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Liskey Collection of Heavner Family Papers

Identifier: SC 0184
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Liskey Collection of Heavner Family Papers, 1788-1967, consists of one box (.4 cubic feet) of personal correspondence, business and personal financial records and various other items pertaining to the Heavner family. The documents were passed down through the matrilineal side of the Heavner family, much like the original Heavner home, where these documents were found. Documents were thus passed from William Heavner to his daughter Evaline (Heavner) Aubrey, to her daughter Dorcas (Aubrey) Breneman, to her daughter Mae (Breneman) Liskey, then to her son, Leon Liskey and his wife Judy. The collection remained in the possession of the Liskey family until the bulk of the papers were donated to Special Collections in November 2007. Family names of note that are seen throughout the collection are Brake, Dove, Hess, and Trumbo, among others. The collection is arranged chronologically in four series: Richard Hughes Estate Papers, Correspondence, Financial Papers, and General Miscellany.

Series One, Richard Hughes Estate Papers, 1788-1837, consists of three folders of documents regarding Hughes' personal business matters and legal transactions involving his estate. William Heavner, acting as executor, retained these documents after the estate was settled. Personal papers include the appraisal and bill of sale of household possessions, powers of attorney, and court summonses. A folder of Hughes' receipts includes general and tax receipts directly related to Hughes' estate. A folder of miscellaneous material from Hughes' estate includes agreements and papers concerning land and property, as well as various promissory notes and receipts from other individuals such as George Dove, Conrad Custer, Solomon Jones, and Henry Overley.

Series Two, Correspondence, 1852-1967, is arranged into four subseries, then chronologically. Letters to Evaline Aubrey, the Brenemans (also spelled Brenneman) and other members of the Heavner family figure most prominently; the remainder are miscellaneous letters, some with unknown senders and recipients. Hair clippings and hair art are present.

Letters to Evaline Aubrey span from 1868 until 1913. In addition to correspondence from family and friends, many of the letters addressed to her are from M.P. Trumbo and concern family property in Illinois, where her brother Wells had settled. Legal and estate issues are also represented.

Letters to and from J.R. Breneman, et al, date from 1904 until 1967, and primarily concern business interests; although family letters are also present. Several post cards are addressed to his daughter Mae from a trip Breneman took out West. Letters to his wife Dorcas are also filed here.

Correspondence of the Heavner family, 1852-1896, includes letters to William Heavner Sr., as well as a small number to and from Wells Heavner. Correspondence relating to Well's mother in law Catherine Hess, brother in law Nathan Hess, and others are also filed here chronologically.

Miscellaneous correspondence, 1861-1937, is a small series of letters from individuals who are either not directly related to the Heavners, or the letters are unsigned.

Series Three, Financial Papers, 1820-1947, are arranged topically as promissory notes, property documents, general receipts, tax receipts, and other financial documents, then chronologically. Promissory notes are small sheets or slips of paper that clearly state "I Promise to Pay" or "I bind myself to" for a specific amount of money to a specific person. Property documents pertain to ownership, transfer, and inheritance of property. These include land agreements, notice of land for sale, and the estate division of William Heavner Sr., to the Brake and Aubrey families. General receipts cover a wide range of household purchases and expenditures. Tax receipts largely represent personal property taxes paid for the family property in Rockingham County, as well as property owned in La Salle County, Illinois, which had passed to Evaline from her brother Wells' family. Of particular interest are receipts for taxes paid during the Civil War. Miscellaneous financial documents range in content from a note regarding a young boy's indentured service in 1847, an 1852 toll road account, and a 1907 probate inventory of Michael S. Wine's estate, with Breneman acting as administrator.

Series Four, General Miscellany, 1864-1925, consists of a wide array of items, such as greeting cards and ephemera, print material, recipes and home remedies, weaving patterns and fabric squares. Items of note are Mae Breneman's 1925 Shenandoah College graduation announcement, and undated obituaries for Lizzie E. Wittig and Ruby Heavner.

An item-level description is available here:


  • 1788-1967


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Information

The Heavner family has a long and rich history in the Shenandoah Valley. William Heavner (1787-1866) was born in present day Pendleton County, West Virginia to Joseph and Elizabeth Hevinor. William married Joanna Custer (1792-1862) in 1814, and shortly thereafter purchased 650 acres in the area now known as Fulks Run. The couple raised seven children: Wells, Delilah, Elizabeth, William Jr., Harvey, Julian (Julie Anne), and Evaline. In addition to farming, William operated a blacksmith shop on the family property. Heavner also served as executor of the estate of Richard Hughes, of whom little is known. Why Heavner was acting as executor on behalf of Hughes is unclear. Nonetheless, papers relating to Richard Hughes' estate remained in the custody of Heavner after Hughes' death.

Of the Heavner children, only three lived past the age of fifty: Wells (78), Julian (53) and Evaline (84). Wells (1815-1893) married Elizabeth Hess (1822-1875) around 1851, and with Elizabeth's mother Catherine, moved to Champaign County, Ohio, where Elizabeth's siblings had settled. They maintained contact with the Heavner family through correspondence, as over the years they moved further west. Julian (1824-1877) married Michael Brake in 1853 and settled in Hardy County. Evaline (1830-1914), the youngest daughter of William and Joanna, would become the matriarch of the Heavner estate.

Evaline married George W. Aubrey of Luney's Creek in what is now Hardy County, West Virginia in 1859. During the Civil War, George Aubrey joined the Union Army. He was captured in September 1861 and was incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, where he died in 1862. During that time, Evaline and her infant son, William Casper, moved back to the family home in Brocks Gap, where she gave birth to their daughter Dorcas. Evaline suffered several other losses that year: her brother, William Jr., died serving in the Confederate Army; her son, William Casper, died shortly thereafter of complications from croup; and she then suffered the loss of her mother. With her father in his seventies, Evaline thus took charge of the family farm, where she spent the remainder of her life with Dorcas and her family.

Dorcas Aubrey (1861-1946) married Jacob R. Breneman (1872-1953) in 1896. Following their honeymoon they moved into the Heavner family home to take over operations for Evaline. Breneman also was active in politics as a Democrat and served in the Virginia House of Delegates: 1926-1927, 1930-1931, and 1940-1945. Their daughter Mae (1903-1984)later married Robert D. Liskey (1903-1967). They were the parents of Mr. Leon Liskey, one of the donors of this collection, and are buried, as are the Brenemans, in Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

For a more detailed genealogical account see Judy Ruleman Liskey's When This You See, Think of Me! and With Pen in Hand: Buttons and Beaux. Both texts provide a history of the Heavner family, photographs, and correspondence that supplement this collection.


0.4 cubic feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The Liskey Collection of Heavner Family Papers, 1788-1967, consists of one box (.4 cubic feet) of personal correspondence, business and personal financial records, and various other items pertaining to the William Heavner family, documented through the maternal side: William Heavner, Evaline Heavner Aubrey, Dorcas Aubrey Breneman (also spelled Brenneman), and Mae Breneman Liskey. Other names represented are Hughes, Brake, Dove, Hess, and Trumbo, among others. The collection is arranged chronologically in four series: Richard Hughes Estate Papers, Correspondence, Financial Papers, and General Miscellany.


This collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Richard Hughes Estate Papers, 1788-1837
  2. Correspondence, 1852-1967
  3. Financial Papers, 1820-1947
  4. General Miscellany, 1864-1925


The collection was found in the eighteenth century home of the donors.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Leon and Judy Liskey in November 2007.

Location of Originals

Documents cited in publications not extant in this collection may have been retained by the donor.


  • Brock, Robert L. 47 Pioneer Families of Rockingham County, Virginia. Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1997.
  • "Harrisonburg Rockingham Historical Society, Rockingham County Tombstones by Cemetery, Woodbine Cemetery."
  • Liskey, Judy Ruleman. Brocks Gap Missives: Personal Letters to a Young Lady in the Nineteenth Century, 1878 & 1879, 1880. Fulks Run (Va.): Judy Ruleman Liskey, [19--?]
  • Liskey, Judy Ruleman. Brocks Gap Missives: Personal Letters to a Young Lady in the Nineteenth Century, 1881, 1882. Fulks Run (Va.): Judy Ruleman Liskey, [19--?]
  • Liskey, Judy Ruleman. My Sweet Valley Home: Rockingham County, Virginia, Personal Correspondence from October 16, 1876 to January 16, 1888. [Fulks Run Va.: J. R. Liskey], 1991.
  • Liskey, Judy Ruleman. When This You See, Think of Me! [S.I.:s.n.], c1990.
  • Liskey, Judy Ruleman. With Pen in Hand: Buttons and Beaux. [S.I.]:Judy Ruleman Liskey, c2006.
  • "Virginia General Assembly."

Processing Information

In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 5006.



A Guide to the Liskey Collection of Heavner Family Papers, 1788-1967
Heather Browne
March 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2013-11-21: Converted to schema conforming EAD by dtd2schema.vh.xsl.

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612