Chapter XLV - Souvenirs and Curiosities

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
CHAPTER XLV - SOUVENIRS AND CURIOSITIES
BY HU MAXWELL
Pages 537-542

In compiling the history of the county a number of interesting objects and relics were met with which are given a chapter to themselves because they do not belong anywhere else.

Souvenirs of Lord Fairfax. — Captain C. S. White of Romney, has in his possession a number of valuable souvenirs of Lord Fairfax, among them being a pair of andirons with heavy brass heads, artistically wrought. A fender, also Lord Fairfax's, is in the collection. These are a portion of the furniture with which the great landowner expected to equip his palatial residence, which he expected to build somewhere in the wilds of America, but which he never built, and perhaps never decided upon a site for it. The house in which he resided near White Post, in Clarke county, Virginia, was a small affair, and in no way corresponded with the line furniture which he possessed. The larger house, called Greenway court, near by, was never occupied by Lord Fairfax in person, out by his steward. It is probable that the andirons saw service in that house.

Antique Table. — Robert White was the owner of a richly inlaid table, made of different kinds of wood. Under the framework of the table he pasted a small slip of paper and on it wrote his name and the date, 1789. The table is now in the possession of his grandson, Captain C. S. White of Romney, and although more than a century has passed, the name and the date are as plain as if they had been there but a year. The table is kept with care, as a venerable relic of a former century. It is of interest to note that the handwriting of Robert White has a strong resemblance to that of his son, John Baker White, and his grandson, C. S. White, the characteristic chirography descending through the family more than one hundred years.

An Old Sugar Bowl. — A sugar bowl which came from Switzerland, and is believed to have been imported into that country from China more than two hundred years ago, is among the family relics in possession of Captain C. S. White, of Romney. While the origin of the old piece of decorated China is lost in years, the bowl is known to have been in the family for two centuries. The lid is missing, and a number of cracks have made their appearance in the bowl, yet the paintings on it are as bright and perfect as when they were placed there by some devoted follower of Confucius perhaps before a white man had set foot upon the soil of West Virginia.

Silver Mug from Holland. — John Blue, of Romney, possesses a solid silver mug six inches high, which dates back to the time when Holland's fleet claimed the mastery of the seas, more than three hundred years ago. The mug was made in Holland, and the almost effaced carving upon it shows that the decorative art was by no means in its infancy then. The weight of the relic is evidence that it was made for use as well as for show; and the worn and polished exterior is proof that it has seen use. One of Mr. Blue's ancestors ate his mush and milk out of it in the infancy of Hampshire county. He requested that the mug should always belong to "John Blue," and from that time till the present it has always been the property of a person of that name.

A Centenarian Pitcher. — A china pitcher, dating back more than a century, is now the property of Dr. J. M. Miller, of Romney. It is not known whence it originally came nor when it was manufactured. The first owner for it whose name is now known was Mrs. Sperry, of Hardy county, who was Mrs. Miller's great grandmother. It descended to Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson, of North river, who lived to see her ninety-sixth year. She was a daughter of Mrs. Sperry and the wife of Elisha Thompson, once a member of the Hampshire court. Its next owner was Mrs. Mary Coffman, daughter of Mrs. Thompson and mother of Mrs. Miller, who lived on North river. From Mrs. Coffman it descended to Mrs. Miller.

Commodore Decatur's Salt-Cellar. — A blue glass salt-cellar, which was once the property of Commodore Decatur, is now in the possession of Mrs. G. L. Herndon, of Romney. It belonged to the commodore's table set, and without doubt it was on board his ship during the exciting times through which he passed. It descended to Mrs. Herndon who is grand niece of Commodore Decatur. The salt-cellar was once handsomely decorated with painted flowers, but they have all now faded, and the memento is a plain, blue glass salt-cellar.

Famous Miniatures. — Miss Lizzie Bonney, of Romney, is the owner of a locket in which are two small pictures, quaint and old-fashioned, but very handsome. The pictures were painted m the West Indies about one hundred years ago, but the exact date and the name of the artist are not now known. The pictures are the miniatures of Miss Seroxa and Miss Mary Decatur, daughters of Commodore Decatur, the famous naval officer who rendered valuable service to his country in the early years of the republic. The locket with its pictures were inherited by Miss Bonney who is a grand niece of Commodore Decatur.

A Veteran Gander. — James McCool, who lives twenty-eight miles from Romney, in Bloomery district, has a gander which has lived to a surprising age, and at this date is hale and tough. Forty-five years ago Mr. McCool moved to the farm where he still resides, and he found the gander on the farm. He does not know how old he was then; but he has lived until the present time; and age has not yet dimmed the fire of his eye, nor toned down his warlike propensities.

An Old Fort. — Twenty-one miles from Romney, in Brushy hollow, Capon district, is the ruins of an old log house built by a man named Kisner, as a defense against Indians. If contains port-holes. It was no doubt built prior to 1765, because Hampshire was never invaded by Indians after that year. The land now belongs to William Haines.

An Historic Pen. — Captain David Pugh of Capon district, is the possessor of a quill pen with which Virginia's ordinance of secession was signed. It was never used afterwards, and the dried ink is still on it.

Curious Whiskey Jug. — Mrs. M. A. Herndon of Romney, has a peculiar whiskey jug - which has been in the family for generations. It came from Massachusetts. It is a ring, about twenty-seven inches in circumference, as if a gun barrel were bent into a circle. It is hollow, and holds a quart. It is made of pottery, resembling porcelain. It is said the jug was made to evade an early Massachusetts law which forbade selling whiskey by liquid or dry measure. It was supposed this would prevent selling whiskey altogether, but the law was evaded by selling liquor by the yard. A man with a circular jug, measuring three-fourth of a yard around, would call for three-quarters of a yard of whiskey, and the jugful just made it.

Turner Ashby's Letter. — The following letter from Turner Ash by has never been published. It was dated at Martinsburg, February 10, 1862, and is now in the possession of Miss Lou McCarty of Romney:

"Captain Sheetz: You will send Captain Shan's company, or Captain Harper's, as you think best, to Lockhart's, with instructions to report to General Jackson that they are there; at the same time, to let me know it. I want the reports of your three companies sent down by return messenger. I wish you to take the earliest opportunity of seeing how many men of your command will re-enter. When any man re-enlists, you will have him mustered in; and, if he desires, give him a furlough of not more than thirty days, at this time; when, upon presenting this furlough or certificate to my quartermaster, he will pay him fifty dollars. These furloughs can be granted at the rate of one-third of the men fit for duty, but to none who do not re-enlist. I am having the proper papers struck oft, when I will send them to you. In the meantime you can get the law; do all you can toward reorganizing. Once a week send a report to me as far as Winchester, when it will be brought on, and state how many men have re-enlisted.

"Respectfully,                                                     
"Turner Ashby."           

Stonewall Jackson's Letter. — The following letter from Stonewall Jackson is now in possession of Miss Lou McCarty, of Romney. It is dated at Winchester, May 27, 1862:

"R. K. Sheetz: Your letter of yesterday has been received. The loss of your noble son is deeply felt by me. Tears come to my eyes when I think of his death. In imagination I see him before me still. You have my sympathy and prayers. In his death not only you and I, but also his country, has sustained a loss. Apart from his worth as an officer, I was greatly impressed with the beauty of his character. In regard to the horse of which you speak, I suppose that it is the same one that was captured by your son with an Ohio lieutenant-colonel at McDowell. As your son's horse was lame, I directed the captured horse to be turned over to him at that time. He belongs to the Confederate States, and I will be obliged to you, if you will turn him over to Major J. A. Harman, chief quartermaster of this district. Accept my thankful appreciation of your kind expressions.

"Very truly yours,                                                
"T. J. Jackson."     

General Lee's Letter. — The original of the following letter from General Lee is in possession of Miss Mary Gibson, of Romney. It is dated at Richmond, April 30, 1861, and is addressed to Major John P. Wilson:

"Major: You will muster into the service of the state such volunteer companies, not to exceed ten, of infantry or artillery, as may offer their services in compliance with the call of the governor, with which you will be furnished a copy. Take command of them and proceed to the site of old Fort Powhattan, or such point in its vicinity on James river as will be selected for a battery by Colonel Andrew Talcott. Its construction will be assigned to Captain Cocke, with whom you are directed to cooperate in the completion and defense of the works. You will report the number of companies mustered into service, their arms and condition. You are requested to endeavor to give protection to the inhabitants and encourage a feeling of security.

"Respectfully,                                          
"R. E. Lee."                                   

Return to the History of Hampshire County WV Index