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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Chancellors, Part 3

Store of Melzi Chancellor, Jr. 1920s

     The year after George Edwards Chancellor died and his business on Commerce Street was liquidated, the store was once again open for business. This time the owners were George's brother Melzi Sanford Chancellor, Jr. and Melzi's brother in law, James Richard Rawlings, husband of Leona Chancellor (1857-1900). James Rawlings and Melzi Jr. remained business partners at this location for close to seventeen years.

The Free Lance 13 July 1888

     James Rawlings was born in Spotsylvania County near Shady Grove Church on May 6, 1852. He was the youngest son of James Boswell and Ann Cason Rawlings. James' oldest brother, Zachary Herndon Rawlings was married to my great great aunt, Bettie Row of Greenfield plantation in Spotsylvania. James' other brother, Benjamin Cason Rawlings, led a life of high adventure and was instrumental for the meeting of my great grandparents, George Washington Estes Row and Mary Elizabeth Houston. Like George W.E. Row, Ben Rawlings escaped the encirclement at Appomattox and remained at large for several weeks before surrendering to Federal authorities in Richmond on May 2, 1865. George and Ben then rode to Hadensville in Goochland County, where their families were living as refugees to escape the fighting in Spotsylvania. By then Ben was so gaunt, tattered and disheveled that young James did not recognize him and hid behind his mother's skirts.
     James Rawlings married Leona Chancellor in 1878. The 1880 census shows that twenty eight year old James and Leona, together with their infant son James Boswell Rawlings, were living with James' parents in Spotsylvania. Between 1886 and 1897 James and Leona had another son and three daughters.
     I do not know exactly when James Rawlings made the transition from farmer to merchant, but by 1888 he was in partnership with his brother in law Melzi. Over the years they ran dozens of large, expensive ads in The Free Lance.

The Free Lance 10 July 1894

The Free Lance 27 April 1899

     In 1900 a prosperous James and Leona Rawlings, together with their five children and servant Cora Jefferson, were living in the upper ward of Fredericksburg.
     Despite all this prosperity and family togetherness, there seems to have been some troubles brewing behind the scenes. By the spring of 1905 Melzi and James had parted company as business associates. On the first of May 1905 James opened his own store, styled as "James R. Rawlings & Son" and was clearly a direct competitor with Melzi's establishment.

The Free Lance 25 April 1905

     In addition to his career as a merchant, James Rawlings was active in Democratic politics. This was true also for his grandson, George Chancellor Rawlings, Jr. (1921-2009) who served in the House of Delegates in the 1960s. James Rawlings was postmaster of Fredericksburg during both terms of the Wilson administration.
      James Richard Rawlings died on January 17, 1925 and is buried with Leona in the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg.

     Lucy Monroe Chancellor (1852-1889) was an older sister of Leona Chancellor Rawlings. On November 24, 1869 she became the first wife of John James Stephens (1847-1929) of Rosemont farm in Spotsylvania. The Stephens family had been friends of the Rows of neighboring Greenfield for decades.
     The now long forgotten narrow gauge Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad, which extended from Fredericksburg to Orange, ran by the Stephens farm. The saw mill of my great grandfather, George W.E. Row, was one of the contractors that provided railroad ties and fencing stock to the PF&P (locally known as the "Poor Folks and Preachers" railroad). Located at Rosemont was Stephens Station, a small white building with a platform in front situated on the north side of the track. Here a person was allowed to get off if he wished and had to flag the train if he wished to get on.
     James and Lucy Stephens had nine children together. In the late 1880s and early 1890's my great grandmother took turns with the Stephens teaching each other's children. As she recalled seventy years later, my great aunt Mabel Row Wakeman wrote: "My mother taught Cora, Willie and Sanford, my brother Houston and me one session in our home. The next session Mr. James Stephens employed Miss Nannie King, step daughter of his wife's sister Mrs. Anna King, to teach in the office building in his yard. My brother Houston and I went to school with Cora, Willie, Sanford, Day, Fannie Hawkins (afterwards Mrs. Curtis Wright) and Sheffie Booking, granddaughter of Mr. Hugh Stephens, who was then keeping store on Brock Road...My mother employed Miss Maria Marshall of Orange C.H., a great granddaughter of Chief Justice Marshall, to teach in our family and Mrs. Eleanor Scott Stephens [James' mother and sister of Robert Scott] now very old and a widow living with her daughter Sudie Todd would walk over with her little granddaughter to school at our home."
     When Lucy Chancellor Stephens died in 1889, her father Reverend Melzi Chancellor came to Rosemont to conduct her funeral. Mabel Row, then 10 years old, remembered him as "a tall man with white side whiskers."
Scott Stephens receipt to Horace Row 1906

     Scott Todd Stephens, born 1870, was the oldest child of James and Lucy Stephens. By 1900 he was working both as farmer and merchant, presumably at the store previously run by his grandfather Hugh. In some respects Scott Stephens was considered an up and comer. He was active in local Democratic politics and was appointed notary public for Spotsylvania County and was clerk of the school board.
     As you might expect, my grandfather Horace and my great grandmother of nearby Sunshine farm patronized Scott's store on Brock Road and otherwise did business with him.

Receipt for threshing 1901

Lizzie Row's check to Scott Stephens 1902

Receipt to Horace Row 1910

      Horace's brother Abbie Row inherited Greenfield from his aunt Nannie Row upon her death in 1889. By the late 1890s he was living there with his wife and children and had visions of improving Greenfield and making it more of a modern farming operation. Abbie worked full time as a railroad conductor. However, it proved to be too much for him to successfully farm Greenfield during his time off from the railroad. Debts began to pile up. Finally there was no alternative but to sell old Greenfield. On June 28, 1905 Abbie Row sold Greenfield to Scott Stephens for $500 and his assumption of the loan owed by Abbie to Scott's sister Sudie Todd.
     And so, after remaining in the Estes-Row family since 1795, Greenfield passed forever into the hands of others, beginning with a grandson of the storied Chancellors.


  1. oh my...quite an anti-climatic end to the great Estes/Row Greenfield Estate. What a wonderfullly complete story of the Chancellors.