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Life in Old Virginia

By James J. McDonald
Published by the Old Virginia Publishing Company, Inc., Norfolk, Va., 1907


When I am old and feeble,
And cannot work any more,
Then carry me back to Old Virginia,
To Old Virginia’s shore.

This sentiment doubtless was most forcibly expressed in the year 1907, during which there was witnessed an international celebration of the first permanent settlement of the English speaking people upon the American continent.

In aid of this event the Congress of the United States passed an Act approved March 3, 1905, entitled “An Act to provide for celebrating the birth of the American Nation, the first permanent settlement of English speaking people on the Western hemisphere, by the holding of an international naval, marine and military celebration in the vicinity of Jamestown in the waters of Hampton Roads, in the State of Virginia, to provide for the suitable and permanent Commemoration of said event and to authorize an appropriation in aid thereof and for other purposes.”

The Act authorized the President of the United States to make public proclamation of this celebration, “inviting foreign nations to participate by the sending of their naval and such representatives of their military organizations as may be proper.”

The proclamation fixed the time of the beginning of the celebration on May 13, and ending not later than November 1, 1907.

The purpose of this boob is to give a brief history of the efforts of the English to establish permanent settlements in Virginia, and to follow with interesting stories of the life and customs of the people inhabiting particularly that part of Old Virginia, known as the “Tidewater” section where American civilization began its first struggles for existence amid the forests of a new world whose only occupants then were wild beasts and savage men.

It was the fortune of the writer to pass more than twenty five years of his life in Eastern Virginia, beginning at the close of that great struggle-the War between the States–when there yet existed many of the customs and manners inherited from the forefathers of the quiet and orderly people inhabiting that section. By means of official and social intercourse with all classes of the citizens of Tidewater Virginia the writer is indebted for much of the interesting and amusing data herein submitted to the reader.

The book also contains the names of all the counties with date of formation and a valuable appendix giving a list with short biographical sketches of all the governors of Virginia.

This volume is, therefore, intended as a reference book as well as for general reading. Many of the narratives may appear disconnected, but the author wishes it understood that his purpose has been not to give a connected history but to present those facts of Virginia relating especially to the life and customs which are fast disappearing and of which there has been no chronicler.