Search This Blog

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"I am straight in my dealings as any man"

Horace Row, early 1900s

     Horace Row, my grandfather, was born at Sunshine farm on July 25, 1882. He was the youngest child of George W.E. and Lizzie Row. He never knew his father, who died of pneumonia when Horace was just nine months old. His mother wrote of that sad time: "Dear 'little Hossie' as Father used to call you can't remember sitting in my lap and holding Father's hand while he was sick in bed."

Lizzie and Horace Row, 1883

     For Christmas in 1886 Horace was given a copy of "Our Baby's Easy Book" by his cousin, eighteen year old Janie Williams of Lynchburg. Horace never met his Williams relatives, although Janie's mother Martha came to Spotsylvania in 1883. She arrived from Lynchburg four months after her brother George's death to provide a gift of considerable value to the Rows. She deeded her Greenfield legacy of 146 1/2 acres to Lizzie Row as trustee for her children. This act of generosity effectively doubled the size of Sunshine.

Horace's memo book

From Horace's memo book

     When Horace was a young boy he kept a little memorandum book in which he jotted his random musings and various notes. In 1891 he wrote to his mother asking permission to go to Parker's Store: "Dear Mother--I want to go to the post offes today and go to the store to spend five ct if yes if you do not like I will not take my money. Horace Row"

Essay on George Washington

Essay on George Washington

     While Horace grew up to be a successful farmer and was capable of sharp business dealing, he did not share his sister Mabel's academic gifts. Even as an adult he was a mediocre speller at best. His essay on Washington, written when he was eleven years old, is one of the better examples of his extant writing. 
     Although Horace would wait until he was thirty five years old before getting married, he certainly did not wait that long to take notice of the opposite sex. In a letter written from Rockbridge to Lizzie in 1898, his aunt Fannie Houston remarked: "Tell Horace to come over Christmas and I will have some girls to meet him. I believe he is the ladies man of the family." Several years later, as if to prove Fannie correct, Horace was the center of attention of now long forgotten Katie who wrote him a card in 1908.

Katie to Horace 1908

Katie to Horace 1908

     After the death of his brother Houston in 1899, seventeen year old Horace became in effect the man of the family. His name now begins to appear on various receipts and invoices as he begins to take the reins of the family's business affairs. Lizzie's name becomes less prominent on these papers after this time. In 1909 a fire of unknown origin burned several outbuildings and their contents. The Rows did not carry insurance for such a loss and an appeal was published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance asking neighbors to help Horace rebuild.

     In December 1910 Lizzie Row paid to have Sunshine surveyed by E.H. Randall. It was discovered during his work that the farm contained thirty acres more than previously supposed. The following year Horace bought his sister Mabel's interest in Sunshine for eight hundred dollars.
Mabel Wakeman deed to Horace Row 1911

In 1915 Horace sold timber rights to J.W. Masters on a section of land west of the road that led to Sunshine. Similar agreements provided the Rows with a source of income for years to come.

J.W. Masters contract 1915

J.W. Masters letter to Horace 1915

     After a prolonged bachelorhood Horace Row married Fannie Kent on March 14, 1917. Horace and Fannie traveled to Washington, D.C. where the ceremony was officiated by Reverend H.B. Hosley, who had been pastor of the Wesleyan Pentecostal Church on 9th Street. Hosley would become a prominent member and historian of the Church of the Nazarene.
The Rows at Parker's Store, c.1921

     Although Horace and Fannie waited until relatively late to marry, once wed they wasted little time in starting a family. Mary was born in January 1918 and Margaret followed in December the same year. George was born in 1920, Nancy in 1923 and Judy in 1928. As their children arrived Horace's mother relished her new role as a grandmother and she looked after them while Horace and Fannie worked on the farm and took care of business in town.

Granville Swift to Horace Row October 1921

Benjamin Willis to Horace Row May 1938

Benjamin Willis to Horace Row May 1938

     Beginning in the early 1920s Granville Swift was the attorney and financial advisor for Horace and Lizzie Row. Granville was married to Lillian Rawlings, daughter of Benjamin Cason Rawlings. Granville had served in the House of Delegates and was later Commonwealth's Attorney for Fredericksburg. Granville was active in real estate and acted as a broker between investors like the Rows and persons seeking loans not available through the banks. By the late 1920s Horace began using Benjamin Willis for his legal and financial advice.
     In October 1927 there occurred a testy exchange between Horace and Spotsylvania farmer M.W. Thorburn of Cloverdale Farm. Thorburn had bought a cow from Horace with the expectation that she would be able to provide milk for the fall. When the cow did not perform as expected Thorburn wrote: "As a honorable gentleman I trusted you, now the cow has not proved as you said. Then you want me to hold the bag. I would not have that brand on me for the best cow I have got...Now if you love the dollar above your honor, it is up to you."
     Horace immediately responded in kind: "In reply to your letter of yesterday will say that you bought the cow on your own judgment...I have bought a lot of cows, calves and horses in my life and I found out that they sometimes do not turn out as I expected them to but I was man enough not to squeal but to take my medicine. If you will please show this letter to the men you talked to they will see that I am straight in my dealings as any man."

Horace and his children with Abbie and Tom Row, c.1929

Horace and Judy with Abbie Row c. 1929

Horace and Judy Row c. 1931

     A few vignettes have come down through the years to us that provide a glimpse into Horace's life. His children remembered that Fannie would sit by his bed at night and read to him until he fell asleep. Like his father Horace was ambivalent about organized religion. He would drive the family to Shady Grove each Sunday but would not go inside with them. He would pace outside until the service was over and then drive them home. My mother remembered the time her brother George cut his arm on barbed wire. Horace sat him down at the kitchen table and sewed up his arm by the light of a kersoene lamp.

Branch Spalding to Horace Row 1936

     Horace was one of nine landowners who deeded land to the Department of the Interior for the creation of Jackson Trail, which is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Afterwards there would be confrontations between Horace and zealous Park Service employees about where Horace could drive his farm equipment. On at least one occasion he explained that his family had been crossing the road at that place for one hundred years and that he did not intend to stop doing so.
     My mother kept a diary for the year 1939. Its entries are the usual girlish descriptions of the weather, trips to town, who she played with and so on. In mid-October that year she had written for several days: "Daddy sick...Daddy sick again..." On October 19, eleven days past my mother's eleventh birthday, Horace and George set out for Sperryville to pick apples. Horace had a heart attack and died in the orchard. My mother's entry for that day said nothing about friends or weather. "Daddy died today." Horace was buried at the family cemetery at Greenfield. He was the last Row laid to rest there.

From the Row family Bible

From Horace's funeral

From Horace's funeral

From Horace's funeral


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mabel Row Wakeman

Mabel Wakeman

     Nancy Mabel Row--my lovely, sweet great aunt Mabel--was born at Greenfield on August 31, 1879. She was the second child and only daughter of George W.E. and Lizzie Row. Less than two months after her birth her mother (and very likely Mabel also) traveled to Rockbridge County to stay with Lizzie's family at Mount Pleasant farm. Lizzie went there to be treated for the neuralgia that had been tormenting her for some time. Her uncle, Dr. James A. McClung, pulled several of her teeth in an effort to treat her chronic pain.

Mabel Row, 1887

     The following year George Row and his family moved into the house he built at Sunshine, the farm he owned next door to Greenfield. As Mabel grew she came to adore her father. In April 1883, as George lay dying of pneumonia, little Mabel was sent to Greenfield to be looked after by her aunt Nan; her brother Houston and Horace stayed with their mother at Sunshine. Lizzie would later write of that time: "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 God didn't let Father stay until tomorrow when I come and wanted to see him so bad.'"

Monthly Roll of Honor, 1880s

     After her husband's death, the education of her children became the primary focus of Lizzie Row. This she was able to do despite the crushing burden of acting as administratrix of her late husband's estate and managing a 343 acre farm. Tutors were hired at considerable expense, including Maria Marshall of Orange County who was reputed to be the great granddaughter of former Chief Justice John Marshall. Lizzie herself taught at least one session of school for both her children and the children of her neighbors. Classes were also taught at various homes nearby, including the Stephens family, on whose farm was a stop on the narrow gauge railroad that ran from Fredericksburg to Orange. The roll of honor seen above includes the names of Mabel and her brothers.

William Houston's account for Mabel

William Houston's account for Mabel

     Each of Lizzie's children was bright enough, to be sure, but Mabel showed real academic promise. Her widowed mother did all within her power to see that Mabel received the best education possible. When Mabel was twelve years old she was sent to live with her Uncle William Houston and his family at Mount Pleasant farm in Rockbridge. For the school years 1891-3 Mabel attended the New Providence Academy, where Thomas M. Smiley was principal. Reverend G.A. Wilson was the pastor at New Providence Presbyterian Church at that time. As seen in the account kept for Mabel by her Uncle Will she lacked for nothing and was well taken care of by her relatives.

Mabel Row, 1890s

     In the late 1890s Mabel attended college in Richmond. She lived with her second cousin, Emma Farish Sisson. I have yet to discover the name of her school as it is nowhere mentioned in the papers I have seen so far. In the photograph of her college class taken about 1899, Mabel is seen sitting on the steps near the center of the image and there is a pink dot on her left shoulder.

College class of Mabel Row, c.1899

     After graduating from college Mabel returned to Sunshine and lived with her mother and brother Horace. Mabel went to work teaching school in the Chancellor district of Spotsylvania County, a position I believe she held until her marriage to Samuel Tilden Wakeman on September 9, 1908.

Samuel Tilden Wakeman

     Sam and Mabel had three children--Samuel Houston (1910-1944), Mary Elizabeth (1911-1998) and Amanda Golladay (1914-2008). Just prior to their marriage Sam Wakeman hired E.S. Bartleson to build a fine house on a 118 acre tract on Brock Road adjacent to Sunshine.

The Wakemans at home on Brock Road, c.1912

     Mabel's husband died in 1936. Her son Sam died tragically in 1944. While working at the sawmill a pulley flew off and struck Sam, killing him. He left behind a widow but no children.

Samuel H. Wakeman

Samuel H. Wakeman

     Both of Mabel's daughters married and moved from Spotsylvania. Elizabeth married A.J. Hergenroeder of Baltimore. Amanda married architect Claude Ritchie and they built a fine house in Remington, Virginia. In her later years Mabel spent much of her time living with Amanda and Claude there.

Elizabeth, Mabel and Amanda

     During the 1950s and 1960s Mabel corresponded frequently with Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield. The letters they exchanged during this period survive and contain a wealth of information relating to Spotsylvania history. Roger relied heavily on Mabel for the information he used in writing his monographs "Greenfield" and "Walnut Hill" in 1960.

Mabel to Roger Mansfield 19 October 1958

     Near the end of her life my mother, aunt Nancy and cousin Linda would drive from Spotsylvania to Remington to visit Mabel. She died on April 14, 1974, a month before my college graduation. She is buried at Shady Grove Church.

Mabel Row Wakeman

Shady Grove Cemetery

Shady Grove Cemetery

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Abbie Rowe-White House Photographer

Abbie Rowe

     Abbie Rowe was the youngest child of Abbie and Juliet Row. He was born in Strasburg, Virginia on August 23, 1905 shortly after the Row family sold Greenfield. His online biography, posted by the Harry S Truman Library, states that he suffered from polio as a youngster. However, his niece Marie Clark wrote in her history of the Rows that Abbie's problem was the result of a traumatic accident that occurred while he was a small child living in Strasburg. She wrote that a log rolled off the roof of a chicken coop, striking Abbie on his shoulder and leg. The doctor set his broken collar bone but was unaware that Abbie's hip was fractured as well. Abbie spent the next year in bed.

Abbie with his sister Maxine

     The Rows moved to Alexandria in 1910. Abbie was taken to a chiropractor named Dr. Gustafson, who treated him until he could walk with the aid of crutches and later without them. Still, his injured leg never grew properly and remained a foot shorter than his good leg. As an adult Abbie would strap on a heavy metal prosthesis each day. His niece remembered that he would attach tire treads, cut to size, to the bottom of this device to provide cushioning.

     Despite this handicap, Abbie led a vigorous, active lifestyle both personally and professionally. He hiked, camped, rode bicycles and played tennis. He was a member of the Appalachian Trail Club. Abbie was also an avid canoeist and belonged to both the Old Dominion Boat Club in Alexandria and the Washington Canoe Club.
     In addition to these activities Abbie was also a dedicated amateur photographer. One day while taking pictures in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. Abbie had a chance encounter with Eleanor Roosevelt, who was horse riding with one of her aides. Abbie asked her permission to take her picture and afterward had a pleasant conversation with her. Mrs. Roosevelt was so charmed by Abbie that she wrote an article about him in her column "My Day." At the time Abbie was an employee of the Bureau of Public Roads. With the encouragement of the President's wife Abbie applied to the National Park Service to be a photographer. He got the job and soon thereafter was assigned as official White House photographer, a position he would hold during five administrations.  

Abbie Row with his mother and niece

     Each President Abbie worked for liked and respected him. For example in 1948 the White House was renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House. Abbie was presented with a walking cane made from an original timber taken from the White House. Eisenhower gave several canvases he painted to Abbie and even played golf with him on one occasion.
     Although our branch of the family had come to prefer the simpler version of our name, Abbie preferred the old English version and used "Rowe" throughout his adult life.
     Abbie married late a divorcee named Grace Judy in 1959. They had no children, and later divorced.

Abbie with radio star Jimmy Wellington (l) and Virginia Governor Darden

     Abbie continued to work as White House photographer even after being diagnosed with cancer in late 1965. As his strength failed him his co-workers placed a cot in his office so that he could rest some during the day. His niece also remembered that when he was so frail that he could scarcely climb the steps to the White House the reporters and photographers would stand aside and let him through first. Abbie died on April 17, 1967. He is buried near his parents in Riverview Cemetery in Strasburg.

The Washington Post, April 19, 1967