Augusta County, Virginia, District Court Records, 1789-1791


Of the District composed of the Counties of Augusta, Rockbridge, Rockingham & Pendleton

The author's Introduction begins:

It started with a dead body found in a cave. Rumors of grave-robbing came to the coroner's jury. Unacceptable comments on race were made and published. Mutual suits for slander were filed. Typical days for the Augusta County District Court?

It nearly was. While the above suit and countersuit between Alexander Humphreys and Michael Garber (beginning on page 164) is the most spectacular account in this volume, it is far from being the only scandal. In 1786 the papers in the office of Richard Madison, late Clerk of Court, were found to be in such disarray that his estate was sued for the cost of refiling them. In 1791 Sheriff Thomas Hughart was prosecuted for perjury for understating the amount of taxable property on the county rolls. Papers filed in that case (beginning on page 159) include both Hughart's list of taxables and the auditors version of the same.

There are suits about violent assaults ("after much disputing Mr Yeager flew to his Gun and snapt it at sd Evans that he the sd Evans seized the Gun and Bringing the Gun down struck Yeager on the forehead so as the Skin hung down over his eye": page 298) and vicious slander ("these false scandalous & defamatory words following that is to say she the said Mary meaning may perhaps not be with child at this time but the reason of it is that she ye said Mary meaning has made away with it meaning that she ye said Mary had been pregnant with a bastard child & had destroyed or murdered it ye said child" page 182) and extravagant language in general ("the sd Deft knowing the premises and greatly envying the happy state and condition of the said Alexander and contriving and maliciously intending the sd Alexander in his good name fame condition and reputation to hurt, injure, degrade and him in his Business aforesd to prejudice and damnify and to cause the sd Alexander to be esteemed and reputed a person guilty of Murder" page 273). Drama, faded to a rusty brown ink, still adheres to these pages.

For more drama, scandal and intrigue, be sure to read this book!


 Karen Wagner Treacy

2022, paper, index, 339 pp.