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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nancy Estes Row






     Nancy Estes Row (1798-1873), my great great grandmother, was born at Greenfield Plantation to Richard Estes and Catherine Carlton. The Estes family were remembered as stern, dignified people and this photograph of Nancy makes me think that was certainly the case. Mabel Wakeman said she was told that when Nancy lived at Greenfield the larders and outbuildings where provisions were stored were kept under lock and key. Nancy had a businesslike demeanor as she bustled about with her keys during the course of her daily errands. Nancy married Absalom Row of Orange County on November 2, 1825. Seven years later Absalom bought her girlhood home from the estate of Richard Estes, and Greenfield would remain in the Row family until 1905. Absalom and Nancy had five children together: Martha (1828-1885), Sarah (1829-1840), Nannie (1831-1889), Bettie (1832-1888) and George Washington Estes (1843-1883). After Absalom's death in 1855 Nancy, as executrix of his will, became the mistress of Greenfield. Martha married James T. Williams of Lynchburg in 1850 and Bettie married Zachary Rawlings of Spotsylvania in 1860. Nannie never married. George was sent to The Locust Grove Academy in Albemarle County for his education. He returned home about the time Virginia seceded and joined the Confederate cavalry at age 17 in April 1861. It is said that Nancy sent her son off to war with a slave to accompany him and the two best horses on the plantation. In March of the following year the long time overseer of Greenfield, James Brock, retired and was replaced by John Hopkins. Between June and August 1862 Nancy's slaves fled and made their way to freedom within the Union lines. With the help of Zachary Rawlings Nancy filed an affidavit with the Corporation Court of Fredericksburg in January 1863 in hopes of some day getting compensation for her lost property. In the meantime she supported the Confederate cause by purchasing Confederate bonds and selling hay to the quartermaster corps.
     On May 2, 1863 Stonewall Jackson and approximately 26,000 Confederate soldiers swung off Brock Road and made their way up the narrow road that ran through Greenfield. For hours these men marched north, crossing Panther Run and finally re-emerging onto Brock Road in their successful attempt to outflank the Union army commanded by General Hooker. The artillery and musket fire at the ensuing battle at Chancellorsville could be easily heard at Greenfield until well after night fall.
      The Rows and the Rawlings did not wish to be near the danger and violence of another battle, and so early in 1864 they loaded up their wagons and trundled down to the crossroads village of Hadensville in Goochland County. There they would live as refugees for much of the time until the end of the war. Maria Dobyns of Oakley plantation wrote a letter in June 1864 to Nancy's daughter Nannie. She described in vivid detail the fighting that occurred on her farm and told Nannie that the Rows were fortunate to have escaped before Grant's army crossed the Rapidan.
      Once the war was over Nancy, Nannie and George returned to Greenfield, which had escaped the devastation visited on other properties in Spotsylvania. The Rows would hire many freedmen to work for them, entering into labor agreements with some of them in the early years after the Civil War.
     George married Annie Daniel of Culpeper in 1867 and brought her back to live at Greenfield. Their first child, Absalom Alpheus (known as Abbie), was born in December 1868 and their daughter Virginia Isabella came in March 1871.  The February after Abbie was born Nancy gave 166 1/2 acres, valued at $490, to George. The Rows had previously referred to this part of Greenfield as the lower plantation. George called this place "Sunshine" and it has been known by that name ever since.





     The year 1871 marked the beginning of a period of tragedy and upheaval for the Rows. George's wife Annie, just 23 years old, died of diphtheria on November 4, 1871. Four days later an estate sale was conducted at Greenfield, at which many of the household possessions were sold. Virginia Isabella died shortly thereafter and was buried in an unmarked grave at Greenfield next to that of her mother. For several years afterward George would divide his time between Spotsylvania and Rockbridge, where his sister Bettie and brother in law Zachary Rawlings lived. Abbie was left in the care of George's sister Nannie during those times. Nancy Row spent much of 1872 in Lynchburg, where she lived with Martha's family. A mister Childress worked as caretaker of Greenfield in the Rows' absence. In failing health, 74 year old Nancy would return to Greenfield late that year. She died at home on January 5, 1873. Her coffin was built by friend and neighbor Robert S. Knighton. Nancy was laid to rest, next to  her husband,  in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery at Greenfield.

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