Search This Blog

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of squirrels slain, and a brother lost

Sunshine, as it looked in the 1950s

     Most of us who are parents have had the experience of teaching our children to write notes to relatives, thanking them for a gift received or to share some important event. Young boys do not take naturally to this social nicety and often require a little prodding and coaxing to get the words on paper. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]
     George Washington Estes Row and his young family moved to Sunshine, the house he built, soon after election day in 1879. Sunshine farm, as it existed then, was a 166 acre tract carved out of Greenfield,  the family's plantation in western Spotsylvania,  given to George by his mother in February 1869. At that time George Row was married to Annie Daniel of Culpeper and their son Absalom, called "Abbie," had been born three months before.

George Washington Estes Row

Annie Daniel Row

     George and Annie Row had a second child, Virginia Isabella, born in March 1871. At that time they were living at Greenfield with George's mother and sister. Annie died at Greenfield in November 1871 and little Virginia died at her grandmother's home in Culpeper the following year.
     George married a second time in 1875 to Lizzie Houston of Rockbridge and they built Sunshine to accommodate their growing family, which by 1879 included Houston and Mabel. Robert Alexander Row was born in February 1881. I do not know whether he never thrived or if he was taken by a sudden illness, but little Robert departed this life in October 1881 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery at Greenfield. His mother kept a lock of his blond hair.

Robert's hair

Lock of Robert Alexander Row's hair
     And so, the unwelcome task of writing to his grandmother about the loss of his brother fell to thirteen year old Abbie. His note, as well as a carefully copied poem, survive. Abbie Row was not an enthusiastic student and he never finished his schooling, a fact which is made evident by his less than stellar spelling and grammar. For clarity's sake, I have tidied up his letter in my transcription. He did a somewhat better job of copying the poem, which is at least legible.

Abbie Row's letter to Sarah Jane Daniel

3th 1881
               Dear Grannie
I wish I could see you all very much. I suppose you heard that my younger brother was dead. I am going to school. We have only 2 enrolled. The superintendent says if  it doesn't make any better showing the school will not go on about a month. I have killed 35 squirrels this year and 1 partridge with that gun that I brought from there. Father 50 squirrels. He has a new gun, a breach loader. It shoots a cartridge 7 or ten times. I am going to get a gun like his.

Poem copied by Abbie Row

The fields and woods of old Sunshine, where Abbie hunted with his father, have changed very little in the past 200 years. Here are a couple of views of the old place taken in the autumn of 2012:

Road leading from Sunshine to Jackson Trail West



     Abbie Row's inattentiveness to his schooling narrowed his career choices, but it did not deter him from living a colorful life whose cinematic events would easily lend themselves to a miniseries on television. This is Abbie Row with his brother Horace and my mother at Sunshine in 1929:

Horace, Judy and Absalom Row


1 comment:

  1. One of many stories about 19th Century Spotsylvania Wilderness area as seen through the eyes of a GG grandson looking through the many photos and documents that were saved by his ancestors.