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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Death Comes to Hickory Point

     When John and Jennie Coleman were murdered at their home in Spotsylvania on the evening of April 2, 1935, their deaths shocked and outraged citizens throughout the region. Because of their deep roots in the area's history and their many familial ties to local persons of prominence, the news of their violent deaths and the events that occurred in the aftermath of that sad event made front-page news in The Free Lance-Star over the next ten months.
     To tell their story, I will begin with Thomas C. Chandler and his wife Clementina Alsop, the grandparents of Jennie Chandler Coleman. Thomas, a well-to-farmer from Caroline County, married Clementina, a native of Spotsylvania, on September 20, 1825. Clementina's father, Samuel Alsop, Jr., gave the Oakley farm and the fine house he built there as a wedding gift to the couple. Located on Catharpin Road near Corbin's Bridge, this property included several hundred acres and would be home to the Chandlers for fourteen years.

Oakley in 1935 (Francis Benjamin Johnston)
     During their time at Oakley, Thomas and Clementina Chandler became the parents of six children--four sons and two daughters, all of whom survived to adulthood. In 1839, Thomas sold Oakley to Enoch Gridley and moved his family to Fairfield, a large farm in Caroline County near Guiney's Station. In the 1863 map detail below, the location of the Chandler plantation can be seen just north of the railroad at "Guinea Sta." The home of Thomas and Clementine's oldest son, William Samuel Chandler (1826-1902) can be seen at far left in the image, just over the county line in Spotsylvania.

Map detail of western Caroline County, 1863

     The three oldest Chandler sons--William Samuel, Joseph Alsop and Thomas K.--attended Bethany College in what is now West Virginia. William, Thomas and their youngest brother Henry fought for the Confederacy. Dr. Joseph Chandler did not fight in the war, but supported the Confederate cause by selling fodder and provisions to a variety of quartermaster officers. (As a side note, Dr. Joseph Chandler's son, Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler, was president of the College of William and Mary 1919-1934).
     Just prior to the beginning of the Civil War, William and Joseph married two daughters of James and Margaret White. William married Ann Elizabeth in 1859; Dr. Joseph Chandler married Emuella the following year.

Fairfield (Ancestry)

Fairfield tobacco field. Stonewall Jackson died in the building at left

Fairfield in a state of decay. Stonewall Jackson died in the building in the foreground

     Clementina Chandler died in 1844. A few years later, Thomas Chandler married Mary Elizabeth Frazer, and together they raised four children. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the Chandlers prospered at Fairfield. At some point, Thomas razed the original house and replaced it with a fine brick dwelling. According to the 1860 census, Fairfield consisted of 740 acres. By the standards of his day, Thomas Chandler was a wealthy man. He had 62 slaves at Fairfield, and hired out another one to his son Thomas. The senior Chandler also owned six slaves employed in Spotsylvania County. His real estate was valued at $14,000 and his personal property was worth $39,000.
     Westwood, William Chandler's farm in eastern Spotsylvania, was a large one consisting of 500 acres, and he owned 22 slaves in 1860. On March 13, 1862, William enlisted in Company C of the 55th Virginia Infantry. He served as a guide for General Joseph R. Johnson. He mustered out of the infantry on December 30, 1862. Six months later, on June 15, 1863, he enlisted in Company B of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.
     While fighting south of Petersburg near the Weldon Railroad in October 1864, William was shot in the right thigh. Several days later, he was given a 60-day furlough, to begin November 4, 1864. By March 1, 1865 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 5 in Richmond, diagnosed with "debilitas" (that is, weakness and feebleness) and still suffering from his leg wound. On March 13, he was reported as a deserter. Three weeks later, on April 3, he was captured by U. S. forces at Amelia's Cross Roads and imprisoned at Hart's Island in New York harbor. He took the oath of allegiance on June 14, 1865 and was provided with transportation to Fredericksburg. He remained at least partially disabled from his wound and suffered from occasional abscesses for the rest of his life.
     Meanwhile, William's father continued to live at Fairfield. During the winter of 1862-1863, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and his family stayed with the Chandlers, with whom they became good friends. Several months later, Jackson returned to Fairfield, but this time under very unhappy circumstances. After the amputation of his left arm following his accidental shooting at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, Jackson was brought to the small building used by Thomas Chandler as an office, and made as comfortable as possible. He died there on May 10. A few weeks after being a part of that historic episode, Thomas Chandler had a violent encounter with Confederate soldiers at Fairfield.
     By the end of the Civil War, William and Ann already had three children. In the years that followed they would have three more. Their youngest daughter, Mildred Jane "Jennie" Chandler was born at Westwood on March 16, 1870.

Map detail of eastern Spotsylvania, 1863

     In the map detail shown above, Spotsylvania Courthouse can be seen in the lower left of the image. The homes of Joseph (which was in Caroline County) and William Chandler can be seen at upper right. In the left center of the map can be seen the 412-acre farm of John Thomas Coleman, Sr., (shown as "J. Coleman"). This place was called Hickory Point. John Thomas Coleman, Jr. was born here on March 9, 1858.
     Like William and Ann Chandler, John Coleman, Sr., and his wife, the former Emily Lewis Andrews, raised six children. In addition to John, Jr., I will mention Honeyman Coleman, who became a well-known pharmacist in Richmond, and Dr. William Coleman, who practiced medicine in Louisa County. A daughter, Bettie Kay, married Horace Frazer Crismond, a brother of Spotsylvania minister and clerk of court, Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond. Horace was a partner in the Fredericksburg store known as Willis & Crismond, and he served in the House of Delegates. John Coleman, Sr., had inherited Hickory Point from his father. After his death in 1892, the property passed down to John, Jr.
     John Thomas Coleman, Jr., married his first wife, Carrie Overton Harris, on December 7, 1890. They had one daughter, Mary Lin, born in 1895. Carrie was the daughter of Clement Marshall Harris, who owned "Bloomsbury" from 1854 until his death in 1867. Built in the late 1700's, Bloomsbury stood on what is now Route 208 for more than 200 years, until it was razed a few years ago. During the Civil War, the Battle of Harris Farm, fought here, was the last major engagement of the prolonged fighting near Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Bloomsbury (Ancestry)

     During this time, Jennie Chandler, who still lived with her parents, taught school near the courthouse from at least 1894-1900. Her sister Margaret also taught school.
     Jennie married railroad contractor Earnest M. Carpenter at Westwood on November 27, 1904. They moved to South Carolina, where Earnest's work took him. From there they moved to Georgia, where Earnest died. By September 1905, Jennie had come back home to Spotsylvania.
    John and Carrie Coleman lived at Hickory Point for 19 years. Carrie's health continued to fail, and she died of tuberculosis on March 20, 1909.
     And so it was that the widowed John and Jennie were able to come together in their middle age. They were married in Caroline County at the home of her brother, William Campbell Chandler, on January 27, 1910. The wedding was officiated by Reverend Decatur Williams. John and Jennie made their home at Hickory Point and John's daughter lived with them for many years.
     John was active in local politics and was a member of the Spotsylvania County Democratic Committee. For years he served as a member of the fair committee of the Rapphannock Mechanical and Agricultural Society, which planned the fair held annually in Fredericksburg. He was also appointed game warden for the Courtland District and remained at that job from at least 1904-1910.
     Mary Lin Coleman first attended the State Normal School in Farmville (the forerunner of modern Longwood University) and then studied two years at the State Normal School in Fredericksburg (today's University of Mary Washington). She married Oscar Clifford Scott in 1918. They lived with her parents at Hickory Point until at least 1930, but moved to their own house before 1935. Mary Lin was appointed as enumerator of the 1920 census for the Courtland District. Oscar owned a filling station.
     On the morning of April 2, 1935, Oscar Scott drove his father-in-law to Fredericksburg in John's 1929 Ford Model A (77-year-old John Coleman did not drive). John took care of a few errands in town, including cashing a small check from Farmers Creamery, and then they went back to the Coleman place. John asked Oscar if he and Mary Lin would come by that evening and Oscar said they would, then he left. As it turned out, something came up and the Scotts did not go back to the  Coleman place that night. (Mary Lin later said that had they done so, they likely would have perished with her parents.) Tom Braxton, John's black farm hand who had worked at Hickory Point for 39 years, milked the cows. When he left at about 6:30, the Colemans had begun their evening routine. Jennie had placed their dinner in the warming oven and had started washing the milk cans.
     A few hours later, John's Model A pulled into the Esso station near Thornburg owned by Thomas B. Payne. Elwood Haislip, Ezra Heflin and Mercer Waller were working there that evening. They recognized the Ford as that of John Coleman, Jr., because he had bought it there and had done all the repair work done there. Two black men were in the car, one of whom came inside to buy cigarettes. They filled the car with gas and then headed south toward Richmond. The station attendants were not concerned at the time, as it was not unusual for Mr. Coleman to give the keys to men who worked on his farm so that they could run errands for him.
      The following morning, Tom Braxton returned to Hickory Point to start his usual chores. He noticed right away that neither of the Colemans were up and about, which was unusual for them. The door to the house had been left open, as well as the garage door. The car was gone.
     By now Braxton was thoroughly alarmed, and he went to get Charlesworth Clarke, a white neighbor of the Colemans, and they returned to their house. They entered the house, but there was no sign of John or Jennie. Nor did they see signs of a struggle, although some papers had been taken out of a box on the bureau and strew about the bedroom floor.
     Braxton and Clarke then went to see Oscar Scott, and told them what they had observed that morning. The three of them then drove to Spotsylvania Courthouse and informed commonwealth's attorney, Emmett R. Carner (Sheriff Maxie Blaydes had traveled to Richmond that morning to testify in a trial at the federal courthouse).
     Carner, Scott, Braxton and Clarke then drove to Hickory Point. Carner noted that the cover to the well was askew, and that the bucket and chains had been torn away. The well cover was then removed, and once their eyes adjusted to the dark interior, a human form could be seen in the water below.
     Carner returned to the courthouse and called county coroner Dr. William A. Harris, who was in Fredericksburg at the time, and told him to be ready to examine two bodies once they had been retrieved from the well. Carner then returned to the Coleman farm. Help in bringing up the bodies was provided by neighbors Winfrey Mason, Ernest C. Lunsford and James Dennis.
     Both John and Jennie had been bludgeoned with with a blunt instrument, and each of them had been shot with John's shotgun, which was missing. Robbery was immediately thought to be the motive for the murders. Although the Colemans did not keep large sums of money in the house, they were presumed to be well-off financially. Mr. Coleman had no known enemies.
     Recently, a gang of road workers, primarily black men in the employ of the Clay Construction Company, had been grading and laying gravel on the road at Bloody Angle in the Battlefield Park. Because of the wet weather lately, these workers had been idle, so John had hired some of them to dig ditches, put up fences and do other work at Hickory Point. Suspicion at once fell on these men as possible suspects in the murder. The county offered a $500 for information leading to the arrest of the criminals.

The Free Lance-Star, 5 April 1935

     The Coleman's car was found in Richmond on the night of April 3. The attention of the investigators was briefly diverted from the road workers as possible suspects to two escaped black felons, James Williams and Connie Reeves. Mercer Waller, one of the attendants at Payne's filling station, had identified a mugshot of Connie Reeves as the man who had bought cigarettes on the night of the murders. This identification soon proved to be in error, however, and the search continued.

The Free Lance-Star 5 April 1935

     A double funeral was held for John and Jennie Coleman on April 6, 1935. The details of the funeral were published on the front page of The Free Lance-Star on April 5. Reverend Edgar Green Stephens, pastor at Massaponax Baptist Church, officiated with the assistance of Reverend Preston Cave. Clerk of court Arthur Hancock Crismond, a nephew of John Coleman's sister, Bettie Kay Coleman Crismond, was one of the active pallbearers. Among the honorary pallbearers were prominent farmer, Charles R. Andrews; county coroner and member of the House of Delegates, Dr. William Aquilla Harris; Judge Frederick W. Coleman (he appears not to have been related to John), who would preside at the murder trial; former commonwealth's attorney and member of the House of Delgates, Samuel Peter Powell; publisher of The Free Lance-Star, Josiah P. Rowe, Jr.; commonwealth's attorney Emmett Roy Carner; Spotsylvania County treasurer Irvin Chandler Clore; and Spotsylvania sheriff Maxie Blaydes.

Arthur Hancock Crismond

Charles R. Andrews

Samuel Peter Powell

Dr. William Aquilla Harris

Reverend Edgar Green Stephens

     Jennie was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg. John was buried in his family's cemetery at Hickory Point.
     On April 8, The Free Lance-Star reported that Joe Jackson, a black man from Goochland County who had lived in the Spotsylvania area for several months, had come to the police and turned himself in the day after the funeral. He had heard that the authorities had been looking for him. Officers declined to state why they had suspected Jackson in connection with the crime, and Jackson denied any involvement in the murders. But this proved to be the turning point in the investigation. On April 10, it was reported that the state of Virginia was offering a reward of $200 for the arrest of the Colemans' killers. This was in addition to the $500 already offered by Spotsylvania.

The Free Lance-Star 13 April 1935

     On April 13, it was reported that Joe Jackson and John Shell had been charged with the murders of John and Jennie Coleman. Sheriff Blaydes and constable S. Walker Burgess had skillfully tracked John Shell to Haverstraw, New York. With the help of local law enforcement, Blaydes and Burgess arrested Shell, who refused to waive extradition back to Spotsylvania, citing his fear of being lynched. At the time of his arrest, Shell had on his person a gold watch case that had belonged to John T. Coleman, Jr.
     On Tuesday, April 16, 1935, a special grand jury met and indicted Shell and Jackson for the murder of the Colemans. The grand jury consisted of: Arthur Lynn Blanton, owner of Blanton Ford in Fredericksburg; John Moncure Chilton, father of future Spotsylvania school teacher, Merle Strickler; J. T. Owens and G. B. Gardner. Also included in the grand jury were two black men: Virgil Williams and Alexander Crump.
     Immediately after the indictment was handed down, Joe Jackson was taken to the Henrico County jail, where his physical safety was more likely to be assured. Commonwealth's attorney Carner requested that Virginia Governor Peery begin extradition proceedings to have Shell brought back to Virginia for trial.
     Sheriff Blaydes and S. Burgess Walker (who had just been named a special officer by Judge Frederick W. Coleman) arrived in Haverstraw, New York and took custody of John Shell on May 1. He was brought to the Henrico County jail where he and Jackson would await their trial. As they continued to be questioned by authorities, these two men frequently changed their stories and blamed each other for the actual murder, a pattern that would continue for the rest of their lives.
     Judge Coleman appointed Fredericksburg attorney Harry H. Sager to represent Shell and Jackson at their trial on May 14. Feelings against the prisoners ran high in Spotsylvania for the crime described by the The Free Lance-Star as "the most fiendish and atrocious crime in the county's history." Ten state troopers would help protect the prisoners during their travel from Henrico to Spotsylvania, and during the trial itself. These state police would be armed with riot guns, night sticks, tear gas grenades and automatic pistols A section of the courtroom would be set aside for black spectators.

The Free Lance-Star 15 May 1935

     Under heavy guard, Shell and Jackson were taken from their cells in Henrico and driven to Spotsylvania. The trial began at 10 a. m. and the prosecution presented its case in the morning. The court adjourned at 12:30 and was scheduled to reconvene at 2 p. m. As the prisoners were led through the crowd at the courthouse, estimated to be at least 700 people, two men suddenly broke through the cordon of police and attacked Shell and Jackson. These young men were identified as Reginald Foster, 30, and his brother Warrick, 27, sons of Spotsylvania farmer William Beauregard Foster. The Fosters then proceeded to rain blows on the heads and faces of the prisoners. While doing so, they called out to the other members of the crowd to join them. Fortunately, none did so, although many were heard to say later that they sympathized with the Fosters' actions. The state police were able to beat back the Fosters with their night sticks, and Shell and Foster were hustled into the court room.
     Their defense attorney, Henry Sager presented no evidence on behalf of his clients, whom he had just met that morning. His defense consisted largely of asking the jury to acquit these men if they thought there was reasonable doubt as to their guilt. No stenographic record was made of the proceedings.
     The jury consisted of Robert Warner Hilldrup (foreman), Jeter Talley, H. F. Craig, James William Thorburn, E. C. Leitch, Lindsey Mason, John A. Gordon, H. J. Durrett, Rhodes Pritchett, J. L. Sullivan, N. A. Tristano and Willie Jennings. The jury retired to deliberate after receiving instructions from Judge Coleman. Four minutes later, they arrived at guilty verdicts for both men. Judge Coleman pronounced a sentence of death in the electric chair for Shell and Jackson and scheduled their execution for June 21, 1935. They were then taken back to Henrico County jail, where they would remain until transferred to death row in the state penitentiary.
     Three days before they were to be executed, Shell and Jackson were granted a reprieve by Governor Peery, who had received a petition seeking a writ of error from their new attorney, E. A. Norrell of Richmond. As The Free Lance-Star would constantly remind its readers in the months to come, Norrell was a "negro attorney."
     This would be the first of five stays of execution granted to the Coleman's killers. Norrell's last ditch attempt to get a new trial for his clients, by appealing to the United States Supreme Court, ended in failure when the high court ruled that it could not consider the appeal since there was no stenographic record of the trial.
     Joe Jackson and John Shell were executed for their crime just before 8 a. m. on February 21, 1936. These were the witnesses present for their electrocution:

Special thanks to Park Historian Eric Mink for sharing with me the two photographs of Fairfield.


Friday, July 13, 2018

"He heard the report of the gun"

Oakley, 1935 (Frances Benjamin Johnston)

           Several years ago, I wrote a piece on the early history of Oakley, focusing primarily on the letter written by Maria Dobyns in June 1864, in which she described to her friend, Nan Row, the occupation of her family's farm and the violence that occurred there during the Battle of the Wilderness.
     Earlier this year, I came across an eleven-page typewritten history of Oakley which included details I had never seen anywhere else. The author's name does not appear on this document, but his primary source of information is referred to as "Judge" Kent. This would have been William Lee Kent (1862-1949).

William Lee Kent

     William Kent at one time served as a justice of the peace in Spotsylvania County, and was also county  registrar for a time. I think that this is how he earned the nickname "Judge." He was very knowledgeable about Spotsylvania history, and was the main resource for a history of Shady Grove Methodist Church written in 1939. He was also frequently consulted by Mildred Barnum when she wrote her surveys of historic Spotsylvania properties for the WPA during the 1930's.
     William  spent his entire life on the farm established by his grandfather, Warner Kent, who was arrested by soldiers of the United States army during the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864.
Warner Kent was confined at the Old Capitol Prison for a time following his capture. His family had no idea what had happened to him until his return home some weeks later. The Kent family's dreadful ordeal during this time can be read in this post I wrote in 2011.

Detail Spotsylvania County map, 1863

     The Kents lived next to Hazel Hill, which was owned by W. W. Jones during the Civil War. Oakley, home of the Dobyns family, lay across Catharpin Road from Hazel Hill.

Leroy Dobyns and family. Spotsylvania County, April 1866

     From this recently discovered history of Oakley, I learned that Leroy Dobyns brought two families of slaves with him when he took possession of Oakley in 1854. These were the Fauntleroys and Woodwards, who remained in Spotsylvania after their emancipation and for decades afterwards.
     I also learned about two features of the Oakley property that have been gone for a long time. A large, two-room brick kitchen once stood behind the house. The room closest to the house included a huge fireplace which was nearly the width of the room. Hanging in the fireplace were large iron cranes, which could be raised or lowered. The cranes hung on pivots, so that pots and kettles could be swung into and out of the fire as needed. The fireplace included a large brick oven. The back room of the kitchen was used as quarters for the cook.
     The other thing different about Oakley during these years was that the driveway was not in the same place as the modern one. The entrance to Oakley at that time was about a half mile east of the one that exists today, and the road leading from Catharpin to Oakley was much longer.
     Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Leroy Dobyns and his family returned to Essex County, which had been their home before moving to Spotsylvania. The Embrey Index of Spotsylvania Deeds shows that Leroy W. and Mary C. Dobyns of Essex County sold 1000 acres to Jos. "Lichtensteen" of New York on January 3, 1868.
     Joseph Lichtenstein was born in Hungary in 1811 and at some time immigrated to New York City, where he made his money as a vinegar manufacturer. While he lived in New York, his name appeared as "Lichtenstein" in the state census of 1855, and the federal censuses 1860 and 1880. For whatever reason, once he came to Spotsylvania, his name appears as "Lichtenstern" in the 1870 census, articles in the local press and in the history of Oakley I am referring to in this article. I have no way of knowing if he chose this version of his name himself to sound less Jewish in the rural south, or if this was just how local residents chose to spell it. For the purposes of this post, he will be called Joseph Lichtenstein.
     Lichtenstein did not move to Spotsylvania right away. For a time, he rented the farm to Lucius Estes and Richard Todd. Lucius and his wife lived at Oakley until the arrival of the Lichtenstein family.  Lucius, his wife and their adopted son later lived as caretakers at "Greenfield," the Row farm just northwest of Oakley.
     When Joseph Lichtenstein finally arrived at Oakley, he brought with him his wife, Julia, and their children (there are six children named in the 1870 census).
     The former vinegar distiller apparently had visions of becoming a country squire once he came to Spotsylvania. He also brought with him a dozen fine horses and a number of stable boys to care for them. A man named Jones was hired to oversee the farming operations at Oakley.
     Unfortunately, neither Lichtenstein nor Jones knew much about farming. During the first year, much of the wheat crop was lost to their ineptitude (some of the wheat had been piled into one huge mound, and was allowed to rot). Each man blamed the other for this poor showing, and Jones was threatened with dismissal without pay. Lichtenstein approached three neighbors and asked them to help arbitrate the case. They ruled that Lichtenstein was responsible, and that he owed Jones the remainder of that year's salary. Jones was paid off, and then fired.
     Lichtenstein next hired William Harris as overseer. Harris was a brother of future Spotsylvania sheriff and clerk of court, Thomas Addison Harris. Harris's parents' farm can seen in the lower right of the map detail above. Later, William and his brother John owned Harris & Brother Grocery in Fredericksburg.
     William and his wife, the former Mary Ann Buchanan, lived at Oakley in the wing of the house. Mary Ann taught school at Hazel Hill, and was a teacher of William Kent.
     When William and Mary Ann Harris moved on, Lichtenstein decided to run Oakley himself. This did not go well, and he soon went into debt and had to borrow $4,000.
     His problems were compounded by a tragic accident that occurred not long after the birth of the Lichtenstein's daughter, Katie. One of their older sons, Isadore, kept a pistol in the bureau. One day he showed it to the black nurse hired to take care of Katie. After Isadore had left the room the nurse, who was holding Katie in one arm, took the gun out of the drawer. While examining it, the pistol accidentally discharged, instantly killing Katie. She is buried in an unmarked grave at Oakley. (Another daughter, Julia, died in January 1871.)
     About 46 years after this sad event, in 1918, William Lee Kent, who had worked as caretaker at Oakley for seven years, was tending the crops there. While he was working in the field, a man approached William and identified himself as Charles Lichtenstein, a younger brother of Isadore. William and Charles walked through the house together. When they entered the room where Katie had been fatally shot, Charles told William that he had been present when this tragedy occurred. He heard the report of the gun, and then the scream of the nurse, who started running down the hall. At just that moment, Katie's mother had come up the stairs from the basement to see what the commotion was about. Just as Julia Lichtenstein opened the door, the terrified nurse dropped the dead baby at her mother's feet.

Fredericksburg Ledger 10 May 1872

     Not long after  Katie's death, Joseph Lichtenstein sold Oakley to Thomas Hall and returned to New York, where he became an insurance agent. His ownership of Oakley started its long, downward spiral of absentee owners and neglect that would continue until the place was bought by George Charles Beals in 1926.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Powhatan Foster

Powhatan Thomas Foster (Barbara Faulconer)

     For a number of years now, I have wanted to write about Powhatan Foster, who was a friend and an employee of my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. Powhatan and George also served in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, although not at the same time. Over the past year, I have had the good fortune to be given access to resources that have made it possible for me to tell Powhatan's story with with the kind of detail that would not have been possible earlier.

Lily Foster Haney (Barbara Faulconer)

     Last year, Barbara Faulconer shared with me a splendid and richly detailed history of the Foster family written by Lily Foster Haney (1892-1973), a daughter of Powhatan Foster. Lily taught in the public schools of Spotsylvania County for many years, and she wrote her history in a lucid and flowing style that is a joy to read. In this essay, I will be quoting from her work with the notation '(LFH)' at the end of each passage that I include. In addition to Lily's writing, I have also benefited from the Haney family history researched and written by Wade Haney, a grandson of Powhatan.

Map detail of Spotsylvania County, 1863 (Fold

     Powhatan Thomas Foster was born in Spotsylvania on December 20, 1846. He was the third of ten children born to William Edwin Foster and the elaborately named Ada Engedi Ellentine Wheatley Harding. Powhatan's older brother, Oregon Dallas Foster, was also born in 1846 (on February 3). Powhatan was born either at his parents' house (indicated as "W Foster in the map detail above) or at "Aspen Hill," the farm of his grandfather, Robert Dudley Foster, immediately to the southwest of William Foster's home.

Robert Dudley Foster (

     Powhatan received what formal education he got from his mother's father, Mark Harding, who who was living in the household of William Edwin Foster during the 1850's. It is presumed that Powhatan and his siblings enjoyed the usual fun and games available to rural youngsters of that era. Two of Powhatan's uncles, James and Thomas, were about the same age as his brother Oregon (called "Dee" by the family and later known to the public as O. D. Foster) and himself. In a survey of the Foster farm written by her in 1936 for the Works Progress Administration, Mildred Barnum interviewed Lily Foster Haney and Lena Foster, the widow of Powhatan's younger brother William Beauregard Foster. From Mildred's interviews, we learn that some of the fun and games enjoyed by the Foster boys came with serious consequences: "One night these boys were having a party around a fire near the many outbuildings that a Virginia plantation had in those days. In a spirit of mischief they set fire to a pile of shavings near the cooper's shop, and as a result of this all of 'Marse Robert's' [Robert Dudley Foster] outbuildings went up in smoke. The boys went to bed but when the owner discovered the fire they were punished. Powhatan slipped out of bed and ran downstairs. His grandmother said 'Run, Honey, Run.' He replied 'Please open the door and you will see some running.'"
     When the Civil War began, the Foster men enlisted in the Virginia Cavalry. William Edwin Foster and his brothers James and Thomas joined Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. William's brother, Warrenton Dudley Foster, fought with the 39th Cavalry Battalion and was captured by Federal troops along with Benjamin Cason Rawlings in November 1863. At the age of 15, Powhatan's brother Oregon enlisted in the 9th Cavalry on July 15, 1861.
     The compiled service records for Powhatan Foster do not exist in the National Archives. When he applied for a Confederate veteran's pension in January 1912, he affirmed that he joined the 9th Virginia Cavalry in Culpeper County in May 1863. Family tradition says that Powhatan ran away from home to join his kinfolk serving in the 9th Cavalry. The Foster men of the 9th were unaware that he had come until his name was called out during a roll call shortly after his arrival. Powhatan served with the 9th Cavalry until its remnants were surrendered by General Lee at Appomattox in April 1865.
     One dramatic episode from Powhatan's experience during the war comes to us courtesy of his daughter Lily: "He was an excellent horseman and became a courier to General [J. E. B.] Stuart. Once he was taking a message from Verdiersville to General Lee near Fredericksburg. His orders were to swallow the message if captured. The Yankees were between the two generals. He ran into the enemy near Shady Grove Church but was not captured. Dad had some narrow escapes but was never hurt, the hat band was shot off his hat was the closest call. He and three others were scouting around when they met the enemy at the spring of the Todd farm. Dad shot and a blue coated Yankee fell in the spring. All four 'rebs' escaped" (LFH).
     After the war, Powhatan returned to his father's farm and remained there, working as a farmer and laborer in the local saw mills, until his marriage in 1883. However, he did have an adventure on the high seas when he served on a merchant vessel that sailed to South America. "While there he got a monkey to bring home. This monkey was so mischievous he was always in trouble with the sailors. Finally the monkey disappeared and Dad thought the sailors killed him. Dad was gone a long time on this sailing trip and was reported dead. When he returned a friend told him he heard he was dead. Dad said 'I heard it too, but I knew it was a damned lie when I heard it'" (LFH).

Powhatan Foster (Babara Faulconer)

     During the late 1870's and early 1880's, Powhatan worked at the saw mill of George Washington Estes Row, which was located on the farm of Joseph Talley near Todd's Tavern. His name appeared several times in the business ledgers of Mr. Row:

     He also worked at the saw mill of his brother Oregon, who was in business in Fredericksburg. In addition to being a lumberman, Oregon was also a grocer, served on the city council and was the town's post master. His years of success allowed him and his family to live comfortably in the historic "Sentry Box" house. Meanwhile, despite his best efforts, Powhatan could never quite equal his brother's achievements.

Oregon Dallas Foster (

     By the early 1880's, Powhatan was courting Ernestine Virginia Knighton, a daughter of Robert S. Knighton and Georgianna Herring. He loved to attend the local dances, and it was at one of these get togethers that he made his move: "When he proposed to Mother, he was at a dance, he wrote a note, fastened it to the end of a switch and passed it over to her, asking her if she would marry him to look up and smile. Mother's name was Ernestine Virginia, but he always called her Susie" (LFH). Powhatan and Ernestine married at her parents' house on October 18, 1883.
     During the early years of their marriage, Powhatan and Ernestine "lived in a small house at Buchanan's Corner [at the intersection of West Catharpin and Robert E. Lee Drive]. They ran a little store for Mr. Buchanan" (LFH). The first three of their eight children were born during this time, and are shown in the photograph below:

Powhatan Foster and family (Barbara Faulconer)

     About 1890, Powhatan built a house on West Catharpin Road on land that had belonged to his father, who died in 1885. Shown here is a photograph of the place, and a drawing done by Lily Foster Haney. This house was called "New Danielsville:"

New Danielsville (Barbara Faulconer)

(Lily Foster Haney)

     Powhatan worked as a subsistence farmer, earned $1 a day working as a sawyer in the local mills and even worked for a time at nearby White Hall gold mine. Lily noted that while working for the saw mills, Powhatan spent the entire week living in one of the on-site shanties (these shanties also  existed at the Row saw mill). He came home on Saturdays and returned to the mill on Sunday evenings. Working in a 19th century saw mill was a dangerous undertaking. In 1893, Powhatan suffered an injury serious enough to be reported in The Free Lance:

The Free Lance 7 February 1893

     Although he would be remembered as a "small man in stature, with a big heart," he also had a volcanic temper which would subside as quickly as it erupted. His daughter Lily remembered this episode in particular: "One Saturday night he was at Sheppard's store when a young fellow made a rude remark about some lady--the fellow was drinking--up shot Dad's fist and knocked him down--his nose bled and he had a black eye. Dad's fist was hurt too.  Dad knew Eddie was in no condition to go home so he brought him to our house, washed his face and put him to bed. Next morning he lent him a clean shirt and we all went to Craig's [Baptist Church] to an all day meeting. Of course people noticed Dad's hand and asked what was wrong. Dad told them to find the fellow with the black eye and they would know" (LFH).
     Unlike his brother Oregon, Powhatan was a staunch Democrat (Oregon was active in Republican Party affairs and represented Fredericksburg at the 1888 Republican National Convention). Powhatan dipped his toe into local politics, and ran unsuccessfully for a county supervisor seat in 1895 and 1899, and he also fell short in his bid to become a justice of the peace in 1907.

The Free Lance 16 April 1895

     Of course, there were also happy times for the Foster family, which is evident in this article from The Free Lance:

The Free Lance 3 November 1910

     However, the year 1914 would be marked by a succession of tragedies in the Foster family. Oregon Dallas Foster died on June 26. On November 13, fourteen-year-old Robert Edwin "Ned" Foster, the older of Powhatan and Virginia's two sons, died of rheumatism.

Ned Foster (Barbara Faulconer)

     Just three months prior to Ned's death, on August 10, 1914, the life of Powhatan Thomas Foster came to an abrupt and violent end at the saw mill of C. W. Howard. The particulars were provided in two obituaries published in The Free Lance:

The Free Lance 13 August 1914

The Free Lance 18 August 1914

Death certificate of Powhatan Foster (

     Powhatan was buried in the Foster family cemetery, in which the graves were marked by simple field stones. About 20 years later, Lily Foster Haney made arrangements to have the body of her father to be removed to the Confederate Cemetery at Spotsylvania Court House so that he could lie at rest in the company of his fellow soldiers. In late 1935, Mrs. Charles R. "Bertie" Andrews ordered a headstone for Powhatan from the War Department. Bertie's father, Thomas Addison Harris, had served in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.




Barnum, Mildred. "The Foster Place and Foster Graveyard." The Works Progress Administration of Virginia, November 18, 1936.

Haney, Lily Foster. "Family, Friends & Neighbors: Lily Foster Haney's Autobiography",1970.

Haney, Wade R. "History and Genealogy of the Albert and Sophie Haney Family." Researched and compiled by R. Wade Haney, 1998.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Zion, Part 4

[This is the final installment of a history of Zion Methodist Church. Here are the links to the previous articles in this series: Zion, Part 1, Zion, Part 2 and Zion, Part 3.]

Zion's collection plates

     In 1960, concrete walks were laid in front of the church. A new pulpit Bible was given by the MYF; a baptismal bowl was donated by Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Lovell and their son, Michael; collection plates were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Pendleton and their son, Bobby; and linen cloths were purchased for the communion table by the WSCS. In addition, a new piano and organ were bought for the sanctuary.
     After Reverend Haynes left the charge in 1962, he was replaced by Reverend Robert J. Donnelly, who remained until 1965. When Reverend William "Bill" Carter began his ministry in 1966, he brought a new energy to the church. He is well remembered for his musical gifts and fine singing voice. Many of Zion's children received musical instruction from Reverend Carter and the church's organist, Anne Vojnovich. After he left Zion, Bill Carter taught at Spotsylvania High School and began a long career in education.

     In 1972, during the ministry of Reverend Lewis Minter, ground was at last broken for the new educational building. The first shovel of earth was turned over by Zion's oldest member at the time, Annie Jett. The construction of the building was made possible by the generosity of member Susie Swift and the dedication of Lynwood "Slim" Landrum, as well as the hard work of many volunteers. The new facility was named the Swift-Landrum building. At long last, Zion now had a kitchen, classrooms and bathrooms.
(Leota Pendleton)

(Leota Pendleton)

     Reverend Barry Minnick served 1973-1977. New hymnals were bought for the church. Reverend Minnick wrote a brief history of the church, a copy of which is in the library of the Spotsylvania County Museum.

Reverend Barry Minnick and family (Leota Pendleton)

New hymnals for Zion, 1974 (Leota Pendleton)


     Significant changes occurred during the years when the popular Reverend Wesley Astin was pastor. Reverend Astin, who served 1979-1982, became Zion's first full-time pastor when the church went station in 1982. That same year, a new parsonage was built; Reverend Astin and his family were the first to live in it.

     Reverend Beth Marie Barnett (1982-1986) was Zion's first female pastor. In 1984, the church celebrated the 125th year of its building with an all day service. Some attendees came dressed in period clothing.
     Zion's land holdings grew for the first time in many years during the ministry of Reverend John R. Esaias, Jr., (1988-1996) a retired Navy chaplain who had served during World War II. The Virginia Conference gave Zion $3,200 to help buy 1.12 acres of the Fairchild property adjoining the rear of the church's lot. In addition, the tireless Flaura Jett raised the remarkable sum of $4,100 for the church building fund by crocheting and selling Easter baskets. Reverend Esaias and his wife journeyed to England to witness the enthronement of Reverend George Carey as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

(Leota Pendleton)

     Member John Young helped to coordinate the events that were organized for the weekend of May 28-29, 1994 to commemorate Zion's history during the events that took place in May 1864.

(Leota Pendleton)

(Leota Pendleton)

(Leota Pendleton)

     Copper gutters and downspouts were installed in 1984:

(Leota Pendleton)

     On September 24, 1995 ground was broken to build a new fellowship hall, which became a part of the Swift-Landrum building. The dedication of the new addition took place on Homecoming Day, October 13, 1996. On that same day, member Bob Weeks donated a piano to the church in honor of his mother, Maureen.
     The following year, Bob Weeks and member Justin Williams announced their intention to be candidates for the ordained ministry. In June 1998. Bob Weeks received his first appointment as a full time pastor to a charge in the Farmville District. In June 2000, Justin Williams was also appointed as a pastor to the Farmville District.
     In February 1998, the Administrative Council voted to become part of the Civil War Trail Tour:

(Leota Pendleton)

     When Reverend Barbara Jacobs began her thirteen-year ministry in 2002, she would become Zion's longest serving pastor.

(Leota Pendleton)

Barbara and Alan Jacobs (Leota Pendleton)

(Leota Pendleton)

     Here are a few of the many highlights of Reverend Jacobs's years at Zion:

- In 2004, Reverend Jacobs and three of Zion's members--George Applin, Bodie Williams and Diane Williams--formed a team to travel to Honduras on a medical mission in conjunction with other members of the Barnabas Committee to treat sick children. Their mission to Honduras took place June 18-28, 2004.

- In 2007, a new choir was formed. In April of that year, Reverend Jacobs led a group to Kentucky to work with the Native American Red Bird Mission. In July, Zion held a grand opening of the food pantry to serve the community.

- In 2009, the church spent $4,600 to repair the weather-damaged windows and doors of the sanctuary.

- in 2012, special-needs access to the sanctuary was installed at a cost of $6,000 and was consecrated on September 16.

- On January 14, 2013 Reverend Jacobs offered the invocation at the noon session of the General Assembly.

     When Reverend Jacobs left Zion in 2015, she shared these parting remarks with the congregation:

"A Final Note From the Pastor

     Words are somehow inadequate to capture the reflections of thirteen years of ministry we have shared. I count it a blessing in my life that I was appointed to be your pastor in 2002. It has been my privilege to journey with you during life's greatest joys and deepest sorrow--yours and mine. Now, I prepare for continued service in another calling--grandparenthood!
     Still, I leave your pastoral service in June knowing that there have been some milestones during our shared ministry: expanding the parking lot, refurbishing the cemetery, welcoming Bishop Charlene Kammerer to be our Homecoming preacher, renovating the kitchen, relocating and renovating the playground, building the sound booth, initiating and videotaping of worship services, restoring the sanctuary, chartering Cub Scout Pack 375, implementing the Food Pantry and creating the Community Garden. However, I am more pleased to have shared in visiting folks at home, hospitals and nursing homes, confirming several of our youth, celebrating Holy Communion, baptizing babies and adults, receiving new members into our fellowship, conducting weddings, and sharing in services of death and resurrection for the saints who have gone on to the church eternal. I am glad to have had the opportunity to teach all ages, preach hundreds of sermons, bless beloved pets, hold numerous babies, clasp many frail hands, and act silly for silly sake. I am thankful to have shared in missions--FredCamp, ZionCamp, Red Bird, and a medical mission to Honduras. I have enjoyed each Christmas Parade, Courthouse Luminaria, VBS/Children's Summer Camp, Son's Fun Club, Stars and Stripes Spectacular, and every opportunity to wear my hoop skirt as we participated in county-wide and National Park Service War re-enacted activities involving Zion. 
     Now, I leave you a charge--to build upon the vitality and efforts that we began one year ago. Strive to reach out and meet new people with the ultimate goal of sharing the love of Christ with others. Expand the opportunities to bring Zion into the community such as we did with Bible Study at Butternut and Blue, Easter Sunrise Service and the Living Nativity at the Pavilion. Let our neighbors here in the Courthouse area know who you are--children of God called to be disciples of Jesus Christ whose purpose it is to share the good news. You will see results!
     Being part of this church has meant being part of a family--gathering together at table (eating food prepared by the best cooks in Spotsylvania!), evaluating our efforts, sharing Zion's good name in our community, and planning for the future. Although my pastoral responsibilities will end in June, abiding love and affection for the Zion Church family will continue. Thank you so much for having made Alan, Robin, Elianna, Bill and me a part of your family. May God continue to guide you and bring manifold blessings upon your missions, ministries and witness."

     Zion welcomed its current pastor in July 2015:

     "Pastor Kimberly Barker-Brugman joined us this summer as our Pastor. Her first service was on July 7th. Pastor Kim is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church (UMC) and is part of the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC. She is a graduate of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio with a Master in Divinity and a Master in Christian Education (1993). She has served rural and suburban churches in upstate New York and the Virginia Conference. Her husband, Kevin, moved the family to Harrogate, England to serve our country in July 2013. 
     Pastor Kim is a Veriditas Facilitator, a certified spiritual director, and a Stephen Ministry Leader. She took her spiritual direction training through RUAH at Richmond Hill Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia. 
     Her undergraduate degree is from Ohio Wesleyan University where she took a BA in botany and a minor in zoology. When asked about this change in vocation it seems like a natural step to her as she moved the Creation to the Creator. Both have always been part of her life. She loves nature and often finds God in a quiet time walking through the woods or fields or simply gazing at a garden of flowers or a bird in flight. 
     She loves creating and leading retreats and workshops, serving pulpit ministry and spiritual formation groups. She also does drama sketches of Esther, Mrs. Isaiah, The Bent Over Woman, Women at the well and Susanna. In her spare time she enjoys: knitting, crocheting, reading, photography, hiking, biking, traveling, scrapbooking, and hanging out with the family. 
     'I love that Jesus was a healer. I believe God can heal the world, human beings, humanity, the Church, and people in many ways. I believe in Jesus's message of hope and peace for individuals, churches and the world.'
     We welcome Pastor Kim, her husband, Kevin, sons Jason and Jonathan, and Buddy, the clergy canine."
     One of the challenges facing Pastor Kim and the church was finding a permanent fix for the building's 157-year-old windows. Despite the money spent for their repair several years previously, by 2016 the required additional attention. A window repair company based in the Shenandoah valley removed the sashes and took them to their facility (in the meantime, plywood was installed over the window openings). The glass was removed from the sashes during their restoration and then replaced in the muntins. After the refurbished windows were reinstalled, a sheet of plexiglass was installed over each one to protect it from the elements. The repair of the windows in the sanctuary cost $1600 each and the two in the balcony cost $400 each. Money was raised, and each window was dedicated either to the family that funded a given window, or to someone who had contributed to the overall project, or to two special people recognized by the church--Leota Pendleton and Joyce Fairbanks.
     In the spring of 2018, a decaying oak tree in front of the fellowship hall was removed. While the tree was being taken down, the chainsaw of one of the workmen struck a minie ball that had remained embedded in it since May 1864.

Written by Patrick Sullivan in 2018
Additional research and editing by Dennis Gallahan


"The Journal of Rev. Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Three Volumes. Vol. III, From November 8, 1800 to December 7, 1815." New York: Published by N. Bangs and T. Mason for the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1821.

"The Baltimore Century Plant: History of Eutaw Methodist Church and the Relation of Eutaw Church to the Downtown Problem," 1908.

The Letter of Samuel Raymond Beardsley, written at Zion Methodist Church August 7, 1862.

Butts, D. Gregory Claiborne, "From Saddle to City by Buggy, Boat and Railway," 1922.

Cummings, John C. "Your Husband's Noble Self-Sacrifice." North & South Magazine, Volume 7, Number 4, June 2004. 

Dubose, Horace M., D. D., "Francis Asbury: A Biographical Study," Nashville, Tenn: Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South. Smith & Lamar, Agents, 1916. 

Dunkerly, Robert M., Pfanz, Donald C.; and Ruth, David R.; "No Turning Back: A Guide to the Overland Campaign, from Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May 4-June 13, 1864." El Dorado, CA: Savas Beatie, 2014.

Lafferty, John J., "Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South." Richmond, VA: Christian Advocate Office, 1880.

Lafferty, John J., "Sketches and Portraits of the Virginia Conference: Twentieth Century Edition." Richmond, VA: 1901.

"Minutes of the Seventy-Ninth Session of the Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Held at Norfolk, Virginia Nov. 26-Dec. 4 1873." Edited and Published for the Conference by P. A. Patterson, Norfolk, VA. Printed at the Landmark Book and Job Office, 1874.

"Minutes of the Eighty-Second Session of the Virginia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Held at Norfolk, Virginia November 15-23, 1876. Edited and Published for the Conference by P. A. Patterson. Richmond, VA: J. W. Fergusson & Son, Printers, 1876. 

The writings and scrapbook of Zion member Leota Pendleton.

Robertson, Jr., James I., "General A. P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior." New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1997. 

"Tabernacle United Methodist Church History: September 1842-1984."

Tabernacle United Methodist Church, "Timeline of Preachers."

Weeks, Bob, "On the Road to Traveler's Rest: The Story of Zion United Methodist Church of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia During the 19th Century," 1994.