Facets of Lucy

Looking at the various side of a life

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Fresh From the Pages of History: The Great Snow Storm of 1857

Much of the U.S. has suffered through a couple extreme heat waves this summer  without enough rain.  I thought it might be refreshing to take our minds down a different path, to the Great Snow Storm of 1857 as told in the “Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, 1726 – 1871” [1]:

We must not omit to mention the great snow storm of January, 1857, which is still often referred to in conversation, and  by the newspapers.  Snow began to fall about 7 o’clock Saturday night, the 17th, and continued without cessation for twenty-four hours.  All day Sunday, the 18th, the mercury stood at zero, and the wind blew in a gale from apparently every point of the compass, driving the snow into houses through every crack, piling it up many feet deep in some places, and in others sweeping the earth bare.

  The running of trains on the Virginia Central railroad was suspended for ten days, and as there was then no telegraph line to Staunton, the people of the town and county were cut off from communication with the outside world.  But never did good-fellowship and all the social virtues prevail so generally in the community.  Two issues of the Staunton newspapers were brought out during the embargo, and the editors were put to the trumps for copy.[Definition from the 1913 Webster’s dictionary- “to force to the last expedient, or to the utmost exertion.”]  At length after dark Tuesday evening, the 27th,  the town was startled and elated by the unaccustomed sound of an engine whistle, and a large part of the population rushed to the depot to learn the news.  Did Richmond, Washington and New York survive, or had they been smothered to death by the snow?  The train proved to be only an engine with one car attached, bringing the passengers who had started from Richmond on the 18th.  The regular western train of that day was arrested by the storm at Louisa Court-house, and the passengers were detained there till the 21st.  They then worked their way by some means to Gordonsville, where they had to remain until the 25th.  Starting again,  they spent a night in the railroad car, and reached Staunton, as stated, on the 27th.  They brought no mail nor news except the account of their own adventures.  At 4 o’clock Wednesday, January 28th, the first train from Richmond arrived with thirty bags of mail for the Staunton post office.

Reading how cut off they were from any news is so different than today.  Every major weather event is covered endlessly now on all television channels and  radio stations. And certain the internet has no lack of stories – no “put to the trumps” for today’s news reporters.  I always feel sorry for the lowest – ranking TV  correspondent, who reports “live” from the busiest intersection,  interviewing the poor shmucks whose cars have slid down the hill or gotten stuck on the road while the camera man films every slide, every accident and every time the correspondent, in quiet moments, steps in deep snow to see how deep it is, and whether its light or heavy (“a wet snow”?).

To read a riveting tale about passengers stuck on a train in the snow, I encourage you to read “All Wiped Out!” : Wellington Avalanche at   Map of Time: A Trip into the Past .

1 Joseph A. Wadell (ed.), Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, From 1726 to 1871 (2d ed.; Staunton, Virginia, C. Russell Caldwell, 1902, pp. 448-49.


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Fresh From the Pages of History: And You Have Issues With Your Parents?

Photo Source: Wikopedia

If you haven’t already had the pleasure, meet Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of King George II, and father of King George III.    On November 1, 1738, the General Assembly of the Colony of Virginia passed an act establishing and naming two counties in honor of him and his wife, the Princess Augusta.  As I make my way through the book I inherited from my great, great grandmother and my grandfather, “The Annals of Augusta County”, this piece of history did not exactly grab me ; that is, until I noticed the long note and poem at the bottom of the page.  What I read sent me looking for a source which could explain.  I found this link which shared some insight.

Unfortunately his mother and father, George II and Queen Caroline, hated Fred.

Queen Caroline is reported as saying ‘Our first-born is the greatest ass, the greatest liar, the greatest canaille (Definition: one of the lowest class of people)  and the greatest beast in the world, and we heartily wish he was out of it’.

‘My God’, she said, ‘popularity always makes me sick, but Fretz’s popularity makes me vomit’. Not a case of ‘motherly love’ then!

His father, George, suggested that perhaps ‘Fretz might be a Wechselbag, or changeling’.

When in 1737 Queen Caroline lay dying, George refused to let Fretz say goodbye to his mother, and Caroline was said to be very thankful.

She said ‘At last I shall have one comfort in having my eyes eternally closed, I shall never have to see that monster again’.

Frederick didn’t live to a good old age as he died in 1751 after being struck on the head with a cricket-ball.

His son, the future George III, who was a teenager at the time, was genuinely unhappy when his father died. He said ‘I feel something here’ (putting his hand on his heart) ‘just as I did when I saw two workmen fall from the scaffold at Kew’.

Makes you want to go hug your parents, doesn’t it?

Oh, and the note and long poem at the bottom of the page?  An epigram (defined as is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement) which was written and became popular when he died.

Here lies Prince Fred,
Who was alive and now is dead:
Had it been his Father,
I had much rather;
Had it been his brother,
Sooner than any other;
Had it been his sister;
There’s no one would have missed her;
Had it been his whole generation,
Best of all for the Nation;
But since it’s only Fred,
There’s no more to be said.

At least his wife missed him, right?  Not so much.  The rest of the notes states that her reputation suffered after her husband died, as she was accused on “undue intimacy” with her confidential adviser.

After you hug your parents, kiss your spouse.  Poor Fred!

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Fresh From the Pages of History: The Story of the Drunken Hogs

Photo Eric Brady | The Roanoke Times

I inherited a wonderful treasure from my grandfather.  It is an old book, copyrighted 1901, and passed down from my great-grandmother. On the surface, it does not seem so special;being entitled “Annals of Augusta County, 1726-1871” [1].  Several things make this the treasure it is. First, it is annotated by both my grandfather and great-grandmother – I am looking at her handwriting!  They have also clipped newspaper articles that are relevant and left points which help me trace a side of my family I didn’t know much about.  And the book itself, I believe, is a treasure.  The author, Joseph A. Wadelll states in his preface that he received much criticism for not emphasizing famous citizens of the area.  He chose instead to  relate stories of the “common man”, to better show the times and the manners and customs of the people.  I find I’m having trouble reading it straight through because there are so many side stories that draw me in.  I may share a few now and then because I think they have value for us all. I want to start with an amusing anecdote, a story told first-hand by the affected family.

The Story of the Drunken Pigs

” A  ludicrous incident occurred in Staunton, in connection with the war preparations, in or about 1812.  The captain of one of the town companies, who was a man of strict sobriety, felt it incumbent on him to “treat” his men, in accordance with the custom of the times.  His wife, then confined to her chamber, had on hand a large supply of brandied cherries, which the captain appropriated and distributed liberally to his company.  Of course, he had to partake of them himself, and being unaccustomed to the use of liquour, a very few made him very jubilant and very affectionate to everybody, his wife especially.  Hurrying home, he quite overwhelmed the lady with caresses, and she soon discovered the cause of the unusual demonstration.  Calling a servant, she ordered that the remaining cherries be emptied into the street gutter.  Pigs running at large fell upon the dainties, and after devouring them became drunk and went reeling through the streets like any other topers, to the great amusement of the town people.  As far as known, this was the Captain’s first and last spree.*

* The Captain was John C. Sowers.  The incident was related to me by one of his daughters.”

1 Joseph A. Wadell (ed.), Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, From 1726 to 1871 (2d ed.; Staunton, Virginia, C. Russell Caldwell, 1902, p. 392.