Minnie Lee May McGehee, Rest in Peace

Minnie Lee May McGehee
Feb. 22, 1924 – Nov. 21, 2019

“We have come to an end of an era”,
said Bill Trout upon hearing the sad news
of  Minnie Lee McGehee’s passing.

We are sad to announce the passing of VC&NS Lifetime Member, Mrs. Minnie Lee McGehee.

Minnie Lee was a lifetime member of the VC&NS. She wrote many articles for The Tiller and wrote many books while also helping Bill Trout and others with countless publications and Canal Society projects. She especially loved the Rivanna River and Fluvanna County. 

Doris Edmund McGehee accepted the Lifetime Achievement award for Minnie Lee at the Annual Meeting of the VC&NS in 2013.

Please see the article written for The Tiller in 2014 when Minnie Lee received her lifetime achievement award from the VC&NS. (Click here to download the Spring 2014 issue of The Tiller.)

Overton McGehee (L), with Minnie Lee McGehee (R) onboard the batteau “Fluvanna” during the James River Batteau Festival years ago.
Minnie Lee McGehee (L), Nancy Trout (R) volunteering with the VC&NS tent at Howardsville during a James River Batteau Festival many years ago.

Minnie Lee loved the James River Batteau Festival and helped with the VC&NS booth for many years.

(From L. to R.), Mason Basten, Katy Basten, Minnie Lee McGehee, Nancy Trout, Bill Trout in Minnie Lee’s Home Office.
Minnie Lee McGehee in her home.



Minnie Lee May McGehee passed away November 21, 2019.  She follows her parents:  James Franklin May, Sr. and Sarah Jennie Garner May, her siblings Mary Frances Blodgett, Sarah Josephine Marshall, James Franklin May, Jr. and Samuel Stanley May and her husband Henry Corr McGehee.   She is survived by her brother John H. May: his wife Mary Beth May; her children: Betty McGehee, Doris Edmund McGehee, William Overton McGehee, his wife Theresa Carroll, granddaughters Mary Garner McGehee and Eva Jane McGehee and four generations of nephews and nieces. 

Minnie Lee was born on a farm at Carysbrook, February 22, 1924. She attended Judy Creek School and Fluvanna County High School.  She earned an associate degree in business at Madison College in Harrisonburg.

She married U. S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd-Class Henry C. McGehee in March 1945.  Their first home was in Franklin, VA.  They came home to Fluvanna County in 1946 and joined Palmyra Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and led the MYF at various times.  She taught Typing and Shorthand at FCHS in 1946.

Minnie Lee was appointed to be the first county-wide voting registrar for Fluvanna.  After Virginia eliminated the poll tax in 1966, she had the privilege of registering many people who would vote for the first time.  She worked part-time for Fluvanna County Social Services in the 1940s, 1970s and 1980s. In her last tenure there, she was a Medicaid eligibility worker.

 Minnie Lee began writing about Fluvanna in feature articles during the 1960s, while news correspondent for the The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.

She was a founding member of Fluvanna Historical Society and helped create the Old Stone Jail Museum.  Over a period of 57 years, she researched and wrote 35 publications of the Fluvanna Historical Society and edited many others. She particularly enjoyed collaborating with her friends David W. C. Bearr and the late Ellen Miyagawa.

While a board member of the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society and active in the James River Batteau Festival, she compiled and edited a collection titled River Boat Echoes: Batteaux in Virginia.

In 2003 Minnie Lee wrote Mr. Jefferson’s River: the Rivanna, using years of research which she and her friend Dr. William E. Trout, III had done together on the river’s mills and navigation system.

In order to protect the natural beauty of the Rivanna and its well-preserved system of stone navigation locks, Minnie Lee contacted landowners along the river, appeared before the Virginia General Assembly and successfully petitioned to designate the Rivanna as the Commonwealth’s first Scenic River.

Henry and Minnie Lee enjoyed canoeing on the Rivanna and James Rivers and taking walks in the woods searching for wildflowers, old house sites, and forgotten cemeteries.

 An avid gardener, Minnie Lee enjoyed visiting English gardens when she traveled to the UK.   In recent years she concentrated on writing, enjoying her flower garden, reading and visiting with her granddaughters.

The family is especially grateful to Jack Bruce, Larry Bruce, Dr. Randolph Lanford and Rose Scott.                                                       

The family will receive visitors at:

Palmyra United Methodist Church
258 Palmyra Ln, Palmyra, VA 22963
6:00 to 8:30 on Friday, November 29.


A graveside service will be held at:

Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery
1633 Kent Store Way, Kents Store, VA 23084
at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 30.


 A reception will follow:

at the Wilmington Club, 1083 Wilmington Road.


In lieu of flowers, Minnie Lee would be pleased if donations were made in her memory to the Fluvanna Historical Society or the Virginia Canals & Navigations Society.