Wednesday, April 22, 2020

52 Ancestors - LAND: Lot 8 Section T

Who has not dreamed of finding buried treasure? Maybe a bag of gold buried in the garden. A diamond broach behind a panel in an old cupboard. A bundle of letters and mouse-chewed papers in a hidden compartment of an attic.

That last scenario is mine.
Davis home in Cradock
The "secret attic" is in the part of the house
that extends in the front
(my grandparents' bedroom)
The current owner of my grandparents’ house is installing new insulation in the attic where she discovered the “secret attic.” Thanks to this blog, she found me. No gold though. And no fancy jewelry. But there are a few good things like baby clothes that had been worn either by my sister or me, one baby shoe that was probably our mother’s, a college yearbook, and LOTS of letters from our mother’s high school and college friends.

There are also a lot of papers that most people would have thrown away 70 years ago when the house was built - papers like store receipts, canceled checks, and property tax receipts. But the family historian in me says, “Thanks Grandma! Thanks Granddaddy!” Each mouse-chewed piece of paper is a treasure.
Davis property tax 1941
Receipt for tax payment 1941
Before World War II brought my grandparents to Portsmouth where Granddaddy worked in the shipyard, they lived in Shenandoah, Virginia. I am intrigued by the property tax receipts from the Page County treasurer.  
My grandfather paid $16.03 in 1939
which included a head tax, personal property and
real estate taxes on Lot 8 Section T
I want to know more about Lot 8 Section T. Maybe it was their house on Sixth Street or possibly their store at the corner of Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenue.
snipped from Google Maps
House on 6th Street built by my grandfather and great-grandfather and Davis store on the corner
This is my mother's childhood home. 
The house in the middle faces Pennsylvania Ave. 
My grandfather paid $14.92 in 1941
Lot 8 Section T
I remember seeing an index for Page County deeds at the Library of Virginia umpteen years ago. I thought I made a copy but apparently I did not. However, in looking through my files, I found an important deed that possibly sheds light on these property tax receipts.

Walter Davis deed 1896

From Page County Deed Book 38, pp 147-148
This Deed made the 12th day of May in the year Eighteen hundred and ninety-six between J. G. H. Miller and S. P. Miller his wife, of the first part of Rockingham County, Virginia, and Walter B. Davis of the second part, of Page County, Virginia, Witnesseth that in consideration of sixty-five dollars cash in hand paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the said J. G. H. Miller and S. P. Miller, his wife, doth grant, with general warranty of title unto the said Walter B. Davis, his heirs and assigns forever, all of a certain lot or parcel of land situate in the town of Shenandoah, County of Page, State of Virginia, designated and descried as follows to wit: Lot No. 7 in Block No. 6 of Millers Addition in the town of Shenandoah in the County of Page, State of Va, fronting fifty-feet on East side of 3rd Street and running back 130 feet to an alley, between lines

Walter Davis deed 1896

perpendicular to sd 3rd Street, together with all appurtenances to the said lot or parcel of land belonging, to have and to hold said lot or parcel of land with the appurtenances aforesaid, unto the said Walter B. Davis, his heirs and assigns forever.
Witness the following signatures and seals.
J. G. H. Miller {seal}
Sallie P. Miller {seal}

State of Virginia
County of Rockingham
I, W. K. Jennings, Notary Public in and for the County and State aforesaid, certify that J. G. H. Miller and Sallie P. Miller whose names are signed to the writing above having date on the 12th day of May 1896 have acknowledged the same before me in the County and State aforesaid. Given under my hand this 13th day of May 1896.
W. K. Jennings N.P.

Page County to wit:
The forgoing Deed was received in the Clerk’s Office of Page County Court, Augt 2nd 1897 and entered to record.
A Broaddus C.C.

My great-grandfather purchased a lot on “3rd Street” – that is where my cousins lived as children. Whenever we visited them, my grandfather would point to the big white house next door and say, “That is the house I grew up in.” I guessed Lot 7 then must be where Walter Davis built the family home.
Davis and Sullivan cousins on N 3rd St Shenandoah, VA
My granddaddy Orvin with his sisters and cousins
the Davis house on N. 3rd near Williams Ave. Shenandoah, VA

snipped from Google Maps
How the house looks today

Could “Lot 7, Block 6” and “Lot 8, Section T” be neighboring properties? Maybe Granddaddy owned the lot where my cousins’ house was eventually built. 
snipped from Google Maps
My grandfather's boyhood home and my cousins' house as they look today

For answers I turned to the friendly folks in the “Remember Shenandoah Back When” group on Facebook to see if there is a map of how the town was laid out “back when.” Right away one person said there is a map on the wall in the town office. Before I could find a phone number or email address, a woman who works there responded also. She reported that “Section T” is Sixth Street.

What’s more, she included a link to the Page County Geographic Information Systems website. There you can search by owner, by address, by street, and by several other designations as well. 

Block map showing Lot 8 Section T
from Page County GIS
When I searched “Sixth Street,” up came a map with every lot numbered. I clicked on #8, and there it was: my grandparents’ house, my mother’s childhood home. Photos of the front and side and a description of the building’s interior and exterior provided more information than I could have hoped for.
View of the house my mother grew up in
414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
from Page County GIS
Side view of the house my mother grew up in
414 Sixth St, Shenandoah, VA
from Page County GIS
As I was on a roll, I went ahead and searched Third Street for my granddaddy’s boyhood home. It turns out that “Lot 7, Block 6” is a VACANT lot. It was vacant when Walter Davis bought it in 1896 and it is still vacant today. I suppose he just wanted more land between his house and whoever might build on Lot 6.
Block map N Third St, Shenandoah, VA
Lots 8 and 7 - Granddaddy's boyhood home
Lots 6 and 5 - my cousins' childhood home
As I clicked on lot after lot, I saw a pattern. EVERYONE bought 2 lots. No wonder. Each parcel was only .16 acres.

It appears then that Walter Davis built the house on Lot 8, not Lot 7. My cousins’ house is on Lot 6 with Lot 5 as their BIG side yard we played in. They had a nanny goat that kept it mowed for us. 
Bobbie Davis and Wendy 1960 Shenandoah, VA
A view of Lot 5
My cousin Bobbie and moi 1960
and either Punky or Chunky - I couldn't tell those dogs apart
See how much there is to learn from mouse-chewed paper!

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow, that was a great find that you were able to get! Fascinating reading about the plots of land and neat that the houses are still there today, albeit I'm sure modernized over time. Glad the mice didn't consume all those documents!


  2. Great story. What a nice treasure to have those found items.

  3. How wonderful that the owners contacted you through your blog! But even better that they had new insulation put in or these treasures may have been completely chewed up by the mice.