Friday, June 19, 2009

Interesting New Book

An interesting new book was just published. Titled "The Nat Turner Insurrection Trials - A Mystic Chord Resonates Today", the work was written by attorney Walter L. Gordon III, and is available from for $13.99.

"Walter L. Gordon's A Mystic Chord Resonates Today: The Nat Turner Insurrection Trials is the first book by a legal scholar to examine the 50 trials of slaves and free blacks charged with insurrection. Of the 45 slaves tried, 15 were acquitted, an acquittal rate in excess of 30%. Of the 30 convicted slaves, nearly half were granted mercy. The Nat Turner insurrection was the crest of a wave of insurrections in Virginia between 1800 and 1831. After the Nat Turner insurrection trials there were no further slave insurrections in Virginia until John Brown's raid in 1859. In addition, it is the first book to compare the aftermath of the Nat Turner insurrection, the largest terrorist attack on American soil at that time, to 9/11, with an effort to draw lessons for today from the past. "

Although the book doesn't appear to mention Murfreesboro's role in the Nat Turner Story, it is an interesting account of the insurrection with special emphasis on the trials. For a detailed account of the events from Murfreesboro's point of view, consult Thomas Parramore's 2004 book "Murfreesboro, North Carolina and the Roots of Nat Turner’s Revolt".

Fannie Southall's Death

Raleigh Biblical Recorder, April 15, 1853:

(From Dr. Samuel J. Wheeler, on a visit to relatives in Mississippi. Samuel Wheeler at the time owned and lived in the Wheeler House.)

"My pen is sad to-night; news from Carolina renders me melancholy. A letter just received, contains the following morceau:

'When quiet and composure were brought about, they proceeded from giving away of the power of life. It was the calm preceeding death. As the lamp of life flickered in its socket for the last time, her consciousness returned, and reason reascended her throne; she recognized her father, who had been her constant attendant during the wild delirium that had supplanted her judgement, with her dying breath whisperedin his ear 'though I walk the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil' and died quiet and resigned. G.C.M.'

I had left this fair young being blooming in health and beauty but a few short months since, the life of every circle, the cynosure of all eyes;and hoped again to see her, and spend years of pleasure with her; but she is gone. I can only say, farewell, dear cousin. To relieve an aching heart, before closing my eyes in sleep, I penned the following lines:

'In memory of Miss .F. Southall, late of Murfreesboro N.C. ....

(Long poem follows. Dr. Wheeler had heard of Fannie Southall's death from his brother-in-law, Dr. Godwin Cotton Moore. She was the daughter of John W. Southall by his first marriage to Julia Johnson.)

"The Dr. Gary House" or "The Benjamin B. Camp House"

The historic Murfreesboro residence known as the "Dr. Gary House" is currently for sale.

Photographs and a description of the house (list price $399,000) can be viewed on the United Country Realty site.

I recall once having to give a tour of the Dr. Gary house to descendants, and not being able to find much of a written history. However, I recently came across something Thomas Parramore wrote in 1975. His research at the time left some questions unanswered (perhaps they remain unanswered ??) but I thought it might still be interesting to post his research anyway.

"This property was sold by James W. Hill in 1879 to Kader Biggs, a merchant from Martin County. Biggs sold it in 1881 to Cornelia Grimes and Mrs. Grimes, I believe, sold it to Dr. John Turner Eldridge. The 1881 deed states that Hill bought the property from heirs of Benjamin B. Camp (see Deed Book K, p. 228, at the court house).

Benjamin B. Camp was a native of Connecticut who came to Murfreesboro around 1821 and became a business partner of Joseph G. Rea, in "Rea and Camp's" store. They were also ship owners. Camp was colonel of Murfreesboro's militia unit, the "Governor's Guards', which escorted Lafayette in 1825. He died on October 9, 1833, at the age of 39.

Dr. Thomas O'Dwyer's diary for July 29, 1825 records that "Dr. O'Bryan called & says he sold his lot & buildings to J.G. Rea for B. Camp for $950." O'Bryan had offered the place to O'Dwyer on July 7th, "as he declines the Practice of Phisic & wishes to move to the Westn. Country - decline purchasing as I would rather sell." It is not certain that this is the same property that was sold by Camp's estate to Hill, but it could be.

In the 1845 Tax Census of Murfreesboro, James W. Hill is listed as owner of one piece of property valued at $120. He was also co-owner with Lewis T, Spiers, of "Hill & Spiers" general store at the northeast corner of Sycamore and Main, valued at $500.

The brick said to have been found in the main chimney bearing the numbers 1766 should not be taken as evidence of the antiquity of the house. The brick may have come originally from some other structure and the numbers may not refer to a date at all. It may originally have been a one-story, four-room house, as is thought, but there is no house in Murfreesboro that can safely be regarded as having been built before 1810. Earlier dates are claimed for many of the present structures there, but none will stand the test of critical analysis. When Murfreesboro was laid off in 1787, there is reason to believe that there was nothing in the vicinity except the Murfree home, which probably stood near the old landing. William Murfree sold the land to the state, 97 acres, for $1000, a price which suggests that the town-site itself was devoid of any structure. The "Dr. Gary House" stands to the west of this 97 acre tract, on land annexed to Murfreesboro in 1825, and it is conceivable that somebody had a small house on the site before 1787. But conceivable is by no means good enough to satisfy the purposes of historical scholarship.

The likelihood is that Dr. Lawrence O'Bryan built this house around 1822, or acquired it from someone who had built it only a short time earlier. In the light of our present information, the house might appropriately be known as the "Benjamin B. Camp House."

The Camp family seem pretty well to have been wiped out in 1833. Joseph R dying on Oct 2, Leonidas on Dec 25, and Juliet E. on Jan 22. J.R. was aged 5, and Juliet aged 12.

Thomas Parramore

Upon Her Pure and Gentle Dreaming ...The Shadow of Death Was Stealing

From " Memories over the Water, or Stray Thoughts on a Long Stroll" by Henry Maney. Nashville, Tenn: Toon, Nelson & Co. 1854

(This is about a trip to Europe in 1852 by the author, a son of Judge Thomas Maney, formerly a Murfreesboro attorney, who moved to Tennessee. The dedication of the book is to "Miss F.W.S. of Murfreesborough, N.C." and it is followed by a poem on her death.)

"On the morning of the 2nd of May we took the steamer down the broad-flowing Potomac .... Passed through Richmond and Petersburg, Va., and reached Weldon N.C. that night.

Here we got out, and in the old village of Murfreesboro', and on the banks of the Megerrin and the Chowan, we learned the hospitality of the old North State. Many were our evening rides on horseback, and many a cozy hour, with our lady friends and favorite poets, went magically by. But among those bright-eyed ones there was a being of youth and beauty, from out whose wild blue orbs broke a wild and spiritual light. Into the fair paradise of that young heart no thought of evil passes - over the glad canopy of her life no storm-cloud sent its frown. From out of the sweet, unbroken dream of youth she had ne'er awakened. She

Dream'd that earth was bright with beauty
Dream'd that hearts grew never cold,
Dream'd that all were true and worthy,
And dreaming sought the spirit-fold.

Upon her pure and gentle dreaming, and all unknown to the loved and loving ones about her, the shadow of death was stealing. We have stood by her side, at evening's blushing sunset, and by the grave of those who had gone before her to the spiritland; and we heard, as though it were the voice of an angel, her thoughts of the life that was, and of the life that is. At that lone spot, where weeps the willow, she slumbers now. She bloomed awhile, like some fair lily by the shore of death's dark stream. The envious current saw and bore away the flower. But the kind mariner looked upon the lily, tossed upon the turbid tide, and taking it up transplanted it to smile forever in his garden home."