Search This Blog

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Your kindness shall ever be remembered"

James Tompkins Williams (Ellen Apperson Brown)

Martha Row Williams (Ellen Apperson Brown)

     This is the story of a chance encounter between two men during the Civil War, an encounter that would leave a lasting impression on both men.
     Born in Lynchburg, James Tompkins Williams (1829-1900) was a son of Jehu Williams, one of Virginia's preeminent silversmiths and clock makers. By 1850, 21-year-old James was working as a merchant for Lynchburg tobacconist, James Leftwich Claytor, in whose household he was living at the time. That same year, James married Spotsylvania native Martha Jane Row, a sister of my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row.
     Once married, James and Martha settled in Richmond, where James was a partner with Samuel C. Tardy in the firm that became known as Tardy & Williams, auctioneers and commission merchants, located at 13th and Cary Streets. Their advertisements frequently appeared in the Richmond newspapers, including this one in The Richmond Enquirer dated October 7, 1863:

Tardy & Williams advertisement

     During the Civil War, Tardy & Williams were able to stay in business, thanks in part to the success of blockade runners. They were a reliable supplier of goods to the Confederacy, and a substantial number of their invoices survive in the National Archives, including this one to the Institute Hospital in Richmond:

Tardy & Williams invoice, 1863

     Tardy & Williams also enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for assisting individual soldiers whenever possible. I came across one instance of this generosity while writing Corporal William White and the Wrong Man. Here is an excerpt from White's own account of his relationship with Tardy & Williams:

Corporal White and Tardy & Williams

     James T. Williams would also befriend another Confederate soldier, whose letter is the topic of today's post.
     Thomas N. Powell was born in Louisiana in 1840. On July 22, 1861, he enlisted as a lieutenant in the 10th Louisiana Infantry, which served much of the war fighting with the Army of Northern Virginia. Powell quickly rose in the ranks (partly due to the death and injury of several of his superiors); he was elected captain in January 1862, and was promoted to major in May 1863, when he assumed command of the 10th.
     Major Powell's service was not without its moments of peril. He was wounded at the Battle of Second Manassas on August 29th, 1862. He was wounded a second time on May 14th, 1864 when he was shot in the right hand while fighting in Spotsylvania. He received a 30-day furlough to recuperate in one of the hospitals in Lynchburg, and then returned to his regiment. Powell was captured at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, but within several weeks was able to escape and he once again returned to the 10th. By early 1865, the 10th was serving in the trenches defending Petersburg.
     In early 1864, Major Powell met James T. Williams, and enjoyed the hospitality of his household. Powell recounted this experience in an appreciative letter he wrote to James in early spring of that year:

Letter of Major Thomas N. Powell (Ellen Apperson Brown)

Hd Qrs 10th La Regt
Mar 21st, 1864
Mr. Jas. T. Williams
Dear Sir
     I received your kind letter of the 15th inst. a few days ago while on picket. Though I have just returned to camp and am much fatigued I must not miss another mail.
     I am Mr. Williams deeply indebted and highly appreciate the friendly sentiment you manifest in the closing lines of your letter, insisting that when I "turn up" in Richmond I must regard your residence as my home. Rest assured that your kindness shall ever be remembered even longer as I have in no way merited it. I regret exceedingly that I will not have an opportunity of enjoying your truly Virginian hospitality so graciously tendered. Your house, though deprived of a great attraction by the departure of young ladies, is not without many others and I must say it was rather inappropriate in you to say that you had lost your chief attraction.
     In order not to impose more than circumstances might compel me in your kindness, I requested another friend of mine to make the purchase of a saddle for me from the Dept enclosing an order on you for $125. I have not yet heard from him. Should he not draw the money, as per my order, prior to the 28th inst. please find the [illegible] in 4 per cent bond.
     Present my compliments to your lady and the young ladies when you write. I am most respectively
Thomas N. Powell

Major Thomas N. Powell was killed in the entrenchments in front of Petersburg on March 28, 1865.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"I write a few lines tonight to let you hear from us"

Nan Row (Ellen Apperson Brown)

First and last pages of Nan Row's letter (Ellen Apperson Brown)

     Recently I had the privilege of meeting with author and historian, Ellen Apperson Brown. She shared with me a number of rare photographs of people related to my family, as well as some very interesting papers.
     Among these papers was a letter written from Greenfield farm in Spotsylvania by my great-grandfather's sister, Nan Row, dated January 28, 1866. It is addressed to her older sister, Martha Row Williams, who at the time was living in Richmond with her husband, James Tompkins Williams, and their children. Until the end of the Civil War, James had been a partner in the firm of Tardy & Williams, commission merchants. In 1867, James and Martha would move to Lynchburg, James' home town.

Martha Row Williams (Ellen Apperson Brown)

James Tompkins Williams (Ellen Apperson Brown)

     Much of this letter is devoted to news regarding people who were part of the Row orbit. Nan writes of the events of their lives, both hopeful and tragic, just months after the end of the Civil War. So join me, won't you, as we catch up on the local news from 151 years ago.

Nancy Estes Row, Nan's mother (Ellen Apperson Brown)

Greenfield Jan. 28th--66
Dear Sister
     Your last letter has been received, and as there will probably be a chance to town this week I write a few lines tonight to let you hear from us. This leaves us all well, & hope it finds you all the same, I hope you have gotten through with the diseases now, as mumps is harder to catch than any other. I wish I could be with you for the next six weeks, but I would not like to leave Mother so long at this season except in an emergency. I wish you could be with us while you are sick but I suppose that cannot be: could you not get Annie Seay [1] to come down she is such a good house keeper, & then it would suit her, & Tip [2] so well to be together. As you would like to look into Mother's supplies I will give you a rough inventory of them, fifteen hogs, & one beef, plenty of corn, one peck of flour, some irish potatoes, peas & beans a few cabbage, 20 gallons sorghum, 7 lbs coffee, half bushel rye, 5 lbs sugar, two of rice, two of cheese, milk & butter for family use, some dried fruit so though you can see we cannot have biscuits & pies we are not starving by any means; we have six lbs of butter that we have made since we have been over here for sale & two doz eggs that we will sell to help pay taxes, if we were only out of debt I would feel right rich, but am always thinking about what we owe, if Uncle Nathan would get the thousand dollars from Mo. that is waiting for us there in Wm Beazley's hands for us all, it would put us above the world [3], & I hope we get it soon, I do not see where there would be any difficulty in sending through the Banks as they are all alike; we have had two letters from Mo [4], all alive & well out there, Uncle B's [[5] boys were not in the army, but they treated him badly on account of his secession sympathy, his youngest daughter Mollie is married to Mr Parks, a merchant in Columbia, money is plentiful & things prospering out there. Uncle George [6] is still alive, & living in Cincinnati. Cousin William Kale's [7] wife is dead, had typhoid fever & Cousin W was taken away at the time, & they think that killed her; his youngest child is named Jeff Davis [8], he lost a great deal, but has something laid by for a rainy day, he must be better off than any of the rest of us. All of Aunt Sarah's [9] negroes have left, & Rich [10] was cooking last week & waiting on her; they have not been able to get a woman yet to do their house work: Ed [11] has rented Cousin Rachel's [12] land & I reckon will live in the house with them, Buck is at Uncle Nathan's; Uncle N had a notice served on him two weeks ago by a raiding party, he let them know he would invite his own guests, so none came but Mr. Moore & his wife, & they spent the night, he had made some preparation thinking some would come, it is said he will give a large party soon, I don't know as I have not seen any of them, or had a letter from Kate, Jane died of consumption two weeks ago, I do not know what will become of her children, they were expecting John to come after Jane, & his children, but there were several he would not take of hers. Julia Chartters [13] had her house burnt down before Christmas with everything she had but two beds, did not have a suit of clothes, all of her provisions were in the house, it is thought to have caught from a stove pipe, she is living in the kitchen & the neighbors were to have gone last week to put another room to it for her, we have sent her two pieces of meat & a bag of clothes for herself, & children, I do feel so sorry for her, her boys had worked so hard & made 50 barrels of corn, & she had several hogs, & bid fair to live more comfortably than she had done for years, I reckon everybody around here will help her some. Xanthus Chartters [14] was married in Dec, to a Miss Montague of Essex, he has rented a farm down there, his Father & Mother are living at Sam King's place, she has been quite sick. Mrs. Walker and Mrs. George King [15] are dead & that is the reason of Mrs. Warren & Mollie being in mourning, it is said that William Warren had Yankees boarding in his house ever since the surrender, & Mollie walks out with Yankee beaux but Nannie won't do it. Maria Dobyns [16] will soon be married to Mr. Roane, a young Baptist preacher, he has been called to Mt. Hermon, & probably New Hope. The marrying fever is raging in Uncle Elhanon's [17] neighborhood, Mr. Chancellor [18] married three couples last week, it is very fatal among the Tinders & their kinfolks. Do you ever hear from Elhanon? We have not seen or heard particularly from any of them since they moved home. Wm Stephens [19] has gone to Texas to get a legacy left to his Father by his brother who died out there, will be gone several months. Sallie Stephens & John Scott are both dead, & Mrs S is in great distress, old Mrs. S is also dead, & the old man & Bettie live over there with her.
Let us hear from you every chance & get Cousin S to write when you can't. All send love. Your sister, Nan


[1] Annie Price Seay (1845-1919) was a daughter of Lynchburg pharmacist John Henry Seay and Martha Row Williams' sister-in-law, Elvira Williams. Annie married Tipton Davis Jennings, Jr. in 1868. In the Seay family photo below, Annie Seay is likely the woman seated second from left.

Seay family of Lynchburg (Ellen Apperson Brown)

[2] Lynchburg native Tipton Davis Jennings, Jr., (1841-1915) fought with the 11th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War, and was a business partner with James T. Williams both in Richmond and in Lynchburg. He later served 17 years in the House of Delegates.

Tipton Davis Jennings, Jr., 1901 (Library of Virginia)

[3] Jonathan "Nathan" Johnson (1803-1873), wealthy Spotsylvania farmer who was married to Sarah Estes, a sister of Nancy Estes Row. Nathan assisted Nancy and her son, George Washington Estes Row, in getting the legacies willed to them by Nancy's brother, Richard, who had died in Missouri in 1856. That money was being held in trust by William Beazley, with whom Richard shared a farm.
I have written about Nathan Johnson twice: Walnut Grove and "It sure looks like starvation".

[4] During the 1820s, three of Nancy Estes Row's brothers moved to Boone County, Missouri: Ambrose, Richard and Berkley Estes. Among their other activities, they contributed land and money to establish the University of Missouri in Columbia.

[5] Berkley Estes (1797-1869), about whom I have written at: Berkley Estes.

[6] George Washington Estes (1801-after 1880), younger brother of Nancy Estes Row who lived most of his adult life in Kentucky. Nancy's only son was named for him.

[7] William E. Kale was a son of Nancy Estes Row's sister, Catherine, and Fredericksburg merchant Anthony Kale. William and his wife, Susan Ware, moved to Kentucky, where she died in 1864. The Kales were very interesting people; here is my article about them--The Kales of Fredericksburg.

[8] Jeff Davis Kale (1863-1886) was one of seven children born to William and Susan Kale in Kentucky. All but two died during the 1870s and 1880s.

Jefferson Davis Kale (Polk County Museum)

[9] Sarah Estes Johnson (1804-1869), younger sister of Nancy Estes Row. Sarah was married to Nathan Johnson's brother, Marshall Johnson.

Sarah Estes Johnson (Kerry Sears)

[10] Marshall and Sarah Johnson's son, Richard Jonathan Johnson (1844-1908) served in the Confederate artillery during the Civil War. He and his family moved to Boone County, Missouri by 1884.

Richard Jonathan Johnson (Kerry Sears)

[11] Edgar Marshall Johnson (1839-1909), brother of Richard Jonathan Johnson.

[12] Rachel Keeling Row Farish (1819-1892) was the daughter of Nannie Row's uncle, Carlton Row. Rachel was orphaned  when her parents were murdered by their slaves in 1820. Rachel was the widow of Caroline County farmer, Charles Tod Farish.

[13] Julia Decastro Chancellor (1825-1904) was a daughter of Sanford Chancellor and Francis Longwill Pound. She was the widow of Thomas Chartters, who died in 1862 while serving with the 7th Virginia Cavalry.

Julia Chartters (Ancestry)

[14] The elaborately named Xanthus Xuthus Chartters was a son of James Pettigrew Chartters (brother of Thomas Chartters) and Susan Philips Chancellor. X X Chartters served in the 30th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. He was an early supporter of the Grange, a farmer advocacy organization, and became a part of its national leadership. X X inherited his father's farm, "Clifton," on Old Plank Road. That farm was later owned by the Thorburn family. X X Chartters married Evelyn Wortley Montague on December 14, 1865.

[15] Susan Warren King, wife of George Phillips King, Sr., died on July 23, 1865. Her father was William Warren, and I presume Mollie and Nannie Warren were her sisters.

[16] Maria Lindsey Dobyns (1840-1914) was a friend and neighbor of Nannie Row. She lived at her family's farm, Oakley, adjacent to Greenfield. In June 1864, Maria wrote what is now a famous letter to Nan Row describing attack by United States forces on Oakley during the Battle of the Wilderness. This was a topic of one of my posts: The Letter from Maria Dobyns.

Maria Lindsey Dobyns (Wesley Pippenger)

[17] Elhanon Row (1798-1874) was a brother of Nan's father, Absalom Row. Elhanon was an Orange County farmer, school commissioner and colonel of the local militia. He was also the first elected sheriff of Orange County. During the Civil War, Elhanon and his family moved to Louisa County to escape the threat of cavalry raids at their home on modern Route 20 at Mine Run.

[18] Melzi Sanford Chancellor (1815-1895) was a Baptist minister who served a number of churches in Spotsylvania and Orange Counties. In the photograph below, Reverend Chancellor is seated at left with his family in April 1865. My mini-biography of him may be read at: Reverend Melzi Sanford Chancellor.

Melzi Sanford Chancellor and family

[19] William A. Stephens (1821-1886) of Rosemont farm was a neighbor and friend of the Row family. His wife, Mary Dogget Stephens, died on September 7, 1865. His daughter, Sarah Walton Stephens, died of typhoid pneumonia on October 27 while visiting relatives in Greene County.