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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Zachary Herndon Rawlings

                                                  Receipt to Zachary Rawlings from
                                                  Captain James Breathed, Stuart's Horse
                                                  Artillery February 1863

     Zachary Rawlings (1836-1916) was born in western Spotsylvania County to James Boswell Rawlings and the former Ann Cason. The elder Rawlings enjoyed some notoriety for his checkered past, which included spending time in jail for failure to pay debts arising from his gambling habit. By the mid 1850s James B. Rawlings was a justice of the peace in Spotsylvania. 
     Zachary married Bettie Row of Greenfield at her home on November 1, 1860. Several weeks later on December 26 his mother in law, Nancy Row, gave the newlyweds two young slaves. By now the push was on for succession in the lower South and all eyes turned to South Carolina as it defied Federal authority. Before the arrival of the new year Zachary's younger brother Benjamin, not yet sixteen years old, ran away from home and made his way to Charleston where he joined Maxcy Gregg's regiment. When Ben returned to Virginia he transferred to the Thirtieth Virginia Infantry, where he became Captain of Company D at the age of 18. 
     Zachary also joined the Thirtieth, enlisting in Company A. Rawlings historian Byrd Tribble told me that one of Zachary's stories from the war was his riding in a wagon and picking up the dead from the battlefield. He left the army shortly after being wounded at the battle of Antietam, it is believed; his service records can no longer be found in the archives. By the autumn of 1862 was back home in Spotsylvania still supporting the Confederate cause, as seen in this quartermaster receipt:

     In January 1863 Zachary acted as attorney for Nancy Row, filing on her behalf an affidavit with the Corporation Court of Fredericksburg. The previous summer most of Nancy's slaves had escaped to freedom within the Union lines. Like many other southerners, Nancy filed this affidavit, which included the names and values of the runaways, in order to be on record in the event that compensation for their loss could be someday obtained. In addition to the list of these slaves Zachary provided depositions from former Greenfield overseers James Brock and John Hopkins to substantiate Nancy's claim.
     The following month on February 12, 1863 Zachary bought a 120 acre farm in Spotsylvania from John Decker. Located off Gordon Road south of the Poor House and west of Lucy Alsop's farm, this place would be home to Zachary and Bettie after the war until about 1871.

                                                    John Decker deed to Zachary
                                                    Rawlings February 1863

     In the meantime it is believed that Zachary and Bettie and their infant daughter Estelle continued to live at Greenfield with Nancy and Nannie Row. The war came uncomfortably close to their home in May 1863 during the Chancellorsville campaign. Stonewall Jackson's flank march took his army north up the road that ran through Greenfield (modern Jackson Trail West). For hours thousands of Confederate soldiers marched through the Row property on their way to their famous confrontation with Hooker's army.
     By early 1864 it became obvious that the Union army was preparing for another thrust across the Rapidan into Spotsylvania. The Rows and the Rawlings by now had little appetite for being caught again between two colliding armies. And so they made the decision to flee Spotsylvania for safer regions. Shortly before the battle of the Wilderness they packed up their belongings into wagons and made their way south to the crossroads village of Hadensville in Goochland County. Together with Zachary's parents James and Anne, the Rows and the Rawlings would remain there as refugees for much of the time until the end of the war.
     On May 2, 1865 Zachary Rawlings--with his brother Ben and brother in law George Row--made his way to Richmond. There they stood in line with other Confederates who had not yet surrendered and received their paroles from the provost marshal, Colonel D.M. Evans. The war for them was over at last.
     Zachary and Bettie returned to the farm he bought in 1863. Here were born their three youngest children: Annie Belle (1865), Charles (1867) and Mattie (1869). Charles would not survive infancy but all three daughters attained adulthood.
     About 1871 Zachary obtained a position as a railroad contractor doing business in the Shenandoah Valley. It was during this time that his attention was drawn to this area as a possibility for permanent residence. In 1874 he bought the Osceola Mill from Hugh Lyle in Vesuvius, Rockbridge County. The mill was originally built by a brother of Cyrus McCormick, whose farm was nearby. Zachary built a store beside the mill and a fine house across the road.

                                          Osceola Mill

                                          Store of Zachary Rawlings
                                          The Rawlings house

     A curious and still unexplained transaction took place on January 30, 1885. Zachary deeded to Bettie all his interest in their real estate and personal property. Was he trying to protect his mill and other assets from creditors? For now we do not know. Later that same year Zachary added to his long resume the title of mining contractor. Zachary provided goods and services to the Virginia Tin Mining and Manufacturing Company. He then had to sue them for failure to pay.

                                               Zachary's deed to Bettie 1885

     Zachary remained single for about a year and a half after Bettie's death in 1888. He married Mattie Templeton on October 23, 1889:

      In the years that followed Zachary continued to operate the mill, always alert to new business opportunities that may arise. In the early 1900s he partnered with Charles and Sidney Mangus in operating a small box making factory in Vesuvius. Many years later Charles Mangus would become the second husband of Zachary's daughter Mattie.

                                                   Mattie Rawlings letter to Lizzie Row

     Zachary Rawlings died at home on October 12, 1916. A few weeks later his widow Mattie wrote a long letter to my great grandmother, Lizzie Row of Spotsylvania. Near the end Zachary could eat only raw oysters specially ordered and shipped to Vesuvius: "He sat on the side of his bed at 6 o'clock and ate 6 oysters...and said these oysters are fine. But oh he got so short of breath in an hour or two and at 9:30 he breathed his last."
     Zachary is buried at Greenville Baptist Church in Augusta County, next to Bettie.

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