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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The McCoull House

Fred Payne at the McCoull house, early 1900s

     One of the little known treasures in Spotsylvania is the enormous photo archive belonging to my cousin and fellow researcher Donald Colvin and his mother. Many of these pictures can be found online on Donald's website, which I dip into frequently to add to my knowledge of Spotsylvania's history. This week I stumbled upon this previously unseen (unseen by me, that is) photograph of the long vanished house that once was owned by Neil McCoull and was a historic landmark at Bloody Angle on the Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefield. A thoughtful and well written history of the post-Civil War fate of  the McCoull house was written last year by John Hennessy, chief historian of the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, and can be found here. With the exception of the last two images of today's post, all the photos shown here are from the Colvin Collection.

Thomas Pearson Payne, about 1900

     I was acquainted with some of the details regarding Donald's great grandfather, Thomas Pearson Payne (1852-1934), who owned a farm on Catharpin Road and was active in local Democratic politics and served for years as a Commissioner of Revenue in Spotsylvania.

Thomas P. Payne, second from left in front row

     One of my favorite photographs is the one of him and his brother James taken at Spotsylvania Courthouse, shown below. The Payne brothers used to stage mock boxing exhibitions between court sessions for the entertainment of the crowds who came there for court business.

James and Thomas P. Payne (right)

     Anyway, that much I already knew. What I did not know until yesterday is that Thomas Payne and his family lived for years at the McCoull house. All of the Payne children were born there 1873-1885, including  his oldest son Benjamin Franklin Payne, who married my grandmother's sister Lottie Kent.

Benjamin Franklin Payne

     The photo of the house seen at the beginning of today's blog shows Thomas Payne's son Fred, who with his twin brother Freemond was born at the McCoull place in 1875. Fred and Freemond Payne lived into their nineties and those of us of a certain age, including me, remember them sitting on the porch of their house on Catharpin Road. The picture below shows what Fred looked like about the same time as the picture of him at the house.

Frederick Payne






     In 1866 a brigade of volunteers came to Spotsylvania to disinter the Union dead at Bloody Angle and other Spotsylvania battlefields and remove their remains to the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg. On one of the headboards used to mark the graves, one of those workers wrote the words of the poem, "Bivouac of the Dead," and nailed it to a tree on the McCoull property. On August 25 of that year my great grandfather, George W.E. Row, stood at that tree and took out his little memorandum book (captured by him from a Federal cavalryman during the war) and wrote these words in it:

Bloody Angle, 1866

Memo book of George W.E. Row


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