Life and Times of Edward Boling and Mary Wharton


Recently, I updated a surname report to cover all 12, 495 persons in my ancestral tree, which has grown from 10,772 since I produced my first post on surnames in 2014. Based upon my analysis of surnames, it turns out that my father’s family was much larger than my mother’s.  And, the gender ratio among all surnames is 1.05 males for every female–very similar to the gender ratios that I found in the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

Top 50 Ancestral Surnames

My word cloud to the right represents today’s top 50 family surnames in my tree. The larger the word appears, the more people within my tree who had/have that surname.

And, the larger appearing names affirm why many of my blog posts to date have focused on my paternal Bolling, Chambers, and maternal Lathrop families.

Introducing Mary Wharton

In this post we will take a first look at the Wharton family branch that begins with my paternal great grandmother Mary Florence “Flossie” Wharton Bowling (1878-1928). Mary Wharton was born and lived her life in the now infamous area known as “The Wilderness,” in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, Virginia.  Mary died at the age of 50 on January 1, 1929.  My father, her grandson, Frank Burton Boling was born just one month earlier on December 7, 1928.  The loss of the family’s mother possibly explains why we know only what I have been able to piece together through my personal research.  You see, typically the women in the family hand down the family stories through the generations.  In this instance, neither my dad’s paternal grandmother or his natural mother were a part of his life.

The facts I  assembled show that Mary Wharton was 20 years old when she married Edward “Bud” Vincent Bowling (May 9, 1898), in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.   It could be that Edward and Mary married in Eley’s Ford Baptist Church on Eley’s Ford Road in Fredericksburg, near the Chancellorsville Battlefield, where they and their families had lived and attended church there for generations.

Eley's Ford Baptist ChurchWe first visited Eley’s Ford Baptist Church in the Fall of 1981. Many of the graves in this churchyard have Bowling,  Bolling, or Boling surnames on their headstones  (including my great grandparents). Many other headstones, as we later learned have different surnames but are relatives through neighbors marrying neighbors.  What’s interesting about Mary Florence’s (or “Flossie,” as her husband called her) is that her surname is spelled “Boling,” instead of “Bowling” as her surname was spelled on most records about her.  This tells me that one of her seven living children at the time who spelled their surnames as “Boling,” filled out the request for the headstone.  Further, the year of her death was inscribed as “1928,” instead of “1929” as appears on her death certificate–this could have been the stone writer’s error because she died on the first day of the new year.

Mary and her husband Edward had eight children (5 boys and 3 girls) during their 30 years of marriage.  Their eldest child was Evelyn Barber Bowling (1899-1919).  She married Varian Mansfield Chewning when she was just 16.  Two years later in Chancellorsville, Evelyn gave birth to their son, Leslie Varian Chewning, who remained in Fredericksburg throughout his 83 years on this earth.  Evelyn was just 20, when she took sick with the flu.  It developed into pneumonia and she passed in the cold of winter on January 26, 1919.

003My paternal grandfather, Jesse Burton Boling, was Mary and Edward’s second child and firstborn son.  At age 26, sometime in the year 1928, Jesse moved away from Virginia and married Helen Louise Chambers.   They moved to the District of Columbia and a few years later crossed the District Line and moved into Maryland.   Jesse’s mom, Mary, was 50 years old when she passed away on January 1, 1929 in Chancellorsville.  Just as her daughter had done in January ten years earlier, Mary developed a flu that turned into pneumonia and she succumbed to it.

Jesse was a farm hand as a boy, and thus had only a second grade education.  He probably learned carpentry and cabinet making from his father, Edward.  Yet, we don’t know anything about their relationship or Edward’s relationship with his other children. Death records show that widower great grandfather Edward died of heart disease and congestive heart failure at age 74 on July 11, 1946–18-1/2 years after his wife Mary had passed.  His death fell just one day shy of a week after my parents Frank Boling and Norma Ford eloped to Ellicott City, Maryland, to marry.  Edward Vincent Bud BolingEdward’s headstone is next to Mary’s and one of 131 other interments in Eley’s Ford Baptist Churchyard Cemetery.  Most of them probably relatives.

I asked my dad today if he had ever heard or known any stories or facts about his grandparents. He said his dad, Jesse, never talked about either Edward or Mary.  I asked if he had ever visited them in Fredericksburg where his dad grew up. He said he remembers only one visit.  Dad and grandfather Jesse took a train from Union Station in the District of Columbia to Fredericksburg to visit his father Edward.  At the time, my dad said this visit must have taken place when he was a young teen because it occurred before my dad met my mother at age 15, which would have made it somewhere around 1942 or 1943, I’m guessing.  The only memory that sticks out in dad’s mind about this visit is that his grandfather was chewing tobacco.  He made only a couple of other visits there during the 1950’s and 1960’s to attend family funerals (probably his uncles). And, this is when I first learned what little I know about Fredericksburg and Eley’s Ford Road.

With so very little to go on regarding Mary Wharton’s Family, I  have started digging deeper.  From The Doomsday Book of 1086, The Wharton family’s earliest origins were found in towns and civil parishes named after them (located in Westmorland, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire, Counties, England). And this is where I will pick up in my next post.

Just maybe, over time and among my blog readers, a Wharton relative may pop up and give me some more detailed stories about Bud and Mary’s children and their lives together.




The Thornton Family’s Fredericksburg Mansion – Part I

My Thornton Family History

The Thornton Family is one of Virginia’s distinguished Colonial families. A large branch in my family tree includes Thornton ancestors and spans 24 generations. My Thornton family members date back to 1314 in Bolling Hall, Bradford, Yorkshire, England when Robert DeBolling (my 16th paternal great grandfather–Generation 2) married Elizabeth DeThornton in 1337, before the two surnames were shortened to Bolling and Thornton.

Fall Hill–Home of the Thornton’s

Fall Hill and the Thorntons

Fall Hill is an early 1700s plantation located on an 8,000 acre land established and patented by Francis Thornton I (1657-1727) around 1720.  It is located near the falls on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia.   Various members of the Thornton family lived at Fall Hill until 2003 (about 300 years). The present house was built in 1790 by Francis Thornton V (1760–1836)when he married Sally Innes and is located within the present-day town of Fredericksburg.  The architectural design supports the 1790 construction.

Fall Hill MansionThe Thornton family ran a grist mill on the Rappahannock River. Stories handed down over generations say that Francis Thornton III (1711–1749) built the house on Fall Hill to escape the heat of the original house that sat in the lower elevations near the river.

Francis Thornton III married Frances Gregory, daughter of Mildred Washington Gregory, aunt and godmother of George Washington. He served as a burgess, a trustee of Fredericksburg, and Colonel of the Spotsylvania Militia. In 1749, Fall Hill was inherited by Colonel Thornton’s son, Francis Thornton IV (1737–1794). However, he and his wife, Ann Thompson, maintained their primary residence at The Falls.


Francis Thornton V 1767-1836

Francis Thornton V was a Justice of the Peace in Spotsylvania County. Francis V was the last of the direct line of the Thorntons of Fall Hill plantation.  His son, James Innes Thornton, was born at Fall Hill. He moved to Alabama, became its third secretary of state, and established his own plantation, Thornhill. Francis Thornton V died in 1836 without a will. For nine years, until the estate was settled in 1845, Fall Hill was maintained by family slaves. Ultimately, the estate was deeded to Dr. John Roberts Taylor (1803-1884) in 1845. Dr. Taylor was the father-in-law of my 13th cousin, Butler Brayne Thornton.   It was Dr. Taylor who renovated the home in the 1840s.

Its proximity to the Rappahannock River made Fall Hill a strategic point during the Fredericksburg Campaign of the Civil War. Fortifications were built along the river at the house to protect the crossing. The breastworks were built by General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers.  According to long-time resident, Butler Franklin, at one point Lee ordered the mansion destroyed by cannon fire so he could better see the approach of the Union Army across the river. The house survived because the Union Army advance changed its direction.

In 1870 Dr. Taylor’s son, Murray Forbes Taylor, married Butler Brayne Thornton (my 13th cousin), a descendant of Francis Thornton V, which again brought Fall Hill into the Thornton family. Taylor and his wife lived with Doctor Taylor at Fall Hill from 1875 to 1877. In 1877, Murray Thornton and his wife Butler Brayne moved to California where Taylor managed the estate of Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst) at San Simeon, California. To show her gratitude to Murray Taylor when he retired from his job at San Simeon in 1908, Mrs. Hearst purchased Fall Hill for $25,000 as a gift for him. It was Mrs. Hearst’s wish that Butler Brayne Thornton Robinson Franklin inherit the estate.

Except for that period from 1845–1870, Fall Hill has been in possession of the Thornton family. Butler Franklin, who died in 2003 at the age of 104, was the last of the Thorntons to own the property.  Fall Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 1973.


150th Anniversary–Battle of the Wilderness

My second great grandfather, Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling married Sarah Tapp, daughter of the now famous Catharine Dempsey “Widow Tapp,” (making her my 3rd great grandmother) because she had the misfortune of living on the land that became known as the “Wilderness Battlefield,” in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.

On Friday May 2, through Sunday, May 4, Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield (FoWB) in collaboration with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FRSP) and in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness will offer Programs and Events as included at the end of this post. Please come join them in this commemorative event.

The Wilderness is the name given to a dense forest, with thick undergrowth, located about ten miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia. It runs roughly 15 miles along the south bank of the Rapidan River and stretches approximately 10 miles to the south. During the Civil War, this dense forest was the location of two major battles that occurred almost exactly a year apart. 


In the first battle, “Chancellorsville” (April 30 thru May 6, 1863), Confederate General Robert E. Lee faced Union General “Fighting” Joe Hooker. It was during the Chancellorsville battle that, after his Corps had flanked the Union army and almost destroyed it, Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men.

Widow Tapp’s field

Catharine DempseyMuch of the Battle of the Wilderness was fought on the lands that Catharine Dempsey Tapp rented from Major James Horace Lacy, who lived at Ellwood, two miles to the northeast. Her husband, Vincent Tapp died before 1860, leaving her to raise the family. Catharine was the daughter of Daniel and Betsey Dempsey of Orange County, Virginia.  Few families of modest means became so famous. “Widow Tapp, as she was known” (my third great grandmother), with other family members eked out an existence from the poor soil. The Tapps occupied a lopsided log cabin where seven people lived in a space perhaps 30 by 20 feet. A corncrib, log stable, and a few fruit trees surrounded the house. Four milk cows and seven pigs wandered the property.

Catharine Tapp’s net worth barely exceeded 100 dollars. She owned no land; she owned no slaves. A kitchen garden and small patches of corn, potatoes, and wheat likely provided much of the family’s food. The war that so devastated others in Spotsylvania County could do little to diminish the Tapps; they had little to lose.

“Eliza “Phenie” Tapp (my 2nd great aunt) was just four at the time of the battle, but in the 1930’s she described her childhood memories to National Park Service historian Ralph Happel. She remembered that as her family fled their home bullets struck the dirt around them, kicking up dust like the first raindrops of a coming storm.”

Phenie Tapp Interview

Photo of Phenie Tapp being interviewed by National Park Service historian. This is from a marker at the site of Widow Tapp’s farm in Spotsylvania County. (Site of the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1863.)


Phenie Ta[[

Phenie Tapp is the granddaughter of Catharine Dempsey Tapp better known as “Widow Tapp” from the farm where much of the Battle of The Wilderness was fought.

The 1864 Overland Campaign Begins with

the Battle of the Wilderness

Friends of Wilderness Battlefield (FoWB) in collaboration with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FRSP) and commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness will offer Programs and Events beginning on Friday, May 2 through Sunday, May 4.In early spring of 1864 while headquartered in Culpeper, Virginia, General U.S. Grant, USA devised a historic plan to end the American Civil War; it became known as the Overland Campaign. Though it would take the better part of a year and the massing of casualties in the hundreds of thousands to reach its goal, it would begin with the horrific two-day battle at the Wilderness on May 5 and 6 of 1864.

Battle of the WildernessWith casualties reaching nearly 30, 000 during the two days of fighting, it is our duty and responsibility to keep their stories alive. “It is not so much a need to relive the past as it is an obligation to honor our ancestors be they military or civilian, black or white, Confederate or Union. At the very least, we owe them that,” said Zann Nelson, President of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield. Beginning on Saturday, April 26 and running through August 17, Ellwood Manor will be open seven (7) days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. After August 17th, the Ellwood house hours of operation will resume the Sat., Sunday and holiday schedule through October. There is never a fee to enter Ellwood or participate in any of the events offered on the grounds, though donations are always welcomed. For more detail visit Upcoming Schedule of events: May 2-3: 2-Day Wilderness Battlefield Bus Tour: Guide: Gordon Rhea … SOLD OUTMay 3 and 4: “Living History at Ellwood Manor” ongoing 10-5 May 4: “Tours of Historic Ellwood” will be extended until 7 PM

Special Commemorative Programs at Ellwood Manor will include: 
  • Military Hospitals during Battle: With nearly 3,000 Union soldiers killed and an 12,000 more wounded, the Battle of the Wilderness was one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War and one of the busiest for their doctors. Come listen to surgeons explain how the wounded were transported off the field to the hospitals. They will also go into detail about how the sick and wounded we’re cared for once they arrived at the various hospitals set up around the region. Presented by “Doc” Duvall and John Pelletier, well-known authorities on the subject of military medicine. 
  • Union Staff Officer: Bob Broadwater, seasoned historical presenter will interact with visitors about the role and duties of the staff officer to such commanders as Generals Grant, Meade, or Warren. 
  • The Heritage Tent: Sponsored by FoWB’s Heritage Program. Visitors will hear the stories and view photos of the men and women who were residents of the Wilderness area and the soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. Descendants are encouraged to visit the tent to share their stories. Visitors are welcome to come with information to see if their ancestor may qualify for the Heritage Program. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and help visitors with their ancestry quest. 
  • Wet Plate Photographer: Sunday May 4 only: John Milleker, Jr., professional photographer and skilled “wet plate” artisan of Baltimore, MD, will show and explain the process of Civil War era photography used to chronicle the events of the four years of struggle. Mr. Milleker’s art work will be available for purchase in either the wet plate format or digital photographs of you and your family in a historic setting.
  • Sketch Artist: Local artist David Mitchell will explain the role of the Civil War era sketch artists such as Alfred Waud in reporting the stories of battle to the home front newspapers and magazines. David will be offering personal sketches of visitors for a small fee.

In addition, to these programs the National Park Service is sponsoring the following activities on the Ellwood Manor Grounds: Children’s Activity Tent (Saturday and Sunday)Military Living History Encampment (Friday, Sat. Sunday and Monday)Two hour Guided Walking Tour (1:30 PM on Sat. May 3)One hour presentation on the Impact of the War on Civilians (3:30 pm on Sat. May 3)Campfire Program: 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM on Sunday, May 4. Please see for further details. Ellwood Manor is a circa 1790 house within Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.  The cemetery has the grave of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson’s amputated arm from the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the house was a Federal headquarters during the Battle of the Wilderness.  Friends of Wilderness Battlefield stewards the property in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS).  For directions and more information visit

Friends of Wilderness Battlefield |
P.O. Box 576
Locust Grove, VA 22508

Railroaded in Colonial Virginia…


King George County, Port Royal, Virginia

We are picking up from Part 1 of this post, dated January 30, 2013, in King George County, Virginia, meandering toward our final destination the Centre Hill Mansion Museum to do the annual January 24th Ghost Walk through the house originally built by Colonel Robert Bolling (my paternal 6th great grand uncle) in 1823.

The linked videos above give you an overview of what we experienced that evening. However, when we left off on our historic trail to this event, we had about another hundred miles to travel. In King George County, we stopped at our favorite roadside diner, Horne’s,

Horne's Diner, Port Royal, VA

Horne’s Diner, Port Royal, VA

on MD Route 301/A.P. Hill Blvd, in Port Royal, Virginia for breakfast and to walk our dogs. (Horne’s is just northeast of Bowling Green where some of my paternal Bolling family are buried.)

Fort A. P. Hill (sandwiched between Port Royal and Bowling Green, Virginia) in Caroline County

After the American Revolutionary War and for decades to follow, ordnance, arms, and military stores increased at New London, Virginia, and this area became known as the New London Arsenal. By July of 1940, the Army General Staff’s War Plans Division raised a national army of four million men for simultaneous operations in the Pacific and European theaters.

Image of Lt Gen A.P. Hill

Lt Gen A.P. Hill

Named for Confederate Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill, Fort A.P. Hill, “Where America’s Military Sharpens Its Combat Edge” is an all-purpose, year-round, military training center located about 90 minutes south of the National Capital Region. The installation was used as a maneuver area for Army Corps and National Guard divisions from Mid-Atlantic states. In 1942, it was the staging area for the headquarters and corps troops of Major General George S. Patton’s Task Force A, which invaded French Morocco in North Africa. In the early years of World War II, the post continued to be a training site; in 1944, it became a field training site for Officer Candidate School and enlisted replacements from nearby Forts Lee, Eustis, and Belvoir. During the Korean War, A.P. Hill was designated “Camp A.P. Hill”–a major staging area for units deploying to Europe. During the Vietnam War, the fort was the major center for Engineer Officer Candidate School training. With 76,000 acres (310 km²) of land, including a modern 28,000 acre (110 km²), live-fire range complex featuring more than 100 direct and indirect fire ranges, it remains one of the largest East Coast military installations where military units can engage in training from small unit operations to major maneuvers with combined arms and live-fire exercises.

Doswell, Hanover County, Virginia

Known on the east coast today for its King’s Dominion Theme Park, Doswell, an unincorporated community in Hanover County in the Central Region Virginia was originally farmland and called Hanover Junction.

The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad - train starting out from Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad – train starting out from Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hanover Junction was located on the Virginia Central Railroad, and became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) at a crossing of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, a north-south route. Both railroads today are owned by CSX Transportation, and many residents use the rails to commute to their jobs in Richmond.

historic Virginia Central/RF&P rail interchange at Doswell (Hanover County)

historic Virginia Central/RF&P rail interchange at Doswell (Hanover County)

From here, we are going to focus our attention on the importance of access to transportation for Virginian ancestors’ livelihood.  So we turn to the Virginia State Rail Plan histories published in 2008¹

Virginia was a farming colony until 1776. Its primary need for transportation was to move bulky, heavy tobacco leaves from farm fields to Europe. Large plantations and small farms produced a surplus of one staple crop, a crop that was good only for export. You can’t eat tobacco, so Virginians had to ship it to the customers overseas.

In the 1600’s and 1700’s, plantations were carved out of the wooded countryside, and early plantations were concentrated along rivers. Every plantation in Tidewater developed a wharf to ship tobacco directly to England – hauling 1,000-pound hogsheads of tobacco along muddy roads from the tobacco barns just to the wharf was hard enough. Roads were developed so people could walk or ride from farms to churches and the county courthouse, but there was little investment in upgrading the roads in Tidewater so Virginians could move freight in wagons.

wood for locomotive fuelOnce settlement moved upstream past the Fall Line in the 1720’s, however, the need for better roads increased. Starting in the 1830’s, the new technology of wood-burning locomotives and iron rails stimulated further the competition of commercial centers on the Fall Line to build low-cost transportation connections to inland “backcountry” or “hinterland” areas, far away from the port cities.

The first large-scale use of the steam-powered locomotive in North America was the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, between Charleston and Hamburg, South Carolina (across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia). From the beginning, rail construction showed how one port city could use new transportation technology to intercept the trade of another port. The railroad enabled Charleston to “steal” from Savannah the trade in cotton grown in the South Carolina/Georgia Piedmont. Farmers had been carrying cotton in wagons to ships that could sail on the Savannah River, up to the falls at Augusta. With construction of the railroad, farmers found it easier to ship to Charleston by rail. The rail line provided benefits to one port city, at the expense of another.

Prior to the Civil War, Virginia’s railroads were not designed to create a logical transportation network linking all major cities in the state. Even in the cities, railroads built terminals in separate locations. In the days before “union” stations, draymen earned a good living hauling freight by horse and wagon from one railroad’s terminal to another, usually just several blocks away. It was inefficient, but each railroad was independent. The concept of a trade network based on rail transportation would require consolidation of separate railroad companies (which occurred in a series of mergers and hostile takeovers after the Civil War).

Virginia’s railroads were designed originally to transport farm products to specific ports. Different cities built different railroads to bring raw goods from the west to the specific port on the Fall Line, and to ship manufactured goods (especially imports from Northern manufacturing centers and overseas) back to rural communities. Railroads were tools for economic development of specific locations, and political decisions on what railroads to authorize affected the land use, population growth, and wealth of those locations.

One exception: the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) ran north from Richmond to Fredericksburg, and then to docks on the Potomac River near Aquia. Unlike most other Virginia railroads, the RF&P emphasized passenger as well as freight traffic, connecting Richmond passenger traffic with points north via steamboats that sailed from the Aquia Landing up the Potomac River to Washington DC. Only the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) ran north/south, and was expected to make most of its income from transporting people.

The General Assembly authorized railroad lines that would steer trade from the Piedmont/Valley and Ridge provinces to a favored Fall Line port – and blocked most proposed railroad extensions that would have directed Shenandoah Valley trade to an out-of-state port. Multiple rail lines were authorized to cross the Blue Ridge and link Alexandria/Richmond with the Shenandoah Valley, but no railroad was built in the valley itself to link farm communities with each other – or with Baltimore/Philadelphia – until the 1880’s.

The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) railroad was blocked from entering Virginia, except for a short extension to Winchester. Staunton and Winchester did not have a direct railroad connection until after the Civil War. Northern capitalists had to gain sufficient economic/political control to re-shape the pattern of railroads in Virginia, before rail lines were constructed to connect all major population centers.

Source: Library of Congress, Lloyd's official map of the state of Virginia from actual surveys by order of the Executive 1828 & 1859

Source: Library of Congress, Lloyd’s official map of the state of Virginia from actual surveys by order of the Executive 1828 & 1859

Prior to the Civil War, Alexandria built the Orange and Alexandria (O&A) railroad to connect to the farms in the upper Rappahannock River watershed in the Piedmont. Alexandria intercepted the trade in wheat and other products that might have gone down the Rappahannock River to Fredericksburg.

Alexandria then built the Manassas Gap railroad through the Blue Ridge at Manassas Gap, expanding its railroad connections into the Shenandoah Valley.

At Front Royal, rafts and boats bringing iron “pigs,” lumber, and farm products on the Shenandoah River could shift their goods to the Manassas Gap railroad, rather than float further downstream to Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal, and ultimately Georgetown.

A recession or “financial panic” in 1857 forced Alexandria merchants to truncate plans to build a more-expensive Manassas Gap line. The original design was to build an independent, second track roughly parallel to the Orange and Alexandria (O&A) from Alexandria to Manassas, before turning west to cross the Blue Ridge. Without the financing after the recession, the Manassas Gap rail line was joined to the Orange and Alexandria at an insignifiant location.  That rail junction, known as Manassas, became the focal point of the Union Army in 1861. Union generals planned to use the rail line to haul hay and other supplies for the army, as it marched “On to Richmond” in the first major military campaign of the Civil War.

Source: Library of Congress, Map showing the route of the Washington and Atlantic Railroad and its connections (1883)

Source: Library of Congress, Map showing the route of the Washington and Atlantic Railroad and its connections (1883)

To capture even more business that might go to Maryland or Pennsylvania, Alexandria also built the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire (AL&H) railroad into Loudoun County. Alexandria had no direct railroad line to Fredericksburg until after the Civil War, when the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac (RF&P) was extended north to eliminate the inefficient transfer or cargo/passengers to steamships on the Potomac River.

Richmond built a number of rail lines. Even before the wood-burning locomotive was developed, rails (with cars pulled by mules) connected the coal fields of Chesterfield County with the city.

Virginia railroads in 1848 Source: Library of Congress, Railroads in Virginia and part of North Carolina, drawn and engraved for Doggett's Railroad Guide & Gazetteer

Virginia railroads in 1848
Source: Library of Congress, Railroads in Virginia and part of North Carolina, drawn and engraved for Doggett’s Railroad Guide & Gazetteer

Richmond built the Central Virginia Railroad to draw business from farms located along the upper reaches of the North Anna and South Anna rivers and some of the Rivanna River watershed in the Piedmont. The line was originally aimed at Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, but the Blue Ridge was too high a barrier. The route was curved south from Gordonsville, to Afton Gap. A tunnel was carved through the Blue Ridge where I-64 now crosses, and the rail line stretched past Staunton before construction was interrupted by the Civil War.

Virginia Central in 1852 Source: Library of Congress, Map of the Virginia Central Rail Road showing the connection between tide water Virginia, and the Ohio River at Big Sandy, Guyandotte and Point Pleasant

Virginia Central in 1852
Source: Library of Congress, Map of the Virginia Central Rail Road showing the connection between tide water Virginia, and the Ohio River at Big Sandy, Guyandotte and Point Pleasant

The Richmond and Danville Railroad was built to attract trade from as far away as Halifax and Pittsylvania counties, on the North Carolina border. Richmond built a rail line in the opposite direction to West Point. It is located at the confluence of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers, the headwaters of the York River. The river channel was deeper there. Richmond was competing with Norfolk, with its naturally-deep harbor, in hopes of controlling the trade in coal, wheat, and tobacco from the Appalachian Plateau/Shenandoah Valley/Piedmont.

Petersburg developed as the southern gateway to Richmond, via the RF&P. The South Side Railroad connected Petersburg to the farms in the Appomattox River watershed, and the Petersburg and Roanoke railroad captured business from cargo shipped by batteaux and canal boats down the Roanoke River.

During the Civil War, the Confederacy was quick to use railroads, bringing troops from the Shenandoah Valley to Manassas in July 1861 and building the first military railroad between Manassas and the front lines at Centreville in early 1862.

In 1861, Robert E. Lee warned that the failure to connect the lines of the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad (AL&H) with the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria would be costly. When the Union invaded Alexandria in May, 1861, two locomotives were stranded on the AL&H. The Confederacy had to haul them overland across the hills of Fauquier county, to Piedmont Station (today known as Delaplane) on the Manassas Gap Railroad.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad created a dilemma for Confederate officials. North Carolina strongly resisted the decision by Confederate officials to construct the Piedmont Railroad, connecting Danville and Greensboro. That state wanted the trade from its Piedmont to go through Wilmington, NC rather than a Virginia port. The national Confederate government ultimately rejected the states rights concerns of North Carolina, and forced construction of the Piedmont Railroad as a military necessity. After the Civil War, farmers on the North Carolina Piedmont could ship their cargo and buy their goods from Petersburg and Richmond, costing North Carolina businesses some economic opportunities.

Piedmont Railroad, built during Civil War to connect Greensboro NC and Danville, VA Source: The National Map, Seamless Server Viewer

Piedmont Railroad, built during Civil War to connect Greensboro NC and Danville, VA
Source: The National Map, Seamless Server Viewer

Roanoke and Manassas grew from the start as towns where two railroads connected. Not every railroad intersection developed into a town – Doswell, for example, has remained a tiny crossroads community for 175 years.

When railroads were constructed, physical geography trumped political geography. Some towns with county courthouses were completely bypassed, leaving a few centrally-located communities to stagnate. For example, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad followed the flattest path south and bypassed the court houses built on the tops of hills – Fairfax Court House (Fairfax), Brentsville (Prince William County), and Warrenton (Fauquier). The town of Fairfax coped by developing Fairfax Station, and Warrenton later managed to get a spur line connecting it to the railroad.

In Prince William County, however, Brentsville remained isolated from the population growth stimulated by the railroad. After several hotly-contested elections, Manassas was able to get the county voters to move the courthouse to combine the government center with the county’s commercial center. After the move, Brentsville essentially disappeared off the map for 100 years, until local officials decided to restore the old courthouse as a historic site.

Railroads in Virginia, 1855 (note that Roanoke did not exist before the war) Source: Library of Congress - Williams' commercial map of the United States and Canada with railroads, routes, and distances (1855)

Railroads in Virginia, 1855 (note that Roanoke did not exist before the war)
Source: Library of Congress – Williams’ commercial map of the United States and Canada with railroads, routes, and distances (1855)

Hopewell–Home of Robert Bolling’s Kippax Plantation

Robert Bolling's Kippax Plantation, Hopewell, VA

Robert Bolling’s Kippax Plantation, Hopewell, VA

Hopewell is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The population was 22,591 at the 2010 Census.[3] It is in Tri-Cities area of the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). 

The city was founded to take advantage of its site overlooking the James and Appomattox Rivers. City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was established in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale . It was first known as “Bermuda City,” which was changed to Charles City, lengthened to Charles City Point, and later abbreviated to City Point. (At this time, Bermuda, the Atlantic archipelago, was considered part of the Colony of Virginia and appeared on its maps.) Hopewell/City Point is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the United States, Jamestown no longer being inhabited.

“Charles City Point” was in Charles City Shire when the first eight shires were established in the Colony of Virginia in 1634. Charles City Shire soon became known as Charles City County in 1637. In 1619 Samuel Sharpe and Samuel Jordan from City Point, then named Charles City, were burgesses at the first meeting of the House of Burgesses.

The burgesses separated an area of the county south of the river, including City Point, establishing it separately as Prince George County in 1703. City Point was an unincorporated town in Prince George County until the City of Hopewell annexed the Town of City Point in 1923.

During the American Civil War, Union General Ulysses S. Grant used City Point as his headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864 and 1865. Grant’s headquarters, which President Lincoln visited, were located at Appomattox Manor, one of the three plantations of Richard Eppes, who cultivated wheat and other grains and held 130 slaves at the beginning of the war.

His property included most of the present day city of Hopewell and Eppes Island, a plantation across the James River from City Point. Richard Slaughter, a former slave of Eppes, escaped to a Union ship during the Civil War, as did all but 12 of Eppes’ 130 slaves, choosing freedom. Slaughter recounted his life story for a Works Progress Administration interviewer in 1936.

The City Point Railroad, built in 1838 between City Point and Petersburg, was used as a critical part of the siege strategy. It is considered the oldest portion of the Norfolk and Western Railway, now a part of Norfolk Southern.

Further Reading:

In his 2009 Book: Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), Aaron W. Marrs challenges the accepted understanding of economic and industrial growth in antebellum America (1781–1860–pre Civil War) in his original study of the history of the railroad in the Old South.

Marrs draws from familiar and overlooked sources, such as personal diaries of Southern travelers, papers and letters from civil engineers, corporate records, and contemporary newspaper accounts,to skillfully expand on the conventional business histories that formerly characterized scholarship in this field. By positioning railroads within the antebellum life, he examines how slavery, technology, labor, social convention, and the environment shaped their evolution.

March 2002:  University of Kentucky archaeologist Donald W. Linebaugh has located the original 17th century dwelling house of merchant-trader Robert Bolling in Hopewell, Va.– By Dan Adkins

Linebaugh and six UK College of Architecture graduate students in the college’s historic preservation program will excavate the site for artifacts during the week of March 11 through March 16. The site is on the Kippax Plantation at 999 Bland Ave., Hopewell, Va. During the 20th century, the property was the dairy farm of the late Stephen and Mary Mikuska Heretick

Linebaugh said Bolling was married to Jane Rolfe, the granddaughter of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.

Bolling imported trade goods from England and other parts of Europe and sold them to traders who traded for furs with Native Americans living further inland.Linebaugh said the structure was built about 1680 and was destroyed in the early 1700s. Artifacts recovered from the fill within the cellar date from 1730 to 1740. The house was owned by Robert Bolling until his death in 1709, and then by his son Drury until his death in 1726.

Linebaugh, director of the UK Program for Archaeological Research in the College of Arts and Sciences and assistant professor of anthropology, has been working at the Kippax site since 1981.

During his tenure at the College of William and Mary from 1988 to 1997, students and volunteers from the community assisted the excavations.Since 1997, he has continued his work with help from students and staff at UK. The work has identified a number of plantation buildings, fence lines and features that date from the late 1600s to mid-1800s, as well as evidence of early Native American occupation of the property.

Last spring, Linebaugh and several students identified several large structural post holes with late 17th century artifacts. The post holes were tied to a small brick-lined cellar that had been excavated in the early 1980s and appeared to be part of a large post-in-ground dwelling.Linebaugh said the structure was built about 1680 and was destroyed in the early 1700s. Artifacts recovered from the fill within the cellar date from 1730 to 1740. The house was owned by Robert Bolling until his death in 1709, and then by his son Drury until his death in 1726.

Drury’s widow lived in the house until it became the property of Theodorick Bland through his marriage to Drury Bolling’s daughter Frances.A.R. Bolling Jr., sixth great-grandson of Robert Bolling (1646-1709), said, “The Bolling Family Association is delighted that Dr. Linebaugh has accomplished so very much in his search for historical data at the site of Robert Bolling’s first home in America. We look forward to his continuing work at this important site.”Linebaugh said the Bolling Family Association plans to visit the excavation site Friday afternoon (March 15). 


The Changing Story of Race in America & in Our Family

In my efforts to find out when and how the Boling family came to the infamous Ely’s Foard Road property in Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, VA, I was merging individual family timelines into one to identify the earliest beginnings of the family name at this residence. As always in research, one thing leads to another and I happened upon General Robert E. Lee’s use of Widow Tapp’s farm, of the Wilderness Battle Fame, as his headquarters. [The Battle of the Wilderness was fought on May 5-6, 1864. It was the beginning of the Overland Campaign, the bloodiest campaign in American history and the turning point in the Civil War in the Eastern Theatre.] And who was Widow Tapp to me? She was my 3rd paternal great grandmother and wife of Vincent Tapp. It was their daughter Sarah Elizabeth Tapp who married my 2nd great grandfather Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling in 1868.

Continuing on with my original research, I next stumbled upon a 2002 email posted online that identified my 3rd great grandmother as native american, connected with the Taptico and Wicocomico Indian Nation. This of course, I filed away along with my earlier research that already confirmed Powhatan Princess Pocahontas as my 10th great grandmother. So what’s the big deal–we know that the story of race in America is changing, and so is the way many of us identify ourselves. Anyone who has researched their family histories and gone back hundreds of years can see how people whose lives come together in community, at church, at work, or in social settings get to know each other and often form life long relationships, including inter-racial marriages. So, I reached out to the author of the email for help and was notified that the email address and the website reference no longer existed. Searching further to the person the writer was communicating with led me to a DNA Study on Melungeons. By definition Melungeons are of mixed Indian, White, and Black ancestry.

Bare naked baby butts

Butt…aren’t they just the cutest!

In a 2001 article written by Helen Campbell, Melungeon Researcher, The Powhatan Remnants, she details the coming together of European settlers, Powhatan Indians, and black people sold into slavery for tobacco farming. And, among the melungeon surnames below, you can see “Bolen,” “Bowlin,” and “Bowling.” And, note that the research into the Melungeon peoples has been going on for years and even with the recent release of the DNA studies some families are still questioning or disowning the results. As for me, I am honored to have people like Pocahontas and Widow Tapp among my ever growing list of ancestors.

And finally, below is the list of surnames from among several states whose heritage has been described as Melungeon. And, as for my original research as to how the Bolings came to Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, and Ely’s Foard Road…my search continues.

Melungeon and Melungeon-related surnames (North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky)