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Monday, November 28, 2011

Sarah Jane Daniel, Part 1

Robinson's Tavern, 1940s. Courtesy National Park Service, Fredericksburg
     Thomas Robinson (1791-1848) of Orange County was a son of John Robinson, who in 1791 purchased 168 acres from Brigadier General Alexander Spotswood. This tract was located on the north side of what was called the Orange Turnpike in the nineteenth century and is known today as Route 20. On the Civil War era map shown below, this road is shown running east-west in the middle of the image. The tavern was located about where the words "Locust Grove" are printed. The farm of my Row(e) ancestors was just west of Locust Grove.

Detail of Orange County, c. 1863

Robinson's Tavern sign, Route 20

     The tavern that bore his name was built by Thomas Robinson about 1815. During his lifetime the tavern was a stagecoach stop on the old turnpike. In November 1863 it was briefly used as the headquarters of Union General George Meade during the Mine Run campaign and was also utilized as a hospital during that action and the battle of the Wilderness the following year. Here Thomas Robinson raised eight children by two wives.
     Several of Thomas' children played important roles in the lives of my Row ancestors and I will mention them briefly here. Thomas' oldest daughter, Mary Anne, was born of his first wife Nancy Roach in about 1815. Mary Anne married John F. Almond and it was they who inherited Robinson's Tavern. One of their sons, Thomas Jefferson Almond, served in Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry with my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. After the Civil War John F. Almond ran a post office at the tavern.
      James L. Robinson, a son of Thomas and Nancy, served as Sheriff of Orange County during the Civil War. His friend and neighbor, John Sanders Row (who was also first cousin to George W.E. Row) was his deputy. In 1862 John Row was Captain of Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. James petitioned the Confederate Secretary of War to allow John to resign and return to his duties as deputy sheriff. If you would like to read more of this episode, click here. By 1870 James was working as assistant deputy postmaster in Orange. Several years later he became county treasurer. By 1884 James had begun to fail mentally and physically and got into some hot water with state authorities for failure to pay taxes he had collected that were due the state of Virginia.
     After Nancy's death Thomas Robinson married Elizabeth Tutt Sanders on November 26, 1827. Their youngest daughter Anne married physician Vivian Quisenberry, who served as assistant surgeon in the 59th Virginia Infantry. After the Civil War he and Anne moved to Butler in Freestone County, Texas where he practiced medicine and ran a drug store. George W.E. Row lived with them for six months in 1871 while attempting to put together a land deal there. George worked in Dr. Quisenberry's drug store and learned how to compound drugs and fill prescriptions. The apothecary scales he used are shown below. To read more about my great grandfather's adventures in Texas, click here.

Scales of George W.E. Row

     But it was the oldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Robinson who would have the closest and most enduring relationship with the Rows. Sarah Jane Robinson was born at Robinson's Tavern on February 15, 1829. At the age of 18 she married Samuel Alpheus Daniel of Culpeper County. Shown below is Thomas Robinson's permission given to Samuel A. Daniel to obtain a license to marry his daughter. It is witnessed by two of Sarah Jane's brothers, James and Richard. Next is the marriage bond signed by Samuel Daniel and Sarah Jane's brother Richard.

Robinson's permission to marry his daughter

Marriage bond of Samuel A. Daniel

     Once they were married, Samuel and Sarah Jane came back to Rose Cottage, the Daniel home in Culpeper. In this home were born their first two children. Annie Tutt Daniel arrived on March 4, 1848. Her sister Sarah "Sallie Bet" was born December 18, 1851. On the Civil War era map shown below, the location of the Daniel property can be seen south of the village of Culpeper Court House and just west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad.

Detail of Culpeper, 1860s

     Rose Cottage was destroyed by fire and in 1856 Samuel Daniel built a new home near the site of the original house. This place he called Forest Grove. Here were born the Daniels' two youngest children, William (1858) and Catherine "Kate" Medora (February 20, 1862). Forest Grove still stands today and is farmed by the descendants of Kate Daniel.

Forest Grove, 1930s

     Samuel Alpheus Daniel was a farmer, slave owner and southern patriot. The 1860 slave census shows that he owned twenty three slaves. The secession of Virginia from the Union focused his mind on a very uncertain future and accordingly he wrote his will on July 14, 1861. In it he made provisions for Sarah Jane's maintenance in the event of his death. He empowered her to select three or four slaves for the family's use should she become the head of the household. Whatever proceeds were realized from the estate sale he directed should be invested in "Virginia state stocks or some other safe investment." It was also his wish that his children be liberally educated "from the income of the estate, or from the principal should the income prove insufficient."

Page one of Samuel Daniel's will

     Although Samuel could have easily afforded to pay a substitute to take his place in the ranks, his sense of honor and responsibility would not allow him to consider such a course. On February 26, 1862 he enlisted in Captain Cayce's Company of Purcell's Light Artillery. Four months later his battery found itself in the thick of the fighting at Mechanicsville during the Seven Days Battle. On June 26 he was severely wounded and was taken to Kent's Hospital in Richmond, where he died on June 29. Samuel Alpheus Daniel is buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

Samuel Daniel's obituary, Richmond Times Dispatch 4 July 1862

Transcription of Samuel Daniel's obituary

Headstone of Samuel A. Daniel, Oakwood Cemetery

     As it was for tens of thousands of other wives of Confederate soldiers, this was a shocking and devastating blow to Sarah Jane Daniel. She was now left to manage a 357 acre farm and to care for her four fatherless children. Prior to Samuel's death, Thomas Alcocke of Culpeper appears not to have been aware that he had been named executor of the Daniel estate. However, he gladly assumed this additional wartime burden and began to discharge his responsibilities as efficiently as was possible under the circumstances.
     By now Culpeper was occupied by General Pope's army and would endure long stretches of upheaval as the area changed hands several times during the war. Pope was a loudmouth and a bully and made himself especially obnoxious by giving his troops a free hand to despoil Culpeper. Farms were pillaged, outrages against women occurred frequently, churches were vandalized or burnt to the ground, civilian hostages were seized. The tragic impulsion of events left no breathing space for Sarah Jane and her children. The passivity of McClellan's army in the Peninsula and the brutal occupation of the Union army in Culpeper gave General Lee the welcome opportunity to "suppress Pope." Beginning with Stonewall Jackson's troops, Lee began to shift his forces from south of Richmond to Gordonsville and points north to confront Pope. The inevitable collision occurred on August 9, 1862 at Cedar Mountain.
     Some of the slaves of Forest Grove, including twelve year old William Yager, climbed on top of the farm's outbuildings in order to get a good view of the fighting. Neighbors from more threatened areas of the battlefield fled to Forest Grove and sought shelter in the basement. The house itself was used as a hospital by the Confederates. Among the wounded taken there were two brothers from South Carolina, whose parents later came to Forest Grove to nurse them.
     Once the fighting was over and Pope's army retreated north, burial parties laid the dead in mass graves and burned the carcasses of horses and mules. Civilians combed the field searching for food or for anything that could be of use. Among them was young William Yager. This description of his encounter with the quick and the dead comes from Daniel Sutherland's excellent Seasons of War (Free Press, 1995, page 155):

     "He discovers a prostrate Yankee too badly wounded to cry out for help. There he lies, 'the sun broiling down on his face, his arms just a goin' it.' He cannot speak, for he has been wounded in the throat. The boy has just bent down to help the stricken man drink from a canteen when, suddenly, the soldier leaps up, looks around, and without uttering a word, walks away. Yager, nearly scared to death, races from the field."

     In the wake of the battle changes came fast to Forest Grove and its inhabitants. Some of the slaves made their way to freedom within Union lines. A number of others were sold at auction in Richmond by Thomas Alcocke. That money, as well as the money realized from the estate sale in October 1862 was invested in Virginia state bonds. Sarah Jane kept for herself her favorite slaves--Millie Jackson and her children who took the name of their father, Waller Yager of nearby Mitchell's Station: Margaret, Grace, William, Calloon and Nannie. This family would remain with the Daniels throughout the war and for two or three years after. Their names and circumstances appear several times in the court papers relating to the postwar settlement of Samuel Daniel's estate.

Page from Daniel estate settlement

     Despite the death of her husband, the economic devastation caused by the war and the stress of an oppressive Federal occupation it appears that Sarah Jane Daniel remained devoted to the South's cause. These quartermaster receipts issued to her in late 1862 indicate a willingness by the widow Daniel to do her part for the Confederacy by providing pasture and forage for the army's cattle and horses.

Quartermaster receipt 19 November 1862

Quartermaster receipt 10 November 1862

     However, the "importunities and depredations" of those times referred to by Alcocke, made the conditions of daily life increasingly intolerable. For example, there was scarcely a church in that area that was not destroyed or vandalized to a point of uselessness. A lonely exception was St. Stephen's Episcopal in the village of Culpeper Court House. Its rector, John Cole, had been befriended by Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart during their time in the town. Still it suffered heavy damage by marauding northern troops. Forty years after the war the church received a small amount of money from the federal government as compensation. If houses of worship were not safe, it is not difficult to imagine the dangers that were routinely experienced by  the population at large.
     By the winter of 1863 Sarah Jane no longer felt safe to remain in the country and took her children and moved into town. To protect Forest Grove from complete ruin she arranged for a Unionist family named Hixon to live there free of rent as caretakers. Once settled in town she ran a boarding house patronized by Federal officers. Milly Jackson cooked meals for them and William Yager and his brother and sisters ran errands for them. They were given access to the commissary's stores and were able to thereby supplement their diet. In the 1930s it was used as a funeral home by Will Reaguer. The photo below was taken shortly before its demolition in the 1960s.

Sarah Jane's boarding house

     And so it was that Sarah Jane Daniel, her four children and Forest Grove were able to survive the war. Although Thomas Alcocke had been directed by the will of Samuel A. Daniel to sell Forest Grove, he wisely decided to defer that "to a more propitious time." Yes, Forest Grove survived the conflict but it did not emerge entirely unscathed. All of the stock, the farming implements and nearly all the fencing were gone. But the house and outbuildings still stood. Alcocke advanced $45 to Sarah Jane in order that she could buy a few cows and hogs and farm implements.
     With that $45, a sharp eye for business and a will of iron Sarah Jane Daniel rebuilt Forest Grove.


  1. Lisa Y. HendersonMay 2, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Hello, Patrick. I recently discovered your blog and have been reading it avidly. I am descended from Walker Colvert (1815-1905), who was owned at one point by Nancy Colvert Daniel's father Samuel and brother John Alpheus Colvert. I have been trying to reconstruct Walker's family and have been researching slaves owned by the extended Colvert family. I would love to correspond with you concerning this matter and may be reached at Thank you.