THE HOMES of OLD WARRENTON
THE HOME OF DR. THOMAS E. WILSON
As the courthouse was made the center of the town when the draft was first drawn, and the oldest stores fronting on this square were the first mentioned, it seems in keeping with that plan to make mention first of the residences that front on the Court Square. So I begin with the home of my father, Dr. T. E. Wilson.
The present residence of Mrs. Pan Williams was built by Dr. T. E. Wilson, in 1850, on the site of the Old Coffee Exchange, later the residence of Robert Varell. Dr. Wilson was a native of Greensville County, Virginia. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and came to Warrenton to practice his profession in 1845. He married Miss Janet Mitchell, of the county, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Mitchell. Their home was large enough to accommodate their friends, and they were very hospitable. Mrs. Wilson was a fine home-maker, as well as a good housekeeper. She was educated at the Warrenton schools, and later at Mrs. Meade's School in Richmond. She was a delightful pianist, giving much pleasure to her friends by her music. She was a most devoted wife, mother, daughter and sister. She was of a most loyal nature, her friendships being strong and lasting. She and her husband were devoted members of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Wilson was a dignified and charming man in his manner, of very equable temperament, always patient, and gentle in his intercourse with his family and associates. He was entirely unselfish, always ready to answer the calls of friendship or of his profession. He had no enemies in the community, but was much liked by every one. He was ill more than a year from a paralytic stroke, and died in Salem, Va., in 1876.
Dr. and Mrs. Wilson had eight children, two sons dying in infancy. Peter Mitchell, the eldest son, was educated at the University of North Carolina, later attending the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. On his return he taught at the Holcombe School, at Bellevue, Bedford County, Virginia, for two years, and then studied law under William Eaton, Jr., in Warrenton, where he practiced for a while. He then engaged in newspaper work in Raleigh, and proved himself a facile and charming writer. For many years he has been connected with the office of the United States Senate in Washington, occupying positions of usefulness and trust. He married Miss Ellen Hale, of Raleigh, daughter of Peter M. Hale, of Fayetteville, and Miss Mary Badger, of Raleigh, his wife. They have one daughter, Mary Badger, who is also talented as a magazine writer.
The second son, Thomas, followed the profession of his father, taking his course in medicine at the
University of Virginia, and then at Bellevue Hospital, New York. After graduating he served one year, as surgeon on a ship plying between New York and Aspinwall, and then a year on the Pacific Coast, as a surgeon. While there, he formed friends in New South Wales, Australia, and decided to go there and practice his profession. He died in 1885, quite a young man, in a small town, Werriwa. He never married.
Ben, the third son, at the age of eighteen entered railroad service, where his success was phenomenal, as year by year he was promoted to positions of trust. At the time of his death, 1917, he was the Baltimore head of the Division of Cattle Traffic of the B. & O. Railroad. He died suddenly in St. Louis. He married Miss Lizzie Wood, of Bolivar, Tennessee.
Marshall Wilson, the youngest son, was trained in the cotton business, in Raleigh, under Col. Paul Faison. In 1884 he went to Memphis, Tennessee, where he engaged in the Cotton Oil Mill business, until his health failed from the close confinement, when he sought open air employment. He settled in the mountains of Maryland, at Hagerstown. He is a man of fine business qualifications, and his business there has been a success. He married Miss Leonora Hamilton, a daughter of former Governor Hamilton, of Maryland.
Lizzie, the oldest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Wilson, married W. A. Montgomery of Warrenton, in 1871, while her father's family was temporarily residing in Roanoke, Va. Janet, the youngest daughter, married Mr. Suthon, of Louisiana, who has been dead some years. She has recently married Frank Chalmers, of Salem, Virginia, and they now reside in Front Royal, Virginia, where Mr. Chalmers is connected with the Randolph-Macon Academy.
When Dr. Wilson moved to Salem, Virginia, in 1869, he sold this home to James Y. Christmas, and his family. Mr. Christmas was born in Warrenton, and lived there until a grown man, then going to Mississippi to live, where one of his brothers had gone. He enlisted from that State in the Confederate Army, and was wounded in the service. Mr. Christmas was a very handsome man, of a blonde type, with kindly blue eyes and fair reddish hair, quite distinguished in appearance, with a charming manner. He was very temperate in 'everything, very gentle and amiable, except when aroused. In 1864 he married Mrs. Rhoda Strother, nee Whitney, daughter of Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines in her first marriage. Mrs. Christmas was a very pretty and accomplished woman. She was a very delightful musician, singing, and playing well on the piano. She had very expressive brown eyes, with lovely red brown hair, and exquisite complexion. She was a devoted wife and mother. The tie between her own mother and herself was more than the ordinary one. Mrs. Christmas had a very warm heart and a generous nature; her friendship once formed lasted through life.
The history of her mother, Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines, is very interesting, romantic and tragic. 1 am not certain, but think that she wrote the pamphlet, herself, entitled "Myra, or the Child of Adoption," her own true story. The large estate that was thought to be justly hers, through her father, was a large part of the City of New Orleans. Her life was spent in trying to recover what she honestly considered her own property. From time to time she would win suits of minor importance, and in the last years of her life she recovered quite a handsome sum, which she bequeathed to her grandchildren, the Christmas children, and the children of her son William Whitney.
After Mrs. Christmas's death in Warrenton, in 1878, the family moved to Washington City to live, where Mr. Christmas died.
There were three children of Mr. and Mrs. Christmas, Whitney, Rhoda and James G. Whitney has been quite a successful artist and inventor, and has secured several patents from his inventions. Rhoda married Dr. Kennedy of Washington. James has been engaged in the lumber business, and lives North.
The present occupants of this home are the family of Mrs. (Van) Henry G. Williams, who was a Miss Kearney of Warren County. Mr. Williams was from Martin County, North Carolina. When a young man, in frequenting Shocco Springs, he met his wife, who lived quite a near neighbor. She was then a very beautiful woman, and is still very handsome, beyond eighty years of age. Mr. Williams was a very handsome, attractive and intelligent man. During the married life of Mr. and Mrs. Williams they lived on a large and valuable farm, near Shocco Springs, called The White House, where Mr. and Mrs. John Boyd Davis now reside, she being the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Williams. After his death, the family moved to Warrenton to live, and bought this place. The eldest daughter, Lena, lives with the mother. The second daughter, Bennie, married John Boyd Davis. The third daughter, Mary, married Air. Bell and died quite young. One son, Alfred, lives in Warrenton. The other two sons, Harry and Kearney, have lived for some years at Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they have been very successful in business. They are devoted sons, and spend nearly every Christmas with their mother, who is now an invalid, but retains her sweet, gentle nature, much beloved by all who know her.
THE SOMERVILLE HOME
The present home of John Graham was known as the Somerville residence in the very early days of the town. Before 1550 it was a house of modest proportions, the roof having dormer windows. At the time that so many handsome houses were being built in Warrenton, John Somerville had this present house erected, just in front of the old house. It had then, as now, extensive grounds, ornamented with trees, shrubs, and beautiful flowers. About a year after the new home was completed, Mr. and Mrs. Somerville went North to buy furniture for it. Very soon after their return Mr. Somerville died after a very short illness. Mrs. Somerville made this her residence until her death in November, 1867. She was Miss Matilda Kearney, daughter of W. K. Kearney, of Warren County. Very pretty in her youth, of such gentle, quiet nature that I do not suppose her children or her servants ever heard her voice raised in reproof or anger. Mr. Somerville's mother was Catherine Volkes, from Virginia. His parents resided in Granville County. After his wife's death Mr. James Somerville, his father, came to Warrenton to live and resided at the "Folly."
Mr. and Mrs. John Somerville had seven children. Miss Maria, the eldest, was a very elegant and striking looking woman, tall with a very graceful manner, full of fun and wit, the life of every assembly that she was in, a kind, generous, noble woman, looked up to, and very much beloved by her family. Her first marriage was with her cousin, James Alston, of Tennessee. After his death she returned to her mother's home in Warrenton, where she spent several years. While a resident of Washington City she married Judge John Blair Hogue, of Martinsburg, West Virginia. After his death she continued to reside in Washington, until her own death, some years later.
The second daughter, Martha Helen, familiarly called Susie, was very intelligent and fond of reading, and in later years became a devoted student of geology. At the time she married John Cunningham, of Person County, North Carolina, she was considered the handsomest woman that visited the Virginia Springs. Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham reared a large family of children.
Miss Mary, the third daughter never married, though often sought in marriage. She was a lovely blonde, very graceful in her carriage. She was much beloved in her family for her unselfish devotion. Miss Alice married the Rev. B. S. Bronson; they had only one son, Ben. She died at the home of her brother, James Somerville, on the edge of Warrenton. She was a woman of the highest type of a Christian character, beloved and admired by all who knew her.
Miss Juliet Agnes never married. After a service of forty years in the Government, in Washington, she is now happily settled in the home of her nephew, Colonel William S. Battle, in Roanoke, Virginia. As a young woman she was very pretty, with a very graceful figure. She has led a life of unselfish devotion to those around her, and in return she had the devoted love and admiration of her nieces and nephews, to the second generation.
The youngest daughter, Johanna Josephine, married, when she was very young, James S. Battle, of Edgecombe County, then living at Rocky Mount, where he was associated with his father, William S. Battle, in the manufacture of cotton goods on an extensive scale. When they were married, in 1868, they were thought by every one to be a very unusually handsome couple. Mrs. Battle was as lovely in character as in person, and a devoted wife and mother, receiving from her husband and children their warmest devotion and admiration. After her husband's death she went to Radford, Virginia, to live with her sons.
Mr. and Mrs. James S. Battle had seven children William, John, Mary, James, Julian, Marion and Maud.
The only son, James Brehon Somerville, was born and reared in Warrenton, where he resided all his life, and where he was much beloved. He had an unfailing fund of humor that made him a most enjoyable companion. In his home he was most tenderly loved for his loyalty, and many fine characteristics. In early manhood he joined the Confederate Army as a private, and faithfully and bravely served in that capacity until he was dreadfully wounded in the instep, in the battles around Richmond. He was many months in recovering, and was so very lame for years that he was unable to return to the army. He followed farming as a calling. At the time he married his cousin, Miss Fanny Green, he resided on his farm in the Shady Grove section of the county.
THE MARIA CAMPBELL PLACE
On the north of the Somerville home, and immediately behind Emmanuel Church yard, fronting on Front Street, was the home of the Campbell sisters, Miss Sallie and Miss Maria, a story and a half house, with a narrow hall on the north side of the house, with two rooms on the lower floor, and a log kitchen in the yard. The premises was always kept very neatly, with a pretty sward of grass in the front yard, allowed to grow very tall. A cluster of very old locust trees grew on the south side of the house, that bore every year the largest and most luscious pods I ever saw. The children of the neighborhood and of the town were so eager for them that they were "chunking" up the trees before they were ripe. The falling of the stones on the roof greatly irritated the old ladies, when they would rush out wildly after the children, who by that time had scattered and hid. In after years when I became familiar with David Copperfield, that incomparable book of Dickens, the description of Miss, Betsy Trotwood chasing the donkeys from her green reminded me of my childhood, and the locust trees and the Misses Campbell. The old ladies were really kind hearted and generous with the only fruit they had to share with others, only they wanted the fruit to ripen, and not to hear the stones fall on the roof. Before this place became their home, they lived at the place, afterwards Mrs. Ann Falkener's, where they kept a school for young children. I have also been told that the Rev. Mr. Saunders boarded with them, while he was rector of Emmanuel Church. They were devoted members of that church, and very prompt in their attendance on the services.
I wish we knew more of their antecedents, for they were evidently ladies, from their features, their dress and general appearance. They had another sister, who married a Mr. Whitfield, a man of social standing and means in Alabama.
Mrs. Whitfield made visits to the sisters in Warrenton. After the death of Miss Maria, Mrs. Whitfield, and her daughter, Mrs. Honfluer, came and lived in the cottage for a year or so. In the summer of 1865 Mrs. Honfluer married William Humphries, a member of the guard of Federal troops stationed in the town after the war. Dr. Hodges performed the ceremony. There is a little plot, in the back of the garden, formerly shaded by cedar trees, and covered with periwinkle, where the parents and sisters have slept for many years.
THE HOME OF JOHN HENDERSON
On the north of the Maria Campbell home was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John Henderson, built about 25 years ago on the site of the old Presbyterian Church, which is now the school house in the yard of the home of Miss Lucy Hawkins.
Mr. Henderson was a native of Granville County, now Vance, and was the son of Dr. "Bill" Henderson, for many years a practitioner of medicine in that county, well known and much liked, and he was also the grandson of Chief Justice Henderson of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and a worthy descendant of that noble man. He was a Presbyterian in faith and lived up to the tenets of that church. He was a very intelligent man, well educated, and a good conversationalist. He and my husband were more than friends. He first married Nellie, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sol. B. Williams, then her sister Daisy. There were three children born to them. Mr. Henderson came to Warrenton when it first became a tobacco market and the warehouses were built, and he became a successful buyer of leaf tobacco.
After Mr. Henderson's death in 1904, his widow and children continued to make their home at this place. Her father and mother and three younger sisters resided with her. Mr. Williams did not survive Mr. Henderson many years, and died leaving Mrs. Williams a hopeless invalid, from paralysis, but always cheerful and hopeful, imparting her lovely spirit to all that were thrown with her. She was a benediction in the home. Her children rendered her years of beautiful devotion and unselfish service.
Mr. Williams was a most exemplary man in his home and community life, a devoted Methodist, and in manner very much resembled his distinguished father, John Buxton Williams.
Mr. and Mrs. Williams were the parents of seven children that reached manhood and womanhood. They were John Buxton, Percy, Nellie, Daisy, Susie, Hettie and Alice Vaiden.
Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson; Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina; traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1924.