United States of America -- North Carolina -- Durham County -- Durham
United States of America -- Massachusetts -- Suffolk County -- Boston
United States of America -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia County -- Philadelphia
United States of America -- New York -- New York
Scope and Contents:
The Philip G. Freelon Architectural Archival Collection documents the life and career of architect, educator, cultural heritage preservation advocate and artist Philip G. Freelon. The collection highlights his distinguished career from its inception to his role as the "architect of record" for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Freelon was one of the leading African American architects of his generation and he created a focus designing and constructing buildings that paid reverence to African Americans and other underrepresented communities. This collection is comprised of business records, photographic materials, ephemera, correspondence, architectural drawings, and clippings.
The materials in this collection have been separated into seven series. The materials have been ordered and organized based on the content and chronology. Within each series and sub-series, the folders are organized as close to the collection's original order as when it was acquired.
Biographical / Historical:
Philip Goodwin Freelon was born March 26, 1953, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Allan Freelon, Jr. and Elizabeth Neal Freelon. Freelon was greatly influenced by his grandfather, Allan Freelon Sr., a notable Harlem Renaissance visual artist, educator, and civil rights activist. His grandfather's values and artistry inspired him to create a career that focused on creating historical and cultural spaces in African American communities. Freelon attended high school at the former predominantly white elite all-boys school, Central High School located in upper North Philadelphia from 1967 to 1971. His attendance at this school during of the Civil Rights Movement afforded him the unique experience that inspired him to attend a historically Black college (HBCU). Freelon selected Hampton Institute (Hampton University) to develop his veneration of the composition and design of the buildings that held cultural and artistic treasures. Located in the Tidewater area of Virginia, Hampton was renowned among HBCUs for its architecture program. His professor and mentor at Hampton, John Spencer, pushed Freelon academically as he moved easily through the school's curriculum. After two years at Hampton, Spencer helped Freelon transition to a more challenging program at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Freelon graduated in 1975 with a bachelor's in environmental design in architecture.
Later in the fall of 1975, Freelon enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue a master's in architecture. During the summers, Freelon worked with one of former his NC State professors at the architectural firm of John D. Latimer and Associates. After graduating from MIT in 1977, Freelon returned to North Carolina to take his Architecture Registration Examination (ARE), becoming the firm's youngest person to receive licensure. He also began teaching classes at his alma mater, NC State. It was there that Freelon met his future wife, Nnenna Pierce. Pierce, a Massachusetts native was attending Simmons College in Boston at the time. The connection was immediate, and the pair was married in 1979 and welcomed their first son, Deen in 1980. After a brief employment for a large Texas firm 3/D International, Freelon returned to Durham to join O'Brien Atkins Associates. He was the firm's youngest partner, eventually serving as principal and vice president of architecture. Freelon worked on a wide variety of projects throughout the state including learning centers, university buildings, churches, and parking garages. Along with Freelon's budding career, his family was expanding as well. Phil and Nnenna welcomed their daughter Maya in 1982 and their son, Pierce in 1983. During this time, Freelon was being highly recognized for his work. The American of Institute of Architects (AIA) awarded him the Honor Award for his design of Terminal 2 of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which has since been rebuilt.
By the end of the decade, Freelon and his wife Nnenna needed a change of pace. Nnenna pursued a professional career in music while Phil took a break from his career to expand his skillset and reinforce his intellectual approach to design. In 1989, Freelon was granted the Loeb Fellowship for one year of independent study at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He also pursued a longtime hobby of furniture design, calling the practice "small architecture". He received industry awards like first prize in the PPG Industries, Inc. Furniture Design Competition as well as AIA Honor Award for conference table designs. With a year away from the field to clarify his vision, Freelon opened his own firm, simply titled, the Freelon Group in 1990. Beginning as a one-man operation, the Freelon Group grew to become one of the largest African American owned architectural firms in the country with over 50 employees, forty percent of which were women, and thirty percent were people of color. With freedom within his own firm, Freelon focused on designing learning centers, libraries and museums and vowed to never build anything that did not bring cultural and intellectual value to a community.
Over the next twenty years, Freelon would assert himself as a force in designing notable cultural institutions and community-driven projects in and around the country including the Sonja Haynes Stone Center at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore, MD), Museum of African Diaspora (San Francisco, CA), Harvey B. Gantt for African American Arts and Culture (Charlotte, NC), the Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship branches of the District of Columbia Public Library , National Center for Civil Rights and Human Rights (Atlanta, GA), Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Jackson, MS) and Emancipation Park (Houston, TX).
Alongside his architectural career, Freelon served as a lecturer and adjunct professor at several colleges and universities including North Carolina State University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Maryland College Park, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the Florence, Italy program at Kent State University. Freelon was awarded a full-time appointment as professor of Professional Practice at MIT in 2008. The Professional Practice (4.222) course was a requirement for the master's in architecture and he used examples from his extensive career and personal experience to illustrate legal, ethical, and management concepts. Nnenna's music career was also thriving. She would go on to record twelve albums and be nominated for six Grammys. This fusion of education, the arts, and music inspired another generation of Freelons: their son, Pierce Freelon is a hip-hop artist, educator, and political activist; daughter Maya Freelon is a visual artist; and son Deen Freelon is a professor.
In 2001, George W. Bush established a commission to create a new museum on the National Mall. Freelon wanted to enter his firm to participate in the international design competition. Freelon would partner with famed African American New York City architect, J. Max Bond, Jr. and by 2006 the two officially formed the Freelon Bond Architects.The Freelon Bond group submitted their proposal and soon after were elected to create programming and pre-design work for the museum. When the official design competition for the museum was announced in 2008, UK-based architect David Adjaye joined the team as the lead designer, and along with the partnering firm SmithGroup, the new architectural team became Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup. The three black architects combined a variety of distinctive elements from Africa and the Americas to create the building's unique, historically significant design. The Freelon Group served as the "architect of record" and were responsible for ensuring that key design ideas were upheld. Freelon and key firm members such as Zena Howard were active as on-site project managers during the museum's construction process to certify that the building would be developed according to plan.
Freelon, Adjaye, and Bond were tasked with taking the collective history of the African American experience-- generations of pain, triumph, and perseverance-- and forming it into a structure. The team looked to African sources, such as Yoruban architecture, for inspiration. They sought to connect the building's design to the geographic and cultural roots of African Americans. Their design choices also reference the contributions of enslaved and free black metalworkers made to the landscape of the American South. Their goal was to make the museum an extension of its contents, and an expression of the stories told inside.
By the groundbreaking for NMAAHC in 2012, Freelon had been appointed to the U.S. Commission of the Fine Arts by President Barack Obama. In an effort to broaden his resources and expand his firm, The Freelon Group merged with Perkins & Will, a firm originating in Chicago that grew to have offices across the United States. Freelon was appointed the managing director and later lead design director at the firm's North Carolina offices in Charlotte and Durham in 2014. By the next year, Freelon understood that his work in architecture and education was a necessary voice to preserve, which he did through donation of the bulk of his personal papers to his alma mater, NC State University. The year 2016 proved to be a year of triumph for Freelon as NMAAHC opened its doors on September 24th to much jubilation and celebration. That same year, Freelon's legacy was further cemented as the Phil Freelon Fellowship Fund was established at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a fellowship designed to broaden opportunities for African Americans and other underrepresented communities in architecture and design.
Unfortunately, this triumphant year was met with difficulty as Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive disease that affects the nervous system. He would continue to work and lecture for the next two years until it became too challenging. One of those projects was the renovation and opening of The NorthStar Church of the Arts in early 2019. A passion project with his wife and son, Pierce, a former church was renovated and repurposed as an arts and cultural space for all. This space was created in an effort to support the Durham cultural community as it began to feel the effects of gentrification. When Freelon lost his battle with ALS on July 9, 2019, in his home in Durham, North Carolina, the family requested that in lieu of flowers that donations be sent to the NorthStar Church to continue the center's mission and Phil's dream to give back to the Durham community.
1953 -- Philip Goodwin Freelon was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Allan Freelon Jr. and Elizabeth Neal Freelon.
1971 -- Freelon graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and entered School of Architecture, Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia as a design student.
1973 -- Freelon transferred to College of Design at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
1975 -- Graduated with a Bachelor's in Environmental Design in Architecture from NC State University. He received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Book Award for Outstanding Work in Architectural Design. In the fall, he began his master's program in architecture at MIT.
1976 -- Began working as aide for architectural firm, John D. Latimer and Associates.
1977 -- Graduated with a Master's in Architecture and Design from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT.)
1978 -- Freelon became youngest architect to pass the North Carolina Architecture Registration Exam. Freelon started teaching at North Carolina State University.
1979 -- Married Chinyere "Nnenna" Pierce. Freelon began working for, 3/D International in Houston, Texas.
1980 -- Son Deen Freelon was born.
1981 -- Freelon returned to Durham, NC to join O'Brien Atkins Associates as the firm's youngest partner.
1982 -- Daughter Maya Freelon was born.
1983 -- Son Pierce Freelon was born.
1989-1990 -- Received Loeb Fellowship for independent study at Harvard University. Freelon received AIA Honor Award for American Airlines Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham Airport, NC (RDU).
1990 -- Freelon left O'Brien Atkins Associates to open his own firm The Freelon Group.
1991 -- Won first prize in the PPG Furniture Design Competition.
1992 -- Won the AIA Honor Award for Conference Table Designs.
2001 -- Won the AIA Firm Award for The Freelon Group and the AIA Design Award for Parking Structure, RDU Airport. Began attending meetings of President George W. Bush's commission on new National Mall museum dedicated to African American history and culture.
2003 -- Freelon merged his firm with New York architect Max Bond to create Freelon Bond Architects.
2004 -- Sonja Haynes Stone Center at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC) was completed.
2005 -- Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore, MD) and Museum of African Diaspora (San Francisco, CA) were both completed.
2008 -- UK-based architect David Adjaye and Washington, DC based architecture firm, Smithgroup joined the team, creating the Freelon Adjaye Bond Group/SmithGroup Freelon began teaching at MIT's school of Architecture and Design.
2009 -- Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smithgroup won the official design for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Harvey B. Gantt for African American Arts and Culture (Charlotte, NC) was completed.
2010 -- Anacostia branch of the District of Columbia Public Library (Washington, DC) was completed.
2011 -- Tenley-Friendship branch of the District of Columbia Public Library (Washington, DC) was completed.
2012 -- Construction began on NMAAHC.
2014 -- The Freelon Group merged with Perkins & Will, a much larger architectural firm. Freelon became managing director and lead design director of the North Carolina branches in Durham and Charlotte. National Center for Civil Rights and Human Rights (Atlanta, GA) was completed.
2016 -- Freelon was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
2017 -- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (Jackson, MS) and Emancipation Park (Houston, TX) were completed.
2019 -- Freelon died in his home in Durham, North Carolina at age 66 on July 9.
Phil Freelon Papers, 1975-2019 at North Carolina State University Libraries.
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Philip G. Freelon.
Collection is open for research. Access to collection materials requires an appointment.
The NMAAHC Archives can provide reproductions of some materials for research and educational use. Copyright and right to publicity restrictions apply and limit reproduction for other purposes.
Most of Ruth Landes's papers relate directly or indirectly to Landes's American Indian research, her work in Brazil, and her study of bilingualism. There is also a considerable amount of material that relates to her experiences (sometimes fictionalized) at Fisk University. There is only small amount of material related to her other interests. Her collection also has material of and relating to the Brazilian folklorist and journalist Edison Carneiro. There is also noteworthy material concerning Herbert Baldus, Ruth Benedict, Elmer C. Imes, Charles S. Johnson, and Robert E. Park. There is a large amount of printed and processed materials in the collection, mainly in the form of newspaper clippings and a collection of scholarly papers.
Scope and Contents:
This collection is mainly comprised of the professional papers of Ruth Schlossberg Landes. Included are correspondence, journals, published and unpublished manuscripts of writings, research materials including field notes and reading notes, photographs, drawings, scholarly papers and publications by other scholars, and clippings from newspapers and periodicals.
Landes's field research on Candomblé in Brazil is well-represented in this collection, consisting of her field journals, writings, and photographs. Also present are Maggie Wilson's stories that were the basis for Landes's The Ojibwa Woman. Unfortunately, Landes was unable to locate her journals for her early research with the Ojibwa/Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Dakota. There are, however, field photographs of the Ojibwa/Chippewa and Potawatomi in the collection. There is also a great deal of her research on groups, especially minorities, in multilingual states with particular focus on the French of Quebec, Basques of Spain and the United States, Boers and Blacks of South Africa, the several socio-linguistic groups of Switzerland, and Acadians (Cajuns) of Louisiana. In the collection are several drafts of her unpublished manuscript on bilingualism, "Tongues that Defy the State." There is also a small amount of material about Black Jews of New York and considerable material about Landes's experience among African Americans when she taught briefly at Fisk University, including her unpublished manuscript "Now, at Athens," containing fictional and autobiographical accounts of her time at Fisk.
Reflections of other facets of Landes's professional activities are also included. Some materials concern her teaching activities, and there is also documentation of her work with the Fair Employment Practices Commission (a federal government agency during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt) and a similar private organization which immediately succeeded the FEPA; Gunnar Myrdal's research into the plight of African Americans ("The Negro in America"); the Research in Contemporary Cultures project at Columbia University; and the American Jewish Congress.
Among Landes's correspondents are Ruth Benedict, Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, Ralph Bunche, Herbert Baldus, Edison Carneiro, Sally Chilver, Frances Densmore, Sol Tax, Elmer S. Imes, Charles S. Johnson, Robert E. Park, and Hendrik W. van der Merwe.
The collection is organized into 6 series: (1) Correspondence, 1931-1991; (2) Research Materials, circa 1930s-1990; (3) Writings, circa 1930s-1990; (4) Teaching Materials, 1935-1975, undated; (5) Biographical and Personal Files, 1928-1988; (6) Graphic Materials, 1933-1978, undated
Ruth Schlossberg Landes was born on October 8, 1908 in New York City. Her father was Joseph Schlossberg, an activist in the Yiddish labor socialist community and one of the founders of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. She studied sociology at New York University (B.A. 1928) and social work at the New York School of Social Work, Columbia University (M.S.W. 1929). While in graduate school, Landes studied Black Jews in Harlem for her master's thesis, a topic that developed her interests in anthropology.
After graduating in 1929, she worked as a social worker in Harlem and married Victor Landes, a medical student and son of family friends. Their marriage ended after two years when she enrolled in the doctoral program in anthropology at Columbia against her husband's wishes. She kept his surname due to the stigma of being a divorced woman.
At Columbia, Landes studied under Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict, her main advisor. Under the guidance of Benedict, Landes moved away from further study of African Americans to focus on Native American communities. Upon Benedict's suggestion, Landes studied the social organization of the Ojibwa in Manitou Rapids in Ontario from 1932 to 1936 for her Ph.D. fieldwork. Her dissertation, Ojibwa Sociology, was published in 1937. Landes also contributed "The Ojibwa of Canada" in Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples (1937), a volume edited by Margaret Mead. In 1938, Landes published Ojibwa Women (1938), a book written in collaboration with Maggie Wilson, an Ojibwa interpreter and informant.
In addition to studying the Ojibwa in Ontario, Landes also conducted fieldwork with the Chippewa of Red Lake, Minnesota in 1933, working closely with shaman or midé Will Rogers. Her book, Ojibwa Religion and the Midéwiwin (1968) was based largely on her research with Rogers and Maggie Wilson. In 1935 and 1936, she undertook fieldwork with the Santee Dakota in Minnesota and the Potawatomi in Kansas. Like Ojibwa Religion and the Midéwiwin, her books on the Santee Dakota and Potawatomi were not published until several years later—The Mystic Lake Sioux: Sociology of the Mdewakantonwan Sioux was published in 1968 while The Prairie Potawatomi was published in 1970. In between her field research in the 1930s and the publication of The Prairie Potawatomi, Landes returned to Kansas to study the Potawatomi in the 1950s and 1960s.
Landes's plan to continue her studies with the Potawatomi in 1937 changed when Benedict invited her to join a team of researchers from Columbia University in Brazil. Landes was to conduct research on Afro-Brazilians in Bahia, Brazil, while Walter Lipkind, Buell Quain, and Charles Wagley studied indigenous people in the Amazons. To prepare for her research, Landes was at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937 and 1938 to consult with Robert Park and Donald Pierson and to use the university's library collections of African and African American materials. During that time, Landes also held a teaching position at Fisk and lived in the non-segregated women's residence on campus. Landes later wrote "Now, at Athens," an unpublished memoir containing fictional and true accounts of her experiences at Fisk.
From 1938 to 1939, Landes conducted fieldwork on the role of Afro-Brazilian women and homosexuals in the Candomblé religion in Bahia, Brazil. Unable to move freely by herself in Brazil as a single woman, Landes was accompanied by Edison Carneiro, a Bahian journalist and folklorist. With Carneiro as her companion, Landes was allowed access to rituals and people that would have been closed off to her otherwise. Due to her association with Carneiro, a member of the Brazilian Communist Party, Landes was suspected of being a communist and was forced to leave Bahia early. Publications from her research in Brazil include "A Cult Matriarchate and Male Homosexuality" (1940) and City of Women (1947). She returned to Brazil in 1966 to study the effects of urban development in Rio de Janeiro. In 1967, a Portuguese translation of City of Women was published, a project that Carneiro had commissioned as the first director of the Ministry of Education and Culture's Special National Agency for the Protection of Folklore.
Landes returned to New York in 1939, working briefly as a researcher for Gunnar Myrdal's study of African Americans. Unable to obtain a permanent position at a university, she worked in several other short term positions throughout most of her career. During World War II, Landes was a research director for the Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs (1941) and consultant for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fair Employment Practices Committee on African American and Mexican American cases (1941-44). In 1945, Landes directed a program created by Pearl S. Buck and a group of interdenominational clergy to analyze pending New York anti-discrimination legislation. She moved to California the following year to work for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Welfare Council on a study of race and youth gangs. After her contract ended, she moved back to New York and was hired as a contract researcher for the American Jewish Congress (1948-50). She also participated in Columbia University's Research in Contemporary Cultures (1949-51), studying Jewish families. She coauthored with Mark Zborowski, "Hypothesis concerning the Eastern European Jewish Family." From 1951 to 1952, Landes spent a year in London, funded by a Fulbright fellowship to study colored colonial immigrants and race relations in Great Britain.
After her fellowship ended, Landes returned to the United States and held short term appointments at several universities. She taught at the William Alanson White Psychiatric Institution in New York (1953-54), the New School for Social Research in New York (1953-55), University of Kansas (1957, 1964), University of Southern California (1957-62), Columbia University (1963), Los Angeles State College (1963), and Tulane University (1964). At Claremont Graduate School, Landes helped to develop and direct the Claremont Anthropology and Education Program (1959-62).
It was not until 1965 that Landes obtained a permanent faculty position at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario; she was recruited for the position by Richard Slobodin. Due to Ontario's age retirement law, Landes was forced to retire in 1973 at the age of 65. She continued to teach part-time until 1977, when she became professor emerita.
Landes passed away at the age of 82 on February 11, 1991.
Cole, Sally. 2003. Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
1908 October 8 -- Born Ruth Schlossberg in New York City
1928 -- B.A. in sociology, New York University
1929 -- M.S.W., New York School of Social Work, Columbia University
1929-1931 -- Social worker in Harlem Married to Victor Landes
1929-1934 -- Studied Black Jews in Harlem
1931 -- Began graduate work in anthropology at Columbia University
1932-1936 -- Studied the Ojibwa in Ontario and Minnesota (in field periodically)
1933-1940 -- Research Fellow, Columbia University
1935 Summer-Fall -- Studied the Santee Sioux (Dakota) in Minnesota
1935-1936 -- Studied the Potawatomi in Kansas
1935 -- Ph.D., Columbia University
1937 -- Instructor, Brooklyn College
1937-1938 -- Instructor, Fisk University
1938-1939 -- Studied Afro-Brazilians and Candomblé in Brazil, especially at Bahia
1939 -- Researcher on Gunnar Myrdal's study, "The Negro in America"
1941 -- Research Director, Office of Inter American Affairs, Washington, D.C.
1941-1945 -- Representative for Negro and Mexican American Affairs, Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), President Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration
1944 -- Interim Director, Committee Against Racial Discrimination, New York
1946-1947 -- Researcher, study of Mexican American youth, gangs, and families, Los Angeles Metropolitan Council
1948-1951 -- Researcher, American Jewish Congress, New York
1949-1951 -- Research consultant, study on Jewish families in New York for Research in Contemporary Cultures Project, Columbia University
1951-1952 -- Fulbright Scholar, to study colored colonial immigration into Great Britain
1953-1954 -- Lecturer, William Alanson White Psychiatric Institution, New York
1953-1955 -- Lecturer, New School for Social Research, New York
1956-1957 -- Married to Ignacio Lutero Lopez
1957 Summer -- Visiting Professor, University of Kansas
1957-1958 -- Visiting Professor, University of Southern California
1957-1965 -- Consultant, California agencies (Department of Social Work, Bureau of Mental Hygiene, Department of Education, Public Health Department) and San Francisco Police Department
1958-1959 -- Director, Geriatrics Program, Los Angeles City Health Department
1959-1962 -- Visiting Professor and Director of Anthropology and Education Program, Claremont Graduate School
1962 -- Extension Lecturer, University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Berkeley
1963 -- Extension Lecturer, Columbia University Extension Lecturer, Los Angeles State College
1963-1965 -- Consultant, International Business Machines (IBM)
1964 January-June -- Visiting Professor, Tulane University
1964 Summer -- Field work with Potawatomi in Kansas Professor, University of Kansas
1965-1975 -- Professor at McMaster University
1966 -- Studied urban development in Rio de Janeiro
1968-1975 -- Studied bilingualism and biculturalism in Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, United States, and Canada (in Spain and the United States concentrated on Basques)
1975 -- Became part-time faculty member at McMaster University
1977 -- Professor Emerita, McMaster University
1978 -- Award of Merit from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
1991 February 11 -- Died in Hamilton, Ontario
1991 -- Establishment of the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund at Research Institute for the Study of Man (RISM)
Correspondence from Ruth Landes can be found in the William Duncan Strong Papers, the Leonard Bloomfield Papers, and MS 7369. The Ruth Bunzel Papers contains a copy of a grant application by Landes.
These papers were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Ruth Landes in 1991.
The Ruth Landes papers are open for research. The nitrate negatives in this collection have been separated from the collection and stored offsite. Access to nitrate negatives is restricted due to preservation concerns.
Access to the Ruth Landes papers requires an appointment.
United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- Westminster
United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- Marston
United States of America -- Maryland -- Carroll County -- New Windsor
Papers documenting the farming and family life of the Robinson family of Prince George's County and after 1975, Charles County, Maryland. Papers documenting the farming and family of the Via family of Greene County, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Prince George's and Calvert Counties, Maryland, by 1949.
Scope and Contents:
An extensive and comprehensive collection of papers relating to family, farming, and the Southern Maryland tobacco culture, the Robinson and Via Family Papers cover many aspects of family and farm life. The papers are particularly important in regard to the tobacco culture that defined Southern Maryland for generations. The papers concern two distinct family groups, the Robinson and Via families who are connected through the marriage of Franklin A. Robinson and Adina Mae Via. The papers consist of material generated by the Robinson and Via families in their personal and working lives and as farm owners and operators.
The papers are especially strong in 20th century material. They consist of various types of farm records: account books, bills, receipts, tenant farming agreements, ephemera, land rental and purchase agreements, insurance policies, photographs and 8mm and 16mm films of farming practices and procedures, equipment and landscapes, related to the farming of tobacco, small grains, and livestock. The personal records include diaries, letters both personal and business, greeting cards, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, high school yearbooks, baby books, house plans, recipe books, photographs and 8mm films of birthdays, holidays, weddings, baptisms, family occasions, and family travel, oral histories, and funeral ephemera including photographs, and transcription discs. Of particular interest are the "Serenity Farm Tobacco Production Photographs" documenting the crop year 1999-2000 and the films detailing agricultural practices. There is a memorandum book for Black Walnut Thicket, 1885-1901, the Baden farm in Baden, Prince George's County.
This collection includes a comprehensive range of 8mm and 16mm films and photographs documenting farming practices and landscapes as well as family gatherings, birthdays, holidays, and vacations. The researcher is alerted to the fact that in some cases with the memorandum and account books, books printed for a given year were often saved and used for subsequent years, some were dated, some were not.
The collection is divided into seven series arranged by subject and most often chronologically at folder level within each series.
The collection is divided into seven series:
Series 1: Ferndale Farm (Potomac Landing), Prince George's County, Maryland, 1861-1973, undated
Subseries 1.1: Farm papers, bill, and receipts, and publications, 1861-1973, undated
Subseries 1.2: Farm papers, bill, and receipts, 1945-1960, undated
Subseries 1.3: Farm papers, bills, and receipts, 1960-1965, undated
Series 2: Robinson Family, 1845-2017, undated
Subseries 2.1: Family Papers and Publications, 1845-1993, undated
The Robinson family is thought to be of Scottish origin and appear in the records of Prince George's County, Maryland by the early 18th century. The line has been definitively traced to James Robinson (?-1849). James' father was probably Benjamin Robinson (?-1810), of Prince George's County, Maryland. (Will Book TT1, pg. 15, Records of Prince George's County, Maryland, Maryland State Archives (MSA))
James Robinson and Sarah Wynn were issued a marriage license on February 28, 1802 in Prince George's County, Maryland. (Marriage Records of Prince George's County, Maryland) Eleven children lived to maturity (not listed in birth order); Thomas Wells (1803-1869), Ann, Priscilla, James Monroe, Benjamin (1813-1882), John C. (1819-1895), Mary Sophia, Thomas Stanley (1800-1874), Alfred, Sarah Ann, Matilda, and Rebecca Maria.
James worked as a farm manager for Benjamin Oden near Upper Marlborough, Prince George's County. (Oden Papers, Maryland Historical Society) The Robinsons and their children, moved to Wood County, Virginia (now West Virginia) by April 18, 1818 where James acted as Oden's land agent (Deed Book 6, pg. 123, Land Records of Wood County, West Virginia). They brought with them three enslaved described in the above reference as, "Kate a woman 45 years of age very black; Colonel a boy aged 8 years yellow complexion: and George a boy aged six years of a dark brown complexion." They settled on part of what was known as the "Burnt Mill" tract in the general area where the Hughes River meets the Little Kanawha River. (Deed Book 9, pg. 110 and Deed Book 14, pg. 40, Land Records of Wood County)
Thomas Wells Robinson may not have accompanied his family to Virginia as he has a presence in Prince George's County prior to 1822 and was employed as a farm manager for Benjamin Oden at least until 1832. He married Elizabeth J. Richards on December 15, 1829 (Robinson Family Bible). They had nine children; Richard Thomas (1831 1906), Rebecca Maria (1832-1895), Mary Wynn (1834-1916), James George (1835-1883), Virlinda Victoria (1837-1838), Elizabeth Ann (1839-1916), Sarah Ann Sophia (1840-1874), Franklin Alexander (1841-1905) and John Alfred (1843); seven lived to maturity. (Robinson Family Bible) Elizabeth died on August 17, 1843 from complications in childbirth. She was buried in the graveyard of Page's Chapel (later known as St. Thomas Episcopal Church), Croom, Prince George's County.
In 1843, Thomas purchased the plantation of Dr. Benjamin B. Hodges for $10,000 or approximately $15 an acre. Hodges was a brother-in-law of Benjamin Oden. The deed dated September 7, 1843 describes the parcel as containing, "Six hundred and twenty nine acres of land more or less and constitute that plantation or Estate of the said Benjamin Oden heretofore commonly called "Brown's Quarter Place" being the Land tracts and parcels of land sold by the said Benjamin Oden to the said Benjamin B. Hodges and by deed bearing date the tenth day of December eighteen hundred and thirty five and recorded in Liber AB no. 10 folio 162 also one of the land Records of the County aforesaid". (JBB no. 3 pgs. 312 314, Land Records of Prince George's County) The land was level to rolling bordered on the north by a tributary of Piscataway Creek and generally termed "white oak land". Underlying the whole property was a large strata of gravel and sand. The entire parcel went by the name, Potomac Landing.
Thomas supplemented his land holdings with later purchases. With the exception of twenty acres purchased from Sarah Talbert in 1844, (JBB no. 3 pg. 475, Land Records of Prince George's County) and the purchase of lot #3 consisting of 195 acres, part of the estate of John Townshend in 1856, these purchases were not contiguous to Potomac Landing. By the time of his death in 1869 these non-contiguous parcels had been sold. Thomas sold eighty-six acres of Potomac Landing and Jeffries to Edward Eversfield in October of 1843. (JBB no. 3, pg. 198, Land Records of Prince George's County) On January 13, 1846 Thomas married the widow Martha Ann Walls, daughter of George and Martha Naylor Walls. They had two sons; Benjamin Wells (1848-1849) and Robert Henry (1851-1937).
In addition to his sons, Thomas owned enslaved. The number varied from six in 1849 (JBB 6, folio 186, Land Records of Prince Georges' County) to eleven as noted in the census for 1850, and finally six as noted in the census of 1860. The 1867 Maryland Slave Statistics noted that, "at the time of the adoption of the Constitution of Maryland, in the year 1864, . . ." Thomas owned six enslaved, their names and ages being; Isaac Franklin age 31, Alfred West age 19, Susan West age 17, Margaret Franklin age 14, Fannie Franklin age 12, and Peter Franklin age 9. All were noted as being in good physical condition. (Prince Georges' County Slave Statistics 1867 1869, C 1307 1, MdHR:6198, page 185, MSA)
Thomas's financial problems began in the mid-1800s when Deeds of Trust appear in the county records securing outstanding loans. In 1856 and 1857 Thomas joined with others as bondsman for his son, Richard who was serving as "Collector of the State and County Taxes" for the 4th collection district, making he and the other signatories liable for any uncollected taxes. This, coupled with poor investments, led to his almost being "sold out" in 1859-1860 by J.W. & E. Reynolds of Baltimore to pay his debts. He executed three drafts on Penn & Mitchell, also of Baltimore, to pay off J.W. & E. Reynolds. (Equity Case #597, Prince Georges' County) Thomas was in poor health and his son James managed the farm in 1857 and 1858, and again from 1861 to October of 1862 (Equity Case #873, Prince Georges' County)
In October of 1862 Thomas' two sons, James and Franklin, traveled to Richmond to join the Confederate States Army. James enrolled in the 5th Battalion, Local Defense Arsenal and Franklin enrolled in the 5th Virginia Infantry, the Stonewall Brigade. (CSA Military Records, National Archives) James visited home frequently but was captured by the Union Army in St. Mary's County, Maryland on May 15, 1864 and spent the remainder of the war in Point Lookout Prison Camp. He was released on May 14, 1865. Franklin was not able to visit home at all during the war but survived to return home in 1865.
In 1865, Thomas surveyed a parcel of 172 acres for his daughter Rebecca Maria. Rebecca had married her second cousin, William B. Robertson, on November 18, 1855. He made a gift of fifty acres, and Rebecca agreed to purchase the remainder. The Robertsons named this parcel Holly Grove. In Equity Case #849 (1872) filed after Thomas' death, his widow Martha and Samuel H. Berry, as executrix and executor, sought to recover payment for this land. At that time, William B. Robertson described this 172 acres of Potomac Landing: "There was no fences on the line which separated this land from the old gentleman's land, but he was to put a fence on it which he agreed to do before we agreed to come there. The land was thin, unimproved, with gullies and scrubby pine. If witness had been a judge of land he would not have given five dollars for it. All the improvements were one comfortable quarter the other indifferent with a poor oak shingle roof, worn out which made it not tenantable." Further along in his testimony, William gave an account of a conversation, "In a few days my father in law Thos. W. Robinson came to Washington and told me there his children had returned from the South, his two sons, that his debts were small and he was a happy man." Rebecca and William built a house on the property, a side-hall, double parlor plan that most likely her brother James was builder. They also built accompanying farm structures. (Records of Prince George's County, Maryland, Equity Case #849, MSA)
Thomas' son, Franklin, managed the farm after the War. In December 1868 Thomas entered into a sharecropping agreement with Edward Hanson, an African-American. After about a year-long illness, on May 16, 1869, Thomas died, deeply in debt. He was buried beside Elizabeth in the graveyard at St. Thomas' Church. He named as executrix his wife, Martha, and his friend and lawyer, Samuel H. Berry, as executor. His will divided the farm into thirds, one third going to his wife and their son Robert Henry, one third to his son James, and one third to his son Franklin. The land was surveyed according to the will. His personal property was sold but not enough profit was realized to pay off his creditors. The Commissioners of Prince George's County sued the estate on behalf of Thomas' creditors. The outcome was that in 1876 the property was sold at public auction. The Notice of Sale dated September 1, 1876 in the local county newspaper, The Prince Georgian, describes the farm as, "containing 514 2/3 acres More or less. The Improvements consist of a SMALL DWELLING, Three Barns, Stabling, and other necessary outbuildings. It is well wooded and watered, and the soil of fair quality. It has recently been divided into three lots and will be offered in lots, a description of which will be given at the time of sale." The sale was held on September 27, 1876, Lot No. 1 was purchased by Robert for $6.00 an acre, Lot #2 was purchased by Franklin for $5.00 an acre and Lot #3 was purchased by James for $4.00 per acre. Robert and Franklin eventually paid off their mortgage, but James defaulted on his purchase and later moved to St. Mary's County, Maryland. His portion later came to be owned by the Hawkins family, some members who had worked on the Robinson farm. (Equity Case #873, Prince Georges' County, MSA)
Lot #1, purchased by Robert from his fathers' estate, consisted of 177-1/3 acres, including the dwelling and farm buildings. On July 24, 1872, he married Amanda Malvina Baden (1849-1940), daughter of Robert W. G. and Margaret Caroline Early Baden. The Baden and Early families were both prominent south county families. Robert and Amanda had eight children; Caroline Early (1873 1967), Lucy Tennent (1875 1958), Albert Henry (1878 1914), Martha Perry (1880 1961), Robert Gover (1882 1882), Frank Alexander (1883 1970), Margaret Baden (1886 1956) and Grace Malvina (1889 1965).
By 1880 Robert had paid off his debt on the property and was fully engaged in farming. Unlike his father, or perhaps because of his father, Robert did not add to his land holdings, choosing to remain relatively debt free for his lifetime. The only land transactions he participated in were the sales of 79-3/4 acres in 1921 of Amanda's inheritance from her father and her interest in two smaller parcels of her father's land sold in 1894 and 1928 respectively. In 1928 he transferred 3.09 acres to his son Frank.
As late as the Federal census of 1880, Franklin was living with Robert and his household, both men engaged in farming. Sometime after 1880, Franklin took up residence on his part of Potomac Landing. His brother James most likely built the side-hall double parlor house that copied the main house at Potomac Landing. On February 18, 1897, Martha Robinson, died at the age of ninety. She was buried in the graveyyard of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden, Prince George's County.
Robert continued cultivation of tobacco and small grains as his father before him. The first reference to the farm being named Ferndale is found in the "Communion Record" of Robert's daughter, Martha Perry "Pattie", dated 1896. (Robinson and Via Family Papers) The exact origin or reason for this new name is lost but perhaps the name Potomac Landing held such bitter memories of debt and hardship that, as a symbolic break with the past, a new name was found. It also may have simply been a way to distinguish this portion of Potomac Landing from the others. The farm continued to be listed on tax bills as Potomac Landing well into the 20th century, but was known to the general public and businesses as the Ferndale Farm. (Robinson and Via Family Papers)
Robert served as deputy inspector at the State Tobacco Warehouse in Baltimore for eight years under W.B. Bowie. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Brandywine. In July of 1905, Franklin died, a bachelor farmer. He was buried facing south in the graveyard of the Church of the Atonement, Cheltenham, (a chapel in St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish) where he had served as vestryman, treasurer, and cemetery custodian. Franklin died intestate and a lengthy process of dividing his estate began. This resulted in the sale of his part of Potomac Landing (Lot #2) in July 1908 to William E. Boswell. The court declared Robert ineligible for any inheritance due to his being " . . . a brother of the half blood." The Boswell family later sold the property to the Billingsley family of St. Mary's County. (Equity Case 3209, Prince George's County)
In 1910, after living in the farm's original home for approximately sixty seven years, the Robinson family built a new home. It was described in a 1956 insurance policy as, "2 story, frame, metal roof, 16x43, wing 14x28, 9 rooms." (Robinson and Via Family Papers) The house design was a simple Victorian with plastered walls, and lit by carbide gas. Electrical lighting was installed in 1951. The house was built with monies from Robert and Amanda, and their son Frank, who served as builder and contractor.
On Tuesday March 9, 1937, "During a celebration in honor of his wifes birthday anniversary, Mr. Robinson collapsed at the table and died immediately without a word or a sigh." (Robinson and Via Family Papers) Robert was buried beside his mother in the cemetery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden.
At Robert's death, Ferndale Farm was valued at $30.00 an acre, the total acreage, 174 acres, being valued in the whole at $5,220.00. Robert died intestate, again the fate of the land was in question. He left eight heirs, his widow, Amanda, six of his children and his son Albert Henry's only surviving child, R. Henry Robinson. Rather than have the farm sold and his mother's life disrupted, Frank purchased the estate and personal property from the heirs. Before this could take place, a deed had to be granted the heirs for the property since one had never been recorded after the 1876 sale. Equity case 873 was reopened sixty-two years after its supposed resolution. Frank testified, "over a period of about thirty years I would on a number of occasions, talk about the fact that he had purchased and paid for this property and that a deed had never been executed to him and [he] kept saying he was going to have someone straighten this matter out for him." It was discovered that Robert had fully paid for his part of Potomac Landing. On February 14, 1938 the farm was deeded from Amanda along with Robert''s heirs to Frank. (Book 499, page 334, Land Records of Prince George's County) According to the deed and a 1937 fire insurance policy the farm consisted of 177 1/3 acres, "1 two story dwelling, one tenant house, 1 barrack, 1 tobacco barn, 1 corn house & cow stable, 1 Stable, and 1 Granary & Stable." (Robinson and Via Family Papers)
Frank A. Robinson, now the sole owner of Ferndale Farm, was born August 17, 1883. He learned farming and in addition took up the trade of builder and contractor. As a young man, he worked in the general store of his uncle Robert Baden. He was the contractor for the first Bank of Brandywine and many homes in and around the town of Brandywine, including the home of his cousin Robert E. Baden, DDS. He was secretary of the Building Committee for construction of the Chapel of the Incarnation in Brandywine, a mission chapel for St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish. His success in the building trade gave him disposable income that he invested in land. His first purchase was in August, 1915 of a 2-9/100 acre of land in Brandywine that was being sold by the Board of County School Commissioners; the purchase price was $300. In March 1916 he purchased 38.09 acres of his Uncle Franklin's farm. This property adjoined Ferndale Farm.
Over the next fifty-four years of his life, Frank bought and sold many pieces of real estate. Perhaps his most significant purchases were: 18-1/3 acres purchased from The German American Colonization Land Company of Maryland in October 1915 (Book 115, pg. 140, Land Records of Prince George's County); 147.99 acres purchased from August and Wilhelmina Noltensmeir in December 1917 (Book 129, pg. 263, Land Records of Prince George's County) and 320 acres called the Vineyard purchased from William M. Wilson in March 1928. Frank used these three parcels as collateral for other purchases. Never once did he mortgage Ferndale Farm, insuring that no matter what financial stormy seas might blow, his home was secure. Over the course of his life, especially in the case of the Noltensmeir farm, when cash was needed a parcel of land would be surveyed off and sold. He inherited his grandfather Thomas' love of land but had fortunately developed a shrewd business sense to go along with it.
On November 20, 1929, he married Elizabeth Freeland Bourne, daughter of Joseph Blake and Maria Gantt Bourne of Calvert County, Maryland. They had three children: Mary Elizabeth (1930-2009), Franklin Alexander (1932-2023), and Robert Lee (1935-1997). In addition to his construction business he continued farming, raising tobacco, hay, and small grains. He engaged in sharecropping with tenants on his various properties. He was active in community affairs serving on the Board of The Maryland Tobacco Growers Association (MTGA), the Vestry of St. Thomas Parish, and as sheriff of Brandywine. On January 9, 1940 Amanda Baden Robinson died. She was buried next to her husband at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baden. In February 1958, Frank and Elizabeth conveyed 1.57 acres of Ferndale Farm to son Franklin where he and his fiancée, Adina M. Via, were building their new home prior to their marriage in July of that same year.
The booming economy and suburbanization of the Washington metropolitan area in the early 1960's led to the high quality gravel lying beneath Ferndale into becoming a valuable commodity. In October 1962, Franklin and his parents granted a three-year lease to William C. Nolte for mining sand and gravel on the Ferndale Farm at .174 per yard. (Book 2747, pg. 11, Land Records of Prince George's County) From now until 1975 when the property was sold, gravel would be mined from under the farm by various companies. In November 1962, Elizabeth and Frank transferred to Franklin the 38.09 acres Frank had purchased from Fitzhugh Billingsley in 1916. (Book 2754, pg. 99, Land Records of Prince George's County) That same year they transferred 6.754 acres, part of the Vineyard, to son Robert and his wife Lois, (Book 2765, pg. 201, Land Records of Prince George's County)
On December 28, 1965, Frank and Elizabeth participated in a land exchange/purchase of the farm of Ralph W. and Cordelia H. Brown located along the Patuxent River in Benedict, Charles County, Maryland. Franklin had rented this farm the year before and was impressed enough by its location and arability to work out a purchase. Frank and Elizabeth traded 65.9920 acres that would eventually become Franklin's under Frank's will. On February 21, 1966 they deeded the Charles County farm to Franklin and Adina. Adina named this property Serenity Farm. The property consisted of 480.66 acres. (Liber 179, page 708 etc., Land Records of Charles County)
On February 5, 1970, after a short illness, Frank died at Cafritz Memorial Hospital. He was buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church near his parents. In his will, probated March 4, 1970 he left thirty acres of the property purchased from the German American Land Company and A. Noltensmeir to Elizabeth. He willed forty acres of the same parcel to daughter Mary Robinson Conner. The remainder of Ferndale Farm was willed to Franklin and the remaining acreage of the Vineyard was left to Robert Lee.
Franklin Alexander Robinson was born August 13, 1932 at the Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C.. He received his schooling in the public school system of Prince George's County, graduating from Gwynn Park High School in June 1951. He was a charter member of Gwynn Park's chapter of The Future Farmers of America. He was extremely active in FFA, achieving the Degree of Maryland Farmer in 1950 and their highest award, the Degree of American Farmer at their convention in Kansas City, Missouri in October 1953. He obtained his private pilots license in 1954. He entered the United States Army in February 1955 and went through basic training at Camp Gordon, Augusta, Georgia. After basic training he was transferred to Camp Hanford, Washington State. There he worked part time on the farm of Dick and Theresa Laurent during his off duty hours and began a lifelong friendship with them. He returned home to farming on an agricultural discharge in October of 1956. On July 27, 1958 he married his high school sweetheart, Adina Mae Via, daughter of Robert Milton and Virginia Woods Via. They had three children: Franklin Alexander (1959), Robert David (1962), and Adina Theresa (1963).
Franklin continued expanding and improving the farming operation by modern methods and means. At times, he farmed over one thousand acres, both owned and rented. On February 21, 1966, his parents deeded their purchase of the Ralph W. and Cordelia H. Brown farm in Benedict to he and Adina, later known as Serenity Farm Franklin and Adina engaged an architect to draft house plans for an anticipated new residence. A small A frame vacation home was built on the property so the family could spend weekends there.
On December 14, 1966, after a long illness, Adina died from complications associated with Hodgkin's Disease. She was buried in Trinity Memorial Gardens, Waldorf, Charles County. Franklin married Margaret Walker Lennox (nee Tallen, known as Rita) on August 21, 1970 (Marriage Records of Prince George's County, Maryland). This marriage ended in divorce in 1977. There were no children from this marriage.
On July 14, 1975 the Robinson family, Franklin, his second wife, Margaret, her daughter Margaret W. Lennox, Franklin, Jr., R. David, A. Theresa and Elizabeth B. Robinson, moved to Serenity Farm. On July 17, 1975 Franklin and Elizabeth sold the remaining acreage of Ferndale Farm to Brandywine Sand and Gravel, thus ending 131 years of ownership by the Robinson family. Elizabeth Bourne Robinson died on July 15, 1976 and was buried beside her husband at St. Paul's Church, Baden. Franklin married Hiltrud (Ceddie) Harris (nee Sedlacek) on July 15, 1978. (Robinson Family Bible) This marriage ended in divorce in 1986. There were no children from this marriage. Franklin married Diedre Gale Merhiage on April 19, 1989; this marriage ended in divorce in 1997. There were no children from this marriage. He married Remelda Henega Buenavista on January 13, 2007.
The Robinson family continue day-to-day operations of Serenity Farm. The land is well suited to the growing of tobacco and small grains, which crops, (with the exception of tobacco) along with a flock of sheep, are cultivated there to the present time. After the crop year 2001 the Robinson family took the tobacco buyout program offered by the state of Maryland and ceased growing tobacco. Franklin is active in farming and community affairs having served on the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Parish, the Board of Directors of the Maryland Tobacco Growers Association (MTGA), the Board of the Production Credit Association, the Boards of three schools, Holy Trinity Day School, Queen Anne School, and Calverton School, and numerous other organizations. Currently the farm consists of approximately 275 acres. In 1981 a state agricultural land preservation district of 222.755 acres was created. This was the first such district in Charles County and one of the first in the state of Maryland.
The Via family traces its origins to the colony of Virginia, where the probable progenitor of the line, Amer Via, a French Huguenot, settled in Manakin Town, Albemarle County between 1670-1700. It is impossible to trace the Via line definitively due to the loss of Virginia county records during the Civil War.
The Via family line covered in this collection can be definitively traced to William Via of Fredericksville Parish, Louisa (later Albemarle) County, Virginia. The William Via family lived west of the present day town of Whitehall at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area commonly known as Sugar Hollow. William Via III served in the Virginia Line during the Revolutionary War. He married Mary Craig, daughter of Thomas Craig and Jane Jameson, on March 17, 1784. William died on June 27, 1836, in Albemarle County (Rev. War Pension Appl. 6363, National Archives). His son Thomas married Sally, widow Griffin, on January 1, 1811 (Albemarle County Marriage Records). Their son, Hiram Karl Via (1812-1893), married Harriet Ardenia Naylor by license dated March 7, 1836 (Albemarle County Marriage Records).
Hiram and Harriet's son, Robert St. Clair Via (1844-1925), served as a private in Company I, 7th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States Army (CSA Military Service Records, National Archives). After the war he married his first cousin, Mary Frances Naylor, daughter of Samuel Chapman Naylor and Eliza Jane Gardner, on April 3, 1866 in Rockingham County (Rockingham County, Virginia, Marriage Records). Sometime between 1870 and 1872, they moved to Linn County, Missouri, and settled about seven miles from the town of Bucklin. Their son, Hiram Chapman Via (1872-1933), was born there. In 1893, the family returned to Virginia, and settled on a farm in Greene County near the town of Stanardsville.
Hiram Chapman Via operated a mill as well as a farm. On March 15, 1899, he married Adina Eleanor Eusebia Runkle, daughter of Milton D. L. Runkle and Roberta A. Beadles (Greene County, Virginia, Marriage Records). They had three children: Bernice Olive (1902-1999), Robert Milton (1906-1983), and Deward Daniel (1909-1977).
Robert moved to Washington, D.C.. In December 1927 he began employment with the Capitol Traction Company as a streetcar conductor (Robinson and Via Family Papers). During the early 1930s, Robert rented a townhouse at 715 A St., SE, where he lived with his sister Bernice V. McMullan and her son, William C. McMullan; his brother and sister in law, and his parents. Next door, at 717, lived the Moses Albright family, including Moses's stepdaughter Ida Virginia Woods (1914-2010), daughter of Jesse Lee Woods (1894-1918) and Donna Mae Barker (1896-1928) of Frederick County, Maryland. Robert and Virginia began a courtship and on September 3, 1932 were married in Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland (Frederick County, Maryland, Marriage Records).
After their marriage, Robert and Virginia lived in various locations in the Washington metropolitan area. Their first child, Robert Delano, was born on March 24, 1933, and their second child, Adina Mae, was born on April 12, 1937. Virginia was employed outside the home while her children were in school. Her first job before her marriage had been with Woolworth's in Martinsburg, WV working the candy counter and then before the birth of her son at The Hecht Company on F St. in Washington, D.C.. After her marriage she worked briefly for the United States Postal Service in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Beginning in the 1950s, she worked first at the Hecht Company department store on 7th Street in the District and later for Charles of the Ritz as a receptionist in their beauty salon located in Woodward & Lothrop's F Street store in Washington, D.C.. She also worked as salon manager at the Charles of the Ritz salons in the Woodward & Lothrop stores in Seven Corners, Virginia, and Chevy Chase, Maryland. She retired due to health reasons in 1973.
On September 10, 1941, Robert and Virginia purchased Lot #43 in Woodlane subdivision in Prince George's County. (Book 619, pg. 12, Land Records of Prince George's County) A house was designed for them for this lot by Clyde E. Phillips. They did not construct a home on this property due to the outbreak of World War II. Robert, due to his employment in public transportation, did not serve with the Armed Services in World War II. On October 18, 1946, they purchased approximately thirty acres bordering on Burch's Creek near the towns of Clinton, also know as Surrattsville, and T.B. in Prince George's County from Joseph H. and M. Pauline Blandford. (Book 873, pg. 483, Land Records of Prince George's County) Over the next three years, hiring private contractors, doing work themselves, and with the help of Robert's brother Deward, they built the two story house designed by Phillips in 1941. They moved to the farm from Capitol Heights in 1949. Robert raised hogs, small grains and a crop of tobacco yearly on this farm and also maintained his job with Capitol Transit (formerly Capitol Traction).
In 1954, Robert and Virginia purchased a farm of approximately 150 acres in Island Creek, Calvert County, Maryland. The intention was for Robert and his son to enter into a full time farming operation on expanded acreage. Robert D. Via, known as Delano, graduated from Gwynn Park High School in June 1951. Delano was a part-time farmer and pursued a career as a country and western singer with Bashful Bob and the Rhythm Rangers, he being Bashful Bob. He was employed in various jobs, and began a tour in the Army in 1953. By the time the Via family moved to Calvert County in 1956, he decided to pursue careers other than farming. He eventually traveled and worked in various parts of the United States. He married first Delores Cooper, second Gloria J. Irick, and finally Candice Marinelli in December 1974, they had two children, Robert Marin (1975) and Kirstin Marin (1976).
On June 1, 1956 Robert resigned from his position at Capitol Transit due to health reasons. He and his family moved to the farm in Island Creek, Calvert County where he began full time farming. He and Virginia sold the thirty-acre farm in Prince George's County on June 21, 1956 to Melvin C. and Geraldine H. Rardia. (Book 2003, pg. 564, Land Records of Prince George's County) Virginia continued her employment with Charles of the Ritz. Adina, now a graduate of Gwynn Park High School, was employed by the USAF at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland. They both commuted daily from Calvert County to their places of employment.
Robert farmed in Calvert County, raising hogs, cattle, small grains and tobacco. Over the course of the next twenty-seven years, Robert and Virginia sold smaller parcels off the farm. In 1974, Robert and Virginia built a small retirement home designed for them by Calvert Masonry Contractors. Robert died on December 22, 1983. He was buried beside his daughter Adina in Trinity Memorial Gardens. At the time of Robert's death, the farm consisted of 28.694 acres. In 1998, Virginia deeded the remainder of the farm, then less than six acres, to her grandson, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr. who sold all but a one-acre lot in April 1999.
Virginia continued to live on the farm in Calvert County, maintaining a small herd of cattle. In the fall of 1989 Franklin, Jr. went to live with her. In 1993, the onset of Alzheimer's Disease required her to move to Serenity Farm and take up residence with her granddaughter A. Theresa. Virginia participated in various studies on Alzheimer's Disease conducted by the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland beginning in 1992. She was profiled in the September 1997 issue of Washingtonian Magazine. In October of 1998 she moved to All American Senior Care in Brandywine, Maryland and in 1999 she moved to Morningside, an elderly care facility in Waldorf, Maryland. In 2002, she moved to St. Mary's Nursing Center in Leonardtown, Maryland. The remainder of the farm was sold in 1999 and 2002. She died January 14, 2010 and was buried at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf.
Adina Mae Via was born April 12, 1937 at the Homeopathic Hospital in Washington, D.C.. Adina grew up in Washington, D.C. attending public schools. She moved with her family to the Burch's Creek farm, Prince George's County, in 1949. She enrolled in the Prince George's County school system, and graduated from Gwynn Park High School in June of 1955. After graduation, she was employed by the USAF at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs.
In July of 1956, she moved with her family to the Via farm in Island Creek, Calvert County. On July 27, 1958 she married Franklin A. Robinson at the Chapel of the Incarnation. They had three children: Franklin Alexander (1959), Robert David (1962) and Adina Theresa (1963). In the fall of 1958, she and Franklin took up residence in the home they had built on Ferndale Farm. She resigned from her position with the USAF in 1959.
On December 14, 1966, at Providence Hospital in Washington, DC, Adina died from complications due to Hodgkin's Disease. She had been battling this disease for many years prior to her death. She was buried in Trinity Memorial Gardens, Charles County.
Materials at Other Organizations
The Maryland Historical Society holds items (costume, farming related implements) related to the Robinson and Via families.
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work and Industry (Agriculture Collection) holds agricultural implements and artifacts associated with both the Robinson farms and the Via farm; the Division of Home and Community Life holds clothing, textiles (crib quilt), jewelry, cosmetics and Adina M. Robinson's sewing box and dress patterns; (Costume and Textiles Collection). See accession numbers: 1989.0688, 1990.0394, 1991.0010; 1991.0722, 1992.0184, 1992.0283, 1992.0321, 1992.0474, 1992.3106, 1994.0064, 1994.0304, 1997.0327, 1998.0038, 1998.0129, 2001.0196, 2002.0087, 2003.0015, 2005.0009.
Division of Armed Forces History (now Division of Olitical and Military History, National Numismatics Collection) holds the Robert M. Via Trolley Token Collection.
The collection was donated to the National Museum of American History, Archives Center, by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., in November 1993.
Collection is open for research but negatives and audiovisuial materials are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Some papers of living persons are restricted. Access to restricted portions may be arranged by request to the donor. Gloves required for unprotected photographs. Viewing film portions of the collection and listening to LP recording requires special appointment. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
The Archives Center does not own exclusive rights to these materials. Copyright for all materials is retained by the donor, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr.; permission for commercial use and/or publication may be requested from the donor through the Archives Center. Military Records for Franklin A. Robinson (b. 1932) and correspondence from Richard I. Damalouji (1961-2014) are restricted; written permission is needed to research these files. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.