A Mom’s Goodbye

This morning, as I steeled myself to watch my son’s back recede into the maze of airport security this weekend, I felt a tug from the past.  “Remember,” she said, “he is going on an adventure, following his dream and his loyalties, to become the man he needs to be.  At least he enters into a world of safety and civility, with a university’s throbbing pulse.  He won’t be put deliberately into harm’s way.  You are lucky.”

Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson must have felt awash with anxiety and sadness as she watched her son’s back recede down toward Dodson’s Corners, Virginia.  Greene left home to pursue his adventure as a soldier for the Confederate States of America.  He didn’t get the chance to become a man.

It is going to be much easier to ponder this mother’s goodbye than to say mine.  So my next few posts will be a bit of productive coping.


Zoom view

My proof that Greene Dodson actually existed and fought in The War Between The States begins with my Grandmother Strickland’s family history, “Some Genealogical Facts of the Strickland-Sayles Family”, compiled and written by Florette Sayles Strickland, March 1976.

James Dodson and Sarah Jane Rowlett, united in marriage 18–, in Mecklenburg Co. Virginia.  Born to this union: Greene, Virginia, Harvey, Henry, Dora, Molly, Adlaide, Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie), born Aug. 15, 1856, Edward (Ed), and William Rowlett (Bud).  ….Greene, the oldest son, was killed while serving in the Confederade (sic) Army near Petersburg, Va. shortly before the War ended. He had left school to join up, tho (sic) he was under age.

The 1860 Federal Census provides further evidence.  Listed among the residents of Regiment 22, Mecklenburg County, Virginia are Dodson, James (45), Sarah (35), William (13), Eugenia (10), Harvey(8), Maria (6), Mary (5), Lilly (3), Usebia (2).

Because my grandmother referred to the eldest son as Greene I have concluded that Sarah Jane’s boy was named William Greene, after James’ mother, Mary Greene.   The search among Confederate Soldier records included all the possible variations: William, Wm., William G., W. G., Greene, William Greene Dodson.  After falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, I found the muster cards provided some confusing results.

Next: The Confederate Citizens’ Papers yield an important clue.

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Map of Mecklenburg Co., Va. Surveyed under the direction of A.H. Campbell Capt. P.A.C.S. in Ch’ge Topl. Dept. [by] H.M. Graves Lt. Engrs. Sept. 1864.

Map Collection at the Library of Congress

Wordless Wednesday: Civil War Map of Southside Virginia and North Carolina

Today I am sharing a Footnote.com discovery: a Civil War map from the collection of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, drawn by A. Lindenkohl. Annotations provide clues about where my Dodson and Strickland families lived during the Civil War.

Amanuensis Monday: A Letter from Asa Minor to John P. Minor, 1837

The front of the 4″ by 5″ packet declares :

W                                                                                                                                                              John P Minor                                                                                                                                        Green County PA                                                                                                                                Big Whitely Ofice                                                                                                                                                    Pa

Kirkwood O                                                                                                         25                             August 22nd

On the back hidden amid some scribbled numbers is a thumbnail-sized circular stain, the remnant of some long ago wax seal.  The parchment-colored paper unfolds to reveal a letter, one long paragraph,  written on two 7.5″ by 12″ pages.  There are no commas or periods to help the 21st century reader mark the beginning and ending of thoughts.  Capital letters are used indiscriminately for proper and common nouns, verbs and adjectives.  Spelling is often phonetic and the same word can have multiple spellings throughout the note.  Fortunately the handwriting is legible, the ink still dark, the script remarkably like the cursive I learned in Mrs. Flora’s fourth grade classroom.

This is a letter written by Asa Minor (b. 1796) to his big brother John Pierson (Pearson) Minor(b. 1791) in 1837. *1  I have taken the liberty to present the letter with corrections, so that the intent of the letter is clear:

Warren County Ohio August 22nd 1837

Dear brother & sister,

I take my pen in hand to inform you we are enjoying good health  at present & our friends as far as I can hear are enjoying health through the tender mercies of a kind Providence.  I hope these few lines may find you all enjoying good health.  I have nothing particular to write you at present, only to scold you a little; that is if you ever received my last letter which I wrote,  I think, in May last.   I know it was shortly after Uncle Stephen Minor came with his news of having a bill against us & I have never received a line from you since.  I thought I would set down in a brief manner to inform you we are all well & also to try to persuade you to write me an answer to let me know if you are coming down this fall or not.

Also Concerning this money Scrape (*2): if our Ohio paper will answer you any purpose, I can have $200 hundred for you this fall if it will.  As I have 100 hundred coming into my hands & I have to take that or nothing.   I thought if you intend to buy any stock it would answer, as it will on all purposes here with the exceptions of Land.

We have had a tolerable wet summer here. Our corn looks well and oats but we have had a tedious time for harvest.  Our markets is as follows:  wheat is from 90 to $1.00; flour is 3.50 per hundred wt barrel  $7.00 per lb.  Oald Corn is 50 pr, oats 33 ½.  The horses is high but not so high as was in the spring, for you could buy  tolerable good gelding from 65 to 75 dollars.

I must come to a close as I am in a hurry to move at present but we remain your friends until death. Give our love to all inquiring friends and please to write in haste.

Asa Minor , Eleanor Minor

(to) John P. Minor,  Izabel Minor                                                               (PS) for Wool 33

*1:The brothers were part of the large Abia Minor family, which began with the marriage of Abia to Margaret Pearson in 1790, Middlesex, New Jersey.  When the boys were small Abia and Margaret joined the extended Minor family living in Greene County, Pennsylvania, at the southwestern corner of the state.  Abia outlived his first wife, remarried and continued to contribute to the nation’s population growth.  At some point after 1820 it appears that Abia moved his family to Warren County, Ohio; this migration certainly included the youngest members but may have also included children from his first marriage, including Asa, who married Eleanor Thompson.  John P. Minor married Isabella McClelland, and remained in Greene County to become a very successful farmer and investor.

*2 The money scrape refers to the Panic of 1837 in which a wave of state and private banks defaulted on deposits.  Loans were called in and credit was no longer extended, creating a cycle of business failures, high unemployment and rapid inflation.  Ohio had nine state banks, which had lent beyond its means and printed money unsecured by gold and silver deposits.  Paper money was not accepted by the federal government for postal transactions or land sales. The depression that followed the crash lasted until around 1844.



Tombstone Tuesday/This Day In Family History: Norman Scott Strickland’s Birth Day

Looking from Hunter's Lane across the fields of the Old Dodson Place, Mecklenburg County, Virginia

Travel south from Chase City, Virginia on the Boydton Road about 15 minutes, turn left at Dodson Corners onto Hunter’s Lane.  Follow the bend to the left, through a grove of pine to the meadows shorn of their grass by cows now shunning the noon heat among the shade of oak trees. Sitting on your left will be the headquarters of the Butcher’s Creek Hunt Club.Site of the Old Dodson Place, "Oakview" This house marks the site of the Old Dodson Place, the homeplace of George and Florette Strickland’s family during the depression, and where my father, Norman, grew up.  The youngest son in a family of four boys, Norman was born this day 1928.

This past spring I returned to this land, to breathe some ancestral smells, look out on rolling land my father once walked.  Had it not been for the company of coon dogs who rushed to greet me, I would have tramped through the long grass, risking contact with some very healthy poison ivy, to look for crumbled buildings and civil war trenches, farm garbage dumps and Grandfather-dug watering holes.  The air was hot and muggy, heavy with the fragrance of wild honeysuckle and white wild rose.

Oak Trees of OakviewTowering above me were oak trees, just acorns on the ground when my dad shot squirrels out of their predecessors. Thick brambles of poison ivy, honey suckle, rose, and pricker bushes grew at their base.  It would have been along hedgerows like these that rabbits hopped out, to eat by the road’s edge. And my father with buddy Charles D. would slowly approach in his daddy’s 1938 Ford pickup truck.  While one boy drove, the other would lie on the huge front fender, flat on his belly, rifle in hand.  Spot the rabbit, catch it in the scope, pull the trigger. The rabbit went from being vermin to being dinner.

Norman Scott Strickland grew up to leave this farm, to leave Chase City.  He was coworker to fellow General Electric electrical engineers for 35 years, a choir member of countless church groups, a community leader, a good neighbor; a gardener, a bird watcher, a dog lover. Most of all Norman Scott Strickland was a gentle friend, ever ready with a smile, particularly for his wife, and six children, and two grandchildren.  After losing a third battle to cancer 16 July 2006, Norman returned to the red soil of Mecklenburg County, where I can come and leave a stone in remembrance of his life well lived.

Amanuensis Monday: John Pearson Minor

Inside the valise, its leather cracking from decades of storage, lie my treasure–letters, receipts, documents, small notebooks–tokens of family business conducted over a century ago. Today’s transcription is of a letter posted from A. D. Clarke of Woodlands, Virginia to my great to the third grandfather, John P. Minor of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, on the 28 May 1839.  It reads:

Dear Sir,

Many thanks for your kind favor which came to hand on the 19th but R Wills informed me all particulars and directed me to forward you the draft and that you would bring me the amount of charges as the Bank agreed to pay the am’t in a ? money . Accept my best acknowledgments for the trouble you have taken. Mr. Wills expects you this week. I would feel ablidged for acknowledging the rec’t of the Inclosed unless you are coming on.  I seen Rolly this –he expects you see the letter about the lands.

Dear Sir,

From your ablidg’d Friend,

A.D. Clarke

John P. Minor was one of several Minor family members living in Greene County, Pennsylvania in the 1800s.  The patriarch of his branch, John P. evidently purchased large tracts of  land, raised cattle, and lent money to family and friends, as this letter indicates, as early as 1839.