According to Carey Blauvelt, "This is a letter written to my great-great grandmother, Ann Carey Randolph in 1882 from her friend/relative in her hometown of Front Royal, Virginia. It is a very chatty letter that mentions the families of Richardson, Lovell, Armistead and Kendrick. It also mentions "Rose Hill" and has a charming description of how the town has grown to 1,200 inhabitants since my great-great grandmother left. I have always thought it would be of historical interest to families in Front Royal.
My great-great grandmother was Ann Cary "Nannie" Randolph, daughter of Thomas Beverly Randolph and Maria Barbara Mayer. She married Dr Rozier Dulaney Briscoe and moved to Missouri. The Rolfe referred to in the letter is her nephew, Rolfe Millar, son of her sister Susan. Her son William Mayer Briscoe is also referred to in the letter. Her sister Lucy, who married William Keim is also mentioned. I do not know who any of the other people are but there is a lot of gossip that might be interesting to folks researching those other families.
Letter transcript and image scans provided by Carey Blauvelt.
I adjusted her original transcript slightly to better fit the page here.
Aug 16th, 1882
My darling Nannie will think me incorrigible, I fear, to delay writing so long after all my promises. You'll not make a single excuse, but will just beg pardon, and write such a long, newsy letter as to earn forgiveness by making it as long as 3 ordinary letters. And now there is so much to tell, the trouble is when and with what to begin! Your chief interest here is, of course, in Rolfe, so he shall have the first place in my letter.
One chief reason for my delay was I was waiting his arrival that I might tell you something of him. His return here from Iowa was delayed from week to week, and he did not really arrive till a few days ago-the 10th- He called to see me the same day and I found him the same Rolfe-as warm hearted and affectionate as in the old school days. Almost anyone else would have been utterly ruined by a 6 years course at a German University. I had faith in Rolfe all the time. I knew the pure gold of his nature so well.
In appearance he is much like his father-in voice, manner and conversational ability like his mother. You know what a charming talker she was. Rolfe said he would write you very soon-he had failed to receive several of your letters.
The Richardson's have been away from Rose Hill 3 or 4 years, but are expected to-day to remain a short while, at least, in the old home. Belle is the family despot-they all " bow at the shrine of Baal." (Sue always pronounces Belle thus.) and I could not help the pun thinking of her unreasonable exactions and Mrs. Richardson's and Susie's uncomplaining submission to all her whims.
She is an invalid, and as such deserving of pity and sympathy, but she is so rottenly spoiled by the devotion and indulgence of her Mother and Sister that no galley-slave chained to the oar was ever more completely enslaved than poor Susie. Hers is a daily martyrdom. Belle will not stay at home at all, and is never satisfied very long anywhere, as they are dragged from one boarding house to another all winter, and from one watering place to another all Summer. Even now Belle does not intend to come home, but wants Rolfe to meet them at Manassas to-day, and take her on up the Valley to Elklin Springs.
And now let me thank you for the pictures of your boys. They are splendid looking fellows-one much like Rolfe at his age.
I show the picture to all your old friends and all admire it greatly. You call one Willie-What is the name of the other, and which is Willie?
You could not recognize Front Royal now. It has quite lost the "Sleepy Hollow" look of ante-bellum days and is now a busy, bustling, thriving town of 1200 inhabitants. We have 2 railroads here, several manufactories, 6 churches, large 3 story school building, stores without number. The whole place has lost its antique appearance. Most of the houses are new, and the old ones have been made to look "maist as gude as new" with the aid of paint, new blinds and "bay-windows."-Our good people have developed quite a mania for these last.-
The Manor road is now a wide, beautiful street with the nicest houses, purest air and loveliest view of the mountains. The new comers mostly live there. The "ancien rigime" still cling to the old port of the town. We have been in town nearly 14 years. We live in the old Steele property just opposite the Browns. It is the sweetest looking place in town I think, and all admit that my flowers bear off the palm. I have a rare and valuable collection of plants. (Aunt Rebecca gave me all Uncle Gus had collected with much labor and expense) and besides these I have many rare and beautiful ones of my own. You see I have chosen floral pets instead of feline. We still own dear old Mountain Side. We rent out the farm, I teach school, and Annie generally has some boarders, so we "rub on""contented wi' little and canty wi' mair."
Sister Martha lives in Illinois. She has one child 12 years old-"Robert Simpson-a fine looking boy, but very much spoiled and delicate, poor child. He is wonderfully bright too-so much so I told his Mother I would be fearful she would never raise him except from the fact that "his badness more than counter-balanced his smartness." I spent a summer at her house near Macomb, Illinois some years ago. Everyone was kind and attentive to me and it would have been most ungrateful not to have been pleased with my visit yet I soon wearied of the monotony of the scenery, and pined for the blue mountains of my own loved Virginia. I did not finish telling you of the changes here. The town is building in the direction of our house. The fields next to the Court-House are thickly settled for nearly half a mile (some of the prettiest houses are there) and at the "head of the lane" where we used to watch the sunset, there is now a row of houses extending from the Manor road to the Creek. Perry Criser is still living at the old place, the only one of all the old inhabitants who has not died or found a home elsewhere. He drinks as hard as ever. The wonder is that he has stood it so long.
Dr and Mrs. Brown and Miss Eliza are dead. The other sisters live together except Carrie who married a gentleman in Fauquier. Gussie spent 4 years in Paris-returned last summer-She is a very accomplished, interesting person. Gus, Ellen, Mattie and Flora all teach and Miss Sarah is the housekeeper.
Bettie Wheatley and Judge John Lovell live together in the old Lovell house where you, Bettie and I had such happy times in the"lang syne." Mary Lovell was married last winter. she was a youthful bride! only 18. Sallie Lovell is very pretty and interesting-she is just 16 and the idol of her father and Aunt. Minnie Randolph and her brothers John and Jeff live with Judge Lovell. Minnie is a beautiful girl- I think she must resemble your Sister Lucy Keim-she is not the least like either her father or Mother.
John is the better looking of the two boys, but Jeff is my favorite. He is exactly like his father in appearance and has the cordial, easy old Virginia manners of your dear father.
Sallie Lovell and he seem to have a decided penchant for each other, but both are young enough to have a dozen, or more, violent fancies before deciding.
Minnie is very much admired.
Laura Armistead was a grandmother years ago. Ella, her second daughter, married at 14, and Mary the eldest married young too. 'Sue Buck' was an invalid for years-has been two years or more since her death.
Mary and Ginnie Cloud lost their mother about 2 years and a half ago; Shortly after they went to California to visit their sister and have just returned here. Are only on a visit-will spend the winter in Baltimore with Mrs. Massie and Mr. Dan Cloud's family. and probably come back home next Spring.
Sallie Kendrick married Mr. Roy, a widower, was engaged after seeing him once for a few minutes only, went to Missouri and died in a few years. Have told you of all of your old friends except the chief one and of her, me wiei, the same in love for the dear friend of childhood and girlhood, though changed, indeed, in many things I trust. I have been a member of the Episcopal church for 15 years.
We two are in different folds of Christ's flock, but what matters that? I would give much to see your dear face again, to clasp your hand, and hold heart-communion once more, but if that sweet privilege is denied us, yet beyond the mists and sands of time, we may see the sun ever shining in that land of light and beauty when the sorrows and partings of earth are forgotten and where the crown and the palm are immortal. May we and those dear to us meet there and bask in its rays forever.
Father, Mother, Brother Robert and John are all laid to rest in our "City of the Dead" on the hill south of town; It is a lovely spot in sight of the old home, and there Annie and I will be laid beside them when our work on earth is done. And now, dear, if my long letter has won pardon I will close with love from Annie and myself.
Do write soon to
Yours ever-yours always