Brian CoffieldPresidents Letter

President’s Letter – May 20, 2020

Brian Coffield
VC&NS President

Hello everyone,

With so many things still being closed and our normal lives on a temporary hold, I’m really pleased to be able to share all the great things that we have accomplished in the last eight months!

Last fall we began moving our canal basin dig artifacts from Kittiewan Plantation to the Batteau House. We were able to move the boxed artifacts relatively easily, and the next push will be the large items that include the hull of a canal boat. The moving of the artifacts brought to light our need for more storage at Batteau House. We began a series of work days to create more storage and to make general repairs to the house and the property. This project, like the Kittiewan project, is not completed but much was accomplished thanks to the hard work of many volunteers. Another project arising out of the canal basin dig is the preservation of the wood from the batteaux found there, that is currently being stored at the Pump House in Richmond. Lyle Browning, our VCNS archaeologist, is making plans and taking steps to get this project underway.

With the storage issue being a large obstacle to overcome, the construction of a large barn has been a topic of discussion at many recent board meetings. Dr. Trout has made a generous donation to the VCNS to fund the construction and Ralph Smith volunteered to lead the building committee, and this project is now in motion. Plans have been agreed on, a contract has been signed, and construction of our 3000 square foot barn will begin soon. Moving on to other news…

In February, we had a Community Tap Night fundraiser at the James River Brewery. It was a weeknight and it was raining, but we still managed to raise approximately $1000.00.  Again, this was thanks to volunteers and also to those who donated items for a silent auction held as part of the event.

Another area where we have seen an increase in funds coming in, is sales. It appears that with people staying home more, perhaps they are reading more, as our online store sold $500.00 in books and atlases in April alone and is trending to do the same or more in May.

The membership year is coming to an end and renewal notices have been sent out. Please consider that this work is done manually and the cost, including postage, is about $1.00 each.  In other words, we just spent hundreds of dollars and many volunteer hours on membership renewals.  Rather than waiting for an in-person opportunity to renew your membership, please send in your renewal (you can also renew at the online store at We  really could use new members as well, so anything you can do to help with getting new members would be appreciated. If you have membership questions please email Terry Zimmerman –

The 2020 Tiller magazine will be sent out in the Fall of this year. It will be a 35th anniversary edition for the James River Batteau Festival and will consist mostly of photos. We are looking for photographs from past years’ festivals, the older the better. If you have any you would like to see included, contact our Tiller editor Laura McFarland at  Make sure to include who took the photo and a caption (Who is in the photo, what they are doing, and which year’s festival it’s from).

Finally, we are getting close to the start of this year’s batteau festival. As of now, we still plan to hold it. It will begin as planned in Lynchburg on Saturday, June 20. However, there will not be a ceremony at Percival’s Island. Andrew will be sending out updates to the JRBF mailing list, information will be posted on the  website, and there will also be updates on the JRBF Facebook page.

There are many ways to be involved, and if you would like to participate in activities or volunteer, please contact me directly at Some of our volunteer opportunities can even be fulfilled from your own home.