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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dr. John Duerson Pulliam

Newlyweds: John and Lucy Pulliam, 1861 (CH)

     Every so often I am privileged to come across a collection of photographs relating to one of Spotsylvania's historic families. Such a stroke of good fortune occurred earlier this year when Pulliam family researcher Craig Harnden began to post these photographs to his family tree on Ancestry. With Craig's kind permission, I am able to share with you today this very rare look at the Pulliam family. Pictures from Craig Harnden's archive that appear in today's post are designated with '(CH)'. All images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing.

Western Spotsylvania County, 1863

     Named for his grandfather, John Duerson Pulliam was born in Spotsylvania on 3 November 1840 to Richard H. Pulliam and Rebecca Duerson. The Pulliam farm can be seen in the lower left portion of the map detail shown above. Richard Pulliam's sister Eliza's farm lay just to the north. To the northeast was Greenfield ("Mrs. Rowe"), my family's ancestral home.
    John D. Pulliam graduated from the University of Virginia in 1859. Like many young men in Virginia of that time who wished to practice medicine, he then attended the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He graduated in 1861, having written his thesis on the topic of digestion.
     The year 1861 would prove to be the most significant in the life of young Dr. Pulliam for two other reasons as well. On 15 July he enlisted in Company E of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, my great grandfather's old regiment. Also serving with John were his brother Thomas Coleman Pulliam and his cousin Thomas Richard Pulliam, whose self-indulgent life and violent death have recently been featured in this blog. Click here to read what has become the most popular article ever published on Spotsylvania Memory.

Lucy Noel Jerrell, age 17 (CH)

     The most momentous event in the life of John Pulliam in 1861 was his marriage to eighteen year old Lucy Noel Jerrell on 4 December. Lucy was born in July 1843 to John C. Jerrell and Mary Cropp. The Jerrells lived southeast of Spotsylvania Court House, where her father operated a grist mill and ran a store.
     Dr. John Pulliam survived his year in the Confederate cavalry, managing to avoid injury, sickness or capture. He returned home to Spotsylvania, where he began his fifty year medical practice. Unfortunately for John and everyone he knew, the Civil War that they had so avidly wished for would soon be on their very doorsteps.

John C. Jerrell (CH)

     Among the first to suffer were John Jerrell and his second wife, Ann Marshall. On 5 November 1862 their home, mill and store house were ransacked by Federal troops. In the Confederate archives is the long list of the Jerrells' property that was stolen or destroyed that day by Union soldiers who "laid violent hands on his goods and wares." Among other things, the Jerrells lost ten slaves, a double barreled shotgun, 100 pounds of coffee, and 110 pounds of nails; English, French, Latin, Greek, law and medical books; percussion caps, quinine and other medicines. Without a doubt the most intriguing object stolen that day was a set of obstetrical instruments. As if that were not enough, the Jerrells suffered further indignity that winter when Confederate troops camping on their property burned 1,900 fence rails for fuel.
     A year and a half later John and Lucy Pulliam would have their own violent encounter with Union troops swarming through their neighborhood during the battle of the Wilderness. The experience of the Pulliams was included in the historic letter written by Maria Dobyns of neighboring Oakley plantation: The yankees even tore off the plaster off Dr. Pulliam's cellar, thinking something had been hid, took money off his and Lucie's clothes, together with everything else.

The Pulliam family, 1876 (CH)

     This family portrait made in 1876 shows John and Lucy Pulliam with their five oldest children (Ivy would arrive in  1877 and the youngest, Flavia, was born in 1883). The oldest daughter, Mary Etta, is at far left. She married John F. Lewis in 1880 and had three children with him before dying in 1886 at the age of 23. Standing at John's shoulder is Justinian, who also practiced medicine until his untimely death in 1891. Standing between her parents is Lucy Noel Pulliam, who married Dr. Charles Dudley Simmons. In John's lap is Alma, who married Dr. Frank P. Dickinson, whose family owned "Mercer Hall" in Spotsylvania. Warner moved to Augusta County where he lived near his sisters Ivy and Flavia for a time before dying during the influenza epidemic in 1918.
     Other photos from the Pulliam album:

Dr. Justinian Pulliam (CH)

Alma Pulliam (CH)

Flavia Pulliam (CH)

Ivy Pulliam  (CH)

     As a physician, John Pulliam touched the lives of many during his long career, including my own family.

Estate expenses of Nancy Estes Row

     Dr. Pulliam treated my great great grandmother, Nancy Estes Row, during her final illness in January 1873. The Rows were able to recoup some of his $12.50 fee when he bought several items at her estate sale.

Virginia Herald 6 May 1875

     By the 1870s John had begun to dip his toe into local politics. In 1875 he was elected as a delegate from the Livingston district for the Conservative Party's convention. Also elected from the Livingston district was Dr. Thomas W. Finney, who had served with John in the Ninth Cavalry. In 1860, while still a medical student, Finney lived with John Pulliam's family. Years later both doctors would be lauded for their heroic efforts during an epidemic in Spotsylvania:

The Free Lance 15 July 1887

     John Pulliam was elected a justice of the peace and served on the Spotsylvania  Board of Health 1909-1912. In 1910 he was elected president of the Spotsylvania chapter of the Farmer's Alliance. The only setback I have spotted in his multifaceted career occurred in 1884, when his nomination as superintendent of Spotsylvania County schools was rejected by the Virginia Senate.

Spotsylvania Court House, about 1900

     In the photograph above, Dr. John D. Pulliam is sitting with the political elite of Spotsylvania County. He is seated front and center, fourth from the right.

Dr. John Duerson Pulliam (CH)

     For many years John and Lucy Pulliam lived on a 160 acre farm near Peake's Crossroads, later known as Belmont.

Lucy Pulliam (CH)

Daily Star 29 May 1905

     Lucy Pulliam died of a stroke while entertaining friends at her home in 1905. John continued to live in their old home for a time, but sold it for $4,200 in 1909. He then moved in with his nephew Richard Graves and his family.

John Pulliam at White Hall, 1906 (CH)

     By about 1912 Dr. Pulliam had mostly retired from medicine, although he still would treat special cases. The last of these occurred in January 1914 when he traveled to Richmond to attend a sick nephew. While there he contracted a bad cold, which developed into pneumonia. He died on 15 January 1914.

John Pulliam (CH)

Richmond Times Dispatch 17 January 1914

     John, Lucy, Mary Etta, Warner and Justinian Pulliam are buried at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Spotsylvania.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Little Orphan Annie

Frances Kent. Richmond, early 1900s

     Despite the fact that she had only a grade school education acquired in Spotsylvania in the early 1890s (supplemented by a course in business later), my grandmother had  a life-long love of history, literature and poetry that transcended her modest upbringing. Even into old age she enjoyed reading such heavy tomes as Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. I remember her ability to quote reams of poetry she learned by heart as a young girl, and as a lad I would sit by her rocking chair, transfixed by her ability to still recall without difficulty the poems she had learned seventy years earlier.
     One of the poems she used to recite (and also my mother, who had learned it from my grandmother, complete with her inflections and dramatic phrasing) was Little Orphan Annie, written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The Annie of whom Riley wrote was a real child, Mary Alice Smith, who lived in the Riley household.
     For my modern readers, who may not be able to appreciate the terrifying effect the recitation of this poem by my grandmother and mother had on me at a very tender age, I present this poetic artifact from a bygone era. Read it alone in a dark room by candle light. If you dare.

Little Orphan Annie

Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay, 

To wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away. 

Shoo the chickens off the porch, brush the hearth and sweep, 

Make the fire, bake the bread, and earn her board and keep.

And when the day is over, and all the things are done,

We'd sit around the kitchen fire, and have the mostest fun!

A-listening to the witch-tales, that Annie tells about. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

Once there was a little boy who wouldn't say his prayers

And when he went to bed one night a way upstairs;

His mama heard him holler, and his daddy heard him bawl, 

And when they turned the covers down, he wasn't there at all!

They searched him in the rafters, and in the closet press, 

They searched him in the chimney flue, and everywhere I guess, 

But all they ever found of him was his pants and roundabout. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

Once there was a little girl, who'd always laugh and grin, 

And make fun of everyone, all her blood and kin.

Once when there was company, and old folks were there, 

She mocked them, and shocked them, and said she didn't care!

And just when she was about to turn, and run and hide, 

There was two great, big black things, standing by her side!

They snatched her through the ceiling, 'fore she knowed what she's about. 

And the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Death on the Virginia Central

Section hands of the PF&P Railroad (DC)

     For sixty one years the train used to make daily runs between Fredericksburg and Orange Court House. Near the end of the checkered history of this now long abandoned railway there occurred a devastating accident in Spotsylvania which made the front page of the Free Lance Star eighty six years ago. Thanks to Dena Cooper, fellow researcher and a friend of Spotsylvania Memory, this dimly remembered tragedy can now be shared with a modern audience. Photographs from her family's collection which appear in today's post are designated '(DC)'. All images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing.

Route of the PF&P Railroad, 1894 (Wikipedia)

     In 1852 the city fathers of Fredericksburg, fearing the cumulative financial impact of the failure of the Rappahannock Canal and the sad state of the Orange Turnpike and Plank Road, hatched a plan to construct a railroad linking Fredericksburg with Gordonsville. The following year the Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad Company was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly and surveyors were at work by fall of 1853.

Gold bond of the FO&C Railroad (

     Soon thereafter this ambitious plan was scaled back to a thirty eight mile track that would extend from Fredericksburg to Orange Court House. By 1861 much of the grading work to Parker's store in western Spotsylvania was complete. But the Civil War obliged the Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad to stop work. On Civil War era maps, and in the memories of soldiers who fought at the battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness, this nascent rail bed would be forever known as "the unfinished railroad."
     In June 1866 civil engineer Carter Moore Braxton, who had been an officer in the Fredericksburg artillery and husband of famed diarist Fannie Page Hume, was elected president of the F&G Railroad. Fifteen miles of standard gauge track had been laid by 1872, but the F&G went bankrupt. A new company, the Fredericksburg, Orange & Charlottesville Railroad, was formed to complete the project. They sold bonds, like the one shown above, in an attempt to raise sufficient capital to see the job through.
     Despite the inauspicious beginnings of this still unfinished railroad, its construction was a boon to the local economy. Building the road provided employment to a small army of surveyors, engineers and laborers. The manufacture of the rails, ties, fencing stock and bridge material also kept local foundries and saw mills humming. One beneficiary of this railroad boomlet was my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row. Another group profiting from all this activity were local attorneys, as lawsuits relating to ongoing financial difficulties filled the docket of the Circuit Court.

Chugging past T.S. Jones's store near Mine Run, Orange County

     Inevitably, the Fredericksburg, Orange and Charlottesville Railroad went bankrupt in 1876. The company's charter was returned to the original incorporators, the F&G Railroad. The directors immediately transferred title to the Royal Land Development Company, which changed the standard gauge (4' 8" between rails) to narrow gauge (3' between rails) to save on construction costs. Royal purchased two engines, four flat cars, four box cars and two passenger cars from the Centennial Fairgrounds in Philadelphia.

Freight receipt of the PF&P Railroad, 1883

     That same year the company was renamed the Potomac, Fredericksburg & Piedmont Railroad and would be known by that name for more than fifty years. The first trip on the newly completed road was made from Fredericksburg to Orange Court House on 26 February 1877. A mere twenty five years had elapsed from conception to completion.
    Soon the PF&P railroad would be wryly referred to as the "Poor Folks & Preachers Railroad," reflecting both its clientele and its hand-to-mouth existence. There is the apocryphal story of a fellow who wished to get to Orange one day. Exasperated by a long and futile wait for the train to show up, he set off on foot, following the track to his intended destination. At long last the train slowly crept up behind him. As it slowly passed by, the engineer asked him if he wished to get on. "No thanks," he replied. "I'm in a hurry."

PF&P ticket, 1927

     The railroad always struggled financially and in 1925 the company decided to abandon the road. A small group of investors bought it and changed the name to the Orange & Fredericksburg Railway. They, too, soon went under and a year later the company was reorganized as the Virginia Central Railway. The increasing popularity of the automobile and the wasting effects of the Great Depression proved to be too much, however, and the railroad permanently ceased operating in 1938.

William Andrew Williamson (DC)

William A. Williamson, wearing a straw boater, far left

     William Andrew "Willie" Williamson and his brothers worked for the railroad. Three of them can be seen in the photograph at the top of today's post. Standing on the front of the engine, center, is Stephen Davis Williamson (1886-1965). Standing on the engine at far right is Reuben Franklin Williamson (b. 1885). And standing by the track at far right is Hugh Meredith Williamson (b. 1882).

Charles and Lucy Williamson (DC)

     Willie Williamson (born in Spotsylvania on 25 May 1881) and his brothers and sister were the children of Charles Allen Williamson and Lucy Jane Parker. Charles was born in Prince Edward County in 1851 and spent his early years in Manchester. In September 1878 he married Lucy Parker of Spotsylvania, a daughter of John Franklin Parker and Annie Haney, who owned the general store and post office on Brock Road known as Brockville, a stop on the PF&P Railroad. Annie Parker ran the post office for years.

Registry receipt written at Brockville, 1885

     Frank and Annie's daughter in law, Wilhelmina Hirth Parker, succeeded Annie as postmistress there and held that job until 1942. Wilhelmina's son Grafton Parker was postmaster until 1956.

Mary Wallace (DC)

     Willie Williamson married seventeen year old Mary Elizabeth Wallace in May 1914. Mary was the oldest daughter of Spotsylvania farmer Festus Wallace and his wife Margaret Jane Owens. Mary's sisters married two of Willie's brothers. Leah married Samuel Estes Williamson and Mattie Merle married Stephen Davis Williamson.

Festus and Margaret Wallace (DC)

     Willie and his brothers were hard working men. In addition to working on the family farm near Brockville, they also worked for the railroad. By 1910 Willie, Stephen, Samuel & Hugh were working as car loaders for the PF&P. During the 1920s all of the Williamson brothers worked as section hands on the railroad. Their draft registration forms submitted in 1917 give some indication of the physical stresses and dangers of their work. Reuben reported a broken hand and breastbone; Sam had an afflicted arm and shoulder; Willie said he had a weak constitution; and Hugh suffered from rheumatism attacks.
     Just how dangerous work on the railroad could be was demonstrated on the morning of 20 April 1928. With sudden violence the life of Willie Williamson came to an abrupt end and five others, including his brother Stephen, sustained severe and even life threatening injuries. This sad incident was the lead story in that afternoon's edition of the Free Lance Star.

The Free Lance Star, 20 April 1928 (DC)


William Williamson Dies in Crash of Motor Cars on Virginia Central. Another unconscious.


     One man was killed and five injured in varying degrees, one perhaps fatally, when a motor car on the Virginia Central railroad crashed into the lever-car preceeding it when the latter jumped the tracks fifteen miles west of Fredericksburg this morning shortly after 8 o'clock.
     William Williamson, 40 years old, of Brock Road, was killed outright in the accident. Moses Jones, of Chancellor, received a fracture of the skull and had not fully recovered consciousness this afternoon at 2 o'clock; H.D. Craig, Chancellor, was badly hurt about his shoulders and hips; Steve Williamson, of Brock Road, a brother of the dead man, received serious injuries to his left leg; William Powell, of Chancellor, had his right knee cap badly fractured, and W.M. Lane, of Chancellor, foreman of this group of workmen, was severely injured about the back. Five other men, whose names could not be learned, jumped at the moment of the crash and were not hurt.

Injured Rushed Here

     The injured men were rushed to the Mary Washington Hospital as soon as possible after the accident where they were given emergency treatment by Drs. S. L. Scott, J.N. Barney and T.W. Dew. After the first treatments more  thorough examinations were given the injured. All of them, with the exception of Jones, probably will recover, physicians stated today. Jones has a dangerous fracture and his condition is bordering on the critical though he has a very good fighting chance for life. Physicians stated today that they were unable to operate on him because of his weakened condition.
     Attempts to obtain an exact detailed account of the accident failed this morning when members of the administrative force at the Virginia Central railroad offices here said they had not received any official account of the accident and that the did not know the names of all those on the car. The injured men could not be interviewed and none of those who escaped injury could be located in town.

Cars Jammed Together

     From unofficial sources, however, it was learned that the accident happened just beyond the fifteen mile post, half way between Brock Road and Parkers Station. The men, in charge of foreman Lane, were proceeding west on two cars, a lever car attached to and preceding a motor car which was pushing it. The lever on the old type car was not being used but the car merely was in service to provide sufficient room for the gang of workmen.
     The two cars, it was said, had picked up members of the force at various points along the route and were traveling at a nominal rate of speed when the accident happened. Just what caused the accident is not known, but it may have been due to defective or spreading rails, although this had not been absolutely ascertained this afternoon.

Lever Car Jumps Rails

     Something, however, caused the lever car to leave the rails and immediately that wheels caught on the ties or in the gravel between them, its acceleration was sharply reduced and the motor car crashed heavily into the rear of the car in front. The two cars buckled, it is said, and Williamson was thrown off, falling directly under the motor car which crushed down on him. He was killed instantly.
     The other men were thrown off the colliding cars at different angles and in different ways. The injured men were picked up and placed on the side of the road by fellow workmen.
     As soon as possible after the accident the injured were rushed to the local hospital where they received treatment.
     Due to the distance at which the accident happened it was nearly 11 o'clock before the men reached the local institution.

Survived by family

     Williamson, who was killed in the accident, is survived by his wife and three children, all of whom reside in the Chancellor neighborhood. Williamson's wife was notified of the accident and arrived before the body was removed. Wives of some of the injured men came immediately to the local hospital after hearing of the accident.
     Spotsylvania County authorities will hold an inquest and probably an investigation of the causes of the accident.

     Details in today's post about the history of the railroad come from Robert Hodges' article, The Narrow Gauge Railroad, which can be found at LibraryPoint, the website of the Central Rapphannock Regional Library.
     A special thank you is also in order to Spotsylvania researcher and genealogist Wil Bowler, who provided background information on some of the families mentioned today.

PF&P engine and tender (Courtesy of CRHC)

A postscript -   

Noel Harrison, historian with the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, has shared with me the fact that in the last year of its operation, the railroad utilized a self-propelled passenger car with subway seating (that is, with the seats facing each other).

 Since I wrote this piece three more photographs of the historic Virginia Central Railway have been shared with me by fellow researcher Dena Cooper. Dated 1936, these pictures were taken just two years before the VCR went out of business for good. According to Noel Harrison, the first and third images shows the train standing in the yards at its terminus in Orange. The other picture is a stark reminder of how dangerous conditions on this line could be:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thomas Pearson Payne

Fisticuffs on the courthouse lawn. Late 1800s.

     He was devoted to his family, his church and his community. He played an active role in Spotsylvania politics for many years. The photographic record of his life and that of his family is vast; only a small sample can be shared with you today. Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are from the Colvin Collection. [Please click on the images in my blog for enlarged viewing]

Jesse William Payne

Catherine Hicks Payne and her son Zebulon "Buckshot" Payne

     Thomas Pearson Payne was born in Spotsylvania on 5 August 1852. He was the firstborn child of Jesse William Payne (1821-1881) and Catherine Ann Hicks (1833-1911), arriving seven months after his parents' wedding. Catherine Hicks was a daughter of Spotsylvania farmer and constable Thomas Hicks and the granddaughter of Thomas Hicks, long time Spotsylvania jailor. In the photograph below, Thomas Hicks, Jr. is believed to be standing at far right.

     Before joining the Confederate army, Jesse Payne rented the farm of Neil McCoull, which would become the epicenter of the vicious day-long fight at the Bloody Angle. Jesse lost an eye during the war but otherwise was able to return home safely. Jesse Payne died at age fifty nine while threshing wheat on the farm of his father in law.

Rebecca Catherine Lohr

     Thomas Payne married Rebecca Catherine Lohr of Madison County on 20 September 1872. Like his father, Thomas rented the McCoull farm where his seven children were born:

Frank Payne

- Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Payne (1873-1957) operated a saw mill near his home on Catharpin Road and was chief forest warden of Spotsylvania County for twenty seven years. He married my great aunt Lottie Kent in 1928.

Frederick Linwood Payne

Fred Payne at the McCoull house. About 1900.

Freemond Clifton Payne

- Fred Payne and his twin brother Freemond were born in 1875 and each lived into his nineties. We used to see them sitting out in the yard together on Catharpin Road in the 1960s.

Fred Payne, Charles Talley and Annie Rebecca Payne

- Annie Rebecca Payne (1878-1949) married Spotsylvania farmer Charles Talley in 1899 and had five children with him.

Nettie Payne

Merle Chilton Strickler

- Anzonetta "Nettie" Payne (1880-1961) married John Moncure Chilton in 1910. Their only child, Merle, taught school in Spotsylvania for 32 years and is fondly remembered by many of us.

Bessie Lee Payne

Fred Payne and John Calvin Jennings (right)

- Bessie Lee Payne (1882-1973) married John Calvin Jennings in 1901. Bessie was the postmistress at Finchville from 1908 until 1914, when the post office was discontinued and its operations were moved to Screamersville.

Ashby Payne

Ashby and Bessie Payne

- Ashby Payne (1885-1942) was the second husband of Ruby Ray Kent, whom he married in 1926. Ashby and Ruby lived near the intersection of Catharpin and Stewart Roads. Ashby is remembered for his fiddle playing at local dances and for providing liquid refreshment as well. He died after being kicked by a horse in the barn.
Spotsylvania Court House. Late 1800s.

     Thomas Pearson Payne served for a number of years as deputy commissioner of revenue for the St. George's district. In the group portrait above, he is seated second from left. There were apparently whisperings of voting irregularities during his tenure, but I have found no mention of it in the local newspapers of the time. Thomas was also elected as a delegate to the state Democratic convention in 1899:

Daily Star 1 September 1899

     Payne's long run as deputy commissioner of revenue ended in 1911 when he was defeated by Irvin Chandler Clore by fifty eight votes. Afterwards Thomas Payne served as county assessor. Clore went on to serve twelve years as deputy commissioner of revenue, twelve years as county treasurer and finally as a trial justice until his death in 1944.

Irvin Chandler Clore (courtesy of Wil Bowler)

     Thomas and Rebecca Payne became friends with Pennsylvania native John Okie and his family, who would come down to hunt with the Paynes in Spotsylvania. The following photographs were taken about 1900, possibly during the same outing. The Ferneyhough place mentioned in the photographs had once been the home of John B. Ferneyhough, located on Catharpin Road near Old Plank Road on the site of today's Sawhill subdivision:

Thomas Pearson Payne

Payne family at the Ferneyhough place

Ashby, Zebulon and Thomas Pearson Payne

Thomas Payne's dogs near Chancellorsville

     Thomas Payne's hunting dogs can be seen both in the photo taken at Ferneyhough's as well as on Old Plank Road within sight of Chancellorsville.
     Over the years Thomas acquired a number of parcels of land in Spotsylvania, including the places where his sons built their houses. He bought land for himself on the corner of Cartharpin and Piney Branch Roads on the Ni River, where he built his house. He called his home Hazelfield.

Paynes at home

     A good many of the Payne family photos were taken at Hazelfield. This rare interior picture made about 1905 shows Thomas strumming his banjo. In front his granddaughter Rubye is held by her Aunt Nettie, with her mother Emma Payne seated at right. Behind them are Rebecca, Ashby, Frank and Thomas.

Nettie Payne Chilton and Thomas Payne at the well at Hazelfield

Thomas, Rebecca, Frank, Nettie and Ashby

     Thomas Payne was a lifelong member of Goshen Baptist Church, where he was superintendent of the Sunday school.

Goshen Baptist Church

     So what the heck are those two fellows fighting about in the photograph at the top of today's post? Thomas Payne (right) and his brother James used to put on mock boxing exhibitions to entertain the crowds of people gathered there when court was in session.
     Thomas Pearson Payne died at home on 17 April 1934, having outlived Rebecca by eight years. He and Rebecca and all of their children are buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Spotsylvania.

Thomas and Rhoda posing for the camera