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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

1 comment:

  1. Amazing he did so much after his four years as a Cavalryman. That life obviously took its toll. The photo above is of an old man, yet GWE died less than two months shy turning 40.