In 1868, he declared that “The governments of the States and their union were made for the white man, and I will oppose all attempts to give political power, suffrage, or office to the colored men…the colored people should be satisfied and content with their present position, but for them to demand and grasp at more, would be unwise, imprudent and dangerous.” He would soon change his mind after the Fifteenth Amendment passed which granted Black men the right to vote.
The former Confederates were bitterly opposed to Caldwell, who was first elected Mayor in 1869. Caldwell would be forced to defend the legitimacy of his election multiple times as he was also the voter Registrar of Greenbrier County. In April 1870, his election was declared illegal and he was forced to concede the office to former Mayor Oliver P. Hoover until a vote could be held. However, the political landscape had shifted dramatically with the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. The Republican and Democratic Party both sought the vote of the 147 eligible Black men in Greenbrier County. The Democratic meeting on April 16, held by Robert F. Dennis and Alexander F. Mathews, was likely not a success. In this meeting, the Democrats declared that Black people should “not denounce slavery [as] it was your best earthly friend” echoing the idea that Black Americans benefited from the “civilizing” influence of slavery. They threatened that if Black men vote for the Republicans “we will then see that you are our enemies…and you will suffer by it.” Despite this threat, Black men in Greenbrier County voted for the Republican candidates who supported their civil rights.
On June 4, 1870, Joseph F. Caldwell was elected Mayor and three Black men, Jaben Holmes, Jordan Davis, and Stephen Gardner were elected as Trustees. Holmes, Davis, and Gardner were wealthy, educated, leaders of the Black community in Lewisburg and were chosen by that community for political office. Jaben Holmes, free before the Civil War, was a successful barber in Lewisburg. He was the wealthiest of all three men at the age of fifty. Jordan Davis was a successful brick mason who lived in Lewisburg with his wife and daughter. Stephen Gardner was fifty-three years old when he was elected Trustee and lived with his wife Fanny in Lewisburg.  Gardner was a farmer and, according to family lore, bred and sold horses.
After the June election, the backlash against Black voters was swift and harsh. One newspaper article declared that “now, these, same colored men are utterly dependent upon Conservatives and Democrats for the bread that goes into their months, and the clothing that goes on their backs. The white people have always treated the colored people with kindness and respect...And this is their return; the very first opportunity that is presented, these colored men force old Joe Caldwell on us as Mayor. It was a cool, deliberate and premediated outrage.”
Former Mayor Hoover charged that the election was illegal for three reasons: Caldwell was not a freeholder (an eligible man who could hold office), the Black voters were not legal because they had not taken the preliminary steps for registration required by law, and third that the law requires for the Mayor to be a fit and proper man and that Caldwell was “notoriously unfit and notoriously improper.” This act was a blatant attempt to disenfranchise Black voters and a refusal to accept that the election was legitimate. The former politically powerful Confederates were furious that Black voters were allowed to vote while they could not.
On July 30, 1870, Circuit Judge McWhorter ruled in their favor again and declared that Caldwell was not the legal Mayor of Lewisburg. Hoover was restored to the position. Two weeks later, on August 13, 1870, Caldwell was arrested by Hoover, who also happened to be the Deputy United States Marshall. Caldwell, who also served as Registrar of Lewisburg, was accused by two men, Bedford Johnson and Dr. J. L. Nelson, who declared that Caldwell denied their voter registration. The men took the loyalty oath that they had not aided the Confederacy, but Caldwell believed that they were lying and had committed perjury. Hoover went to Caldwell’s house to arrest him, but Caldwell refused to go with him. Hoover then gathered “a number of citizens to aid him” and forced entry. Caldwell eventually yielded before the incited mob.
At a special election on August 20, Caldwell was elected Mayor again and Jordan Davis, Stephen Gardner, and James Cox (a white career political who refused the position two months earlier) became Trustees. Jaben Holmes was nominated as a Republican Delegate for Greenbrier County for the State Convention at Parkersburg and the Congressional Convention at Charleston. This position may have been why he was not elected Trustee again. Despite the second legitimate election, Hoover and other white citizens continued to challenge the election.
After the special election, The Greenbrier Independent again lashed out against Black voters and their Republican supporters. The article declared that the Republicans “showed their…dirty, unwashed and uncleanable hands. On that day they met in the Court-house of the county, in full social and political fellowship with the blackest of black negroes…Having done this, these white Radicals went home…to the embraces of their white wives and white children. Surely, those white wives and white children did not know…or their embraces would have been rejected. Many of these men have daughters—fair-skinned, innocent, marriageable daughters, who are, doubtless, ignorant of the fact that their fathers have taken the first step for furnishing them with negro-admirers and suitors…white woman of greenbrier! You, at least, are yet pure and undefiled by the contamination of negro associations. How do you like the appearance of things?”
The case over the Mayor was not decided that year and both men and their Trustees continued to claim to be legitimate into 1871. The Greenbrier Independent declared that a “town of one thousand inhabitants is governed by two or three white men [illegible] sixty negroes, none of them paying any tax—not even a poll tax—while all property holders are gagged, is an outrage.” In fact, many of the Black residents of Lewisburg owned property in town and paid their taxes. In February, Caldwell’s trouble continued when he was accused of stealing money from the town of Lewisburg. There was not a court case so this accusation seemed to be speculation.
Then on March 4, 1871, a new levy was ordered by the Board of Trustees. The article did not mention the purpose of the tax. On the same day, The Greenbrier Independent posted this notice: “We, the undersigned, acting Trustees for the Corporation of Lewisburg, are not pleased with the recent actions of Dr. J. F. Caldwell, who was to be the present Mayor. We, therefore, present our resignation and decline to act with him, and will not endorse any order or summons sent by him in the name of the Corporation of Lewisburg. Jordan Davis; Stephen Gardner.” Gardner and Davis resigned in protest because of the levy. However, it is undeniable that they would have faced resentment and danger from their daring to hold political office over white men. The most widely read newspaper, The Greenbrier Independent, made clear the widespread anger towards Black voters. With the resignation of Stephen Gardner and Jordan Davis, there would not be another Black Trustee (later renamed City Council Member) until the election of Paul Cooley in 1970.
Only Stephen Gardner remained in politics after resigning as Trustee. He was appointed as a State Delegate of the Republican State Convention in 1876. Reconstruction marked a brief moment where the Federal Government was committed to interracial democracy and civil rights for all men. Unfortunately, in 1876, Reconstruction failed and the rise of the Jim Crow era began.
In 1875, The Greenbrier Independent made a report on civil rights in Lewisburg. The article stated that the Black population “are orderly and quiet, and behave themselves in a becoming manner…The exception applies, principally, to those who are stragglers from their old homes and who would be worthless, lazy, thievish and good-for-nothings…There are numbers, however, who are old residenters, who respect themselves, are industrious and laborious and who know and feel their true position.” Despite the claim that its Black citizens know their subservient place in the social hierarchy, the Black community continued to advocate for their political rights and equality. Two years later, the paper took note of a meeting of the Black voters of Lewisburg.
The City Council remained out of reach until 1970, exactly one hundred years later, when Paul Cooley was elected. Cooley was the first Black Lewisburg City Council Member since Holmes, Davis, and Gardner.
In 2003, Beverly White was elected as the first Black Woman Lewisburg City Council Member and after sixteen years of serving the city, she was elected as Lewisburg’s first Black Mayor in 2019. Arron Seams, also a Black City Council Member, was appointed to fill a vacancy and soundly defended his seat in 2019. He is one of the youngest people ever elected. Holmes, Gardner, and Davis’ success and brief political power represent how Reconstruction was a moment of Black progress before widespread backlash and oppression overpowered the nation leading to the Jim Crow era. Though a brief moment in history, their fight for political power is represented in today’s Lewisburg City Council.
 1850 U.S. Census, Greenbrier County, Virginia, slave schedule, Not Stated, p.41, slave owner Joseph G Caldwell, digital image, http://ancestry.com.
 J. R. Cole, History of Greenbrier County, (Lewisburg, WV: J. R. Cole, 1917), 16; Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Lewisburg, 1849 to 1871, Greenbrier Historical Society, Lewisburg, West Virginia, 221-265.
 “A Card,” The Greenbrier Independent, August 29, 1868.
 Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Lewisburg, 1849 to 1871, Greenbrier Historical Society, Lewisburg, West Virginia, 249.
 “A Flash in the Pan,” The Greenbrier Independent, April 30, 1870.
 “Colored Meetings, The Greenbrier Independent, April 23, 1870.
 Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Lewisburg, 1849 to 1871, Greenbrier Historical Society, Lewisburg, West Virginia, 255.
 Registry of Free People of Color: Greenbrier Co., (West) Virginia, 1846-1864, (Lewisburg, WV: Greenbrier County Historical Society, 2006).
 1870 U.S. Census, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, population schedule, Lewisburg, p.15, dwelling 94, Fabian Holmes, digital image, http://ancestry.com.
 1870 U.S. Census, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, population schedule, Lewisburg, p.19, dwelling 119, Pordan Davis, digital image, http://ancestry.com.
 1870 U.S. Census, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, population schedule, Lewisburg, p.18, dwelling 120, Stephen Gardner, digital image, http://ancestry.com.
 Edith E. Perkins Matthews, Perkins and Early Related Families African Americans: Part 1, (Edith E. Perkins, 1995), 71.
 “What They Have Done,” The Greenbrier Independent, June 11, 1870
 “Town Elections,” The Greenbrier Independent, June 11, 1870.
 “Old Joe Not Mayor,” The Greenbrier Independent, July 30, 1870.
 “J. F. Caldwell Arrested,” The Greenbrier Independent, August 13, 1870.
 “Resisting the Law,” The Greenbrier Independent, August 13, 1870.
 “The Radicals in Council—the Negroes and Bitter-Enders Rule—Outsiders Excluded—The Ku-Klux Out-Done,” The Greenbrier Independent, June 18, 1870.
 The Greenbrier Independent, September 10, 1870.
 “Then and Now,” The Greenbrier Independent, August 30, 1870.
 “A Special Election for Lewisburg,” The Greenbrier Independent, January 28, 1871.
 “To Joseph F. Caldwell,” The Greenbrier Independent, February 4, 1871; “J F. Caldwell’s Exhibits,” The Greenbrier Independent, February 25, 1871.
 “A Practical Question,” The Greenbrier Independent, March 4, 1871.
 “Another Muddle!” The Greenbrier Independent, March 4, 1871.
 The Greenbrier Independent, June 24, 1876.
 “Civil Rights in Lewisburg,” The Greenbrier Independent, March 13, 1875
 “Capital Meeting,” The Greenbrier Independent, July 21, 1877.
By Abi Smith - AmeriCorps Member
Above: 1939 Lewisburg Shanghai Parade
The Shanghai Parade is a major event each year in Lewisburg, attracting thousands of people to gather and celebrate the start of a new year. Despite its popularity, this New Years event is shrouded in mystery. When did it begin? Who started it? and How did it get the name Shanghai? To figure out more about the parade, I did a little digging. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was not alone in my questions. Previous research into the Shanghai Parade was conducted by long time Greenbrier Historical Society archivist Jim Talbert in the 1990’s and historian Dr. H.B. Graybill in the 1930’s. Using this previous work as a foundation, I began to dive into the history of the parade.
One of the earliest mentions of the Shanghai Parade in newspapers is found in an 1896 article from the Greenbrier Independent. It is evident that the Shanghai Parade was already in existence for several years by 1896, as the article describes it as “the annual parade.” This timeframe is further backed up by interviews with community members taken during the 1930’s. One such interview was conducted with local historian, Marcellus Zimmerman, shortly before his death in 1937. In the interview, Zimmerman says that he remembers the parade happening “his whole life.” Other community members interviewed during the 1930’s by Dr. Graybill agreed that the parade was in existence for most of their lives. These interviews, combined with early newspaper mentions, suggest that the parade began in the mid to late 19th century. Despite the longevity of the parade, it has not operated every year. The parade has paused for bad weather, war, and even lack of interest. One of the longest cessations of the parade was the twelve years it was suspended between 1963 and 1976.
The inconsistency of the parade’s operation is due in part to the uncoordinated format of the parade for most of its history. It was not until the mid-20th century that a committee was established to arrange the parade. Even after the creation of the parade committee, the Shanghai Parade lacked the formal arrangement of floats and marching bands. Instead, members of the public would simply gather in costume the day of the parade. This grassroots nature most likely comes from the original form of the parade. In early years, groups would gather and travel from house to house disguised in costumes to welcome the new year. These were known as the “shanghaiers” or chaos causers.
This theory is strengthened by the appearance of Shanghai parades in other areas that would have had similar immigrant populations. The first reference is found in the Staunton Vindicator from 1893 detailing “The two ‘Shanghai’ parades on our streets”. A more modern article from Staunton in 2010 features a picture of a Shanghai Parade in Middlebrook, VA from 1899 in a discussion on local Christmas traditions. A third reference to a Shanghai parade is in The Gastonia Gazette describing the Shanghai Parade in Dallas, NC for the year 1900. Similar traditions can also be seen in the mummers traditions found in Pennsylvania where large, elaborate costumes are used in New Year’s Day parades.
Costumes have always played a central role in the Shanghai antics. Originally, participants wore masks and large, old clothing as costumes in order to conceal the identity of the individuals participating in the escapades. Eventually these traditional costumes transformed into more modern costumes, with characters like Elvis or Little Red Riding Hood. The importance of the costumes has led to the creation of several iconic Shanghai Parade costumes including the New Year’s Baby, or one of my personal favorites, Col. Ford’s “sooper-dooper-pooper-scooper.”
Above: 1995 Shanghai Parade ft. Col. Ford as "sooper-dooper-pooper-scooper"
Although the exact history of Lewisburg’s Shanghai Parade may never be known, it is certainly a unique celebration to welcome in the new year. If you have any stories or images you would like to share of past Shanghai Parade’s, please feel free to contact us at the Greenbrier Historical Society.
By Debra Marquis-Cascio - Museum Associate
Scalawags were white southern Republicans who backed the policies of Reconstruction rather than opposed them. The term scalawag evolved over the mid-1800s first to describe a low valued animal, then a worthless person, and eventually to describe someone viewed as a traitor of the South. Some scalawags were established planters who thought that white men should recognize Black civil and political rights while still remaining in control of political and economic life at large. The majority of scalawags were non-slaveholding small farmers, merchants, and other professionals who had remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War.
At the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House Museum, we are fortunate to have on display two carpetbags that were used during Reconstruction. Many of today’s youth are not taught about the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags of the Civil War. Historical items such as our carpetbags are able to keep this history alive to young and old visitors alike.
Being a docent here at the museum, I am able to pass these stories along to those who do not know and it is a wonderful feeling to leave at the end of my day knowing that I passed on a part of history that may have been otherwise lost.
Walk through this museum and “listen” to the stories that come alive here. There is something to learn in every room, if you only keep your ears open!
Meet the staff of the North House! We're here at the museum daily giving tours, conquering your research requests, creating historical content for our readers, and SO much more. We took a break to get into the holiday spirit and share some of our favorite holiday tunes, movies, and treats.
Stop by the North House to see our friendly faces! You can take a guided tour of the house, or maybe browse one of our self-led exhibits. While you're here, check out our gift shop for some of your last-minute holiday shopping needs. The North House gift shop carries local artists’ prints, regional history books, local holiday ornaments and more! The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.. Save between 15% - 25% on gift shop purchases by becoming a member of GHS.
Have a safe and happy holiday season. Thanks for reading!
In the old days, girls wore bows to attract beaus. Now, packages and windows wear bows to attract customers and it seems to work.
Just why ribbon curled and tied into more-or-less ornate balls of fluff has an effect on sales of everything from neckties to fishing tackle is probably a mystery to the most profound student of human behavior. But the fact seems to be that it does, and such package decoration has become a commercial necessity.
If one candy manufacturer decorates his packages with bows, other manufacturers must follow suit or lose sales. The buying preferences of the feminine customer, a supreme power in retail merchandising, are probably responsible for this fact. It is no secret that milady gets a thrill from a frill.
Whatever the reason, businessmen do not argue with established facts, and they buy bows by the billions, in all colors, shapes, and sizes. They put them on packages containing products generally purchased by or for women. Women also buy the ready-made bows for do-it-yourself wrapping of gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions.
As manager of the A. W. Cox department store at the Gateway Shopping Center in St. Albans, E.L. Rabel, Sr., is acutely aware of the omni-presence of decorative bows in the merchandising business. It would be nice, he thought, if he could make a machine which could turn out thousands of bows an hour.
He actually did design such a bow-making machine, which made a type of bow called the “pom-pom,” but which required human hands in the final phase of manufacture. In recent years, however, the “pom-poms” have been fading in popularity, and Rabel yearned for a machine which could turn out complete bows rapidly and without human help.
There were machines which did the job, but none quite satisfied Rabel. He had ideas as to how such machines could be improved, but he was neither a machinist nor an inventor. His bow-making machine might have remained in the dream stage had he not read my article in the State Magazine about Alderson inventor Charles David Nash (“Alderson’s Professional Inventor,” Jan. 19, 1964.)
After reading the article, Rabel telephoned Nash and discussed his bow-making idea. Later, Nash visited Rabel in St. Albans.
“Look,” said the latter, I’ve been in the department-store business for a lot of years. The market for these bows has a tremendous potential. Further-more, because of my long experience, I have some valuable business connections. Do you think you could make such a machine?”
Charles David Nash said he could try. Back in his Alderson machine shop, he went to work. In six weeks he had a machine that would make bows.
“It wasn’t a very good machine at first,” Nash told me in a recent interview, “but it would make bows, and we ran it for about six months, making improvements. We still have it, and that’s it outside in our booth.”
Nash and Rabel had a booth at the recent West Virginia State Fair at Lewisburg, with a machine busily making bows, looking, as Nash put it, “like a mechanical goose.”
Three other machines followed the pilot model, and all are now operating in Nash’s shop at Alderson. All but the pilot model are “staple” machines. That is, in addition to making bows of various sizes and types, they also automatically staple adhesive-backed platforms to the bases of the bows, so they may be stuck on any surface without muss or fuss.
The pilot model is a “pin” type, which simply pins the bow at the base so that it retains its shape, the customer supplying his own adhesive or other method of attachment. With an accessory mechanism, however, this early machine converts to the “staple” type.
The bow-making operation has now become the most important part of Charles David Nash’s Alderson business. Incorporated as Ready Made Bows, Inc., with E.L. Rabel, Sr. as president and Nash as vice-president, the firm will put out a minimum of two million bows this year, which, at an average price of $25 a thousand, represents a $50,000 gross.
And this is only the beginning. The A.W. Cox chain of department stores, not surprisingly, became Ready Made Bows’ first customer. The Diamond department store is also a bow purchaser, as is the Leggett-Belk chain in the South. The largest single client today is the Gibson Greeting Card Co. of Cincinnati, which has just placed a large Christmas order for packaged bows to be sold in association with their cards.
Nash’s machine is not the first of its kind by any means.
“But,” says the West Point engineering graduate, “our machine produces more than twice as fast as any other. It takes only one person to supervise two operating machines. The pin machine makes about 1,300 bows an hour, and the staple type, with the adhesive, about 800.”
Rabel, looking out for the sales end of the product of Nash’s inventive mind, is optimistic about the future.
“So far,” the department store manager said, “our sales outlets are local and regional. But we expect to get clients on a nation-wide basis, and this can mean big business.”
If it works out it will mean the first big financial break for Charles David Nash, the jolly Alderson inventor. But he is not putting all his eggs in one bow-covered basket. His latest invention is a contrivance which keeps fresh water in a basin at all times, and is at the same time removable and easy to keep clean.
“It will be used,” Nash said, “in dog runs or kennels. Save a lot of work.”
So Nash easily turns his attention from bows to Bowser. Even if his business goes to the dogs, he’ll still be making money.