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Friday, November 16, 2012

One Daughter, Two Names, One Grave

From the Row family Bible

     This was a mystery that took me two years to unravel.
     When I first saw them, these entries from the old Row family Bible, seen above, certainly seemed straightforward enough. There on the left is my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row, marrying his first wife Annie Tutt Daniel of Culpeper at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in October 1867. And there on the right are recorded the births of their two children.
     Absalom Row (1868-1931), called Abbie by his friends and relatives and known as Uncle Ab to my aunts and uncle in the 1920s, was born at Forest Grove (his grandmother's house) in Culpeper. Abbie Row led a fascinating life as a young man and was the last in our family to own old Greenfield when it was sold in 1905. His life was well documented, there are pictures of him, his signature appears on official documents. In short, he was as real as you or I.
     For the longest time, things were not so clear regarding George and Annie Row's daughter Virginia Isabella, born March 4, 1871. Unlike her brother, that is all the family ever knew about her and she seem fated to remain a riddle for all time. Her name is never again mentioned in the family's vast archive that I have been able to uncover thus far. Except for this entry in the Bible, it was as if she never existed.

Forest Grove, the Daniel home in Culpeper

     Annie Tutt Daniel was born at Forest Grove in 1848. Her father, Samuel Alpheus Daniel, was killed during the Seven Days battle in 1862 while serving in Purcell's Battery. Annie's mother was born Sarah Jane Robinson in Orange County in 1829, the daughter of Thomas Robinson, who owned Robinson's Tavern. Sarah's compelling life story can be read here and here. After marrying George Row Annie came to Greenfield to live with him, his mother Nancy Estes Row and unwed sister Nan.
     Eight months after the birth of her daughter Virginia Isabella, Annie Row died of diphtheria at Greenfield. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery there. The aftermath of Annie's death witnessed an extended period of grief and disruption for the Rows of Greenfield. Just days after she died an estate sale was conducted and a great many of the family's possessions were sold off. Nancy Estes Row and her daughter Nan moved to Lynchburg, where they lived for a year or so with George's sister and brother in law, Martha and James Williams. Nan Row took charge of little Abbie and raised him for a time as if he were her own child. For Abbie, she remained a surrogate mother for the rest of her life. George Row began to divide his time between Spotsylvania and Rockbridge, where his other sister Bettie lived with her family. It was during this period that George met Mary Elizabeth Houston, who would become his second wife in 1875.
     But what of Virginia Isabella? She apparently vanished into thin air.
     Until I found this.
     My older cousins told me that Abbie Row's granddaughter, Marie Clark, had written a genealogical history of the Rows of Virginia. It was a self-published monograph and finding it took time and effort. Two years ago I tracked down a copy at the Alexandria Library's history collection and scanned the pages most relevant to my efforts. Marie had spent twenty years researching and writing this book and it is a monumental achievement for someone who was, like me, neither a professional writer nor historian.
     From that book I learned many things, including this enigmatic reference to George and Annie's daughter (all the images in my blogs are clickable for larger viewing):

From Marie Clark's history of the Row family

     Right off the bat I was baffled by this new name. Where did that come from? And I was equally puzzled by Marie's insinuation that George Row was somehow confused about the name of his own daughter.
     And what about the supposed burial of this child at Forest Grove? I could not verify that, either. Marie visited Forest Grove in the 1960s or 1970s, according to her account. In the 1930s the WPA had surveyed a number of cemeteries in Culpeper, including that of the Daniel family at Forest Grove. Several names are listed in their report but--of course--not that of Annie D. Row.
     So, I had a great aunt supposedly born with one name in Spotsylvania and dying with a second name and buried in an undocumented grave in Culpeper. Could Marie Clark have been confused? Was I missing something? Without any further evidence I was forced to set this aside and keep my radar on for further developments.
     About a year later the mystery began to be revealed. began publishing a helpful little thing called "Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917." One day, on a whim, I searched for little Annie D. Row in the index.
     And there she was.
     Annie D. Row, daughter of George and Annie Row, born in Spotsylvania 1871. Died in Culpeper 1872.
     Now I had something. With this information I contacted the current owner of Forest Grove, who is a direct descendant of the Daniel family. I asked him whether this headstone did indeed exist and if so, could he send me a photograph.

Annie D. Row, Forest Grove cemetery

     But what about the name? How did this poor child, who lived just sixteen months, enter this life as Virginia Isabella Row and depart it as Annie Daniel Row?
     This is what I believed happened. We already know that my great grandfather turned his son Abbie over to his sister Nan to raise after his wife died. At the same time Virginia Isabella was taken to Culpeper to live with her grandmother, Sarah Robinson Daniel. Sarah took it upon herself to change the child's name to honor the memory of her daughter Annie.
     Anyway, this is the best I can do for now. These ancestors are no longer in a position to offer us anything more on the subject.
     And may their souls rest in peace.


  1. Fascinating! And I believe your theory makes sense. You will probably never be able to prove it, but it makes sense.

  2. It is definitely a puzzle. What I call a brick wall. your explanation is wonderful and I'm so glad you have the photo of the headstone. I also assume Marie did not have this correct. She did not source as well. But you do!! Thank you

  3. I was taught by the best. Many thanks, Deborah.