Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

William George White and the Funeral of Robert E. Lee

William George White

     My great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Houston (the subject of numerous posts on this blog), was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1854 to George Washington Houston (a graduate of Washington College) and Annette Louise Willson. Lizzie's grandfather was a cousin of Samuel Houston, who achieved some fame in the history of Tennessee and Texas. In 1875, Lizzie married Spotsylvania County native, George Washington Estes Row, in a ceremony held at New Providence Church in Rockbridge. The presiding minister was Ebenezer Dickey Junkin, whose father had once been president of Washington College in Lexington, and whose sister had been the first wife of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

Ann Eliza Houston White
     On January 12, 1842, Lizzie's aunt, Ann Eliza Houston, married Lexington merchant William George White. Born in Rockbridge County in 1811, William was an able man of many resources and achieved a certain stature in the Lexington of his time. He was town treasurer for a while and also served as treasurer of Washington College 1857-1865.
     William and Eliza had five children who survived to adulthood. Only one of these, Ann Eliza White, married (she was the wife of Reverend Leonidas Beverly Chaney). The widowed Ann Chaney died in Fredericksburg in 1919. Her brothers and sisters--Margaret, Clara, William Houston and Robert-- lived together as a family their entire lives until each succumbed to the infirmities of old age.
     William White's store stood on Main Street in Lexington, opposite the Presbyterian Church. In January 1854, this site became the scene of of a violent struggle and murder, and the ensuing trial made headlines in many papers of the time. Harboring a grudge against VMI cadet Thomas Blackburn, Washington College law student, Charles Burks Christian, attacked him outside the church after evening services. During the fracas at the intersection of Nelson and Main Streets, Christian stabbed Blackburn, who then staggered to the walk in front of White's Store, where he died on hay scales near the store's basement entrance. (For those of you who enjoy reading well-written history, I recommend Daniel S. Morrow's book,  Death in Lexington: VMI, Honor and Justice in Antebellum Virginia. The History Press, Charleston, SC: 2013)

William Houston White

     In 1864, William G. White's older son, William Houston White,  enlisted in the Rockbridge Light Artillery immediately upon his graduation from Washington College. He remained in Confederate uniform for a year, until the surrender of General Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox in April 1865. Earlier in the war, General Lee's son, Robert, Jr., also served in that battery. After the battle of Antietam, young Robert was promoted and became an aide to his brother, General George Washington Custis Lee [1].
     By the end of the Civil War, Washington College was destitute and its prospects were not bright. It had invested heavily in Virginia state bonds, whose potential value was negated by the outcome of the war. Fortunately, money was raised from some of the more solvent members of the local citizenry, including $20,000 contributed by inventor Cyrus McCormick. In addition to money, strong leadership was also required to attract new students to the College. The school's trustees offered the presidency of Washington College to Robert E. Lee during the summer of 1865. The former general accepted their offer, and presided at the school for the next five years.

Robert E. Lee (Wikipedia)

     Soon after his arrival, Lee was contacted by the executive committee of the Rockbridge Bible Society, which included the Society's treasurer, William George White, inviting him to join their membership. Although most families in Rockbridge were of Scots-Irish descent and devout Presbyterians, they had no difficulty in making room for the revered former general, an Episcopalian. Lee and White became good friends.
     A house was built for Mr. and Mrs. Lee. President Lee also raised funds to build a church for the school's campus. Completed in 1868, this church came to be known as Lee Chapel.
     Robert E. Lee died Wednesday morning, October 12, 1870 at 9:30 at his home at Washington College. His death could hardly have occurred at a more inopportune time for the planners of his funeral. During the first week of October 1870, the worst flood in living memory occurred on the North (now called Maury) River. Great damage was done along the canal, including the destruction of the lumber house belonging to Archibald Alexander and James D. Anderson. Just prior to the flood, Alexander and Anderson had accepted the shipment of metal coffins intended for C. M. Koones & Brother, Lexington's undertakers. Those coffins and everything else stored there had been swept down the North River.

Charles Henry Chittum (Barbara Chittum Hutchens)

     This posed a very difficult problem for the burial of Robert E. Lee. Because of the damage done to Lexington's wharf, coupled with the fact the area's roads had been washed out, it was unlikely that a proper metal coffin could be obtained in sufficient time. Volunteers began to search the river banks for the missing coffins, and one was found two miles downstream by Charles Henry Chittum, who owned a shoe shop in Lexington.

Funeral cortege of Robert E. Lee (Washington & Lee Special Collections)

     Lee's funeral took place in Lexington on October 15, 1870. Accompanied by the solemn music played by the band from the Virginia Military Institute, the funeral procession went past William White's store, shown in the photograph above. The cortege then proceeded to the College. In the picture below, throngs of mourners are seen at Lee Chapel, where he was buried.

     Among the pallbearers that day were two of Lexington's leading citizens. One was lawyer Joseph Grigsby Steele, who at one time served as clerk of court for Rockbridge County. The other was William George White.

William George White
     William White retired from business by 1880. His son, William Houston, assumed management of the store. William died on October 2, 1888. He is buried in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington.

There were two other pallbearers at Lee's funeral that day who deserve mention here:

Matthew Fontaine Maury (Wikipedia)

     Spotsylvania-born Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), called the "Pathfinder of the Seas," served his country as an astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meterologist, cartographer, geologist and naval officer. During the Civil War, Maury served the cause of the Confederacy. By the time of Lee's funeral, Maury was a professor of physics at the Virginia Military Institute.

William Preston Johnston (Wikipedia)
     William Preston Johnston (1831-1899) was the son and biographer of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, who was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. During the Civil War, William served as aide-de-camp to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. He was captured with Davis at Irwinville, Georgia in 1865. He spent several months imprisoned at Fort Delaware.
     At the invitation of Robert E. Lee, Johnston joined the faculty of Washington College. During his tenure there, he lived at "Clifton," a house on the North River opposite Lexington. Johnston and Lee used to sit on the porch of this house and watch collegiate boat races on the river.


     In 1897, Clifton was purchased by Lizzie Houston's brother, Finley Houston, who at that time was quartermaster at VMI. The house remained in the Houston family for the next 80 years.

Finley Houston

[1] In 1865, Custis Lee joined the faculty of the Virginia Military Institute. After the death of his father, he assumed the presidency of Washington and Lee University, serving until 1897. In 1877, Lee sued the United States government to regain title to Arlington, his family's estate, which had been seized during the Civil War. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided in his favor in 1882. The following year, Lee sold Arlington back to the federal government for $150,000.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Goshen School

     Here are several photographs of the old Goshen School taken between 1895 and 1919. The school was located on the corner of Gordon and Brock Roads, opposite Goshen Church. You can see that the school had been enlarged by 1919. Doubtless some of you will recognize the names of your ancestors here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Funeral of Fannie Kent Row

Fannie Kent. Richmond, Virginia, early 1900s

     My grandmother died just shy of her 99th birthday in October 1982. Her death, and the effect her funeral had on me, moved me to write of my impressions from that time. I loved my grandmother, and soon after her death I began to regret not having spent more time with her when I was young. I wrote this soon after she was laid to rest at Shady Grove:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Chancellor & Rawlings

M. S. Chancellor, "The Farmer's Store," 1927 (Library of Congress)

     Two young men, each born in Spotsylvania County in the mid-nineteenth century, came to Fredericksburg, where they made their mark as noteworthy civic and business leaders. They were brothers-in-law, and for almost 20 years they were business partners as well. Special thanks today to Diane Ballman of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center (CRHC), who furnished me with two rare photos of Sanford Chancellor.

Sanford Chancellor (CRHC)

     Melzi Sanford Chancellor, Jr., who was called Sanford, was born at Dowdall's Tavern in Spotsylvania County in 1859. He was the youngest child of Reverend Melzi Sanford Chancellor and Lucy Fox Frazer. I have recently written a piece about Reverend Chancellor, which can be read here. Dowdall's Tavern stood on the south side of the Orange Turnpike (modern Route 3) just east of Wilderness Baptist Church, where the senior Chancellor served as pastor for many years.

Location of the home of Melzi Sanford Chancellor, 1863 (National Archives)

Dowdall's Tavern (Library of Congress)

     Sanford attended local schools after the Civil War and then studied at the Locust Dale Academy in Orange County. By 1879 he was working as a clerk in the store of his brother, George Edwards Chancellor. The store sold farming supplies and tools, and also carried groceries. It was located at 318 Commerce, located at the corner of modern William and Charles Streets. Today that site is the location of Castiglia's Italian Restaurant.

Invoice of George E. Chancellor, 1882

     In 1880, Sanford was still living with his parents in Spotsylvania County. By this time, Reverend Chancellor had built a new home,  called "Chancellor's Retreat," behind Wilderness Baptist Church. In the 1884 photograph shown below, this house can be seen in the far distance at right. In the foreground is the Orange Turnpike, today's Route 3.

Wilderness Baptist Church and Chancellor's Retreat, 1884 (National Park Service)

     When Sanford moved to Fredericksburg, he lived with his widowed sister, Anna Cora Chancellor King, and her sons: Chancellor, George Phillips, Jr., and Rufus. Their house was located at 822 Main (modern Caroline) Street and is still there today. Sanford, Anna and George later moved to 1108 Charles Street, where they took in boarders.
     George Phillips King, Jr.--a merchant like his uncle Sanford (he worked for James T. Lowery for many years)--married Cora Harrison in 1908. One of their sons, George Harrison Sanford King, later gained a reputation as one of Virginia's most able genealogists. Sanford Chancellor, who never married, lived with George and Cora for the rest of his life. In the photograph below, George King is shown standing at right next to Julia Mann. Sitting are Sanford's nephew, Scott Todd Stephens (a son of Lucy Monroe Chancellor) and his wife, Lillie Jennings Stephens.

     Another sister of Sanford, Leona, married James Richard Rawlings in 1877. By the 1880s the Rawlings family settled in Fredericksburg, where James began to work as a merchant.
     George Edwards Chancellor died in Fredericksburg on November 12, 1887. Acting as executors of George's estate, Sanford, his brother Vespasian and their father took steps to sell off the remaining inventory of the store and to pay the estate's debts. In July 1888, Sanford and James announced that they had bought the store on Commerce Street. They would continue in the same line of business as before under the name of Chancellor & Rawlings. For the next 17 years, they sold farming supplies, groceries, dry goods and even adding new items as opportunities arose.

The Free Lance, April 4, 1893

The Free Lance, May 28, 1894

The Free Lance, January 13, 1898

The Free Lance, April 27, 1899

     With his new-found prosperity, Sanford also began participating in the civic life of Fredericksburg. He was first elected to the city council in 1896 and won re-election several times thereafter. He was elected vice president of the Rappahannock Valley Agricultural and Manufacturing Society, which organized the fairs held in the city each year. He also joined a number of fraternal organizations, including the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Order of the United American Mechanics, the sons of Confederate Veterans and the Masonic Lodge Number 4.
     In a time when many of the city's leading citizens were devout members of the Baptist Church, Sanford attended Trinity Episcopalian.

Sanford Chancellor (CRHC)

     Sanford got the attention of local citizens and a reporter for The Daily Star in 1910 when he jokingly announced that he had ordered an automobile for himself:

The Daily Star, May 24, 1910

  In 1913, Sanford advertised his business in The Battlefield, the yearbook of the State Normal School in Fredericksburg, the forerunner of Mary Washington University:

The Battlefield, 1913 (Ancestry)

     Melzi Sanford Chancellor, Jr., died at 1108 Charles Street at 11:05 p. m. on June 19, 1925. He had been stricken with apoplexy, and two doctors were summoned to help him. Soon after their arrival, Sanford died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His funeral was conducted from the house on Charles Street by Reverend Sheerin, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church. Sanford is buried at the Chancellor family cemetery in Chancellorsville.
     In a brief and very unambiguous will, Sanford had left his entire estate to George King. George sold a half interest in the store to his brother, Chancellor King, who continued to run the business in his uncle's name for several years after Sanford's death. As late as 1953, the M. S. Chancellor store  was open for business, operated by George Harrison Sanford King and his brother, Francis Marion King. They are listed as sellers of Allis-Chalmers and New Idea Farm Equipment, General Hardware, Sales and Service. Almost 80 years after George E. Chancellor opened his doors here, the store went out of business in 1954.  In the 1955 Fredericksburg City Directory, 318 William Street is listed as "vacant."

James Richard Rawlings (Dan Janzegers)

     James Richard Rawlings was born at "Green Hill," in western Spotsylvania County on May 6, 1852. He was the youngest of five children born to James Boswell and Ann Cason Rawlings. James' father was a farmer, slave owner, justice of the peace and postmaster at Danielsville. The senior Rawlings was also a man of colorful character and expensive habits, which in 1844 landed him in the Louisa County jail for failing to pay a debt to a Jacob Roler. Mr. Rawlings wrote a letter to the sheriff of Spotsylvania County, in which he helpfully listed some of his wife's assets which could be liquidated to raise money to obtain his release from jail. The Rawlings home appears just south of Catharpin Road in the lower center of the map detail shown below.

Western Spotsylvania, 1863 (National Archives)
     James had two older brothers. Zachary Herndon Rawlings (1836-1916) was a farmer, railroad contractor, grist mill owner, store merchant and postmaster at Vesuvius in Rockbridge County. He was married to my second great aunt, Nancy Baker Row. Nearer to his own age was Benjamin Cason Rawlings (1845-1909), whose exploits during the Civil War have been topics of this blog (here and here) as well as a chapter of my book.
     Greenfield, the farm of James' in-laws, the Row family, witnessed a portion of Jackson's flank march during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. A year later, just prior to the invasion of Spotsylvania County by the army of General U. S. Grant and the Battle of the Wilderness, the Row and Rawlings families packed up their belongings and, together with a handful of slaves who had not yet run away to freedom, fled to the little crossroads village of Hadensville in Goochland County, Virginia. Here they would remain in relative safety as refugees for much of the remainder of the war.
     James' brother, Zachary, served for a time in Company A, 30th Virginia Infantry. His career as a foot soldier came to an end after being wounded at the Battle of Antietam in 1862. Benjamin, at the age of 18, became the captain of Company D of the 30th Virginia. Benjamin survived capture, imprisonment, sickness and many near misses during the war's fighting. Just before Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox in 1865, Benjamin was able to escape the Union encirclement of the remnants of the Confederate army. He made his way to Goochland County on foot and arrived at Hadensville gaunt, feverish, with matted hair and tattered clothes. James did not recognize his own brother, and was so frightened by his appearance that he hid behind his mother's skirts when he saw him.
     After the war, James continued to live and work at his parents' farm in Spotsylvania. On November 12, 1877, James married 20-year-old Leona Chancellor, a daughter of Reverend Melzi Sanford Chancellor. They had five children who survived to adulthood: James Boswell (1878-1936), Susie Estelle (1886-1957), Florence Baker (1888-1988), Lucille (1894-1958) and George Chancellor (1897-1974).
     I have not been able to find James' family in the 1880 census. By the 1880s James was working as a merchant in Fredericksburg. His name appears in the minutes of an 1886 city council meeting. After the death of Leona's brother, George, in 1887, James entered into a partnership with Sanford Chancellor to buy the store at 318 Commerce Street. The following summer, Chancellor & Rawlings arrived on Fredericksburg's mercantile scene.

The Free Lance, July 10, 1894

     James and Leona bought the house at 1112 Charles Street, and so lived just a few doors down from Sanford Chancellor and the King family. Unlike the Episcopalian Sanford, James was a devoted Baptist and served as deacon of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church for 25 years. James also served on the board of trustees for the city's public schools. 
     By the end of the 1800s, Leona's health began to decline. She died of tuberculosis at their home shortly after 2 p. m. on June 8, 1900. Her funeral was held at their house on June 10. She lies buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg.
     James and Sanford dissolved their partnership in the store by 1905. That year, James and his son James Boswell opened their own general merchandise store at 405 Commerce Street, just a block from Sanford Chancellor's store.

The Free Lance, April 25, 1905

     James Boswell Rawlings received his early education in the Fredericksburg public schools before attending the Locust Dale Academy and the Fredericksburg Collegiate Institute, where he graduated in 1895. During the Spanish-American War he served in Company K, the Washington Guards, and was stationed at Camp Alger in Falls Church, Virginia.
     In 1910, the Rawlingses dissolved their partnership in the store. James Boswell Rawlings accepted a sales position with the Heywood-Wakeman furniture company in Baltimore. The senior Rawlings continued to operate his store on his own. In 1913, he was appointed to the first of two 4-year terms as postmaster of Fredericksburg. His son James then returned home to take over the management of his father's store.
     On November 25, 1908, James Richard Rawlings married his second wife, Loula Williams. She was a sister of Reverend R. Aubrey Williams, who had been pastor of the Fredericksburg Baptist Church since 1904. James and Loula were married by her brother in a ceremony held at her aunt's house in Richmond. They had one child together, Mary Van Buren Rawlings, born in 1911. 
     James' other children had mostly grown up by now and had started careers of their own. Florence Baker graduated from Longwood College and became a school teacher. This was also true of her sister Lucille, who graduated from the State Normal School. Neither sister ever married.

Florence Baker Rawlings (Ancestry)

Lucille Rawlings (Ancestry)

     While Lucille was a student at the local college, James placed this advertisement in the 1913 edition of The Battlefield:

J. R. Rawlings (Ancestry)

     James and Leona's youngest child, George Chancellor Rawlings, became the executive vice president of the Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation. His son, George Chancellor Rawlings, Jr., became a controversial lawyer in Fredericksburg and served in the House of Representatives in Fredericksburg in the 1960s.

George Chancellor Rawlings, Jr. (Ancestry)

     James Richard Rawlings died of pneumonia at his home on Charles Street on Saturday morning, January 17, 1925--just five months prior to the death of Sanford Chancellor. His funeral was held at the Baptist Church and he was buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg.