Buckingham County deed books contain only one known reference to Martha Bryant McFadden. On the 12thof November 1878, Martha purchased her family cemetery for $50 from William M. and Fanny Perkins:
“… eight acres of land situated in the County of Buckingham and state of Virginia adjoining Frank Ware, Wm. McFadden and others, the said acres to include the family graveyard of the family of Martha A. McFadden who was Martha Bryant and being compactly situated around it, the said eight acres to be cut off at the expense of the said McFadden from the Bryant tract so as to make the graveyard as near in the center as may be practicable.” (1)
The purchase was made almost eight months after the drowning deaths of Martha’s husband, Allen McFadden, son James McFadden and grandson, James Woody. Newspaper accounts in the weeks following their deaths indicate their bodies were not recovered. Martha’s purchase of the cemetery strongly suggests that their bodies were later found and interred in the family burying grounds.
The deed specific references to Martha’s maiden name of Bryant and the Bryant tract, as well as the proximity to William McFadden infer that this was perhaps an historic burial site for Bryants and McFaddens. Eight acres is a very large family cemetery.
This cemetery does not appear to be associated with any of the Bryant or McFadden cemeteries found in the four volumes of Buckingham Burials. More research into the Bryant, Perkins and McFadden real estate transfers may shed light on the cemetery location. Sadly, the Buckingham County records burned in 1869 and pertinent deeds were probably destroyed. The location of the McFadden Cemetery may remain a mystery.
Rest in peace Allen McFadden, James McFadden and James Woody.
Allen McFadden, James McFadden, James Woody, John Dawson and George Roberts drowned in the James River on the evening of March 18, 1878, Newspaper accounts describe a scene of despair. Family members at the scene included a “widowed mother”, a “widowed wife and two sisters of the young men”. Unnamed and known to the public only by their shared loss, who were the survivors of the dead?
The “widowed wife” was Martha Bryant McFadden. She was born in Buckingham County about 1815, making her 63 when her husband, Allen McFadden, died. (1) Allen and Martha married about 1839 and were the parents of eight known children, including James McFadden, who drowned with his father and nephew. James, born about 1853, was 25 at the time of his death. (2) Martha lost her husband of 39 years, son and grandson in the James River that dreadful evening in March.
Mahala Dawson married John Edward McFadden on 15 January 1867 in Buckingham County. (3) John was the oldest son of Allen and Martha McFadden. Her younger brother, John B. Dawson, died in the James River with the McFaddens. Mahala’s older brother, William (age 14), died in 1866 of dropsy. (4) Standing on the banks of the James River in 1878, Mahala had lost her only surviving brother, and three in-laws.
The “widowed mother” (and sister) was Elizabeth “Lizzie” McFadden, oldest daughter of Allen McFadden. (5) Lizzie was born in Buckingham County about 1840 and probably died there after 1900. She married John W. Woody on 5 December 1861 in Buckingham County. (6) Lizzie’s husband died in 1866, leaving Lizzie a widow with two young children, James and Cary Ann “Kate” Woody. (7) James, “little Jimmy”, was born about 1862 and was sixteen years old when he drowned. Jimmy couldn’t read or write, and at sixteen, was already a laborer bringing in cash to support his widowed mother and younger sister. Cary Ann “Kate” Woody, fourteen years old, was probably with her mother at the scene of the drowning. (8) She married Joel F. Wilkerson about 1880 and made her home in Buckingham County until her death 15 August 1930. Kate and Joel had thirteen children and, along with many of their thirteen children, are buried at Woodland Methodist Church in Buckingham County.
Rebecca Ruler Roberts was pregnant with their eighth child when her husband, George Roberts, drowned in the James River. He was “a faithful colored man….good and well disposed.” (9) Rebecca, age 33, was probably born into slavery. She married George about 1865 after the war and emancipation, and quickly started a family: Clayton Thomas Roberts (1865-1943); Mary Agnes Roberts (1866-1947); William H Roberts (1867-1943); Willie A. Roberts (1869-1938); George Roberts (1872); Sister Roberts (1873); Martha A. “Maddie” Roberts (1874-1964); and Bell Roberts (1878). (10)
Rebecca supported her family as a washer woman, doing the laundry of neighbors. She remained a widow and lived a long life in Howardsville, dying there 23 February 1930. She was 84 years old. (11)
(1) 1850 U.S. census, Buckingham Co., VA, Roll: M432_937; Page: 394A; Image: 445, Ancestry.com (2) James was age 7 in the 1860 census and 17 in the 1870 census. He appears in the household of Allen McFadden in both enumerations. 1860; District 1, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M653_1337; Page: 856; Image: 399. 1870; Slate River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 377B; census records viewed on Ancestry (3) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia: Drawn from a Newly-Recovered Marriage Register, 1854-1868 & from Federal Manuscript, Newspaper & Printed Sources. Iberian Pub., 1992, p. 60. (4) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia: Drawn from a Newly-Recovered Marriage Register, 1854-1868 & from Federal Manuscript, Newspaper & Printed Sources. Iberian Pub., 1992. p. 129. (5) Elizabeth is age ten in the household of Allen McFadden. 1850 U.S. census, Buckingham Co., VA, Roll: M432_937; Page: 394A; Image: 445, Ancestry.com (6) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia, p. 152. (7) Albemarle Co., Virginia Death Register 1853 -1887, Reel 1, Library of Virginia ILL Film. (8) 1870 U.S. Census; Slate River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 377B (9) Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, United States of America) · 22 Mar 1878, Fri · Page 2, Newspapers.com (9) 1870 U.S. Census; James River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 285B (10) Ancestry.com. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA.
The James River flows gently along the northwest border of Buckingham County. The calm waters are popular with fishermen, kayakers and tubers. The width isn’t more than three hundred feet and the James River is easily crossed by four bridges in Buckingham County. It’s hard to gaze on the river today and imagine the tragedy that befell the McFadden family on the 16thof March, 1878.
The winter of 1878 brought a lot of snow to the western Virginia mountains. On January 8, the Staunton Spectator noted a foot of snow on the ground, adding “it was colder here than it has been for many years.” It was 12 degrees below zero!  A report from Buckingham County said, “The deep snow which fell last week is still on the ground “waiting for more” as the weather prophets say…”  On February 5 another dispatch read, “…deep snow has covered the ground and intense cold has been experienced in all the country north of the James River…” 
The cold spell in the mountains continued until early March when the Richmond Dispatch wrote, “The late very mild spell of weather has brought the apricot and many of the peach trees out into full bloom …”  Mild weather also melted the mountain snows, filled the creeks and swelled the James River.
On Saturday night, March 16, 1878, Allen McFadden (third great-grandfather of my husband, Jesse Crews) heard calls from the other side of the James River. His son, James McFadden, wanted a ride across the river. The ferry had washed out a couple of days earlier and after working across the river, James wanted to go home. Allen’s sixteen-year-old grandson, James Woody, was with James, along with John Dawson, only brother of Mahala McFadden, Allen’s daughter-in-law. A neighbor, George Roberts, was there, too.
Allen McFadden was an imposing man. He stood over six feet tall and at age 65 still did some farming and milling. He had survived Gettysburg and certainly didn’t expect to die crossing the James River. Allen probably didn’t hesitate to take the canoe and paddle across the James to fetch his family home.
Their tragic deaths were reported in newspapers around the US. This story from the Alexandria Gazette provides the best report. 140 years later, the story is a sad reminder of the grief and sorrow felt by the remaining McFaddens and the Roberts family.
With Father’s Day fast approaching, George E. Shumaker of Buckingham County, Virginia, stands out among all the fathers in my genealogy files, as the father of 25 children. Yes, you read that correctly, 25 children!
George is the great-grandfather of my husband, Jesse Crews. He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia on December 14, 1846. He probably never attended school as census records indicate George could not read or write. George was a farmer and did not own his home. Late in his life, George lived at Rolfeton, a beautiful country home seen in the background of the bottom photo. He may have been a caretaker or renting the farm. He died in Buckingham County on December 1, 1935, from a cerebral hemorrhage. His eighty-ninth birthday was only two weeks away.
George married three times. His first marriage was to Laura Newton, daughter of James Newton and Mahala Ann Taylor. They married on January 25, 1867, in Buckingham County. Seventeen children were born to this couple. Only six of these children are known to have lived to adulthood. Laura probably died soon after the last child was born in July 1885. She was only about 38 years-old. The loss of seven little babies, two small children and their mother, all in the years before 1886, must have left a cloudburst of grief raining over the Shumaker home.
Children of George E. Shumaker and Laura Newton:
1. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker (Newton): July 3, 1864 – February 26, 1939, married George W. Davis.
2. Ida Shumaker: December 1867 – Abt. 1911: married Benjamin S. Robertson
3. Unnamed Baby Boy Shumaker: February 1869 – February 1869.
4. Jenny Shumaker: August 25, 1870 – Before 1880.
5. Sarah Jane Shumaker: October 1872 – April 21, 1952, married Joseph Walker Doss.
6. Margaret Frances “Maggie” Shumaker: September 12, 1873 – March 6, 1952, married Samuel J. Wharam.
7. George E. Shumaker, October 1874 – Bef. 1880.
8. Hattie Blanche Shumaker: December 24, 1877 – November 6, 1969, married Peter W. Doss.
9. John W. Shumaker: 1877 – unknown.
10. Emma Shumaker: December 1878 – May 1879.
11. Laura “Dotsie” Shumaker: 1878 – September 17, 1913, married (?) Taylor.
12. Emma Shumaker: March 10, 1880.
13. Frank Emmett Shumaker: March 10, 1880. He was shot and accidentally killed by a half-brother. The 1880 census taker recorded that Frank was 3/12 months old and born in February. Two other infants, recorded on the same page by the same census taker, were listed as 3/12 months old. One was give a birth month of March and another April. Frank and Emma were apparently twins born in early spring of 1880. Emma did not survive and wasn’t named on the 1880 census.
14. No Name Shumaker: March 1882.
15. No Name Shumaker: June 1883 – August 16, 1883.
16. No Name Shumaker: January 1884 – June 3, 1884.
17. No Name Shumaker: July 10, 1885.
George next married Nannie Belle Sprouse, daughter of Henry Wesley Sprouse and Mary Jane Shephard, on February 11, 1886, in Buckingham County. Nannie Belle and George had seven children, including Jesse’s grandmother, Minnie Shumaker. “According to family legend, Nannie Belle was in bed sick and pregnant. George gave her a dose of turpentine to make her feel better. Not long after, she sat straight up in bed and died.”1 Nannie Belle was about 31 years-old when she died. Today we think of turpentine as paint thinner, but in prior years it had many medical uses. It was used to speed up childbirth and to stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Nannie Belle died between 1898 and 1900 when George appears as a widower in the 1900 census. George and Nannie Belle had seven children, of whom six lived to adulthood.
Children of George E. Shumaker and Nannie Belle Sprouse:
18. John E. Shumaker: September 15, 1886 – before December 1887.
19. John Edward Shumaker: December 17, 1887 – November 16, 1945, married Nina Pearl Via.
20. Charles Harrison Shumaker: July 4, 1889 – November 7, 1971, married Emma Goin.
21. Mary Elizabeth Shumaker: September 19, 1891 – February 7, 1966, married Phillip Taylor.
22. Alice Reems Shumaker: October 15, 1892 – February 27, 1978, married George Taylor.
23. George M. “Reuben” Shumaker: March 17, 1896 – November 23, 1966, married Minnie Ragland.
24. Minnie Virginia Shumaker (Jesse’s grandmother): May 18, 1898 – January 24, 1979, married Joel Peter Crews.
George’s final marriage was to Pauline Susan McFadden on October 1, 1903, in Buckingham County. This marriage produced one known child.
25. Beulah Genevieve Shumaker: February 28, 1904 – December 12, 1980, married George Lann.
Clark, Kimberly Shumaker. The Shumaker/Shoemaker families of Buckingham County, Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2008. Print. Pages 5-8. I extend my sincere appreciation to Kimberly Shumaker Clark. Ms. Clark gave permission to publish the photos and records of George E. Shoemaker and his progeny. Virginia did not issue birth or death certificates until 1911 and it requires enormous effort to document pre-1911 families- especially one as large as that of George Shumaker. Some births and deaths were recorded at the county courthouse, but the dates can be wrong because the information was often supplied by helpful neighbors and family. Children could be entirely missed by the census taker. Sometimes the census taker spoke with someone who supplied incorrect information. Often individuals used different birthdays and even different names throughout their life. Putting together a record of George Shumaker’s 25 children was a challenging and still evolving task.
This cherished family portrait features Henry Wesley Sprouse, his second wife, Peggy Jane Taylor and Henry’s fourteen children. Henry was born in Virginia in 1826 and probably lived his entire life in Buckingham County, where he died February 11, 1901. His obituary in the Richmond Dispatch reads:
Mr. H. W. Sprouce, an old and respected citizen, was buried at his home yesterday. (1)
The photo is undated, but was probably taken circa 1896. Henry was about seventy years old. Fitzhugh, the youngest child was born in 1886 and here he appears to be about ten years old. Nannie Belle died in 1898. Thomas and James died in 1899, followed by Mary in 1900, so the gathering of the family for this portrait is especially poignant.
Thank you to the Sprouse cousins who preserved and shared this photo.
Henry Wesley Sprouse is the 2x great-grandfather of Jesse Crews. Henry’s daughter Nannie Bell is Jesse’s great-grandmother.
(1) Richmond Dispatch., February 13, 1901, Page 5, Image 5. Chronicling America
A drawing of Chellowe, a beautiful historic estate, caught my eye in the spring issue of the Historic Buckingham Newsletter. The drawing came from a book I’ve owned for a long time, The Courthouse Burned… by Margaret A. Pennington and Lorna S. Scott. I opened my copy and started thumbing through. My husband’s Crews family was from Buckingham County. They were humble people and in previous passes at the book, I hadn’t associated them with any of the featured stately homes. But there on page 103, I found a piece of Crews history.
Through the years I’d heard about a church the Crews family built. “Maybe Grace Church?” some said. I couldn’t find a reference to a Grace Church in Buckingham until today. I couldn’t find the church because it closed in the 1970’s and was torn down. Authors Pennington and Scott state the church was built in the early 1870’s by Jim Crews and sons. This would be James A. Crews and his sons, George, James and Joel. James was born in Buckingham County ca 1812 and died there after 1880. Census records indicate he was a carpenter. He was from a family of lapsed Quakers, and I doubt if James attended the Episcopal Church he built.
The following text is from The Courthouse Burned… by Pennington and Scott.
In the fall of 1871 Mr. John Horsley gave the land for this church. Logs for the sills and framing were gotten from nearby woods and hewn on the grounds. Jim Crews and his sons did much of the work. J.B. Horsley and H.D. Omohundro hauled the lumber from Payne’s saw mill. The planing was done by hand. Sand for plastering was hauled from an island in the James River. Mr. Bolling Morriman did the plastering which for some reason did not hold; so later the church was ceiled. Doors for the front were brought on a packet boat up the Kanawha Canal and unloaded at lock #32 between Warminster and Manteo on Horsley land and carried by ox team by Douglas Omohundro (grandfather of Mrs. Harry Wyland) who drove the oxen. The Bradys of West Virginia gave a memorial window in memory of Louise Brady Horsley who was Mrs. Wyland’s great grandmother.
In the early 1970’s due to the small number of members, the congregation of this church was moved to Emmanuel Church at Glenmore. The memorial window was moved to Emmanuel also. The old church is gone completely today but those who labored to build it have this promise, “Therefore be ye steadfast… forasmuch as ye know your labor is not in vain…” I Corinthians 15:58
James A. Crews is my husband, Jesse’s, 2x great grandfather and Joel Crews is his great grandfather.