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Thursday, January 17, 2013

The School House on the Corner

Check for taxes paid to X.X. Chartters by Lizzie Row

     Xanthus Xuthus Chartters (1844-1893) was arguably the most exotically named man in nineteenth century Spotsylvania. For reasons that should be self evident, he was generally referred to as X.X. Chartters. He was a grandson of George Edwards Chancellor, who built the imposing house on the Orange Turnpike known to history as Chancellorsville. During the Civil War X.X. served in the Thirtieth Virginia Infantry, at times on detached duty with the quartermaster department. His war record shows that he was usually counted as present, except for his confinement to the hospital for bronchitis from December 1863 to March 1864. Together with the bedraggled remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia, X.X. was surrendered by General Lee at Appomattox in April 1865. (Each of the images in my blog can be clicked for enlarged viewing.)

Virginia Herald, 26 April 1875

     Four months after the surrender, X.X. Chartters married Evelyn Montague of Essex County. They ultimately settled on a farm in Spotsylvania located at the intersection of Old Plank and Catharpin Roads. X.X. earned his keep as a farmer and as deputy treasurer for the county. He is probably best remembered, however, for his leadership roles in the Grange, the advocacy organization representing the interests of farmers. By the mid 1870s he had organized a local chapter of the Grange in Spotsylvania, which included his friend--and my great grandfather--George Washington Estes Row. Meetings were held in a building X.X. erected near the corner of Old Plank and Catharpin. By the time X.X. Chartters died of tuberculosis in 1893, he was traveling widely as the leader of the national Grange movement. 

Mungo William Thorburn

     By 1900 the Chartters farm had been purchased by Mungo William Thorburn (1858-1940), a Scottish immigrant and widower with two young daughters. He quickly earned the friendship and respect of his new neighbors because of his industriousness and his devotion to his community and his church (specifically, Tabernacle Methodist Church, where I attended as a youngster). Thorburn served on the Spotsylvania board of public roads. In 1904 he married Abbie Morrison, with whom he had three sons--James, Thomas and George.

The Grange School

     Before the consolidation of the county school system, many local families held school in their homes or some other convenient building. Mungo Thorburn utilized the old Grange meeting place for that purpose. Lillian Eastburn, the teacher in the 1908 picture shown above, was a niece of Abbie Morrison Thorburn. The Thorburn sisters Catherine and Isabella tower over their three year old half brother James. The Johnson children lived across Catharpin Road on the property still referred to by locals as Johnson's corner. Ralph Johnson became the owner of a grocery in Fredericksburg at 1400 Princess Anne Street. His son was Sheriff Ralph Johnson. Also seen in this photo is Hazel Johnson, who for thirty five years worked as the telephone operator for the Fredericksburg & Wilderness Telephone Company. 
     The same year this picture was taken, this very spot became the birthplace of the independent local telephone company that served the Chancellorsville area for more than fifty years. Its story will be the subject of our next episode.

    

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