Bringing perspective to Chesterfield life through lecture series

By Roger Walk
Contributing Writer

The second presentation in a series of Chesterfield Historical Society lectures “The Old Trolley Cars of Richmond,” local historian and book author, Kitty Snow, shared a unique set of photographs, which  shows the public transportation system in Richmond and Manchester to Chesterfield in the early 20th century.

The Chesterfield Historical Society’s Annual “Winter Lecture Series” brings, for the 7th year,  historical perspective to our modern life in Chesterfield.

Ms. Snow explained passionately that her “great-grandfather, Harris H. Stilson, who was a local “motorman” (streetcar driver), took thousands of photographs while driving along the streets of Richmond.” The most southern streetcar line reached across the James to Manchester, which was at that time part of Chesterfield County. Snow inherited a large collection of Stilson’s photographs, negatives, and even movies that tell the story of life in Richmond between 1909 and 1934.

One streetcar spur led from Manchester south through Chesterfield to Petersburg. Leaving Jefferson Davis Highway at what is now Chester Road, the trolley continued south to Chester where it crossed what is now the CSX rail roadtracks, snaking through Chester and continuing down what is now Harrowgate Road to Petersburg.

In addition to telling the story of her great-grandfather and his times in local lectures, Snow shares an increasing number of Stilson’s rich inheritance of images with local communities through her website www.richmondinsight.com. She has also published a selection of Stilson’s photos in two books to date:  “From a Richmond Streetcar - Life through the Lens of Harris Stilson,” and last October a second picture book entitled “On the West Clay Line”.

The photographs in those books show unique historical events such as the parade of the African-American troops returning from France after World War I or the daily life along the streetcar tracks during the early 20th century. Both books were on display at the CHSV lecture last week.

In collaboration with VCU, Snow is currently digitizing and researching the huge collection that came with handwritten journals identifying the events, dates, persons, and sites that are preserved in the photographs and movies. Her continuing work on this rich historical treasure is aimed to contribute even more to understanding the rich history of our region, thereby bringing perspective to modern Chesterfield life.

Every second Friday evening at 7 p.m. from January through March 21, local experts share their knowledge and stories at Community Hall, Lucy Corr Village, 6800 Lucy Corr Blvd.

This year’s lecture series covers topics such as the results of recent archeological excavations at Historic Jamestown that tell the story of survival cannibalism on March 21;  local history of the civil war including the story of the Appomattox River Raid with little known facts of the first ever deployment of a U.S. submarine to a combat area on March 7; the military career and family life of World War II legend General Douglas MacArthur on January 10; the history of Forest Hill and Springhill on February 7; the history and future plans for the Chesterfield County Airport on February 21 and the history of local streetcar transportation held last week.

For more information please call 796-7121.

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