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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"On that beautiful shore"

Houston Row

Mabel Row

Horace Row

     George and Lizzie's first child, George Houston, was born at Greenfield on September 3, 1877. He was followed by a sister, Nancy Mabel, on August 31, 1879. Just two month's after Mabel's arrival the neuralgia that had been afflicting Lizzie reached a point where she was obliged to travel back home to Mount Pleasant so that she could be cared for by her mother. While in Rockbridge, Lizzie was tended to by her uncle, Dr. John A. McClung. His remedy, mentioned in a letter written to her by George on October 26, sounds grim: "The neighbors...speak sympathizingly when I tell how you suffer with neuralgia. Hope dear wife you may get rid of it after you have those teeth taken out. I have commenced saving money...for I think you will come back toothless. Tell Dr. McClung of your ailments and bring his bill and I will settle it."

George to Lizzie 26 October 1879

     The Row's third child, Robert Alexander, was born at their new home on Sunshine farm on February 26, 1881. Here began a sad sequence of events that mirrored the tragedies endured by George ten years earlier. Little Robert fell ill that autumn and died on October 7. His father bought a coffin for four dollars from his friend and Fredericksburg merchant James Roach. As was the custom in those days Lizzie cut a lock of her son's hair and sewed it to a piece of paper as a keepsake. Her father shared in their grief and sent a poem copied from cousin Eliza, entitled "A Child in Heaven" which Lizzie kept for the rest of her life.

     Just six months after sending this poem to Lizzie, George Houston died of pneumonia at Mount Pleasant. He departed this life having written no will and also heavily in debt. For years Lizzie, her mother, brothers and sister struggled to pay the creditors of her father's estate and keep Mount Pleasant in the Houston family. Their efforts were ultimately successful, although it would take twenty years to finally close his estate.

Notice of George Houston's estate sale

     By the time that her father was buried at New Providence Church, Lizzie was carrying her fourth child, Horace, who was born at Sunshine on July 25, 1882. Unlike Robert, Horace and his brother and sister thrived and would survive into adulthood.
     These were the times when George Row was hitting his stride and was at last attaining the happiness and prosperity that had eluded him in the early 1870s. He had his own house, a loving wife and three healthy children. Although his farming and saw mill businesses were highly leveraged he was making a comfortable living and enjoyed the friendship and respect of his friends, business associates and fellow Masons. Things were going very well for the Rows and the future held much promise.
     That is, until early April 1883. George fell ill and took to his bed, racked by pneumonia. Lizzie kept her two boys with her and sent Mabel to Greenfield to be looked after by her Aunt Nan. Despite her constant attention and the best efforts of Dr. Thomas Finney (who served in the 9th Cavalry with George) he lapsed into unconsciousness and died on April 18. Lizzie kept three locks of his hair "cut by me from his dear forehead." George was buried in the northwest corner of the family cemetery at Greenfield. In time Lizzie bought a headstone from George Donning which, while badly weathered, still stands.
     The next May a still grieving Lizzie wrote a letter intended to be read by her children when older. It was important to her that they remember their father as "kind hearted and affectionate" and, while not a church member, taught the men's Bible class at Shady Grove. She wrote: "I hope you all will meet him on that beautiful shore."

Mourning cloak of Lizzie Row

Monday, June 27, 2011

"I can heartily commend our daughter to you"

Lizzie Houston Row, 1875

     On April 29, 1854 Mary Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Houston was born at Mount Pleasant, a 330 acre farm in Rockbridge County northwest of Lexington. By the time of Lizzie's birth, Mount Pleasant had been the home of the Willsons--her mother's people-- for 100 years. Annette Willson married George Houston in 1848 and after their daughter was born the farm would remain in the Houston family for another 100 years.

George and Annette Houston

     George Houston was a farmer, slave owner and justice of the peace. Like his father, George was a devout Presbyterian and served for many years as an elder at New Providence Church. His early education was acquired there and helped prepare him for entry into Washington College, from which he graduated in 1840. In the 1870s George Houston and his son Finley introduced to Rockbridge County the Aultman-Taylor line of steam powered farm equipment.

Ann Smith Academy

     Like her mother before her, Lizzie Houston was sent to the Ann Smith Academy for her education. The Academy was a school for girls of well to do families that operated in Lexington for 100 years. Teachers like Fanny Exall and Fanny Witherspoon made a particular impression on Lizzie and she kept their photographs in her album. There is a well known photograph of Stonewall Jackson's grave taken in 1866. Surrounding his enclosed gravesite are students of Ann Smith Academy. While Lizzie herself does not appear in the picture, these girls would have been her friends and classmates.

Grave of Stonewall Jackson, 1866

     Lizzie continued to live at Mount Pleasant after completing her education at Ann Smith. By now the Houston household also included brothers Finley (1852-1926) and William (1864-1946) and sister Annie (1866-1902). Lizzie had matured into a very pretty young woman and she began to attract the attention of the young men of her neighborhood as well as students of Washington and Lee College. Her suitors included Will Austin, Arthur Ott, R.C. McKenney and Will Moore. She kept their photographs, poems and letters in her trunk all her life. These young men would have of course visited her under highly chaperoned circumstances. Any of them would have likely made a good match for Lizzie. But in 1874 she met someone previously outside her knowledge from a faraway county called Spotsylvania.
     As you would expect Lizzie's mother Annette had a great many relations living in Rockbridge, including her cousin James E.A. Gibbs. Gibbs was a well known inventor of an early model sewing machine and lived in a fine house at Raphine, not far from Mount Pleasant. At this time Gibbs' daughter Florence was seeing Ben Rawlings, originally of Spotsylvania. They would marry in 1876. Ben's brother Zachary lived near Raphine and operated the Osceola mill. Zachary and Bettie Rawlings were frequently visited by her brother, George Washington Estes Row, who had a business venture with Ben and was also working on a patent for an improved railroad car coupling. In the natural course of events George Row would have become acquainted with the extended family of Florence Gibbs. This would have included the Houstons of Mount Pleasant and in particular their twenty year old daughter Lizzie.
      George Row was quite different from the young men she had come to know so far. At thirty one he was eleven years older than Lizzie when they met in 1874. George was a veteran of the Civil War, a father, a widower and was engaged in business in both Spotsylvania and Rockbridge. Within the past three years he had been rocked by a succession of tragedies--the deaths of his wife, daughter and mother. In the melancholy letters he wrote to Lizzie early in their courtship it is easy to see that he still had not gotten over their loss. When he met Lizzie he was instantly smitten and set out at once to compete for her affection with matrimony in mind.
     Lizzie was not so sure.
     In a letter written by George to Lizzie in October 1874 it is clear that he has already pursued her for some time and that she has broken off the relationship. He pleads with her: "Can I not persuade you, yes beseech you, to reconsider the matter?...I have but the hope the fond, fond hope (how I cling to it) that I may yet be favored with your love and you may again smile upon me."
     By January 1875 it is evident that George had agreed to a condition laid down by Lizzie that they would have no contact for six months in order that she might think about things. George breaches that agreement by writing this letter and by way of explanation tells her that he intends to build upon and improve his farm in Spotsylvania, Sunshine. "I hope you may see the propriety of this course and approve of it--for it is for your welfare that I have to heart...My feelings towards you have not changed and are more ardent than ever."
     Lizzie's reply of January 7, 1875 marks a turning point in their relationship and gives George cause for hope: "I am sorry it has not suited your business arrangements to give me the time that I desired to reflect more seriously upon a matter of such importance, however your reasons for doing so are satisfactory and I am now prepared to say your affections are fully reciprocated."
     George, it goes without saying, is elated. "Your dear letter is just to hand bringing me the glad tidings that there is one in this wide world how loves me and is willing to share my fate with me for good or bad. Tell me Lizzie when I shall come and when you will make my heart gladdest by taking me for your protector for life...With my best love and a dozen and a half kisses I am as ever, yours affectionately, George."

George to Lizzie, 15 January 1875

     For the next few months their relationship continued, but not without a few rough patches. Lizzie was still not entirely sold on the idea of marring George Row, and her girlish ambivalence was a source of some discomfort to him. In a letter from March 1875 George wrote: "Hope you had a pleasant time with Mr. Moore [Will Moore, one of Lizzie's previous suitors]. By the way I am rather jealous of him as it seemed you were very willing for me to leave after he came and your objection to wearing my ring in his presence also seemed as if there was an unnecessary bashfulness. Now don't thing I do this to chide you but I think of these things while absent from you and it bothers very much..."
     Fortunately for their romance (not to mention for future generations of Rows) Lizzie overcame her skittishness regarding her commitment to George. In September 1875 George sent a letter addressed to her father and mother, asking for her hand in marriage. George Houston's reply begins with a certain hesitancy and reserve: " I must be permitted to say that I had rather that the acquaintance had been of longer standing." But Mr. Houston quickly warms to his subject and adds: "Nevertheless I am free to say that I esteemed you from our first acquaintance and was favorably impressed with your character and manners. And I am happy to say also that I can heartily commend our daughter to you for her upright character and strict integrity. And may the blessing of God be with you all the days of your lives!"

George Row to George Houston

George Houston to George Row, p.1

George Houston to George Row, p.2

     On the morning of December 14, 1875 George and Lizzie were married at New Providence Episcopal Church by Reverend E.D. Junkin. The flowers that Lizzie wore around her neck and that George wore on his coat were kept by Lizzie in this envelope:

     After the wedding George and Lizzie rode to Staunton where they took the train to Fredericksburg. From there they endured a long, cold carriage ride to Greenfield. George's sister Nannie was cleaning up the floor of the main house where George's son Abbie had been in a whittling contest with Patrick the adopted son of Lucius M. Estes and his wife, who worked as caretakers at Greenfield. They lived in the log weaving house and George and Lizzie gratefully sat by the fire tended by Mrs. Estes. Greenfield would be their home for the next four years or so, until George finished building their house at Sunshine. There Lizzie would live for the next forty nine years.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"I thought your little heart would break"

George Washington Estes Row

Lizzie Houston Row with her son, Horace, 1883
Mabel Row, 1883

Houston Row, 1883

Lock of hair from Robert Alexander Row, 1881

A year after the death of her husband, George Washington Estes Row, Lizzie Houston Row wrote a letter which was a meditation on his life and death. The letter was intended to be read by her children when they were older. By now it had been thirteen months since her beloved husband had died at Sunshine farm. This had been by far the most difficult period of her life. Lizzie now had sole responsibility for her children. She had to manage Sunshine, a 342 acre farm, without the help of her husband. This included hiring, managing and paying a work force. She was the administratrix of George's estate. Lizzie had to deal with creditors, wind down the saw mill business, find a buyer for the steam engine bought from Benjamin Bowering, contract for the sale of the thousands of shooks lying in the mill yard. The accumulation of her cares and sorrows bore heavily upon her.

Lizzie Row's letter to her children, May 10, 1884

May 10, 1884. The little white gown with a border of black stitched around it was made for Houston [1] by his Father & I before he was born, in Aunt Nan's room at Greenfield. All four of you [2] have worn it & now it is in my trunk as a keepsake. The little pink dress was given to me by coz Julia for Robert, he wore it during his sickness & had it on when he died.
I held Houston's head in my hands and his Father cut his hair the day he was ten months old...Two little bouquets in a large Houston envelope were worn, one on my neck and the other on your F[ather's] coat the morning we were married. It was Dec 14, 1875. You can see from letters rec'd from your Father before and since our marriage how kind hearted and affectionate he was.
     During his sickness before he was unconscious we were alone. I asked him if he still loved me he said 'yes' and put his arms around my neck [and] said "I love you the house full the barn full and all out of doors." This is what he used to teach you all to tell him. Your Father was not a church member but I think a Christian. His motto was "Do justice love mercy & walk humbly with thy God." He was not sick quite two weeks, was not conscious when he died, but breathed quietly. Mabel was at Greenfield, Horace asleep, Houston by me on the bedside. I hope you all will meet him "on that beautiful shore."
     Mabel your Father loved you dearly and I thought your little heart would break when we came back from the burial. You went through the house calling "Father" and asked me "Why didn't God let Father stay until tomorrow when I come and wanted to see him so bad."
     Dear children you are bright and happy now. You don't know your loss while I am so sad and lonely. Dear little Hossie [Horace] as Father used to call you can't remember sitting in my lap and holding Father's hand while he was sick in bed. This large red & green woolen counterpane was woven by cousin Rachel Farish in your Grandmother Row's lifetime & it was your Father's & now Rachel says Mabel must have it now, as she is the only daughter. The comforter made of scraps of my dresses & put together with dark red calico (Pa bought me) is Houston's & also the cradle quilt Grandma Houston quilted for him when he was two weeks old. If I live I will make a quilt for my baby Horace (I did).
     This mustache cup was given to Father his last Xmas at Shady Grove as a present for teaching Bible class...One of you take the cup, the other the razor. Mabel asked for his harp that he used to play on to make his "little chirrun [children] happy."

[1] George Houston Row (1877-1899), the oldest of the Row children.
[2] The other Row children were Nancy Mabel (1879-1974), Robert Alexander (1881) and Horace (1882-1939).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

George Washington Estes Row, Part 4

     In the months before he married Lizzie Houston, George Row began to show some interest in participating in the political activity of Spotsylvania County. In the spring of 1875 George was elected as a delegate representing the Chancellor District in the convention of the Conservative Party. Under the guidance of his friend X.X. Chartters George also joined the Grange movement, an advocacy group representing the interests of farmers. In April 1875 he became an officer in the Wilderness Grange.

Virginia Herald 26 April 1875

     Soon after George and Lizzie returned to Spotsylvania County George began in earnest to build both his business and a house for his family at his farm, Sunshine. During this period George employed dozens of freedmen to work at Sunshine and at Greenfield, now his sister Nannie's farm. Men were also hired to work at his sawmill, named "G.W.E. Row, Manufacturer of Lumber and West India Cooperage." George kept detailed business records in a series of ledger books. Show below are two examples from those books. The first is a kind of pay stub for farm hand William Lewis who--like other Row employees-- was compensated with cash, clothing, foodstuffs, tobacco and whiskey. The second image is his cash account for a portion of 1881. Many pages in these ledgers list the customers he kept accounts for, a sort of who's who of Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg.

William Lewis account for farm labor

George Row cash account 1881

     George also continued to do business with the railroad, both as a supplier and as a customer. His relations with the often cash-strapped Fredericksburg & Gordonsville railroad could be prickly, as noted in the settlement for a claim for payment filed by him. George's saw mill, located at the Joseph Talley farm south of Finchville, featured a spur track by which mule drawn wagons carried his products to the railroad. His cancelled check to J.B. Peyton, agent for the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad, was payment for hauling his lumber to market.

George Row's settlement statement with F&G Railroad

George Row's check for drayage costs to J.B. Peyton

     The Rows were both suppliers and customers of a number of Fredericksburg merchants. Wheat, corn and oats grown by them were sold to millers such as J.B. Ficklen and Myer & Brulle and in return purchases were made of cornmeal and flour. Likewise the Rows sold commodities like eggs and butter to grocers like Swift & Cole, where they shopped for foodstuffs.

     Cash flow would remain a challenge for George Row in order to meet the demands of his growing businesses. George continued to borrow money from family members such as his sister Nannie and cousins John Row and Kate Kale. He also maintained open accounts with a variety of Fredericksburg merchants, from whom he had received lines of credit. Businesses such as Willis & Crismond and foundry owner Benjamin Bowering (from whom he bought the steam engine that powered his saw mill) advanced him money for some of his larger purchases.

     All of this activity began to bear fruit in terms of outward signs of increasing prosperity for George. His account with clothier Benjamin Goldsmith shows purchases of suits of clothes, shirts, brogans and the like. George networked with some of the movers and shakers in Fredericksburg and as early as 1879 became a Mason.

Receipt for lodge dues 1879

     Another sign of success began to show up in the newspapers, where notices regarding his business activities (as well as his advertising slogan) began to appear.

Virginia Star 23 March 1881

Virginia Star 16 April 1881

Virginia Star 3 February 1883

     In the meantime George and Lizzie began a family and by 1880 had moved into the house he had built at Sunshine. In addition to Abbie, his son from his first marriage to Annie Daniel, George and Lizzie would have four children of their own: Houston (1877-1899), Mabel (1879-1974), Robert (1881) and Horace (1882-1939).

Lizzie Row with Horace, Mabel Row

Houston Row

     Robert Alexander Row would live just eight months. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Greenfield in a coffin bought by his father for four dollars from Fredericksburg merchant and auctioneer James Roach. (Roach had served in the Sixth Cavalry with George and would conduct George Row's estate sale in 1883.)

James Roach receipt to George Row 11 October 1881

     During the first week of April 1883 George fell ill and took to his bed. Despite the tender ministrations of Lizzie and the efforts of Dr. Thomas Finney, his condition worsened and he died of pneumonia on April 18. He is buried in the family cemetery at Greenfield in a grave marked by a stone bought from George Donning by Lizzie. The future of the Row family now lay entirely in her hands.

From the Row family Bible

Virginia Star April 1883

Sunday, June 19, 2011

George Washington Estes Row, Part 3

Henry Slaughter's labor contract

     The war was over at last and George, Nancy and Nannie Row came home to Greenfield to begin life again in a world turned upside down. While it was true that the farm showed signs of serious neglect--sections of fencing were gone, the livestock missing, the fields overgrown--the Rows were more fortunate than others. Their house and outbuildings still stood and had not been reduced to a charred monument to a bygone era.
     In order to reclaim Greenfield and its more than 800 acres as a viable farming enterprise it was first necessary to reconstitute the work force. Except for a small handful of former slaves who had remained loyal to the Rows after the rest had escaped to freedom in 1862, the new laborers would be comprised of freed men, women and children. His mother was now 67 years old and the responsibility for hiring and provisioning these people fell to George. Over the next eighteen years he would hire and maintain records for dozens of employees who worked at the Row farms and saw mill.
     In the immediate aftermath of the war George engaged the services of freed blacks through the use of labor contracts such as the one shown above. This agreement between George Row and Henry Slaughter, signed in February 1867, was in essence a sharecropping arrangement. George pledged to "furnish the land and team and also to feed the same." For his part Henry was obliged to "work as much land as he can in corn and oats" and divide the crop with George. They also agreed to each share the work of rebuilding the fences. Henry was also to provide the labor of "his grown son and two small boys."

Annie Tutt Daniel

     On October 31, 1867 George--now twenty four years old--married nineteen year old Annie Daniel of Culpeper County. Annie had grown up at Forest Grove plantation, built in the 1850s by her father Samuel Alpheus Daniel. Daniel had been killed in 1862 during the fighting at Mechanicsville. Annie's mother Sarah struggled to take care of Annie and her brother and sisters during the long periods of Federal occupation. Sarah Daniel moved the family to a boarding house at Culpeper Court House after the battle of Cedar Mountain (during which the Daniel house was used as a Confederate hospital) and rented rooms to Federal officers. Sarah found caretakers to live at Forest Grove who managed to prevent the house from being destroyed by the roving gangs of Yankee pillagers who systematically vandalized much of occupied Culpeper.
     The wedding took place at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Culpeper and was officiated by the Reverend John Cole, who had been befriended by Robert E. Lee during the war. During the ceremony George placed upon Annie's finger a ring made from gold mined from Panther Run at Greenfield by Absalom Row. George and Annie returned to Greenfield to live with Nancy and Nannie. The following year Annie spent the the latter part of her confinement at Forest Grove where she gave birth to their son, Absalom "Abbie" Alpheus Row, born on December 1, 1868.

Nancy Row's gift of land to George

      Now that George and Annie had begun a family, Nancy decided that it was important that they have a place they could call their own. Three months after her grandson's birth, Nancy Row gave to George a section of Greenfield, consisting of 166 1/2 acres, that the family called the lower plantation. In a document witnessed by former overseer James Brock and Row neighbor Bernhard Kube, Nancy retained a life estate in this property, appraised at $490. George would come to call this place "Sunshine."

H.J. Eckenrode receipt to George Row

     In addition to the management of farming operations at Greenfield (and--in time--at Sunshine as well) George Row ran his own saw mill business. One of his best customers in these early years was the Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad, for whom he provided sills, ties and fence stock. George kept track of his employees' production in his ledgers, as noted in the "tie account" of freedman Mortimer Sullivan:

1870 tie account with Mortimer Sullivan

     Along with his mother and sister, George also had to pay his share of the county tax burden. The tax receipts kept among his papers show that he was conscientious in taking care of his obligations, one of which from 1867 is seen below. However, in later years the taxes he owed in Culpeper would escape his attention and cause difficulties for his son Abbie as well as Nannie Row and Sarah Daniel.

George Row's tax bill 1867

     In letters written by and about him is evident that George Row was a dutiful but unenthusiastic farmer. He would seek opportunities that could possibly better leverage his native abilities. In 1871 such an opportunity seemed to present itself in an episode of interesting possibilities, if one that is not fully understood from this distance.

George to Nancy Row, July 1871

     Soon after the birth of his daughter Virginia Isabella in March 1871 George Row went to Texas. His wife Annie and his two children were left at Greenfield to be cared for by Nancy and Nannie. George spent about six months in Freestone, Texas with Annie's uncle Dr. Vivian Quisenberry, who practiced medicine and ran a drug store. Originally from Orange County, Dr. Quisienberry was married to Sarah Daniel's sister Annie. The 1860 census shows that his brother in law James Robinson, sheriff of Orange County, lived with them. Dr. Quisenberry was assistant surgeon in the 59th Virginia Infantry. After the Civil War he and his wife moved to Texas.

Dosage scales of George Row

     In a remarkable letter written to his mother on July 3, 1871 George describes what life is like in Texas and we are given some inkling as to his motive for going out there. George writes that he first worked as a carpenter for $3 per day "but the sun is so hot I found it affected my head so much that I was afraid of apoplexy." So he began working in Dr. Quisenberry's drug store, despite the cut in pay. In this role George sees a side of human nature that is a novelty to him. "Living like I am in a Drug Store see what other people would never know. The women nearly all of them dip snuff and both men and women eat morphine and opium. It is hard for us to keep in morphine and opium. They don't mind the price."
     George tells his mother details about the soil, what grows well, how the horses are, cattle prices and so on. He was impressed with the abundance of wildlife: "Plenty of deer and turkeys all over the country but I have hunted very little. Killed one deer and stopped hunting. You may ride along the road and see four or five jump across the road and look at you. I always give them a round from my six shooter."

From George's memorandum book

From George's memorandum book

     So what was George doing in Texas for half the year 1871? A possible clue appears near the end of his letter: "I hope you all have confirmed the trade as it would dispose of the Plantation and do a good thing to get the trade. I will take the Plantation tract if the other children object to Texas land if the trade is to be made a reasonable price." I think George was trying to put together a land deal whereby the Rows would be able to divest themselves of Greenfield. George is full prepared to move to Texas: "If I was a single man would drive down here." His memorandum book, captured during the Civil War, contains the names of contacts in Texas and the legal descriptions of property he was considering.
     George also gives mention to the family's growing interest in the railroad business. "Annie writes that Zach [his brother in law Zachary Rawlings] is going to work on a railroad near Lynchburg. Hope he makes money. How is the F&G [Fredericksburg & Gordonsville] RR getting on. Have they commenced work on it or have they paid up."
     George returned to Spotsylvania in September 1871 in order to give a deposition in the court case intended to resolve outstanding issues in the estate of his mother's sister Mary "Polly" Carter, who died in 1863. Mary had lived at Greenfield for the last twenty five years of her life, George testified, having left her husband (because of his drinking, it was said). The case carried serious import for the Rows, as George's mother was seeking compensation for maintaining her sister's lifestyle during this period.

Estate sale of Annie Row

     Just weeks after his appearance in court, the first in a series of hammer blows fell that completely changed the lives of the Rows and made irrelevant any notions of moving to Texas. On November 4, 1871 twenty three year old Annie Row died of diphtheria. Stunned by this shocking and unexpected loss, the Rows held an estate sale at Greenfield four days later. The Rows appear to have left Greenfield for a time, leaving a Mr. Childress to take care of the farm. Nancy, now in declining health, and Nannie lived with Martha and her family for much of 1872. Then George's daughter Virginia Isabella died. For the next few years a grief stricken and depressed George Row divided his time between Spotsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley, where he often stayed with Bettie and Zachary.
From Row vs Rawlings et al, filed 1873
     Nancy and Nannie returned to Greenfield in late 1872. Nancy died at home on January 5, 1873 and was buried (like Absalom, Annie and Virginia Isabella) in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery. Nancy had no will of her own--Absalom's will of 1847 was still the controlling legal document--and George qualified as the administrator of the Row estate.
     Fundamental differences of opinion soon emerged between George and his sisters Martha and Bettie regarding what was considered a fair division of the estate, both real and personal. First, George was of the mind that Greenfield could not be efficiently subdivided and that the property should be sold in its entirety and the proceeds distributed among the heirs. Martha and Bettie disagreed, each wanting a deed to their share of the acreage. The other problem concerned the valuation of the slaves given to Martha and Bettie by their mother in the late 1850s. Absalom's will stipulated that the respective values of those slaves should be deducted from their shares in the final accounting of the estate. Martha and Bettie argued that since those slave lost all their value by an act of law (the Thirteenth Amendment) they should not be charged with their pre-war values.
     A resolution to these dilemmas was not immediately at hand, so George petitioned the Circuit Court of Spotsylvania for its assistance. The court ruled for the sisters regarding the land; each of the heirs received a portion of Greenfield (Nannie, the logical choice, got the Greenfield home place and outbuildings and 244 acres). However, the court ruled against Martha and Bettie on the point of the valuation of the slaves.
     While all this was being sorted out, George's finances were constrained and would remain so for several more years. On a check for $100 drawn on his account at Conway, Gordon and Garnett in October 1873, he added this somewhat plaintive plea: "I am in real need of money."

George Row's check for $100 written in 1873

     By 1874 Bettie and Zachary had settled in Rockbridge County and George spent much time with them. This is the period of his life when George appears to have been most active in the business of railroads. Zachary had just recently been a contractor for the Norfolk & Western for a few years. When his brother Ben Rawlings returned to Virginia from out west he, too, worked for the same railroad line. George and Ben were partners in some business venture. By October 1874 George cashed out from that enterprise and Ben wrote a notice releasing George from any further financial liability:

     Perhaps one reason why George dissolved his partnership with Ben was because  by that time he had bigger fish to fry. On November 21 George made application to the Commissioner of Patents for consideration of an improved design for a railroad car coupling. Patent number 159,120 was granted to George Row on January 26, 1875, shown below with two views of his handmade model of that coupling:

     While George's business with Ben Rawlings did not bear fruit, he did derive one permanent benefit from Ben's presence in Rockbridge County. Ben had been pursuing Florence Gibbs, daughter of sewing machine inventor James E. A. Gibbs. In the natural course of events George became acquainted with the Gibbs family and their relatives, including Florence's aunt Annette Houston and her husband George of Mount Pleasant farm. George became smitten by their older daughter, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Houston and from 1874 to 1875 vied for her attention with the young men of Rockbridge (he was eleven years older than Lizzie). The letters they exchanged during their courtship survive and deserve a closer look in a future post. In September 1875 George asked Lizzie's parents to bless their union:

     Another opportunity had presented itself to George, this one to recapture the happiness he had previously known with Annie,  and he seized this one with both hands.