THE HOMES OF OLD WARRENTON-CONTINUED
THE HOME OF WILLIAM PLUMMER
The residence of Mr. Plummer was situated in a large square on the south of the Armistead-Montgomery place, with the entrance on Bragg Street, in the southwest corner of the large yard. This large house was built by Oliver Fitts, perhaps at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as it had been his home some years when he offered it to Mr. Mordecai, when his school burned in 1811. It has remained exactly as it was at that period.
Mr. Plummer was one of the large number of sons of Kemp Plummer and Susan Martin, his wife, who had lived in the town from its first settlement. This son chose the profession of his father, and was a well known lawyer in all that section. He was a man of high character, and a very useful citizen. Soon after Mr. Plummer's marriage with Miss Eliza Armistead, of the eastern section of North Carolina, he bought this home from Mrs. Caroline Plunkett daughter of Mr. Mordecai, and resided there until his death in 1859.
A large number of children were the issue of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Plummer. Mary Cary, the eldest, married Joseph Batchelor, of Halifax County, one of the most distinguished lawyers in our State and a man of irreproachable character. Mrs. Batchelor was a woman distinguished for broad culture and ready wit, blessed with the appreciative humor that her family was noted for. She had a strong character and was much beloved by her family and friends. She and Mr. Batchelor spent their early married life in Warrenton, moving to Raleigh in 1866, where Mr. Batchelor died in 1902. They celebrated their golden wedding in 1900 by gathering together in their home their children and friends for a delightful evening party. She lived only three weeks afterwards.
Susan, the second daughter of William Plummer, was of a reserved nature, pious and devoted to her church, and leader in all good works in the community. She was much admired and her family were deeply attached to her. She became the second wife of the Rev. Cameron F. McRae while he was rector of a church in Savannah, Georgia. They moved to Maryland some years later, where he died in 1872. She survived him only six months, dying in her childhood's home in February, 1873. They left three sons and one daughter.
The two youngest daughters of Mr. and Mrs. William Plummer, Miss Lizzie and Miss Annie, reared these children of the Rev. and Mrs. Cameron McRae; and also the children of their brother, Mr. Edward Plummer, who were left motherless when they were young. Miss Lizzie and Miss Annie were women of the most exalted' Christian character and were held in the warmest admiration by their family and friends.
Miss Harriet Plummer married Dr. Frank P. Tatum of Norfolk, Virginia. They lived in Warrenton for years, moving to Berkeley, Virginia, after the war. They died in Berkeley, leaving three children: Mamie, Lizzie and Frank.
Armistead Plummer, and the second son, William, married and settled in Petersburg, Virginia. There they engaged in business and were well known.
Edward Hall Plummer I have written of in the chapter on the lawyers of Warrenton.
Walter G. Plummer married Miss Nannie Cawthorn, a lovely Christian woman, a devoted wife and mother. They left nine children.
After the death of Mrs. Eliza Plummer and the removal of her youngest daughters, Lizzie and Annie, to Petersburg, the old home place passed into the hands of Colonel William S. Davis, who bought it and resided there some years with his wife and children. Colonel Davis was so prominent in the life of the town and county that I think it appropriate to insert a notice of him written by my husband for the newspaper. It is in part as follows:
IN MEMORIAM-COLONEL WILLIAM B. DAVIS
There died, in Warrenton, N. C., at the home of his son, William J. Davis, on the 23rd day of November, 1910, William S. Davis, once a colonel in the Confederate States service, and later, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and who, in the day of his activities, was as strong and as striking a personality as the county of Warren ever produced. His services to his State and his county, his work in the ministry of his Church, his deportment as a citizen, as well as his noble and virtuous life as an individual, call for more than a passing notice of his death.
He as born in Warren County, N. C., on January 9, 1840. From the Warrenton Male Academy he went to Randolph-Macon College, then located at Boydton, Va., and from that institution, in 1859, he was graduated with the highest honors of his class and of the college.
He then, with the purpose to prepare himself thoroughly for the Christian ministry, commenced a special course of study at the University of Virginia. Upon the breaking out of the war, he returned to his home, and enlisted in May, 1861, in the Warren Rifles, Company C, Second Regiment, Volunteers, afterwards Twelfth Regiment N. C. State Troops, and was promoted from the Captaincy of that company to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the regiment, on the 24th of May, 1863. That rank he held throughout the war, although he was frequently detached from his regiment and appointed to higher commands, notably to the command of Hoke's old brigade, at the battle of Belle Grove, October 19, 1864, in which battle he lost his right arm. He richly deserved permanent promotion.
This writer, with others more competent to judge than himself, has always thought that Colonel Davis was the best equipped soldier of his grade in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was thoroughly just in the treatment of the men, a disciplinarian without being a martinet; brave, vigilant, sagacious, and, under fire, level-headed and calm. In every battle in which he participated-nearly every one fought by the Army of Northern Virginia up to the one in which he was disabled-his clear and resonant voice, without tremor or excitement, could be heard in the din of battle and the roar of cannon and musketry, giving steadiness to the lines and heart to the wavering.
All men of his command, now living, when they recall the bloody repulse of the Twelfth N. C. Regiment at Gettysburg, and its slow and painful retreat at Winchester, will always hear even the tones of his voice, commanding and encouraging. He was a favorite of General Ramseur, and General Rhodes always spoke of him, publicly and in private, in the highest terms, especially as to his conduct on the field of Gettysburg. In the last days of the war, with an empty sleeve, he returned to the army around Petersburg, and again tendered his services to the fast dying Confederacy; but the condition of his wound and his disability precluded further active service. After the cessation of hostilities, the object so dear to his heart and for which he had so well prepared himself, the consecration of his life to the Christian ministry, had to be postponed. He had married in 1863 Miss Elizabeth Jones, daughter of William Duke Jones, owner of the White Sulphur Springs (from which marriage there sprung a large family of children, most of whom are now living), of Warren County, N. C., and that responsibility, together with the condition of his financial affairs made it necessary, for the present, for him to engage in business. For twenty years he was employed in agricultural and mercantile pursuits, and while so engaged, acted under the injunction: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
He was from his boyhood of a deeply pious disposition. There was no need for him to announce, as by a creed, that he was a Christian. His conduct in all his life gave notice that he was guided by the principles taught in the four Gospels. He was always on the right side of every question involving public morality or private conduct. He was generous and forbearing in his disposition and considerate of the opinions of those who differed from him, and charitable to those who had committed open faults. His modesty, and gentle bearing' were as distinctly marked in his everyday life as were the heroic qualities which made him such a distinguished soldier. He was always ready to express his opinion in every matter of public consequence, but in the private concerns of individuals and their interests he never interfered unless his advice was sought.
In the year 1885 he was ordained a minister of the Methodist Church, and was able and faithful in his sacred calling, until September, 1897, while engaged in religious services, in the pulpit, he was taken ill with paralysis, the effects of which were so serious as to compel his retirement from the ministry.
After that calamity, there were only a few occasions when the writer was able to see Colonel Davis, but when such arose he availed himself of the opportunity. For years, withdrawn from the world, his family and friends recognized that he was no more as he was in the old days. But, they had the consolation in the knowledge that his affectionate disposition, his simplicity of character, his gentle nature were still a part of him; and all through to the end, "as in those early days, his heart was pure; no guile tainted it; only peace and good will dwelt in It."
Several years before the death of Colonel Davis he sold the property to Shiloh University, an incorporated institution of learning for the colored people. For several years a large school was conducted there, its patronage being drawn from many counties in Eastern Carolina, not a few students being from other states.
When Shiloh School dissolved, the property was bought by a real estate corporation in the town. They laid off streets through the large property and lots were sold. John Graham's School was then much larger than his residence could comfortably 24 house, so he bought the old Plummer residence and had a dormitory there for the boys, very appropriately calling it Mordecai Hall, in memory of the old school that existed there a century before.
THE DR. STEPHEN DAVIS HOME
At the intersection of Main and the short street running east to the William Plummer home is one of the oldest homes of the town, as it appears now and did when I can first recall it. As Dr. Davis was one of the earliest settlers in the town we may conclude that this house was one of the first built. It was occupied by some member of his family until the opening of the War Between the States. The family consisted of the two sons, Peter R. and Hugh; and the two daughters, Mrs. Eaton and Mrs. Amis, both married and went to Arkansas to live.
Peter R. Davis lived in Warren County all his life. He was an educated, well-read gentleman, most liberal and generous in his feelings and actions, and profuse in his hospitality. His home, Largo, ten miles from Warrenton, was celebrated among the large plantations of eastern North Carolina and was the seat of hospitality. He died in 1893 while on a visit to his daughter, Mrs. Lewis, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
Peter Davis's first marriage was with Katherine White, the oldest daughter of Thomas White. From this marriage there were three children, Mrs. McCullough, Mrs. Lewis, and a son, Stephen, who died when a child. His second marriage was with Miss Winnie Wiggins, the handsome and attractive daughter of Mason Williams of Halifax County. She was educated in a French school in New Orleans. There was one daughter of this marriage, May Hill. She has married Mr. Higham, a successful business man of Raleigh. Previous to her marriage she conducted a most unusual work in the Blind Institute in Raleigh, and most successfully, teaching the blind to knit, crochet and embroider. She is a woman of fine order of mind and a very pleasant manner, and a most interesting conversationalist.
Dr. Hugh Davis was a graduate in medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, and a man of great force of character. He attended medical lectures in Germany, traveled extensively in Europe, and was a man of extensive literary accomplishments. He never practiced his profession in the county or town. Though probably one of the three wealthiest men in Warren County he entered the Confederate service at the beginning of the war as a private, in the Cavalry troops of the State, and served faithfully in the details of camp and fatigue service, as well as in battle. He received a wound in the battle of Jarratt's Station, south of Petersburg, from which he died, a prisoner, in Washington City.
The next occupant of this place was the family of Dr. William Sutton, at that time the owner of the well known fisheries at Avoca, near Edenton, North Carolina. Mrs. Sutton and Mrs. William Plummer were sisters. After the war Governor Elias Carr bought the place for his summer home and came there with his family for years. Mrs. Carr was Miss Eleanor Kearney, of the county, there were three sons and two daughters of this marriage.
The present owner and occupant is Mrs. Adele Jones, the widow of George Jones of the county, and daughter of George Smith and his wife, Miss Rozelle Wiggins, of Scotland Neck. Mrs. Jones has two daughters and three sons.
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.