Narratives in Black and White: Historical Profiles of Mixed Race Couples from the American Antebellum and Beyond.
© 2018 Alex Colvin
Narratives in Black and White: Historical Profiles of Mixed Race Couples from the American Antebellum and Beyond.
In 1938, Susan Morton, a worker with the Virginia Historical Inventory, a preservation-minded program under F.D. R.’s Works Progress Administration, visited Pilgrim’s Rest, because her agency was tasked with inventorying old properties throughout Virginia. Being one of the oldest estates in the county, dating to the early 18th century, Pilgrim’s Rest fit the criteria perfectly. She’d visited and reported on other Colvin estates in the area such as Truro, Hazelwood, and Tenerife — all of which belonged to members of the particular family I have been studying for some time, but none of those homes, while old and certainly historically valuable, would make it onto the National Register of Historic Places.
A while back, I was contacted by Elizabeth Colvin, grand-daughter of Bruce Steel Colvin, (1932-2000), and great-granddaughter of Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, (1900-1974). In her email, she complimented me for my efforts and kindly offered to assist if she could. I am always gratified when this blog gets the attention of living descendants of its subjects. In Elizabeth’s case, her g-grandfather was the first Colvin to come into possession of that venerable old home which had been in place for well-nigh three centuries. The lands today are highly prized by archaeologists for its abundance of pre-historic Native American artifacts.
Pilgrims Rest is significant not only because its architecture represents old Tidewater style, (the double-chimney is a dead giveaway, see insets below, ) but because it sits on land which was once part of the original Foote tract.
Those who know Piedmont Virginia history know that Richard Foote and his compatriots (fellow developers, as it were, ) Robert Bristow, Nicholas Hayward, and George Brent, had received their patents totaling some 3,000 acres directly from the crown (that’s King James II.) The quartet thought things would work out if they invited scores of Huguenots (outcast French Catholics) to settle in their new idea for a neighborhood to be called Brent Town. It was named after George Brent who was — you guessed it — a Catholic from neighboring Stafford County. But things didn’t work out the way they planned. The Huguenots never came, mostly due to terrible marketing ideas in Europe by the four, and competition by others wanting immigrant settlers just as badly, and so, slowly those huge tracts dwindled either via direct sale or lineal passage to smaller and smaller ones. But the home, Pilgrims Rest, remained, eventually passing – along with some 640-acres — to Rev. Levi Hazen (a Methodist minister) who by 1849 re-christen his plantation Mt. Wesley. (After Methodism founder, Rev. John Wesley, no doubt) It was the good minister’s grandson, Melvin Colvin Hazen, who acquired the property in the early 20th century and re-renamed it Pilgrim’s Rest. It was this “Melvin Hazen” who is named in her 1930s WPA report by Susan Morton when she was out trekking around old homes in the area during that Goliath New Deal historical project. And it was that same Melvin, again, who was visited by folks from the Historic American Building Survey during the same period, and whom, after taking their notes and measurements, took some of the only 1930s-era photos known to exist of the home and which are now safely housed with the Library of Congress.
It was during those New Deal years, however, that three nephews of Melvin Colvin Hazen first acquired Pilgrims Rest – bringing it officially into the Colvin family for the first time. And in the 1940s, Elizabeth’s great-grandfather, Dr. Henry Lynn Colvin, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician, bought out his cousin’s shares and acquired the estate and who performed some restoration and renovations in 1956. But by 1982 it passed out of the family, sold by Dr. Colvin’s widow, Virginia Colvin [nee Steel] to Dr. and Mrs. Thom Thomassen.
In 1993, the Thomassens, in turn, sold the estate to Dr. and Mrs. Rodney J. Klima, the current owners. Dr. Klima, an orthodontist, serves the Fairfax community.  Nevertheless, by 1989, Pilgrims Rest’s historic features made it a candidate for listing with the National Registry of Historic Places. In addition to helping restore the main house, in 1996, the Klimas began salvaged an 18th–century Kingsley Granary outbuilding which had sat, dilapidated and abandoned, near its original site along the banks of what had been Broad Run. Years earlier, in 1968, that water course was flooded to create Lake Manassas to expand the county’s water supply. Threatened with submersion, the Klimas bought the structure from the county and had its two-stories worth of stone and beams hauled in pieces to its new site at Pilgrim’s Rest where they restored enough of it to not only re-purpose it as a guest house, but to included it along with Pilgrim’s Rest in an updated application to the National Registry of Historic Places.
By 2004, Pilgrim’s Rest took its honorary place on that valuable directory. In 2013, Pilgrims Rest was added to the Virginia Landmark Registry.
Today, the Village of Catlett is located on Route 28, roughly three miles from the Prince William County line, and some two and a half miles east of the Village of Calverton. In fact, it has so long been historically known as Catlett, it may be hard for latter day Catlett residents and researchers to imagine that it was not always known as Catlett; in fact, it began as a humble railroad station first known as Colvin Station, operated by Richard Colvin, Jr., its first depot agent and was part of a tract of land Richard owned and subsequently sold. Thus, a refinement to the historical record is in order.
Catlett was allegedly named in honor of Col. John Catlett, who took out the first land grant near there in 1715. However, Fauquier County land records show it was Samuel G. Catlett, John’s 6th great-grandson who, on April 9, 1853, purchased for $3,000 dollars from Richard Colvin, Jr. the tract which contained the train station. The deed’s legal description reads:
Curiously, there is an extant myth implying that Samuel’s acquisition of the land from
Richard was by way of a “trade,” rather than outright sale. However, the deed record clearly contraindicates this. Certainly a trade would have been possible; the lands of the Catletts and Colvins were, after all, adjacent and the families had been neighbors for at least two generations by the time Samuel Catlett acquired the parcel. Certainly trading and bartering commodities among friends and neighbors was customary. It would certainly not be odd had such a transaction occurred given that the head of one family had been homesteading in the area since 1807.  And while it’s clear Richard never traded his land, a review of his father’s holdings and how Colvin Station came into his son’s possession is worth a review.
1807 is the year Richard Colvin, Sr. first appears in Fauquier County land tax records where he is listed as being in possession of a 101-acre parcel, along Cedar Run which he is leasing, from “Singer.”  Owing to lax period recording customs, it appears Singer did not immediately record whatever lease he had with Richard; period Fauquier County deed books for the years 1801-1810, for example, contain no surname Singer or variant; neither does it appear in the indices of these three separate volumes. It bears mentioning that no landlord or property owner was compelled by law to record his deed; its recordation value was measured in how it proved ownership in legal disputes.
In 1812, Richard improved his landholding by an additional 202 acres, which he likewise leased in two 101-acre lots. His landholdings remained at this level through 1817; the clerk in the 1816 entry used the term “lease” to account for how Richard held his then 304 acres. In 1818, Richard purchased his first additional parcel of 187 acres, while continuing to lease his other 304 acres. The following year, in 1819, Richard increased his landholdings again by purchasing a 328-acre tract. He likewise continued to lease the 304 acres.
The 1824 Fauquier land tax records show Richard was being taxed on three separate tracts of land: the first, consisting of the 304 acres already noted which was adjacent to the Foote family property line; the second, containing 209 acres was located along the waters of Cedar Run and the third, contained 328 ¼ acres was located near the “Walnut Branch” of the same waterway. Richard was assessed $7.03 at a rate of .08 cents per $100.00 of value. These lands were listed by the commissioners as being sixteen miles “NE” of the courthouse in Warrington. These land descriptions correspond, as one would expect, to several portions of the lands described in the plat of Richard’s lands which was provided during his estate probate in 1828.
Clearly the records show that, like many pioneering settlers of the area, it was by incremental means of acquiring land, Richard Colvin managed to accumulate over 1,500 acres in similar fashion by the time he died in 1825.
As to Richard Colvin, Jr., he acquired his land – a lot of some 227 acres which included Colvin’s Station — by means of an award from the court-ordered division of his father’s estate because his father left no will. The land division proceedings (surveys, etc.,) were begun by Richard Colvin Jr. on October 23, 1826, through Richard was rather young at the time for the task. But the story doesn’t end here.
Two years later, on October 25, 1828, the young Richard Colvin’s division of his father’s estate was executed. It was not recorded, however, until after the final degree on June 28, 1832, which also ended a concurrent friendly chancery suit initiated by his mother, Lydia Colvin [nee’ George.] Richard Colvin Jr.’s allotment to his father’s heirs, (including himself and the railroad station,) was also executed and recorded the same day: July 28, 1832.  In that allotment, Richard received “Lot No. 1”, which consisted of 127 acres, 29 and 67/100 of a pole. No rail line was yet extant. However, when it arrives in 1852 as the Orange & Alexandria, not surprisingly, Richard Colvin Jr. was its first depot agent. After the sale, the name of the station changed from Colvin’s Station to Catlett’s Station The railroad was built in 1852 which was later named Virginia Midland and then, finally, The Southern Railroad.
But there was no “trade,” despite the obstinacy of the myth.
The hefty price Samuel Catlett paid is an obvious reflection of the land’s value because of the station, not insignificant considering the role the station ultimately played in the development of the village overall.
For modern-day descendants and researchers of Charles Colvin, Sr and his heirs., however, Catlett’s early development may be of less significance than the role it played in the lives of their ancestors who lived in the vicinity. Two examples will suffice: both Civil War-related.
Firstly, it was Catlett Station which Union officers used as a Fauquier County-area depot and staging area during the early years of the conflict. Because of his proximity to the area landmark, likely explains why, for example, Union soldiers encamped on the nearby farm of William Colvin., Richard Colvin, Jr’s younger brother. The decimation of William’s farm is detailed in a previous post. As noted in that essay, it was, in fact, timber used from William’s first-growth forests that was used rebuild the Confederate-destroyed Cedar Run Bridge and the Orange and Alexander railroad tracks which ran across it.
As another example, it was a nephew of that same William, George Marian Colvin, (1840-1862 — George’s father was George Colvin [1802-1873] another of William’s older brothers,) who served in the Confederate Cavalry as a scout under Commander, J.E.B. Stuart. That George who was mortally wounded during Stuart’s famous Battle of Catlett’s Station.
George Marion’s military index record card shows he enlisted at Brentsville in Fauquier County on April 23, 1861, as a private to serve the requisite one year of service. However, a year later, on April 23, 1862 he was elected 2nd Lieutenant, and finally, on September 13, 1863, he died of Typhoid Fever in Culpeper, a common cause of death at the time both among the military and civilian populations. He was buried in the family plot at his homestead, Hazelwood in neighboring, Prince William County.
This refinement of the Catlett Station record is offered in the spirit of strengthening the cultural and hereditary ties between modern-day descendants and their ancestors who lived near today’s Catlett’s Station in the interest of cultural preservation. However, those ties can only be maintained when family historians and preservationists understand those ties correctly, and leave myth where it rightfully belongs.
 Fauquier County Government website, Community Development page, Sec. 2 Catlett http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/commdev/index.cfm?action=ccmtoc
 Colvin, Richard and Fanny to Samuel G. Catlett, deed, executed April 9, 1853, recorded April 9 1853, deed book 53 (1853-1854) pp 278-279, reel 23, Library of Virginia. The designations, “Jr.” or “Sr. “never appear in historical records, but they are necessary post nominals to assist researchers in distinguishing this individual from his father, Richard Colvin who d. 1825 and is buried in the Colvin Cemetery in Catlett next to his wife, Lydia.
 M.D. Gore, digitized original WPA Report # 269, Teneriffe, Works Progress Administration of Virginia Historical Inventory, 13 July 1937, Historical Inventory online database. Library of Virginia http://www.lva.lib.va.us/index.htm Unfortunately, Gore did not record from whom she acquired the data concerning the pedigree chart included in her report or whether she composed it herself based upon her interviews. At the time of her visit, she noted that the home was owned by Dr. Ernest Colvin, (Earnest Melvin Colvin,) great-grandson of Richard Colvin, Sr., Both he or his wife, appear to have been the primary interviewees. It is in this report that Richard Colvin, Jr. is identified as Colvin Station’s “first depot agent.”
 Photocopy of microfilm of plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d. Surveyor, Zachery Cox, executed, 4 September 1828; recorded 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, 1831-1832, Reel 35, pp 407-411, Library of Virginia. In the 1850 U.S. Federal census for Turners District, Fauquier County, Samuel Catlett and Richard Colvin are six enumerations apart. Digitized original of Samuel Catlett and Richard Colvin households, 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Turners, Fauquier County, VA, lines 7, hh 605; 34, 611 respectfully, www.ancestry.com .
 Richard Colvin entries, 1807, Fauquier County land tax records, Reels 95, 1789-1807 & 1809-1815; reel 96, 1816-1834, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research (CLCGR). [A review of land tax records from 1805-1823, shows Richard first appears on the tax ledgers in 1807. In 1812 he was in possession of three parcels, two of which were 101 acre tracts and one of which was 102 acres – all being “of Singer.” In the 1815 entry, the clerk used the term “lease” to describe how Richard held his 304 acres. In subsequent years, Richard began purchasing land. Typical of the period, Richard was liable for the land taxes, even while a leaseholder. Further, no taxes were collected in Fauquier in 1808 which accounts for the ledgers absence during that year.
 See endnote 5.
 Microfilms of Fauquier County, Virginia Deed Books: 15 &16 (1801-1804, 1804-1807), Reel 8; Deed Bk. 17 (1807-1810), Reel 9, ] Library of Virginia.
 Richard Colvin entry, 1812, Fauquier County land tax records, Reels 95, (1789-1807 & 1809-1815; 1816-1834), Book. A, no page, CLCGR.
 Richard Colvin entry, 1818, Fauquier County land tax records, 1789-1807 & 1809-1815; 1816-1834 (Reels 95, Bk. A, no page, CLCGR. In this entry, the clerk used the notation “fee” to indicate that Richard held his 209 acres in fee simple.
 Richard Sommers, ed., “Map of Northeastern Virginia and Vicinity of Washington, in The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, Fairfax Press, N.Y. 1983, Plate VIII, CLCGR. This branch is clearly discernable in Sommers’s atlas by which one can easily deduce the vicinity in Fauquier where Richard’s land was located.
 Richard Colvin, Sr. entries, Fauquier County, Virginia Land tax records, 1816-1834, (Reel 96), Bk. 3 of 3, pp 3, CLCGR.
 Photocopy of microfilm of plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d. Surveyor, Zachery Cox, executed, 4 September 1828; recorded 28 July 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, (1831-1832), Reel 35, pp 407-411, Library of Virginia. Researcher’s should note a period transcribed version of this same document exits at the Fauquier County Circuit Court at Warrington under Chancery Case, 1832-056, Colvin, Lydia &c vs. Colvin, Lawson &c
 John K. Gott, “Fauquier County, Virginia Guardian Bonds 1759-1871,” Heritage Books, 1990, pp 54. In this bond, Richard Colvin, Jr. is named as one of his father’s orphans, implying, as previously noted, he was under the age of 21. Nevertheless, in many states, Common Law held that Executors of Wills — who if male — could be as young as 14.
 “Colvin, Richard, estate division,” executed October 25, 1828, recorded July 28, 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, (1831-1832), Reel 35, pp 406. Library of Virginia.
 M.D. Gore, digitized original of WPA Report # 269, Teneriffe, Works Progress Administration of Virginia Historical Inventory, July 13, 1937, Historical Inventory online database. Library of Virginia, http://www.lva.lib.va.us/index.htm See also: Zachery Cox, surveyor, “Plat and survey of estate division of Richard Colvin, dec’d,” executed, September 4, 1828; recorded 1832, Fauquier County Will Bk 12, 1831-1832, (Reel 35), pp 407-411, Library of Virginia.
 Ibid. Interestingly, the digitized index record cards of George M. Colvin’ lists his death date as September 1, 1863. Two separate sources — including his headstone engraving — list it as September 13, 1863.
 Ron Turner, surveyor, Hazelwood Cemetery, 2001, www.pwcvirginia.com/Cemeteries1.htm The tombstone engraving reads: “ In Memory of George Marion s/o George & Mary A. Colvin September 13, 1862,” See also, T. Triplett Russell, “’Hazelwood’ and ‘Truro’”, Fauquier Heritage and Preservation News, August 2004, wherein the author gives an extensive history of Hazelwood, (formerly known as Truro when built and owned by the Foote family,) and the Colvin family which took possession of it in the early 1830s. George Colvin, George Marion’s father, was Hazelwood’s first Colvin owner. It remained in the Colvin family for nearly a century and a half.
The Southern Claims Commission (SCC) was established in Washington, D.C. during the Reconstruction era by an act of Congress on March 3, 1871. The purpose of the 3-member panel was to review the claims submitted by Southern loyalists (southerners loyal to the federal government,) who had “furnished stores and supplies for the use of U.S. Army” during the Civil War.” Between March 3, 1871 and March 3, 1873, Southerners filed well over 22,000 claims for property losses totaling over $60 million dollars, a figure comparable to well over $1 billion dollars in 2017. However, only 7,092 claims (32%) were approved for settlements with the government paying out just over $4.5 million. Economic analysis shows that amount would be comparable to between $57.3 million and $8.5 billion by 2015. Each claimant sought to prove his loyalty and loss by his own and the depositions of witnesses.
Significant for genealogists, however, is how the paper trail created by the claimants’ depositions and those of their respective witnesses, provides not only incomparable insights into the war’s destructive impact on Southern families and their communities, but also how the material confiscations were sometimes brutally carried out by Union troops. Moreover, SCC claims can also reveal the arbitrary discriminatory nature with which Union commissioners often acted even against those clearly neutral during the war. William Colvin’s claim, will serve as an example of the rich offering these records provide.
Three versions of the interrogatories were used by commissioners (and their specially-appointed assistance who traveled to those states and areas too distant from D.C for a claimant to conveniently leave,) to be asked of claimants and their witnesses. In William’s case, the version used was the 1872 version – amended from the original version used in 1871. Lawyers were hired to prepare the numerous documents, including affidavits, and other evidentiary items such as receipts given by Union officers to individuals who relinquished goods to the troops at the time of their confiscation. The lawyers, not surprisingly, charged 50% of any settlement to take a case.
Numerous farmers, shopkeepers, and horse owners in the early 1860s who were unfortunate enough to be in the neighborhood of a passing Union army had goods, animals, and crops seized; in fact, there are many reports of people having their crops taken by armies, a few days or weeks or months apart.
The three commissioners, appointed by the President, were required to, “receive, examine, and consider the claims of those citizens who remained loyal adherents to the cause and the government of the United States during the war, for stores or supplies taken or furnished during the rebellion.” The key phrase, loyal adherents to the cause and the government of the United States during the war, was deliberately vague enough, however, to create problems. For example, only claim applicants themselves were required to state their loyalty to the federal government.; there was no such requirement for witnesses or others mentioned in the claim applications. Were there political motives behind the creation of the SCC? Quite likely. Northern Republicans had long hoped that Southern Unionists would join the Republican Party, and they hoped to cement that allegiance as the former Confederate states returned to full representation in Congress. The SCC was decommissioned in 1879.
William Colvin: The Claim
Upon his death in 1825, the lands of William’s father, Richard Colvin, were distributed among Richard’s numerous heirs via probate because Richard died intestate. Among the nearly 1,500 acres comprising the estate, William received 132 of them, along with chattel. William, who was born in 1812, was some sixty years old when he filed his SCC claim in 1873 and the numerous documents — particularly his lengthy 30-page deposition — bear witness to the devastation to his subsistence farm. By the time he filed his claim, William’s farm consisted of 167 areas and was, according to his deposition, located some 500-600 yards from Catlett’s Station. Some ninety acres of his land was “timbered” while the rest – some seventy-seven acres — was “under cultivation.”
The 1872 version of the SCC questions put before William consisted of two sets: the first set, (questions 1-41), were addressed only to him and concerned essentially the matters related to his personal and political identity and loyalty, and the items confiscated from his farm. The second set, (of eighteen questions, listed as “Items” ) were asked of both he and his witness – in his case, Abraham Hazen — and concerned specific facts about what Hazen allegedly saw taken and by whom. Meticulous details were elicited from deponents as evidenced by question no. 2 of the 2nd set and its instructions to the interrogator:
Begin with the first article (Item No. —) which you have specified that you saw taken,and give a full account of all you saw and heard in connection with the taking of that article?
[The special commissioner should require the witness to state all the circumstances; for it is only by knowledge of all of them that the commissioners of claims can judge whether the taking was such a one as the Government is bound to pay for. The common phrase, “I saw the property taken by United States soldiers,” is not enough, for there was much lawless taking. The witness should be required to detail the facts as to each item, when the items were taken at different times; but if all, or more than one, were taken at the same time, that fact should appear, and then a repetition of the circumstances is needless. The special commissioner must be careful to elicit all the facts, as well those against as for the claim, especially as to those articles of property which were the special objects of pillage and theft, such as horses, mules, cattle, hogs, &c. Claimants must bear in mind that a neglect to observe these directions works to the prejudice of the claimant, and may defeat the claim.] 
Needless to say, neither witness accounts nor the first-hand accounts of the claimants themselves ever met the zealous burden of proof imposed by the SCC; consequently, like the vast majority of Southerners, William Colvin’s claim was “disallowed.”  But what had the Union troops taken? Livestock, ninety acres of timber, horses, draft animals, hay, fodder, a new wagon, over 2,500 rails (his entire property fencing, ) the nails that held them in place and, as if this wasn’t enough, they deconstructed and carted off an entire newly-framed barn. The total damage over the course of 1862-1864 was eventually estimated by Commissioners at $1,750.00. It was an amount comparable to between $22,300 and $3.3 million dollars in 2015 dollars. Many of these activities were done quickly.
In the spring of 1862, William’s farm was accosted by the arrival of Union troops lead by Brigadier General, John F. Reynolds, who arrived ahead of his men to rouse William from slumber to ask where, on his farm, the best campground might be. It was, according to William’s deposition, well after dark, “raining and snowing.” William was, himself, no stranger to the conflict which had touched his own family. But any Confederate allegiance he may have harbored, went completely undetected by close friends and neighbors. His closest neighbor, feed merchant, Abraham Hazen with whom he spoke often, for example, was also deposed by Commissioners. He told them under oath, “Mr. Colvin regarded me as a Union man. Mr. Colvin was the only man of southern birth that I dare express my opinions to without fear of being reported to the rebels.” William’s third eldest son, James Buchanan Colvin, however, joined the Confederacy at age 17 in 1864. A choice he made without his father’s support. When William spoke to commissioners, in mid-January, James was by then, twenty-six, and living with him and in whose home he died on October 30, 1873, eight months after his father’s interview. His cause of death is unknown.
Within days, after Reynold’s arrival, some 1,000 Union soldiers were amassing into several campgrounds on his farm, re-provisioning themselves with whatever he had at hand. They remained on the farm for moths, no doubt making a horrendous mess with latrines, fires, debris, tenting, etc., and during the first weeks, methodically stripped away the timber fencing which surrounded large plots of his land. using it for various makeshift needs such as firewood.
At times, according to William, the removal of the fence was done with grotesque efficiency. “At one time I think I saw half a mile of fencing taken within 20 minutes on the shoulders of the men. I saw them at different times, hauling my rails in their wagons to different camps. [On the farm] I saw the soldiers using the rails for fires.”
Although William was offered three separate receipts for his rails at three different times by three separate officers, he was quick to point out, “I don’t think those receipts covered half the rails taken and used by the Union army at this time.”
During the same period, some forty-two head of William’s cattle were commandeered by encamped Union soldiers. Several times — without an officer present – an armed soldier simply entered a grazing field, shot the unsuspecting animal, then either butchered it on the spot or drove it to a camp where it was butchered. Aghast, William complained and received not an apology, but a receipt. In this manner, over a period of day, except for five head, William’s entire stock of cattle was wiped out.
William’s herd of sheep fared no better; using similar tactics, Union soldiers slew sixty-six of his sheep, leaving one for William and his family. He told Commissioners he “made no complaint.” For his forbearance, William received a voucher and a receipt. After the sheep were removed, next came the draft animals. One horse and two colts were taken. William identified the culprits as:
cavalry or at all events mounted. I saw the soldiers take the horse and colts. They were taken out of the field not far from the house. There were some eight or ten soldiers. A man representing himself to be an officer rode up and said he must have that horse. They went into the field and cornered the horse and colts in the corner of the field. My daughters were present and one of them caught hold of the horse and refused to let go. And one of the soldiers told her if she did not let the horse go he would run his saber through her. She then let go and they then took the horse away. I was present within ten feet.
In a separate incident, during the same period, William had put a few young a male horses out to graze, but soldiers of the picket line, who now also occupied his farm, shot one. After the horses were slaughtered or pressed into service, the soldiers next went through William’s stock of some thirty-nine hogs, carrying off some twenty-five of them, and slaughtering others with rifles. Several were left to rot where they were slain. In addition, some 300 bushels of wheat (some twelve acres worth,) were taken, as well as William’s entire stock of oats — some 500 bushels — which had required twenty acres to grow. They went to feed Union artillery horses. Of William’s ninety acres of “old and second growth” woods of White and Red oak, much of it was felled in 1863-64 by Union soldiers to help rebuild the Orange and Alexander (O & A) railroad tracks. Those tracks ran near his land, some 600 yards west, but Confederates had destroyed them along with the Cedar Run Bridge they ran across. That bridge and tracks were barely a half- mile north of Catlett’s Station, and their destruction had been part of what would be remembered as the Battle of Catlett’s Station. For these timber losses, William never received a receipt.  But he recalled clearly how, “once a week [soldiers were seen] cutting and hauling timber away….” He saw, “as many as 9 or 10 teams at a time hauling wood, generally from mule teams.”
By the time the Union army finished de-foresting his land, he told commissioners, that if the wood scrap, “left had been put together, they would not have made 5 acres.”
Then came the removal of other goods. In August of 1862, a quartermaster showed up with two three-mule teams and wagons to cart off some 5,600 pounds of hay that William had stocked. When William was tendered a receipt, the provider estimated the hay at a mere 600 pounds, but offered William a chance to “come and see” for himself what had been taken to correct any discrepancy. William declined. Soon thereafter, a second quartermaster arrived with another two teams of Union mules and wagons and commenced to load his cargo and continued to do so over the course of 2-3 trips. When the third quartermaster showed up, William was no longer able to discern how much hay had been depleted. Eventually William received a receipt for a mere 1,500 pounds of hay.
The following day, Union troops took William’s new wagon. A “three horse farm wagon,” as he described it. He had owned it six months and had paid $77.00 dollars for it – a sum roughly equal to nearly $1,500 dollars by 2015.  On the day the soldier arrived with the mule team, William told Commissioners:
I begged him not to take it he said he must have it that they had broke one of their wagons and must have it to replace the one broken and he took it away and I never saw it afterwards. 
William received no receipt for the wagon. He did receive a receipt for his entire stock of some 1,000 pounds of corn fodder taken in November, 1862, when Union troops were “on the march to Fredericksburg.” and passing by his farm. He was approached by a “Captain of Artillery,” who told William he “had nothing [to give him] for his horses.” Perhaps one of the worst indignities William suffered what when Union soldiers razed a house on his farm in the fall of 1863. The soldiers were encamped both at Catlett’s Station and his farm, and were still re-constructing the destroyed O & A rail lines when they:
tore down and took a [–?–] house from me. The house was 16 feet by 24 feet, two stories high. It had two floors tongued and grooved. It was [–?–] and shingled with a double pitched roof. It had three rooms lathed and plastered. It had a [–?–] chimney up even with the eves of the house and [–?–] brick. I saw the soldiers.
When the Union troops descended of his Fauquier farm in 1862, by his own account, William’s homestead was worth a healthy $25.00 an acre. By the time he filed his claim, ten years later, it was worth only two-thirds that value. His entire claim was disallowed because it was felt William was sympathetic to the Confederacy. William died fourteen years later on February 20, 1888 at the age of 75. He was laid to rest next to his wife Maria F. Wilkins, (1819-1885), in the Colvin Family Cemetery in Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia.
As the files on William Colvin’s SCC claim demonstrate, these records offer genealogists a rich mine of personal information and an unapparelled window through which to glimpse the lives of their Southern forbearers and the sometimes merciless actions taken by Union troops accosting their farms during the Civil War. Moreover, because these are preserved first-hand accounts of those effected, a clear record is available of both their perspective on the conflict itself as well as the state of their subsistence farms. These rare insights enrich our understanding of our ancestors’ lives as well as our understanding of the conflict in which they found themselves in ways few records used by family historians can.
 “Furnished stores and supplies…” The wording was intended to imply a cooperative relationship between southern loyalists and Union officers who confiscated materials as they saw fit while the stunned owner watched and who thereafter received a government receipt scribbled on whatever was handy.
 Digitized original, Lydia Colvin v Lawson Colvin, June 24, 1828, Chancery Case 1832-056, Chancery case Index database, Library of Virginia, http://www.lva.lib.va.us Chancery cases of this type were often use in troublesome property divisions during estate probates. In this case, Lydia (George) Colvin, who was the administrator of her late husband’s estate, was petitioning the court for a “guardian ad litem” to look out for the financial well-being of the decedent’s heirs because a mysterious but deedless agreement brought forth by her son-in-law, Frances Manuel, involving 225 acres of the decedent’s estate encroached upon her children’s statutory inheritance rights.
 Tombstone at Colvin graveyard. In his rejection claim, the SCC commissioners claim William was some “68 years old.”
 Digitized original, William Colvin, claimant, SCC application page, case # 21015, Recorded June 17 1873, filed June 15 1874, National Archives MF. The claim in its entirety consists of 65 pages of sworn testimony and related documents. www.footnote.com
 St. Louis Public Library PDF file, SOUTHERN CLAIMS COMMISSION AMENDED VERSION OF QUESTIONS FOR CLAIMANTS AND WITNESSES – 1872, from http://www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/scc/quest-1872.htm
 Digitized original, SCC claim rejection.
 Digitized original, William Colvin, claimant, SCC Summary Report, www.footnote.com On page 29 of his deposition, Willian recites how, in the winter of 1863-64, Union soldiers told him they were hauling timber from felled trees on his land to rebuild portions of the Orange and Alexander railroad tracks destroyed by Confederate forces trying to thwart the Union advance near Catlett’s Station. Rebels had also destroyed the Walnut Creek bridge, which Union forces also needed to rebuild.
 Col. Hugh W. McNeil to Brigadier General, John F. Reynolds, April 3, 1862, wherein the union officer certifies that , “1870 rails were destroyed by the men of this regiment…the rails were taken from the property of William Colvin“ pp 48, digitized original, William Colvin, claimant, SCC. McNeil was colonel of the 1st Rifle regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, who signed this correspondence ”1st Rifles”. Reynolds died, July 1, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg.
 Digitized original, William Colvin, claimant, SCC, pp 16, “Item 1 Rails.”
 Abraham Hazen deposition, June 17, 1873, William Colvin SCC file, pp 2 of 4.
 “J.B. Colvin” entry, U.S. National Parks Service, Soldiers and Sailors database. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=A3D02C8F-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A James served as a member of Company “E” of Mosby Rangers (more formally known as the 43rd Virginia Cavalry,) but also known as Mosby’s Regiment, Virginia Cavalry, Mosby’s Men, and Partisan Rangers. Various accounts consistently describe the 43rd as a raiding party working behind enemy lines using protoguerrilla tactics to disrupt Union communications and supply lines in Virginia from the rear in Fauquier and neighboring counties. They were known to work in small bands, to strike fast, and then vanish into the countryside eluding capture. By and large the companies were composed of teenaged recruits.
 Ibid, pp 18 “Item 1 Rails.”
 Ibid, pp 19, “Item 2 Cattle.”
 Ibid, pp 23, “Item 4 Horses and colts.”
 Ibid pp 25, “Item 6 Hogs.”
 Ibid pp 26, “Item 7 Oats and Wheat.”
 Catlett’s Station began its life as a Colvin property. had orginall belonged to William’s
 Ibid pp 28, 29 “Item 8 Timber.”
 Ibid pp 29, “Item 8 Timber”
 Ibid pp 30, “Item 8 Timber”
 Ibid pp 30-31, “Item 9 Hay.”
 Ibid pp 32, “ Item 11 Wagon.” Curiously, there appears no “Item 10” in the listing. Why is unknown.
 Based on Consumer Price Index as calculated by Measuringworth.com
 Digitized image of William Colvin, claimant, SCC ,” pp 32, “Item 11 Wagon”
 Ibid. pp 33, “Item 13 Fodder.”
 Ibid pp 33-34 “Item 14 House.”
 The birth and death dates of William and Maria are taken from their headstones. Images were provided to the researcher by Melvin Hazen Colvin, Jr, William Colvin’s second g-grandson and a resident of the area.
As promised in my previous post, I have annotated the legacy image of the Colvin-Douglas family gathering ca. 1891 with more specific and better organized annotations which will help researchers identify the subjects. One thing this image makes clear: the photographer was maintaining the time-honored practice in group photography to keep family members together: husbands with wives, children with parents, etc. Very young children, often in 19th century images, were in the foreground, often with the family pet or some loved object.
Also, this very likely was the home of the Douglas family patriarch, John Robert Douglas, (seated) (1814-1893) This took a bit of census legwork to reach this conclusion. Because J.R. Douglas died in 1893 (two years after this image was taken,) we cannot rely on later census to determine his whereabouts and the 1890 census is no longer extant. Thus we turn to the 1880 records where, John Robert was a resident with his son, John William Douglas, in Cynthiana County (pictured in last row: 1861-1946). Oddville Pike, named on the original image, runs through Cynthiana. B. F. Colvin, conversely, in 1900, (the year closest to the image date, ) was living some distance away, in Buena Vista, Harrison County, with his wife and children. Sarah Alice Douglas (1847-1894, pictured next to B.F. Colvin) was the 2nd eldest daughter of John Robert Douglas and Sara Ann Lang. She married Benjamin Colvin November 7, 1867 in Harrison County, Kentucky. In the image, B.F. Colvin is with his wife and daughters, and seated are his in-laws.
The remaining subjects are an assortment of John Robert Douglas and B.F. Colvin’s heirs and their spouses; there is one unknown subject whose identity will not doubt be uncovered with additional research. For better viewing: right click and click the link “open image in new tab” then in the new tab, enlarge it with your browser. Enjoy!
The image below is one I came across in my research and several things immediately popped out — aside from the fact that some of the Colvins in it are part of the family line I am studying. First: who’s who? If you follow the arrow trail I’ve added which corresponds to the annotations given, you’ll see it zigzags across the image incoherently, inviting easy mis-identification of the subjects. That’s what thoughtless annotations on legacy images do.
A more organized approach is to divide a bunched group into “rows” (as best you can) and identify the subjects left to right in each row starting either with the back or front row. This image can be divided into three rows. (See second image). Two: how are the subjects related to each other? Where are the annotations for that? Three: where is Oddville Pike — the location of the setting? Forth: Who’s homestead? This is a family gathering, but at who’s home we don’t know.
I happen to know the answer to two of those four questions because I happen to know how some of the individuals are related to one another. But this is an image from a genealogy database, presumably placed there to help other researchers in their work. Unfortunately, it does little to establish familial relations or answer questions about specific familial locations in the early 19th century. In my next post, I’ll feature an improved version of the image which I hope will illustrate the difference between an image meant to aid research and one that does not.
The image below illustrates the concept of rows and how to visualize them to improve annotation quality so a family history image is helpful to other researchers.