THE HOMES OF OLD WARMENTON-CONTINUED
THE HOME OF MAJOR "NAT" GREEN
The home of Tasker Polk, one of the handsomest and most attractive places in the old town, was built by Major Green, brother of General Jeff Green, about 1850. He moved from his "Nut Bush" plantation into the town to secure better educational advantages for his three sons and one daughter, Fanny. Major Green had two marriages, the first with Miss Katherine Somerville, and the second with Miss Lucy Alston, sister of Dr. "Jim" Alston, of Warren County. There were two daughters by the last marriage.
Dr. Solomon Green married his cousin, gate Aubrey Somerville, of Tennessee. He lived in Memphis and practiced medicine some years. The other sons lost their lives in the Confederate service by fever and wounds.
Major Green moved to Memphis to live just before the War Between the States. In, 1863 Miss Fanny came through the lines to Warrenton and lived in the home of her cousins, the family of Mr. John Somerville, until this home was broken up by the death of Mrs. Somerville, when she was invited to make her home at Esmeralda the country place of Colonel Wharton Green, her first cousin. While living there she married her cousin, James B. Somerville. Some few years after her marriage they moved to Warrenton, and bought the William Eaton, Jr., home, where they resided until they died, he in 1898, and she five years later.
Mrs. Somerville, "Miss Fanny," in her early young ladyhood, was perhaps the best known and the most popular woman in the town and county, her manner springing from a kind heart, and was so genial and sympathetic that she drew man, woman and child to her with warm affection. She was a delightful talker and most charming companion. She had the wonderful, and rare gift, of remembering every family connection in the county, and she could always set you straight as to your "kin-folks.". She was of medium height, very slender and graceful figure, a perfect brunette, and in her young days she was considered the most graceful dancer of her social set. Her entire life was spent in cheerful and brave service for others. She was a consistent and devoted member of the Episcopal Church.
Major Green was a man of large means but very much in debt. He was a most hospitable gentleman. His home, a large brick house, was too small to accommodate his guests and so he built the house across the street, known as the Parker Place, where his friends had their sleeping apartments; they came over to the main residence for meals. As might have been foreseen, Major Green's financial affairs came to a crisis several years before the war. His removal to Memphis to live soon followed. What was left of his estate of negroes, goods, and chattels, he sent by wagon to one of his plantations in Arkansas, under the care of a former overseer. In Memphis his agent and overseer made over a good deal of the property entrusted to his care to a commission merchant of that city, the transaction being alleged by Major Green as fraudulent. At that time, for lack of proof of fraud, no attempt was made by law to recover the property or its value. More than twenty years after the transaction, the overseer, on his death-bed, sent for Dr. Sol Green, the oldest son of the Major, a practicing physician in Memphis, and made a full confession of his fraudulent conduct and furnished documentary evidence concerning the transaction. Major Green, in 1874, in Memphis, commenced an action against the commission merchant for the recovery of the value of the property. He was introduced as a witness in the case and had testified, while introducing the documentary evidence, to matters making clear the liability of the defendant, when a telegram was received by him to the effect that his married daughter, living a few miles in the country, was extremely sick and his presence was needed. The Judge adjourned the court until the next morning, to give the witness an opportunity to visit his daughter. After he left the railway and was on his way to the home of the sick daughter in a buggy, the horse took fright and he was thrown out, receiving such injuries as to cause his death in a few hours. That tragic event put an end to the suit, as the Major had not been cross-examined and there was no living witness to supply the necessary facts.
After Major Green went to Tennessee to live, Mrs. Mary K. Williams bought the house and moved there to live in the early fifties. She had resided at a beautiful country home some ten miles from Warrenton, called "Montmorenci." As all three of her children had married, Thomas Williams, Mrs. Peter Hawkins, and Mrs. W. H. Polk, she and her mother-in-law, Mrs. Williams, then a very old lady, lived there alone, except in the sessions of the schools when her grandchildren, Mollie and Lucy Hawkins, and Joe and Mollie Boyd Williams, and some of her nieces and nephews, came in and became a part of her household. Her daughter, Lucy, had married Major William H. Polk, brother of President James K. Polk, and they resided in Columbia, Tennessee. He died in 1559, and then she came with her two young children, William and Tasker, and made her home permanently with her mother.
Mrs. Polk was very pretty as a young woman, with charming manners, and was much admired. She was a fine conversationalist. Having been much impressed and influenced by a mother who was loyal and devoted to the tenets of the Methodist Church, she never danced, but on occasions of dances and balls, you would see her surrounded by young men, quite as eager to enjoy her society as others were to engage in the dance. She was all through life a loyal friend and a most devoted mother.
Hon. Tasker Polk, with his family, Mrs. Polk, (Miss Lilie Jones, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jones, of Warren County) and their two sons now reside in this place. Their two daughters, Mary and Lucy, have married. The oldest son, William, is a practicing lawyer and associated with his father, who has been a prominent and successful lawyer in the old town for nearly forty years. Mr. Polk has also faithfully and ably represented his county in the State Senate for successive terms. The youngest son, James, is a student at the State University.
THE HOME OF DR. WILLIAM T. HOWARD
The residence on the south of Mr. Polk, now occupied by Mr. Peck and his family, was built by a dentist, Dr. Skelton, in 1850. When Dr. Skelton moved from Warrenton not many years afterwards, Mrs. Goodrum bought the place and presented it to Dr. William T. Howard, where he resided as long as he lived in Warrenton, until the spring of 1866. Prior to his making his home in this place he had his rooms over the "Brick Store." Dr. Howard had a very large practice in the town, county, and the adjacent counties, and was always regarded as very proficient in his profession, especially so in the diagnosis and treatment of the diseases of the chest, these specialists in that day being called "proficient in auscultation and percussion." He was a very skillful physician. While Dr. Howard was living in Warrenton, a young physician, just admitted to the practice, who had just settled in the town, said the Doctor was so successful that he had fewer mounds to his discredit than any other physician in the community. After he moved to Baltimore to practice, an eminent physician, bearing his own name, though not related, said that Dr. Howard understood the art of nursing better than any doctor he had ever known. Dr. Howard went from Warrenton to Baltimore to fill the chair of obstetrics in the Baltimore Medical College, which position I think he held until his death in 1896. His practice in all those years was large and lucrative.
Dr. Howard's first marriage was with Mrs. Lucy Fitts, of Warren County, a very handsome woman with a very attractive manner. They had no children, but adopted her niece, Lalla Fitts, who afterwards married Edward Plummer of the town. Mrs. Howard died some months before his going to Baltimore to live. He then to the astonishment of all of his friends, married Miss Anastasia Waddill of Northampton County, whom he had courted in early life, and against whom for many years he bad borne a bitter resentment for not accepting his offer of marriage. His marriage with her was of short duration as she died in a few years. She really was a most attractive and accomplished woman; the last years o£ her life she spent in translating the Bible into Hebrew. She was deeply pious, and had many warm friends and admirers. A few years after her death Dr. Howard married Miss Williams of Baltimore, many years younger than himself, who survived him.
Not many years after Dr. Howard left Warrenton, this home was bought by Dr. Simon T. Green, who with Mrs. Green, two sons, and three daughters resided there for many years. The second daughter, Lizzie, is the only survivor of the family. Her first marriage was with Mr. Briggs, a lawyer of prominence in Suffolk, Virginia. Her second husband was a Mr. Slade, of Eastern Carolina. Nellie, the oldest daughter, married Dr. Picot, of Littleton. Mattie married Walter Egerton of Macon.
Edward Green, the oldest son, took a full four years' course at the University of Virginia. He then studied law and practiced in Warrenton for several years. Upon joining the Episcopal Communion, he decided to enter the priesthood of the church, and served in the missionary district of North Carolina for several years. He then left the church of his adoption and entered the Methodist ministry. He has been dead some years. Simon died while living North, and his body was brought back to Warrenton to be laid beside his family. Before coming to Warrenton Dr. Green had been a successful practitioner of medicine from his home near Macon. He was a man of unusually high order of intelligence. He and Mrs. Green were a very united couple.
THE BRAGG PLACE
Where Eugene Allen and family now reside, was originally the home of Thomas Bragg, a well-to-do contractor and builder, for one thing, the constructor of the Capitol building at Raleigh after it was destroyed by fire in 1831. The wife of Mr. Bragg was Margaret Crossland, a woman of extraordinary intelligence and energy and a very handsome person; both parents shared the virtues which were transmitted to their family of twelve children.
John Bragg, the eldest, born 1806, was graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1830. After a period of law practice in his native State, removed to Mobile, Alabama, where he stood at the head of the bar, becoming in turn a member of Congress and a Supreme Court Judge.
Thomas Bragg was born in 1810. After graduating at the Warrenton Academy, he spent three years at a military academy in Middletown, Connecticut. He also took up the law, reaching the head of his profession in his native State. 13e was elected Governor and United States Senator, and became Attorney General of the Confederate States.
Braxton, after finishing the course at the Warrenton Male Academy, under the principalship of Thomas Vaiden, received an appointment at West Point from General M. T. Hawkins, then congressman from the Warrenton District. He entered West Point at sixteen years of age, and in a class of eighty-five, at the graduation out of fifty-five, he was fifth. In an interesting sketch of General Bragg, written for the Annual of the Association of Graduates for 1877, Major General Joseph Hooker says concerning his West Point days
His classmates will remember him as almost the youngest members of their class, tall, ungainly in his gait, uncouth in manner, but bright and engaging from his decidedly intellectual countenance, though apparently but little trained in the habits of study, to which he was soon to be subjected. He was also remarked from the beginning for his manliness, independence and unbending integrity. Free to express his opinions on all occasions and all subjects, utterly regardless of its influence on himself, he appeared to be conscious of his own rectitude, and therefore free in condemning or approving the acts of others. To those who enjoyed his more intimate acquaintance this harshness of character disappeared, and he appeared to them to be a genial, generous, brave and clever companion. To others of his associates he sometimes appeared brusque even to rudeness. Young Bragg's preparation had been limited, and he had won his standing on the academic rolls without having ever been considered a laborious student. He acquired knowledge easily, and never forgot it, and at the end of his academic term was considered by his classmates as a young officer equal if not superior, to any member of their class, though several removes from Its head.*
This place became, in 1840, the residence of Colonel and Mrs. Goodrum of Greenesville County, Virginia. They built quite a pretentious front to the old residence. Colonel Goodrum died not many years after he moved to Warrenton, and Mrs. Goodrum continued her residence at this place until her death in 1855. Mrs. Goodrum was one of the "characters" of Warrenton. Oftener than otherwise she wore in public a black velvet dress, saying, that in summer it protected her body from the hot sun, and in winter it kept out the cold. She would attend church with her gold thimble and rings on the outside of her gloves.
Joseph B. Batchelor succeeded Mrs. Goodrum as owner of this place and lived there with his family until he moved to Raleigh in 1866. Mr. and Mrs. Batchelor had a large family of children: William Plummer, Joseph B., Stark A., Kemp Plummer, Edward H., Frank and Bessie. There were six other children who died very young. William Plummer became a lawyer and joined his father in the practice in Raleigh. He married Miss David Cbenault from Kentucky. They now live at a well known country place near Raleigh. Joseph B. was a graduate of West Point and died in service in the
*Quoted from Braxton Bragg, General of the Confederacy, by Don. C. Seitz, Columbia, s. C., 1923. Philippines, as a captain in the regular army. Stark A. was engaged in business in Raleigh. He married Miss Lula Purnell ; one child, Mary Cary, survives her parents; she is the adopted daughter of her aunt, Mrs. Bessie Loeb. She has been educated at the State College for Women. Mrs. Loeb, the widow of Harry Loeb, of Wilmington, for many years lived in Raleigh but at present is living at Roanoke Rapids. She is a most useful, good woman, very vivacious and agreeable; always a devoted and active member of her church (the Episcopal). Kemp Plummer settled in Baltimore after his graduation in medicine, where he became very popular and distinguished as a physician. He died quite a young man, from pneumonia. Edward and Frank died in Raleigh in early life, unmarried.
When Mr. Batchelor went to Raleigh to live he conveyed this place to Harry Plummer (being his attorney), a colored man, well-to-do and well thought of in the community where he had been born and reared. Harry Plummer never lived there but rented it for many years to one of the most remarkable colored men I ever knew-"Uncle" Albert Burgess. He was originally a slave of General M. T. Hawkins and his body-servant. He was a man of excellent manners, dignified in personal appearance, and of superior intelligence. In reconstruction days he was the most important political figure in the county. The population of Warren County was about 2,000, and more than two-thirds of it was negro. "Uncle" Albert, by his sensible and conservative methods, advice, and conduct, had the confidence of both the white and colored population and, more than any other person, kept up kindly relations between the two races. After many years he died in the full respect and confidence of the entire population. His wife "Aunt" Annie Burgess, was a woman of as good character and sense as her husband. She was very genteel in appearance and very neat and orderly in her home.
This couple did a very unusual thing, entirely foreign to the custom of that day and of that community. When the schools were opened for the colored people immediately after the War Between the States, the teachers were all from the North. I know of only one Southern woman, a lady by birth, who filled the position of a teacher in the schools in the South for colored people, and she did it from dire necessity, to support her mother and herself. However, she did not at all lose her social position by taking the only work she could get at that time. There came to Warrenton two ladies-the natives called them "women"-from the North to teach in the colored schools for colored people. They were educated, well-dressed, and modest women. The question arose where were they to live and board. No home or hotel was offered to them, as the citizens did not approve of their work or of their coming. Then this worthy colored couple arranged to let them have certain rooms in their home, they cooking for and waiting on them.
Uncle Albert and Aunt Annie had been so well trained by their former owners that they knew perfectly well how to conduct themselves in this unusual situation. After a few months a white man came to teach in the same schools. He had his room on Front Street in what I have spoken of as the room of Uncle Grandison, but took his meals at Uncle Albert's home, with the two ladies. These teachers were Episcopalians, and attended Emmanuel Church while living in Warrenton. They usually sat on the last pew in the church- when the services were concluded they quietly withdrew, no one speaking to them, nor did I ever hear of any member of the church making them a visit. The male teacher, that I have referred to passed my home every day. One day when he was passing I was sitting on the porch; he noticed some magnolia leaves on the ground, that had fallen from the tree, and very politely asked me if he might pick up several of them, as he would like to send them to his home, in the far North. When I remember that I told him No, he could not have any of them, even after these fifty years I am covered with shame and confusion. I mention this to give the present generation some idea of our feelings at that time.
The nest occupants that came to the house after the death of "Uncle" Albert were Henry A. Foote and his family. They moved the rear of the home, which had been the home of Mr. Bragg, to the south of the residence and it is a very comfortable cottage. Mr. Foote added very convenient rooms to the back of the Goodrum house. Mrs. Foote was a Miss Young, sister of Mrs. Hugh White and Mrs. Albert Egerton, from Wilson. Henry Foote died at this home. Mr. and Mrs. Foote had five daughters and one son.
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Allen, with their three children, Edward, at present Superintendent of the Public Schools of Warren County; Pryor, a business man in the town; and Miss Mary Louise, now own and reside in the old Bragg home. Mrs. Allen was a Miss Davis, of Louisburg, a most useful woman in her home, her church, and the town life. Mr. Allen commenced the mercantile business in Warrenton with Dr. R. D. Fleming, when quite a young man, and by his industry, attention to business and upright dealings, has built up a large trade, and is a most successful merchant.
On the corner of Main Street and the open square, in front of the Bragg Place, stands a small cottage, much smaller when it was built by Mr. Bragg than now, as a law office for his two sons in the early years of the nineteenth century.
When I was a child it was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rice, and her mother, Mrs. Vines. Mrs. Rice lived there many years alone, until she became blind, when her church (the Baptist) assumed charge of her, boarding her first with Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Johnson, and later with Mrs. Tom Green. It then became the home of Miss Mary Alice Jones and her brother, William Baskerville. Both died in this cottage.
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.