra, Latin, and Geometry. Competent in Logic, Caesar and Cicero, and Physics but perhaps not so keen on


Booze’s Examination Record


Regardless of Trig, Booze was one of three women who were awarded the first degrees from Hartshorn in 1892, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science. Classes had been graduating since 1885, but the school was not approved to award diplomas until 1892.

Booze, like many of her classmates before and after, turned to teaching. It was one of the few careers available to Black women at the time but


Raleigh Herald, April 11, 1912

that does not mean it was of any less importance. Boone passed the West Virginia teaching examination and in 1907 became the first teacher of the first school for Black children in Beckley, West Virginia. As well as Statton High School, the first Black high school in the area, and the West Virginia Colored Institute  (now West Virginia State University). For many years, an elementary school in Beckley bore her name. She was called a “pillar of education”. In 1935, a year before her death, a newspaper article named her and her school as one of “many advantages [the county] offers to negro citizens”.

She never stopped learning herself. She was part of the West Virginia Teacher’s Association and attended conferences and classes where she listened but also presented on topics such as “Use of Stories in Teaching”.

It is almost incomprehensible to try to wrap one’s head around how many students Mary Booze exponentially effected. By setting up these schools she became the direct teacher of hundreds of students, who then in turn went off and taught others and so forth until the present day and into the future. S0 many of these women are lost to history and it’s in honor of them all that we introduce you to Mary Booze.


“Hartshorn Memorial College Graduates and teachers 1891-1892”


A Founding Family Part 4: The Kinckles Jrs.

February 24, 2017

Generally in the course of history, it is the women who have faded into the past more than the men. Their stories are generally less covered, their names appear less in documents, they moved less in public spaces. Therefore, it is interesting that in the case of the three Kinckle siblings that it is the only son, John Henry Kinckle Jr., who is harder to trace through the historical record. We have no known picture of him at this time. This may be simply be because of fact that he spent most of his life away from Virginia and his alma mater, but our resources on his sisters Alice Walker and Rosa Daniel far out-weigh our information on him.

John Henry Kinckle Jr. was the youngest of the three Kinckle children; born in 1859, just a year after his sister Rosa. Although we don’t know for sure, he probably attended the Lynchburg public schools like his sisters did.

catalogHe attended VUU (still called Richmond Theological Institute at the time) where both his brothers-in-law were teaching and he worked beside them as a student teacher. The catalog page on the left lists Rev J. Endom Jones, Rev David N. Vassar, and Mr. J. H. Kinckle Jr. Three brothers-in-law all dedicated to higher education. Kinckle Jr. graduated in 1883. He married Mary Augusta Stokes in 1885.

He eventually followed in his sister’s footsteps and attended Howard, graduating from Howard Law in 1886 and passing the bar exam in Virginia the same year. In 1887, John Henry Kinckle Jr. and a fellow Howard graduate Rollins H. Merchant became for the first Black law firm in Lynchburg, Merchant & Kinckle.1 He also may have spent some time helping his father in his porter business since an 1887 Lynchburg Directory advertises the “John Kinckle and Son” baggage business.2baggage

John and Mary had a son, John Vassar Kinckle (seemingly named after his uncle David N. Vassar) on October 19, 1899. The Kinckles did not stay long in Lynchburg, instead moving to Georgia where John had to once again pass the bar in order to practice. Kinckle petitioned the bar in 1891 for the right to take the bar exam. Georgia had not allowed any Black lawyer to take the bar exam previously and many white judges refused to administer the examination to Kinckle. Finally,Judge Robert Falligant examined him and being “well satisfied…readily admitted him”.3 Kinckle became the first Black lawyer to practice on the Eastern Judicial Court.4


The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 1891

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter in 1902, Mary Kinckle died. Kinckle very quickly re-married to Janice Bryan (known as Jennie). John and Jennie had two more children, Gwendolyn Mae and Edmund Burke in 1906 and 1907.

Kinckle’s practice in Savannah grew slowly. “[A]ccording to one source, ‘Savannah blacks who had legal problems usually carried them to white lawyers.’ Other blacks simply did not have the money to afford a lawyer.”5  But Kinckle joined with the lawyer Abraham L. Tucker to form a firm.6 By 1912, Kinckle had become a politically active citizen of Georgia and represented the National Progressive Party, a third party lead by former President Teddy Roosevelt, as a delegate to the state convention.7

Kinckle was well regarded as a lawyer and argued at least one case in front of the Georgia Supreme Court.8 At his death in 1922, Kinckle had been a lawyer in Savannah for 35 years.9 Since he was in his forties when his two younger children were born, he did not live to see them married but all three did marry.

Both sons, John Vassar and Edmund Burke became postal workers.10 Gwendolyn, who went by Mae, graduated from college, was very active in the Pittsburgh chapter of the YWCA in the 1930s, and married Howard Dammonds of Pittsburgh.

Hopefully, further research will result in more information regarding Kinckle Jr.’s life.

If you liked this post, please check out the other in this month’s series which cover the families of John Henry Kinckle Jr.’s parents and sisters. Leave us any comments here, on twitter at @VUULibrary or via email at


1. Delaney, Ted, and Phillip Wayne Rhodes. Free Blacks of Lynchburg, Virginia, 1805-1865. Lynchburg: Old City Cemetery, 2001.
2. Lynchburg Virginia City Directory. Lynchburg, 1887, VA.
3. Smith, John C. Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
4.Smith, Gordon. “A Short History of the Savannah Bar and the Savannah Bar Association.” Savannah Bar Association. 1993. Accessed February 24, 2017.
5. Smith, John C. Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
6. Sumler-Edmond, Janice. The secret trust of Aspasia Cruvellier Mirault the life and trials of a free woman of color in antebellum Georgia. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.
7.Associated Press. “Eleven Negroes; one white for Roosevelt in Savannah.” The Charolette News, July 22, 1912.
8. Reports of Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia. Atlanta, GA: State Library, 1921.
9. “Lawyer Kinckle Dies in His Savannah Home.” The New York Age, March 25, 1922.
10. “January 7, 2001.” Times Herald-Record. January 07, 2001. Accessed February 24, 2017. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

A Founding Family Part 3: The Joneses

February 17, 2017

Prof. Jones and Rosa Kinkle, [sic] as she was affectionately called, were leaders in educational and social life. – The New York Age, July 09, 1932

“I have no ‘Up from Slavery’ story,” Eugene Kinckle Jones once said, “My father owned the house in which I was born. I had a good education in schools supported by the North…”

Perhaps Eugene and his brother Endom were born into relative prosperity but this was only possible through the hard work of their grandparents and parents. We have already learned about their grandparents (A Founding Family Part 1: The Senior Kinckles) who were also relatively well-off by the time their second daughter, Rosa Daniel Kinckle was born, here’s a closer look at Eugene’s parents.

Rosa Daniel Kinckle Jones

rosakPleasant, affable, kind, loving, she is loved by all who know her, and is an ideal woman, wife and mother. -G.W. Hayes

Rosa was born in 1858 in Lynchburg, VA. The elder Kinckles were a musical family, their home was known to be full of “books and pictures and musical instruments”.1 Although her sister Alice graduated from Howard University’s musical department, Rosa was known as the gifted musician, having a voice of “unusual compass”.2 At various times in her life she received musical training from a teacher in Washington D.C. and at the New England Conservatory of Music. She attended Howard from 1877 to 1880, graduating with honors, and becoming one of only around 130 African-American women to hold degrees at the time.3

Like her older sister Alice, Rosa spent her first few years of employment teaching as one of the first Black public school teachers in Lynchburg, VA. In 1882, she married Joseph Endom Jones, a young professor at Richmond Theological Institute. Both her and her sister were dressed in “white satin with tulle veils, abundant lace, flowers, etc”4 and left from their double wedding to a double honeymoon to Norwich, CT. Joseph and Rosa had two sons, the eldest Henry Endom Jones, who went by Endom, was born in 1883, followed closely by Eugene Kinckle Jones in 1885. Sometime in the 1880s, Rosa began to teach music at Hartshorn Memorial College, a school focused on the education of African American young women, with a campus next door to the Richmond Theological Institute. (The land is now occupied by the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School) She was one of only two Black faculty members, the other being a Ms. Lalia Halfkenny, originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia.5

captureadRosa seemed to be universally loved as a music teacher. At least one student even named her daughter after her.6 The music programs she set up at Hartshorn were reviewed in local and national papers as “indispensable” and never “surpassed in excellence.”7 Rosa taught at Hartshorn for over 35 years, retiring only in 1928.8 Outside of teaching at Hartshorn she also took in private students at home.


From the NUL’s Opportunity

Outside of music, Rosa was the President of Maggie Walker’s Woman’s Union Beneficial Department which was committed to “financial protection and opportunities for women and their families”.9 She traveled extensively, spending summers with her sons or friends, traveling to promote Hartshorn Memorial College and even, in later years, to Europe with her son Eugene. 10 Her home was also its own salon, hosting many Howard graduates over the years as well as VUU students. Guests proclaimed she knew “how to prepare feasts for gods”.11 After Joseph died and she retired from Hartshorn, she spent her last years in Flushing, NY in the house of her son Eugene where she died in 1932.

Joseph Endom Jones

Joseph Endom Jones was born a slave on October 15, 1852 near Lynchburg, VA. His mother, Sicily Jones, was adamant in providing an education for her son. First she had a fellow slave teach her son at night, but the man was soon sold. She then made a deal with an ill Confederate soldier. In exchange for care, he continued Joseph’s lessons.12 His mother’s foresight and perseverance allowed z012b1him to enter a private school in Lynchburg after Emancipation. From there he entered the Richmond Theological Institute, and along with his future brother-in-law, was sponsored to attend Colgate University in 1876.13

Jones formed a strong bond with Richmond Theological Institute president, Charles Corey and wrote him letters while he was away at Colgate. Once he graduated, Corey offered both him and Vassar positions at Richmond Theological Institute. Corey fought with the Board of the American Home Mission Society when they disagreed at his proposed salary for the men.14 The corresponding secretary wrote

There are scores of white men who would be glad to teach for a much less sum, and who have had many years of experience. Why should Storm, Gardner & Jones be paid a larger salary than our other white assistants? If it is because they are educated colored men, then certainly we are making unwise discrimination between the white and the blacks.

We don’t know if Corey got his asked for amount, but Jones started as the Professor of Language and Philosophy before becoming the Chair of Homiletics for over 45 years.15 He was interested in Black religious education outside of the school as well, helping found Chesterfield County Sunday School Union No. 1.

Jones was said to be a “scholar and speaker of unusual force”whose “genial manner and force of character” caused him to have a large circle of friends and to install more pastors than any other Black preacher in America at the time.16 Jones was the pastor of the Bethesda Baptist Church for almost 30 years, overseeing the building of a new church building in 1903.


1903 Bethesda Baptist building seen in 2016 renovations..

Jones was the editor of numerous newspapers, including the short-lived Virginia Baptist that was printed on the Virginia Union University campus.17 He also served as the Corresponding Secretary for the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. As we saw with his friend and brother-in-law, Vassar (A Founding Family Part 2: The Vassars), Jones was actively politically and actively criticized by some because of this. He was part of upper class, and therefore some thought, shouldn’t be trying to force his ideas on those less economically fortunate. Jones had become part of the
“black aristocracy.”18 He was involved with many organizations, mutual aid societies, and preached sermons on topics such as the importance of patronizing black businesses in order to “uplift the race.”19 The Richmond Planet notes that specific sermon “created a marked sensation.”20
Jones kept working until his death in 1923. He is buried in Richmond’s Evergreen Cemetery alongside Rosa, and their eldest son, Henry Endom.

Henry Endom Jones


The Young Jones Sons

The oldest of Joseph and Rosa’s sons, Henry Endom Jones was born in 1883, just a year after their marriage. Little is known of  Endom, so little in fact that some biographies of his brother Eugene, say that Eugene grew up as an only child.21 Endom attended Virginia Union, graduating around 1902 and presenting at graduation a talk entitled “The Pan-American Exposition”.22 His name enters the written record just a few times during his life. Once was December 5,  1903 after a football game between VUU and Shaw University. H. Endom Jones was “found to be unconscious…from injuries received during the contest.”23 He was later found to have broken several ribs that pierced his lungs.24 He never fully recovered though he lived for nine more years.  He was accepted to the Pharmaceutical Department of the University of Pennsylvania but had to leave because of his health. He never married and passed away in his parents house in 1912 when he was thirty years old. The Union-Hartshorn Journal remarked that “rarely has the heart of the student body been touched as it was by his death.” He was working as a waiter on a train at the time of his death.25

Eugene Kinckle Jones

The accomplishments of Eugene Kinckle Jones are numerous. It is impossible to list them


Eugene Kinckle Jones

all in this blog post. Since Eugene is the most well known of his family, we will only give a quick overview now and return to him at a later date.

Eugene was born in 1885. Jones went to Wayland Seminary (a preparatory school at this point) and then he attended VUU where his father and uncle were working, graduating in 1905. After graduating, he applied to Cornell University. At first Cornell’s dean refused to accept him on a Master’s level, instead telling him he could enter as an undergraduate but Jones appealed. A special committee was put together to review Jones’s application and he was admitted as a sociology major and economics minor. Jones graduated in 1908, presenting a thesis titled “Progress of the Negro Americans Since Their Emancipation” but before he graduated he became one of seven “Founding Jewels” and the first initiate of the new Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Jones was the co-creator of the fraternity name; President of Alpha Chapter; and Founder of three more chapters at Howard University, the University of Toronto, and of course, Virginia Union.26


Eugene Kinckle Jones (left) with W. E. B. Du Bois (second from right)

Jones married Blanche Ruby Watson in 1909 and had two children. After teaching for a few years, Jones joined the newly-organized National Urban League which focused on social welfare and economic advancement.In 1914 he became the Executive Secretary of the organization. He pushed the organization in the twenties and thirties to organize boycotts of companies who would not hire Black workers, pushed for vocational training, and urged President Roosevelt to include Black workers in New Deal programs. Roosevelt included Jones as part of his “Black Cabinet” and he took the position of “Negro Advisor”


3 yr. old Vann Kinckle Jones

in the Department of Commerce. He worked as the treasurer and vice president of the

National Conference of Social Work and even started the journal Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life with Charles Spurgeon Johnson. The journal featured many prominent Black talent such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Issues of this journal can be viewed in at the L. Douglas Wilder Library as part of VUU’s Special Collections.

Eugene Kinckle Jones corresponded and met with many of the big names of the era: W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, Rayford Logan, Marian Anderson, and Robert L. Vann (whom he named his son after).

Jones died in 1954. He was buried in Flushing, NY were he had lived since starting work with the NUL. If you would like to learn more about Eugene Kinckle Jones check out the biography Eugene Kinckle Jones: The National Urban League and Black Social Work, 1910-1940 by Frank Armfield, available at the L. Douglas Wilder Library.

Learn more about this early founding family of VUU in our two previous blog posts. A Founding Family Part 1: The Senior Kinckles and A Founding Family Part 2: The Vassars. Next Friday we will tackle the last Kinckle child, John Henry Kinckle Jr.

If you enjoyed this let us know at or on twitter @VUULibrary. Let us know if there is some aspect of VUU history you’d be interested in learning more about.

1. “A Wedding at the African Church.” Southern Workman (Hampton, VA), September 1882, Vol. XI, No. 9 ed. Accessed February 3, 2017.
2. Scruggs, Lawson Andrew. Women of Distinction: Remarkable in Works and Invincible in Character. Raleigh, NC: L. A. Scruggs, 1893.
3. Harris, Jennifer. ““Ushered into the Kitchen”: Lalia Halfkenny, Instructor of English and Elocution at a 19th-Century African American Women’s College.” Acadiensis XLI, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 45-65.
4. “A Wedding at the African Church.” Southern Workman (Hampton, VA), September 1882, Vol. XI, No. 9 ed. Accessed February 3, 2017.
5. Harris, Jennifer. ““Ushered into the Kitchen”: Lalia Halfkenny, Instructor of English and Elocution at a 19th-Century African American Women’s College.” Acadiensis XLI, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 45-65.
6. McCray, Carrie Allen. Freedom’s Child: The Life of a Confederate General’s Black Daughter. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1998.
7. “Closing Exercises of Hartshorn Memorial College.” The Richmond Planet, May 30, 1896, XII, No. 24 ed.
8. Preston News Service. “Rev. Dr. J.E. Jones of Virginia Passes Away – Closes 47 Years of Actual Servise.” The Dallas Express, November 04, 1922, XXX, No. 2 ed.
9.Garrett-Scott, Shennette Monique. Daughters of Ruth: Enterprising Black Women in Insurance in the New South, 1890s to 1930s . PhD diss., The University of Texas at Austin, 2011.
10. “Urban League Officials to Attend Europe Meets.” The New York Age, June 16, 1928, Vol. 41, No. 40.
11. “A Brilliant Reception and Pretty Ladies.” The Washington Bee (Washington, D. C.), September 22, 1894, XIII, No 15.
12. Armfield, Felix L. Eugene Kinckle Jones: the national urban league and black social work, 1910-1940. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
13. Earnest, Joseph Brummell. The Religious Development of the Negro in Virginia. PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1914. Charlottesville, VA: Michie Company, 1914.
14. Letter from S. S. Cutting to Charles Corey, September 27, 1876. Virginia Union University Special Collections and Archives.
15.Beasley, Delilah L. “Activities Among the Negros.” Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA), November 05, 1933, CXIX, No. 128, sec. T.
16. Preston News Service. “Rev. Dr. J.E. Jones of Virginia Passes Away – Closes 47 Years of Actual Servise.” The Dallas Express, November 04, 1922, XXX, No. 2 ed.
17.Earnest, Joseph Brummell. The Religious Development of the Negro in Virginia. PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1914. Charlottesville, VA: Michie Company, 1914.
18. Armfield, Felix L. Eugene Kinckle Jones: the national urban league and black social work, 1910-1940. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
19. “Personals & Briefs.” The Richmond Planet, July 12, 1890, VII, No. 29.
20. Ibid./i>
21. Armfield, Felix L. Eugene Kinckle Jones: the national urban league and black social work, 1910-1940. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.
22. “”The Virginia Union University – Fine Commencement Exercises.” The Richmond Planet, June 01, 1901, XVII, No. 24.
23.“Colored Banks and Insurance Companies Thrive. – A Woman President. – Va., News Items.” The Colored American (Washington, D. C.), December 05, 1903, X, No. 22.
24 “”Richmond, VA.” The New York Age, July 18, 1912, XXV, 42.
25. United States. Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth census of the United States taken in the year 1910. Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Office, 1913.
26. Cornell University Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections. “The “Seven Jewels”: Students, Then Brothers – Eugene Kinckle Jones, 1885-1953.” Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: A Centennial Celebration. 2006. Accessed February 17, 2017.

A Founding Family Part 2: The Vassars

February 10, 2017


Alice Walker Kinckle Vassar

In 1856, John Henry Kinckle Sr. and his wife Rachael Smith Kinckle had their first child, a girl, named Alice Walker Kinckle. Two years later, a second daughter was born, Rosa Daniel Kinckle. We have no first hand account of the relationship between the two sisters but the facts tend towards that they were close in more than just age. They both attended the Lynchburg Public Schools and Howard Normal Schools and even had a joint-wedding in which they married best friends.

Before starting, candidates to Howard’s Normal School had to first pass tests in a variety of subjects including reading, writing, spelling, math, history and geography. Alice graduated from Howard University’s Normal School and musical department in 1874.1


Jackson Street School Lynchburg, Va

After her graduation, Alice returned to Lynchburg to teach in the public school system. In 1878 she was hired as the first full-time Black teacher in the district. As late as 1915, she is still listed in the financial records of the Lynchburg School system under her married name, earning $500 a year.2 She only retired in September of 1919 at the age of 63, drawing an $80.88 pension quarterly for the rest of her life.3

Alice maintained an interest in education throughout her life. She gave addresses at Howard University functions,4  was the president of the Lynchburg Howard Alumni Association,5  and helped set up a program in Lynchburg to teach children cooking and sewing skills.6 Howard even presented her with an honorary Master’s Degree in 1926 and at the time of her death, she was the oldest female graduate of Howard University.7

D. N. Vassar

David Nathaniel Vassar was born in Bedford County, VA on December 5, 18478. He was born free but around the age of three was stolen from his mother, Susan Vassar and sold into slavery. It is unknown how long he remained enslaved but Charles Corey, president of the Richmond Theological Institute, reassures readers in his history of Institute that “the man who did the deed was punished for his crime.”9 Vassar grew up in Lynchburg, training to be a barber and teaching himself to read.


Dr. D. N. Vassar

At the age of 21 he entered what was then called the Colver Institute, later graduating from Madison (now Colgate) University as one of the first Black men in Virginia to complete a college degree.10

After graduating with both a B.A. and a Master’s, Vassar returned to Richmond and became the Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics at what was now know as the Richmond Theological Institute. He later received a doctorate degree from Shaw University. Vassar taught at the Richmond Institute for over 25 years, covering math, science and biblical studies and helped set up other schools such as the Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Lynchburg. He resigned due to health reasons in 1901.11

He was known by his students as “interesting and entertaining”12 but also of bearing a “strong will,…strong character,…and tender heart.”13

Outside of his teaching, Vassar was active as the pastor of Louisa Baptist Church for over thirty years as well as the instrumental as the treasurer and board member of many institutions including the National Foreign Mission Convention (on whose behalf, he traveled to Africa to report on their missionary work), the Virginia Baptist Convention, and the Virginia Seminary.14 Vassar also held the title of Grand Chief Templar of the Virginia Lodge, Independent Order of Grand Templars. 15

Married Life

The Vassars spent many years in Virginia, in both Lynchburg and Richmond. They had two daughters, Virgie and Rosa. Virgie followed in the footsteps of her mother, aunt and uncle, and attended Howard University. Rosa also attended Howard but then attended Cornell like her cousin Eugene Kinckle Jones.

Rosa Vassar made the papers in 1911, her junior year, because she and a friend, Pauline Ray, who had both been living off-campus, asked for a room in the girl’s dormitory, Sage College, in order to save themselves a mile and half walk to campus in the winter months.16 According to a student newspaper article written on their behalf,

These women were therefore obliged to go back this year to the negro quarter in the lower part of the town ; to hurry back and forth to their meals ; to waste in going up and down much time and energy that they ought to spend in assimilating the instruction that is given them; to pay more for carfare and living expenses than women in better pecuniary circumstances…When an examination depends on the reading of a book on the reserved shelves, what chance has a girl who is too tired and worn out to get up the hill on a stormy night?17

When confronted, the matron of Sage College predictably replied that she had not banned the two young women, but only recommended that they would be more comfortable elsewhere given how other boarders might feel towards them.18 And sure enough, once the newspaper article appeared, 269 white women signed a petition to keep Rosa and Pauline out of the dorm.19 However, in a decision that made newspapers nationally, Cornell’s president denied the petition and told the young women they were welcome in the dorm.20 Even so, the women felt they had to release a statement saying that there not interested in “social equality” and would keep themselves as separate “as two fingers on one hand” from the white women. 21 It is unknown whether they took him up on the offer. Rosa graduated and taught school in both Lynchburg, VA like her mother, and in Camden, New Jersey.

Vassar and Jones

Whenever Vassar’s names was mentioned, the name of Joseph Endom Jones soon


A newspaper article about the wedding.

followed. The two men, who either met in Lynchburg, or at Richmond Theological Institute, were known to be inseparable at the school. When one of Richmond Theological Institute’s first star students, Sterling Gardner, wrote home from Madison University, he sends greetings to “Jones & Vassar”, often just abbreviating it to “J & V”. After attending Madison (Colgate) University together, they returned to marry the two Kinckle Sisters, Alice and Rosa, in a double wedding on June 21, 1882, even sharing a wedding invitation. We do not know how Rosa and David met, or how her sister Rosa met Joseph, but they all grew up in Lynchburg, VA but after the double wedding the two couples continued to live close by for several years.

Both of these men are well educated and represent a high type of true manhood, and they have done much to advance the race they are identified with -G. F. Richings

Vassar and Jones names continued to be coupled in the catalogs of what eventually became to be known as Virginia Union University (at least one year, along side their brother-in-law John H. Kinckle Jr. as well) and in The Richmond Planet, the city’s Black newspaper. The editor of The Richmond Planet, John Mitchell Jr., also he frequently praised their wives and employer, did not seem to think highly of Vassar and Jones, perhaps because they once started their own paper. The paper, Virginia Baptist, did not last long, in part because of Mitchell’s constant bickering with it via his editorial column in his own paper.


The Richmond Planet

Later Years

The Vassar family moved to Philadelphia after D. N. Vassar’s retirement, though they continued to travel down to Richmond to visit friends and family, as well as out to California22, up to New York City, and “motored” out to Atlantic City on weekend trip23. They remained close with the Jones family. Alice Vassar even visited New York City as a widow to attend her nephew’s, Eugene Kinckle Jones, 25th wedding anniversary.

Both daughters eventually married, Virgie became Mrs. Charles A. Lewis and Rosa because Mrs. Justus R. Rodgers. Virgie Lewis, a mother of three, was known as an active community leader, even registering to run for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1922. She, along with her mother, was active in the West Philadelphia Civic League of Women.

Aside from her teaching, Rosa was also very involved with Alpha Kappa Alpha, acting as an editor of its official newspaper. However, she appeared herself in the papers again in 1927. According to the Pittsburgh Courier, the Rodgers 11-year old marriage had been having issues for a while. Rosa attended a dance where the wife of one of her male dancing partners became angry (either at Rosa’s attentions towards her husband or Justus Rodger’s attention to the wife, it’s unclear). In the ensuing argument, Rosa slapped the woman and was arrested and held on $300 dollars bail.24


Pittsburgh Courier, July 16, 1927

During a court hearing about the matter, her husband, Justus Rodgers did not testify in her behalf and she told her sister Virgie that she was going to divorce him. However, when he arrived home that evening he found her upstairs where she had committed suicide by breathing in gas through a tube.Both of these men are well educated and represent a high type of true manhood, and they have done much to advance the race they are identified with25

D. N. Vassar died two years after in 1929 in Philadelphia. He was 83 years old. Virginia Union University passed a resolution referring to him as “one of those outstanding factors once active in the fabric of this great institution”.26 Appropriately, the Pittsburgh Courier headline to his obituary read “Noted Educator Passed Away”.27

Alice Vassar continued to live with her daughter Virgie until her death, sometime in the 1930s. Their four grandchildren continue their legacy, with at least one attending Howard University.

This is Part 2 of a 4 Part Series. Check out Part 1 on John Henry Kinckle Sr. and his wife Rachael Smith Kinckle.


1. Judd, and Detweiler. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Howard University, District of Columbia. Washington, D.C.: Howard University, 1878.
2. City Comptroller’s Financial Report of the City of Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: Lynchburg (Va.). City Comptroller, 1916.
3. Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Education, 1919.
4. Beresford. A Historical, Biographical and Statistical Souvenir. Washington, D. C.: Howard University, 1900.
5.The Echo: 1920. Washington, D. C.: Howard University, 1920.
6.Pride, Amelia Perry. “The Lynchburg Sewing School.” The Southern Workman and Hampton School Record, February 1899, 65-66.
7.Noted Educator Passes Away.” The Pittsburgh Courier, February 16, 1929, XX ed., no. 7
8. “Dr. D. N. Vassar.” Virginia Union Bulletin, February 1929, 15-18.
9. Corey, Charles H. A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary: With Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Work Among the Colored People of the South. Richmond, VA: J. W. Randolph Company, 1895.
10. Noted Educator Passes Away.” The Pittsburgh Courier, February 16, 1929, XX ed., no. 7
11.”Dr. D. N. Vassar.” Virginia Union Bulletin, February 1929, 15-18.;
“The Pastor’s Appeal Unanswered.” The Richmond Planet, September 07, 1901, XVIII ed., sec. 38.
12. “Dr. D. N. Vassar.” Virginia Union Bulletin, February 1929, 15-18.
13. Corey, Charles H. A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary: With Reminiscences of Thirty Years’ Work Among the Colored People of the South. Richmond, VA: J. W. Randolph Company, 1895.
14. Ibid.
15.“Norfolk Items.” The Baltimore Sun, August 07, 1888.
16. “Clark, James B. “Race Prejudice at Cornell.” The Cornell Era, March 06, 1911, 196.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. Colored Girls Not Barred From Cornell.” Star Tribune (Minneapolis), April 15, 1911.
20. Ibid.
21. Rogers, Ibram H. The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965–1972. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012. Print.
22. “Lynchburg, Va.” The New York Age, August 05, 1915.
23. “Lynchburg, Va.” “Phillygrams.” The Pittsburgh Courier, July 11, 1925.
24.”Death is Sequel to Assault.” The Pittsburgh Courier, July 16, 1927.
25. Ibid.
26.”Dr. D. N. Vassar.” Virginia Union Bulletin, February 1929, 15-18.
27.Noted Educator Passes Away.” The Pittsburgh Courier, February 16, 1929, XX ed., no. 7

A Founding Family Part 1: The Senior Kinckles

February 3, 2017


Kinckle Family Tree

Virginia owes a lot to John Henry Kinckle Sr. and his wife Rachael Smith Kinckle, even if this is the very first time you have heard their names. This couple persevered through slavery and reconstruction, made the best life they possibly could for their three children and those three children, in turn, became integral parts of Virginia Union University and the world, before passing the mantle to their children and so forth.

The most well-known descendant of John Henry and Rachael Kinckle is their grandson, Eugene Kinckle Jones, a founding member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and long-time Executive Secretary of the National Urban League (NUL) but Eugene’s grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have remarkable stories as well.

This is the first part of a four part series in honor of Black History Month and VUU’s Founder’s Day (February 3rd) about the Kinckle family (and their kin the Jones and Vassars). Please visit our exhibit in the lobby of the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center to view some of their photographs and letters.

The earliest events of John Henry Kinckle Sr. and his wife Rachael Smith are only available to use through family stories. According to their descendants, Rachael Smith was born a slave around 1835, the child of an all too common violent crime of a white slave-owner forcing himself on a slave woman. Rachael remained with her mother, a slave working for her biological father. According to family stories, a strange stipulation in her father’s will set her free. Upon his death, her biological father agreed she could go free with five hundred dollars but only if she married a free black man. As one biographer of her grandson, Eugene Kinckle Jones puts it, “John Kinckle seemed a likely suitor.”1

Since we don’t know the names of Rachael’s parents, it’s hard to substantiate this story


John Kinckle’s emancipation document (Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

and it does not quite fit the timeline of John Kinckle’s life. John Kinckle was born in 1810 but no record of him exists until he and his family were sold to Rev. William Henry Kinckle of Lynchburg’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as a way to pay off the debts of his previous owner.

John Kinckle himself is quoted to have said that Rev. Kinckle married him to Rachael and baptized their children (which does not fit with Rachael marrying John only after he was free) and then having freed John and his family.2 An emancipation document signed by Rev. Kinckle in 1859 for John (Christian) Kinckle does not mention any family. Since his children were all born free, the “family” referred to in stories might have been siblings, of which he had at least one who subsequently moved North. An 1882 Southern Workman, the newspaper of Hampton Institute, mentions a sister-in-law of Rachael Kinckle working in Hartford, CT at a boarding house frequented by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Isabella Hooker.3

At some point John and Rachael met, married, and settled in Lynchburg, Virginia. As freed Blacks right before the Civil War, in a city which drew its name from the same family that gave their name to the term “lynching”, their options for employment were few. However, John Kinckle found reliable work as a baggage handler or porter at Lynchburg’s Union Railroad Station and eventually paid Rev. Kinckle the price of his emancipation.

As baggage handler during the Civil War, Kinckle was in charge of many deliveries to hospitalized soldiers. The Lynchburg Hospital Association urged people to address donations to “A Porter, (familiarly known as John Kinckle,) [who] will be regularly at the Depots and Boat Landing, to receive anything entrusted to him…”4


Union Station in Lynchburg, VA

Kinckle also seemed to be involved in local politics. A book titled Lynchburg and It’s People notes that when Gilbert C. Walker ran for governor of Virginia, Kinckle “threw out the Walker flag and worked for him.”5
Many people did not agree with his choice and at least once his “stable and several valuable horses were burned” by people who believed he had sold out and disparagingly called him part of the aristocracy. But he was also considered by many as a “business man…who has entirely the confidence of the community” and “thoroughly deserve[d] it”.6

Rachael is listed on her death certificate as having worked as a housekeeper and was known to keep her own house, “a flower-embosomed cottage” neat and surrounded by “book, pictures, and musical instruments” on the corner of 8th and Harrison in Lynchburg.7

The Kinckles raised three children to adulthood. Alice Walker Kinckle Vassar, Rosa Daniel Kinckle Jones, and John Henry Kinckle Jr. (A third daughter, Annie James seems to have died at age 15). All three graduated from Howard University and went on to have professional careers. The daughters, Alice and Rosa married VUU professors and John Henry Jr. graduated from VUU before attending Howard. We will be exploring their stories in the coming weeks.

John and Rachael are buried in the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia. Rachael died in 1885, at home, from consumption. She was 49 years old. She lived to see both her daughters get married on the same day in a double wedding in 1882 but even then the newspaper reported her in “very feeble health” though “extremely ladylike with in black silk with lace about her neck”7

It is unclear whether John may have married again after Rachael died, however he died a few years after her in 1889 of heart disease at the age of 79.7 Their children provided them with a joint headstone.

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series. Check out Part 2 on the Vassar family here.


1. Armfield, Felix L. Eugene Kinckle Jones: the National Urban League and Black social work, 1910-1940. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
2. “A Wedding at the African Chuch.” Southern Workman (Hampton, VA), September 1882, Vol. XI, No. 9 ed. Accessed February 3, 2017.
3. Ibid.
4. “Lynchburg Hospital Association.” Virignia Center for Digital History. Accessed February 3, 2017.
5. Christian, W. Asbury. Lynchburg and its people. Lynchburg: J.P. Bell Company, printers, 1900.
6. “A Wedding at the African Chuch.” Southern Workman (Hampton, VA), September 1882, Vol. XI, No. 9 ed. Accessed February 3, 2017.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. “Old City Cemetery Burial Records.” Old City Cemetery. Accessed February 3, 2017.

An “Exhibition of American Negros” in Paris

January 10, 2017

Du Bois sitting in the exhibit

The 1900 Paris Exhibition introduced the world to talking films, escalators, Campbell’s Soup, and the Ferris wheel. It covered over 530 acres and was visited by nearly 50 million people. Countries and cultures were invited to showcase their achievements in an attempt to highlight the universality of humanity. And one W. E. B. Du Bois took them up on it.

By 1900, Du Bois had completed a Bachelor’s Degree from Fisk University, as well as a second Bachelor’s Degree and Ph. D. from Harvard (the first from that institution awarded to an African American). Now teaching at Atlanta University and having just published his scientific sociology work, The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois saw an opportunity to further disseminate his work.

The “Exhibition of American Negros” was a collaborationby Du Bois, reasercher Daniel A.P. Murray, Booker T. Washington, photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, Thomas J. Calloway and others.

The exhibit contained charts, photographs and models as well as books and pamphlets by African American authors. Du Bois saw this collection as a way to present “empirical evidence of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of African Americans” according to the Library of Congress.

Over 500 photographs provided glimpses of graduating university classes, army and navy medal recipients and business owners standing outside their businesses. Present among these were several of African American owned businesses in Richmond.

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Why is the name E. J. Crane upside down in the window? We can’t know for sure, but its surmised that it was a simple marketing ploy. A customer would come in the shop to notify the owner that the sign was upside down and would perhaps stick around to make a purchase.

Stay tuned to this blog to see what information we might uncover about these and other African-American owned businesses in Richmond during the late 19th/early 20th century.

See the rest of the exhibition here.


Du Bois, W.E. Burghardt, “The American Negro at Paris” American Monthly Review of Reviews 22:5 (November 1900): 577.
Terrell, Ellen. “Du Bois in Paris – Exposition Universelle, 1900.” Inside Adams. 2015 Feb 24. 

10 Things You Did Not Know About Victorian Letter Writing

November 16, 2016

Being an archivist is a day-to-day self-instructed history class. Here are some things we learned working on two collections of correspondence, The Richmond Theological Seminary Collection and The Consolidated Bank Collection.

  • They used acronyms too, they were just in Latin.

One of the most common abbreviations we came across that we were not aware of before was “inst”. Inst is short for the latin term instante mense, or “in this month”. Many of the correspondents in this collection used it to talk about previous letters you received such as this letter below from American Baptist Home Mission Society secretary James B. Simmons to Richmond Theological Seminary president Charles Corey which reads,


“Yours of the 18th and 22d inst are received & carefully…”

Similar to inst, ult stood for ultimo mense or “last month”, as in the previous month that had just past.


  • They had symbols other than apostrophes to mark abbreviations.

The letters we place after numerals to denote order are called ordinals. For example, the “nd” in 2nd or the “th” in 4th. Many times people will place these ordinals in superscript, sometimes Word even does it automatically. The reason for this is because “2nd and “4th” are abbreviations.

When letter writing was your primary means of communication, people ended up doing a lot of it so they came up with lots of ways to make it easier, including using lots of abbreviations. So that the reader would know that a word had been abbreviated, the writer would put the section after the omission as a superscript and generally either underline it or place two dots underneath. Hence “Virginia” became Va or “received” became recd.


That’s not a question mark, but rather a superscript “d” with a dot underneath for “received”

Even names got this treatment. In this collection you will often see Chas for “Charles”, Jas for “James”, and Wm for “William.”


An example of Charles Corey’s name being abbreviated

So, following this “first” came to be shortened to 1st, “second” to 2nd, even today you sometimes still see the ordinals underlined though that slowly faded out of style. Sometimes they couldn’t even be bothered to write out the full abbreviation and abbreviated it further by simply putting hash marks after the number so that it instead of 23rd it became simply 23”.


  • Margins were optional.

A typical letter from James B. Simmons

When you are writing letters every day, empty space can add up. Especially if your job was to be a corresponding secretary like James B. Simmons. Luckily, he did not constrain his writing to Microsoft Word’s formatting. He packed as much as he could into a single page while others went so far as to write on top of what they had already written!










  • Letterhead and stationery spoke volumes.

You could say a lot in a letterhead and not just by the text. However, the American Baptist Home Mission Society did make sure it said a lot by the text as well. Pre Printing stationery with a large letterhead allowed the Society to mail its latest news to its many connections with a personalized note without having to copy things out over and over again like D.W. Phillips had to above. Many times the last digit of the pre-printed year was even left blank so the stationary could be used for several years.


A typical American Baptist Home Mission Society Letterhead

However, pre-printed stationery created some unique problems for the American Home Mission Board. It could get expensive, as Simmons informs Corey in a ???? letter, it left Simmons with less room to write, of course, and it could cause conflict as Simmons tells Corey in October 1871, “I have used your heading so long that I fear other schools will be jealous.”


  • Fasteners came in all shapes and sizes.

Different fasteners from the Consolidated Bank Collection

Some fasteners looked pretty similar to the paperclips or staples we use today but as you can see from the small array of fasteners taken from correspondence in the early 1900s, they came in all shapes and sizes. Pins were commonly used in banks to attach drafts or bank notes to their corresponding invoice so much of the correspondence in our Consolidated Bank collection comes fastened together with pins. Archivists generally remove metal fasteners and replace them with plastic ones because the metal can rust and damage the documents. Archivist Healthcare 101: Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.


  • Envelopes were optional.

Although we have quite a few of the original envelopes from the Consolidated Bank collection, none of the envelopes from the Richmond Theological Seminary collection were kept. However, it’s interesting to note that for many of the checks in the Consolidated Bank’s correspondence collection, there probably wasn’t any envelope. The stamps are affixed directly to the check themselves!


  • Pre-paid postage is not a new thing.

An indicium from the Consolidated Bank Collection

Now-a-days a lot of commercial mail comes without an adhesive stamp. The postage has been paid for and some sort of notification of that has been printed in the corner of the envelope. You don’t have to lick a stamp anymore, or even peel and stick one. But having the postage already affixed to the envelope is not a new thing. In the late 19th/early 20th century you could buy envelopes in the US with the postage embossed directly into the corner. These were known as indicium, a Latin word for “identifying mark”. There are many examples of this type of postage in the Maggie Walker Consolidated Bank collection.


  • Handwriting has changed.

“…hope he may under the blessing of God become an able minister of…”

Cursive is slowly fading out of our culture as electronic correspondence becomes the most prevalent form of communication. Language, and handwriting, has always be an ever-changing thing. One such prominent example from the Richmond Theological Seminary collection is the transcription of words possessing a double “s” such as “possession” or “blessing” as in the example above. A double ‘s’ resulted in a figure that appears to the modern eye more like a backwards ‘f’ than an ‘s’. This is called a “long s” and when a double ‘s’ appeared in the middle of a word, the convention was to write the first one as a ‘long s’ and the second as a regular, or ‘short s’. By the dates of these letters (late 19th century) the practice was fading away, but these older men continued to write as they had probably had learned to do so when they were younger.


  • The Seal
United States Treasury Wax Seal, Close-Up

Before the self-adhesive envelope or even the gummed-type that you like to stick, wax seals were a common way to make sure your letter remained private until it reached the hands of its intended recipient. By the mid-19th century, wax seals were falling out of favor as businesses has begun to stream-line the process of making pre-gummed envelopes. But every once in awhile, an official government letter pops up in a collection that still has its seals, such as this one from the United States Treasury in the Consolidated Bank Collection.


  • Without modern technology, sending something to multiple people was tough.

No scanner, no printer, no copier, no mimeograph machine in 1870s Virginia. When D.W. Phillips wanted to send Charles Corey a copy of a letter he had received from J. W. White, he had to copy it out long hand. If he hadn’t been nice enough to mention in his own accompanying letter that this one was a copy or had not added the small comment he did at the end that reads,

“I have corrected the spelling of some records but have made no other change – D.W.P.”

Looking at it now we might not have ever realized that it was not the original without that final sentence.

Sometimes, when the original was not needed, the original receipt simply added his own note and resent the letter creating something akin to a modern email thread.

So there you have it, as my grandfather used to say, “Did you learn anything new today?”


Jessica Bennett
Special Collections and Art Librarian

If you are interested in learning more about the 100-year-old junk mail in the Consolidated Bank Collection, check out our previous blog entry.