A Singapore Ghost

One of the great adventures of my life was living in Singapore in 1979 and 1980. Jesse was working for GATX and we relocated to Singapore when he was offered the opportunity to manage the company office there. I only lived in Singapore for a little over a year, but my experience there as an expatriate changed me forever and provided a treasure of memories.

Singapore skyline in 1979. Photo by Vanessa Crews.

Singapore in 1979 was a beautiful modern Asian city. Skyscrapers towered over the Singapore Strait, pure sparkling drinkable water flowed from the taps and new model cars filled the roads. And yet, there was always something old, something mysterious around the corner. The tropical air carried just a whiff of decay and heaviness blending with the delicious aromas of curries and stir fries.

Emerald Way 1979. Photo by Vanessa Crews

Home for me, Jesse and our infant son, Brian, was 34 K Cairnhill Court. This was a contemporary multistory building with two rows of townhouses facing a central courtyard and pool. We lived in a spacious flat on the tenth floor. Leaving our property, we strolled down the historic Emerald Way lined with traditional townhomes and small family businesses to the bustling Orchard Road filled with elegant department stores and shopping. Lives and cultures, the old and the new, mingled in our little corner of Singapore.

Baby Brian rose early and many mornings I took him out to enjoy the “cooler” air. We sat in the courtyard with the amahs and their little charges, who were enjoying the pool and lawn. Most spoke English and I enjoyed our conversations. I was considering hiring a live-in amah and asked the group for their advice. They immediately wanted to know which flat I lived in. “Oh”, they exclaimed, “No one will work for Missy if you live on the eighth floor.” I explained that this wasn’t a problem for me, as I lived on the tenth floor, and curiously inquired about the eighth floor’s problems, expecting to learn about plumbing problems or broken elevators.

“No one will work on the eighth floor because of the ghost! Only foreign amahs will live in this building!” exclaimed one amah. Others chimed in, “Oh yes, this is true Missy, many have seen this ghost. Just ask Mr. Lim. He will tell you.”

“Really? A ghost? Please, tell me more…,” I replied. The amahs explained that several years before the resident of the eighth floor had killed his wife, put her body in a trunk and kept her there. When the trunk was opened the murdered wife’s spirit escaped, and now she haunts this building.

Like most cultures, ghosts have a strong presence in Chinese folklore. A violent or unhappy death can lead to a lingering, sometimes malignant spirit. The corpse and especially bones remain powerful and it is vital to perform proper burial rituals to avoid a wandering and hungry ghost.

Curiosity piqued, I asked the building manager, Mr. Lim, about the ghost. Well, yes, there had been a corpse on the eighth floor, but I should not be troubled by this. Purification rituals had cleansed the building of ghosts and any day he expected to have the unit rented. “But, Mr. Lim,” I persisted, “tell me about this murder. How did our building acquire a ghost?” Mr. Lim gently shook his head and moved on.

Later, neighbor and new friend, Sue Green, shared that security guards and amahs sometimes reported seeing the ghost of the murdered woman. No local would rent the apartment and expatriates couldn’t get help, so they also refused to live there. The ghost was the only occupant of the eighth floor of Cairnhill Court. Jesse’s GATX colleague and friend, Wong See Ming, related that a British expatriate had murdered his Thai wife and stored her body in his eighth-floor flat.

Recalling our eighth-floor ghost, I recently turned to digital newspaper archives to learn more about this gruesome tale. It is chilling and had I known all of the facts I, too, may have wondered about ghosts in the night.

Michael Charles Cully, a 47-year-old British citizen, his 44-year-old Thai wife, Linda, and their fourteen-year-old son, Charles, arrived in Singapore in January 1974. Michael was a refrigeration expert and managed the Asian operations of an American firm. The couple had been together since at least 1958 when they flew TWA from London to New York. Their US arrivals cards indicate Michael was doing business with Westinghouse.1

In May 1974, the couple had been living in a Hilton Hotel suite in Singapore for four months. Hotel life may have been particularly challenging for Linda. Their son, Charles, described a stormy relationship and said Linda was incensed about Michael’s (professional) relationship with his secretary. She demanded that he fire her.

Reflecting on the eighth-floor tragedy 38 years later, it is apparent that the strains of an expatriate life contributed to the murder. Moving to a new country in the pre-internet society could be stressful and isolating. Singapore provided one employment visa per household, and in 1979, this usually went to the husband. Managing an overseas operation was challenging, engrossing and exciting, providing many opportunities for socialization and engagement. The “at home” spouse was sometimes isolated, adrift in a strange country with no friends or family for support. A fragile or unhappy relationship can easily explode in this environment.

Charles last saw his mother on a May morning about 7 am, when he left for school. Late that afternoon, when Charles returned home, Michael told him he had murdered his mother. Charles loved his father and chose to protect him from a certain execution by hanging. He told no one. Michael and Charles moved to 34 E Cairnhill Court and Linda’s body accompanied them. She was dismembered into 13 pieces and sealed in four plastic packages and placed in a wooden box. The box was concealed in a metal trunk, sealed with fiberglass and tar. Michael and Charles lived with Linda’s body on the eighth floor.

Michael died of a heart condition two years later on April 16, 1976, while on a trip to Australia. Charles, then 16, returned home to Singapore and informed the police about the location of his mother’s body. Much to the chagrin of Cairnhill Court residents, police opened the trunk on April 21, 1976 and revealed its gruesome contents on the eighth floor, releasing spirits and mystery to haunt Cairnhill Court.

Cairnhill Court was demolished about 2010 to make way for new luxurious high-rises. All is new and glistening on Cairnhill Court, but I wonder, does a hungry ghost of a once passionate Thai woman slip among the shadows?


  1. New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1966, Ancestry.com

Read articles about the murder at the National Library of Singapore’s newspaper archive website:

The Smell of Death, New Nation, 22 April 1976, Page 1


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 Shumaker
George E. Shumaker

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.

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Nannie Belle Sprouse

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.

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Sisters Minnie and Mary

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 Shumaker family

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.


  1. 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.

Cousin Reunion

When my husband invited me to attend a national home winemaking conference in Ithaca, New York, my initial reaction was negative. I reconsidered when I looked at a map and realized that Ithaca was only an hour from Auburn, New York. Suddenly flying nearly 3,000 miles across the country seemed like a very good idea. I immediately arranged to visit four second cousins I hadn’t seen in over 50 years.

Cousins 1
L-R: Candy Chandler, Gary Morrissett, Nancy Chandler, Vanessa Sykes. June 15, 1961

The Chandler siblings were born and raised in Auburn, but their mother, Anne, and grandmother, Kathleen, were native Virginians. Most summers they loaded the family station wagon and drove to Chesterfield County, Virginia to spend a few weeks among friends and family. They would stay with my grandparents, and my mother’s siblings would gather to visit with their cousin Ann and Aunt Kathleen. Cousins Candy, Nancy and I were roughly the same age and I anticipated their visits with great eagerness. New York cousins were quite exotic to this little Virginia girl! We shared cold watermelon and fresh corn from Papa’s garden, hunted for four leaf clovers, made daisy wreaths and whiled away the hours on a swing underneath the shelter of a towering tree. Our little fingers shelled pans of butterbeans, just picked in the garden. I was rarely allowed to help with the harvest as my mother feared the many snakes who resided among the tomatoes and beans. While the aunts and uncles lingered, chatting in the twilight, we filled mason jars with “lightening bugs”.

More than 50 years later I was delighted to spend an afternoon visiting with my Chandler cousins. We reminisced about muggy Virginia summer days, swapped photos and stories and talked about our shared Virginia heritage. Thank you Lou, Candy, Nancy and Cindy for such a warm and memorable visit.

L-R Standing: Cindy, Nancy, Lou and Vanessa. Seated: Candy. June 2, 2017




Crews Brothers and Sailors

The original newspaper clipping is in the possession of Joanne Crews. The clipping is undated and unsourced.

This is the earliest photo we have of Jesse’s father, George Van Crews, and we treasure it. These three handsome Sailors are the sons of Joseph (Joel) Peter and Minnie Shumaker Crews. The boys had a younger sister, Dorothy, still at home.

All three Crews brothers would serve in combat zones in the Pacific by the end of the war in 1945.

Raymond enlisted in the Navy in 1939 and was on duty in Little Creek, Virginia when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served on landing ship tank (hospital) USS LST(H)-949 when it was part of the Battle of Okinawa, earning multiple medals and battle stars.

George enlisted in the Navy on September 11, 1942 and served on cruiser, USS Minneapolis, and aircraft carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. While on board Minneapolis he earned two medals, the Asiatic Pacific and the Philippine Liberation, as well as seven battle stars.

Joseph was only 16 years old when he enlisted in the Navy. His age and the fact that he already had two brothers on active duty in combat zones complicated enlistment, but young Joseph was determined. He served on destroyer USS Gillespie and attack transport, USS Tazewell. Gillespie patrolled the waters around New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and came under repeated air attacks but avoided damage.  While on Tazewell, Joseph participated in the Battle of Okinawa and earned multiple medals and battle stars.

The safe return of these sailors brought great joy to their family following the war years of fear and anxiety. Like others of the Greatest Generation Raymond, George and Joseph put the adventures and hardships of war behind them. Raymond and George found jobs at nearby Reynolds and Dupont plants and Joseph worked at the McGuire VA Hospital. They married and raised families, always putting duty first. They survived the war, but the brothers still left this world much too soon. Raymond died in 1966 at the age of 47. George passed away in 1987, 63 years old and Joseph died in 1988 at the age of 62.

Here’s to you, Raymond, George and Joseph Crews–three of the 12,209,238 men and women who served in the US Armed Forces during World War II.1


  1. Visit the website of the National World War II Museum to see this and other statistics of World War II.




Henry Wesley Sprouse and His Children

Henry Wesley Sprouse and all his children
Front Row from left: Frank, Mary and Jane. Second row from left: Martha, Peggy (second wife), Edmund, Henry Wesley Sprouse, Fitzhugh and William. Back row from left: Thomas, Pocahontas, Nannie Belle, Charles, James, Elbon Booney, and John Josiah.

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



Elizabeth Collie Sykes

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-7-43-06-pmI think this photo of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Collie, is beautiful. She has lovely eyes and there’s just a hint of a smile. Thank you to cousin Wendy for preserving this photo and doing the research on Lizzie.

Little is known of Lizzie’s brief life. Lizzie was born in King and Queen County, Virginia on February 22, 1873; one of eight children born to Mary Jane Carlton and James Collie. She’s found in the 1880 census living on a small farm with her parents and siblings in Petsworth in Gloucester County, Virginia. Lizzie may have moved to Richmond around 1892 with her brother James. Her death certificate reported that she had lived in Richmond for ten years. James Collie sent this letter to his nephew, Raymond, in 1939. I found the letter tucked behind a drawer in an old desk that had belonged to my grandmother. James was a minister and lived in New York City by 1900.

Letter from James Collie to Raymond Sykes

Lizzie married Thomas Leonard Sykes on July 8, 1896 in Richmond, Virginia. My grandfather, Raymond, was born just a year later in Richmond, on August 6, 1897. Thomas was born in Richmond on August 9. 1899. He was always known as Brother Tommy.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 7.32.21 PM.pngThe Sykes family lived at 319 North 29th Street on Richmond’s Church Hill. They may have moved here shortly after the house was built in 1900. The house still stands and you can tour it on Zillow.

Lizzie didn’t get to see her children grow into fine young men. She died at home of tuberculosis on April 30, 1902, at the age of 29. Lizzie’s brother Earnest died in 1898 and her sister Eunice died in 1899. Although I have not seen their death certificates, it is likely they died of the same disease. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and it is possible Lizzie contracted the disease from her siblings.  Her obituary refers to a “long and painful illness” and Lizzie may never have had the strength to care for her boys.

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The Richmond Dispatch, May 1, 1902, page 7. Chronicling America.

The University of Virginia digital tuberculosis exhibit explains, “Formerly called “consumption,” tuberculosis is characterized externally by fatigue, night sweats, and a general “wasting away” of the victim. Typically but not exclusively a disease of the lungs, TB is also marked by a persistent coughing-up of thick white phlegm, sometimes blood.” There was no cure and Lizzie would have suffered greatly.

Raymond and Thomas were raised by their paternal aunt, Evy Sykes, and her husband, Robert Davis. The boys’ father, Thomas, traveled for work and moved to Pennsylvania.

Sykes Ianson HeadstoneLizzie is buried at Oakwood Cemetery and shares a headstone with her husband and his mother.

Lizzie C Sykes death certificate

The Juicy Details of a Household Inventory

Look around your home and take a mental inventory of all of your possessions. Imagine listing every dish, piece of silverware, pot, or tool you own. What would that list reveal about you? Would we learn your occupation, financial status, hobbies and more?

The inventory prepared for Peter Ogilby’s bankruptcy is an interesting document, full of juicy little details for descendants and curious genealogists. Most of our ancestors do not leave diaries or letters to provide first hand accounts of their lives. Instead we turn to documents like Peter Ogilby’s inventory. Studied together with other documents such as census records and chancery causes, it is possible to enrich our understanding of Peter and Harriett’s life together.

In 1825, when this inventory was taken, Peter Ogilby was 33 and in the prime of his life. Harriett Ball Ogilby (my 4x great-aunt) was 25. This is a relatively small number of household goods, but the items therein reflect a comfortable life. Note many of the items are domestic household items. As a married woman, Harriett owned nothing. By law, everything belonged to Peter and was part of the inventory.

Legatee of Mrs. Hendrick’s Estate

Had I not already known that Harriett’s mother was a Hendrick, this item would have sent me on a search for the Hendrick link. Harriett’s mother, Sally Hendrick, died before 1808. Harriett was named in her grandfather’s (John Hendrick) will of 1814. However, John Hendrick had married late in life, a second time, to her father’s (Isham Ball) sister, Martha, who died in 1816, leaving several minor children. The estate would not be settled until 1831. Meanwhile, desperate for cash, Peter Ogilby had already sold his wife’s inheritance to J. W. Nash.

One Cradle and Furniture

Did this cradle hold a baby in 1825?  Harriett and Peter had a daughter, Sarah, about 1820. The next recorded child is Peter, born about 1830. Most couples of this time frame had a child every other year. The 1830 census records five children living in Peter’s household, so the unfortunate couple must have lost three children between 1820 and 1830. It is likely an unknown Ogilby baby was sleeping in the cradle in 1825.  The cradle furniture is the mattress, linens, blankets and perhaps a canopy or tester.

Two Cows and One Calf, Churn, Three Butter Pots

Butter-making was a routine household task requiring some skill. Virginia’s hot summers could sour the milk or spoil the cream and any contamination could prevent the curdle necessary for butter. Churning the cream takes about an hour and then the butter had to be kneaded to release moisture. It was placed in a ceramic butter pot and covered with gauze. Two cows would barely provide the milk for the household’s dairy needs.

Two Feather Beds and Furniture

These were a real luxury and considered family heirlooms. Poorer households did not possess one feather bed, much less two. Once again, furniture here means the blankets, pillows, linens and draperies as the bed may have been canopied. Heavy drapes provided privacy and warmth in winter. Come summer the bed was draped with a lighter fabric to keep out flying insects.

Spinning Wheel and Cotton Cards

These implements indicate Harriett was spinning cotton into thread. Milled fabrics were available by this time, so it is possible these implements were already family heirlooms. Harriett may also have been practicing thrift by spinning and weaving some of her own fabrics. Note there is no loom mentioned here.

Tea Board with Its Contents, One Tea Kettle, Coffee Mill, Coffee Pot, Salt Cellar, Pepper Box

A tea board was a large tray, sometimes on a stand, where hot beverages like coffee and tea were served. Coffee, tea and pepper were imported to Virginia and were considered little luxuries, available only to those with the cash to purchase them.

Grid Iron, Tribbet, Iron Pot, Iron Pot Rack

The cooking in this household was done over an open fire. A grid iron supported pots over the fire. A tribbet or trivet was generally a three-legged stand to support a kettle near an open fire.

One Bay Mare

Peter had one horse, and it had a debt against it.

Two Trunks

Chancery causes prior to 1825 refer to Peter living out of state or in Georgia. Perhaps the trunks were a part of Peter’s wandering life.

One Looking Glass, One Dressing Box, Clothes Brush, Wash Bowl, One Chamber, Pair Flat Irons

A looking glass (mirror) and dressing box imply status and luxury. A woman may have kept cosmetics, combs and brushes in a dressing box. Harriett may have brought these items to the marriage. Flat irons were heated in a fire and used to press clothes. Chamber here may refer to a pot used to collect overnight urine and avoid a trip outside in the night.

What’s Missing?

A household inventory in rural Powhatan in the early nineteenth century would have included many more tools and farm implements. It would also have included a number of slaves to assist with the household tasks and farming. The 1830 census for Peter Ogilby includes several slaves, indicating that perhaps Harriett’s father, Isham Ball, “loaned” a few of his slaves to the couple. This provided help for Harriett and insured they wouldn’t be sold to pay Peter’s debts. Truly luxurious items like silver, crystal, clocks and even a buggy are also missing.


Harriet and Peter lived a comfortable life above their means. Peter did not farm on a big scale; there was probably only a kitchen garden to supply the family’s needs. Peter was a minister later in life, and he may have already been preaching by the time of this inventory in 1825. The inventory is available online at the Library of Virginia, Amelia County, 1839-010, John O. Hundley, etc vs Heirs of Richard Ogilby.

Peter Ogilby Estate

A Mystery Solved

When my ancestor Isham Ball died in 1860 in Powhatan County, Virginia, his will made very specific provisions regarding the inheritance of his daughter, Harriett Ball Ogilby.  Isham wrote, “The Share of my daughter, Harriett Ogilby, wife of Peter F. Ogilby under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in Trust by Wm C. Netherland of Powhatan County for the use and benefit of my said daughter Harriett during her life and that of her children in such manner that the said Peter F. Ogilby shall have no control over the property or the profits thereof in any way whatsoever.”1

I wondered, in a prior blog post, why Isham directed that his son-in-law have no control over Harriett’s inheritance. I found the answer in the online chancery files at the Library of Virginia.2

Peter incurred a debt of $124.00 on 4 March 1820. When Peter failed to pay the debt as ordered in a judgment against him, he was arrested on 27 August 1825. There had been other financial challenges and Peter apparently could not raise the cash and declared insolvency. The Sheriff put all of Peter and Harriett’s unencumbered possessions up for sale and Isham Ball bought them and paid Peter’s debt. In exchange Peter granted Isham all of his interest in the estates of his brother Patrick, and parents Judith and Richard Ogilby of Amelia County, Virginia. When the estates were settled in Amelia County in 1838, Isham Ball presented the agreement to the Court and received the share of his son-in-law, Peter Ogilby.

Isham Ball notably stepped in to protect his daughter and grandchildren from Peter’s financial difficulties and Peter was released from the Amelia County jail. Certainly Isham Ball considered this episode and others when he wrote his will. He was prudent to protect Harriett’s interests.

Peter and Harriett’s assets were listed as part of his insolvency declaration. I can only imagine Harriett’s dismay at seeing her child’s cradle, her pots and pans, spinning wheel and coffee pot auctioned off to pay her husband’s debts. Fortunately they were purchased by her father and the couple retained possession of their belongings.

The list of items provides a snapshot of how Peter and Harriett were living in 1825.3 A copy was included in the 1838 division of Judith, Richard and Patrick Ogilsby’s estates. The young couple didn’t own a lot, and the belongings indicate a middle class life. A looking glass and books indicate someone who could read and who cared about appearances. Feather beds were coveted household possessions. There were a few tools but not enough for serious farming. Perhaps Peter had already started preaching.

And do take note of the clerk’s beautiful penmanship.

Peter Ogilby Estate

  1. Isham Ball’s Will, 1 Oct 1860, Powhatan County, Virginia, Will Book 15, pages 467 – 468. County Clerk’s’s Office, Powhatan, Virginia.
  2. “Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.” Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes. John O Hundley ETC vs HEIR(S) OF Richard Ogilby BY ETC, 1839-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Web. 2 April 2017.
  3. Hundley vs Ogilby, page 22

Grace Church: Built by Jim Crews & Sons


Grace Church
Grace Episcopal Church.                                                         Drawing from The Courthouse Burned.

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.

Writing History

Well, its been awhile since I wrote a blog post. A new grandchild was born, then the holidays, a little travel, a dreadful case of the flu-you know how it goes. Genealogy has been ever present on my mind, and my only new year’s resolution for 2017 was to finish the Taylor family history I began in 2008. The book is complete and almost ready to go to the printer. It covers five generations of Taylors who resided in Powhatan through the early 1900’s.

Have you ever picked up a genealogy book? Many are 500 pages of names and weigh about five pounds. Mine’s a slim book of essays about the life and times of six select ancestors. There’s still merit in publishing a book of names, but in this digital age the names and vital statistics of most of my ancestors can easily be found on my tree at Ancestry.com. I want my grandchildren to get to know the person, to walk in their shoes, and understand their lives. Here’s an excerpt about Robert Taylor (1738 – 1826), my fifth great-grandfather.


The American Revolution began in 1776, the year Ann Olive Taylor, third child of Robert and Frances was born. The Taylors certainly had little time to think about the powerful events happening around them, and indeed all remained peaceful and quiet on their farm. The British, led by Benedict Arnold,  ransacked Richmond, about thirty miles downriver in 1780, but never came near the Taylor farm where Frances was delivering a fifth child, George.  There is no record of military service for Robert.  He was nearly forty when the war began, and may have been considered too old for the hard life endured by the troops. Robert provided beef and wheat for the troops, an action that made him a traitor to the British, and indicated his support of the revolutionary cause. Robert spent 12 days “collecting beeves” and was reimbursed £208 for this service. Larkin Smith of Cumberland County described this service, “…going over the country in every direction collecting beef for the army. Thinks there was law in those days regarding every man who had beef cattle to give up such a portion of his stock according to numbers to provision the army & it was made his business to drive these cattle & bring them within reach of the camp.”1 Robert must have contributed some of his own cattle to the war effort, because he was reimbursed £1-8-4 for contributing 170 pounds of beef to the war effort. Robert also furnished thirteen bushels of wheat for the troops. Wheat was plentiful in Powhatan, and its residents furnished hundreds of bushels of wheat for the troops.  The wheat was ground into flour by local millers and sent along to the troops. Provisioning the troops did not always go smoothly. Richard Couture writes in Powhatan: A Bicentennial History,of local millers putting  the flour outside, causing it to be ruined, and adding that “Further, 40 or 50 thousand bushels of wheat could be gotten from the county, but there was no transportation.”2 Colonial logistics for moving goods were difficult in the best of times, and clearly chaos during war.

Elizabeth A. Rust relates the following story about the rector of the Peterville Church, attended by Robert Taylor and his family, “ In 1772 Reverend Alexander MacRae was rector. He was a Scotchman and did not enter into the spirit of the times of the American Revolution and was warned to leave. He disregarded the warning so one night a messenger told him that a dying neighbor wanted to see him. He was waylaid and led to a tree where he was whipped. The tree has long been cut down, but was known as the “Parson’s Pine.”3 Robert Taylor’s community clearly supported the American Revolution.


1 “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.” Fold3.com. Larkin B Smith, Pension Number S. 6114, Service Va. Database and Images. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

2 Couture, Richard T. Powhatan: A Bicentennial History. Richmond: Dietz, 1980.

p. 84. Print.

3 Rust, Elizabeth A. “Survey Report Peterville Church.” Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project. Library of Virginia, 29 July 1937. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.