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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Enigmatic Mr. Scott

Robert Scott

     Smuggler? Blockade runner? International man of mystery? Robert Scott may have been all of these things. Or perhaps he was something else altogether. What is certain is that virtually everything about him remains shrouded in mystery. And that makes him a most intriguing fellow indeed.
     William A. Stephens (1821-1886) was a friend and neighbor of the Rows of Greenfield in Spotsylvania. Over the years William worked as a farmer, constable and estate appraiser. He also owned and operated Stephens Station, a stop on the Piedmont, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad that ran from Fredericksburg to Orange. In addition to friendship William A. Stephens had numerous ties to the Rows. His signature appears on many documents relating to them including depositions, appraisals and chancery proceedings. In 1905 his grandson Scott T. Stephens bought Greenfield from Abbie Row, thus bringing to an end 110 years of the Estes-Row ownership of the family farm.
     In 1843 William married Mary Eleanor Scott (1826-1897), the daughter of the well to do Day Scott. Robert Scott is presumed to be one of Mary Eleanor's brothers, although I cannot find anything regarding his birth records. From the beginning Mr. Scott was an enigma wrapped inside a riddle. When I first came across his photograph in my great grandmother's (Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Houston Row) album three years ago I did not have the faintest idea who he was.
     Last year I discovered a number of letters written to Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield by Mabel Row Wakeman, Lizzie Row's daughter. In a letter penned by her in 1967 she went into some detail regarding the family connections of the Scott, Todd, Chancellor and Stephens families. All of that is interesting on its own merits, but today we are concerned with Robert Scott so below is my transcription of that portion of her letter that gave me my first insight into his world.
Mabel Row Wakeman to Roger Mansfield November 1967

Mabel Row Wakeman to Roger Mansfield November 1967

     But that is just the beginning of the story.
     Recently I took a renewed interest in Robert Scott and made inquiries with a few fellow researchers who would possibly have some new information to offer. As is so often the case, my cousin and fellow researcher, Kathleen Colvin, had personal knowledge of just what I was looking for. It is not possible for me to improve upon Kathleen's story telling abilities so with her permission I am presenting here her story as she shared it with me this week.

Kathleen Colvin's story of Robert Scott

Kathleen Colvin's story of Robert Scott

     My great grandparents, George W.E. and Lizzie Row, were impressed by Robert Scott and attempted to learn of his activities after he left for France. In a letter written by George in May 1882 he cryptically observed that "We have not heard anything from Mr. Scott's affairs. The mystery seems doomed not to be revealed as a great many letters have been written and nothing received."
     With the help of Mabel and Kathleen we have been given a tantalizing glimpse into "Mr. Scott's affairs". If any of my readers know more about Robert Scott I would be pleased to hear from you.

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