Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 | Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Phone: (540) 943-3943

The mysterious George Washington letter

One of the most famous letters George Washington wrote was to his wife Martha after he was put in charge of the Continental Army in June, 1775.  The letter is not only famous for its content, but is only one of two letters eventually ever found that Washington wrote to his wife.  The original letter was found stored away in a desk drawer by Martha Washington’s granddaughters.  About a year ago, a  mysterious copy of that letter was found in the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation’s archives.  It is unknown how the letter ended up in the archives or where it came from.  Most likely it was inherited by the Foundation from the Waynesboro Public Library.

Folded up neatly and addressed, “Martha Washington… Mount Vernon, Va” on the front in elegant handwriting, the letter appears to be very old.  Could this be an original copy of the famous letter that somehow found its way in the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation’s collection?  Stranger things have happened considering the location is Virginia and Virginia’s rich history.  The ink used for writing appears to be a kind of old chestnut ink commonly used before the era of modern ink and pens.  However, the type of paper along with its blue lines indicate the letter was written most likely after the time of Washington had passed.  Could this letter be a forgery?  The answer is no.  At the very end of the letter written in the same handwriting it is stated, “Note, this is the only extant letter of G. Washington to his wife.”  The writer adds, “It is an epistle of unusual interest, both on the account of its subject and date.”  Obviously, the creator of the letter did not want to pass it off as a forgery.

So what is the nature of this “artifact” found in the Heritage Foundation’s archives?  It is indeed old.  It is a handwritten copy, but not a forgery.  The next question is could this be a Washington family heirloom made after the original letter was found?  Perhaps.  But there is no documentation on the letter’s previous owners.  There is, however, an unrecognizable embossment on the papers’ upper left hand corner.  Since it is unrecognizable, it is difficult to make out the embossment’s significance.

An associate of Mount Vernon was contacted about this letter, and their conclusion was just as inconclusive as the Heritage Foundation’s.  The most likely explanation for the letter, which is admittedly a complete guess, is it was created for teaching.  It could have been a prop for a history lesson long ago, or a way for students to practice their handwriting skills by transcribing the original letter.  Despite the mystery on the letter’s origins, it is a wonderful reminder of a critical point in America’s history by its most famous Founding Father.  Though, it is very appealing to think that this letter may be from one of George Washington’s descendants.

This article includes high definition scans of the letter found in the archives that have been digitally altered to make the text more legible.  For the original transcript of the letter you can visit this link.

 

President Andrew Jackson and Major Wilson’s Inn

Travel wasn’t fast or fancy in the 1830’s.  A superb horseman and military man, Andrew Jackson made his way from Washington, D.C. to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.  It was July 1832 and Jackson was in his fourth year of his first term as President.  The election for 1832 was in full swing.  During that era, presidential candidates did not campaign; it was left to the party leaders to promote the candidate.

We don’t know if Jackson was traveling alone that July as presidents did not require security around them.  But what was known was that as a Democrat, Jackson did not have many fans in Staunton.  Although Staunton was the more convenient route from D.C. to TN and probably had better accommodations, Jackson preferred Waynesboro and went out of his way to bypass Staunton.  His Republican opponent Henry Clay on the other hand was “lionized” by the people in Staunton.

On Friday, July 27, 1832, President Jackson stayed at Major Wilson’s Inn.  It was on the north side of Main Street and east corner of Bruce Alley.  The alley is now the passage to and the pedestrian mall.  The inn may have opened in 1781 and was the only creditable place for Jackson to stay at the time.  Other dignitaries reported to have been guests at Wilson’s at various times from the opening until the sale of the property in 1846 were:  the Comte de Rochambeau, who led French forces against the British during the American Revolution; John Sevier, one of the founders and first governor of Tennessee; Sam Houston, president of the Republic of Texas before statehood and a senator after; Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, sister-in-law of the Emperor Napoleon and Claudius Crozet, chief engineer of the Blue Ridge tunnels.  Most guests claimed it was a first rate hotel.

The German School

Ruth Swortzel Porter shares with us the history of the German School just outside of Waynesboro in Augusta County.  She is a descendant of the Hildebrands and her article is wonderfully researched.

On July 25th 1823, seven leaders of the Mennonite community around Madrid in Augusta County, Virginia, wrote a letter detailing their plans to maintain the German language among their children.

Since I am a Hildebrand descendant, theirs is the history I know: Eighty-five years earlier, in 1738, George Michael Hildebrand emigrated from the Palatinate to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Twenty-eight years earlier, in 1795, Henry Hildebrand moved to Virginia from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

According to Augusta County Deed Book 28 p. 541, on July 21, 1796, Henry bought 250 acres on Porterfield Branch (Gillespie) near Hermitage, from Samuel Bell. The original tract was granted to James Hamilton by William Beverley of Beverley Manor

Henry built a unique cantilevered house on Porterfield Run at Madrid. The second story extended out over the rock walled lower floor, which was built over a spring. He was a good carpenter because his house stood for over 100 years. Enough of the house was standing in 1936 for J.R. Hildebrand, a civil engineer, to make a drawing.

In the intervening 85 years, moving from Germany to Pennsylvania to Virginia, they feared the loss of their native language, a common concern still today among immigrant families.

Their plan was to start a school to be taught in German.

In an effort to continue the use of German in worship, Henry’s son, Jacob Hildebrand, Sr. donated a schoolhouse for a “German School” in the Madrid area. In a letter written in German, dated July 25, 1823, and found in the family German Bible, Peter Frantzmann agreed to teach a German school for a half year.

Here is the English translation of the July 25th, 1823 letter:

Since it has been discussed in this region for several years to set up a German school, which I myself have often heard, but until now has not been able to be done, either a schoolmaster or a schoolhouse was lacking, but now through several of my neighbors, who have persuaded me to hold German school, so I consider it my duty to take up the school task for a half year, If God keeps me well, and also there is a number of children, about 20, then I will begin the 3rd of October 1823 until the 3rd of May, 1824.

The curriculum consists chiefly in Prayer, Reading, Writing, and if the students progress so fast that they can read a little, then I will also sing some verses from the song book. The price for a quarter for each child is 2 dollars. Since Jacob Hildebrand is giving the schoolhouse, and I the undersigned, accept, as announced above, therefore I hope that all well meaning Germans here will have their children learn German so the mother tongue will not be lost, indeed it is a chief language and the plainest among all.

Peter Frantzmann

The parents who signed up their children to attend the German School for its beginning on October 3rd, 1823 are as follows: Martin Grove (signed up two children), Johannes Faber (signed up two children), Jacob Hildebrand (signed up two children), Enoch Banner (signed up two children), Gabriel Stickley (signed up one child), John B. Farber (signed up two children), and George Barnhart, Jr. (signed up one child).

Jacob Hildebrand gave  the schoolhouse and sent 2 children, probably his sons, Henry, who was 15 and Jacob, Jr., the future Bishop, who was 7 years old.

Jacob Hildebrand gave the schoolhouse and sent 2 children, probably his sons, Henry, who was 15 and Jacob, Jr., the future Bishop, who was 7 years old.

Three years later, in 1826 Hildebrand church was established. On May 4 Jacob and Barbara Hildebrand for $15, sell one acre for “Meneece” (also called “Amenian Church”) to trustees: Henry Rode, John Fauber, Henry Hildebrand, Jr. A small meeting house was built on the south side of the road now called Hildebrand Church Road.

In 1874, Jacob and Elizabeth Scrogham give Bishop Hildebrand a small tract of land on the north side of the road, opposite the old church for $1.00. On September 4 two tracts of land were deeded by Jacob H. Hildebrand and Thomas Barger. On May 9th, three quarters of an acre was donated by Henry Weade’s heirs.  Also, on May 30th of that year trustees met to appoint Isaac Grove to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Peter S. Shumaker and to appoint themselves as the building committee. The old church building was removed and sold for $55. On April 22nd, 1877 the new church building was dedicated.

There are no records to indicate exactly where the German school was located or if a second term was ever held. For awhile, preaching was in German almost everywhere among the Lutherans, Mennonites, Dunkards and Brethren, but the number of English sermons went up sharply after 1850. “German as a language of worship died in a long and agonizing process which had begun when Winchester Lutherans instituted regular English services in 1785 and ended almost a century later, in 1884, when the last Mennonite congregation dropped German as a church language.”

As time went on, Hildebrand Church adopted English without much of a struggle. In the 1899 obituary for Bishop Jacob Hildebrand, Jr., published in “The Herald of Truth”, he is noted as “being one of the first English ministers and bishops of the Mennonite society in the Valley of Virginia.”

 

Documentary: In This Land – The Camp Lyndhurst Saga

Now you can watch the new documentary by Alpha Vision Films, In This Land: The Camp Lyndhurst Saga from the comfort of home.  Directed and produced by James Overton, we step back in time when German POW’s from World War II were kept at a camp in Lyndhurst, Virginia.  The film features the President of the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation, Shirley Bridgeforth, and the President of the  Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, and author of “The Longest Patrol”, Gregory L. Owen.  You can read our previous blog post about Camp Lyndhurst by clicking here.

 

Let’s Hear It For The Mule

Have you ever wondered while driving by or down Mule Academy Road in Fishersville how it got its name? Many years ago, a man living down the then dirt road in the hollow did indeed train mules to do many chores. They were an economic necessity and he had a thriving business.

The mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The saying, “stubborn as a mule” should really be “stubborn as a donkey” for the mule has a milder temperament than the donkey. While mules tend to be independent, they have more patience than either the horse or the donkey. They are also more sure-footed, hardy, harder of skin that allows greater resistance to sun and rain, have harder hooves, live longer lives and generally eat less than the horse. They can carry 20% of their size as dead weight (cargo as opposed to live weight who is a rider) and can travel 20 miles without a rest.

These animals are true “work horses” of the equine family. They have been domesticated for thousands of years. They pulled the barges down the canals along tow paths, plowed the fields, carried supplies over uneven terrain to build tunnels, hauled goods to the market and were the soldier’s best friend pulling the many wagons, cannons and supplies into battle. The United States Army still uses mules in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. Mules were used inside and outside of ore mines. Inside, they would pull the ore cars to the mine entrance after the men extracted the ore from the veins. Outside, they were used to pull the heavy wagons to their destination. In Death Valley, twenty-mule teams were used to pull a wagon containing 10 tons of borax from the mines to the nearest rail spur, approximately 165 miles away.

While not as handsome as the horse or as costly, they got the work done. You usually don’t hear of “mule thievery” or being shot for stealing a mule. And it’s hard to picture a dashing young man astride a proud mule seeking the hand of his fair maiden.

Waynesboro farmers and orchard owners made extensive use of mules. Until the invention of the tractor for the field and the truck for the highway, mules did the work. As the story has been told, Rose Cliff Fruit Farm, formerly located on the South River at the eastern end of the current Ridgeview Park, was one of the largest apple packing businesses in the area. They had several mules, but one in particular was a favorite. Paul, a white mule, would be sent, unescorted, into the mountain pulling an empty wagon. At the assigned stop, the pickers would fill the wagon and then send Paul, again unescorted, back down to the packinghouse. As he approached the N & W railroad crossing, he would stop to check to see if trains were coming before he crossed the tracks. Other mules who were not as patient as Paul were not so lucky and were hit and killed by the train.

During the prosperous years of 1892 to 1902, Basic City had a mule-powered trolley. Starting at the front of the Belmont Hotel where the two railroads crossed each other, the mule trolley would carry passengers down Commerce Avenue to Main Street. At the intersection of Main and Wayne and turning left, they would continue down to the Brunswick Park and the Brunswick Hotel (now Grace Lutheran Church). The park at that time extended to Loth Spring at the curve on Arch Avenue, near the entrance to the Greenway. It would circle around and then head back up South Wayne. At the intersection of Wayne and Main a spur went up North Wayne Avenue to the C & O station on Ohio. And the cost was a nickel. Ideas to convert the mule-powered trolley to an electric trolley never materialized. The trolley ran on rails and after the trolley was no longer running, many of the rails were sold to the Crimora Ore Mine. The rest of the rails were paved over after vehicular traffic became the preferred method of transportation.

The Amish community still uses mules for plowing their fields, but will use a horse to draw their buggy.

 

 

Lincoln’s Army visits Waynesborough Area

During the long, hot afternoon of June 10, 1864, a column of Union cavalry under Brigadier General A. N. Duffie pushed southward along Back Creek searching for the gap through the ridge to the headwaters of the Tye River. (Today his path is State Route 814 through Love in Sherando area.)

The column unexpectedly came upon the Torry Furnace complex. Duffie ordered the furnace burned and all machinery broken up. Food and forage supplies were also destroyed before the Union cavalrymen continued up the valley to bivouac for the night. On June 11 both Imboden and Duffie sent dispatches to their superiors describing their activities.

Imboden wrote to Major General Breckinridge from Mount Torry Furnace at 8 a.m.

“The enemy’s cavalry (one brigade, 2,000 strong, and a battery) burnt this furnace last night, and camped in the gorge above. Attack, except upon his rear guard, was impossible. He is now moving over an almost impracticable road from this furnace to the head of Back Creek, and then to the head of Tye.

“He is making for the railroad between Lynchburg and Charlottesville. I am cutting out the blockade at Howardsville Gap and will be across the mountain by 3 p.m. I have sent messages to the people on Rockfish and Tye Rivers to blockade all roads in front of the enemy tonight, and inform me on what road he moves. If McCausland fell back to Tye River Gap last night, he too will get in front of this detachment…The enemy will be much jaded by climbing over the mountain.

“We had a skirmish with his rear, and captured several Yankees and Negroes this morning. Col. O’Ferrall is still harassing him.”

High Society in Waynesboro

At the time that it was built, 1890, the Brandon Hotel was in Basic City, not yet a part of Waynesboro.  It opened on Thanksgiving Day to a grand feast and a brass band from Charlottesville.  Two hundred people were invited and four hundred showed up.  It was the showcase in the valley with up-to-date amenities like hot and cold running water, a radiator in every room, electricity and gas lighting.

So elegantly appointed, pleasing of staff and catering to the wealthy that Criswell Dabney Langhorne scheduled the hotel for the wedding of his daughter, Phyllis, to Reginald Brooks of New York.

The Langhornes lived at Mirador, a lavish mansion near Greenwood in Albemarle County.  After Mr. Langhorne lost his fortune during the Civil War, he found new wealth in tobacco and the railroads.  Grand places such as the Homestead and Greenbriar were snubbed for this huge event.  In 1901 it was the biggest affair ever held in the valley.

The day after the wedding, which was held on November 14, 1901, the New York Times ran an article in the newspaper:  Special train cars were hired and transported guests from Boston, New York and Richmond.  There were six bridal attendants and 17 groomsmen, all Harvard classmates of Mr. Brooks.  Among the hundreds of guests were Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mr. and Mrs. Stanford White, Mr. and Mrs. George Peabody, Gen. and Mrs. Fitz Hugh Lee and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Harriman.  Gifts for the bride and groom were sent by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Macray, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt and Payne Whitney.  Mr. Langhorne reserved the entire hotel for the three days of the wedding and party.

Phyllis Langhonre

Phyllis Langhorne of Albemarle County.

Mr. Langhorne, after recovering his wealth, was generous to his daughters. In their teens, they were sent to New York City for finishing school and introduction to society as “Belles.”  Beautiful and talented, they attracted the attention of many suitors.  One of Phyllis’ sisters, Irene, married illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, and she was his model for his “Gibson Girl” which took the country by storm.  Another sister, Nancy, became Lady Astor and the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament.  Phyllis was an avid and accomplished equestrian, winning many ribbons, medals and the hearts of her countrymen.

Reginald Brooks was the son of Henry Mortimer Brooks of New York and Newport, Rhode Island, a multi-millionaire in the textile industry.  His mother, Josephine, was an heiress from the Higgins Carpet Company.  It must have been an interesting time for both the citizens of Basic City to see such wealth and the millionaires to come to the “country.”

Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and ended in divorce. In 1917, Phyllis married British Economic Scholar Bob Brand, known as “The Wisest Man of the Empire” for his vast knowledge.

The Panic of 1893 changed many things and the opulence of the millionaires.  By 1909 the Brandon Hotel was no longer the place for “conspicuous consumption.”  In 1913 the building became a school called the Brandon Institute.   That was sold in 1956 to become a junior college called Fairfax Hall.  Female students from near and far availed themselves of scholarship, horsemanship and aquatics.  The alumnae were from nearly every state and from 31 foreign countries.  It closed in 1975 and then was leased to the Virginia Department of Corrections.  It closed in 1993.

The building holds many memories and secrets and stands as proudly on the grounds as it did on its opening day in 1890. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fairfax Hall was completely restored in 2001 and today houses 54 apartments of affordable housing. The former ballroom is used for receptions, parties and other events.

Valentine’s Day: The Long Lost Letters of Two Lovers

This week, just in time for Valentine’s Day, two love letters were discovered inside the old News Virginian building on Main Street hill. There are no dates or exact names mentioned in the love letters. Before the building was used as the offices for the News Virginian, it was a Presbyterian Church from 1878 to 1912. Later it became a Catholic church, a theater, and for a while a gymnasium for Fishburne Military School. The letters, between a boy and a girl, were found in a cubbyhole beneath what would have been one of the sanctuary windows. It is hard to say during what period the letters were put there. The letters were written with fountain pens and contextual clues such as a cellophane wrapper could put the age of the letters back as far as the early 1900’s. For Valentine’s Day we provided the letters below.

Letter One

My Darling,

If you only knew how much more I love you because you came to see me Wednesday, you wouldn’t regret the hours you spent doubting me. I suppose I love you so for it because it proves that you love me a little. Don’t ever doubt me again. As I have told you so many times, there is no need to. I love you every minute I live – not just some times. You have been constantly on my mind, in my every thought, since I last saw you. I wonder what you are doing this very minute while I am here wishing my heart out for you.

I shall never forget you for making me so happy that day. Oh darling, you have brought so much happiness into my life. I felt just as if I were in Paradise down there by the church. Wednesday night I thought how miserable I would have been if you had not come. I miss you so much. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see if you come to see me. I hope you won’t disappoint me.

In all the years I have known you and all the times we have been together, the day you brought me that little poem and brought my book back, and we spent those two golden hours together before you went on your trip and then last Wednesday. I think you were the sweetest I’ve ever seen you. That Friday you acted as if you really loved me, and I thought that I could not live without you. It is good for you to do things that I don’t like sometimes. If you didn’t I would just grieve myself to death because I can’t have you. So don’t be too good to me.

There is one thing that I want you to remember always. Whatever I do and for what ever reason, you can be sure that there is no one else who means anything at all to me. There never has been and there never will be because I am not looking for anyone else. Even if you stop seeing me, there will be no one else. This you can be sure of. You alone are my love.

Letter Two

Darling,

You were so sweet to send me the roses. I shall take a petal from each and put it in that little cellophane envelope and keep it in my book with the violets that we picked on our first picnic. I felt honored that you thought of me. It had been so long since I had heard from you that I thought you had completely forgotten me.

I wonder who is taking my place now darling, if you only knew how many cigarettes I have smoked alone and thought of you. How could I forget two years of my life? I always wonder where you are and whom you are with. Always hoping her love isn’t satisfying. You have such a busy life. I never imagined you alone. That’s why I think its so sweet of you to even think of me.

There is an emptiness in my life without you. An emptiness that no one else could ever fill. Even if I had 40 boy friends, as you use to say, all of them together could not take your place. I feel so close to you. I’ve had so much fun with you and enjoy being with you so much. There is one thing I know for sure. You are a part of me.. all these hours we’ve spent together make you a part of me. Nothing can ever change that.

I haven’t been away from you this long since I’ve known you.

Darling, I appreciate the flower, the cigarette, and even more, those few words.

I remain yours ever faithful with love, heart, body and soul.

 

 

A Boy, a Virus, and the Education of a Community

By Shawn Decker

In the 1980s a deadly untreatable illness called HIV was making the headlines across the nation.  Much was not known about the disease at the time.  It carried with it the stigma and fear that comes naturally when people and their community are faced with an unknown disease.  The experience of Shawn Decker helped the Waynesboro community come to understand one of the biggest health issues gripping the country in the 1980s.

 

Despite being born with the bleeding disorder, hemophilia, I enjoyed a pretty typical childhood growing up in Waynesboro. I lived in a quaint neighborhood, just a few skips down the sidewalk from my best friends. Summers were spent swimming at my grandparents’ pool and many hours were dedicated to the latest Atari games when I wasn’t outside pretending to be Rambo in a game of war.

Yes, I am a child of the 1980s.

And one of the most impactful events of that decade was the emergence of HIV/AIDS.  It was during a time when there were gaping lapses in blood safety standards.  Due to my reliance on blood products for treating my hemophilia I was at risk for HIV infection.  There were signs that my immune system was compromised in the 4th grade when half of my body broke out in shingles. I did not receive a standard HIV test until two years later in 1987. It was the spring of my 6th grade school year and, aside from a bout with strep throat, it was one of my best years until I failed that “pop quiz.”

After I tested positive for HIV my mom informed my teacher of the results. My teacher had concerns about the risk of transmission to my classmates, and when she spoke with her doctor it started a chain reaction of fearful reactions that led to me being kicked out of school. I wasn’t allowed back in class for the last four weeks of the school year.

That summer my parents, doctors, favorite nurse and even my Kindergarten teacher all worked tirelessly to educate concerned community members connected to the school board. I remember being asked by my mother if I wanted to go public and educate people about HIV. I’d just turned 12, and all I wanted was to be a normal kid. So I declined. Things were moving along at a very slow rate with the school system, and it wasn’t until a lawyer from Richmond agreed to take up our plight that the doors of compassion began to open up.

Just in time for the start of junior high school, I was allowed to once again attend public school in Waynesboro.

The hardest part about being diagnosed with HIV at a time when there weren’t any treatments available wasn’t the concerns about how much longer I had to live. It was the social ramifications of the medical condition. Some of my closest friends, whom I’d known for most of my life, weren’t allowed to come over to my house to play anymore. When I landed a girlfriend in the 8th grade, someone told her the “rumor” that I had AIDS. I did my best to keep my HIV status quiet, and never talked about it with friends. My plan on how to deal with HIV was that I’d deal with it when the end came- I didn’t want to dwell on it a moment before, and did my best to not let the fears that others had bleed into my psyche.

POZ MagazineIn 1996 at age 20 I decided to open up and posted one of the first HIV/AIDS websites on the internet. I started writing for an HIV/AIDS magazine called Poz. My new-found openness eventually led me to my incredible partner, Gwenn, and together we educate about how we maintain a healthy relationship. In 2007, twenty years after I was kicked out of school, I was invited to be the commencement speaker for the graduating class at Waynesboro High School. After I spoke, a former official from my junior high school approached me with tears in his eyes- he said that he just didn’t know about HIV back then and was very sorry for how things were handled. I actually consoled him, and was happy to do so.

In hindsight, those experiences as a child testing positive for HIV and all the drama that came with it made me a more compassionate person. And a better educator. I don’t hold any anger about what happened after I tested positive for HIV- there was a lot of fear and misunderstanding about HIV in 1980s. I know that my misfortune in getting HIV educated a lot of people long before I decided to speak out about HIV.

(Shawn Decker currently lives in Charlottesville, VA, with his wife, Gwenn. In 2006, his humorous memoir My Pet Virus was published by The Penguin Group.  Shawn and his wife Gwenn have been featured in  Cosmopolitan, Entertainment Weekly, Grazia and Now magazines (UK), The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today as well as on CNN.com, VH1, MTV, BBC and HBO films.  He is currently working on a screenplay based on his experiences with HIV as a child. And, yes, he still plays a ton of video games.)

For more information about Shawn, you can find him at www.shawnandgwenn.com and on Youtube at www.youtube.com/shawnandgwenn.  His book, “My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without a Cure” can be purchased on Amazon.com at www.amazon.com/My-Pet-Virus-Story-Without/dp/1585425257/

 

 

 

The Strangest Hero of All

George Pforr

George Pforr, also known as Charles W. Anderson received the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Battle of Waynesboro in 1865.

Among the ranks of common soldiers are those who, perhaps for only a fleeting moment, display uncommon valor above and beyond the call of duty and are singled out for the nation’s highest aware for combat heroism, the Medal of Honor.

Deep in the archives of the U.S. Army lies a yellowed scrap of paper bearing the citation for a coveted Medal of Honor. I treads “To Charles W. Anderson, Private, Company K, lst New York (Lincoln) Cavalry, for capturing a Confederate flag at Waynesboro, Virginia, March 2, 1865”

Among Civil War Medal of Honor citations this one is unremarkable. Hundreds of Union soldiers earned the decoration for capturing enemy battle flags. But the tale of Private Anderson makes his Medal unique.

The story begins in late February, 1864 while the 1st New York “Lincoln” Cavalry is in bivouac near Winchester, Virginia. Little interest is stirred when a stranger rides into camp; citizens always come and go among the various campsites dotting the landscape.

The slightly-built man reins his horse up in front of the regimental headquarters tent. To the soldiers idling in front of the tent he says he wants to enlist. Again this announcement generates no unusual interest. Although the unit has its roots in New York City its members are from throughout the Union, one company from Pennsylvania, another from Michigan. Since the regiment has been on the move during the war recruits have joined up all along the way. The stranger is directed inside.

The regimental sergeant major eagerly greets the recruit. Because battle casualties and illness have weakened the regiment most companies are well below strength. Here is a healthy-appearing young man who even has his own mount.

To the sergeant major’s questions the recruit answers briefly. He is Charles W. Anderson, born in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 15, 1841 (though his tombstone gives 1844). He is 5’7″, with grey eyes and black hair He says he is local farmer who has stayed out of the war until Rebels foraged through his land, stealing crops and livestock. Now he wants his revenge.

The sergeant major eyeballs the recruit. It is obvious the man’s hair is dyed and he doesn’t sound like he is from Louisiana. The officer has his suspicions but the man looks fit. He extends his hand an says, “Welcome to the lst New York.” Anderson is assigned to Captain Edwin F. Savacool’s Company K; Savacool himself, a Michigan native, will earn a Medal of Honor at Sailors Creek.

To the other members of the company Anderson is somewhat of an enigma. He is friendly, for sure, and does his share of work, more than some in fact, but he never talks much. To polite questions he answers briefly, making it apparent he doesn’t want to reveal much of his past.

Sergeant Charles Warren feels Anderson is trying to conceal his true identity, but doesn’t push the matter – there are others in the company who want to “lose” themselves. He considers Anderson a good soldier who bothers no one. Warren decides Anderson’s past doesn’t matter.

For the next year Anderson and the rest of the 1st New York Cavalry spar with Confederates in skirmishes up and down the Shenandoah Valley Anderson proves himself a competent, able soldier Not foolhardy, he nonetheless pushes boldly forward while other hold back. He quickly develops a well-deserved reputation for coolness under fire.

On February 27, 1865, General Philip Sheridan begins his march from Winchester to Petersburg, Virginia, intending to destroy the Central Railroad and James River Canal in the process. Opposing him are troops under General Jubal A. Early. To stymie Sheridan, Early places his forces in the hills just west of Waynesboro, Virginia, 13 miles east of Staunton.

I has be raining hard to two days when, On March 2, at Fishersville, about midway between Staunton and Waynesboro, the advance scouts of General George Custer’s command clash with Rebel vedettes and drive them back to Waynesboro. Ordered to form up for an attack, Custer opts to commence battle immediately rather than wait for a reconnaissance of the enemy’s positions He sends three cavalry regiments, including the lst New York to the enemy’s left flank. With two brigades he charges directly at the enemy’s lines, driving right through them and into Waynesboro itself.

Completely disorganized by the boldness of the attack the Confederates break and run. In the melee that follows 1800 officers and men, a train of 200 wagons, 14 pieces of artillery, and 17 Confederate battle flags are captured.

Among those capturing an enemy standard are Private Charles Anderson. Riding hard through the rain-soaked timber Anderson spurs his horse onward. He bears down on a Rebel color guard, gives a yell, and fires his revolver into the air.

Before the Confederates can react to Anderson’s daring charge he is in their midst, his excited horse rearing and pawing the air. Anderson grabs the enemy flag. He pulls it toward him. A brief tug-of-war ensues. Anderson wins. With a whoop he rides of, clutching his prize to his chest He quickly stuffs the Confederate flag into his shirt and rejoins his comrades in rounding up enemy stragglers.

A week later, soldiers who captured enemy flags are sent to Washington, DC. On March 19, 1865, they present their trophies to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. It is the largest group of enemy flags every captured in one battle. As a reward for their gallantry Stanton directs that each man be given 30-day furlough and a Medal of Honor. It isn’t hard to imagine which reward is more welcome to the war-weary soldiers.

By the time Anderson rejoins his unit the war is over The 1st New York Cavalry moves to the Washington, DC area for mustering out. On June 27, 1865, his Medal of Honor in his pocket and his true identity still a well-kept secret, Charles Anderson takes his honorable discharge at Alexandria, Virginia.

Anderson goes to Baltimore, Maryland, working at odd jobs. After six months as a civilian he realizes the military life held many pleasant memories for him. That, and because the post-war employment situation is not promising, prompts Anderson to enlist in the Regular Army.

Because his Medal of Honor is in the name of Charles Anderson he continues using that alias when he enlists in Company M, 3rd U.S. Cavalry at Baltimore on January 11, 1866.

Anderson spends 12 years in the 3rd Cavalry, eight in Company M and four in Company A. During those years he sees considerable action against hostile Indians in the Southwwest and the Northern Plains.

Few posts require as much stamina as those in the American West. Isolation, poor rations, disease, and loneliness plague the troops. After 12 hard years Anderson has had enough of army life. He writes his sister, Mary in Staunton, Virginia, asking her to begin the correspondence necessary for him to receive a hardship discharge. It comes April 4, 1878.

Anderson returns to Staunton. For the first time in over 13 years he assumes his real name – George Pforr. When he marries Sally Smith Garber on September 18, 1878, it is under the name Pforr. Their 11 children bear the name Pforr. All the townspeople in and around Staunton know the quiet farmer by his true name, George Pforr.

It isn’t until 1905, when Pforr is in his 60’s and applying for a Federal pension for his Civil War service, that the true story of his false identity is finally revealed.

George Pforr

George Pforr’s tombstone in Staunton, Virginia.

According to documents he files with the government in support of his application, Pforr was actually born in Baltimore, Maryland, not New Orleans. When the Civil War began, Pforr like many Marylanders, initially had Southern sympathies. As a result he had enlisted in Captain Jonathan H. McClanahan’s battery, a part of General John Imboden’s Confederate cavalry brigade.

Pforr later decided he no longer supported the Confederate cause He made up his mind to join the Union forces. One night in February, 1864 he did just that. He slipped out of camp and made his way through Union lines and eventually to the 1st New York Cavalry’s camp. His sergeant in McClanahan’s battery, James W. Blackburn, reported Pforr as a deserter and promptly forgot about him – until asked to confirm the incident in 1905.

Based on statements from his comrades in both the Union and Confederate armies Pforr is granted his pension in 1906. Though he had at last admitted to his alias the army did not change his name on the Medal of Honor roll. To this day he is shown as Charles W. Anderson.

Pforr dies quietly at his farm in Annex, Virginia on February 25, 1916. He is buried at Thorn Rose Cemetery in Staunton.

Long forgotten in the passage of time, George Pforr is the only enemy deserter to earn America’s highest honor.

Written by Edward F. Murphy- Past president of the Medal of Honor Historical Society.

Originally Published in Blue & Gray Magazine– Columbus, Ohio.  Re-Published with permission.

Why Was General Wayne Called “Mad Anthony?”

Was he insane “mad?” Was he angry “mad?” Was he reckless “mad?”

The Revolutionary War hero had a fiery temperament and was a strict disciplinarian who demanded obedience and loyalty from his men. But he was also loyal to his troops and was constantly trying to improve their circumstances; so much so that many of his soldiers repeatedly returned to fight under his command.

A member of his forces was known by the nickname of “Jemmy the Rover” for his tendency to wander. General Wayne occasionally used him as a spy.  To the enemy he seemed innocent enough in his wonder-lust. However, he was also a chronic deserter and was disciplined by stints in the blockhouse.

In 1781, Jemmy was again roaming the countryside and was jailed by the local constables for disorderly conduct. Jemmy insisted to the jailers that he was a good friend of General Wayne and demanded to be released. When they refused, he asked that a message be sent to General Wayne so that he could be set free. Upon receipt of the message, Wayne’s temper flared and said that he would not intervene on Jemmy’s behalf and if it happened again, he would order “29 lashes well laid out.”

Jemmy was devastated by Wayne’s reply. He stated, “Anthony is mad. He must be mad or he would help me. Mad Anthony, that’s what he is. Mad Anthony Wayne.”

 

When the News Arrived from Dallas

It was a Friday when the news started to trickle in through television and radio. At first it seemed like some sort of sick joke and then it was followed by horror. When that evening’s News Virginian found its way to door steps all around Waynesboro the large bold letters on the front page were unmistakable… “Kennedy Dead.”

The way Waynesboro felt was the way the nation felt about the tragic news: disbelief, shock, and utter sadness. At a local beauty shop the normal chatter of women gossiping and laughing was replaced by the monotone sound of a radioman reporting the unfolding news. One lady at the beauty shop was quoted as saying, “You read about this happening in other countries and even halfway expect it, but this country! Why this puts us in a class with Viet Nam.”

Waynesboro Mayor W. Clark Jordan called on residents to pray for Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as he assumed the responsibilities of the presidency. The flags in front of the city building were lowered to half staff. Waynesboro’s state delegate Felix E. Edmunds said, “I am greatly distressed as I am sure all Waynesboroians and people across the nation are by the news and great loss.” He too asked for prayers, especially for the Kennedy family. Delegate Edmunds also added, “I feel the nation has lost perhaps its greatest leader in modern times.”

At Fisburne Military School the cadets performed a special formation as a moment of respect for President Kennedy and scheduled a chapel service for the coming Monday. St. John’s Catholic Church held a special mass to a packed audience. And most local businesses closed their doors as a sign of respect.

For those old enough at the time to remember, November 22nd, 1963 will be a day they will always remember. They will always remember the moment they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. It was indeed, one of the saddest days in Waynesboro’s history.

 

 

The Grapevines vs. the Brick Kiln

In reality, it was Hippert vs. Plumb. According to the Chancery Court records of 1884, George Washington Hippert of Waynesboro, sought to prevent John Plumb, also of Waynesboro, from firing up his brick kiln in the coming summer. Mr. Hippert claims that in the summer of 1882, Mr. Plumb, who lived across the road from Mr. Hippert’s house and lot, fired several kilns of brick and the heat from the kiln damaged his garden, specifically his onions, peas and grapevines. It also scorched the leaves on his trees. Mrs. Hippert testified that she could not open her front door or windows for cross ventilation due to the heat. Their daughter, Minnie, said that she once opened the front door and her face was injured from the heat. Therefore, Mr. Hippert is requesting the Honorable William McLaughlin, presiding judge of the Augusta County Circuit Court, to rule in his favor and not allow Mr. Plumb to fire his kiln in the position where he had done so in 1882.

Diagram

A diagram from the actual court files of Hippert vs. Plumb.

Mr. Plumb acknowledge that he did indeed fire several kilns of brick in the summer of 1882, but said he had not heard any complaint from Mr. or Mrs. Hippert in regard to the heat of his kiln damaging any garden vegetables, fruits or trees. He was unaware that the Hipperts were unable to open the doors and windows nor that Miss Minnie was injured by the heat. He stated that the Hippert property was 80 feet from the kiln, across a 20-foot street. His own house was 35 feet from the kiln and neither it nor any plants and trees on his property had suffered any damage. His attorney provided “expert” witnesses to say that they could get within 20 feet of the kiln before feeling any heat and also that the prevailing winds in that particular part of Waynesboro would have carried the heat away from the Hippert property, not to it.

Mr. Hippert’s attorney countered with “expert” witnesses to state that they knew of other gardens that were damaged at a distance of 100 yards and of corn crops that were injured at a distance of over 100 yards from a kiln.

After hearing the testimony of the various witnesses on both sides, Judge McLaughlin handed down his opinion. He declared, “Hippert is entitled to the enjoyment of his dwelling with free circulation through it, of pure air as nature makes it; instead of having his family driven from the home by the heat and noxious vapors of a brick kiln. What has once occurred will occur again in like circumstances and the defendant has not the right to impose the risk of re-occurrence (sic) upon Hippert.” He concluded that the kiln constituted a nuisance as it is offensive to the senses and reduces the enjoyment of life and property.

It seems that the grapevines won the case. It is unknown as to what happened to Mr. Plumb’s kiln and his business as a brick maker. Is he the same John Plumb who built the beautiful brick house on the corner of Wayne Avenue and 12th Street in 1913? That John Plumb was a farmer and an apple grower who lived to be 82 years old.

The Hipperts purchased their house in June 1881 and sold it in May 1891. The house, on New Hope Road, was built in 1820 and still stands today. G. W. Hippert died in 1900 and his wife, Sarah, died in 1903. Both are buried in the old Presbyterian Cemetery, just up the hill from their former home.

 

Courtesy of the Waynesboro Historic Commission and the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation

 

The Newly Found Civil War Documents

Many men from Waynesboro and the surrounding areas have served their country bravely when they were called to war. Often when it comes to the historical records of who served in America’s wars the records are found to be incomplete or are lost over time for various reasons. Records from Vietnam, Korea, and World War II are relatively complete and available to the public. However, when it comes to the Civil War, which was fought 150 years ago, the passage of time has made those records much more rare and more incomplete. Time takes its toll as the years go by, and many documents have been thrown away, lost, stolen, or damaged beyond all recognition. Until recently much about the brave men from our area who served during the Civil War has remained a mystery.

More light has been thankfully shed with the recent discovery of seven pages of records for D Company, 25th Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Virginia Volunteers, in the Army of the Confederate States. The unit was largely made up of local volunteers from Waynesboro, Staunton, Churchville, Fishersville, Greensville, and Stuarts Draft amongst other nearby localities. After years of being lost and neglected, the papers were finally found at the Waynesboro Public Library and rescued. Now they have been preserved and are being kept at the Library of Virginia. Even though the documents are no longer kept in Waynesboro for viewing, the Library of Virginia has made exceptionally high quality digital copies of the documents and has given a set to the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation for research.

The documents of Company D are of a roll listing the names, towns of residence, places of enlistment, details of wounds or death, and other notes about the individuals serving. For locals doing genealogy about relatives who may have served during the Civil War the documents are invaluable and may answer many questions. William Burns is buried at the Presbyterian Cemetery just a few blocks from the Plumb House Civil War Museum.  Before these documents were found the only information known about William Burns was the information given on his gravestone.  Now we know more details about his service and when and where he died.  According to the newly found papers William Burns was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in May of 1962.  We now know he was killed on May 6th, 1864 at the Second Battle of the Wilderness.

William Burns is just one man out of many listed in the documents from this area.  The other names on the list have to be researched.  We are very thankful that these Civil War documents have been found and preserved for future generations. They further help define local history and gives a better sense of what our local communities had to endure so many years ago. But more importantly it helps us honor those who served bravely and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Below, we present to you for viewing and download, high resolution images of the Company D documents.

 

 

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

Page 3

Page 3

Page 4

Page 4

Page 5

Page 5

Page 6

Page 6

Page 7

Page 7

Did George Washington Sleep in Waynesboro?

You’ve heard the stories and seen the signs: “George Washington Slept Here.” Did Washington sleep here?

An account by W. W. Barnwell in his Historical Highlights of Waynesboro and Vicinity, states that: “It has also come down from some obscure source that George Washington stopped at the tavern for dinner, overnight and breakfast. Washington’s journal is said to have noted, ‘Stopped with Major Tees at Teesville.  The food was the sorriest I have ever encountered although the bed was good.'” Charles Tees (Teas is an alternate spelling) was an aide-de-camp for Washington.

Teesville was the name of the area we now call Waynesboro.  Joseph Tees, an original landowner in this area died and left property to his sons Charles and William. William and his wife Mary built a cabin near South River. When William died in 1777, Mary, his widow, in order to support herself and their daughter, Jane, took travelers into their home. She obtained a license to run “an Ordinary” in 1780.

In 1782, Marquis de Chastellux, a French Major-General and friend of George Washington, along with three of his fellow officers left Monticello, passed through Rockfish Gap and arrived at South River in the early evening of April 17. As no bridge existed at the time, they would have followed the path to the ford, a shallow part, to cross the river to the tavern. Mrs. Tees’ establishment was several hundred yards from the river and this ford is where the present day Main Street Bridge was built.

Teesville Tavern

Courtney Skinner painted this scene about what Mrs. Tees’ house might have looked like.

Thomas Jefferson, who obviously had never stayed at Widow Tees Tavern, recommended the accommodations.  All was not pleasant for the Marquis and the officers, for he stated: “It was one of the worst in all America.  Mrs. Tees, a widow, appears also to be in fact a widow of furniture.  A solitary tin vessel was the only bowl for the family, the servants and ourselves. I dare not say for what other use it was proposed to us on our going to bed.  As we were four masters… the hostess and the family were obliged to resign to us their beds.  We replaced the bed sheets with others we had brought.  It may be imagined that we were not tempted to breakfast in this house.”

Widow Tees continued to operate her inn until 1790 when she sold her home and property to her daughter and son-in-law, Jane and Samuel Estill.  They sectioned off part of the property into 83 lots, with streets and alleys, and named the town after their hero, General Anthony Wayne.

Did George Washington sleep in Waynesboro? Maybe.

 

Courtesy of the Waynesboro Historic Commission and the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation

 

© Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980
Phone: (540) 943-3943 | Email: info@waynesboroheritagefoundation.com | Virginia.org | Site design by Augusta Free Press LLC