Recently, I drove to the Library of Virginia in Richmond to do some research for a couple of projects I was working on, including a story I posted last week about the Mamie Feimster murder.

Because road trips are no fun by yourself, and because having someone to yell directions at you from the passenger seat also is a plus, I invited my sister, Theresa, along.

Neither of us had ever been to the Library of Virginia before, so the first thing we had to do was get Library of Virginia cards. It was easy — and free, always good — and took just a few minutes.

After that, we were directed to a research room, where I used my card to request some records. While Theresa watched videos on her smart phone, including this one of a cute monkey eating a watermelon, I did some research.

First, I looked at papers from the Virginia Penitentiary, where I hoped to find information about Lythia Brown Buckwalter, who murdered Mamie Feimster and was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

I heard she escaped sometime near the end of her sentence, but I didn’t find any evidence of that.

Admittedly, I later discovered that Buckwalter served only seven of the 16 years, so I might have been looking in the wrong date range. By that time, however, the records had been re-filed.

I also was getting “hangry” and needed to eat something before I did one more second of research — or ripped someone’s head from their shoulders (not literally, of course).

The other thing I was looking for that day were Lynchburg coroner’s inquests from the late 1800s. A box of these records is in the library’s collection. Inside, I hoped to find mention of the Court Street Baptist Church tragedy, which I blogged about recently.

Alas, I came up empty handed there, too.

After having some lunch in the library’s cafe, Theresa and I thought we’d head over to the Virginia Historical Society, where I had other research to do.

The research concerns William Macon Waller, an Amherst County, Va., slave owner who walked about two dozen of his slaves to Natchez, Miss., in 1847-48. I haven’t blogged specifically about Waller yet, although he was mentioned in this post about the Virginia Dwarf Family, a family of traveling performers he encountered in Wythe County, Va., en route to Mississippi.

Upon arriving at the historical society, however, we learned it would be open for only two more hours that day. Nathaniel Philbrick, author of one of my favorite books, “In the Heart of the Sea,” would be appearing there that evening and so the library was closing at 4 p.m.

Because the historical society charges a research fee and I had a full day’s worth of work to do, I decided it would be better to come back when I could get more bang for my buck.

There were Dale Chihuly sculptures behind the art museum.

With a couple of hours left before we had to head back to Lynchburg, Theresa and I walked next door to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I’d never been there before and admission was — yippee! — free.

We walked around the museum for a while, admiring the artwork and decorative items. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we spent most of it looking at American art from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We also saw that a Faberge exhibit was opening the next week, giving me another reason to return to Richmond soon.

Sugar Shack Donuts, AKA Doughnut Heaven

On our way out of town, we stopped by Sugar Shack Donuts. Theresa had read about Sugar Shack online and I can never resist a good doughnut. My husband, John, and I have been known to drive two or three hours out of our way to go to Ralph’s Donuts, in Cookeville, Tenn. Ralph’s has an excellent maple-frosted cake doughnut.

We went to Sugar Shack’s original shop on North Lombardy Street in Richmond. The outside is unassuming — a painted stucco building on a crowded corner with limited parking — but inside was a glorious assortment of doughnuts.

According to the friendly staff, Sugar Shack doesn’t post a menu because the offerings change every 15 minutes. That day, there were dozens of different kinds available, among them pumpkin and chocolate cake, “Tastes like a Samoa” (it does), and doughnuts with candy bar and cereal toppings.

Theresa and I each ordered a half-dozen to take home, and somehow, they survived the two-hour drive before I ate any of them. Once home, between me and John, they were gone within 12 hours. Next time, I’m coming home with a dozen.

2 thoughts on “Richmond Road Trip: Research and Doughnuts

  1. Good information. On your next trip to the Library of Virginia, be sure to check its hours. The Govetnor had just cut their already tight staff by 15+ positions, effective November 1! They will probably have to close one day a week.


    1. Thanks for the tip! I also got the impression that the VHS only recently started charging. They said I could pay $20 for the day or $50 for a researcher membership for the year. I’m not sure which one I’ll do when I go back (probably the $50, and if it’s Jan-Dec yearly, I’ll probably just wait to go till January). I wish I’d gone before they started charging, but I guess it’s for a good cause. It’ll be worth the money when the book comes out! 🙂


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