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Monday, November 17, 2014

Thomas Pearson Payne

Fisticuffs on the courthouse lawn. Late 1800s.

     He was devoted to his family, his church and his community. He played an active role in Spotsylvania politics for many years. The photographic record of his life and that of his family is vast; only a small sample can be shared with you today. Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are from the Colvin Collection. [Please click on the images in my blog for enlarged viewing]

Jesse William Payne

Catherine Hicks Payne and her son Zebulon "Buckshot" Payne

     Thomas Pearson Payne was born in Spotsylvania on 5 August 1852. He was the firstborn child of Jesse William Payne (1821-1881) and Catherine Ann Hicks (1833-1911), arriving seven months after his parents' wedding. Catherine Hicks was a daughter of Spotsylvania farmer and constable Thomas Hicks and the granddaughter of Thomas Hicks, long time Spotsylvania jailor. In the photograph below, Thomas Hicks, Jr. is believed to be standing at far right.






     Before joining the Confederate army, Jesse Payne rented the farm of Neil McCoull, which would become the epicenter of the vicious day-long fight at the Bloody Angle. Jesse lost an eye during the war but otherwise was able to return home safely. Jesse Payne died at age fifty nine while threshing wheat on the farm of his father in law.

Rebecca Catherine Lohr

     Thomas Payne married Rebecca Catherine Lohr of Madison County on 20 September 1872. Like his father, Thomas rented the McCoull farm where his seven children were born:

Frank Payne

- Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Payne (1873-1957) operated a saw mill near his home on Catharpin Road and was chief forest warden of Spotsylvania County for twenty seven years. He married my great aunt Lottie Kent in 1928.

Frederick Linwood Payne

Fred Payne at the McCoull house. About 1900.

Freemond Clifton Payne

- Fred Payne and his twin brother Freemond were born in 1875 and each lived into his nineties. We used to see them sitting out in the yard together on Catharpin Road in the 1960s.

Fred Payne, Charles Talley and Annie Rebecca Payne

- Annie Rebecca Payne (1878-1949) married Spotsylvania farmer Charles Talley in 1899 and had five children with him.

Nettie Payne

Merle Chilton Strickler

- Anzonetta "Nettie" Payne (1880-1961) married John Moncure Chilton in 1910. Their only child, Merle, taught school in Spotsylvania for 32 years and is fondly remembered by many of us.

Bessie Lee Payne

Fred Payne and John Calvin Jennings (right)

- Bessie Lee Payne (1882-1973) married John Calvin Jennings in 1901. Bessie was the postmistress at Finchville from 1908 until 1914, when the post office was discontinued and its operations were moved to Screamersville.

Ashby Payne

Ashby and Bessie Payne

- Ashby Payne (1885-1942) was the second husband of Ruby Ray Kent, whom he married in 1926. Ashby and Ruby lived near the intersection of Catharpin and Stewart Roads. Ashby is remembered for his fiddle playing at local dances and for providing liquid refreshment as well. He died after being kicked by a horse in the barn.
    
Spotsylvania Court House. Late 1800s.

     Thomas Pearson Payne served for a number of years as deputy commissioner of revenue for the St. George's district. In the group portrait above, he is seated second from left. There were apparently whisperings of voting irregularities during his tenure, but I have found no mention of it in the local newspapers of the time. Thomas was also elected as a delegate to the state Democratic convention in 1899:

Daily Star 1 September 1899

     Payne's long run as deputy commissioner of revenue ended in 1911 when he was defeated by Irvin Chandler Clore by fifty eight votes. Afterwards Thomas Payne served as county assessor. Clore went on to serve twelve years as deputy commissioner of revenue, twelve years as county treasurer and finally as a trial justice until his death in 1944.

Irvin Chandler Clore (courtesy of Wil Bowler)

     Thomas and Rebecca Payne became friends with Pennsylvania native John Okie and his family, who would come down to hunt with the Paynes in Spotsylvania. The following photographs were taken about 1900, possibly during the same outing. The Ferneyhough place mentioned in the photographs had once been the home of John B. Ferneyhough, located on Catharpin Road near Old Plank Road on the site of today's Sawhill subdivision:

Thomas Pearson Payne

Payne family at the Ferneyhough place


Ashby, Zebulon and Thomas Pearson Payne

Thomas Payne's dogs near Chancellorsville

     Thomas Payne's hunting dogs can be seen both in the photo taken at Ferneyhough's as well as on Old Plank Road within sight of Chancellorsville.
     Over the years Thomas acquired a number of parcels of land in Spotsylvania, including the places where his sons built their houses. He bought land for himself on the corner of Cartharpin and Piney Branch Roads on the Ni River, where he built his house. He called his home Hazelfield.

Paynes at home

     A good many of the Payne family photos were taken at Hazelfield. This rare interior picture made about 1905 shows Thomas strumming his banjo. In front his granddaughter Rubye is held by her Aunt Nettie, with her mother Emma Payne seated at right. Behind them are Rebecca, Ashby, Frank and Thomas.

Nettie Payne Chilton and Thomas Payne at the well at Hazelfield

Thomas, Rebecca, Frank, Nettie and Ashby

     Thomas Payne was a lifelong member of Goshen Baptist Church, where he was superintendent of the Sunday school.

Goshen Baptist Church

     So what the heck are those two fellows fighting about in the photograph at the top of today's post? Thomas Payne (right) and his brother James used to put on mock boxing exhibitions to entertain the crowds of people gathered there when court was in session.
     Thomas Pearson Payne died at home on 17 April 1934, having outlived Rebecca by eight years. He and Rebecca and all of their children are buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Spotsylvania.

Thomas and Rhoda posing for the camera




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ralph Happel's Eulogy to Phenie Tapp






     Since my recent post on the life and times of Phenie Tapp, I have received a number of inquiries about the substance of National Park Historian Ralph Happel's interview with Phenie about the battle of the Wilderness. If that interview were still extant, I would have happily included it in my article about Phenie. Unfortunately, according to Eric Mink, historian at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, neither the text of that interview nor Happel's notes survive. [Please click on images in my blog for enlarged viewing]
     What we do have, however, is the eulogy to Phenie that Ralph Happel wrote for the Free Lance Star when Phenie died in 1944. Since Phenie Tapp was only four years old at the time of the battle on her family's farm, I think that this excellently written piece by Mr. Happel serves as a more than adequate substitute:




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sprig Dempsey and the Battle of Catherine Furnace

Catherine Furnace (National Park Service)

     A couple of years ago I wrote one of my most popular pieces, which described the fighting that took place at Catherine Furnace on 2 May 1863. New information has come to light this week which allows me today to solve one outstanding mystery and to add to what is already known about the foundry and the people associated with it.
     My earlier post described the crucial role of master blacksmith Absalom Herndon Chewning in the foundry's operation, as well as a highly entertaining account of the battle that occurred there during Stonewall Jackson's flank march. For those of you who have not already read it, now would be a good time to click here and enjoy this little known piece of Spotsylvania history. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
     The identity of Sprig Dempsey has remained a mystery until now. Thanks to the investigative talents of two of Spotsylvania's premier genealogists, Wil Bowler and Tom Myers, I can now share with you his name and his story.

1921 pension application of James Thomas Dempsey

     James Thomas Dempsey was born in the Mine Run section of eastern Orange County in June 1845, the son of John L. Dempsey and Susan Nash. In 1875 he married Ann Elizabeth Brown of Culpeper County, where he thereafter lived until his death in 1931.
     Late in life James "Sprig" Dempsey submitted two applications in order to obtain pension benefits as a disabled Confederate veteran. By this time he was suffering from rheumatism and heart disease and was no longer able to work. The first of these applications, dated 21 May 1917, was rejected due to a "misunderstanding of my service; papers being not clear." The second one, dated 23 December 1921 and shown above, provides us with much of what we now know. Dempsey did not enlist in one of the local regiments. Instead, he was detached from service in Richmond to work at Catherine Furnace. This makes me think that perhaps he was conscripted by Confederate authorities in June 1862 (not 1863, as he incorrectly remembers on his application). In any case, he notes that he "served faithfully."
     On his pension application Dempsey listed two comrades who served with him during the war. One, of course, was Absalom Herndon Chewning, with whom we are already familiar. The other was another teenaged boy impressed into laboring at Catherine Furnace, John Lewis Morris.
     John Morris was born in the Indiantown area of Orange County in 1848. He was inducted into the Confederate service in Spotsylvania on 1 September 1864 and worked at Catherine Furnace until December of that year, when he "left to join the regular Confederate army." Whether he was successful in doing so in unclear, as his name does not appear in any regimental roster that I can find. After his death in 1934 his widow filed for pension benefits as well. She cited his service in Company I of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, but I find no record of him there.
     The fact that Sprig Dempsey and John Morris worked together at the Furnace in the autumn of 1864 lets us know that at some point after his capture during the battle of Chancellorsville he had been exchanged. In 1865 Dempsey was "discharged at the close of the war after Lee's surrender and paroled from Fredericksburg."
    
Western Spotsylvania, 1863

     Both Dempsey and Morris mentioned the fact that their commanding officer was Charles Beverly Wellford (1829-1885).
     John Spottswood Wellford, C.B. Wellford's uncle, was responsible for establishing Catherine Furnace. Apparently named for his mother, the former Catherine Yates, the foundry was an integral part of the Fredericksburg Iron and Steel Manufacturing Company, incorporated in 1836. The company relied heavily on military contracts, thereby missing a good chance at long term profitability in the pig iron business while prices were high. By the time of J.S. Wellford's death in 1846, the furnace became inactive and ownership passed to his brother Charles Carter Wellford, father of C.B. Wellford.

Charles Carter Wellford (National Park Service)

     In addition to their house in Fredericksburg, the family of C.C. Wellford owned a home in Spotsylvania on modern Jackson Trail East. The nearby furnace which he owned can be seen in the center of the map detail above, just north of the unfinished Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad.
     The coming of the Civil War brought new opportunities to both father and son. Charles Beverly Wellford enlisted as a private in Captain Pollock's Company Virginia Light Artillery. Meanwhile, in 1862 his father signed a contract with the Confederate government to produce 2,000 tons of pig iron at the newly reopened furnace. The determination was made that Private Wellford's talents were better utilized in his father's iron enterprise than with the army. Accordingly, on 4 April 1862 George Minor, Chief of Ordnance and Hydrography, petitioned Secretary of War George W. Randolph to release C.B. Wellford from active service in order to assume new responsibilities at Catherine Furnace (as a civilian Minor was a professional musician and he resumed his avocation after the war).

Petition of George Minor to G.W. Randolph, April 1862

     During the battle of Chancellorsville, at the time that Sprig Dempsey and Absalom Chewning were seeking to escape from Union forces probing the rear of the Confederate column, Charles B. Wellford acted as a guide for General Jackson, taking him through the country lanes leading to Brock Road.
     In 1864 Catherine Furnace was destroyed by Union cavalry commanded by General George Custer. It was rebuilt, however, and continued to produce iron for the Confederacy until 1865.

     A bizarre footnote to the Wellfords' wartime experience occurred during the Federal occupation of Fredericksburg in the weeks following Lee's surrender. From the 7 June 1865 edition of the Fredericksburg Ledger:


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

William Lee Andrews

William Lee Andrews

     William Lee Andrews was born in Caroline County on 18 January 1827. Before the Civil War he was a member of the local militia, the Sparta Grays, when this reversed image photograph of him was taken. During the war, William served in the 30th Virginia Infantry and the 9th Virginia Cavalry.  His daughter, Myrtle Clyde Andrews, married Irvin Malcom "Mack" Chewning of Mount View in Spotsylvania. W.L. Andrews died in Caroline County on 3 August 1895.
     One of the best images of a Confederate soldier I have seen.
    

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Return of Lizzie's Stone

Lizzie Houston Row, 1875

     This is the story of how a wanton act of destruction has been redeemed by the kindness of strangers. Motivated only by a sense of decency and a desire to do the right thing, they have done my family a great service. Today's post is dedicated to them.

     Long time readers of Spotsylvania Memory are already familiar with my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Houston Row, whose eventful life's story has been the subject of many posts here. Born in Rockbridge County in 1854, Lizzie was a member of the storied Houston family, which included her grandfather's cousin, General Samuel Houston. She enjoyed a storybook upbringing in a loving and strictly Presbyterian household at her family's farm, Mount Pleasant. She was educated at the Ann Smith Academy in Lexington and by the time she was twenty one was being courted by a number of young suitors. She was also ardently pursued by George Washington Estes Row of Spotsylvania, who met her while he was in Rockbridge on business. Although eleven years her senior, and a widower with a young son, George won out over his younger rivals and married her in December 1875. He brought her home to Spotsylvania, where he built a house for them at Sunshine, his farm adjacent to Greenfield, his family's ancestral home. Lizzie lived there until her death in January 1928. She was buried in the cemetery at Greenfield.
     During the 1800s Greenfield was a sprawling plantation in western Spotsylvania. A portion of it, including the house and dependencies, was sold out of the family in 1905. Today the old burying ground is surrounded by Fawn Lake subdivision beside a man made lake. There are actually two Greenfield cemeteries - that of my ancestors and the other set aside for their slaves - at the foot of the dam which created the lake. For those of you who may be interested in reading a brief history of Greenfield and how this section of it became an upscale subdivision, click here. This photograph of the cemetery was taken in 2007 from atop the dam by fellow researcher Mary Edith Arnold:

Greenfield cemetery

     For almost seventy years after it was sold, this cemetery and the surrounding acreage remained undisturbed by encroaching civilization and was still undeveloped farm land until it was sold to a development company more than forty years ago. The explosion of growth in Spotsylvania County since that time has put pressure on the two cemeteries. Changes in air quality have obliterated the inscription on the headstone of George Washington Estes Row, and the field stones that once marked the burial sites of the slaves are strewn about. However, years ago Fawn Lake installed a handsome picket fence around my family's graveyard and the grass is kept mowed.

    
Lizzie Houston's headstone

     Unfortunately, unlike the other stones there, that of great grandmother Lizzie's was not set in the ground. Instead, it sat in the opening of its stone base. This arrangement made it more vulnerable to problems as its connection to the base became undone. Still, as late as fifteen years ago the headstone  was still in one piece. However, by 2007 it had broken in two. In January 2009 it looked like this:





    
     In April 2011 a group of Lizzie's descendants, including myself and accompanied by Spotsylvania historian John Cummings, returned to the cemetery with two goals in mind. We came prepared to straighten the three oldest stones there, those of Richard Estes and his wife and daughter, which had been leaning for decades. We also intended to attempt a repair to Lizzie's headstone and join the two fragments together.
     We were instead shocked by what we found. The top portion of the stone was gone. The bottom piece had been smashed to bits. Sadly, all we could do that day was load the shattered remains of Lizzie's stone into the truck, and also the foot stone of Catherine Estes, which seemed to me damaged by tree roots:

Photo by John Cummings

     Our intention has been to replace the stone some day.
     This state of affairs remained unchanged until I received an email earlier this week from Fawn Lake resident Sandy Fitzpatrick, who took it upon herself to track down my email address. In her long and generous letter, Sandy described how she and her fourteen year old son Liam had solved the riddle of the missing portion of Lizzie's vandalized headstone. With her kind permission I quote from Sandy's letter:

     My son and I were down at the dam yesterday - the water level is very low due to an incident last week when the valve on the dam would not shut and as a consequence the lake level is extremely low. I do not believe that the water had anything at all to do with the headstone being moved, but it may be why people, especially teenagers and strangers to our community, might have been in the area and may have been drawn to the cemetery. [Sandy and I have since decided that the stone was likely thrown down the dam embankment at the same time when the bottom half of the stone was destroyed.] My son found the top of the stone on the water-side of the dam. It looked as if it had been dropped there as it is cracked in half horizontally over Mrs. Houston's name. Additionally, it was not buried in the muck of the area where the water had receded, rather sitting directly on top without any water debris or stains anywhere that would indicate it had been in the water itself. We came home immediately and notified our security and they assured me that they were already on the way to retrieve the stone...The officer on duty at the time was Tabitha, who was very concerned about retrieving the headstone as soon as possible. 
     Indeed, with the intercession of Helen Bradley, manager of resident services for Fawn Lake, the fragments of Lizzie Houston Row's headstone were soon returned to her grave:





     We are fortunate that the stone was spotted by alert and caring persons like Sandy and Liam Fitzpatrick. Because of their energetic and selfless response, this part of our family's long history in Spotsylvania has been saved. With gratitude and appreciation I tip my hat to my new friends, the Fitzpatricks.
    

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The World According to Phenie Tapp

Photo enhancement courtesy of Tom Myers

     For students of the battle of the Wilderness, the words "the Widow Tapp farm" evoke images of the near capture of Robert E. Lee followed by his stirring effort to personally lead the newly arrived Texas Brigade against Hancock's advancing troops. For all that has been written about that pivotal moment for the Army of Northern Virginia, much less is known about Mrs. Tapp and the personal stories of her extended family. As we shall see, were it not for the unlucky circumstance of having this battle fought near her cabin, no one would have ever heard of her. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]
     Of course, she did not enter this world known as the Widow Tapp. She began her life in Orange County as Catherine Elizabeth Dempsey about 1803, a daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Dempsey. In December 1833 she married Vincent Tapp of Culpeper County and by 1840 they had settled in Spotsylvania, where they raised their three daughters and two sons.
     The Tapps were not wealthy people; far from it. They eked out a hardscrabble existence from land rented from Horace Lacy, owner of nearby "Ellwood." They owned no slaves. Before he died in about 1857, Vincent Tapp's name appeared on the list of Spotsylvania's insolvents.

The Tapp house (National Park Service)

     This watercolor of the Tapp cabin was painted by artist and Union army veteran George Leo Frankenstein in 1865. It is the only known image of the Tapp home. The cabin measured about 20'x30' and housed as many as seven people at a time. The 1860 census tells us that this humble structure was home to Catherine Tapp, daughters Sarah Elizabeth, Margaret, Harriet and her husband Andrew Jackson Lewis, and son James. The other son, William Benjamin Tapp, was evidently living in Culpeper County at the time.
     Not shown on that census was one other person living in Catherine Tapp's cramped cabin - a baby girl. We will return to this child shortly.

Western Spotsylvania, 1863

     Across Orange Plank Road from the Tapp place was the farm of Thomas and Eliza Pulliam. In the map detail above, their property is indicated as "Mrs. Pulliam" in the lower left of the image just southeast of the uncompleted Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad. To the west of Eliza Pulliam's house was "Mount View," the home of William V. Chewning, whose son Absalom operated the Catherine Furnace for the Confederacy. To the southwest was the farm of Eliza's brother Richard H. Pulliam. Unlike the Tapps, who were tenant farmers,  Thomas and Eliza Pulliam were freeholders and slave owners. Living with them were their two sons, Thomas Richard (known locally as "Tom Dick") and John James. By 1860 Eliza Pulliam shared two things in common with her neighbor Catherine Tapp. First, they were both widows. Like Vincent Tapp, Thomas Pulliam (who may have been a cousin of Eliza) died during the 1850s.
     The other thing that these two widows shared was the fact that they were both grandmothers of the baby girl born in the Tapp house in February 1860.
     By 1859 Thomas Richard Pulliam was having an affair with Catherine Tapp's oldest daughter, twenty five year old Sarah Elizabeth. The child born of this relationship, Eliza Frances, is known to history as Phenie Tapp.
     Thomas R. Pulliam appears to have been at the least reluctant, and even unwilling, to acknowledge his paternity of Phenie or any obligation to marry Sarah Elizabeth. As one might expect, Sarah was herself unwilling to accept this unsatisfactory status quo and she sought relief in court. The result was that Thomas Richard Pulliam was compelled to sign this bastardy bond in June 1860, in which he finally acknowledged his paternity of Phenie and pledged to provide support until she reached age 14:

Bastardy bond of Thomas R. Pulliam (CRHC)

     Know all men by these presents that we Thos. R. Pulliam & [blank] are held & firmly bound unto the overseer of the Poor for the county of Spotsylvania in the Just and full sum of one hundred fifty dollars to which payment well & truly to be made to the said overseer of the poor for said county, we bind ourselves our heirs Exors. & honor jointly & severally by these presents. Sealed hereto our seals [29th?] day of June 1860 and adjudge that Thos. R. Pulliam who was thereof accused & was the father of a Bastard child of Sarah E. Tapp an unmarried white woman of the said county, did order him the said Thos. R. Pulliam to enter into bond with good security conditioned for the maintenance of the said bastard child for the term of fourteen years. Now if the said Thos. R. Pulliam shall on each and every year on the first day of May on each & every such year for the term of fourteen years beginning this day to be paid to the overseer of the Poor of said county the sum of ten dollars per annum as aforesaid for the support & maintenance of the said bastard child; then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.
                                                                                          Thos R. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          Thomas C. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          R.W. Carter (Seal)
1868. April 6. Cr. the above bond by seventy dollars paid this day by T.R. Pulliam which has been paid over to S.E. Tapp.
                                         R.C. Dabney

     This situation had scarcely simmered down when the sons of both Catherine Tapp and Eliza Pulliam took up arms for the Confederacy. Thomas and John Pulliam enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, the same regiment of my great grandfather. William Benjamin Tapp joined Stuart's Light Horse Artillery, while his brother James signed up with the 7th Virginia Infantry in the fall of 1862. James fell ill almost immediately and remained on the sick list for the entire time he was a soldier until he died in the summer of 1863.
     One would think that Tom Dick Pulliam would have his hands full fighting the Union army and avoiding responsibility for his daughter. One would be wrong. During the war he found the time and energy to bed the wife of Oscar Mastin, the former Sarah Faulconer. Oscar and Sarah had married in 1859 and had a daughter together, Laura Lee. In due course Sarah's dalliance with Tom Pulliam became known to Oscar Mastin, who sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Sarah married Tom in June 1869; by then their oldest son was a year old. A second son, George, was born in 1872. Third was Judson Hammond Pulliam, born in February 1876. Sarah's youngest son, William Jefferson Pulliam, was born three years after her husband's death.
     By May 1864 the peccadilloes of Tom Dick Pulliam did not loom large in the life of Catherine Tapp. The Union Army, twice the size of Lee's still divided forces, came pouring into Orange and Spotsylvania on May 4. By May 6 General Lee had set up his headquarters at the Tapp farm, trying to buy time until Longstreet's Corps could join him and stave off impending disaster. General Hancock's troops appeared at the far end of the Tapp property, with little to stop them from advancing and capturing Lee save for the artillery of William T. Poague. Some of A.P. Hill's men evacuated the Tapp family and shepherded them across the road to the house of Eliza Pulliam. In an interview she gave to National Park Service historian Ralph Happel in 1937, Phenie Tapp recalled how "the bullets struck the dirt around them, kicking up dust like the first drops of a coming storm."
     At last the Texas Brigade, the vanguard of Longstreets's long anticipated arrival, came just in time to save the day. What followed next was one of the most dramatic moments of the Civil War.
     Despite the ferocity of the gunfire and cannonading of that day, Catherine Tapp's home and family survived. Her surviving son William came home safely after the war and returned to Culpeper, where he lived until his death in 1876. Thomas and John Pulliam also came home in one piece. John married Melissa Chewning and established his own farm. Tom and Sarah lived with Eliza.
     Whether Tom Pulliam continued his profligate ways is not known, but I am willing to hazard a guess that he was not a reformed man. In any case, his life came to an abrupt and violent end on 14 January 1876. As reported in The Fredericksburg News:

     Tom Dick Pulliam was lying asleep on a sofa in his house near "Faulkners" when Tom Sutherlin struck him in the head with a piece of spoke timber, which killed him instantly. Cause, an old grudge. Sutherlin escaped. The citizens offer a one hundred dollar reward for him.

     Two weeks later, on 1 February 1876, George Washington Estes Row mentioned Pulliam's demise in a letter written to his fifteen year old cousin, Emma Farish: Tom Dick Pulliam was murdered by Tom Sutherland a week or two ago. They were on a drunk. Sutherland has not been caught - and if you see him catch him as the Governor has offered one hundred dollars reward. Give me half, won't you?
     These were the circumstances in which Phenie Tapp was born and spent her formative years. It is little wonder, then, that the remaining sixty eight years of her life assumed the character that they did.
      After her grandmother Catherine died in May 1879, Phenie continued to live with her maiden aunt Margaret at the Tapp place. In fact, Phenie would live there for all her long life.
      In June 1881 Phenie gave birth to a daughter, Madosha. Father unknown.
     On 19 January 1896 Phenie traveled to Washington, D.C. with John C. Stanford, with whom she exchanged wedding vows. Their marital bliss seems to have been of short duration. During a trip to Orange they encountered one of her old flames, Isaac Jones, and all hell broke loose. From the Fredericksburg Daily Star 26 March 1896. Written in the incomparable style of Charles Henry Robey:

A Row in Orange
Two Men Seriously Injured

     Isaac Jones, of Spotsylvania, and John C. Stanford, of Fauquier, had an altercation, resulting in a desperate fight, at the house of Mr. Oscar Almond, near Locust Grove, in Orange County, Sunday afternoon about 4:30 o'clock, in which Jones received a pistol ball in his left arm and Stanford's head and face were badly hacked and cut with a grubbing hoe. 

Both men are married men. Jones' family living near the Wilderness Store and Stanford's at Elk Run in Fauquier. 

The row was on account of one Phonie Tapp, living near Parker's, in Spotsylvania, a rustic nymph du pave, whose charms seem to have enthralled both of them. She and Jones, it seems, have been friends for the past four or five years, all others being ousted in his favor, until Stanford, an itinerant sewing machine repairer, put in an appearance last fall. 

He must have made a complete conquest of the woman, for she shortly abandoned Jones to follow her new lover. 

Jones' rage at being left in the lurch is to have been terrible. He swore vengeance on both of them, and promised to carry it out, should they come in his way. 

Stanford and the woman went to Washington, where they claimed to have been married, and came to Orange Sunday to attend some business matters that S. had left unsettled. The woman stopped at Mr. Almond's, while the man went to the home of Constable J. L Morris. 

While he was absent, Jones put in his appearance, and when Sanford returned to Almond's they met and the row occurred. Jones says that after some words Stanford started to draw his pistol on him, and that he used the hoe in self defense. 

Stanford's story is that as he approached the house of Almond, Jones came out, and picking up the hoe, cursed and assaulted him. The woman who got the men apart confirms what Stanford says. 

Constable Morris who left home on his way to Orange Courthouse at the same time Sanford started for Almond's heard the pistol shots and screams of women. 

He started in the direction of the sound, and met Stanford in an exhausted condition, and smeared with blood. 

He told Constable what had occurred, and asked to be taken to some place where his wounds could be attended to. 

Mr. Morris did this and then went to the scene of the affray. 

He found Jones and the woman there. Jones gave him his version of the affair as related above, and said that the intended to follow and kill Stanford. The woman said that but for her he would have overtaken his victim before the Constable met him, and would have surely killed him. 

Mr. Morris said he considered Jones's wound very slight, but he thought Stanford was in a bad way. The ball struck Jones' left hand, just breaking the skin and entering the fleshy part of the arm near the elbow. The wounded man wanted the constable to cut the ball out, in order to save him a doctor's bill. 

Jones returned home Sunday night to have his wounds attended to, and Stanford and his alleged wife came to Spotsylvania to the home of the woman's mother Monday morning. 

Constable Morris reported the matter to the Orange authorities Monday and the proper steps were taken to have the parties brought to justice. 

The people in the vicinity are very indignant at the occurrence and there seems to be a strong sentiment in favor of dealing severely with the law breakers. 

     The phrase "nymph du pave" was unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up. Of the various definitions offered, my favorite is "a woman of extinguished morality." It should be noted here that at the time of this altercation, Isaac Jones was sixty years old.
     It is also worth noting that during this entire episode John Coffey Stanford was still legally married to Isabella, his wife of thirty three years whom he abandoned in Fauquier County in the early 1890s. A month after Stanford's showdown with Jones, John and Isabella mutually sued each for divorce on the basis of desertion. A divorce decree was in due course granted to Isabella Stanford. 
     A year after that violent competition for the affection of Phenie Tapp, a child, Mary Catherine, joined the Tapp household. On the 1900 census she is designated as Phenie's adopted daughter, leading some to speculate that  she was actually the daughter of Madosha. In any case, the identity of the father is unknown.
     Phenie's escapades next made the news in this brief piece in the 12 July 1902 edition of the Free Lance:



     The article does not spell out what offense Phenie and Jack had committed, but circumstantial evidence leads me to conclude that Andrew Jackson Banks, who was black, enjoyed a relationship with Phenie beyond that of his employment as her "hired hand," as he is noted in subsequent censuses. Phenie and Jack lived together for the next forty years.
     By 1910 Madosha had evidently married a James Oaks, whose occupation is variously given as "woodchopper" or "tie getter," which I presume meant someone who hauled railroad ties. After 1910 Madosha and James vanish from the written record, as far as I can see.
     Mary Catherine Tapp married Frederick Thomas Hicks on 4 January 1917. They lived with Phenie for a time before moving to Richmond, where they raised six children. Mary Catherine died in 1935; Fred outlived her by nineteen years. They are buried in the Hicks cemetery in Spotsylvania:






     Phenie Tapp was an undisguised foe of Prohibition and she and Jack Banks supplemented their income by distilling and selling moonshine. This brought unwelcome attention from Revenue agents from time to time, but I find no record that they did any serious jail time for their efforts.
     During the 1930s historian Douglas Southall Freeman unsuccessfully attempted to buy the Tapp farm in order to preserve it, "but found Phenie eccentric, the title clouded and funds hard to raise." [The Wilderness Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher. University of North Carolina Press, 1997, p. 194]
     By the end of her life Phenie was living in the third house that had been built on the property, the original log cabin in which she had been born having long since decayed to ruin.
     Eighty four year old Eliza Frances Tapp died on 31 May 1944 at the home of Calvin Macrae Jones, the son of her one time beau and a handy man with a grubbing hoe, Isaac Jones. From The Free Lance Star 2 June 1944:

Mrs. Phenie Tapp Dies at Wilderness

Mrs. Phenie Frances Tapp, 84, of the Parker neighborhood in Spotsylvania, died at the home of Calvin Jones at Wilderness.

Long a picturesque character Mrs. Tapp had an intimate knowledge of the famous battle of the Wilderness, fought over the section where she lived in 1864. She was four years old at the time of the great battle and was a granddaughter to the famous Widow Tapp, on whose farm General Lee had his headquarters and who is often referred to in account of the fighting.

Funeral services for Mrs. Tapp will be conducted be conducted at the grave at Oak Hill Cemetery at 3 o'clock Saturday. 

     A stone for both Phenie and Madosha stands at Oak Hill:








The Free Lance Star 10 January 1950

     Six years after Phenie's death, the Tapp farm was offered for sale by her second cousin Elsie Davenport. At some point a portion of the property was acquired by Dr. Allan Mowry Giddings on behalf of the Civil War Round Table of Battle Creek, Michigan. This parcel he donated to the National Park Service in 1963. An additional fifty three acres was bought by the Park Service 1968-1972.

     I wish to acknowledge the following persons whose help made possible today's post: Diane Ballman of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center; historian Eric Mink of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park; and my friends and fellow researchers Wil Bowler and Tom Myers. Many thanks to each of you. Any errors in this piece are mine alone.