Edith Bolling Wilson's 1904 Automobile Operator's Permit was named one of Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts
In 1904, Edith Bolling Galt (Wilson) became the first documented woman licensed to operate an electric car in Washington, D.C. Like many other early women drivers with independent methods of transportation, Edith questioned contemporary gender roles and societal expectations. Edith’s recollections of driving her Columbia Elberon Victoria Mark XXXI in Washington D.C. are relayed in her 1939 autobiography, "My Memoir." She would later marry President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915, serving as First Lady until 1921.
The museum acquired the object on eBay in the summer of 2017 from a private individual who held onto the prized document for decades. Thanks to the generosity of anonymous donor, the museum was able to purchase the artifact directly from the seller.
In January 2018, it was named one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts due to its poor and deteriorating condition. The museum’s document is one of ten unique artifacts from across the state, and spanning Virginia’s extensive history from the 1700s to the 20th century, that was chosen following a thorough review process by an independent selection committee of collections professionals from partner organizations, such as the Library of Virginia, Preservation Virginia, Virginia Conservation Association, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Through the Virginia Association of Museum's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program, the museum was awarded funding for the full conservation of the document. Carolyn Frisa, head conservator at Works on Paper performed this work in her Vermont studio. Carolyn has a special connection to the document as she grew up in Rose Cottage (Lynchburg, Virginia), the plantation home of the Bolling Family before they moved to Wytheville in the 1860s. Carolyn's father still owns the home today and the family takes pride in the home's history.
Learn more about the process of the document's conservation in this video.
Wythe County Educator, Jacob Spraker, will be speaking at the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum’s Allied Dinner Series: The United Kingdom on Saturday, August 4th. Spraker will present “To War? An Open Question!,” an interactive presentation which seeks to illustrate that actions taken by the United Kingdom and Germany pulled America toward war against both countries, why the US eventually settled on Germany as the world aggressor, and the role the Wilsons had on unfolding events.
Spraker is a former volunteer at the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum and associate of the Town of Wytheville Department of Museums. He currently lives and works in Southwest Virginia as an adjunct instructor of history at Virginia Highlands Community College and a middle school teacher of civics and history at Rural Retreat Middle School. He received Bachelor degrees in social science and history from Radford University and a Master’s degree in history from Virginia Tech.
The Allied Dinner Series honors the legacy of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson and celebrates the centennial of World War I. The menu for the evening includes: English Summer Salad, Bangers & Mash w/ Onion Gravy, Sherry Trifle, and wine and beverage pairings. Additional Allied Dinners feature France on September 22nd, and Italy on October 27th. All events take place from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Bolling Wilson Hotel in Downtown Wytheville. Tickets can be purchased at the museum’s website at www.edithbollingwilson.org/allied.
The Allied Dinner Series is funded in part by the Virginia World War I and World War II Tourism Marketing Program, Downtown Wytheville, The Bolling Wilson Hotel, Graze on Main, the Wytheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dr. James & Deborah Kemper, Betty Evans, and Anonymous.
To honor the centennial of World War I, the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum will host a series of unique dining experiences throughout the summer and fall. The “Allied Dinner Series” features specialty-prepared cuisine and a brief presentation on an allied nation during World War I. The first of the dinner series will be Russia on July 14th followed by the United Kingdom on August 4th, France on September 22nd, and Italy on October 27th. The events will take place from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Bolling Wilson Hotel in Downtown Wytheville. To purchase tickets, visit the events' webpage.
Born and raised in Wytheville, Virginia, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson served as First Lady to President Woodrow Wilson from 1915-1921. During her role as First Lady, Mrs. Wilson made multiple contributions to the war effort by rationing goods, volunteering, and placing a flock of sheep on the White House lawn in an effort to alleviate groundskeepers for war-time duties. The wool, named “White House Wool”, was auctioned and raised nearly $100,000 for the American Red Cross war effort. Mrs. Wilson frequently travelled abroad with her husband, President Wilson, as he lobbied for world peace. She attended the Paris Peace Conferences with Wilson and other leaders of the Allied Nations.
The Allied Dinner Series is funded in part by a grant from the Virginia World War I and World War II Tourism Marketing Program. Additional promotional support is provided by The Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission, Downtown Wytheville, The Bolling Wilson Hotel, Graze on Main, and the Wytheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum is located at 145 E. Main Street, Wytheville, VA 24382, and is open to the public Tuesday - Friday 10-4, Saturday 10-2. It currently has two exhibitions on display on the Great War.
The museum's Annual First Lady’s Tea was held at the Bolling Wilson Hotel on Sunday, May 20, 2018 as a fundraiser for the museum. The speaker for the event was the former First Lady of Virginia, Susan Allen. Mrs. Allen served the Commonwealth of Virginia alongside her husband, George Allen, during his tenures as Virginia Delegate, Member of Congress in the House and Senate, and as Governor of Virginia. She promoted Virginia as a primer tourist destination and worked on women’s health and wellness issues, including breast cancer awareness and fitness. Susan serves on many charitable boards and is enjoying her role as Chairman of the Virginia Capitol Foundation. She is an author of a bestselling children’s book, The Remarkable Ronald Reagan and spends time speaking to groups about politics and history. Allen spoke at the event about how the First Ladies of the United States, including Edith Bolling Wilson, served as role models for women’s rights, leadership, and empowerment.
The First Lady’s Tea offered an afternoon of specialty teas, decadent finger sandwiches, and elegant desserts prepared by local bakers and Graze on Main. Guests were served by gracious hostesses who decorated their tables with their own personal china. This year’s hostesses were Lisa Alderman, Carolyn Armentrout, Joyce Covey, Janie Hardin, Bev Hoch, Jane Lacy, Ellen McDaniel, and Kirstie Smith.
The First Lady herself portrayed by Mrs. Betsy Ely welcomed guests and shared her story of becoming First Lady. Attendees enjoyed socializing at the Tea and could be seen wearing beautiful spring hats (much like at the Royal wedding) and pearls. First Lady Edith Wilson was often seen wearing her signature pearls and stylish hats at events while promoting the work of her husband, President Woodrow Wilson. P.R. Sturgill Fine Jewelry graciously donated a strand of the ‘First Lady Pearls’ to be auctioned to benefit the museum. Jen Otey and the Rose Cottage School of Art provided beautiful paper flowers and paintings created by the school’s students and instructors. These items were auctioned to benefit both organizations. Museum volunteer, Frank Repass, served as auctioneer for the Tea.
Sponsors for the First Lady’s Tea were: Alderman Management, Mrs. Ruth Anne Chitwood, Dr. Kay Dunkley, Bill and Farron Smith, the Bolling Wilson Hotel, Graze on Main Restaurant, and the Rose Cottage School of Art. Additional support was provided by About Face, the Barter Theatre, BoJangles, Cedar Bay, Hao Chau, Draper Golf Club, the Farmer Daughter, Fort Chiswell Animal Park, Flourz, Edward Jones, Mary Cassell, Nu-Creation Aesthetics, Patricia BeCraft, Petals of Wytheville, Mary Repass, Susan Allen, Thornsrpings Golf Club, Three Rivers Media, Sabika, Skeeter’s World Famous Hot Dogs, Wytheville Golf Club and Wytheville Office Supply.
Because of the generosity of friends of the museum and the community, the First Lady’s Tea was a success and the event contributed toward sustaining the vibrant educational programs of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation.
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum has ranked in this year's "Best of Virginia Awards" by Virginia Living. Awards include Best "Do Not Miss" Tourist Attraction (1st Place), Best Historic Site (1st Place), and Best Museum (2nd place). Virginia Living’s seventh annual Best of Virginia issue acts as a statewide guide to all that is “best” in Virginia—from dining to shopping to entertainment.
The Best of Virginia 2018 lists the more than 1,300 winners from Virginia Living’s annual Best of Virginia Readers’ Survey, conducted in January. Nearly 40,000 ballots were cast in 105 categories covering the best in Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Living & Recreation, Food & Drink, Shopping and Services across the state.
The Best of Virginia 2018 issue hits newsstands May 18. Virginia Living is available by subscription and at quality newsstands and select Barnes & Noble, BJ’s, Wegmans, Harris Teeter, and Kroger stores.
Girl Scouts during 'The Great War'
We have just recently opened a new exhibition entitled, Girl Scouts during 'The Great War,' which explores the role Girl Scouts played one-hundred years ago during World War I and how their service supported the troops and homefront.
The show is presented in conjunction with the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Archives Group. For two years, the committee has worked to recreate a vintage 1917 Norfolk Suit-style adult Girl Scout uniform for the museum. The suit is on display alongside historic photographs of Girl Scouts performing wartime service activities, including needlework, gardening, and selling Liberty Bonds. Visitors will be able to learn about the specific requirements to obtain badges and service awards during wartime.
In 1917, six months after the United States entered World War I, Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, asked First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson to become the Honorary National President of Girl Scouts. Mrs. Wilson accepted, saying that she hoped that the organization’s undertakings “may meet in the future with all the success that it has had in the past.” In 1918, the Girl Scouts presented a “Thanks Badge” to Mrs. Wilson that was designed by Cartier in diamonds, emeralds, and a ruby (Edith donated the piece back to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America in 1958).
Mrs. Wilson honored the patriotic service of Girl Scouts and encouraged them to be active in contributing to the war effort by selling Liberty Bonds, knitting clothing for soldiers, learning first aid, and communicating in Morse code -- the same activities Edith undertook as First Lady during the Great War.
In the past one hundred years since Edith’s inauguration, seventeen First Ladies have held this position, modeling the mission of Girl Scouts: “courage, confidence, and character.”
The facsimile 1917 Norfolk Suit was the uniform worn by Girl Scout Captains, Lieutenants, Commissioners, and national and local Councilors from 1919 to 1928. It would have been what Mrs. Wilson would have worn in her role as Honorary President. The suit, fabricated by Jane Garnett and Pat Lucas was donated to the museum by the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Archives Group.
An online component for the exhibition is found here.
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum has been awarded Second Place in the 'Best Museum' category by Blue Ridge Country magazine. The magazine released their annual reader poll in their current 30th Anniversary “Best of the Mountains” issue.
Blue Ridge Country magazine was launched in the summer of 1988 with a goal to celebrate the culture, history, geography and wonderful travel opportunities of the Southern Appalachians from the Virginias south through the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.
Over the ensuing 30 years, the glossy regional publication has lived up to that aspiration with each bimonthly issue, and along the way has won scores of state, regional, national and international awards for its content, design and photography. The magazine’s owner and editor have remained the same over those decades, with their sense of wonder over our beautiful region infused into each issue.
Through the magazine, generations of mountain-loving travelers have come to know and love the very best of these Southern mountains, from beautiful towns and stunning outdoor spots to quirky history and our bounty of culture and craft.
As the longest-running and premier travel publication in this part of the country, Blue Ridge Country is proud to continue its year-long 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2018 with the May/June issue, which is built around reader-poll results for the “Best of the Mountains”, saluting those readers’ favorites in the realms of people, places and much more. These such reader polls are conducted every five years to give our readers a chance to voice their opinions about the mountains they love so much.
Get your free issue today!
On Saturday, March 10, the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum hosted over 50 Girl Scouts from two different Councils. The girls participated in the museum’s Annual First Lady’s Patch Day, which is designed to empower young girls to have them successfully confront life’s challenges and to reach their full potential with confidence.
Scouts explored history with a guided tour of the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum and the Bolling Home where First Lady Mrs. Wilson was born. They learned about Edith’s life “From Wytheville to the White House,” and imagined what life was like for young Edith, who was the 7th of 11 children growing up with her grandmother’s 26 canaries. They also learned about her leadership qualities as a successful women business owner and as First Lady during World War I. The program also featured a visit by “Young Edith,” who shared how her life was similar and different from growing up today. After the program, girls got to take part in a special etiquette lunch at the Bolling Wilson hotel where they learned about proper place settings, table manners, roles of the host, and how to converse with guests.
Edith Bolling Wilson became the first Honorary President of Girl Scouts in 1917. She was named by Juliette Low in 1917 to this position, which began a tradition for future First Ladies. A “Thanks Badge” was specially designed and presented to First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson by the Girl Scout National Board at a ceremony at the White House by the Founder, Juliette Gordon Low. The “Thanks Badge” recognized Mrs. Wilson’s thoughtfulness and encouragement to Girl Scouts. Mrs. Wilson gifted the pin to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in 1958. The emerald and diamond pin is still held in their collection today.
For more about the museum’s Girl Scout Programs, visit www.edithbollingwilson.org/scouts.
This program was sponsored, in part, by Summit Community Bank.
For our first installation of “Bolling Building Stories,” we take a look at Green “Tot” Chapman, who operated a Barbershop in one of the lower level storefronts of the Bolling Building at the turn of the twentieth century. A special thanks to local historian, John Johnson, who brings us this story.
Green “Tot” Chapman: A Black Barber on Main Street, Wytheville, Virginia
By: John M. Johnson
Green Chapman was born in Pulaski County, Virginia, in June of 1852; other records state that he was born in 1857. He was the son of Doddridge Chapman and Tishey Hendrick Chapman. Green married Emma Miller on May 22, 1879.
We are not sure when Green came to Wytheville from Newbern but we are sure he was there when Newbern was still the county seat of Pulaski County. The early Chapman’s played a great part in the organization of Newbern.
By 1865 Newbern’s black population was thriving. Paul Huskins, Henry Peck, Jon Cox, James Ingram, David Rodgers, Doddridge Chapman, and Daniel Hall, made the first black land transaction to purchase land on which an Methodist Church and School building was constructed. The church was built on the land several years before the transaction (a deed signed) to purchases the property.
It was in the publication (A History of Slaves and Freedom in Nineteenth Century Pulaski County, Virginia) where the name Doddridge Chapman was found. He was listed as being born about 1846. Doddridge also had a known brother whose name was Parish. He (Doddridge) was the father of Green “Tot” Chapman, the subject of the research.
Although we say that Doddridge Chapman was the father of Green, there were no other mentioned children found for Doddridge other that Green in the census. Other children of Dodd’s could have been on the 1866 Freedmen’s co-habitation list and left the home before the Federal United States Census.
However, when Green died on February 29, 1928, “Dod” Chapman was named to be his father. Doddridge was also the father of several other children who were all employed in early Newbern, Virginia; their names were not mentioned in the census. His other sons (to include Green) were leather workers; making horse harness, boots and shoes.
The small community of African-Americans at Newbern thrived well shortly after the freedom until the coming of the twentieth century. However, after 1900, young people began to leave; they found employment elsewhere. By 1900 there were only twelve elderly black families remaining in Newbern, Virginia.
The date or year is not know when the Chapman’s left Pulaski County, however, Doddridge Chapman died on September 11, 1881,  and by the time of his death, all of his children had departed and found homes in other parts of America.
However, at least one of Doddridge son’s found his way to Wytheville. We know that Green “Tot” Chapman was here in 1879, because he married Emma Miller on May 22nd in that year. In June of 1880 he and his wife Emma were living in the William Terry abode on Washington Street where Green was employed as a common laborer. Both Green and Emma were twenty-four years old.
On April 16, 1885, Green’s name along with the story of one of his adventures appeared in the Wytheville Dispatch a local newspaper. The story is as follows: “Tot Chapman, the manager of the barbershop first door east of T. P. Wappett’s grocery, while fishing last Saturday in Reed Creek, at the upper edge of the meadows on this side of Mr. Yates’ fastened his hook in something which he says felt soft. Knowing that his line was an inferior one he gave it a sudden jerk thinking of course it would break, but to his astonishment it did not, and when he pulled it out he found the hook to be filled with what he supposed to be human hair. He brought the hair to town and had it examined by some physician who pronounced it such. The town authorities sent some parties down to the creek last Saturday and again on Tuesday, and had it well dragged, but they found nothing. When the hair, which was perfectly black seemed inclined to curl, was shown on the streets many believed it was from the head of someone who had been murdered and thrown into the creek.” 
The article above not only told of Chapman adventure, it mentioned the location of the barbershop where he was employed as a manager. We now know that Chapman was part of a group of barbers perhaps employed in Peter Wilson Gibson (1835-1815) barbershop as early as April 1885. Gibson was a free born and had lived in Wytheville from birth. Gibson’s name appeared in the census as early as 1860 as a “barber.”
Legends state that the Chapman family came to Wytheville (during slavery) from Pulaski County, with the Elbert Lee [E. Lee] Trinkle family. We now know that this is not true because there were still members of the Trinkle family in Pulaski County in 1880, to include Elbert S. Trinkle the father of Elbert Lee. Green Chapman, the subject of this research arrived in Wytheville about 1883. Also, Elbert Lee [E. Lee] Trinkle was born until 1878; thirteen years after the freedom of slaves and the War Between the States.
However, there is a hint about a Trinkle and Chapman connection. When Green died on February 29, 1928, the names his parent were given on his certificate of death. The certificate lists his mother to be “Lettie Trinkle.”
We must be hesitant to say that Lettie was a Trinkle slave because no proof has been found to substantiate that claim. The name Lettie could also be short for “Latisha.” More information is needed before the Trinkle / Chapman dilemma can be solved. Nothing more will be said about this subject.
Green “Tot” Chapman and his wife Emma were the parents of the following children: Charles Royal Chapman 1881-1928, Garland Chapman 1883 - 1985, Floyd Robinson Chapman 1887-1947 and James A. Chapman 1895 – 1962. Garland and Floyd followed in the footsteps of their father and were barbers.
We know from the news article on page two that the barbershop which Green managed between 1885 and 1900 was located on West Main Street, just East of T. P. Wappet’s grocery store. This grocery store was located west of the present U. S. Post Office. The barbershop was located about where the Southwest Virginia Enterprise newspaper establishment is at present. Perhaps this was the same barbershop which was broken into on September 4, 1891. The following article appeared in the Richmond Times: “Another half-grown colored boy broke into “Tot Chapman’s” barber-shop in Wytheville Sunday and took ten dollars. He is also in jail.”
About one year later, on August 2, 1892, a “Bill of Complaint” was introduced in Wythe County Chancery Court; Green Chapman was suing his wife Emma Miller Chapman for a divorce. According to court records, it appeared that Emma had “deserted the Chapman home taking with her the youngest child aged about nine months.” To make a long story short, Green won the case. In a September 4, 1892, decree, Green Chapman was granted a divorce from Emma.
We are not sure if Green remarried again to second woman by the name of Emma. There was no marriage license found to substantiate such claim. However, Emma must have been permitted to return back to the home, because her name appears in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census living in the “Tot” Chapman household, she lived there until her death on June 25, 1923, she was fifty-nine years old.
Because of the difficulty in obtaining records to prove one brought license to open a barbershop in the Town of Wytheville. There was no attempt to find the license or the date when Chapman applied for a permit to operate a shop, in the Town of Wytheville record book for 1900.
In the same year, we know that he was operating his own barbershop in what is known as the Bolling Building on Main Street in Wytheville. Chapman Barbershop was referred as the “Sanitary Barbershop.” In the 1910 Green Chapman had employed one of the sons in the shop. Charles Royal Chapman was born in 1881 and worked in the “Sanitary Barbershop” until his death on June 11, 1928; he was forty-seven years old.
James A. Chapman, another son of Green enlisted in the U.S. Army during WW-I on October 2, 1917. After his discharge from the military from the 317th Engineers on March 31, 1919, he too worked in his father’s barbershop. However, this was short lived. Perhaps military life directed James in another direction because on April 7, 1930, he was employed as an automobile mechanic.
After the death of Green, the Sanitary Barbershop was sold to Matthew Gray. Matthew operated the shop until his death in 1932. As for the sons of Green Chapman, James A. Chapman commenced working at the George Wythe Hotel which was constructed in 1927. James A. Chapman commenced his employment there between 1930 and 1940. He remained employee as a “bellhop” until he retired. James died on September 2, 1962.
A note about Matthew Gray:
Matthew was born in Wythe County, in August 1973 the son of James and Mar Lyles. He was born with a birth defect in his left leg which was three inches shorter that the right. The foot on the left leg was turned outwards 90 degrees to his right foot. He stood on a specially made a3 inches high box to contemplate for the shortness of that leg. Mr. Gray passed on March 20, 1932 and is buried in the Oakwood Memorial Garden Cemetery.
 Gravestone at the Oakwood Cemetery, Wytheville, Virginia. Hereafter Oakwood.
 Certificate of Death Commonwealth of Virginia. Hereafter certificate.
 Killen, Linda, A History of Slaves and Freedom in Nineteenth Century Pulaski County, Virginia, Department of History, Radford University May 1996. p. 90.
 Certificate of Death for Green Chapman in the possession of the compiler
 1880 United States Federal census, Pulaski County, Virginia, Newbern Township, p.
 Killen, Linda, A History of Slaves and Freedom in Nineteenth Century Pulaski County, Virginia, Department of History, Radford University May 1996. p. 90.
 1880 Wythe County census, Evansham School District, lines 47-48, p. 23/469.
 Wytheville Dispatch, Wytheville, Virginia. April 16, 1885.
 Johnson, John M. Freedmen’s Bureau Cohabitation Records, Color People of Wythe County Cohabitating Together As Husband and Wife, February 1866 – August 1866, p. 24.
 Wikipedia, an internet encyclopedia.
 The Times (Richmond, Virginia) Friday September 4, 1891, p. 2
 Green Chapman vs. Emma Chapman, 2nd August 1892 rule, chancery case file # 1892-35CC.
 Certificate. Buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Wytheville, Virginia.
 Certificate of Death in the possession of the compiler.
 Application for headstone in the possession of the compiler.
 Application for grave headstone in the possession of the compiler.
 Certificate of Death in the possession of the compiler.
 Information known by the compiled taken from oral history over the many years.
The museum welcomed over 90 visitors on Saturday, February 10th for the Bolling Building Block Party. The day featured special deals and activities at each of the four Main Street businesses: Skeeter's World Famous Hot Dogs, Rockstar Gems, P.R. Sturgill Fine Jewelry, and the museum.
The Bolling Building is a Wytheville landmark. It was originally constructed in the 1840s, and remains the only Antebellum commercial building downtown. In the building’s 170 year history, it has always housed commercial storefronts on the lower level, including a bank, general store, and barber shop. The second story, mostly used as a residence, was the birthplace home of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. The Bolling Family occupied the building from 1866-1899.
At this special event, visitors were able to learn about the history of the building through free tours of the Birthplace Home offered by the museum. Additionally, reenactors from the museum’s living history program were on hand to tell more about Mrs. Wilson’s journey from Wytheville to the White House, and her role as First Lady during World War I. To honor Mrs. Wilson’s legacy as the first honorary President of Girl Scouts, a local Girl Scout troop sold cookies.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the Bolling Building Block Party!!!
Tuesdays – Fridays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Closed on all major holidays.
145 E. Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382
The museum is located downtown across from the Bolling Wilson Hotel.
Free entry to the museum, $5 for a tour of the Bolling Family Home, available during museum hours.