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  • Joyce Heritage

Joyces of Virginia: A Narrative on Robert Lee Joyce (1865-1943) and Family

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

The Joyce descendants of Horse pasture, Henry County, Virginia, like their cousins in nearby North Carolina, have a rich cultural history. Buried in the traditions of times now past, their roots stem from a pastoral, farming style life. Documented by Helen Baker Joyce before her passing in 1993, the details of this way of life are available for examination. Focused on her upbringing within the family of Robert lee Joyce and his wife, Lucy Ann Kelly, it is preserved here for future generations.


A son of Thomas Joyce (Crowing Tom), (1813-1893), and Martha Hill (1828-1866), Robert Lee Joyce's (1865-1943) responsibilities were similar to that of his father's. As the head of the household, he and his wife, Lucy Ann Kelly, understood the necessity of daily chores. Whether it was mending clothes, white washing the cabin walls, or getting wheat ground at the local mill, all were essential for survival. Although, the most important activity was providing food for his family.


The cabin where Robert Lee Joyce and Lucy Ann Kelly raised their family

Walking two miles to his farm, Robert Lee Joyce (1865-1943) and his older children grew a large variety of fruit. After which, they "dried, preserved, and canned" most of it. Growing produce; however, was not their only source of food. Responsible for raising "hogs, chickens, turkeys, and cows," they certainly provided for themselves.


The income earned by Robert Lee Joyce and his family was also dependent on selling tobacco. Like his father, and grandparents, Thomas Joyce (1771-1842) and Nancy Joyce (1774-1849), growing this cash crop was crucial to the southern way of life. So much so, that it was his main source of income.


Selling vegetables, fruits, and tobacco at the local country store, he was able to support his twelve children. However, as they matured and found work outside the farm, Robert Lee Joyce watched as they established their own families. At this time, one can imagine the memories on which he reflected. From helping Annis Virginia Joyce, Charlie Otis Joyce, Edward Joyce, Elsie Joyce, George Thomas Joyce, Grace Joyce, Harvey Joyce, Helen Joyce, Mamie Joyce, Mary Lillie Joyce, and William Everett Joyce sweat in the hot sun as they harvested tobacco to watching them walk one mile to school, he knew he had instilled in them a hard work-ethic. By his death in 1943, he rested easy with the knowledge that they had acquired the appropriate skills sets for 20th Century, Henry County, Virginia.