“Tapp-ing” Into Lives in 19th Century Spotsylvania County

Local author, Pat Sullivan, penned and published the post that follows on Saturday, September 2014.  It is a far more intimate story of Phenie Tapp’s (my second great aunt) family than my post “Bi-racial Relationships of the 60’s–the 1860’s!”, penned May 14, 2014. My post tells about my second great-grandmother Catharine Elizabeth “Widow Tapp” Dempsey (descendent of Wicocomico Indian Nation’s Last Chief, King William Taptico), who married my second great-grandfather Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (descendent of the Bolling aristocrats from ancient England) in 1868; and her life during the Civil War on the “Wilderness  Farm,”  when the “Battle of the Wilderness,” (Grant vs Lee) was fought killing more than 50,000 men.  This battle became known as “The Crossroads of the Civil War.”  In contrast, Pat Sullivan’s following post documents the harsh and intimate details of many of those same family’s lives in the mid-1800’s–up close and personal!
My photo

I tell the stories of some of Virginia’s richly documented historical families. Drawing on original photographs, letters and other source material, I seek to provide an intimate look at the lives of some remarkable people who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. My book, “No Matter What Befalls Me: Virginia Families at War and Peace,” was published in 2015. 
The World According to Phenie Tapp  
Photo enhancement courtesy of Tom Myers

For students of the battle of the Wilderness, the words “the Widow Tapp farm” evoke images of the near capture of Robert E. Lee followed by his stirring effort to personally lead the newly arrived Texas Brigade against Hancock’s advancing troops. For all that has been written about that pivotal moment for the Army of Northern Virginia, much less is known about Mrs. Tapp and the personal stories of her extended family. As we shall see, were it not for the unlucky circumstance of having this battle fought near her cabin, no one would have ever heard of her. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]

Of course, she did not enter this world known as the Widow Tapp. She began her life in Orange County as Catherine Elizabeth Dempsey about 1803, a daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Dempsey. In December 1833 she married Vincent Tapp of Culpeper County and by 1840 they had settled in Spotsylvania, where they raised their three daughters and two sons.
The Tapps were not wealthy people; far from it. They eked out a hardscrabble existence from land rented from Horace Lacy, owner of nearby “Ellwood.” They owned no slaves. Before he died in about 1857, Vincent Tapp’s name appeared on the list of Spotsylvania’s insolvents.

The Tapp house (National Park Service)

This watercolor of the Tapp cabin was painted by artist and Union army veteran George Leo Frankenstein in 1865. It is the only known image of the Tapp home. The cabin measured about 20’x30′ and housed as many as seven people at a time. The 1860 census tells us that this humble structure was home to Catherine Tapp, daughters Sarah Elizabeth, Margaret, Harriet and her husband Andrew Jackson Lewis, and son James. The other son, William Benjamin Tapp, was evidently living in Culpeper County at the time.

Shown on that census was one other person living in Catherine Tapp’s cramped cabin – a baby girl. We will return to this child shortly.

Western Spotsylvania, 1863

Across Orange Plank Road from the Tapp place was the farm of Thomas and Eliza Pulliam. In the map detail above, their property is indicated as “Mrs. Pulliam” in the lower left of the image just southeast of the uncompleted Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad. To the west of the Pulliams’ house was “Mount View,” the home of William V. Chewning, whose son Absalom supervised work at the Catherine Furnace for the Confederacy. To the southeast was the farm of Eliza’s brother Richard H. Pulliam. Unlike the Tapps, who were tenant farmers,  Thomas and Eliza Pulliam were freeholders and slave owners. Living with them were their two sons, Thomas Richard (known locally as “Tom Dick”) and John James. By 1860 Eliza Pulliam shared two things in common with her neighbor Catherine Tapp. First, they were both widows. Like Vincent Tapp, Thomas Pulliam (who may have been a cousin of Eliza) died during the 1850s.

The other thing that these two widows shared was the fact that they were both grandmothers of the baby girl born in the Tapp house in February 1860.
By 1859 Thomas Richard Pulliam was having an affair with Catherine Tapp’s oldest daughter, twenty five year old Sarah Elizabeth. The child born of this relationship, Eliza Frances, is known to history as Phenie Tapp.
Thomas R. Pulliam appears to have been at the least reluctant, and even unwilling, to acknowledge his paternity of Phenie or any obligation to marry Sarah Elizabeth. As one might expect, Sarah was herself unwilling to accept this unsatisfactory status quo and she sought relief in court. The result was that Thomas Richard Pulliam was compelled to sign this bastardy bond in June 1860, in which he finally acknowledged his paternity of Phenie and pledged to provide support until she reached age 14:

Bastardy bond of Thomas R. Pulliam (CRHC)

Know all men by these presents that we Thos. R. Pulliam & [blank] are held & firmly bound unto the overseer of the Poor for the county of Spotsylvania in the Just and full sum of one hundred fifty dollars to which payment well & truly to be made to the said overseer of the poor for said county, we bind ourselves our heirs Exors. & honor jointly & severally by these presents. Sealed hereto our seals [29th?] day of June 1860 and adjudge that Thos. R. Pulliam who was thereof accused & was the father of a Bastard child of Sarah E. Tapp an unmarried white woman of the said county, did order him the said Thos. R. Pulliam to enter into bond with good security conditioned for the maintenance of the said bastard child for the term of fourteen years. Now if the said Thos. R. Pulliam shall on each and every year on the first day of May on each & every such year for the term of fourteen years beginning this day to be paid to the overseer of the Poor of said county the sum of ten dollars per annum as aforesaid for the support & maintenance of the said bastard child; then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.
                                                                                          Thos R. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          Thomas C. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          R.W. Carter (Seal)
1868. April 6. Cr. the above bond by seventy dollars paid this day by T.R. Pulliam which has been paid over to S.E. Tapp.
                                         R.C. Dabney

This situation had scarcely simmered down when the sons of both Catherine Tapp and Eliza Pulliam took up arms for the Confederacy. Thomas and John Pulliam enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, the same regiment of my great grandfather. William Benjamin Tapp joined Stuart’s Light Horse Artillery, while his brother James signed up with the 7th Virginia Infantry in the fall of 1862. James fell ill almost immediately and remained on the sick list for the entire time he was a soldier until he died in the summer of 1863.

One would think that Tom Dick Pulliam would have his hands full fighting the Union army and avoiding responsibility for his daughter. One would be wrong. During the war he found the time and energy to bed the wife of Oscar Mastin, the former Sarah Faulconer. Oscar and Sarah had married in 1859 and had a daughter together, Laura Lee. In due course Sarah’s dalliance with Tom Pulliam became known to Oscar Mastin, who sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Sarah married Tom in June 1869; by then their oldest son was a year old. A second son, George, was born in 1872. Third was Judson Hammond Pulliam, born in February 1876. Sarah’s youngest son, William Jefferson Pulliam, was born three years after her husband’s death.
By May 1864 the peccadilloes of Tom Dick Pulliam did not loom large in the life of Catherine Tapp. The Union Army, twice the size of Lee’s still divided forces, came pouring into Orange and Spotsylvania on May 4. By May 6 General Lee had set up his headquarters at the Tapp farm, trying to buy time until Longstreet’s Corps could join him and stave off impending disaster. General Hancock’s troops appeared at the far end of the Tapp property, with little to stop them from advancing and capturing Lee save for the artillery of William T. Poague. Some of A.P. Hill’s men evacuated the Tapp family and shepherded them across the road to the house of Eliza Pulliam. In an interview she gave to National Park Service historian Ralph Happel in 1937, Phenie Tapp recalled how “the bullets struck the dirt around them, kicking up dust like the first drops of a coming storm.”
At last the Texas Brigade, the vanguard of Longstreets’s long anticipated arrival, came just in time to save the day. What followed next was one of the most dramatic moments of the Civil War.
Despite the ferocity of the gunfire and cannonading of that day, Catherine Tapp’s home and family survived. Her surviving son William came home safely after the war and returned to Culpeper, where he lived until his death in 1876. Thomas and John Pulliam also came home in one piece. John married Melissa Chewning and established his own farm. Tom and Sarah lived with Eliza.
Whether Tom Pulliam continued his profligate ways is not known, but I am willing to hazard a guess that he was not a reformed man. In any case, his life came to an abrupt and violent end on 14 January 1876. As reported in The Fredericksburg News:

Tom Dick Pulliam was lying asleep on a sofa in his house near “Faulkners” when Tom Sutherlin struck him in the head with a piece of spoke timber, which killed him instantly. Cause, an old grudge. Sutherlin escaped. The citizens offer a one hundred dollar reward for him.

 Two weeks later, on 1 February 1876, George Washington Estes Row mentioned Pulliam’s demise in a letter written to his fifteen year old cousin, Emma Farish: Tom Dick Pulliam was murdered by Tom Sutherland a week or two ago. They were on a drunk. Sutherland has not been caught – and if you see him catch him as the Governor has offered one hundred dollars reward. Give me half, won’t you?

These were the circumstances in which Phenie Tapp was born and spent her formative years. It is little wonder, then, that the remaining sixty eight years of her life assumed the character that they did.
 After her grandmother Catherine died in May 1879, Phenie continued to live with her maiden aunt Margaret at the Tapp place. In fact, Phenie would live there for all her long life.
In June 1881 Phenie gave birth to a daughter, Madosha. Father unknown.
On 19 January 1896 Phenie traveled to Washington, D.C. with John C. Stanford, with whom she exchanged wedding vows. Their marital bliss seems to have been of short duration. During a trip to Orange they encountered one of her old flames, Isaac Jones, and all hell broke loose. From the Fredericksburg Daily Star 26 March 1896. Written in the incomparable style of Charles Henry Robey:

A Row in Orange
Two Men Seriously Injured

 Isaac Jones, of Spotsylvania, and John C. Stanford, of Fauquier, had an altercation, resulting in a desperate fight, at the house of Mr. Oscar Almond, near Locust Grove, in Orange County, Sunday afternoon about 4:30 o’clock, in which Jones received a pistol ball in his left arm and Stanford’s head and face were badly hacked and cut with a grubbing hoe. 

Both men are married men. Jones’ family living near the Wilderness Store and Stanford’s at Elk Run in Fauquier. 

The row was on account of one Phenie Tapp, living near Parker’s, in Spotsylvania, a rustic nymph du pave, whose charms seem to have enthralled both of them. She and Jones, it seems, have been friends for the past four or five years, all others being ousted in his favor, until Stanford, an itinerant sewing machine repairer, put in an appearance last fall. 

He must have made a complete conquest of the woman, for she shortly abandoned Jones to follow her new lover. 

Jones’ rage at being left in the lurch is to have been terrible. He swore vengeance on both of them, and promised to carry it out, should they come in his way. 

Stanford and the woman went to Washington, where they claimed to have been married, and came to Orange Sunday to attend some business matters that S. had left unsettled. The woman stopped at Mr. Almond’s, while the man went to the home of Constable J. L Morris. 

While he was absent, Jones put in his appearance, and when Stanford returned to Almond’s they met and the row occurred. Jones says that after some words Stanford started to draw his pistol on him, and that he used the hoe in self defense. 

Stanford’s story is that as he approached the house of Almond, Jones came out, and picking up the hoe, cursed and assaulted him. The woman who got the men apart confirms what Stanford says. 

Constable Morris who left home on his way to Orange Courthouse at the same time Stanford started for Almond’s heard the pistol shots and screams of women. 

He started in the direction of the sound, and met Stanford in an exhausted condition, and smeared with blood. 

He told Constable what had occurred, and asked to be taken to some place where his wounds could be attended to. 

Mr. Morris did this and then went to the scene of the affray. 

He found Jones and the woman there. Jones gave him his version of the affair as related above, and said that the intended to follow and kill Stanford. The woman said that but for her he would have overtaken his victim before the Constable met him, and would have surely killed him. 

Mr. Morris said he considered Jones’s wound very slight, but he thought Stanford was in a bad way. The ball struck Jones’ left hand, just breaking the skin and entering the fleshy part of the arm near the elbow. The wounded man wanted the constable to cut the ball out, in order to save him a doctor’s bill. 

Jones returned home Sunday night to have his wounds attended to, and Stanford and his alleged wife came to Spotsylvania to the home of the woman’s mother Monday morning. 

Constable Morris reported the matter to the Orange authorities Monday and the proper steps were taken to have the parties brought to justice. 

The people in the vicinity are very indignant at the occurrence and there seems to be a strong sentiment in favor of dealing severely with the law breakers. 

The phrase “nymph du pave” was unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up. Of the various definitions offered, my favorite is “a woman of extinguished morality.” It should be noted here that at the time of this altercation, Isaac Jones was sixty years old.

It is also worth noting that during this entire episode John Coffey Stanford was still legally married to Isabella, his wife of thirty three years whom he abandoned in Fauquier County in the early 1890s. A month after Stanford’s showdown with Jones, John and Isabella mutually sued each other for divorce on the basis of desertion. A divorce decree was in due course granted to Isabella Stanford.
A year after that violent competition for the affection of Phenie Tapp, a child, Mary Catherine, joined the Tapp household. On the 1900 census she is designated as Phenie’s adopted daughter, leading some to speculate that  she was actually the daughter of Madosha. In any case, the identity of the father is unknown.
Phenie’s escapades next made the news in this brief piece in the 10 July 1902 edition of the Free Lance, in which she is misnamed as “Vena Taft”:

Although acquitted of the “offense” alledgedly committed with Andrew Jackson Banks, who was black, it is apparent that he enjoyed a relationship with Phenie beyond that of his employment as her “hired hand,” as he is noted in subsequent censuses. Phenie and Jack lived together for the next forty years.

By 1910 Madosha had evidently married a James Oaks, whose occupation is variously given as “woodchopper” or “tie getter,” which I presume meant someone who hauled railroad ties. After 1910 Madosha and James vanish from the written record, as far as I can see.
Mary Catherine Tapp married Frederick Thomas Hicks on 4 January 1917. They lived with Phenie for a time before moving to Richmond, where they raised six children. Mary Catherine died in 1935; Fred outlived her by nineteen years. They are buried in the Hicks cemetery in Spotsylvania:

Phenie Tapp was an undisguised foe of Prohibition and she and Jack Banks supplemented their income by distilling and selling moonshine. This brought unwelcome attention from Revenue agents from time to time, but I find no record that they did any serious jail time for their efforts.

During the 1930s historian Douglas Southall Freeman unsuccessfully attempted to buy the Tapp farm in order to preserve it, “but found Phenie eccentric, the title clouded and funds hard to raise.” [The Wilderness Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher. University of North Carolina Press, 1997, p. 194]
By the end of her life Phenie was living in the third house that had been built on the property, the original log cabin in which she had been born having long since decayed to ruin.
Eighty four year old Eliza Frances Tapp died on 31 May 1944 at the home of Calvin Macrae Jones, the son of her one time beau and a handy man with a grubbing hoe, Isaac Jones. From The Free Lance Star 2 June 1944:

Mrs. Phenie Tapp Dies at Wilderness

Mrs. Phenie Frances Tapp, 84, of the Parker neighborhood in Spotsylvania, died at the home of Calvin Jones at Wilderness.

Long a picturesque character Mrs. Tapp had an intimate knowledge of the famous battle of the Wilderness, fought over the section where she lived in 1864. She was four years old at the time of the great battle and was a granddaughter to the famous Widow Tapp, on whose farm General Lee had his headquarters and who is often referred to in accounts of the fighting.

Funeral services for Mrs. Tapp will be conducted be conducted at the grave at Oak Hill Cemetery at 3 o’clock Saturday. 

A stone for both Phenie and Madosha stands at Oak Hill:

The Free Lance Star 10 January 1950

Six years after Phenie’s death, the Tapp farm was offered for sale by her second cousin Elsie Davenport. At some point a portion of the property was acquired by Dr. Allan Mowry Giddings on behalf of the Civil War Round Table of Battle Creek, Michigan. This parcel he donated to the National Park Service in 1963. An additional fifty three acres was bought by the Park Service 1968-1972.

I wish to acknowledge the following persons whose help made possible today’s post: Diane Ballman of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center; historian Eric Mink of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park; and my friends and fellow researchers Wil Bowler and Tom Myers. Many thanks to each of you. Any errors in this piece are mine alone.

My Family of Secrets

Helen Louise Chambers Boling (1 Jul 1911 – 16 Mar 1944) My Paternal Great Grandmother:

On Thursday, March 16, 1944, at Baltimore, MD., Helen L. Boling, the wife of Jessie Boling, mother of Frank, Dolores and Barbara Boling and daughter of Frank and Lottie Chambers. Services at the Chambers funeral home, 517 11th st. se., on Wednesday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Interment Columbia Gardens Cemetery.
Washington Post (1877-1954)
Mar 23, 1944; page 12
Columbia Gardens Cemetery
Arlington County
Virginia, USA

I expect this post will be one of my more personal and difficult to write.  There remain many blanks to my paternal grandmother’s (Helen Louise Chambers Boling) life that we cannot fill in and some of the answers we have found aren’t what we had hoped for by any means. Helen was estranged from her family and living in Baltimore City, Maryland, when in March 1944 she died or was murdered at age 32.  See also my January post Life Choices of a Roaring Twenties Teen, that provides more details about Helen’s life after she abandoned her husband and children. Helen’s grave at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is unmarked.  It appears Helen’s friends, (the Ward’s) unfamiliar to this generation’s family, arranged and paid for Helen’s burial within their family’s plots.  And, I know from a child visiting my great grandmother, Helen’s mother, Lottie Taylor Chambers in the Washington, DC Home for the Incurables, that Lottie was disappointed and saddened at how Helen’s life turned out as a result of Helen’s choices.

My Dad’s Talks with his Grandmother, Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Mother)

Whenever my dad, Frank Burton Boling, would strike up a conversation about his mother, Helen, with his grandmother, Lottie, (which wasn’t often), she took to scowling and then whispering.  Great grandmother never really described to him what she saw that day she found her daughter, my grandmother, dead in that Baltimore City boarding room.  But, older aunts and uncles at the time whispered about a beating, a knifing, and/or gun wound, and alcoholism.  Helen’s death certificate indicates chronic alcoholism discovered through an autopsy, but nothing more.  The relatives who knew, have all long since passed and because this topic was always hushed, I guess the secret died with Helen and them.

Jesse Burton Boling’s (Helen’s husband) Family

However, on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family, my Bolling’s descend from the marriage of Captain John Thomas Rolfe and Pocahontas. It was their granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe, (daughter of Thomas P. Rolfe, their only child, and Jane Poythress) who married Colonel Robert Bolling of Cobbs, Henrico, Virginia. Colonel Robert Bolling was my paternal 8th great grandfather and Jesse Burton Boling’s 6th great grandfather. In large part, this Boling family remained in Virginia and this is where Helen and Jesse’s short-lived love story that spawned three children (my dad, the eldest and only living survivor) began.

Frank Maynard Chambers and Lottie Taylor Chambers (Helen’s Parents)

It was September 21, 1910 when Helen’s father, Frank Maynard Chambers (26), originally from Franklin, Pennsylvania, married Lottie L. Taylor (20) from Louisa County, Virginia.  They married in Washington, DC.  Helen was born on July 1, 1911–exactly 40 weeks following their ceremony. Just 10 years before, at age 16, my great grandfather, Frank Chambers , according to 1900 Census records, was a Ward of the City of Washington, DC–an inmate at the Reform School for Boys. According to the enumeration document, Frank could read and write, but no further personal information was provided–quite a contrast to the vast amount of Bolling heritage I have rather easily discovered. The 1914 New York passenger ship lists show that when Frank and Lottie’s daughter, Helen, was 3, that the Chambers family arrived back in New York from Cristobal, in Colon, Panama, where apparently Frank had worked on the canal’s construction.

Panama Canal Under Construction, Cristábol, Cólón 1910
Panama Canal Under Construction, Cristábol, Cólón 1910

Helen and Jesse’s Meeting

Chancellorsville Family

Chancellorsville Family

When my grandfather, Jesse Boling (1902-1978), later to be husband of Helen, was still living at home with his parents (Edward Bud Vincent BOWLING Sr (1872 – 1946) and Mary Florence Wharton (1878-1929) on Ely’s Ford Road in Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg, VA, (adjacent to the Chancellorsville Battlefield) he came to meet Miss Helen Louise Chambers (1911-1944), daughter of Frank Maynard Chambers (1884-1967) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Lottie L. Taylor (1890-1962) from Louisa County, Virginia. Although Jesse was 9-1/2 years her senior, he was immediately smitten with Helen. So smitten, that he would “borrow” a canoe on weekends and paddle the Rapidan tributary to the other side of the Rappahannock River to be with her. The photo below shows what the crossing of that portion of the Rapidan looked like to soldiers in the American Civil War, about 65 years earlier than when Jesse would have entered it.  Back then, the soldiers could cross on foot, and they did so by stripping off their clothes and hoisting them on their backs before crossing.

Rapidan River Crossing at Elys Ford Road,  April 30, 1863

Rapidan River Crossing at Elys Ford Road,
April 30, 1863

A Custom-Built Home

By 1930, Jesse, Helen, and their children Frank and Delores were living in their new home that Jesse had built himself.  According to the census, their address was “15 Stanley Street, Spaulding Heights, Maryland, which is just a couple of miles beyond the District of Columbia boundary line near Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.  This would have made Helen 18 and Jesse 27 with already two babies: Frank 16 months and Delores 4 months, according to this record.

1930 Census Record Excerpt

1930 Census Record Excerpt

Expanding upon my Earlier Post in January:

Based on the whispers and mysteries that surround Helen Chambers Boling’s life and death, I’d say her work in the arsenal factories probably gave her the only sense of achievement in life that she ever had. Helen was a teenager when she married Jesse Boling and she gave birth to her first two children when she was 17 and 18, followed by a third at age 22 in 1933. About 15 months later, she abandoned her babies and her husband. The girls never saw her again. My dad Frank was 5 when she left them.

Dad was about 11 or 12, when he next saw his mother, Helen.  It was a strange accidental meeting. He went home from school with a friend and found Helen there cooking in the kitchen. I can’t imagine the emotions that went through him at that time.  Dad didn’t say specifically how the exchanges went. The next time my dad saw his mother was when he was 15 in March, 1944, and sneaked into the W. W. Chambers Funeral Home where Helen was laid out.

After Helen left, my dad’s father Jesse continued working as a carpenter but took to heavy drinking.  Since my dad, Frank, was the eldest of the children, the task of raising his sisters and getting to his dad early on pay days fell on him–starting at the ripe age of 5.  Dad’s sisters were 4 and 15 months old when Helen first left.  To this dad, my dad hates boiled potatoes and cabbage because they apparently ate a lot of them as children.  Their living situation also explains why there are no pictures of my grandfather as a young man, nor any of my dad and his sisters before their mid-teens, and definitely no pictures of their mother, Helen among the family. Jesse never really moved on from his relationship with Helen.  He came to live for many years with my parents when I was growing up.  He then went to help out his second oldest child, Delores, with her six children, and he lived there for many years.  Once Delores’ children reached their late teens, Jesse moved into his own apartment in nearby in Hyattsville, MD.  By then, Jesse had developed type II diabetes and it had gotten out of control.  We visited him and I took him dietetic/diabetic foods, but he disliked them.  Jesse had grown up on rich, fatty, and tasty southern cooking.  Had Jesse survived until February 2, 1979–five more months–he would have been 77. In all those 45 or so years following Helen’s leaving (about 1933) him, I never knew my grandfather to find or even look for another love.  After sobering up, he devoted many of those years to his family and he turned his love to movies and baseball.  Jesse’s team was the Washington Senators (1901-1960) who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.  I remember him visiting my young family and bringing his great grandchildren baseballs and bats from the hometown games he attended.  And, the name “Harmon Killibrew,” would always come up.  Killibrew was my grandfather’s favorite player.  In fact, Killibrew lived until 2011.  He passed away at age 74 from esophageal cancer (probably caused by cigarettes or chewing tobacco as most baseball players used to use –a habit my grandfather never developed–thank goodness). In fact, “Killer”, “Slugger,” Killibrew played baseball for 22. years (1954-1977) the biggest part of my grandfather’s listening and viewing years of baseball.

I’m not sure how long after Frank Chambers left that my great grandmother hired a private eye to try and find him, but they never did.  However, given today’s technology and vast databases of records on people, I very easily found Frank Chambers when I first looked for him about two years ago.  He had moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.  And in fact, the 1957 Las Vegas city phone directory included his profession as a school crossing guard.  He would have been in his mid-70’s then.  Frank Chambers, according to social security records passed on October 28, 1967 at 84 years old, leaving a wife, Audrey.

rank Maynard Chambers Gravestone

Frank Maynard Chambers Gravestone

He was buried in the Garden of Prayer at South Bunker Hill Memorial Gardens and Cemetery in Las Vegas, NV.  Interestingly enough, “Father” is inscribed on his headstone, leaving me to believe that Frank had an additional child or children during his life in Nevada.  (A search and perhaps an updated story for another time.)

If there is but one moral to this story I could idenitfy,  it would be that my father never abandoned his family or gave up on his children.  He has truly dedicated every moment to us. Out of all the children from Jesse and Helen’s marriage dad became the strongest, and has been a great role model and family patriarch to my brothers, me, and my family of children and grandchildren to follow.

I guess this post is just a little early for Father’s Day, but with dad around, it’s always Happy Father’s Day, Dad–a father to be truly proud of!

Walt Whitman’s Battles of Chancellorsville: Horrific Wounds, Night Fighting, and Other “Strange and Fearful Pictures”

Mysteries and Conundrums blogs about Civil War Battles in Virginia stir deep emotions in me as I try to imagine the fear. horrors, and impact of families during these times. The Bolling family, my grandfather, 3 great grandfathers and their families (descendants from the Bolling family originally from England) and descendants of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, lived for decades (1802-1946) on Elys Ford Road immediately adjacent to major Civil War Battles at Chancellorsville, Five Forks, and the Wilderness Farms. In fact the now infamous “Widow Tapp” was my 3rd great grandmother. The bulk of the Bolling descendants also lived in Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties, and in Petersburg. Where Widow Tapp lived a simple and poor life in Spotsylvania County, Robert Bolling IV in 1823 built the Bollingbrook Mansion, known today as Centre Hill Mansion Museum. Thank you again for these wonderful posts.

Mysteries & Conundrums

from: Harrison

This year’s sesquicentennial commemorations of the Battle of Chancellorsville will build upon long traditions of eyewitness, published narrative and non-eyewitness scholarship.  Yet I’ve been fascinated lately to realize that Chancellorsville inspired Walt Whitman to make, forcefully, one of his earliest contrarian forecasts for writing about the Civil War, a view that he later expressed in the now-famous sentence, “The real war will never get in the books.”

Whitman’s longest-known rumination on Chancellorsville, dated May 12, 1863, asked

Of scenes like these, I say, who writes—who e’er can write, the story?  Of many a score—aye, thousands, North and South, of unwritten heroes, unknown heroisms, incredible, impromptu, first-class desperations—who tells?  No history, ever—No poem sings, no music sounds, those bravest men of all—those deeds.  Nor formal General’s report, nor print, nor book in the library, nor column in the paper, embalms the bravest, North or South, East or West.


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