Rockingham County, Virginia
VAGenWeb Project

A History of Rockingham County
John W. Wayland Ph.D.

Chapter VI






     The period from 1820 to 1860 was one of varied and far-reaching activities.  The new nation had won its political independence by the Revolution, and its commercial independence by the war of 1812:  it was not achieving its industrial independence through the development of manufactures, the invention of agricultural machinery, and the improvement of transportation facilities; and was preparing to realize its intellectual independence, as well, by thinking for itself and writing books that were no longer fashioned upon European models. Within this period fall the Missouri Compromise, the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine, South Carolina nullification, the abolition movement, the economic crisis of 1837, the Mexican War, the Compromise of 1850, John Brown’s Raid, and the beginning of secession.

     In Rockingham County the main currents of national movements were being felt and registered, and at the same time affairs of State and local interest were riding upon high tides.  Population was increasing and being widely distributed by emigration; social institutions were being developed, law systems were being perfected, military organizations were being maintained, and natural resources were being exploited.  It was a time frequently marked by sharp political agitation, the constitution of the State being rewritten twice within the period, once in 1829-30, again in 1850-51.  Churches were being extended, and not a little attention was being directed toward general education, but the chief local movements of the time appear to have been political, social, and economic, rather than religious or literary.  It was a time of “internal improvements” – some railroads



being projected, some towns, perhaps, being “boomed,” several banks being established, many roads being constructed, and a large number of bridges being erected.  In the decade preceding the crisis of 1837 the building of turnpikes was especially in vogue, the Valley Turnpike and the one leading from Harrisonburg to Warm Springs both being constructed within that time.  The Rockingham Turnpike, leading from Harrisonburg eastward toward Swift Run Gap, was not built until some years later, but still within the period under consideration.  The roads, good and bad, were being utilized, not only for neighborhood communication and transportation, but also for a great wagon trade with Scottsville, Fredericksburg, Winchester, and other markets; and the Shenandoah River at the same time was a throbbing channel of navigation between the eastern sections of the county and the cities on the Potomac.

     Chapters XII and XXVI are devoted specially to roads and the river trade, respectively; further particulars regarding banks may be fund in Chapter XXII; and a number of items concerning the bridges of the county will be found here and there – some further on in this chapter.

     Rockingham County has always been notable as a distributing center for people.  In this respect it resembles those counties of Eastern Pennsplvania [sic], whence most of its early settlers came.  Far and wide, over the south, west, and northwest, in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and many other States, not only individuals but also communities may be found that trace their ancestry or former places of residence to Rockingham County, Virginia.  As already indicated, emigration was common from the first, but so great was the exodus in the period under review that the number of Rockinghamers actually in Rockingham in 1850 was about 300 less than in 1830; and emigration was so rapid in the decade following 1830 that the population (only the white population is included in these figures) was nearly 3000 less in 1840 than in 1830.  To cite a single instance, there were nine children in one of the Kaylor fami-




lies, but only one remained in Rockingham; from 1828 to 1833 the other eight moved to Logan County, Ohio, where their descendants are numerous to-day; and with the last of the eight went the mother of them all.

     Another reason for the decrease of population in Rockingham between 1830 and 1840 is to be found in the formation of Page County, in 1831, from Rockingham and Shenandoah; but the part taken from Rockingham was small, as may be seen by a glance at the map, not large enough to require of itself the growth of twenty years in compensation.  We must reckon still with the steady stream going westward.

     The main reason for this movement towards the west is doubtless to be found in the liberal policy adopted by the Federal Government in 1820 for disposing of the public lands.  Immediately the movement westward was accelerated, and for a number of years preceding 1837 the land fever was widespread and at high temperature.  The population of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa increased from 792,719 in 1820 to 2,967,840 in 1840.  Much of the growth of Rockingham in this period must be registered in these States, rather than within her own definite boundaries.

     But temporary loss of population did not diminish the fertility of Rockingham fields, or the vigor of her sons and daughters who abode at home.  About 1845 Henry Howe traveled all over Virginia, then including West Virginia, and wrote an account of each county in order.  Of Harrisonburg he wrote, “The village is handsomely built, flourishing, and is surrounded by a beautiful and fertile country.”(1)

     Among other towns and villages he mentions specially Mt Crawford, Port Republic, Deaton (Dayton), and Edom Mills.

     One of the features – we might almost say, one of the institutions – of Rockingham life in the early part of the 19th century was the annual Methodist campmeeting at Taylor Springs (now Massanetta).  An intimate glimpse into the


(1)      Howe’s Historical Collections of Virginia, 1852 Edition, page 460.




conditions frequently prevalent at that time is afforded by a notice that appeared in the Rockingham Register of August 11, 1825, in which a committee of the brethren (probably the committee of arrangements) assured the order-loving public that they would spare no vigilance in protecting the meeting of that year against disorder, and that they intended to enforce the law against any who might interrupt the worshipers with liquor-selling, swearing, drinking, or Sabbath-breaking.  The committee consisted of Peachy Harrison, Stephen Harnsberger, and Edward Stevens.

     In the same issue of the Register appeared an article, copied with evident approval from the Alexandria Herald, which shows that the Methodists and other religious bodies of Rockingham were not alone in their desire to get rid of slavery.  The article is as follows:




     In addition to the fact of the emancipation of 70 slaves by Mr. Minge, of Virginia, the Richmond Whig of Friday says that two instances of the triumph (of) philanthropy and patriotism, over the sordid selfishness of our nature, can be recited, equally as meritorious and splendid as that act of distinguished munificence.  The Rev. Fletcher Andrew, an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, had received from the bounty of a dying relative, twenty slaves, at that time valued at $10,000; shortly after he attained the age of twenty-one years, although they constituted nearly the whole of his worldly property, this amiable and pious man, generously emancipated every one of them.  And Mr. Charles Crenshall, a farmer residing in the neighborhood of Richmond, has recently manumitted all slaves he owned, amounting altogether to sixty.


     An able writer in the Register of October 5, 1822, reviews the political condition of the country at large, and deplores the rivalries and dissensions so much in evidence among the different States and sections.  He says:


     The preservation of our union is unfortunately too deeply connected with this interesting subject – an epoch has appeared in our History, that every federative government must sooner or later experience, an important crisis has arrived; our future prosperity and happiness is wrapped within the events of the next five years, and it rests with us, whether we shall continue to enjoy the blessings of our present happy constitution,




or be subjected to all the vicissitudes, and destructions, of a state of anarchy and confusion.  Should one pillar of the Union be removed, the whole Edifice would soon tumble into ruins; and all hopes of a reestablishment will be preposterous.  Every state will assume to itself individual sovereignty, the smaller states will feel the encroachment of the greater, and be a prey to every dangerous passion.


     There was evidently a strong sentiment in Rockingham and adjacent counties favoring a revision of the State constitution in 1829-30.  In Rockingham the vote was 630 for a convention, 125 against a convention; in Augusta, 560 for, 109 against; in Shenandoah, 968 for, 13 against.  All the counties of the Valley – perhaps all in the western part of the State – gave large majorities for a convention, while many of those east of the Blue Ridge gave majorities against it.  After the convention had done its work, Rockingham gave 457 votes in favor of adopting the new constitution, and only 49 against adoption; in Augusta the vote was 285 and 270, pro and con; in Shenandoah, 671 and 61.

     In this connection it will be of interest to see how the famous Nullification Ordinance, passed by South Carolina in November 1832, was received in Rockingham County.  The writer has been exceedingly fortunate in securing, through the kindness of Mr. James B. Stephenson of Harrisonburg, a copy of the Rockingham Register of January 12, 1833, in which is a full and detailed account of the great mass meeting that was held on Monday, January 7, 1833, to consider the burning questions of the time.

     The following editorial note, in the Register referred to, will introduce us to the situation:

     “In this day’s paper we give the proceedings of the meeting held in the Court House on Monday last, pursuant to notice.  It will be seen from the preamble and resolutions adopted, that Nullification finds but little favor in this county, and that the President’s decided and patriotic course meets with general approbation from all parties.”

     The meeting referred to in this note was held, as already stated, on January 7, 1833, a large number of citizens of all parties being present.  Dr. Peachy Harrison was made chair-




man, and Allan C. Bryan secretary.  On motion of Augustus Waterman a committee of seven was appointed to report a preamble and resolutions to the meeting.  The following gentlemen composed the committee:  Augustus Waterman, David Steele, Henry J. Gambill, Samuel Cootes, Dr. Michael H. Harris, Major Edward H. Smith, and James M. Huston.

     A lengthy preamble and extended resolutions under seven heads were reported.  The preamble referred to the recent nullification ordinance of South Carolina and acknowledged the crisis thereby impending.  Resolution 1 asserted the supremacy of the national government, and denied that it was a compact or league of independent States; Resolution 2 acknowledged the right of revolution as a last resort, but denied the right of any State of nullification or peaceable secession; Resolution 3 deplored the “Precipitate, rash, misguided violence of our Sister State of South Carolina,” and denounced her conduct as “plainly, palpably, dangerously unconstitutional”; Resolution 4 approved the proclamation of the President; Resolution 5 reprobated the action of the governor of Virginia (John Floyd) in transmitting the ordinance of South Carolina to the Virginia legislature, and declared that the Virginia Resolutions of 1799 could not properly be held as justifying the recent action of South Carolina; Resolution 6 cheered on the Union parting in South Carolina; and Resolution 7 ordered that the secretary transmit a copy of the proceedings to the President of the United States, to each of the Rockingham delegates in the General Assembly, and to the following papers:  Richmond Enquirer, Constitutional Whig, Staunton Spectator, Rockingham Register, and The Globe.

     The resolutions adopted, particularly Resolutions 1 and 2, follow the constitutional sophistries of Daniel Webster; and on the same page of the Register with them is printed Webster’s speech in Faneuil Hall, delivered December 17, 1832.

     Resolutions 3 and 6 were carried unanimously; the others “with a very few dissenting votes.”  We may infer that Peachy Grattan, I. S. Pennybacker, and Dr. Moomau were




among the dissenting voters; for it is reported that these gentlemen offered substitute resolutions, and supported the in speeches.  The defenders of the prevailing resolutions were chiefly Mr. Waterman, Thomas Clark, and Mr. Cootes.

     The above-mentioned meeting was perhaps the last notable gathering ever held in the Old Courthouse; for in the same issue of the Register that contains the account of the said meeting is to be found a notice, signed by Jacob Rush, David Henton, John Kenney, and Peachy Harrison, commissioners, that on the third Monday of January, 1833, the old building would be sold.  It was to be removed by March 15, in order to clear the ground for the new courthouse.

     The attitude of Virginia and Rockingham County toward the political issues of the time may be further illustrated by the following verses, which are the first two stanzas of a song reprinted from the New York Courier & Enquirer in the Rockingham Register of November 9, 1833.


Save De Union.


A mighty angry quarrel rose

Among de Tariff’s friens’ an’ foes,

An’ Souf Calina in a fit,

De Union vows to curse an’ quit.

    But save de Union, ole folks, young folks,

          Ole Virginny nevah tire.


Virginny loves her Sistah State,

An’ most as much de Tariff hate,

But while de Tariff she despise,

De Union berry much she prize,

    So save de Union, ole folks, young folks,

          Ole Virginny nevah tire.


     In 1838 there were six voting places in the county, namely; Court House; Riddle’s, in Brock’s Gap; Zigler’s School House, at Timberville; Richard Pickering’s, at Sparta; Conrad’s Old Store; Solomon Pirkey’s, in McGaheysville.  In 1842 there were seven:  Harrisonburg; Addison Harper’s, Brock’s Gap; Schoolhouse of John Zigler, Timberville; Richard Pickering’s; Conrad’s Old Store; McGaheysville; Bright-




well’s old store, on Beaver Creek.  In 1858 a precinct was established at the house of Samuel Cootes.

     The Rockingham Register, in 1840, was ardent in its support of Van Buren.  In the issue of August 15 a two-column campaign article appears, aimed, of course, at Harrison and the Whigs, and containing a long list of those gentlemen who constituted the Democratic Vigilance Committee for Central (or Harrisonburg) Precinct.  Peachy Harrison was chairman of the committee.

     In 1841 the following persons were agents for the Register, at the places designated:

Naason Bare – Timberville

Jacob Deck – Brock’s Gap

R. Pickering – Spartapolis

Geo. E. Deneale – Smith’s Creek

P. A. Clark – Mt. Crawford

John Dinkle – Bridgewater

Joseph Conrad – Conrad’s Store

D. Irick – McGaheysville

Reuben Emick – Linvill’s Creek

Wesley Bare – Parnassus

Young J. Hiner – Doe-Hill

Wm. McCoy – Franklin

S. Sterling, of Rockh., Gen. Agt.

     In 1844 the Harrisonburg Republican was in the Presidential campaign, for Clay and Frelinghuysen, and against the Register – not to mention Polk and Dallas.  The following paragraph is copied from the Republican of July 23, 1844.


     Our brother of the Fairmount (Va.) Pioneer is correct.  “The enterprising Whigs of Rockingham have caused a Whig paper to be established in that strong hold of Locofocoism,” and what is more to the point, they intend keeping it up.


     A few notes relating to military affairs within the period before us are herewith presented.  On April 19 (a notable anniversary!), 1822, John Kenny was commissioned colonel (field officer of cavalry) in Rockingham.  In 1828 the number of Virginia militia totaled 100,707, Frederick County




standing first with 2569, Shenandoah second, with 2556, and Rockingham fourth, with 2296.  In 1835 the General Assembly passed an Act establishing in Rockingham a new and distinct regiment, to be known as the 145th Regiment of Virginia Militia.  The commissioners named in the Act were John Cowen, Samuel Cootes, John Allabough, Anderson Moffitt, George Piper, David Lincoln, Samuel Miller, Abram Burd, and David Henton.  The next year an Act to apportion more equally the enrolled militia of the three Rockingham Regiments was passed.  In the Register of April 7, 1838, is found a notice from Wm. Burnside, O.S., ordering the rifle company, commanded by Capt. Speck and attached to the 145th Regiment, to parade on the 2d Saturday of April at Paul’s Mill, Beaver Creek.  In another copy of the same paper, dated April 8, 1842, are three similar notices:  One from J. Billhimer, O.S., to Capt. O. St. C. Sprinkle’s company, ordering it to parade in Harrisonburg on the 2d Saturday of April; another, from John A. Hopkins, captain, ordering the artillery to parade at Mt. Clinton on the 2d Saturday; another, from Wm. Burnsides, O.S., ordering the light infantry company, formerly under command of Capt. J. S. Carlile, to parade in Dayton on the 3d Saturday.  In the last-named company an election was to be held for captain.  The hour appointed for the parade in each of  the three notices was 11 o’clock.

     Twenty years ago a lady (2) who was born in Harrisonburg in 1812, and who spent her early life there, wrote out her recollections of the olden time.  Her account of the “big musters” is given in the following graphic words:


     The annual or general muster was the greatest thing, and was looked forward to for months with the greatest pleasure by all the negroes and children.  Training of officers began several days before muster day.  It was the most motley crowd that filled the square around the court house.  Men of all sorts and sizes, dressed in tow-linen pants and shirts; few had coats and vests; some with old wool hats, and others with straw


(2)      Maria Graham Carr, mother of Gen. C.C.C. Carr of Chicago.  For access to copies of her manuscript I am indebted to Mr. R.A. VanPelt and Mrs. Hattie Newman.




hats.  I saw one man in this crowd when I was about ten years old; he had on tow-linen pants and shirt, coarse shoes, no stockings; around his waist was a bright red woolen sash; he had a rusty slouch hat on, without bank, and torn at the edge.  On the front of the hat was a long white feather with a scarlet top – he felt as proud as a general.  I saw several soldiers there at one time with bright yellow coats trimmed with black, and green flannel ones trimmed with white or silver.  I suppose these uniforms were some of the remains of the War of 1812.  My aunt told me that my father had raised a company which he had uniformed at his own expense.

     Some men on muster day carried old umbrellas, cornstalks and sticks of wood instead of guns and swords.  I suppose the officers were tired of trying to beat sense into these men, and gave up in despair, marching them out to a field in the N. end of town to try to drill them.

     After marching the militia out to the filed, the Light Horse Company, of about fifty men, under Col. McMahon, went out also.  After all the men were on the field the staff officers went out to the Colonel’s house to escort him to the field.  Not one of them was uniformed.  The Colonel had on a blue uniform with metal buttons, a red sash around his waist, and a helmet with a cow’s tail on it, hanging down behind.  The whisky, beer, and ginger-bread sellers were in their glory, as this was their harvest, many persons taking home a jug full of something and a handkerchief filled with ginger-bread.

     I always loved dearly to hear the fife and drum, and got as near to them as I could, listening to them until the tears ran down my cheeks.  I was never so affected by any other music.


     All the gentlemen of the day ordinarily wore knee breeches with silver buckles, some of these buckles being set with paste; they had shoe buckles to match; silk hose in summer, and black lamb’s wool hose in winter.

     According to a letter written January 16, 1911, by Mr. D. M. Kaylor of Bellefontaine, Ohio, a famous ginger cake baker of the time was Mrs. Christopher Warvel, who lived near McGaheysville.  Mrs. Carr mentions a Mrs. Nye of Harrisonburg who was also noted for her ginger cake, as well as for her molasses-beer and taffy.

     Through the favor of Mr. J. L. Argubright, of Dayton, I am able to reproduce the following interesting roll, from the original manuscript.  It is a valuable piece of source material in Rockingham military history.




Muster Rool of A Troop of Cavalry Commanded by Capt.

John Nicholas for the year 1828


John Nicholas Capt                                             George Nicholas

John Miller 1st Lt.                                  Philip Deal

Henry Oungst 2nd Lt                                            Solomon Leonard

John Albright Cornet                                          Berryman Dorsson

Charles Yancey 1st Ser t                                       David Royer

(Jacob Frederick 2nd Ser t)                                   Abraham Argebright

Samuel Royer 3th Ser t                                        James Kook

Joseph Moyer 4th Ser t                                        (John Williams)

Jacob Kiblinger                                                    David Huston

John Royer                                                            John Argebright

Joseph Mahoy                                                     Jacob Royer

Jonathan Peal                                                       Peter Roler

Jonathan Rush                                                     John May

Jacob Armentrout                                                                Jacob Earman

James Dovel                                                          Jacob Allabaugh

John Fisher                                                           John Huffman

John Alfred                                                           Albert Yancey

(Frederick Krahn)                                 Francis Kertly

Charles Nicholas miller                                        John Dovel

David Irick                                                             William Youst

Tyree R. Brown                                                    (John Wallace)

Samuel Moor                                                        George E. Craige

Michael Rowtz                                                      William Eater

William Fisher                                                       David Oungst

(William Danner)                                                  William Eaton

Nicholas Miller                                                     (Joseph Oungst)

Nathan Huston                                                     Samuel H. Huffman

Peter Miller                                                            David Eitor

Philip Moyer                                                         Samuel Showalter

(Alexa Newman)                                                   Adam Blose Jr

Hamilton I Hufman                                               Joshua Snider

John Cline                                                             Abraham Whitmore

Thomas Reaves                                                    Daniel Rife

William Reaves                                                     Benja Miller

Charles Chandler                                                  David Eversole

David Chandler                                                    (Jacob Kiblinger Jr)

(Tandy Dovel)                                                      Henry Conrod

William Bird                                                          Henry Hansbarger

John Anders                                                         George Huston

David Weaver                                                      Reuben Propst

George Kaylor                                                      Jacob Linaweaver




Wm Peterfish                                                        Jacob Conrod

Ninrod Hitt                                                            Samuel Gibbons

Jacob Blose                                                           Thomas Miller

Isaac Hammer                                                       George Kellar

John Hammer                                                        John Swats

John Williamson                                                  George Secrist

Westely Bear                                                        John Roberts

St. Clair Kertley


     Upon special inquiry made not long since of two venerable gentlemen, Mr. Richard Mauzy of McGaheysville and Mr. J. N. Liggett of Harrisonburg, I was informed that Rockingham County, although a stronghold for Polk and his party, took very little interest in the Mexican War, 1846-8.  Of Rockingham soldiers in Mexico, the following were all that could be recalled:  John P. Brock (3) (1823-1892); N. Calvin Smith (4) (1823-1897); William Smith (brother of Calvin).

     In October, 1873, William Ralston died near Linville Depot, aged about 50.  It was said that he had been in the Mexican War, as well as in the Civil War.  He was known as “Soldier Bill.”

     Mr. Robert Coffman of Dayton states that Frederick Linhoss, formerly of the same town, was a soldier in Mexico; and Mr. Benj. Long, also of Dayton, agrees with Mr. Coffman in reporting the tradition, received from Mr. Linhoss and Mr. St. Clair Detamore, that a number of men (about a dozen) left Dayton for the Mexican War.

     The favorite method for raising money for all “good causes,” particularly the building of expensive bridges, was by a lottery.  Here is something specific in point:


(3)  Born May 17, 1823, near Lacey Springs, died in November, 1892.  He was captain of the Valley Rangers in the Civil War.


(4)  Calvin Smith died in Providence, R.I.








     Ye elect sons and daughters of the goddess of Fortune, call and buy tickets in the Shenandoah Bridge Lottery, where large sums of CASH can be bought for the inconsiderable sum of $4.


     This is the heading of an advertisement that appeared in the Rockingham Register in January, 1833, regarding the Shenandoah Free-Bridge Lottery, to construct a bridge across the Shenandoah River on the Swift Run Gap road.  The drawing was to take place in Winchester, on Tuesday, February 5, 1833.  The capital prize was $10,000; other prizes in decreasing amounts were offered, there being finally 18,000 prizes of $4 each.  In all there were 18,556 prizes, aggregating in value $108,000.  The number of blanks was 17,434.  David S. Jones was manager, with his office at Harrisonburg.

     At the same time that the above lottery was being promoted, another, with a capital prize of $8,000, was being advertised by Bruffy & Paul, managers, Mt. Crawford, Va.  This was being conducted for the purpose of constructing a free bridge across the North River near Mt. Crawford.  The drawing was to be held at Strasburg on January 15, 1833.  In this there were 30,000 prizes – no blanks; but the small prizes were only $2 each, while the price of a ticket was $4.  The aggregate value of the prizes offered was $90,000.  This scheme therefore, would have allowed a balance of $30,000 to the managers with which to pay expenses, aid the bridge building, and profit themselves.  The gross balance falling to the management under Mr. Jones’ lottery would have been $35, 960.  However, there were repeated drawings for the same bridge – at least in some cases.  Mr. Jones states in




his advertisement that he had already paid out prizes in the Shenandoah Bridge lottery ranging from $10,000 to $200; and in the same issue of the Register he advertises another drawing to be held at Winchester in April, 1833, for a capital prize of $12,000, with smaller prizes in great number.

      Among other contemporary lotteries that were authorized or operated in Rockingham were the following:

     One in 1831-2 for raising money to construct a road from Harrisonburg to Moorefield; another at the same time for the benefit of the Port Republic and New Haven bridge; in 1833, one to be conducted by Wm. Thompson, Anderson Moffitt, John Zigler, Peter Grim, Saml. Hoover, and Isaac Thomas for erecting a free bridge near Thompson’s Store (now Timberville); and one in 1838 for the benefit of the “Mt. Crawford Free Bridge.”

     In the Rockingham Register of November 9, 1833, the following notice appeared:


     The annual general meeting of the Stockholders of the New Shenandoah Company will be held at the house of Mrs. Graham, in Port Republic, on the 15th day of November inst.  A general attendance of the Company is requested.                                                       S.H. Lewis,

                                                                                                            Treas’r. N.S. Com.


     In 1836 the General Assembly agreed to a resolution requesting the board of public works to employ a competent engineer to survey a route for a proposed railroad from Gordonsville, in Orange County, to Harrisonburg, in Rockingham County.

     The winter of 1840 in Rockingham was of unusual severity, and is thus described by Joseph Funk in a letter written January 11:


     As our winter weather here has thus far proved to be rather extraordinary, I will state to you something about it.  On Saturday night and Sunday before Christmas there fell a snow 14 or 15 inches deep, on a previous snow several inches deep; and on Friday after Christmas, (being on the day of Hannah’s infair which was held at Daniel Frank’s) there fell another about 10 or 12 inches deep, which drifted, together with the other, in such a manner that many places of roads are impassible either with wagon or horse.  Mounds of snow are drifted together from 4 to 6




feet deep.  Your sister Elizabeth could not return home from the wedding till the following Wednesday and they were obliged to go through fences and fields to get along:  Since then we have had 3 snows several inches deep.  Both our lanes and many others, have not yet been passed through by any person since the snows fell.  The weather has also been extremely cold, but has now moderated and become more mild and pleasant.


     Financial, agricultural, and religious conditions are depicted, in a letter written by Joseph Funk, October 2, 1842, as follows:


     Times with us are very pressing in the money way; of which, however, our county has felt less weight than any of the adjacent.  But in many respects the times are good.  The season has, the past summer, been very good; heavy crops of wheat oats and corn were produced, so that we abound in the provisions of life.  But, with regret I mention, that I fear there is too little of true and unfeigned religion among us; which in a great measure, may be owing to the Clergy.  If in the room of a pious life – good examples – and warmly preaching the Word of God to our hearts, the preachers read their sermons, and live in conformity to the world, and its vain fashions, I think the church committed to their charge, or course, cannot grow and thrive.


     The California gold fever of 1848-9 seems to have affected Rockingham only slightly.  Says Mr. Mauzy:

     “If any persons from this county went, at that time, to California, I do not know it, though it is probably that a few did so.  I know of two who went from Woodstock – John Anderson and a friend of his named Harrison.”(5)

     Says Mr. Liggett:

     “As to gold seekers:  On conference with Mr. John Kenney, whose memory of ancient occurrences is more tenacious than mine, the following are recalled:  John Higgins, Thomas Fletcher, Jacob Jones, Benj. Miller (probably), -- Britt, and John Williams; the last a lawyer . . . Mr. William Daingerfield emigrated too at an early date, and achieved distinction and fame, ultimately being elevated to the judicial bench.  He was a brother of Capt. Daingerfield and Leroy, soldiers celebrated for gallantry in the Confederate army.”(6)


(5) Letter of February 25, 1912.


(6) Letter of February 24, 1912.




     Gen. Samuel H. Lewis,(7) who lived a mile or two below Port Republic, was a wealthy farmer and man of affairs.  Like many of his contemporaries, he frequently consulted the almanac in the management of his farm, and was in the habit of recording weather observations and related items at the proper places in the calendar.  His almanac for 1852 is before me, and I reproduce from it the following item:


Great Flood.


     April 19. – Great flood in the river & runs – Being as high (within two inches) as in 1842. –The bottom field being recently ploughed, & almost ready to be planted in corn, was very much damaged


     In his letter of 1840 Joseph Funk makes reference to a wedding and an infair.  In order that present-day readers may know what an infair was, and at the same time appreciate more definitely the social conditions that obtained in the earlier half of the century, I append the following account, written for this work, upon special request, by Mrs. Bettie Neff Miller, of Bridgewater.


     I will tell you of the first wedding I ever witnessed.  My step-grandmother Neff’s maiden sister, Barbara Landes, was united in marriage with David Stemphley (a German) sometime in the forties.  I was about 8 years old.  (You remember Stemphleytown near Bridgewater; since he was the first settler there the place was named for him.)

     I will describe the costumes.  The groom was dressed in drab cloth; the bride in a brown merino dress-made petticoat and short gown, with a white apron and handkerchief and a white jaconet cap.

     The first relative wedding I ever attended was Uncle Abe Neff’s.  That was soon after the other – sometime in the forties.  He was attired in fine black cloth, the bride in a white dress, with apron of the same material, a beautiful white silk handkerchief and a bobinet [sic] cap.  The


(7)  Samuel H. Lewis (1794-1869) was the son of Charles Lewis (1772-1832), who was the son of Thomas Lewis (1718-1790).  Thomas was the eldest son of John Lewis, pioneer of Augusta.  Thomas lived and died at Lewiston, below Port Republic.  He was the first surveyor of Rockingham, and had one of the largest libraries in the West.  General Andrew Lewis (1720-1780) and Col Chas. Lewis (1736-1774) were his brothers.  Samuel H. Lewis was the father of Sen. John F. Lewis and Samuel H. Lewis (1820-1892).




ceremony was rather long, including a prayer, in which all knelt.  When they arose the minister sang a few lines:

Bless, Lord, this newly-married pair,

And make the match a blessing prove.


     Uncle Abe’s was the first infair I attended.  All rode on horseback.  When they came near the house they galloped the horses, and all alighted in a huddle.  The friends cam to meet them, and ushered them into the house, where the bride and her attendant dressed for dinner.  The bride wore a blue alpaca dress, a black silk apron, and a fancy silk handkerchief.  Her bonnet was a white lawn over a whole pasteboard – or half a one, I should have said.  Of course, we all thought it was beautiful and tasteful.  The table was set with pies, puff cakes, pickles, and different kinds of preserves, with chicken, turkey, and ham on a side table.  After eating plenty of meat and chicken, the plates were removed, and pie and cakes were served.

     After dinner all went into a room prepared to have them spend their time in playing the oldtime apple-butter plays.  We children looked on with delight.  Bridal presents were unknown.

     I attended several infairs just like the one I have described.  In earlier days, while on the road to the groom’s home, two young men were sent for two bottles of wine to treat the bride and groom before they arrived at the house.  When Aunt Mary Neff was married to William Pence they prepared to send out two bottles of wine – had the bottles trimmed, and looked for the men to come.  Old Mr. Pence was an old-fashioned man, and wanted to treat his new daughter-in-law.  Your mother and I were in that bridal procession.  Times changed somewhat before your mother and I were married.  My bridal presents were a home-woven wash line, a home-made linen towel, and a wash-bowl with pitcher.  Since then there have been many changes, as you know.(8)


     In the four-cornered fight for the Presidency in 1860 the Rockingham Register supported Douglas.  In the issue of August 3, 1860, the editor disapproves the talk of revolution and declares for the preservation of the Union, yet expresses fear of “black republican fanaticism” and flays the abolitionists.  At the same time the division of the Democratic party is deplored.  On election day the vote in Rockingham stood as follows:  676 for Breckenridge, 888 for Bell, and 1354 for Douglas.  If Lincoln got any votes in the county, the Register did not report them; yet it was only 78 years since


(8)      From a letter written September 4, 1911.




his father and grandfather had left Rockingham, and a number of his relatives were still residing in the county at the time.

     By December 14, 1860, the Register, while still adoring the Union, showed decided signs of secession sentiment.  Evidently it had veered considerable during the last preceding month or two.  In the issue of December 28 appears the following, anent the secession of South Carolina:


     We are sorry that the gallant Palmetto State did not continue in the Union until the North had time to retrace its steps and do us justice.  There are unequivocal signs of returning reason in many portions of the North, and we at least hope they will yet do what they ought before the rest of the Southern States dissolve their connexion with the Union.


     These words have an ominous sound.  Coming events were casting shadows.(9)


(9)  For letters, almanacs, old newspapers, etc., belonging to the period covered by this chapter, I am indebted, among others, to Mrs. E. Ruebush, Dayton, Va., and to Mr. S. C. Rohr and Hon. George N. Conrad, both of Harrisonburg.

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