Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chronicling My Cosbys

A couple of years ago a cousin had given me a trove of information she had found on our Cosby family in Virginia.  My last post, "Letter from N.B. Cosby, 9 May 1863," was from that collection.  Further re-reading what she had sent, I came across a newspaper article and its reference.  I decided to search online to see if I could pull up a scanned copy of the article.  No luck; however, it did display a link to the Chronicling America site.  I had forgotten about that newspaper archive for a while and decided to check it out again.  Still staying on track with my Virginia relatives, I typed in various combinations of given names for my Cosby and Emmerson families.

I was rewarded with several articles of interest:  the 1901 marriage announcement of Eva Claiborne Miskell and Frederick J. Emmerson (my g-grandparents), the death of their infant son in 1908, family travel news, a young man’s careless hunting accident, and one I thought particularly enjoyable, yet still on track with the Civil War and N.B. Cosby, about his sweet tobacco. 
From the Richmond dispatch, July 3, 1884:
“The writer was shown the other day by Mr. N.B. Cosby, of Powhatan, near Jefferson, a lot of tobacco taken from a small crop he made in 1861.  It is probably the oldest loose tobacco or oldest tobacco of any kind in America.  Mr. Cosby, when eighteen years old, raised the tobacco on his mother’s farm at Oakland church, in Louisa county, and before he had time to market it he was called into the army.  His mother kept the little crop as a souvenir of her soldier boy, and had it spread on the floor in the garret of her brick dwelling.  After the war her son came back, but never called for his tobacco, went away, married, and is raising a large family, the old lady all the time religiously keeping her boy’s first crop locked up in the garret along with some old relics of her girlhood and her parents and grandparents.  Not long since she died, and Mr. Cosby went home and claimed his tobacco.  He found it covering the floor about six inches deep, without any mould upon it, as sound as when he put it there, with color mellowed by its twenty-three years, and smelling, he says, “like a rose.”  The tobacco is of the Orinoco variety, and there is about 150 pounds of it, and if it is true, as is stated by tobacco-growers, that every time tobacco comes and goes it gets better, the coming and going with every warm, damp spell of the last twenty-three years ought to make this lot of weed as sweet as candy.  Mr. Cosby says he cannot find such chewing-tobacco anywhere, and he intends to keep it till he eats it up.”

ChroniclingAmerica provides free access to historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper images as part of a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress.  It contains a searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.  So, if you haven’t visited it, check it out.  If you have, but haven’t been there in a while, it’s worth a re-visit.

©2011 – Frank’s Daughter All Rights Reserved

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