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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Enigmatic Mr. Scott

Robert Scott

     Smuggler? Blockade runner? International man of mystery? Robert Scott may have been all of these things. Or perhaps he was something else altogether. What is certain is that virtually everything about him remains shrouded in mystery. And that makes him a most intriguing fellow indeed.
     William A. Stephens (1821-1886) was a friend and neighbor of the Rows of Greenfield in Spotsylvania. Over the years William worked as a farmer, constable and estate appraiser. He also owned and operated Stephens Station, a stop on the Piedmont, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad that ran from Fredericksburg to Orange. In addition to friendship William A. Stephens had numerous ties to the Rows. His signature appears on many documents relating to them including depositions, appraisals and chancery proceedings. In 1905 his grandson Scott T. Stephens bought Greenfield from Abbie Row, thus bringing to an end 110 years of the Estes-Row ownership of the family farm.
     In 1843 William married Mary Eleanor Scott (1826-1897), the daughter of the well to do Day Scott. Robert Scott is presumed to be one of Mary Eleanor's brothers, although I cannot find anything regarding his birth records. From the beginning Mr. Scott was an enigma wrapped inside a riddle. When I first came across his photograph in my great grandmother's (Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Houston Row) album three years ago I did not have the faintest idea who he was.
     Last year I discovered a number of letters written to Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield by Mabel Row Wakeman, Lizzie Row's daughter. In a letter penned by her in 1967 she went into some detail regarding the family connections of the Scott, Todd, Chancellor and Stephens families. All of that is interesting on its own merits, but today we are concerned with Robert Scott so below is my transcription of that portion of her letter that gave me my first insight into his world.
Mabel Row Wakeman to Roger Mansfield November 1967

Mabel Row Wakeman to Roger Mansfield November 1967

     But that is just the beginning of the story.
     Recently I took a renewed interest in Robert Scott and made inquiries with a few fellow researchers who would possibly have some new information to offer. As is so often the case, my cousin and fellow researcher, Kathleen Colvin, had personal knowledge of just what I was looking for. It is not possible for me to improve upon Kathleen's story telling abilities so with her permission I am presenting here her story as she shared it with me this week.

Kathleen Colvin's story of Robert Scott

Kathleen Colvin's story of Robert Scott

     My great grandparents, George W.E. and Lizzie Row, were impressed by Robert Scott and attempted to learn of his activities after he left for France. In a letter written by George in May 1882 he cryptically observed that "We have not heard anything from Mr. Scott's affairs. The mystery seems doomed not to be revealed as a great many letters have been written and nothing received."
     With the help of Mabel and Kathleen we have been given a tantalizing glimpse into "Mr. Scott's affairs". If any of my readers know more about Robert Scott I would be pleased to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sarah Jane Daniel, Part 2

Receipt for Annie Daniel's horse

      Despite the death of her husband, the pillaging of Forest Grove and the stress of having to become a proprietor of a boarding house in Culpeper whose clientele were Union officers, Sarah Jane mustered the strength and resiliency to survive. Once she and her children, together with the now freed Millie Jackson and her children, moved back to Forest Grove conditions began to slowly improve, but improve they did. By 1866 money could even be found to buy a bay mare named "Beauty" for eighteen year old Annie.

Annie Tutt Daniel

     I do not know for certain when and how Annie Daniel met my great grandfather,  George Washington Estes Row. We already know that her uncle Thomas Jefferson Robinson served with George in the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. And George's cousin John Row had served as a deputy to another of Annie's uncles, sheriff James L. Robinson of Orange County. There is among George W.E. Row's papers what could possibly be a clue as to when Annie and George began their romance. Perhaps it was at a party at Clover Dale, the Crittenden farm near Forest Grove, that the two met. In any case George thought this invitation was important enough to keep for the rest of his life.
Invitation envelope

Invitation to party at Clover Dale, January 1867

     Whatever the circumstances, 24 year old George and 19 year old Annie met and fell in love and were married at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Culpeper on October 31, 1867. Officiating at the ceremony was Reverend John Cole, who had seen his church safely through the war. George Row placed on Annie's finger a ring made from gold mined at Greenfield. A reception for the couple was held at Forest Grove that evening.

Reception for George and Annie Row

     The newlyweds then returned to Greenfield, the Row farm in Spotsylvania, where they lived with George's mother and sister. In late 1868 Annie came back to Forest Grove in the last weeks of her pregnancy and gave birth to Absalom Alpheus Row on December 1.
     Soon after they were married the Rows and Sarah Jane Daniel were named as defendants in a suit filed in chancery court by Thomas Alcocke, Samuel Daniel's executor. There were still outstanding issues requiring resolution and Alcocke sought help from the court. Most of these problems were taken care of within a few years, but the division of Forest Grove among the heirs of Samuel Daniel did not occur until 1876.
     Annie Row's second child, Annie D. Row, was born on March 4, 1871. Soon after Annie's birth George Row traveled to Butler in Freestone County, Texas to explore the possibility of buying land. During the six months he was there he lived with Sarah Jane's sister Anne and her husband Dr. Vivian Quisenberry. To read more about George Row's time in Texas click here.
     George returned to Spotsylvania by September 1871. If there had ever been any concrete plan to sell Greenfield and move west, that dream vanished when Annie Row died of diphtheria on November 4. She was just 23 years old. George placed her obituary in the Row Bible.

Obituary of Annie Row

     Four days after Annie's death an estate sale took place at Greenfield. Eight month old Annie D. Row was ultimately sent to Forest Grove to be cared for by her grandmother. George's sister Nannie took care of Abbie. George qualified as the administrator of his late wife's estate. The correct date on the certificate confirming George as administrator should be 1872, not 1871.

Page from Row estate sale 1871

Certificate of administration January 1872

     Shortly before Annie's death, her sister Sallie Bet married Thomas Rixey on October 23, 1871. During their short time together she would bear three children, only one of whom would survive to adulthood.
     Tragedy struck three more times in 1872. Sallie Bet's first child, Alpheus Daniel Rixey, died. Sarah Jane's only son, 14 year old William, drowned on July 12. According to Virginia's death records little Annie D. Row died at Forest Grove on August 27 (her headstone says July 29) and is buried there.
     Sarah Jane married a second time on October 29, 1874. I know very little about James W. Stewart (1827-1910). It is possible he was from Spotsylvania. He moved to Forest Grove and farmed there for the rest of his life. In her surviving letters Sarah Jane signed her name "SJS."
     The same year Sarah Jane remarried, her daughter Sallie Bet gave birth to a daughter, Blanche Medora. A second daughter, Sallie Daniel Rixey, was born on November 7, 1876. Incredibly, Sallie Bet died of scarlet fever just seven days later. Little Blanche Medora followed her mother to the grave on November 28. Sallie Rixey came to Forest Grove and was raised by her grandmother. Thomas Rixey moved to Missouri where he married two more times and lived until 1918.

Division of Forest Grove 1876

     In 1876 a final settlement regarding Samuel Daniel's estate was decreed by the circuit court in Culpeper and a partitioning of Forest Grove was made among his heirs. George W.E. Row received a tract of 80 acres, known as the Wharton farm. Abbie received a lot totaling 24 1/2 acres.
     Catherine Medora "Kate" Daniel, Sarah Jane's only surviving child, married Charles Bruce Williams on December 6, 1882. They lived at the farm known as Fairview which was across the road from Forest Grove. Over the next 19 years Kate gave birth to seven children, all of whom would live to old age. Kate herself lived until 1949.

Row taxes in Culpeper 1879

     The settlement of the Daniel estate and the division of Forest Grove should have been the end of that drawn out affair, but there would be one more turn of the wheel in this drama and one more burden to be borne by Sarah Jane. Shortly after the death of George W.E. Row in 1883 Sarah Jane and George's sister Nannie were notified that he had neglected to pay taxes that had been due on his and Abbie's land in Culpeper. For a man who kept such careful accounts in businesses I have never fathomed how it was possible for this to escape his attention.

Auditor of Virginia to Nannie Row December 1884

Taxes due

Culpeper tax receipt 1886

     During the years 1884-85 Sarah Jane Stewart and Nannie Row exchanged letters regarding Abbie's problems, both monetary and personal. Only Sarah Jane's part of the correspondence survives. The first of these, mailed to Nannie from Culpeper in April 1884, finds Sarah fretting about Abbie's prospects for gainful employment. She wrote: "Hope Abbie will get into business that suits him. Mr. Strother said he wrote a letter of recommendation to Mr. Barbour, thought he might aid him, as he was a great friend of Mr. Daniel...Mr Z. Rawlings and Mr. Williams [Abbie Row's uncles, married respectively to his aunts Bettie and Martha] might be able to aid Abbie in getting a situation. Mr. Strother and everyone thinks Abbie ought to have gone to school two years longer and then he could get in business. As it is he will have to work with his hands and his head not able to help him." Sarah Jane also included an accounting of money charged to Abbie's share of the land in Culpeper. By now as his father's heir he owned both his own tract as well as that of the late George Row.
Sarah Jane to Nannie April 1884

Sarah Jane to Nannie April 1884

Abbie Row's account 1884

     In a letter written in September 1885 Sarah Jane goes into some detail about the difficulties she and Mr. Stewart were encountering in their effort to straighten out Abbie's tax problems. The bureaucracy of Culpeper Court House, small though it was, worked at its customary leisurely pace. "It is the hardest matter to find them in the office and get anything done by them." Her son in law Charles Bruce Williams enclosed $5 toward purchasing Abbie's land. Abbie ultimately sold both plots to Williams.

Sarah Jane to Nannie September 1885

Sarah Jane to Nannie September 1885

     Sarah Jane's granddaughter Sarah Jane Rixey, whom she had raised at Forest Grove since infancy, married William Dearmont in 1907. They settled in White Post, Virginia where Dearmont was in the horse business. They raised a large family and Sallie lived until 1943.
     The grandchildren of Sarah Jane Robinson Daniel Stewart remembered her as a tiny woman who loved to rock on her porch at Forest Grove. They called her "Mamie." She died at home on August 23, 1914. She is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper.

     In 1940 Margaret Jeffries, a researcher and writer for the Works Progress Administration, interviewed 90 year old William Yager, whose family was owned by Sarah Jane Daniel during the Civil War. Jeffries was the daughter of the late Judge William Jeffries of Culpeper and she had already written much about her home county. Yager was then living in a house inherited from his sister near the old Antioch Church. In Part 1 of Sarah Jane's story we learned of Yager's remarkable experience during the battle of Cedar Mountain. Jeffries' account of her interview with William Yager can be found in Weevils in the Wheat, Charles Perdue et als, University of Virginia Press, 1992. The quotations here come from that source.
      Yager told Jeffries that his health as a child was delicate and he nearly died from typhoid fever. He gave a glimpse into how close Sarah Jane Daniel was to her servants when he said: "I slep' right in a trundle bed under old Miss's bed jus' like the rest of the children...I wuz bo'n into the Daniels family. You know Miss Kate Williams, lives right over there? Well, she's my young mistis [mistress]." In 1940 Sarah Jane's daughter Kate was 78 years old.
     "None of us lef' our white family...All our colored people 'cept my mother went off with the Yankees. But we stayed with our white folks 2 or 3 years after de war. We worked for our close and food same as we done 'fore."
     "An' then when the Yankees come they jus' 'stroyed everything. What they didn't want they jus' killed. 'Cept two cows. They musta tied 'em up at camp an' they got loose an' come home. An' I took them cows to town when we moved and kept 'em clean through the war. I can tell you their names right to this day. They wuz Nellie an' Viney."  
      "Uncle William never did go to school. He was but a lad when the war started anyway. Most slave owners did not educate their slaves. 'No'm, slave people jus' got somethin' in their stummicks an' somethin' on their backs,' he stated. 'But I schooled ever one o' mine. I sure did.'"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sarah Jane Daniel, Part 1

Robinson's Tavern, 1940s. Courtesy National Park Service, Fredericksburg
     Thomas Robinson (1791-1848) of Orange County was a son of John Robinson, who in 1791 purchased 168 acres from Brigadier General Alexander Spotswood. This tract was located on the north side of what was called the Orange Turnpike in the nineteenth century and is known today as Route 20. On the Civil War era map shown below, this road is shown running east-west in the middle of the image. The tavern was located about where the words "Locust Grove" are printed. The farm of my Row(e) ancestors was just west of Locust Grove.

Detail of Orange County, c. 1863

Robinson's Tavern sign, Route 20

     The tavern that bore his name was built by Thomas Robinson about 1815. During his lifetime the tavern was a stagecoach stop on the old turnpike. In November 1863 it was briefly used as the headquarters of Union General George Meade during the Mine Run campaign and was also utilized as a hospital during that action and the battle of the Wilderness the following year. Here Thomas Robinson raised eight children by two wives.
     Several of Thomas' children played important roles in the lives of my Row ancestors and I will mention them briefly here. Thomas' oldest daughter, Mary Anne, was born of his first wife Nancy Roach in about 1815. Mary Anne married John F. Almond and it was they who inherited Robinson's Tavern. One of their sons, Thomas Jefferson Almond, served in Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry with my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. After the Civil War John F. Almond ran a post office at the tavern.
      James L. Robinson, a son of Thomas and Nancy, served as Sheriff of Orange County during the Civil War. His friend and neighbor, John Sanders Row (who was also first cousin to George W.E. Row) was his deputy. In 1862 John Row was Captain of Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. James petitioned the Confederate Secretary of War to allow John to resign and return to his duties as deputy sheriff. If you would like to read more of this episode, click here. By 1870 James was working as assistant deputy postmaster in Orange. Several years later he became county treasurer. By 1884 James had begun to fail mentally and physically and got into some hot water with state authorities for failure to pay taxes he had collected that were due the state of Virginia.
     After Nancy's death Thomas Robinson married Elizabeth Tutt Sanders on November 26, 1827. Their youngest daughter Anne married physician Vivian Quisenberry, who served as assistant surgeon in the 59th Virginia Infantry. After the Civil War he and Anne moved to Butler in Freestone County, Texas where he practiced medicine and ran a drug store. George W.E. Row lived with them for six months in 1871 while attempting to put together a land deal there. George worked in Dr. Quisenberry's drug store and learned how to compound drugs and fill prescriptions. The apothecary scales he used are shown below. To read more about my great grandfather's adventures in Texas, click here.

Scales of George W.E. Row

     But it was the oldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Robinson who would have the closest and most enduring relationship with the Rows. Sarah Jane Robinson was born at Robinson's Tavern on February 15, 1829. At the age of 18 she married Samuel Alpheus Daniel of Culpeper County. Shown below is Thomas Robinson's permission given to Samuel A. Daniel to obtain a license to marry his daughter. It is witnessed by two of Sarah Jane's brothers, James and Richard. Next is the marriage bond signed by Samuel Daniel and Sarah Jane's brother Richard.

Robinson's permission to marry his daughter

Marriage bond of Samuel A. Daniel

     Once they were married, Samuel and Sarah Jane came back to Rose Cottage, the Daniel home in Culpeper. In this home were born their first two children. Annie Tutt Daniel arrived on March 4, 1848. Her sister Sarah "Sallie Bet" was born December 18, 1851. On the Civil War era map shown below, the location of the Daniel property can be seen south of the village of Culpeper Court House and just west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad.

Detail of Culpeper, 1860s

     Rose Cottage was destroyed by fire and in 1856 Samuel Daniel built a new home near the site of the original house. This place he called Forest Grove. Here were born the Daniels' two youngest children, William (1858) and Catherine "Kate" Medora (February 20, 1862). Forest Grove still stands today and is farmed by the descendants of Kate Daniel.

Forest Grove, 1930s

     Samuel Alpheus Daniel was a farmer, slave owner and southern patriot. The 1860 slave census shows that he owned twenty three slaves. The secession of Virginia from the Union focused his mind on a very uncertain future and accordingly he wrote his will on July 14, 1861. In it he made provisions for Sarah Jane's maintenance in the event of his death. He empowered her to select three or four slaves for the family's use should she become the head of the household. Whatever proceeds were realized from the estate sale he directed should be invested in "Virginia state stocks or some other safe investment." It was also his wish that his children be liberally educated "from the income of the estate, or from the principal should the income prove insufficient."

Page one of Samuel Daniel's will

     Although Samuel could have easily afforded to pay a substitute to take his place in the ranks, his sense of honor and responsibility would not allow him to consider such a course. On February 26, 1862 he enlisted in Captain Cayce's Company of Purcell's Light Artillery. Four months later his battery found itself in the thick of the fighting at Mechanicsville during the Seven Days Battle. On June 26 he was severely wounded and was taken to Kent's Hospital in Richmond, where he died on June 29. Samuel Alpheus Daniel is buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

Samuel Daniel's obituary, Richmond Times Dispatch 4 July 1862

Transcription of Samuel Daniel's obituary

Headstone of Samuel A. Daniel, Oakwood Cemetery

     As it was for tens of thousands of other wives of Confederate soldiers, this was a shocking and devastating blow to Sarah Jane Daniel. She was now left to manage a 357 acre farm and to care for her four fatherless children. Prior to Samuel's death, Thomas Alcocke of Culpeper appears not to have been aware that he had been named executor of the Daniel estate. However, he gladly assumed this additional wartime burden and began to discharge his responsibilities as efficiently as was possible under the circumstances.
     By now Culpeper was occupied by General Pope's army and would endure long stretches of upheaval as the area changed hands several times during the war. Pope was a loudmouth and a bully and made himself especially obnoxious by giving his troops a free hand to despoil Culpeper. Farms were pillaged, outrages against women occurred frequently, churches were vandalized or burnt to the ground, civilian hostages were seized. The tragic impulsion of events left no breathing space for Sarah Jane and her children. The passivity of McClellan's army in the Peninsula and the brutal occupation of the Union army in Culpeper gave General Lee the welcome opportunity to "suppress Pope." Beginning with Stonewall Jackson's troops, Lee began to shift his forces from south of Richmond to Gordonsville and points north to confront Pope. The inevitable collision occurred on August 9, 1862 at Cedar Mountain.
     Some of the slaves of Forest Grove, including twelve year old William Yager, climbed on top of the farm's outbuildings in order to get a good view of the fighting. Neighbors from more threatened areas of the battlefield fled to Forest Grove and sought shelter in the basement. The house itself was used as a hospital by the Confederates. Among the wounded taken there were two brothers from South Carolina, whose parents later came to Forest Grove to nurse them.
     Once the fighting was over and Pope's army retreated north, burial parties laid the dead in mass graves and burned the carcasses of horses and mules. Civilians combed the field searching for food or for anything that could be of use. Among them was young William Yager. This description of his encounter with the quick and the dead comes from Daniel Sutherland's excellent Seasons of War (Free Press, 1995, page 155):

     "He discovers a prostrate Yankee too badly wounded to cry out for help. There he lies, 'the sun broiling down on his face, his arms just a goin' it.' He cannot speak, for he has been wounded in the throat. The boy has just bent down to help the stricken man drink from a canteen when, suddenly, the soldier leaps up, looks around, and without uttering a word, walks away. Yager, nearly scared to death, races from the field."

     In the wake of the battle changes came fast to Forest Grove and its inhabitants. Some of the slaves made their way to freedom within Union lines. A number of others were sold at auction in Richmond by Thomas Alcocke. That money, as well as the money realized from the estate sale in October 1862 was invested in Virginia state bonds. Sarah Jane kept for herself her favorite slaves--Millie Jackson and her children who took the name of their father, Waller Yager of nearby Mitchell's Station: Margaret, Grace, William, Calloon and Nannie. This family would remain with the Daniels throughout the war and for two or three years after. Their names and circumstances appear several times in the court papers relating to the postwar settlement of Samuel Daniel's estate.

Page from Daniel estate settlement

     Despite the death of her husband, the economic devastation caused by the war and the stress of an oppressive Federal occupation it appears that Sarah Jane Daniel remained devoted to the South's cause. These quartermaster receipts issued to her in late 1862 indicate a willingness by the widow Daniel to do her part for the Confederacy by providing pasture and forage for the army's cattle and horses.

Quartermaster receipt 19 November 1862

Quartermaster receipt 10 November 1862

     However, the "importunities and depredations" of those times referred to by Alcocke, made the conditions of daily life increasingly intolerable. For example, there was scarcely a church in that area that was not destroyed or vandalized to a point of uselessness. A lonely exception was St. Stephen's Episcopal in the village of Culpeper Court House. Its rector, John Cole, had been befriended by Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart during their time in the town. Still it suffered heavy damage by marauding northern troops. Forty years after the war the church received a small amount of money from the federal government as compensation. If houses of worship were not safe, it is not difficult to imagine the dangers that were routinely experienced by  the population at large.
     By the winter of 1863 Sarah Jane no longer felt safe to remain in the country and took her children and moved into town. To protect Forest Grove from complete ruin she arranged for a Unionist family named Hixon to live there free of rent as caretakers. Once settled in town she ran a boarding house patronized by Federal officers. Milly Jackson cooked meals for them and William Yager and his brother and sisters ran errands for them. They were given access to the commissary's stores and were able to thereby supplement their diet. In the 1930s it was used as a funeral home by Will Reaguer. The photo below was taken shortly before its demolition in the 1960s.

Sarah Jane's boarding house

     And so it was that Sarah Jane Daniel, her four children and Forest Grove were able to survive the war. Although Thomas Alcocke had been directed by the will of Samuel A. Daniel to sell Forest Grove, he wisely decided to defer that "to a more propitious time." Yes, Forest Grove survived the conflict but it did not emerge entirely unscathed. All of the stock, the farming implements and nearly all the fencing were gone. But the house and outbuildings still stood. Alcocke advanced $45 to Sarah Jane in order that she could buy a few cows and hogs and farm implements.
     With that $45, a sharp eye for business and a will of iron Sarah Jane Daniel rebuilt Forest Grove.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Strange Tale of JPH Crismond

Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond

     The sudden death of George W.E. Row in 1883 brought upon his widow, my great grandmother Lizzie Houston Row, a host of unexpected challenges. First among these was qualifying as administratrix of his estate and spending the next several years closing out his affairs. During this time she had frequent correspondence with the clerk of court for Spotsylvania, JPH Crismond, an example of which is shown below:

Crismond receipt 1885

     Near the end of his career as clerk Lizzie had occasion once again to have legal business with Crismond. Below is a check dated 1902 made payable to Rev. JPH Crismond, which he endorsed to Lee J. Graves as attorney for W.J. Brightwell:

Check to Crismond 1902

Check to Crismond 1902 (reverse)

     All of the papers exchanged between my great grandmother and Crismond appear in good order and I have no reason to think that there was anything amiss in her dealings with him. I include these examples only to show that over the years Crismond had some impact on Lizzie's life, as he did did on the lives of virtually all the citizens of Spotsylvania county.

JPH Crismond at Spotsylvania Courthouse c. 1890

     Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond was born in 1846 to John and Jane Crismond. In 1864 he enlisted in the 36th Battalion of Virginia cavalry and was wounded at the battle of Woodstock. He is said to have later enlisted in the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, but I have been unable to find any official record that confirms that.
     After the war Crismond returned to Spotsylvania and married Sallie Carnohan in 1866. Crismond and Sallie had two children. Dora, born in 1867, married Dr. William A. Harris (physician to my Row ancestors), who was the son of Spotsylvania sheriff T.A. Harris. The Crismond's son, Arthur Hancock, was born in 1869. The censuses for the years 1870 and 1880 show JPH Crismond making his living as a farmer.

Dr. William A. Harris

     At some point Crismond became active in politics and was elected Spotsylvania clerk of court in 1881, a position he would hold for the next 22 years. He was also a Methodist deacon, active in Zion Methodist Church, and an ordained minister. Over the years he would officiate at many weddings and funerals.

Spotsylvania Courthouse c. 1890

     The photograph above shows JPH Crismond (17) standing next to his son Arthur (15). His future son in law William A. Harris (5) is dressed in white at left. William's father, Thomas Addison Harris (13) is standing near the center of the group.

Spotsylvania Courthouse (left) early 1880s

     The years rolled peacefully along. Crismond was popular and respected both as minister and as clerk of court. In April 1899 a committee was appointed by Judge R.E. Waller to examine the clerk's office and they reported on "the condition of the papers in the office and the manner in which they are kept...found everything in admirable condition." This glowing endorsement of Crismond's work was signed by attorneys St. George R. Fitzhugh and James L. Powell.

Horace F. Crismond

     Horace Crismond was the younger brother of JPH. He was a well respected merchant in Fredericksburg and a partner with Marion G. Willis in the firm of Willis & Crismond, grocers and commission merchants with whom George W.E. Row did much business. Shortly after Horace died on January 17, 1903 things began to go terribly wrong in the world of JPH Crismond.
     By July 1903 there had been whisperings of irregularities in the accounts kept by the Spotsylvania clerk's office. On July 7 Crismond made a will, leaving his property to his wife. He then drove to Fredericksburg. He left his horse and buggy at the livery stable and notified his wife to send for it. He had also left a note for his wife informing her that he was leaving for good, and she would never see him again. He then presumably took a northbound train. "It is alleged that his accounts are a little tangled," the Virginia Citizen helpfully reported. "He has been believed partially demented since the death of his brother, Hon. Horace F. Crismond of Fredericksburg, some months ago."
     Arthur H. Crismond, who worked as deputy clerk of court for his father, announced that he would not be a candidate to fill the vacancy left by his missing father, but that he would step in on a temporary basis until the matter was cleared up.

Richmond Times Dispatch 22 July 1903

     On July 22 it was reported that a body retrieved from the North (Hudson) River in New York City was presumed to be that of the missing Spotsylvania Clerk. Arthur H. Crismond, Dr. W.A. Harris and Horace F. Crismond, Jr. traveled to New York to make a definitive identification.

Richmond Times Dispatch 24 July 1903

     This puzzling development added some complication to an already baffling case. If that was not Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond in that New York morgue, then where was he? The mystery was revealed a couple of weeks later, when Judge Waller received a letter postmarked in Mexico.
     It was from Crismond. In this letter he tendered his resignation as clerk and asked that his son Arthur be appointed to the position. Waller did in fact appoint A.H. Crismond to fill the vacancy left by his father's departure, pending and investigation of the affairs of his office.
     On August 14, 1903 it was reported that Judge Waller appointed a committee to investigate what exactly had been going on the clerk's office and to try to ascertain whether any crimes had been committed. The committee was comprised of Judge A.T. Embrey, E.H. DeJarnette, Jr. and Henry W. Holladay.
     These men set to work with purpose and conviction. They notified Judge Waller that they would be prepared to present their report on September 7. Rumors abounded that JPH Crismond would be in court that day to confront his fate.
     The report was delivered as scheduled, but Crismond was a no show. The following day Judge Waller appointed Sheriff T. A. Harris as acting clerk of court and J.P. Turnley to succeed him as sheriff. County treasurer W.G. Willard resigned.

Thomas Addison Harris

     On November 3 Arthur Crismond announced that he was prepared to pay the shortages discovered in the clerk's accounts. The grand jury indicted his father on eight counts, the most serious of which were embezzlement and forgery.
     Four months after his abrupt and bizarre disapperance, JPH Crismond had yet to appear in Spotsylvania.
     On November 8, 1903 the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that Arthur Crismond made restitution as follows: $3,746.74 due to the state of Virginia; $203.76 due to the county of Spotsylvania; $484.63 for the cost of the investigation; and $27.54 for witness attendance before the investigating committee.

Restitution made in full

     JPH Crismond returned to his home in Spotsylvania on November 23, 1903.
     In December, as the date for Crismond's trial in county court approached, there was yet another interesting twist in a drama with no shortage of them. A petition signed by 67 citizens was presented to Judge Waller asking that he recuse himself from the case. Waller fined Fredericksburg Commonwealth's Attorney Charles D. Foster for contempt of court for his supposed connection to the petition. Waller also promised similar action would be in store for the signers themselves. Foster resigned as prosecutor in the case the following day. Lee J. Graves was appointed as his replacement. Within another week contempt charges against the signers of the petition were dismissed.
     After all this legal flapdoodle the trial at last got underway on January 5, 1904. St. George R. Fitzhugh was the lead attorney for Crismond. Day one did not progress far before prosecutor Lee J. Graves fell ill. A couple of weeks passed during which little happened except for the courtroom histrionics of Fitzhugh and temporary prosecutor Gordon. Finally E.H. DeJarnette was selected to finish prosecuting the case.
     On January 20 the Fredericksburg Free Lance reported that Fitzhugh made the point that because there was not intent on Crismond's part to defraud the state then the charge of embezzlement could not be proven. While Crismond's negligence was a serious matter, he allowed, it was not a felony. After receiving their instructions on the embezzling charge, the jury retired to consider the evidence. Within five minutes the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty. A spontaneous demonstration of approval came from the spectators and the judge had to gavel the proceedings to order.
     Feelings ran high during the course of the trial. One day a Mr. Waite came to the clerk's office and asked Sheriff Turnley for a list of the jurors' names. Turnley refused to comply and the two men came to blows and had to be separated by clerk T.A. Harris. 
     In fact, Crismond would be found not guilty of all the charges against him, save one. The charge of forgery would be tried in circuit court by Judge J.E. Mason.
     In May 1904, before this case came to trial, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported a bit of Methodist news that showed that Crismond enjoyed the support of much of the community: "JPH Crismond, local deacon of the Spotsylvania circuit, made his report to the conference and on motion his character passed."
     And finally, on June 9, 1904 the prosecution announced that they would now drop the forgery case pending against Crismond. After almost a year of tumult Crismond had escaped legal consequences for what were very serious charges.
     Still, controversy continued to cling to him.
     On October 5, 1904 JPH Crismond was indicted for attempting to steal three pairs of shoes from the Spotsylvania store of Harris & Frazier. He was carrying out two pairs of shoes and wearing one pair with the price tag still affixed. The Free Lance reported that "The friends of Crismond say his mind must be deranged as there was no reason for committing the act, as he has ample means..." The next day the charge was dismissed when the store's owners declined to prosecute.

The end result of all of this, at least in the short term, was the end of Crismond's viability in Democratic politics. So he switched his allegiance to the Republican party. He served on the boards of several organizations and continued to hold services at weddings and funerals. But there would be one more turn of the wheel as far as Crismond's public notoriety went and this would play out in the pages of the Free Lance in late 1910.
     On September 22 of that year the county's Republicans assembled to elect officers. J.P. Turnley nominated attorney Samuel P. Powell to be chairman. At this Crismond leaped up and indignantly said that Powell had already pledged his support for R.C. Blaydes for that post and accused Powell of "gross inconsistency." Blaydes was elected chairman. Samuel P. Powell was elected secretary "without opposition in place of Mr. Crismond, who said that he would not have the place any longer."
     A month later the Free Lance published an open letter by Powell which accused Crismond of misstating the events of the meeting. In like manner JPH replied on November 1, insisting that Powell had indeed pledged his support for Blaydes and accused him of being a sore loser.
     Powell was unwilling to let the matter drop. His rejoinder, published on November 10, 1910, upped the ante in their escalating war of words. He claimed that Blaydes "willfully and deliberately misunderstood me." Then Powell reached for the jugular by dredging up the events of 1903: "[Crismond] was forced [to flee] by his fear of a felon's cell in the convict ward of the penitentiary when it became  known that he had diverted many thousands of dollars of the State's his own private purposes." And then this: "If there is a man I abhor it is the oily tongued hypocrite who pretends to be my friend."
     Crismond's retort of November 26 begins: "He who the gods would destroy they first make mad." He is just getting warmed up. "Powell was so full of bitter venom that he had neither the fairness nor the honor to give the truth its due...My going away in 1903 had nothing to do with the clerk's office, and God and one man only besides myself knew what my mission was." He then says that before the trial he was approached by Powell's father (who signed the glowing report of 1899) and recommended Samuel as defense attorney for Crismond, who said he declined the offer.
     The testy--and often bombastic--exchange between these two reached a crescendo before Christmas 1910. In a withering philippic dated December 22, Powell let loose the remaining arrows in his quiver. He refutes the claim that his father had tried to arrange the defense attorney job by producing a letter he claims to show that, in fact, Crismond had approached the senior Powell to serve as his counsel and James L. Powell declined. Powell then returns to the notorious trial of 1904: "By some technical miscarriage of justice he was not sent to the penitentiary for his manifold crimes." He then goes on to insinuate that Crismond dumped the fee books and other records into the Mississippi River during his flight to Mexico. Not content to stop there, Powell accuses JPH and R.C. Blaydes of soliciting a bribe from B. Wiglesworth in order that he might keep the post office in his store.. He characterizes them as "hypocrites, blackmailers, grafters, bribe takers, falsifiers and conspirators." 
     My, my.
     To my knowledge JPH Crismond never publicly explained his behavior of 1903.