18 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved, Sept. 2021
—Markers cover topics in the counties of Bath, Charles City, Chesterfield (2), Lancaster (2), Rappahannock, and Rockingham; and the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville (3), Falls Church, Norfolk, Salem, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, and Winchester—
—Text of each marker reproduced at the end of this wrap up—
Among 18 new historical markers coming to state roadsides are signs highlighting the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association game, a segregated campground for Blacks established in the late 1930s, and five markers resulting from a student contest in May sponsored by Gov. Northam and the Virginia Department of Education to nominate topics pertaining to the heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Virginia.
The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved the markers at its September quarterly meeting hosted by the Department of Historic Resources (DHR).
Of the five markers DHR selected from topics students proposed during Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, two address the influx of immigrants that resulted from U.S. wars abroad:
- A forthcoming Virginia Beach marker “Filipinos in the U.S. Navy” explains that Filipinos served in the Navy as early as the Civil War but they enlisted in greater numbers when the U.S. took possession of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Following World War II, when the Philippines gained independence in 1946, the U.S. Navy began recruiting Filipinos, resulting in about 35,000 Filipinos serving in the Navy during the next four decades. Hampton Roads emerged as one of the nation’s largest Filipino communities in proximity to a naval base.
- A Falls Church marker, “Vietnamese Immigrants in Northern Virginia,” will rise to recall that thousands of Vietnamese refugees arrived in the U.S. after the fall of South Vietnam’s capital, Saigon, in April 1975. Many settled in Northern Virginia, where a vibrant enclave of businesses, known as “Little Saigon,” arose in Clarendon. By the 1980s, much of that activity relocated to Eden Center, a market hub modeled on similar districts in Vietnam and the East Coast’s largest source of Vietnamese goods.
The three other AAPI Heritage markers focus on the achievements of men associated with Virginia colleges:
- Kim Kyusik (1881-1950), a leader in the Korean independence movement, was born in Korea and graduated from Roanoke College in Salem, where the marker will be placed. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, Kim spent much of his career residing in China, where he advocated for Korean independence. After World War II, he opposed the permanent partition of Korea into North and South. The North Korean army kidnapped Kim during the Korean War and he died in captivity.
- The renowned football player Arthur Azo Matsu (1904-1987) was the first Asian American student to graduate from the College of William and Mary, where the marker is bound and where Matsu first gained a national reputation as a quarterback. In 1928, he became the first player of Japanese descent in the National Football League, and he later coached football at Rutgers University.
- A marker slated for Charlottesville will summarize the life of W. W. Yen (1877-1950), a Chinese diplomat and politician, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 1900, becoming UVA’s first international student to earn an undergraduate degree and the first Chinese student to earn a degree. During the 1920s, Yen served the Republic of China as foreign minister and as prime minister, among other notable achievements.
In Alexandria, the forthcoming marker “Earl Francis Lloyd (1928-2015)” notes that Lloyd, as a member of the Washington Capitols in 1950, was the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association game. After serving in the Korean War, Lloyd played for the Syracuse Nationals, which won the NBA championship in 1955. He ended his playing career with the Detroit Pistons in 1960 but served the Pistons as the NBA’s first Black assistant coach and, later, as the NBA’s fourth Black head coach.
Chesterfield County will see a marker recalling “Group Camp 7,” a campground established for African American youth during the late 1930s and the era of segregation. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the camp, erecting cabins and a dining hall, and creating a lake with a beach. The buildings no longer stand. Group Camp 7 was built on land that later became Pocahontas State Park.
Another marker bound for Chesterfield County recounts the antebellum roots and Reconstruction-era history of First Baptist Church of Midlothian, the oldest African American congregation in present-day Chesterfield County. The church traces back to 1846 and the First African Baptist Church of Coalfield. After the Civil War, the church called its first Black pastor, and in 1877 purchased land, built a new sanctuary, and renamed itself First Baptist Church of Midlothian.
Seven other markers will focus on people, places or events in Virginia’s Black history. Two recall “free men of color”—one who was born free, one who purchased his freedom:
- Emmanuel Quivers (1814-1879) was born into slavery on Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, where a marker will be placed. Quivers became a highly skilled “enslaved wage earner” at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond and, in 1852, along with his wife, Frances, he purchased his family’s freedom and departed for California. As a community leader, he advocated for educating African American children and allowing Blacks to testify against whites.
- A future marker in Lancaster County recalls Armistead S. Nickens (ca. 1836-1906). He was born into a family of free people that included at least 12 veterans of the Revolutionary War. In 1871, Nickens won election to the House of Delegates and served two terms as Lancaster’s first Black elected official. He is credited with establishing one of the county’s first schools for African Americans.
Education during Jim Crow segregation threads through five markers:
- Scrabble School, built in 1921-1922 to serve African American students in grades 1-7, is the focus of a marker for Rappahannock County. The Julius Rosenwald Fund provided financial support and building plans to assist with construction of Scrabble School, which closed in 1968.
- Madison S. Briscoe (1904-1995), a biologist, grew up in Winchester attending segregated schools there. He co-founded a pre-medical program at Storer College and also taught at Howard University College of Medicine. He specialized in public health, served in the Army’s 16th Malaria Survey Unit during World War II, and later studied how insects and microorganisms transmit diseases in Egypt and Central America, and published widely in scientific and medical journals.
- The first Black student to attend the University of Virginia, Gregory Swanson, will be remembered with the marker Swanson v. University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After a U.S. District Court ruled in Swanson’s favor, UVA admitted him to its graduate school of law in 1950, establishing a precedent that many other Virginia colleges would follow with the admission of Black students into graduate programs.
- Jackson P. Burley High School is recollected in another Charlottesville marker. The new school opened in September 1951 to serve Black students and represented an effort to provide “separate but equal” facilities during segregation when lawsuits frequently challenged poor conditions in Black schools.
- “AKA Iota Omega,” a marker for Norfolk, states that Iota Omega became the first graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., chartered in Hampton Roads. Three of its founding and later members, all African American women, were influential in statewide, regional, or national organizations, civil rights advocacy, and education.
Of the three remaining markers, two deal with the founding and rise of two communities, one in Tidewater, the other in the Shenandoah Valley:
- The “Morattico” marker outlines the history of this Rappahannock River village in Lancaster County. Morattico’s European settlement traces back to a plantation established in 1698. The village arose quickly after the completion of a major wharf on the Rappahannock in 1892, and thrived as a watermen's community and a stop on a steamship route.
- The “Silver Lake Historic District” in Rockingham County saw white settlement beginning in the mid-1700s, and by the 1790s a predominance of German Baptist Brethren arriving in the area. A dam built on a spring fed creek in 1822 provided water power for a flour mill and sawmill, which became the center of a prosperous industrial and agricultural community. The 104-acre Silver Lake district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Bath County, the forthcoming marker “Camp Alkulana” notes it is one of Virginia’s oldest residential summer camps. A Richmond social reformer founded the camp to provide outdoor recreation to girls from urban, working-class families. The camp was opened to boys around 1950, and racially desegregated in 1968.
After approval by the Board of Historic Resources, it can take upwards of three months or more before a new marker is ready for installation. The marker’s sponsor covers the required $1,770 manufacturing expenses for a new sign.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. 1. It is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, mostly maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.
Full Text of Markers:
(VDOT must approve the proposed locations for each sign or public works in jurisdictions outside VDOT’s authority.)
Emanuel Quivers (1814-1879)
Emanuel Quivers was born into slavery on Berkeley Plantation to Jonathan and Sarah Quivers. Trained as a blacksmith, in 1845 Quivers became an enslaved wage earner at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. There he learned the closely guarded puddling technique for manufacturing high-grade iron, rising to supervise a large group of artisans and laborers. He and his wife, Frances, were early members of the First African Baptist Church in Richmond. In 1852, he and Frances purchased their family’s freedom and left for California. As a community leader, Quivers advocated for educating African American children and for laws allowing persons of color to testify against whites.
Sponsor: Charles City County Richard M. Bowman Center for Local History; Victoria Wassmer
Locality: Charles City County
Proposed Location: South side of Route 5 near Berkeley Plantation
First Baptist Church of Midlothian
The First African Baptist Church of Coalfield was constituted on 8 Feb. 1846 with six white and 54 enslaved and free black members from Spring Creek Baptist Church, formerly Cox’s Meeting House. The congregation, required by law to have a white pastor, initially met about a mile southeast of here in a log building at the Midlothian Coal Mining Company coalpits. After the Civil War, the church called its first black pastor and joined the Colored Shiloh Baptist Association. The congregation purchased land here after a fire in 1877, built a new sanctuary, and renamed itself First Baptist Church of Midlothian. This is the oldest African American congregation in present-day Chesterfield County.
Sponsor: First Baptist Church of Midlothian History Ministry
Locality: Chesterfield County
Proposed Location: 13800 Westfield Road
Armistead S. Nickens (ca. 1836-1906)
Armistead Nickens was born into a family of free people of color that included at least 12 veterans of the Revolutionary War. In 1867 the local agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau identified him as a strong potential candidate for public office. After attending Virginia’s Republican State Convention in Sept. 1871, Nickens won election to the House of Delegates that year and served two terms, becoming Lancaster County’s first Black elected official. According to oral tradition, he was an early advocate of what, decades later, became the Downing Bridge. He is credited with building one of the county’s first schools for African Americans. Nickens owned more than 150 acres of land by 1906.
Sponsor: The Nickens Family
Locality: Lancaster County
Proposed Location: Kamps Mill Road, just south of Camps Millpond
Scrabble School, first known as Woodville School, was built in 1921-1922 to serve African American students in grades 1-7. This was the first of four schools constructed in Rappahannock County with funding from Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., who had joined forces with educator Booker T. Washington in a school-building campaign. Between 1917 and 1932, the Rosenwald Fund helped construct about 5,000 schools for Black students across the rural South. Encouraged by neighbor Isaiah Wallace, Black residents contributed $1,100 toward the $3,225 cost of this building. Scrabble School closed in 1968 after operating for one year on a desegregated basis.
Sponsor: Scrabble School Preservation Foundation, Inc.
Locality: Rappahannock County
Proposed Location: 111 Scrabble Road, Castleton
Group Camp 7
Group Camp 7, built for the use of African Americans, opened 1.25 miles south of here in 1939. The site was part of Swift Creek Recreational Demonstration Area, a project of the National Park Service that later became Pocahontas State Park. The campground, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and situated at a distance from the whites-only camping areas, featured cabins, a dining hall, and a lake with a beach. The Girl Scouts, Young Women’s Christian Association, Women’s Missionary Union of Virginia, and other groups operated residential camps here, providing educational and recreational opportunities to young black people from across the state. The buildings are no longer extant.
Sponsor: Pocahontas State Park
Locality: Chesterfield County
Proposed Location: Beach Road at intersection with State Park Road
Dr. Madison S. Briscoe (1904-1995)
Madison S. Briscoe, biologist, was raised in this house, attended the local Black school, and earned degrees from Storer College and Lincoln, Columbia, and Catholic Universities. He taught at Storer, where he co-founded the pre-medical program, and at the Howard University College of Medicine, where he specialized in public health with a focus on parasitic diseases and tropical medicine. As commanding officer of the U.S. Army’s 16th Malaria Survey Unit, Briscoe helped keep troops healthy during World War II. In the 1950s, his research in Egypt and Central America examined the role of insects and microorganisms in disease transmission. He published widely in scientific and medical journals.
Sponsor: Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society
Proposed Location: corner of S. Kent and E. Cork Streets
Swanson v. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia, established in 1819 for white men only, rejected the application of Gregory Swanson (1924-1992) to its graduate school of law in 1950 because he was black. Swanson, a lawyer from Danville, filed suit with the support of the NAACP. On 5 Sept. 1950, the U.S. District Court heard the case in this building, later the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. A panel of three federal judges ruled that the university had violated Swanson’s 14th Amendment rights and must allow him to enroll. In the fall semester of 1950, Swanson became the first black student to attend UVA. Soon afterward other public colleges in Virginia began admitting black students to graduate programs.
Sponsor: Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
Proposed Location: 201 E. Market St.
Jackson P. Burley High School
The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County opened Jackson P. Burley High School in Sept. 1951 to serve nearly 550 African American students. The 26-classroom building reflected an effort to provide “separate but equal” facilities in an era when lawsuits frequently challenged poor conditions in Black schools. Burley, named for a local educator, replaced Albemarle Training School, Esmont High School, and Jefferson High School and also drew students from Greene and Nelson Counties. The 1956 football team was undefeated and unscored on. In partnership with the University of Virginia, Burley’s licensed practical nursing program trained about 150 nurses. Burley High closed in 1967.
Sponsor: Jackson P. Burley Varsity Club
Proposed Location: 901 Rose Hill Drive
AKA Iota Omega
On 1 Dec. 1922, Iota Omega became the first graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.®, chartered in Hampton Roads. Wanser Bagnall, Evelyn Lightner, and Helen Lawrence had met earlier at First Baptist Church-Bute Street and invited seven sorority sisters to become charter members. Bagnall was later president of the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and Lightner was the first South Atlantic Regional Organizer of AKA, the first Greek-letter organization founded by Black women. Later chapter members included Aline Black Hicks, civil rights activist; Vivian Carter Mason, president of the National Council of Negro Women; and Joyce Gilliam Brown, international folklorist.
Sponsor: Iota Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc®
Proposed Location: First Baptist Church, Bute Street
The watermen’s community of Morattico, 3.5 miles west on Route 622, is named for the Moraughtacund Indians who met Capt. John Smith nearby in 1608. By 1698 the area had become part of Morattico Plantation, established by Joseph Ball I, father of Mary Ball Washington. Completion of a major wharf on the Rappahannock River in 1892 led to the rapid development of the village of Morattico, known for a time as Whealton. The community, a stop on the Baltimore-to-Fredericksburg steamship route until the 1930s, thrived as a center for oystering, crabbing, fishing, and large-scale seafood processing and distribution. The Morattico Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sponsor: Morattico Waterfront Museum
Locality: Lancaster County
Proposed Location: Route 354 at intersection with Route 622
Silver Lake Historic District
English American settler Daniel Harrison owned hundreds of acres in this area in the mid-18th century, and Presbyterians built Cooks Creek Church near here ca. 1750. German Baptist Brethren began moving to the Shenandoah Valley from Maryland and Pennsylvania at midcentury, arriving here by 1790. Brethren church member John J. Rife built a dam here ca. 1822, forming Silver Lake, and constructed a flour mill and a sawmill. This complex became the center of a prosperous industrial and agricultural community. A popular recreational site, Silver Lake began supplying water to Dayton and Harrisonburg in the 20th century. The 104-acre district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sponsor: Silver Lake Bicentennial Committee
Locality: Rockingham County
Proposed Location: 2110 Silver Lake Road, Dayton
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Contest Winners
Dr. W. W. Yen (1877-1950)
W.W. Yen (also known as Yan Huiqing), Chinese diplomat and political leader, was born in Shanghai. He graduated in 1900 from the University of Virginia as the first international student to earn a bachelor of arts degree and the first Chinese student to earn a degree. In part because of his elite social class, he was welcome during a time of widespread anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. In the 1920s, Yen served the Republic of China as foreign minister and as prime minister, and he was briefly acting president in 1926. In the 1930s, he was ambassador to the U.S., representative to the League of Nations, and China’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Education
Proposed Location: Yen House at University of Virginia
Kim Kyusik (1881-1950)
Kim Kyusik, leader in the Korean independence movement, was born in southern Korea and graduated from Roanoke College in 1903. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, Kim served the Provisional Korean Government based in China as secretary of foreign affairs, and later as minister of education and vice president. He advocated Korean independence at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, promoted the Korean cause in the U.S. as chair of the Korean Commission, and helped organize the Korean National Revolutionary Party in China. After World War II, Kim opposed permanent partition of Korea into North and South. He was kidnapped by the North Korean army during the Korean War and died in captivity.
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Education
Proposed Location: on campus of Roanoke College
Arthur Azo Matsu (1904-1987)
Art Matsu, renowned football player, was the first Asian American student to graduate from William & Mary. A four-year starter at quarterback (1923–1926), he earned a national reputation while guiding William & Mary's powerful offense. As team captain during his senior year, he led the program to its first postseason win. The son of a Scottish mother and a Japanese father, Matsu was a prominent leader on campus even as Virginia passed a series of laws in the 1920s to prevent “race mixing.” In 1928, he became the first player of Japanese descent in the National Football League. From 1931 until the mid-1950s, he taught physical education and coached football at Rutgers University.
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Education
Proposed Location: on campus at William & Mary
Filipinos in the U.S. Navy
Filipinos, who had served in the U.S. Navy as early as the Civil War, began enlisting in larger numbers after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained independence in 1946, and an agreement negotiated the next year allowed the U.S. Navy to recruit Filipino nationals. Over the next four decades, about 35,000 Filipinos served in the Navy, initially as stewards and mess attendants. Eligible to serve in all enlisted and officer positions by the 1970s, they later rose to the Navy’s highest ranks. Filipino American communities often developed near naval bases; one of the nation’s largest such communities is here in Hampton Roads.
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Education
Locality: Virginia Beach
Proposed Location: near Philippine Cultural Center at 4857 Baxter Road
Vietnamese Immigrants in Northern Virginia
Thousands of Vietnamese refugees immigrated to the U.S. after the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in April 1975. Proximity to Washington, D.C., made Arlington a popular location for settlement. A vibrant enclave of businesses, known as Little Saigon, arose in the Clarendon neighborhood and became a social and commercial hub for the community. Climbing rents in the 1980s displaced these businesses, and many relocated to Eden Center. Modeled on market districts in Vietnam, Eden Center grew to include more than 120 shops and restaurants. A regional gathering place for Vietnamese Americans, it became the largest source of Vietnamese goods on the East Coast.
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Education
Locality: Falls Church
Proposed Location: near Eden Center
Camp Alkulana, one of Virginia’s oldest residential summer camps, was established in 1915 and moved here in 1917. Nannie Crump West, a social reformer who directed a settlement house in Richmond under the auspices of that city’s Baptist Woman’s Missionary Circle, founded the camp to provide the benefits of outdoor recreation to girls from urban, working-class families. Swimming, hiking, cave exploring, crafts, and religious services afforded the campers leisure, adventure, practical skills, and spiritual growth. The camp’s Rustic-style buildings blended with the environment and encouraged closeness with nature. Boys began attending about 1950, and the camp was racially desegregated in 1968.
Locality: Bath County
Proposed Location: Route 39/42 near entrance to camp
Earl Francis Lloyd (1928-2015)
Earl Lloyd, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, grew up on this block, attended the segregated Parker-Gray High School, and graduated from West Virginia State College. On 31 Oct. 1950, as a member of the Washington Capitols, he became the first African American to play in a National Basketball Association game. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he played for the Syracuse Nationals, which won the NBA championship in 1955. Lloyd, known for his defense and rebounding, ended his playing career in 1960 with the Detroit Pistons. He became the NBA’s first African American assistant coach (1960) and fourth African American head coach (1971), both with the Pistons.
Proposed Location: near 1020 Montgomery Street