RESTORATION OF YORK COUNTY COURT RECORDS
During the first year of the founding of the Yorktown Branch of the Association of the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (1921) the Branch initiated a program to preserve York County Court records (which date back to 1633). Appeals for funding support were made to the Library of Congress and the New York Historical Association with no success. When state aid was sought, the state office suggested that the records be sent to the Virginia State Library. The Branch would not agree; with Mr. Conway H. Sheild, Circuit Court Judge, remarking that, “As long as I am alive the records will remain in York County.” When another effort was made in 1928 to have the old records sent to the State Library, the Branch again protested.
The need for restoration of the old records was publicized at the 1922 State Conference of the Virginia Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution held in Yorktown. Due to this effort, the Daughters of 1812 financed a volume, as did the Virginia Society of American Colonists, and the Colonial Dames in the State of Virginia. Later the York County Board of Supervisors underwrote a volume and John D. Rockefeller restored a record in appreciation for the assistance given him by the Branch during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. The Yorktown Preservation Society continues the financing of restoration and preservation of selected records.
Through the years preservation of county court records has been a priority of Branch activity. In reality, the preservation of York County Court records began in 1861. Bolivar Sheild, County Court Clerk, noting the approach of McClellan’s army, removed all court records and loaded them on a wagon to take them to Richmond for safe keeping. On the way he learned that he would encounter Federal Troops, so he turned the wagon toward the river, put the records on a sloop, sailed up the York River to the Mattaponi and placed them in an ice house near the River. At the end of the war the records were returned to Yorktown. The Branch honored him with a plaque in the County Clerk’s Office.
The County records of most other Counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia were transported to Richmond. During the Civil War and the attacks on Richmond, most of the records were destroyed, leaving the York County records as the few records remaining from the early 1600’s.