Extra! Extra!

Recently, while reading “And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank,” I learned that “extras” were published by big daily newspapers to share new information about things like the Leo Frank murder trial that gripped Atlanta in the early 20th century.

Having majored in journalism in college, I should have already known that. OK, let’s be honest, being a live, breathing person, I should have known that. But for some reason, other than knowing that paperboys back in the day hollered “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” I never gave it much thought.

This week, I want to share some “Extra! Extras!” — basically, stuff I learned from readers and other sources after posting articles. I love it when people post comments, especially when they have more information on the subject.

So, here goes.

Graves and Lambs

Four Little Lambs: the Stephens Children

After posting this article, I heard from Bob Stephens, great-grandnephew of the four Stephens children. He said the children’s father, James Stephens, bought the statue that overlooks the graves in Italy.

William Harrison Brooks: Cotton Mill to Battlefield

After writing about William Harrison Brooks, readers told me there was a photo of Brooks in the office at Old City Cemetery. So, of course I had to check that out.

Brooks Photo
William Harrison Brooks. Old City Cemetery.

When I got there, Ted Delaney, the cemetery director, showed me the photo and also a photo of Brook’s little sister, Ida. (See photo below.) Blog reader Wayne Fitzgerald told me Ida died of typhoid in December 1914. She’s buried next to her brother at Old City Cemetery.

Above Ida’s photo hangs the little girl’s wooden school ruler. Ida etched her name on it. Below Ida’s photo, hangs a photo of Brooks’ (and Ida’s) parents, Henry and Callie. (See photo below.)

According to notes from the cemetery’s files, the photo was taken around 1943. At the time, Henry worked at Lynchburg Cotton Mill and his wife ran a boarding house.

I also gathered this information from the cemetery’s files:

Because of his red hair, Brooks was nicknamed “Cock Robin.” He also was called “Harry.” He was unmarried and was, according to cemetery notes, “killed by a sniper on a [railroad] track in France.”

Brooks was originally buried in France. He was re-interred at Old City Cemetery — then called Methodist Cemetery — on Oct. 16, 1921.

‘White Negro Girl’ Helen Walker

After posting the story of Helen Walker, an albino African-American girl who appeared in sideshows and museums in the 1860s as the “White Negro Girl,” I was contacted by Ed James.

James is the great-grandson of the woman who his family calls “Nellie.”

James, who is currently working on a presentation about Walker’s life, said, “She was married three times and outlived five of her six children. She was a remarkable and intelligent woman. Despite her difficult start and lots of tragedy, she lived a productive life and was even involved in the suffragette movement.”

Wow!

Since I wrote that post, I also learned more about Major John Burnell, the showman who “managed” Walker and her twin brother, Henry. I believe he’s the man pictured with the twins in the third photo on this website.

It appears to have been commonplace for showmen to use military titles like “Major,” “Captain” and “Commodore.” I’ve found no evidence that “Major Burnell” ever served in the military. According to advertising, newspapers and other records, during the 1860s, Burnell was traveling with various sideshow acts and operating museums in St. Louis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

It doesn’t appear he had time to fight in the Civil War.

According to an article in The New York Clipper, an entertainment newspaper of the day, Burnell died of consumption on May 16, 1881. The paper reported that he left his widow in “very destitute circumstances.” The following week’s issue of the Clipper invited readers to make donations to help her.

Recently, I also talked with Beth Macy, author of the New York Times bestseller “Factory Man.” Her next book, “Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South,” will be released on Oct. 18.

I mention this because “Truevine” has striking similarities to Walker’s story.

“Truevine,” set in the early 1900s, tells the true story of George and Willie Muse. The albino African-American brothers were kidnapped in Virginia’s tobacco country and forced to perform with circus sideshows for two decades until their mother found a way to rescue them.

You can watch a book trailer for “Truevine” on Macy’s website.

I can’t wait to read it!

Other photos of interest:

Ida and Ruler
Ida Brooks and her ruler. Old City Cemetery.
Brooks Parents
Brooks’ parents, Henry and Callie. Old City Cemetery.

Dan Ray Justice: Hometown Hero

Dan Ray Justice: Hometown Hero

On October 28, 1939, a skinny kid named Dan Ray Justice scored the first touchdown at Lynchburg’s brand new municipal football stadium.

Justice, a sophomore at Washington and Lee University, was no stranger to football fans in Lynchburg, Virginia. He’d played high school ball for the hometown team, E.C. Glass High School, and was even named “Best Athlete” his senior year.

Captain Photo - football- cropped
Justice in the Critic Crest, the E.C. Glass yearbook, 1937. Jones Memorial Library.

While it’s likely many of the 12,000 spectators who came out for that first game at Lynchburg City Stadium knew Justice and had seen him play football in high school, what they couldn’t know as they took their seats in the bleachers was that Justice would be the hero of the game.

On that fall afternoon, the W&L Generals were playing Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute, now commonly known as Virginia Tech. Tech, then nicknamed the Gobblers, was reportedly a much-bigger team and was expected to win.

From the beginning, the game’s outcome seemed a foregone conclusion — that is, until Justice picked up a Tech fumble late in the first period and turned what was supposed to be a throttling by Tech into a David and Goliath story.

Here’s how The Ring-tum Phi, W&L’s semi-weekly newspaper, later described it:

Capitalizing on a Gobbler fumble on their own 31-yard line in the waning moments of the first period, the General offense shifted into high and before the mighty VPI forward wall realized what had happened diminutive Dan Justice cut back over his own right tackle to cross the double marker for the only six-pointer of the game.

The article goes on to say that “Lynchburg’s pride and joy, diminutive Dan Justice” was the game’s stand-out player:

Justice scored the only Big Blue touchdown, did most of the passing, ran the ball one out of every three times, and gave probably the finest exhibition of punting the Lynchburg stadium will see in a long time.

Near the end of the third quarter, the Generals found themselves in a bit of trouble. Justice, standing in the end zone with the wind at his back, calmly booted to the VPI 24-yard line, a distance of 74 yards.

W&L went on to win 6-0.

1937 senior photo
Senior photo, 1937, E.C. Glass. Critic Crest, Jones Memorial Library.

It would be nice to say this story has a happy ending, that Justice was carried around the field atop the shoulders of his teammates and that he graduated from W&L and went on to marry, have children and live a long, happy life.

It doesn’t.

Justice did finish at W&L, but when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines. He served as a second lieutenant with the 12th and 3rd Marine divisions until he was killed in action during the second Battle of Guam on July 23, 1944 (sometimes reported as July 22).

He is buried in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Even though he died on a battlefield far from home, Justice wasn’t forgotten. Since 1946, Washington and Lee has presented the Dan Ray Justice Memorial Football Award to its most-valuable offensive player. Lynchburg alumni of W&L also erected a monument to Justice at Lynchburg City Stadium.

City Stadium Monument - Copy
The monument, now located in the stadium’s entrance plaza.

Hopefully, with these efforts, the “diminutive” young man once called “Lynchburg’s pride and joy” will never be forgotten.

Here are some more images you might find interesting:

1936 football team - glass
1936 E.C. Glass football team. Note the City Armory, which still stands downtown on Church Street, in the background. Justice sits on the front row, second from left. Critic Crest, Jones Memorial Library.
1934 track photo
1934 E.C. Glass track team. Justice stands in the back row, third from left. Critic Crest, Jones Memorial Library.
Internment Form - cemetery - cropped
Military internment form, dated 1949, when Justice’s body was moved from Guam to the military cemetery in Hawaii.

 

 

Off we go, to ‘Antiques Roadshow’

Off we go, to ‘Antiques Roadshow’

A few weeks ago, my sister Theresa and I went to a taping of Antiques Roadshow in Virginia Beach. I’d been trying to score tickets for years — it’s a lottery — and finally got them this year. I was so excited, having collected antiques for decades and having deemed numerous things over the years my “Antiques Roadshow item,” should I ever be lucky enough to get tickets.

So, naturally, when I finally got tickets, I wondered, “Whatever will I bring?”

My first item, more correctly items, were letters written to husband John’s grandma by her second cousin, once removed, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice James Clark McReynolds.

John wondered what they might be worth and also what the appraiser might think of them.

James McReynolds circa 1913 LOC - Bain News Service
James C. McReynolds, circa 1913. Bains New Service. Library of Congress.

McReynolds, a Woodrow Wilson appointee who served on the court from 1914 to 1941, was apparently a character, and not in the best way.

He was known for doing things like turning his back on women who were addressing the court, and in 1924, he refused to sit for the annual SCOTUS group photo because, due to seniority, he had to sit next to Louis Brandeis, who was Jewish.

It doesn’t sound like McReynolds was a very nice guy, but he sure seemed to like John’s grandma, the former Lillian Boone. They both grew up in the same small town of Elkton, Kentucky, and while I don’t know much about their relationship, it appears he was quite fond of her.

In a letter congratulating Lillian on her 1944 marriage to Bromfield Ridley, McReynolds wrote:

Dear Lillian, 

Felicitations, my dear lovely girl! Brom may count himself the luckiest of men. And my affectionate good wishes will follow you both. 

Of course, I think no woman can have a higher mission than to make a loyal wife. She can be happiest there as nowhere else. You will make a success, I am sure. He will find that nothing is so superb as a woman who cares. 

As an indication of my interest, please accept the enclosed check and convert it into something you will like to have. 

The best of good luck all the days of your life. 

Affectionately,

J.C. McReynolds

chair bottom rail2
Look how worn the bottom rail is from years of shoes resting on it.

The second item I took — you’re allowed to bring two — was an old ladder-back chair. Bringing the chair, which I bought for $10 at a local consignment shop, was a last-minute decision.

I took it because, in the end, it was the only antique in my house that I knew absolutely nothing about.

If you Google search images for “ladder back chair,” you come up with near-infinite examples of chairs from the 1700s to the present day. I figured my chair was “old” but had no idea how old or where it might have been made.

For her two items, Theresa took a powder horn our grandpa had given her many years ago and a painting.

She suspected the painting was by an artist named Edwin Oman, but since it was signed only “OMAN” she wasn’t 100-percent sure. It looked like Oman’s other work on AskArt and it was framed in New York, where Oman lived.

The painting’s subject looked like it could have been Central Park. Oman did a painting called “Walking in Central Park,” but Theresa hasn’t found a photo of it. Perhaps, it’s because she owns it. Who knows?

Before ARS
Pre-Roadshow. Theresa, with her painting, and me, with my chair.

So, off we went to Antiques Roadshow, where for six hours we waited in lines to have our items appraised. The painting line alone took more than two hours to get through, and by the time we’d had all four items appraised my feet were killing me.

We had a great time, though, and here’s what we found out about our items:

The Letters:
The appraiser said the letters were worth about $100 and were of sentimental value only. Had McReynolds been writing about SCOTUS-related subjects, he said, they would have been worth more. How much more? I didn’t ask, but there have been some McReynolds letters online that folks wanted about $1,200 for.

theresa with powder horn
The powder horn.

The Powder Horn:
It was a real, usable powder horn, made in the early 1800s. Value was about 30 bucks. Theresa was happy that it wasn’t a 1950s-era decoration.

The Painting:
The appraiser agreed with Theresa that it was an Edwin Oman painting. He wasn’t familiar with the artist and researched it online, just as Theresa had already done. He valued the painting at about $150. Theresa was happy to be right about the artist, but a little disappointed that the painting wasn’t worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

The Chair:
The first appraiser who looked at my chair said it was an 18th-century, ladder-backed “country chair.” It was the kind of low chair that would have sat in front of a fireplace. She also described it as “Colonial.” I thought it was old, but hadn’t expected Colonial, so that made me happy.

The appraiser, who works in New England, said the chair was made of ash, chestnut and maple, and had likely been painted in a former life. She said people would paint these kinds of chairs because they had used all sorts of un-matching woods. It looked to her like a New England chair. She was confident it wasn’t Shaker.

She valued it at about $100.

When she consulted another appraiser about it, he thought it was likely made in the 19th century and possibly in Lynchburg, maybe even by a member of the Johnson family.

A couple of weeks after the trip, I visited the Lynchburg Museum. I looked at furniture items in their collection and files on local craftsmen of the early-to-mid 1800s. While they have a few examples of Johnson chairs, in photos or in the collection, they are all Windsor chairs.

The files actually contained the names of several Lynchburg chair makers who were operating during the time period in which the chair was made, among them George T. Johnson, Lewis Johnson, Thomas H. Johnson, Benjamin Caldwell, George Walker, Edward Litchfield, Chesley Hardy and Alanson Winston.

It would take a great deal of research and an even greater amount of luck to find out who made my chair. It’s likely I’ll never know who made it. Regardless, I like it and had a great time at Antiques Roadshow.

Also, in case you’re interested, here’s a closeup of one of the McReynolds letters:

homestead mcreynolds 1

From cotton mill to battlefield. Who was William Harrison Brooks?

From cotton mill to battlefield. Who was William Harrison Brooks?

A couple of weeks ago, husband John and I went to Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery to look at the roses in bloom and the old gravestones. While there, we found the final resting place of William Harrison Brooks.

William Harrison Brooks Tombstone
William Harrison Brooks’ headstone at Old City Cemetery.

Actually, it was John who first noticed Brooks’ tombstone and the death date — November 11, 1918. The stone also said Brooks died near the Meuse River in France.

As I was photographing some roses nearby, John called over, “Hey, he died on the last day of the war.”

Sure enough, Brooks died on the last day of the Great War, the day the armistice was signed, and the date now celebrated as Veteran’s Day. He died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, also known as the Battle of Argonne Forest.

We later found Brooks’ name on Monument Terrace, the Lynchburg veterans memorial. It’s a long flight of steps that runs between Court and Church streets and has monuments to the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.

At the top of Monument Terrace, across Court Street from the Lynchburg Museum, is a statue of a Confederate soldier. At the bottom is what most people in town call “The Doughboy.” It’s a bronze statue of a World War I soldier and its official name is “The Listening Post.”

The names of the World War I dead from Lynchburg are listed to the right and left of The Doughboy.

Dougboy
The Doughboy stands watch at Monument Terrace.

Being a curious person, I wondered what more there was to learn about William Harrison Brooks. While I didn’t get all crazy and track down living relatives — but if you are a relative and see this, please contact me — I did find out a few things:

According to his WWI registration card, dated June 5, 1918, Brooks was 21 years old and born in 1897. He was white, with brown eyes and “reddish brown” hair, and he wasn’t bald. I don’t know why the Army cared about that, but apparently they did.

According to the 1910 U.S. Census, Brooks worked as a spinner at the Lynchburg Cotton Mill. He lived on Arthur Street, in a neighborhood known as “Cotton Hill.” The census has Brooks living with parents Henry and Clara, older brother Robert and a younger sister. The sister’s name is difficult to decipher, but looks like Iva or Eva. Henry was a carpenter and Robert worked as a carder at the cotton mill.

Lynchburg Cotton Mill Housing2 - Library of Congress
Lynchburg Cotton Mill housing, 1911. Note the outhouses. Library of Congress: Hine, L.W., photographer.

Thanks to the nice folks at the Lynchburg Museum System, I found out that Arthur Street no longer exists. Like a lot of Cotton Hill, the street disappeared when U.S. 29 Business was built and the Spring Hill Cemetery was expanded. But in 1918, Arthur Street was just two blocks from the cotton mill.

cotton mill - credit lynchburg museum system
Lynchburg Cotton Mill postcard, courtesy of Lynchburg Museum System.

The cotton mill closed in 1957 and was demolished in the 1980s, but at least one building associated with it remains: Melrose Hall.

According to the Facebook page “A Visual History of Lynchburg, Virginia,” Melrose Hall was built in 1906 as a social hall for cotton mill employees. Today, it’s owned by Liberty University and used for “Scaremare,” the college’s annual haunted house.

But back to Brooks.

A muster roll for what it calls “the War with Germany,” found at the Lynchburg Circuit Court Clerk’s office, says Brooks “selected service” on August 7, 1918. He joined the Army and served in the 330th Infantry. A little more than three months later, he was dead, killed in action in France.

On his tombstone is written, “Nobly he fell while fighting for Liberty.”

Here are a couple more cotton-mill-related photos you might find interesting:

Lynchburg Cotton Mill Housing - Library of Congress
Lynchburg Cotton Mill housing, 1911. Library of Congress: Hine, L.W., photographer.
scaremare building - tomlinson photo
Melrose Hall, circa 1979. Courtesy Andrea Tomlinson.

Jubal Early Punch

Last weekend, husband John and I hosted 50 people at our house for a cocktail party as part of the Boone Family Reunion. The Boones are John’s mother’s family, but before I go any further, you might have two immediate questions:

Q: Do you mean those Boones? The honest-to-goodness Daniel Boone Boones?
A: Yep, although actually more directly through Daniel Boone’s brother, Samuel.

Q: How did you get 50 people into your 2,300-square-foot ranch house?
A: I have no idea. It might have been the promise of copious amounts of alcohol.

I’d never hosted a cocktail party before, and I’m not even a big liquor drinker, but I wanted to do it right. First of all, I knew I had to have bourbon. These are Kentucky people — “Straight Outta Kentucky” as the official reunion T-shirt declared — so there had to be bourbon.

John’s parents took care of that. (Thank you!)

Because the reunion was being held in Lynchburg, Va., this year, I wanted to serve something “Lynchburg-y.” But what? I’m not from Lynchburg or even Virginia. I didn’t grow up with silver and china patterns. My family didn’t have a liquor cabinet or a Confederate ancestor buried in the back yard. We certainly didn’t have an old family recipe for punch.

But thanks to Google, I found a recipe for Jubal Early Punch.

Jubal Early LOC photo
Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early (Library of Congress)

If you’re not from Lynchburg or a Civil War buff, you might be wondering, “Who is Jubal Early?” — more specifically Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early.

Basically, Ol’ Jube was a Civil War commander known for his general badassery. He reportedly had a nasty temper and was known for his aggressive, albeit brilliant, nature on the battlefield, among other qualities. He also did things like threaten to burn down Union towns unless they paid a ransom.

With affection, Gen. Robert E. Lee called Early his “Bad Old Man.”

After the war, Early was what’s been called a “unreconstructed Rebel,” escaping to Mexico and then Canada, rather than swearing his allegiance to the Union. He later returned to the U.S. and settled in Lynchburg, where he died in 1894. He’s buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.

In Lynchburg, there’s a fort named for Early on the aptly named Fort Avenue. Across the street from the fort, an obelisk stands in his honor. There are streets or roads named after Early in West Virginia, Texas and in several Virginia towns.

As for his choice of libation, I don’t imagine Early ever drank this particular mixture of rum, brandy, lemon juice and champagne, but someone named it after him, so it was good enough for me.

Jubal Early Punch
Jubal Early Punch. Not the most appetizing color, but it sure tastes good!

Here’s how you make it (and a big thanks to Esquire magazine for the recipe and instructions):

Ingredients:

1 cup superfine (quick-dissolving) sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 quart plus 1 cup water
4 ounces dark rum
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 bottle dry champagne

Instructions:

In a punch bowl (large bowl, big pitcher, whatever), dissolve the sugar in the water and lemon juice. Add the rum and brandy. Let sit for a while, 30 minutes or so, in the fridge or some other cool place. Just prior to serving, add the champagne.

Before making the punch, use a gelatin mold, bowl or anything else that suits your fancy to make a big chunk of ice to float in the punch. The Esquire recipe suggested a “cannonball of ice” but I couldn’t figure out how to make one, short of using a water-filled balloon, and I didn’t know if that was food safe or not.

Enjoy!

End of Summer: When Lynchburg closed its pools

End of Summer: When Lynchburg closed its pools

On July 4, 1961, Audrey Lenon was swimming at Jefferson Park pool. At the time, it was the only public pool open to African Americans in Lynchburg, Virginia. The day was hot, with temperatures in the mid-80s. One might imagine the pool was packed.

And then the police arrived.

“We were in the water and there was a ramp that you walked down to get to the pool,” Lenon, who was 15 at the time, recalled. “We looked up and it was lined with police officers. They told us to get out of the water. No explanation.”

Lenon said she and the other swimmers were “herded … like we were criminals,” told to gather their things and leave. The police refused to answer any questions.

Jefferson Park Pool - Gilmore Pic for blog
Swimmers pose for a photo at Jefferson Park pool. Photo courtesy of Charlie Gilmore.

“We asked, ‘What happened?’ and ‘Why are you closing the pool?’ but we didn’t get any answers,” she said. “We were just told to put our clothes on and the pool was closed. That’s all they said, no why it’s closed. I guess they didn’t feel like they needed to tell us. … Do they really need to give a child an explanation?”

What Lenon didn’t know at the time, what she heard later on the evening news, was that something had happened across town at the whites-only Miller Park pool. Something that had caused the police to come Jefferson Park, something that would ruin a summer holiday so full of fun and promise and essentially put an end to summer.

On that Independence Day, 55 years ago, six black boys and an adult civil rights leader tried to buy tickets to Miller Park pool, one of two city pools open only to whites. The newspapers, no doubt familiar with sit-ins happening at lunch counters all over the country, would call it a “wade-in” and “swim-in.”

The City of Lynchburg’s response to this act of civil disobedience was to close all of its pools.

In a newspaper article the next day, City Manager Robert Morrison said the pools were closed as a “matter of public safety.” The same article also listed the boys’ names and their parents’ names and addresses.

An editorial titled, “Closing the Pools,” which ran a few days later, blamed “militant Negro leaders” and their “sense of justice” for what happened that day:

Now, each of these pools has been drained. Negro leaders forcing the issue knew that this would be the result of any attempt to integrate either of the pools used by whites. Perhaps, today, they are proud of their accomplishment and consider their ‘sense of justice’ somewhat satisfied.

It’s true, the wade-in didn’t come as a big surprise to city officials. It was all part of a bigger initiative organized by local civil rights leaders to desegregate public facilities. One of these activists was Virgil Wood, who was then pastor of Diamond Hill Baptist Church.

Wood said city officials had known about the plans for a wade-in and told him the pools would be closed if they actually did it. Wood also described the city manager as a “very decent man” who seemed to be a victim of the times.

“I think he didn’t believe in the old way, but he was trapped in having to carry out what he didn’t believe in,” Wood said. “That was my impression. We also had a high level of respect for each other. We didn’t do sneak attacks. We also gave them the opportunity to do what was right before we challenged it.”

What the City of Lynchburg did that day was similar to what nearby Prince Edward County had done two years before as part of what was called the “Massive Resistance.” Prince Edward closed all of its public schools, rather than allow blacks and whites to attend school together.

The prevailing opinion was that while federal law said schools must be integrated, no one said you had to have public schools.

Regarding Lynchburg’s pools, Morrison told a reporter, “The city does not have the right to deny any citizens admission to a pool operated by the city of Lynchburg. The only way to legally prevent their admission is by closing the pools.”

Two weeks after the pools were closed, Brian Robinson, a 12-year-old African-American boy, drowned while swimming in a canal lock in downtown Lynchburg. According to a newspaper account of the drowning, he would have normally cooled off at Jefferson Park pool.

Robinson’s death was blamed on Wood and others in the local civil rights movement. An editorial in the July 23 newspaper reads, in part, “Because the pools were closed by the wade-in, as city authorities had always said they would be if such a move was made, it’s easy enough to see where the responsibility lies.”

Three city pools closed on July 4, 1961, at Miller, Jefferson and Riverside parks. Eventually, the pools were filled with dirt and grass was planted.

Riverside Park Pool
What remains of Riverside Park pool today.

Today, the only visible evidence of the three pools is at Riverside Park, where you’ll find a large rectangle of sod, surrounded by a stone pool deck. In what was the deep end, you can still see the concrete sides and the metal rings, through which ropes once ran around the pool’s perimeter.

A year or so ago, the city installed an interpretive sign at Riverside Park that tells the story of what happened to the city’s pools in 1961.

As for what Lenon and her friends did on that summer day 55 years ago, after the police had locked the gate and left, it appears they tried to make the best of it.

“There was a concession stand as you were entering the pool,” she said. “The lady kept it open. It was Fourth of July. Kids needed something to do. She kept it open, so we bought food and just sat on the hill and looked at the water.”

Old City Cemetery

grave rows
The Confederate Section is the final resting place of more than 2,200 Civil War soldiers.

One of my favorite places in Lynchburg is Old City Cemetery. Husband John and I visited again in mid-May. It was about a week after “Rose Day,” an annual event that shows off the cemetery’s amazing collection of antique roses.

roses on wall
Roses and other perennials in bloom along the cemetery wall.

Many of the rose bushes are planted on either side of a brick wall that surrounds the cemetery’s Confederate Section. More than 2,200 Confederate soldiers from 14 states are buried there. Many (perhaps all) died at Lynchburg’s 30-some Civil War hospitals.

During the Civil War, Lynchburg was a hospital and railroad center. Many of the city’s tobacco warehouses and homes became makeshift hospitals. Three railroads brought the wounded from area battlefields, including The Wilderness, where casualties numbered more than 29,000.

According to the folks at Old City Cemetery, “after the Battle of the Wilderness (May 1864) … Lynchburg, with 6,000 inhabitants, was overwhelmed with over 10,000 wounded and diseased soldiers.”

It’s estimated that more than 20,000 soldiers were treated in Lynchburg during the Civil War and about 3,000 died.

Terriza Wallace Grave
Terriza Wallace’s is the oldest known grave at the cemetery.

The oldest section of Old City Cemetery is located just inside the main entrance, to the right. There, one can find the oldest known grave, that of Terriza Wallace. Terriza died in 1808 at about a year old.

While Terriza is listed in the cemetery’s database as white, about 75 percent of those buried at Old City Cemetery are black. Until 1885, Old City Cemetery was the only Lynchburg cemetery open to African Americans.

Among the African Americans buried there are educators, politicians, ministers and other prominent local figures. You can read more about some of the interesting people buried in the cemetery here.

Some of the most colorful characters buried in the cemetery are “Blind Billy” and the Langleys.

Blind Billy was born a slave in about 1805 and died in 1855. According to cemetery literature, he was a “beloved fife player and street musician. He led parades and played for private parties in the homes of affluent citizens.” He was apparently so well-liked that grateful citizens bought his freedom.

Langleys
Agnes and Lizzie Langley’s plot

Near the cemetery entrance, mother and daughter Agnes and Lizzie Langley are buried in an elaborate plot surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. The pair ran a “sporting house” in the 1800s. The house of ill repute was located on Commerce Street, in an area of town known as “Buzzard’s Roost.”

(As a side note, there’s a neat antique store on Lynchburg’s Commerce Street that’s called “Buzzard’s Roost,” an homage to the old red-light district.)

According to cemetery literature, “It is not known whether [the Langley’s] impressive family plot was a result of the ladies’ earnings or the admiration of those of great wealth.”

You can learn more about the Langleys and other Lynchburg “sporting women” at the cemetery’s annual “Bawdy Ladies” tour. The tour and other events, including bird walks, candlelight tours, workshops and concerts, are listed on the cemetery’s website.

There are five different museums at Old City Cemetery, among them the Mourning Museum. Its exhibits include mourning clothing and jewelry and other items relating to 19th- and early 20th-century funeral traditions.

Outside, there’s an exhibit about African-American burial traditions, which includes a bottle tree.

pest house
Pest House Medical Museum

There’s also the Pest House Medical Museum. It’s a funny-sounding name, but basically a “pest house” was where the very sick and those with infectious diseases were taken to die.

There’s also the Station House Museum, the Hearse House and Caretakers’ Museum, the potters fields, the lotus pond…

I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here, because there are way too many neat things at Old City Cemetery to put in one blog post. So you’re just going to have to go there. Really, you are. It’s definitely worth the trip.

Visiting ‘The Maier’

Today, I visited the Maier Museum of Art.

It’s only a few miles from my home, in the Rivermont historic district. The museum is owned by Randolph College, which was founded as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1891. My mother-in-law, Mary Wells Ramsey (then Ridley), went there in the 1960s.

Maier Front
The Maier Museum of Art

“The Maier,” as it’s known around town, has an interesting history. It was built 1951, during the Cold War, as a safe repository for works from the National Gallery of Art, should they need to be evacuated from Washington, D.C.

The arrangement was called “Project Y” and continued officially until 2001. In return, the college (and those of us who live in Lynchburg) got a great little art museum.

The Maier specializes in American art of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Admission is free, which is pretty great, considering the quality of the art hanging inside. My favorite piece is “Through the Arroyo,” by E. Martin Hennings, which also has an interesting history at the Maier.

Among many well-known artists, the Maier’s collection also includes work by Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.

O’Keeffe’s “Yellow Cactus” is another of my favorites at the Maier. My sister, Theresa, gave me a paperweight with Yellow Cactus on it. I’ve also been to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, several times.

And, there’s a poster of O’Keeffe, sitting astride a motorcycle in 1944, on the wall of my office. Yes, I’m a fan — not only of O’Keeffe’s art but of the way she lived on her own terms. She also got to live in New Mexico, which makes me a little jealous.

Georgia O'Keeffe & Mary Wells Ridley - 1967
Georgia O’Keeffe looks at my mother-in-law’s painting, 1967.

In 1967, O’Keeffe visited Randolph-Macon Woman’s College to receive an honorary degree. At the same time, my mother-in-law was a senior art major, and her work was being exhibited in a student show at the Maier.

In this photo (right), Georgia O’Keeffe looks at my mother-in-law’s painting, as my mother-in-law looks on. I can only imagine what both were thinking at the time.

According to O’Keeffe’s bio on the Maier’s website, the famous artist spent some of her childhood in Chatham, Virginia, which is about an hour south of Lynchburg.

Soon, John and I will travel to Chatham’s Pittsylvania County Courthouse, where we’ll look for records pertaining to both of our families.

John’s dad’s family was in Pittsylvania County from the 1700s well into the 20th century, while my mother’s family migrated through the area from eastern Virginia in the late-1700/early-1800s, en route to Southeastern Kentucky.

I wonder if any of our kinfolk married each other. I’ll let you know if they did.