From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/9/1922, p. 19, c. 1
KENTUCKY MINISTER GIVES REMINISCENCES
Rev. J. J. Clopton, of Lexington, Has Vivid Recollection of Richmond’s Ante-Bellum Days, Its War-Time Heroes, Homes and Conditions After Conflict.
By. Rev. J. J. Clopton.
As one visits the city of Richmond today, he can hardly realize what physical changes have taken place since the seventies. Richmond at that time was provincial – now, metropolitan. What has developed into the splendid modern system of urban and interurban transportation, was then supplied by horse cars. Lee monument section was country. Much of Grace Street east of old Richmond College, was unbuilt. Where the James River branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad enters at Eighth Street, was the “Basin Bank.” Here the mule-drawn canal boats were tied up, as late as the early eighties. The Gallego Mill was an imposing object on the eastern skyline of the basin. On the southeast corner of Main and Eighth Streets stood the famous ante-bellum hotel, “The Spotswood.” It was in ante-bellum days and until burned, Christmas Eve, 1870, the Waldorf-Astoria of Richmond, dividing with the equally famous Ballard Exchange, the cream of travel. With the building of the Jefferson, the Exchange died a natural death.
If the voices could now speak which once were heard in these old inns, the greatest and best Virginia would be heard. From the front of the Exchange the flaming oratory of ante-bellum, war-time and reconstruction days often was heard. Where the magnificent City Hall now stands were two buildings which figured largely in the life of old Richmond. One was the Presbyterian Church, in which Dr. Moore officiated, and the other was the old City Hall. This latter building was fashioned after the model of an ancient Greek temple, and was a pigmy compared to the present home of the city fathers. Where now are the beautiful Chimborazo and Libby Hill Parks, were uninviting hillsides. It is not exaggeration to say that some of the buildings, which were used at Chimborazo for the large Confederate hospital were then standing. A monument ought to crown Chimborazo Park, commemorating the glories of the women of Richmond, during those dark days of strife, when their ministry soothed the sufferings of thousands of brave men, who laid down their lives for the “Lost Cause.”
“Linden Row” Then City’s Heart.
A familiar sight was to see in the seventies, at the Chesapeake wharves below Richmond, vessels lying three and four abreast, after the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad came through from the Ohio River. With the building of the road down the Peninsula, the glory of the river trade disappeared. The stately homes in “Linden Row” and “Gray’s Row” were then in the heart of the city, and many of the old homes with their large, shady front yards, have long since been covered up by brick and mortar in the modern flat. In the seventies, one of the notes of Richmond was the numerous tobacco factories. Some of the most noted were Enders, Lottier, Grant, Mayo, Cameron, Turpin and Yarbrough. Most of these have been swallowed up by the American Tobacco Company. It is of interest to recount that the great modern plant of Allen & Ginter started in a small way by John F. Allen, near Mayo Street, on Franklin. The cigarettes were all hand-made. The modern order has marched on, and in the wake of this leviathan, much that is ancient has fallen and must fall. On the whole, the Richmond of today has preserved many of the landmarks of past times. While she has taken on the hallmarks of a modern metropolis, and marches to the restless music of progress, she is still filled with the hospitality of her provincial days.
People of the Seventies.
The Richmond of today is wanting in many prominent personalities of the “seventies.” Familiar forms on the streets then included many who had played prominent parts in the recently closed bloody War Between the States. I remember distinctly General George E. Pickett, the hero of Gettysburg. He was in his prime. Clad in citizens’ clothes, one would have picked him out as a leader. He wore his hair long, and was the picture of manly beauty. General Joseph E. Johnston was another familiar figure. My recollection of him was an elderly, dignified man, past the meridian age. General Dabney H. Maury, one of the leaders of the armies of the Southwest, made his home in Richmond at that time. Governor Henry A. Wise was then in “the sear and yellow leaf.” He still practiced law and was associated with his brilliant young son, John S. Wise, whose political star was rising in the firmament of the revived democracy. Another familiar figure was General W. H. F. Lee, popularly called “Runnie Lee.” He was a man of large frame and not unlike his great father, General Robert E. Lee. He was engaged in farming at the “White House,” in New Kent County, about twenty-five miles from Richmond.
This place he inherited from his mother, who was descended from Martha Washington. Gilbert C. Walker, the first Governor of Virginia after the stormy and dark days of “reconstruction,” was one of the handsomest men I ever saw. He was, I am told, a peaceful part of the Army of the Potomac. He was a giant in size. He did yeomanry work in the redemption of Virginia from the vast hord of scalawags and carpetbaggers, the names of those adventurers who came to fatten on Virginia, in those troubulous times, and from negro domination. He afterwards represented Virginia in the Third Congressional District. There were several brilliant young lawyers who had recently hung out their shingle, and who became prominent later in the life of Richmond. Among these were S. B. Witt and E. C. Cabell, the former afterwards judge of the Hustings Court and the latter the brilliant prosecuting attorney in the same court. Among the merchants were Davenport & Morris the Levys, A. Y. Stokes, the Worthams, R. P. Richardson and T. R. Price. They stretched back to the days when Richmond was a big town and had a large coastwise trade.
None were higher in honor, and it was before the days of the “trusts,” and an individuality obtained in the business world that has long since departed.
Among the noted preachers and pastors were Moses D. Hoge, Charles G. Minnegerode, Joshua Peterkin, George E. Woodbridge and John E. Edwards. Great crowds waited on the preaching of Dr. Hoge at the Second Presbyterian Church, and Dr. Joshua Peterkin was known far and wide as a most devoted pastor and preacher. Charles G. Minnegerode had come to America after the Republican wave of 1848 swept Europe, and was the war-time pastor of President Davis. Dr. Woodbridge was educated at West Point, and to his last days walked as erect as a cadet. Dr. J. Lansing Burroughs attracted great notice as the pastor of the First Baptist Church.
At the bar the leaders were Judge Robert Ould, John A. Merrideth, Patrick Henry Aylett, the venerable R. M. T. Hunter and others Among the philanthropist John Stewart, of Brook Hill, and among the literary men and editors, Dr. George W. Bagby, William F. Drinkard, W. C. Elam, J. Hamden Chamberlain. General Bradley T. Johnson was prominent in military circles and colonel of the famous First Virginia Regiment, with its undying war record. The descendants of many of those mentioned are today associated with the life of Richmond. A new generation has sprung up, new ideals are shaping the new Richmond, but the impress of these citizens of old Richmond is reflected in present-day civic life.
No Newspapers Like the Modern.
In ante-bellum days and during the bloody and stormy days of strife, the newspapers of Richmond had a most profound and far-reaching influence. There were no large cities. The gentry of the rural districts were highly educated – deep thinkers – and exercised a large influence on public policies. The “court green” of the county courthouses was the hustings on which all public questions were fought out, individually and collectively, both with oratory and the fists. Not until quite recently, with the advent of modern inventions, has the world’s news been possible every morning. Not a newspaper like some of our modern sheets existed, with its variety and specialized educational features on the topics of the times. Then the editorial had a most marked power influencing public policy. In Richmond in war times four great dailies existed. They were the Whig, Examiner, Inquirer [Enquirer] and Dispatch.
By the many changes since then, three of these great dailies exist in mergers. The Inquirer became the Times, and under the skillful management of the late Joseph Bryan, forged to the front. It is only quite recently it merged with another great sheet of ante-bellum times, the Dispatch. And now the old Inquirer and Dispatch live on under The Times-Dispatch. The Whig had no successor, if I am right in my memory. It died from old age after a long, honorable and stormy career. It was the great favorite with the long dead “country gentry.” As I remember, one of its best and most fearless editors was William C. Elam. In the early seventies there was a little evening sheet, the Evening News. John Hamden Chamberlayne, one of the most brilliant and gifted journalists, became editor and owner of the Evening News. It changed its name to the State. Never in the history of Richmond journalism was there more brilliant work than Ham Chamberlayne’s. He died in his prime, an editorial star of the first magnitude. The State was merged with the Leader, and now the News-Leader perpetuates the State. All honor to the past of these historic sheets, which fought so valiantly for the redemption of Virginia from the rule of ignorance and aliens, which was her unhappy lot in the days of “reconstruction and radicalism.”
“Radicals” Stood for Negro Rule.
This latter term was a shibboleth. “Radical” and “conservative” were the two camps in the political war. The “radicals” stood for negro rule, public plunder, ignorance and class hatred. Its leaders were, in most cases, renegades and adventurers, which the tides of war and military occupation brought into Virginia. The enactment of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution and the fact that Virginia for several years was a military district and had no say in her affairs, as most of her citizens were under political ban, gave the “radicals” their chance. Old citizens of Richmond will recall many of these names, which, with their owners, have been long since forgotten. But the modern constructive period of Virginia, with its rule of intelligence, must bear witness to the memory of Henry K. Ellyson, W. F. Drinkard and J. Ham Chamberlayne, who gracefully wore the mantles and wielded the pens of the brilliant editors of the saviors of the grand old Commonwealth of Virginia.
Negroes in Legislative Halls.
For several years after the War Between the States, Virginia was a military district, and the prey of adventurers, while her sons looked on, helpless to do anything. The writer remembers when there were possibly a score of ebony statesmen in the legislative halls of the old Capitol, filling seats graced by her nobles sons – the Lees, Masons and Jefferson and Henry. The regeneration of Virginia was a prolonged conflict of great bitterness. Pierpont, Hunnicutt and Wills are names that darken the pages of her history. I have spoken of Gilbert C. Walker as the first Governor of the days of her redemption. All of the progressive elements rallied under the name “conservative.” The Conservative party was a fusion of all elements which longed for redemption from negro and carpetbag rule. Local politics in 1870 were in a flaming condition. In the spring of 1870 George C. Chahoon, who represented the riff-raff opposed to Simon-pure white rule, claimed election as Mayor of Richmond over Henry K. Ellyson.
There was a deadlock, and Chahoon’s partisans were besieged in the old Market House. Hundreds of special police were sworn in and there was great excitement. In April the case was to be decided by the Supreme Court, meeting in the old Capitol. Eventually Ellerson was seated. In local politics John S. Wise forged ahead as a flaming Democrat. A bitter local fight arose in the Democratic party. Fiery phillipics appeared in the local press, and the contest ranged around Gilbert C. Walker, Bradley T. Johnson, John S. Wise and others. The gubernatorial conventions met in the old Richmond Theater. General James Kemper, Fritz Lee and John W. Daniel were bright stars in the political heavens. John W. Daniel began his memorable career at this time. His oratory was unrivaled and his political star amidst many vicissitudes, rose to the zenith, when he became one of Virginia’s most favorable and noted sons, in his long career in the United States Senate. The State debt was a great issue, which later split the Democratic party wide open, when the readjustment party was organized. Let Virginians of today remember the valiant standard-bearers of those dark days, the Cromwells who drove out the rump Parliaments of ignorance and graft.