Search This Blog

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment