The End of a Civilization

Another fall, the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church convened at St. Paul’s church. I was allowed to go very often, and though young, about 15 years old, I enjoyed the services. The number of Bishops awed me and I recall even now some of the sermons. I knew some of the Bishops, Bishops Meade and Johns of Virginia both grand in mind, manner and appearance, Bishop Johns a fine orator, Bishop Meade unique in his simplicity and rugged strength. I remember Dr. Dix of N.Y. and Dr. Hodges of N.Y. whose wonderful voice and elocution held all spellbound. I recall these personalities distinctly, and the whole thing made a vivid impression upon me. Thank God for these beautiful memories. I never saw a convention that made a like memorable memory. I think it was the next summer I was confirmed at Old Beaver Dam Church. At that time our church, St. Paul’s, had no clergyman so the confirmation was held there. I recall a little circumstance — when I tried to untie my bonnet, the strings would not untie. The dear old Bishop Meade saw my confusion and said, never mind child, just push your bonnet back. My realife* at his considerate kindness gave me joy then and will never be forgotten. Venerable old Patriarch, I wonder how many hearts have been gladdened by your ministrations.

(misspelled, perhaps relief)

It was this fall we had our “Red Letter” Christmas party, another joyful remembrance. Nobody can have Christmas now as we had. The world is so different, oh so different, it saddens me to think the good old days are gone. I have lived through so many scenes and think the old times best. All the boasted education and miracles of science and fabulous amount of money — has it added to goodness or humanity? Has not the world forgotten God? Then where’s the good of it? Have we been wicked people and have, as in the days before the deluge, gone far astray and not followed in the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, following in our blessed Lord’s footsteps. I am not condemning others, but feel my own culmination. I am sadly digressing, and go back to Dungeness.

We had as usual our lovely times at home. After Mr. Prime our next tutor was William Z. Mend*, a very cleavor* young man. He was an especial admirer of mine, but for some reason I did not return his admiration. I was again at Mr. Lefebris* school. The year before my sister Jeanie was sick and as my oldest sister had stopped school I stayed at home and studied with Mr. Prime who was a most excellent scholar and knew how to impart his knowledge, Mr. Mead was much liked by the boys and they would have had him the next year, but he wished to go to the University of Virginia. All Virginians felt this must be their Alma Mater. More of this later.

(misspelled, Mead, and clever)
(*this name, Lefebre, is repeatedly spelled differently throughout this excerpt and in prior chapters, see also below)

In the vacations our house was always filled with guests, one house party after another. Hospitality could be shown in its finest since all were most welcome and there was no limit to the visit as now. Sometimes, however, this generosity was imposed upon, as so many came not for love of us, but for their convenience and pleasure. We found out later this to be sadly true. Our friends entertained our guests and we reciprocated, so it was a constant round of gaity. I knew little sorrow then. The memory of Little Ellen’s death will go with me as I travel on my journey as a beacon light on the path which was a stormy and rough way.

My year at school was memorable. Four of us were trusted to go in one large room, but two of us were what might be called “fast” and did very naughty things. I will say that I was not one of them, but although I did not approve I would not tell of their misdemeanors. My room mates were Lizze Shelden of Gloucester County, Evelyn Cabell of Mulson County, Constance Cary of Fairfax County. In a certain sense we were the stars of the school, Constance for her beautiful voice, Evelyn and I the same, Lizzie for her beauty. I was the leader of the school in studies, having been four years the head. For this reason the girl called Anna Logan was Mr. Lefeboris* favorite. He showed it by detailing me to nurse his children when his wife wanted to go out calling.

He was a very handsome man and the girls, to use their expression “went crazy over him”. I never did and that may be why he liked me.

Lizzie Sheldon went home with me and Fanny Cazenoor with my sister. Both were beauties and so was my sister. She was a typical brunette and they were blonds, Fanny with golden hair and blue eyes, Lizzie with auburn hair and eyes exactly the same color. I loved to watch them. We were invited out and had many calls. Lizzie and I went back to school but Fanny spent some time with my sister. I recall a morning dress Fanny wore, a red nerino.* And Lizzie had an evening dress which was so becoming the night we went to Blemead* with Philip Coches to a party.

(*unknown words)

Our next tutor was Mr. Randolph Coalter Litzhugh, a high sounding aristocratic. He was ordinary in all, looks, mind and manners, but was faithful to his duties as teacher. A devout Episcopalian, I liked him in spite of his plainness because I thought him true and genuine.

This summer was made memorable by my visit to the University of Virginia. I was invited By Sue Maupin, through Constance Cary’s influence and went for a two weeks visit, which was very delightful. I knew so many young men, and although no one “made love” to me I had much attention. I gave them to understand I wanted no love making. Constance had so many beaux. I think she was engaged to twenty-five. She was the greatest flirt I ever saw.

We grew apart. Evelyn too was a friend a short time. In so many ways we were different, and in a few years, we knew each other, that was all. Lizzie is still a firm friend, and we still correspond.

It is impossible for me to tell of all the company we had not what we did. We had carriages and horses, and we played cards and danced at night. Our hall was forty feet square, and among the negroes were banjoists who were delighted to come in and play. All our servants served us gladly. They were devoted to us children. We had breakfast at 8:30 Lunch at 12, dinner at 3:30 and supper at 9:00, a simple meal served on a large waiter. Housekeeping was very different from what it is today. I would love to describe some of the dinners and indeed the three meals were often sumptuous. A friend, Colonel Owen of Washington artillery wrote a history. He speaks of our breakfast and says we had twenty kinds of bread. It is true we had a good variety, but not half as much as that.

Now we had a tutor John M. Burk from Ohio whose father disowned him because he studied for the Episcople* Ministry and refused to take Law as his profession. He was a sad young man, and very well educated, but though cleavor* could not impart knowledge and could not understand the boys. My mother had constantly to interfere. One little circumstance I remember. My brother Joe, a wonderfully good boy, had never had any punishment, for he never deserved any. He was told to stand in the corner. The little fellow stood awhile and when he was tired said, “Mr. Burk, don’t you think sitting down just as good for learning as standing up?”

Mr. Burk thought the child meant to be impertinent and called for a switch to whip him. The children were horrified at Joe’s being whipped and ran to our Mother who immediately came to the rescue. She countermanded the order for the switch, and Mr. Burk was told that the boy did not mean to be impertinent. He, poor soul, had always had harsh treatment so did not understand the Southern leniency. It was a revelation to him. He was a good man and learned to love our southern gentleness and we liked him.

This was a very eventful year. we were near the end of this beautiful old Virginia life, nearer than we thought. Our papers were humming with the injustice shown to the south and the northern abolitionists exaggerated. There were broad political differences. Fanaticism and politics through* us into this chaos and completely overturned our life. In their one thought for the negro they forgot the thousands who suffered. My father, for instance, with twelve children. The circumstances were appalling.

(*misspelled, threw)

I was the only educated child. I had been well educated according to our standards. My sister was at school that winter of 1860-61. I visited friends. All was excitement. My father was opposed to secession which was strongly advocated. All our friends were in favor of it and I felt as they did. The state if Virginia opposed it strongly and much discord was caused by the difference. All agreed that the north ruled us, but my father and the union men said this was not the way to do it. My father predicted just what happened — misery and desolation. Our northern brothers spent millions on the negroes. I will always think that ignorance and prejudice were the principle causes of the war. I was too young to know then, and did not have the wisdom of my father. That winter in Richmond there was much feeling indeed. The question of secession was most serious. South Carolina seceeded*, and of course this made the North furious and more determined. It will be impossible for me to attempt a history of the War. The subject is beyond my ken* and I pray God to forgive those who were wrong. The states one after another followed South Carolina and War was in preparation in both the North and South. Jeff Davis and John B. Floyd were in the cabinet and encouraged the South. My father thought them both wrong as they must have known the strength of the North and our weakness. We had no trained soldiers, no guns, no experience, and my father was a strong Wig** and Henry Clay worshipper. But alas, we had no leader and our Northern brethren were narrow minded and could see no merit except geographically. To be south of the Mason and Dixon line was the crime and they did not take thought of the many who were sympathizers.

(*unknown word, misspelled word, **Whig)

About Dawn Quarles

Dawn Quarles is a high school political science and American history teacher who moonlights as a blogger and writer. She lives on Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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