Search This Blog

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nannie Row, Part 2

                                             Leather valise marked "Nanny Row's Papers"

     In 1865 Nannie's mother was sixty seven years old, and so it fell to her and her brother George to transform Greenfield--much neglected during the war--into a working farm once again. As she would be throughout her life Nannie was a hardworking woman totally devoted to her home and her family. Her sister Martha once remarked, "I am afraid she is overtaxing herself. I know I could not begin to do the work she does and keep up." One of the first orders of business at Greenfield was rebuilding the work force there. With very few exceptions the Rows' former slaves did not work for them after the war. George assumed the responsibility of hiring the freed men and women who would work on the Rows' farms and at his sawmill.
     In October 1867 George married Annie Daniel of Culpeper and together they lived with Nancy and Nannie at Greenfield. Their son, Absalom Alpheus Row--whom they would call "Abbie"--was born in December of the following year. Nannie adored her nephew and for the rest of her life would be like a second mother to him.  Nannie also was close to her mother, who acknowledged her daughter's devotion in 1868 with money from her brother Richard Estes' estate, as well as a bureau from her late sister, Mary "Polly" Carter:

                                           Nancy Row to Nannie, "for services rendered"

     The year 1871 marked the beginning of a period of upheaval and tragedy for the Row family. Shortly after the birth of his daughter Virginia Isabella in March of that year, George traveled alone to Texas. His stated purpose was to search for land to buy so that the family could divest itself of Greenfield and move out west. This never came to pass, as George and the rest of the family were quickly overwhelmed by a chain of events shortly after his return to Spotsylvania in September. On November 4, 1871 George's wife Annie died of diphtheria at Greenfield. Four days later the Rows held an estate sale, at which many of the family's personal possessions were offered for sale. Little Virginia Isabella then also died; both she and her mother were buried in unmarked graves in the family cemetery at Greenfield. A grieving and ever restless George Row began to divide his time between Spotsylvania and Rockbridge County, where his sister Bettie and brother in law Zachary Rawlings lived. Nancy and Nannie spent much of 1872 living with Martha and her family in Lynchburg. Greenfield was for a time left in the care of a Mr. Childress. Little Abbie spent much of his time with Nannie.
      Now seventy four years old, Nancy Row was in failing health. She returned to Greenfield in late 1872 and she died there on January 5, 1873. George was appointed administrator of the Row estate. As is often the case in these matters, it did not take long for a difference of opinion to arise between George and his sisters Martha and Bettie as to how the estate should be settled. Since the Rows could not reach an agreement on two main issues, George petitioned the Circuit Court of Spotsylvania to assist him in sorting this out. The first issue pertained to how to divide up the land of Greenfield. George believed that the land could not be fairly subdivided among them, and that the whole property should be sold and the proceeds then shared. Martha and Bettie disagreed, each wanting their share of the land. In this matter the court sided with Martha and Bettie. Greenfield was surveyed and Bettie received two tracts, one consisting of 135 acres and the other of 69 acres, and Martha received 146 1/2 acres adjacent to George Row's farm, Sunshine.
     The other problem confronting Martha and Bettie was a little trickier to resolve. In 1857 Nancy Row gave to Martha and James T. Williams three young slaves. In 1860 she gave two slaves to Bettie and Zachary Rawlings. The terms of Absalom Row's will stipulated that the value of these slaves should be deducted from the individual share of each heir in the final accounting of the estate. The Row sisters contended that since the value of those slaves was now reduced to zero because of emancipation, that it would be unfair to deduct their pre-war values from their share of the estate. The court did not rule in their favor.
     In July 1874 the court commissioners appointed to assist George in administering the estate gave Greenfield to Nannie, including the house, the outbuildings and 244 acres of the old plantation tract. About this decision I do not believe there was any controversy. Nannie was the logical choice to own and manage the family farm. Her sisters no longer lived in Spotsylvania and George was still spending much time in Rockbridge County.
     George married Lizzie Houston of Rockbridge at New Providence Presbyterian Church there on December 14, 1875. George and Lizzie then took the train from Staunton to Fredericksburg, and from the station they endured a very cold buggy ride to Greenfield. The newlyweds sat a spell with Lucius Estes and his wife, who worked for the Rows and lived in the log weaving house behind Nannie's home. This gave Nannie a little time to sweep up where Abbie and the Estes' son had been in a whittling match.
     George and Lizzie would live with Nannie until about 1880, when George finished building their house at Sunshine. During those years at Greenfield, their first two children, Houston and Mabel, were born. Abbie considered both places to be his home, and he spent much time with his beloved  Aunt Nan. By now George was managing both his own farm as well as Greenfield and ran a prosperous saw mill on Joseph Talley's farm. Over the years George employed as many as forty freed men and women. All of this cost money and cash flow would remain a problem for him. His sister was always there to lend him money when he needed it, as seen by this note for $200 she lent him in 1878:

     Nannie's health would decline steadily throughout the 1880s but while she was still able she would travel to Lynchburg and Rockbridge to visit her sisters from time to time. When at home she continued to work hard on the farm. Overnight her responsibilities multiplied when her brother died from pneumonia on April 18, 1883. Lizzie cut three locks of his hair as keepsakes, and gave one to Nannie:


     In July 1885 Nannie received a letter from her cousin John Row of Orange County. John had been deputy sheriff there when younger and during the war he was for a time Captain of Company I, Sixth Virginia Cavalry, the regiment in which George served. In this letter John tells Nannie of the wedding of his son Willie and inquires about her health: "If you get seriously sick let me know and I will come see you." Nannie would name John Row as the executor of her will.

                                               John Row to Nannie, July 6, 1885

     In 1876 Sarah Daniel Stewart of Culpeper, mother of George's first wife Annie, deeded 80 acres to George and 24 1/2 acres to her grandson Abbie. After George's death Abbie inherited the 80 acre tract. The following year Nannie received a letter from the state of Virginia and learned for the first time that George was in arrears on the taxes due on the Culpeper property. Nannie and Sarah exchanged a number of letters and went through considerable trouble to resolve this problem for young Abbie. Years later Abbie would sell this land to Sarah's son in law, Charles B. Williams.

                                                   State Auditor to Nanny Row,
                                                   December 5, 1884

     Nannie wrote the first draft of her will in 1873, and over the next 15 years she revised and amplified it. She mentioned a number of her nieces and nephews, to whom she left specific items she wished them to have. Her addition of 1875 stated: "This Greenfield farm that I have come into possession of... I leave to Abbie Row." Her last revision was made in 1888, by which time Abbie had left Greenfield to travel first around the country as a laborer building bridges and then around the the world as a merchant seaman. In 1888 he was a partner on a dairy farm in Texas when he wrote to his ailing aunt: "I would like to come home and take charge of the farm very much, and I could see to you and nurse you. It would be my heart's delight to do it. Your child, Abbie Row."

                                                   Will of Nannie Row

     Nannie Row died at Greenfield on June 4, 1889; her grave would be marked with a fine headstone, which included the inscription: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

No comments:

Post a Comment