Monterey, VA & West Virginia – March 1, 2020

On Sunday, March 1st, we did a nice long ramble to Monterey, VA on Rt. 250 West, into West Virginia, and back to VA via Rt. 33 East. πŸ™‚

The town of Monterery is sometimes called “Little Switzerland.” In a couple of weeks this tiny town will be packed with tourists for their annual Maple Sugar Festival.
We split an entrΓ©e at High’s Restaurant in Monterey before continuing our drive.
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A Little Genealogy Research and a Lot of Beautiful Scenery!

On Saturday, February 22, 2020, we decided to go to the Bedford Museum and Genealogy Library in Bedford, Virginia. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find any information on my ggg-aunt, Tabitha Ann Rhodes, but as she’d married John K. Oliver from Bedford County and lived there for 12 years, I figured it was worth a shot.

The young woman working at the museum was quickly able to locate cemetery information and two folders containing letters and files on John Oliver, but it was all a mixed review.

I’d learned of the location of the cemetery previously from another researcher, and what they had at the museum confirmed what she’d posted on findagrave: There are 7 graves in the small, overgrown Oliver cemetery, and only one is marked with an inscribed stone.

As I started going through the family history folders, I realized that some of the information was quite accurate, but some was not. An Addie Lawless was listed as the third wife of John K. Oliver, but there were no dates and absolutely no information given. I’m not sure who Addie was, but the professional genealogist who did the research on this seriously missed the mark. Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver was John K. Oliver’s third and final wife, and I have the marriage license and chancery suits to prove it! πŸ˜‰

As I was in one room going through records for my family, Wayne was in a room across the hall trying to learn more about his family history. While most of his ancestors were from Appomattox, the books at the Bedford Museum and Genealogy Library covered Wrights from all over southern Virginia. Much more than “comprehensive,” the amount of information was actually overwhelming, especially since it was hard to know where to begin searching!

But as I flipped through the handwritten and typed pages in the Oliver folders, I mentally listed what I did know about Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver and the Rhodes family. Robert P. Rhodes and his wife, Mildred Marshall Rhodes, apparently had no sons, but they had a lot of daughters: Tabitha Ann (m. John K. Oliver in 1855 in Nelson County), Sarah Jane (m. John William Anderson in Albemarle County in 1846), Elizabeth Columbia (m. John Walker Clements in Nelson County in 1848), Cynthia Frances (aka “Aunt Fannie”), Eliza M., Cornelia Edna, Mary M., and Evalina or Adaline (whom I can’t find at all after the 1860 census when she was 17 years old). After John K. Oliver’s death in 1867, Tabitha Ann returned to her family’s farm on the Rockfish River in Nelson County, as she was listed there in 1870 and 1880 Nelson County census records.

Two of the Rhodes sisters, Cynthia Frances and Cornelia Edna, went to live with the Anderson family in the Avon area of Nelson County after the death of their sister, Sarah Jane Rhodes, in 1873 to help with the children. (Cynthia and Cornelia were both mentioned in the will of John William Anderson, which was written in 1899 and recorded after his death in 1902.)

In 1878, Tabitha and two of her sisters, Eliza and Mary, deeded their Rockfish land to their nephews, James T., Willard O, and Samuel M. Anderson (sons of their sister, Sarah Jane Rhodes and John William Anderson), even though they retained the right to remain on the property during their lifetimes. Eliza and Mary Rhodes apparently stayed on the Rhodes land in Rockfish at least through 1910 (according to census records), and family stories say that at some point after that a fire destroyed their home. Tabitha was not listed as living with her sisters in either the 1900 or 1910 census.

Cornelia Edna Rhodes died in 1904 and was buried in the small family cemetery where John William Anderson and Sarah Jane Rhodes Anderson were buried. In 1910, Cynthia Frances Rhodes (Aunt Fanny) was living near her nephew, Charles Willard Anderson (another son of Sarah and John W. Anderson), and three of his children (John E., Lewis, and Sallie) were living with her.

Mary and Eliza Rhodes both died in 1917, and Cynthia Frances “Aunt Fanny” Rhodes died in 1918. They were all buried at Hebron Baptist Church cemetery.

But again, where was Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver? The 1890 federal census records were lost in a fire, so I have no idea where she was living then, though it seems likely that she was still in Rockfish with her sisters, Eliza and Mary.

In 1894 Ann T. Oliver (sometimes she was known as T.A. Oliver…) was the plaintiff in a chancery suit in Bedford County against Frances A. Oliver (a daughter of John K. Oliver by his first wife) and her husband, Benjamin K. Milam. (She was the defendant in another chancery suit in 1882!) This shows that Tabitha was still alive in 1894 and still had ties to Bedford County, even if she no longer lived there.

I haven’t been able to find any information about when she died, but I find it a little hard to believe that after her death her body would have been taken to Bedford County–a distance of close to 60 miles–to be buried near John K. Oliver as wife #3…. At some point I’ll try to go to the courthouse in Bedford to see if there are deeds or other documents that might provide additional clues, and I’ll also make another trip to the Nelson County courthouse to look again for possible death information (which is sketchy, at best).

When we finally left the Bedford Museum, we headed north towards Big Island, the area of Bedford County where Tabitha lived for 12 years. Beautiful country….

We were close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we made a quick stop at the (closed) visitor’s center along the James River.

After that, we just sort of wandered! Given where we were, it wasn’t too far of a drive to Glasgow, VA. There’s not much to see in this tiny town, aside from an oddly shaped mountain and a random dinosaur sculpture….

…but our favorite place to go in Glasgow is a small park where the Maury River meets the James River–and it never disappoints!

I’ve always loved confluences, and this one is so interesting because the rivers are distinctly different, with different colors. When the Maury joins the James, it maintains its individuality far downstream, as if stating, “You are you, and I am me, but together, we are stronger and more beautiful.” (I think this metaphor holds true in other ways, too. <3 )

I absolutely love the color of the fast-moving Maury….

We sent our prayers and blessings out to these amazing Virginia waterways.

As we left Glasgow, we drove up the mountain for this view of the James River downstream from the confluence. It never disappoints, either.

Across the road from the overlook, the rocks show undulating movement from ancient times. It’s so interesting to think of the forces of nature that formed our Blue Ridge Mountains….

At this point we could have continued further west to Buena Vista, VA and driven home on I-81 and I-64, but we opted to drive east until we met Rt. 29 North, then turned onto Rt. 56 West at Colleen, and then drove north on Rt. 151. Gorgeous scenery, all the way home!

There are so many beautiful places in Virginia, and so many “roads less traveled.” We love having the opportunity to get out and explore on day trips like this!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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Untangling my Rhodes Family Tree

For years I incorrectly assumed that Robert P. Rhodes, my ggg-grandfather, was the son of Matthew Rodes and Nancy Ann Blackwell in Albemarle County, VA. New information in late 2019 (including the will of John W. Rhodes – Albemarle County, VA, 1846 – and the numerous chancery suits that followed) now proves beyond a doubt that Robert P. Rhodes was the son of John W. Rhodes.

John Rhodes married (first) Tabitha Pearson in 1793.

While the evidence is somewhat circumstantial, I am convinced that Robert P. Rhodes was the son of John & Tabitha given that (1) Robert P. Rhodes named his first daughter Tabitha and (2) Tabitha Pearson’s father was named Robert Pearson. I think it is entirely plausible that Robert P. Rhodes’ full name was Robert Pearson Rhodes.

The wife of Robert P. Rhodes, Mildred Rhodes Marshall, was the daughter of William Marshall, Jr. and his first wife, Sarah Rhodes.

Moving this back a generation, John W. Rhodes was a son of Epaphroditus Rhodes. Sarah Rhodes, first wife of William Marshall, Jr., was a daughter of Epaphroditus Rhodes! This means that Robert P. Rhodes and his wife, Mildred Rhodes Marshall Rhodes, were first cousins.

To add to the intertwining of my Rhodes family “tree,” after the death of Tabitha Pearson Rhodes, John W. Rhodes married Mary Ann “Molly” Martin in 1815. Molly had a sister named Mildred Martin–and Mildred was the second wife of William Marshall, Jr.!

Molly and Mildred had another sister, Lucy. She married a White, and after HER husband’s death, she lived with her unmarried son, Willis M. White. (Lucy and Willis are buried at the abandoned cemetery near Free Union, VA that we visited on Sunday, January 26, 2020, but their stones are no longer visible.)

After the death of John W. Rhodes in 1846, Mary Ann “Molly” Martin Rhodes first lived with her nephew, George Martin (who was the executor of John W. Rhodes’ estate), but after George’s death, she went to live with her nephew, Willis White, and her widowed sister, Lucy Martin White. (She was listed on the 1850 and 1860 Albemarle County census.)

1850 Albemarle County, VA Census
1860 Albemarle County, VA Census

George Martin died in 1847 before he had finished his administrative duties for John W. Rhodes’ estate, and this is what started the chancery suits! Part of the issue was that Molly Martin Rhodes wasn’t charged board when she was living with George Martin, and when HE died with numerous debts, creditors were trying to sue her to get back the money that George had owed them. After she went to live with Willis White, she wasn’t charged board, either. Witnesses testified that her nephews (George & Willis) didn’t intend to charge “the old lady” board because she was related AND because she was so old (in her 80s) that they didn’t expect her to live very long!

One of the witnesses was Robert P. Rhodes. Under oath, he spoke of a conversation he’d had with George Martin following the sale at his deceased father’s home. He asked what was to become of his step-mother, Molly.

Robert was reimbursed for his travel from Nelson County to the Albemarle County Courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia by Willis M. White.

Original document found in the Archives section of the Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA – Jan. 26, 2020

Well, Mary Ann “Molly” Rhodes fooled them all. She outlived ANOTHER administrator of her husband’s estate, and in HER will proved in Albemarle County in 1861, Molly–at the ripe old age of 95!–left everything to her nephew, Willis M. White and his unmarried sisters. 

Her will was not contested. And it is assumed that she was buried in the cemetery where her sister, Lucy Martin White and nephew, Willis M. White, were buried.

HOWEVER, Molly’s son, Thomas W. Rhodes, (who became the 3rd or 4th administrator of the estate of John W. Rhodes!), finally went after his half-brother, Robert P. Rhodes, to try to reclaim some of the money due to him from their father’s estate.

Summons for Robert Rhodes by Thomas W. Rhodes, 1873
Summons for Robert Rhodes by Thomas W. Rhodes, 1874

In the late 1870s, John W. Anderson, the son-in-law of Robert P. Rhodes, ultimately found a way to pay off all the debts to Thomas W. Rhodes (executor of the estate of John W. Rhodes) so that the daughters of Robert P. Rhodes could keep their land along the Rockfish River in Nelson County.

So there. It’s only taken me 30 years to figure this all out. πŸ˜‰

And along the way I’ve learned about Robert P. Rhodes’ sisters and brothers and their families; about the family line of John W. Rhodes and his father, Epaphroditis, and HIS father, Hezekiah Rhodes, and about another daughter of Robert & Mildred Rhodes (Elizabeth Columbia Rhodes Clements) and her family. It’s been a pretty wild ride.

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“Law-Abiding” Ferals – December 22, 2019

I assume that most societies establish rules and laws to help maintain order, and based on my observations this morning, it would appear that communities of feral cats function in much the same way.

The ferals that I feed apparently have some very strict rules and codes of conduct. Over the last three years, I’ve determined that one of these rules is that Mama Cat, whenever she chooses to visit, has first dibs on eating. Before I got there this morning to feed them, the trail cam captured these pictures of Mama Cat waiting in the feeding station:

Cali-1 and Mama Cat
Mama Cat & the gray and white male

When I arrived (albeit later than usual because it’s a weekend) Mama Cat met me at my car, vocally (and quite loudly) reminding me that cats are starving–I tell you staaaarvvvvving–here, and of course she jumped in the feeding station, first. (I always put a little food on top so that Cali-1 can get something to eat while she’s waiting her turn.)

And for whatever the reason this morning, Mama Cat ate and ate and ate some more. Perhaps she felt she needed to reinforce the fact that she would have simply wasted away–wasted away!–if I’d been a single moment later. I don’t know….

At first she ate quickly, ravenously, but then she slowed down. WAY down…. She’d take a few bites, look around, then slowly eat some more. In other words, she was taking furrEVER!

To his credit (and probably due to my presence), the male sat some distance away, no doubt grumbling about this ridiculous and totally unnecessary delay in breakfast. (He looks pretty ticked, doesn’t he?)

Feeling sorry for the two admirably patient–but hungry–ferals, I went back to the car and put a cup of food in another bowl and set it under a piece of equipment.

What happened next surprised me: Mama Cat jumped out of the feeding station, ran over to the new bowl of food (same food, different location) and started eating. Again.

And even though the feeding station was open, Cali-1 and the male kitty didn’t move! At ALL!

So I guess I’ve got some law-abiding ferals, here. It seems that the “Mama Cat Eats First” rule applies and is respected, no matter what. πŸ˜‰

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Virginia Beach – November 2019

As much as we love our mountains, it’s nice to be just a few hour’s drive away from the ocean. While I-64 is the fastest way to get to there, we usually opt to do a slower and more scenic drive on Rt. 5 once we’re east of Richmond.

Our first stop was at Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park near Charles City on the James River. We’ve seen Bald Eagles here many times, and although we didn’t see them on this visit, it was still a beautiful day to be by the river.

Once we reached the Jamestown area, we waited for the ferry that would take us across to Surry County.

Just south of the busy and vibrant Virginia Beach oceanfront and the Sandbridge community is one of our favorite natural areas: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Back Bay is on one side of the parking lot…

…and a short walk in the other direction leads to spectacular ocean views.

LOL–you can hear me “shushing” Wayne who was doing his “bird calling” whistle. πŸ˜‰

We drove north to VA Beach, checked into our hotel, and then went to our favorite seafood restaurant!

The sunrise the next morning was stunning. Despite the chilly temperatures, we enjoyed being out on the balcony.

After checking out of the hotel and getting breakfast at Nick’s on Laskin Road, we got on I-64 West, went through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and then took Rt. 17 North. This allowed us to cross the York River and visit a new-to-us place, Gloucester Point Beach Park.

To our absolute surprise and delight, we arrived just in time to see dolphins swimming downriver towards the Chesapeake Bay!

I only managed to get a very short video, but it was so cool to see them!

There were also pelicans and two Great Blue Herons at Gloucester Point Beach Park.

The George Coleman Memorial Bridge that we crossed is quite unusual. While we’ve crossed many draw bridges in our travels, I’d never heard of a “swing bridge” before, much less a double swing bridge. Apparently this is one of the largest bridges of its kind in the world!

Video by YouTube user FOTO-UNO
Photo Credit:

On our meandering trek home, we crossed the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers near West Point, VA, stopped by Lawrence Lewis Jr. Park again on Rt. 5, and then we crossed the James River on Rt. 106 near Hopewell, VA.

We hopped on I-64 West for the final leg of the trip, thankful for all we’d seen and done in just over 24 hours. We love to travel, but it’s always nice when our beautiful mountains welcome us home. πŸ™‚

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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