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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Faces from the Past

     There was a time in Spotsylvania's history when most people either knew each other, were related to each other or otherwise enjoyed some sort of connection. Those days, of course are long gone. The most significant of the changes in the historical and physical landscape of Spotsylvania have occurred during my own life time. The influx of tens of thousands of new residents over the years have wrought profound changes in the county of my youth. Growth and development are inevitable, I suppose, but the loss of that sense of community, the erasure of the memory of relationships that spanned generations among people whose ancient homesteads have disappeared beneath shopping centers and subdivisions are, for me personally, heart wrenching.
     It did not used to be that way.
     A few years ago I was given access to a few dozen photographs dated about 1885-1920. These consist of posed group portraits taken at the court house, county schools and church camp meetings. I am told that the captions identifying most of the persons in these pictures were prepared by historian Robert Hodge. I love these pictures. In this and in a few future posts I will highlight some of those people who gaze out at us from a time long gone by.
     The photo above was taken at Spotsylvania court house about 1900. Sitting in front second from left is Thomas Pearson Payne. He was the grandfather of Spotsylvania researcher Kathleen Colvin, who is the source of all the photographs mentioned above. Thomas Payne owned a farm near Todd's Tavern. He was active in Spotsylvania politics and served as commissioner of revenue. Kathleen told me that on court days Thomas and his brother James would stage mock boxing exhibitions on the court house lawn to entertain the crowds between court sessions.

James Payne (left) and Thomas P. Payne

     In the second row at far left is James Powell Turnley. Turnley was married to Mary Irene Jerrell, a daughter of Robert Henry Jerrell, also seen on the back row. Turnley was appointed sheriff of Spotsylvania after the strange disappearance of JPH Crismond in 1903. John Bland Jerrell, Robert's brother, stands next to Turnley. (Another daughter of Robert Jerrell, Nettie, was the mother of Spotsylvania historian Roger Mansfield. (Mansfield corresponded for many years with my great aunt Mabel Row Wakeman about the history of Greenfield plantation).
John B. and Mary Jerrell

     Next to J.P. Turnley stands sheriff Thomas Addison Harris, who was appointed clerk of court by Judge Waller (seated, first row) in the wake of the Crismond fiasco.

Thomas Addison Harris

     Richard Lewis Todd (and his brother Oscar), T.A. Harris and Robert Jerrell all rode in the 9th Virginia Cavalry with George Washington Estes Row, my great grandfather.

Robert and Sarah Jerrell

      And, oh yes, Robert Jerrell's wife, Sarah Johnson, was the granddaughter of Richard Estes, my third great grandfather.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. You are not the only one who feels that "heartwrenching" feeling about the growth of their towns. I think that is universal.

    I LOVE this post. I have traced my family back to Fredericksburg, but I'm a bit stuck (and need to find the time to dig deeper - I know the answers are there somewhere!) This post piques my curiosity and gives me a few clues as to where to look - So many "familiar" names, that might just be clues to a family connection for my Dunstans, Halls, and Paynes. These names - Harris, Rowe, Lewis, Payne are all echoed in my family - I just don't know the connections. Thank you!