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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

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