A Birthday Celebration

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Hollins University.

October 9th marks the birthday for an important Hollins University persona: Martha Louisa Cocke, known by all as “Miss Matty,” (1855-1938).   Miss Matty is also recognized as the first woman college president in the state of Virginia.   As the daughter of Hollins founder Charles Lewis Cocke, she was intimately acquainted with every aspect of Hollins: she was born on campus, received her education at Hollins, and served in many roles throughout her lifetime. She passed out candles to students as a child, and served as faculty (mathematics and English), librarian, and registrar as an adult.  She also became her father’s secretary in his advanced years, corresponding with parents, alumnae, and others.  Although her brother Charles H. Cocke was being groomed to succeed his father, his untimely demise in 1900 caused Charles Lewis Cocke to leave the decision of the next successor to his children.  After her father’s death in 1901, the family selected Matty as the new president, recognizing she was perfect candidate for the job.

Matty with her mother, ca. 1895

Matty as president, undated.

Matty as president, undated.









From Songs Every Hollins Girl Should Know, undated.

From Songs Every Hollins Girl Should Know, undated.

As a proper southern woman, she was reluctant to take on such a leadership role, yet for the sake of her father’s dream of making a Hollins education equal to that afforded to young men, she agreed to the position.  Serving from 1901-1933 as president, Matty oversaw numerous changes and allowed students freedom to shape Hollins Institute as well as their own college experiences. Student initiatives included establishing a student government, a newspaper, and fund raising for buildings (The Little Theatre and Tayloe Gymnasium) and the endowment, necessary for accreditation.  She maintained a serious, scholarly atmosphere, upholding the high academic ideals her father endeavored to create at Hollins.  She was an imposing figure on campus, always wearing full-length black dresses, even when the current styles were shorter, according to Fonnie Strang, Class of 1928.  She also was guardian of lady-like behavior, and would often point out in chapel services breaches of etiquette she had witnessed among the girls.  Strang remembered Miss Matty saying “I have noticed girls holding hands. Hollins girls don’t do that.  I have also noticed girls talking to boys from their [dormitory] windows.  Hollins girls don’t do that.


Student song sheet.

Miss Matty is remembered as being conservative and strict, but also serene and motherly, with a passion to carry on her father’s dream.  Despite her strictness, she was beloved by the students and fondly remembered by hundreds of alumnae.  Beginning in 1930, she was sung to on her birthday each year (a tradition which continues today).  Hymns, songs, and poems were written in tribute to her, and the preparatory students literary society was named after her (The Matty L. Cocke Literary Society).  Numerous letters congratulating her on her 25th anniversary as president, as well as those of condolence upon the death of her mother, exist in the university archives, testifying to the alumnae affection for her.

Letter congratulating Miss Matty on her 25th anniversary as president.

Upon her retirement, she lived in a house on campus, built especially for her.  Upon Miss Matty’s death in 1938, the entire Hollins community mourned her passing.  Local and state newspapers were filled with articles about her, giving testimony to her many contributions to Hollins.  Miss Matty’s obituary even appeared in The New York Times.  Susanna Pleasants Turner, Class of 1935 and great niece of Miss Matty, gave a fitting tribute in the Hollins Alumnae Quarterly (Fall 1938): “So closely was she identified with the school that as the years went by she was to become for Hollins girls all over the country, the living symbol of their Alma Mater and the personal actuality of their ideas for educated womanhood.”

Happy Birthday, Miss Matty!

To learn more about Miss Matty, Hollins history, and Special Collections at the Wyndham Robertson Library, please visit “Special Collections” in the Hollins Digital Commons. http://digitalcommons.hollins.edu/special/.

Additional images: All images are from the Martha L. Cocke Papers, University Archives, Wyndham Robertson Library, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia

Letter of condolence from Mrs. John C. Burnett.

Letter of condolence from Mrs. John C. Burnett.


Virginia Archives Month – call for images

Each year, the Virginia Archives Month committee asks archival institutions around the state to contribute images for a poster to celebrate Archives Month in October. Below is the call for images.

2014 Virginia Archives Month poster

2014 Virginia Archives Month poster

Archival Treasures — Find Your Hidden Gem

Who can resist the idea of a treasure hunt? The anticipation of finding something rare and valuable can make a person giddy with excitement. As archivists, when we take our first peek at a new collection we become just as excited as a treasure hunter at the prospect of what we might discover. This year for Virginia Archives Month let’s share some of the exciting and unusual items from our collections. Every archives has a document or image that is unique, rare, or captures the imagination. It doesn’t have to be the thing or things for which your institution is best known. You may choose something that you find unique and interesting which is not often highlighted.

With this theme we want to capture a bit of the thrill and wonder that comes from finding something you never expected, or perhaps from finding exactly what you wanted! Hopefully we can inspire our patrons to come find their own gem waiting in the archives.

Submit images to: varchives@yahoo.com
Deadline: 5:00 pm, July 31
Image specifications: 300 pixel per inch (ppi) at 100%

All submissions will be added to the Virginia Archives Month Flickr account unless you ask us not to share it. You may submit more than one image. If multiple images from one institution are submitted, the committee will select which one will appear on the poster.

If you have any questions please contact Margaret Kidd (kiddm@vcu.edu)

Your 2015 Virginia Archives Month Committee,

Margaret Kidd, Virginia Caucus Representative
Sherri Bagley
Elizabeth E. Beckman
Vince Brooks
Dan Cavanaugh
Carl Childs
Suzanne Gould
Cara Griggs
Jessica E.Johnson
Marianne Martin
Jennifer McDaid
Paige Newman
Laura Stoner
Robert Vejnar

New Online Resource: Court of Appeals of Virginia Judges, 1985-present

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and in celebration of that milestone, we are very pleased to announce the availability of a new resource on the Virginia Judiciary web site, Court of Appeal of Virginia Judges, 1985-present.  This online biographical directory can be accessed on the Internet (cavhistory.org) or within three different sections of the judicial branch web site at:

The online biographical directory features biographical information about each of the judges who have served on the Court of Appeals of Virginia since it began operation on January 1, 1985. The site also features portraits of judges who began their service before April 2006, audio recordings and transcripts of oral history interviews of eight judges who have served on the court, and a group interview of  five judges who sat on the inaugural Court of Appeals of Virginia in 1985 . (Photographs of more recent judges are forthcoming!)  Our goal is to make this information available to the public, with the directory serving as an accurate scholarly resource for students, educators, historians and others interested in the history of this court. 

Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1985. Front row, left to right: Hon. James W. Benton, Jr., Hon. Barbara Milano Keenan, Hon. Sam W. Coleman, III, and Chief Judge E. Ballard Baker (seated in chair). Back row, left to right: Hon. Charles H. Duff, Hon. Joseph E. Baker, Hon. William H. Hodges, Hon. Bernard G. Barrow, Hon. Norman K. Moon and Hon. Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr. Photograph courtesy John Koehler and Senior (Ret.) Justice Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr.

Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1985. Front row, left to right: Hon. James W. Benton, Jr., Hon. Barbara Milano Keenan, Hon. Sam W. Coleman, III, and Chief Judge E. Ballard Baker (seated in chair). Back row, left to right: Hon. Charles H. Duff, Hon. Joseph E. Baker, Hon. William H. Hodges, Hon. Bernard G. Barrow, Hon. Norman K. Moon and Hon. Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr. Photograph courtesy John Koehler and Senior (Ret.) Justice Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr.

A Benediction for Hollins

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian & Archivist at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.


Charles Lewis Cocke at age 28.

As the graduation season draws near, institutions of higher learning often reflect on their beginnings and founding ideals in their commencement ceremonies. As Hollins University approaches its 173rd commencement this month, I am reminded of Charles Lewis Cocke’s role in the history of higher education in Virginia, particularly women’s education. Cocke was born in King and Queen County, Virginia in 1820 and attended the Virginia Baptist Seminary (now University of Richmond) and Columbian College (now George Washington University). Upon graduation, he returned to the Virginia Baptist Seminary to teach mathematics. While still a young professor, he was approached by the Valley Union Seminary’s board members for the job of running the four year old school. Located in Botetourt Springs, Virginia, it was floundering financially and without leadership.

Page from teaching notebook.

Page from teaching notebook.

While the actual founder was Joshua Bradley, a Baptist minister from New York, Charles Lewis Cocke is considered to be the true founder of Hollins because without his life-long leadership and managerial skills, the school would not have survived. Valley Union Seminary was eventually re-named Hollins Institute due to the generosity of Ann and John Hollins of Lynchburg, Virginia. John Hollins was a successful miller and also board member. Their initial gift of $5,000 brought financial stabilization to the school and in gratitude, the board voted to rename the school Hollins Institute.


Although much is known about Charles Lewis Cocke establishing Hollins, many are not acquainted with his role in Virginia education for both boys and girls as well as his interest in evangelism and establishing Baptist churches in the state of Virginia. While he was adamant about Hollins remaining non-sectarian, it is clear from his papers, housed in the University Archives, that his zeal for both education and evangelism drove many of his activities beyond the administration of Hollins. Benediction_collectionCommencement addresses to the students make clear his educational ideals for Hollins students but his other writings demonstrate his wider interests for improvements of the educational system throughout Virginia. The collection contains many writings on the subject of education, including addresses to the Virginia Education Association as well as articles and essays on various topics: “Our boys and girls! Where will they stand in coming generations?”, “The true ideal of a female school,” and “What are the best methods for educating the very ignorant?” Few know that Cocke also helped to established two other schools in Virginia: Alleghany College in 1858 at Blue Sulpher Springs and Alleghany Institute in Roanoke. The institute, established in 1886, was the first chartered high school in the western part of the state. While both schools were short lived, it is clear Cocke was concerned for educational opportunities for Virginians.

The Charles Lewis Cocke papers in the University Archives also describe many writings on religious topics, in general and specifically Baptist issues. In an 1897 letter to his children he comments about his early career: “In 1846 I came to this place to save the Institution now known as Hollins Institute from sale and to do also a kind of lay evangelistic work. While most of these documents do not indicate their purpose, whether for speech or publication, they reveal his broad interests, from the theological (“The Priesthood of Christ”), to daily life (“Can Christians read novels and light literature of the day without injury to themselves and the cause of Christ?), and to evangelism (“The wider circulation of our Baptist newspapers & the better support of our missionary work”). Cocke also wrote about African American issues, including “Our duties to the Colored Baptists” and “Mission work among the colored race in the days of slavery.” In addition, records of the Valley Baptist Association show that people of color either joined existing white churches or formed their own churches.

Benediction_Cocke2Among his personal papers are his will and a letter to his children and grandchildren, written on his 77th birthday. Anticipating his death, which would not come until 1901, he wrote of his wishes for his children to continue his life’s work at Hollins and for success and contentment in their lives. He closes the letter with what seems fitting a benediction to his life and for Hollins: “I enjoin you all, my children, to live and labor together in peace and harmony and to carry out the great design for which I have toiled assisted by yourselves through a long life. Aim to do a good and honorable part in all the labors and responsibilities of this life and acquit yourselves as those that must give an account at a solemn tribunal and at the bar of a common consensus of opinion of good men in this world and of the great God in the world to come.”

The Charles Lewis Cocke papers are located in Special Collections, Wyndham Robertson Library, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia. The images of Cocke used in this post are located in the Photograph collection also located in Special Collections.

Receipt from the business series.

Receipt from the business series.

Letter to his brother, John Cocke, 8 Nov 1856.

Letter to his brother, John Cocke, 8 Nov 1856.

Enon Colored Baptist Church report

Enon Colored Baptist Church report










Our Boys and Girls! Where shall they stand in future years.  Essay on education, undated.

Our Boys and Girls! Where shall they stand in future years. Essay on education, undated.








Virginia Heritage Reaches a New High

When Virginia Heritage launched its new WordPress site in 2013 there were a total of 11,033 published finding aids in the database. As of today the current number of publish finding aids stands at 12,305. That number will only continue to increase. The following list is a selection of recent additions to Virginia Heritage. This demonstrates what a wide variety of archival materials that are found all across Virginia. Our hope is that this database of finding aids will connect researchers with the information they are searching for.







Richmond’s Journey From The End Of Slavery And Civil War To Today


This April is the culmination of the 150th commemoration of the Civil War and the end of American slavery. To mark this occasion, a series of programs will take place in Richmond, VA on April 1-4 to explore the fall of Richmond, the beginning of Emancipation, and how those events shape our present. See this  press release  or visit the website Richmond’s Journey to learn more about the scheduled events. Several participants are part of Virginia Heritage including VCU Tompkins-McCaw Library Special Collections and Archives, the Virginia Historical Society, and Virginia Union University.

Virginia Tech hosting THATCamp in April


The Humanities and Technology Camp (THATCamp) Virginia will take place on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA on April 10-11, 2015. Registration is now open, through the website, http://virginia2015.thatcamp.org/, which also has information about the schedule and lodging.

Please circulate this announcement broadly among faculty, librarians, and students across Virginia who are interested in the intersection of technology and the humanities. You can follow THATCamp Virginia through twitter @THATCampVA and #thatcampVA. Questions about THATCamp Virginia should be directed to Andrew Kulak (akulak@vt.edu) and Kate Good (kmap@vt.edu), Graduate Research Assistants in the Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities.

Support for THATCamp Virginia is provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, University Libraries, Technology–enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, and the Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

Call for Submissions: 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Award


Call for Submissions: 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Awards

The Finding Aid Award is given yearly to recognize outstanding achievement in the preparation of finding aids by institutions within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) region. Nominated finding aids must have been made available to the public for the first time during 2014.

The top award will receive the designation of the Fredric M. Miller Finding Aids Award, in honor of Dr. Miller’s contributions to the field as archivist and author. Monetary awards will be presented at the Spring 2015 meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

Call for Submissions
In the last decade, there have been significant changes in the processes by which archivists arrange, describe and make their collections available to the public: most notably, the widespread adoption of streamlined processing practices and a push to make our work available online. At the same time, the fundamentals of good finding aids have remained the same: they provide content that enables researchers to understand the materials in our collections and are designed to help them find what they need easily and quickly.

The Finding Aids Committee invites MARAC members to nominate exceptional finding aids for the 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Awards. Successful finding aids will have outstanding content, take full advantage of the design capabilities inherent in their medium of publication, and incorporate successful innovations that enable researchers to more effectively access and use archival materials. Please see Characteristics of Successful Finding Aids for more details.  Finding aids may be submitted for collections of any size.

Submissions are due by January 31, 2015 and must include:
– A link to the finding aid’s URL
– A nomination letter that addresses the finding aids’ exceptional qualities and/or discusses elements not readily apparent from examination of the finding aid itself.

Please see our Finding Aid Awards Submission Checklist for further information concerning the nomination letter and optional submission materials. Submissions should be sent to the Chair of the Finding Aid Award Committee:

Scenes from a Scrapbook: Victorian Christmas and New Year’s Greeting Cards from Scrapbooks in the Hollins University Archives

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian & Archivist at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (Hollins University Archives)

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (1844-1899) and her daughter, Leila Mason Turner Rath (1872-1937), shared similar lives:  both spent most of their lives on campus and attended Hollins Institute (Roanoke, Virginia).  Leila Virginia was the second child of Hollins founder, Charles Lewis Cocke, and Susanna Virginia Pleasants Cocke.  In 1871, she married Joseph A. Turner, Sr., Professor of Ancient and Modern Languages at Hollins and together they had two children:  Leila Masters Turner and Joseph A. Turner, Jr.


Leila Mason Turner Rath

Leila Mason Turner Rath

While there are a number of records that document their lives in the University Archives, the most interesting items left behind were two scrapbooks filled with beautiful greeting cards.  Shown here are just a few of the Christmas and New Year’s cards that they received from various relatives and friends.  Leila Virginia’s scrapbook was begun ca. 1882, while her daughter was given a scrapbook when she was thirteen years old, in 1885.

Some of the cards depict images of holly, ivy, and snow, traditional illustrations for modern day cards.  However, many others include nautical and floral designs that are not associated with Christmas or New Year’s cards today.  Please visit the Hollins Digital Commons  for more information and to see more cards.

Scrapbook1      Scrapbook

scrapbook5   scrapbook3