Archive for December, 2014

Randolph County’s First Christmas Tree?

December 24, 2014
Godey's Lady's Book, 1850- a revised version of  the Illustrated London News, edited to Americanize Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850- a revised version of the Illustrated London News, edited to Americanize Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

North Carolina in 2014 ranks number two in the nation in Christmas tree production, right after Oregon.  Every year the state’s 1600-odd tree farms produce some 50 million Fraser Firs, the most popular type of Christmas tree, worth about $100 million dollars.[i]  Add that to the relentless drumbeat of Christmas music and lights and shopping, it is hard to realize that Christmas wasn’t always the way it is today.

If you flip back to my 2010 post of Nannie Steed Winningham’s reminiscence of the Confederate Christmases of 1862, ’63 and ’64,[ii] you will note that there is no mention whatsoever of Christmas trees.  Santa Claus came down the chimney, as usual, and filled up the family’s stockings with gifts.  There was too much eggnog, and there was a visit by the scary “Christmas Waifs” demanding hand-outs.  But no tree.

In fact, Christmas was not at the time of the Civil War an actual official holiday.  As Dickens had Scrooge point out in A Christmas Carol, it was up to an individual’s employer whether to give the day off from work.  The City of Asheboro itself was created on December 25, 1796, when the state legislature, meeting for a regular work day, passed “An Act to Establish a Town on Lands of Jesse Henley, in the County of Randolph, at the Court House of said County.”  Not until 1870 did Congress establish Christmas as a federal holiday.

Illustrated London News, 1847.

Illustrated London News, 1847.

The modern American versions of both Thanksgiving and Christmas began to take shape during the Civil War period, and both traditions owe much to the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who lobbied regularly for Americanized holidays.   The magazine at Christmas, 1850, printed the first widely-circulated picture in America of a decorated Christmas evergreen; it was a repurposed 1848 engraving of the British Royal Family with their tree at Windsor Castle which had been published in The iIllustrated London News.[iii]  Reprinted throughout the 1860s, the image became the iconic picture of an American Christmas tree.

Minolta DSC

Another influential magazine, Harper’s Weekly, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus himself.  Cartoonist Thomas Nast, a sketch artist for the magazine, created an illustration for the Christmas, 1861 issue to accompany the Clement Clarke Moore poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  That was the first published image of Santa in a reindeer-drawn sleigh with a bag full of gifts slung over his shoulder.

Federal Santa

Federal Santa

However, the fact that Nast also showed Santa delivering copies of Harper’s as gifts to Union soldiers on the war front soured the picture for Southerners.     The Richmond Examiner editorialized that this Northern image of Santa Claus was nothing more than an “Dutch toy-monger,” a “transflated scrub” from New York and New England “who has no more to do with genuine Virginia Hospitality and Christmas merry makings than a Hottentot.”[iv]

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1857

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1857

It wasn’t that Christmas trees were unknown in America at that time.  The British Royal Family brought the custom into England, and in a backhanded way North Carolina has a tie to that.  The wife of George III, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the namesake of Charlotte and Mecklenburg county), set up a Christmas tree at a party she gave for children in 1800.  Princess Victoria liked the custom and a tree was placed in her room.  In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the 13-year-old princess wrote:

“After dinner… we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room… There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees…”[v]

The custom became even more widespread after Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, and by the early 1840s there were newspaper ads for Christmas trees that promoted their fashionable German origins and their popularity with children.  The Moravians of Salem are thought to have brought the custom of Christmas trees to North Carolina.  Randolph County had its few Moravians, but even more Lutherans, Amish, Dunkers and other German sectarians.  But I have seen no record of their Christmas celebrations.

tree engraving

Christmas Tree in Church

The first reference to a Randolph County Christmas tree that I know about comes from the manuscript “Reminiscences” of W. M. Curtis, a carbon typescript dated 1940.  Walter Makepeace Curtis (1867-1955), a Methodist minister, was Secretary-Treasurer of Greensboro College for 34 years.  His autobiography begins,

“I was born on February 18, 1867, in Franklinsville, Randolph County, North Carolina.  My home was on an island with Deep river on the south and a mill race on the north.  This race began at a dam across the river at the west end of the village and emptied into the river at the Franklinsville cotton mill.

… My father, Dennis Cortes Curtis [1826-1885] (he always signed his name D. Curtis) was the son of James Curtis, a farmer who lived a few miles south of Franklinsville….

“There was a public schoolhouse for the children of the village near the Methodist Church, but the school was in session only three months of the year, and my father was anxious for his children to have better educational opportunities so he employed a governess… My father was superintendent of the Sunday School in the Methodist Church, and he took me to Sunday School when I was quite small….

 Holly_Tree_by_Chase_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk

“At Christmas we had a Christmas tree in the Sunday School.  The tree was always a large holly with red berries.  Some time before Christmas my father would drive to Greensboro and purchase presents and decorations for the tree.  On the night before Christmas, as soon as it was dark, my little four-wheel wagon was loaded with Christmas things and I, with some help, pulled the wagon up to the church, where my father and others arranged the decorations and presents on the tree.  Individuals were permitted to have their presents, with the name of the recipient on each one, hung on the tree.  There were a good many of these, and it was interesting to hear the names called out.  Each one receiving a present would go forward and get the gift.  This Christmas tree celebration was always held on Christmas Eve, and was quite an event in the village.”

Although Curtis doesn’t give a specific date for this tree, it had to date from before the Curtises moved to Greensboro in 1880, and probably can be attributed to the period around 1875.[vi]

1836-The Strangers Gift Boston first american-christmas-tree

The first published American illustration of a Christmas Tree, from The Stranger’s Gift, printed in Boston, 1836.

This is in accord with the introduction of trees into Christmas celebrations; they often were introduced to the public places at churches, hospitals and charity bazaars, and their familiarity there slowly led people to set up private trees at home.  It also seems to have been understood that Christmas trees were used to provide gifts for the underprivileged.  Varina Davis noted in her 1896 recollection of Christmases in Richmond during the war years, ” like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided…” [http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/on-the-homefront/culture/christmas.html]   As late as 1906 a charity was set up specifically to introduce decorated trees to poor children in London slums ‘who had never seen a Christmas tree’.[vii]

Handrawn sketch from 1812 or 1819 by John Lewis Krimmel of Philadelphia.

Handrawn sketch from 1812 or 1819 by John Lewis Krimmel of Philadelphia.

The first Yule trees were small ones that sat on a table, decorated with dried fruit, popcorn, pine cones and homemade paper chains and baskets for nuts.  A tree was not brought into the house and decorated before December 23rd, “the traditional “First Day of Christmas,”  and the beginning of the 12-day Christmas season that ended on Twelfth Night (January 5th).  To have a tree up before or after those dates was considered bad luck.

A non-evergreen Christmas tree from the 1850s.

A non-evergreen Christmas tree from the 1850s.

Not all Christmas trees were evergreens.  In the late 1800s and, most probably, long before, home-made white Christmas trees were made by wrapping strips of cotton batting around leafless branches creating the appearance of a snow-laden tree.  Only those presents too large to be hung on the tree were placed on the tree skirt underneath the tree.  Most presents were small, and edible gifts were among the most highly prized gifts hung in small baskets on the tree.  During the war, one soldier from a New Jersey regiment recorded in his diary, “In order to make it look much like Christmas as possible, a small tree was stuck up in front of our tent, decked off with hard tack [a hard cracker] and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges, etc.” [viii]

Thomas Nast, from Harper's Weekly, Jan. 3, 1863

Thomas Nast, from Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 3, 1863

(Even in the early 1960s, those of us who watched “The Old Rebel and Pecos Pete” on WFMY Channel 2 knew that the only proper ending of our answer to the question “What do you want for Christmas?” was “X,Y,Z, -and Nuts and Fruits and Candies.” As late as 1943, the singer of the wartime song “Ill Be Home for Christmas” was longing for “presents on the tree” (not under the tree).

This was a survival of the ancient European tradition.  Decorated trees were part of the stage sets for medieval religious mystery plays that were given on December 24th on the “name days” of Adam and Eve.  Those trees were hung with apples (the “forbidden fruit”) and wafers (representing the Eucharist and redemption).  Bakers made pretzels and gingerbread cookies for the tree that people took home as souvenirs. In 1570 a small tree set up in the Guild-House in Breman, Germany was decorated with “apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers”.  In 1605 a German visitor wrote: “At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc.” The many food items were symbols of Plenty, the flowers, originally only red (for Knowledge) and White (for Innocence).

The 2012 White House tree in the Blue Room.

The 2012 White House tree in the Blue Room.

Americans did not take easily to the foreign custom of Christmas trees.  Franklin Pierce had the first Christmas tree in the White House in 1846.  But President President William McKinley reportedly received a letter in 1899 saying Christmas trees “un-American,” and his successor Theodore Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House because he feared that Christmas trees would lead to deforestation.  Roosevelt, however, was undercut by his own youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, who in 1902 went outside and cut down a small tree right on the White House grounds and hid it in a White House closet.  Roosevelt acknowledged the event in a letter in which he wrote:

Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.[ix]

naststockings

It sounds to me as though Teddy’s idea of Christmas was not very different from Nannie Winninghams- stockings were the place Santa left the presents.  More than 100 years later, what we think is our “traditional” Christmas has been shaped by the media, retailers, film and recorded music of the 20th century more than we ever realize.

[i] WUNC TV website data.

[ii]  https://randolphhistory.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/confederate-christmas-in-randolph-county-2/

[iii] Karal Ann Marling (2000). Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s greatest holidayHarvard University Press. p. 244.

[iv] Marten, James (2000). The Children’s Civil War. University of North Carolina Press. P120

[v] The Girlhood of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty’s Diaries, p.61. Longmans, Green & Co., 1912

[vi] The obituary of Curtis’s mother in the Greensboro Daily News of 23 August 1918 gives frame for this assumption-

“Mrs. Lucy Ellen Makepeace Curtis died at her home, 108 Odell Place, yesterday afternoon, at 4:15 o’clock. For a number of years, Mrs. Curtis had been living with her son, Rev. W.M. Curtis, of this city. Mrs. Curtis was born at Petersburg, VA, December 25, 1839. Soon after her birth her parents, George Makepeace and Mrs. Luc Makepeace, settled at Franklinville, where she grew up. She was married to Dennis Curtis, of Franklinville, October 11, 1860. Dennis was a native of Randolph County and was prominently connected with the Franklinville Manufacturing Company, the Deep River Manufacturing Company, and later with the mercantile business firm of Odell and company of this city.  In 1880 Mrs. Curtis moved from Franklinville to Greensboro when Mr. Curtis became personally associated with the firm of Odell and company….”

[vii] http://westminsterabbeyshop.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/the-history-of-the-christmas-tree-in-britain/

[viii] http://www.historynet.com/christmas-in-the-civil-war-december-1998-civil-war-times-feature.htm

[ix] http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold/the-president-who-banned-christmas-trees-and-the-boy-who-snuck-one-in#ixzz3MVw7I6Qj

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From Galvanized Yankee to Race Car Driver

December 14, 2014
R.V. ("Bob") Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

R.V. (“Bob”) Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

Randolph County’s heritage of resistance to secession and support of the Red String has been amply documented by the late, lamented Bill Auman in his book The Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt.  But the stories of those opposed to the war have not been documented with as much attention to detail as those who enlisted and served in the army of the Confederate States.  Wally Jarrell’s The Randolph Hornets in the Civil War is a meticulous history of Company M of the 22nd NC Infantry Regiment, one of three Randolph County companies in that regiment. [i]

Southern "Volunteers".  Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

Southern “Volunteers”. Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

The most complete roster of Randolph County’s Confederate veterans was compiled by Gary D. Reeder of Trinity, and published in The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), published in 1993 but now out of print.  Reeder found records of 1,921 individuals who served with the Confederate forces, but does not consider that an exhaustive list.   Eighty-six of those were with Robert E. Lee at Appomatox, and 132 others signed the Oath of Allegiance in Greensboro after the end of hostilities.

One hundred of those were killed in battle; 7 were reported as missing in action; 74 died of wounds; 345 died of disease.  616 were prisoners of war, and 76 of those died while interned.   489 were wounded; 73 of those were wounded twice; 12 were wounded 3 times and two, four times.[ii]

Not all of those who served did so willingly.  Bill Auman points out that Randolph County in 1861 had the third-lowest volunteer rate in the state.  The enlistment rate for North Carolina as a whole was 23.8%; in Randolph it was 14.2%.  As the war went on, conscription acts were passed by the CSA to force men into service; 40% of the state’s draftees in 1863 came from the recalcitrant Quaker Belt counties, with Randolph contributing 2.7% of its population to the draft that year.  North Carolina as a whole contributed about 103,400 enlisted men to the Confederate Army, about one-sixth of the total, and more than any other state.  But this does not mean those troops were all loyal Confederates; about 22.9% (23,694 men) of those troops deserted, a rate more than twice that of any other state.

Executing a Deserter, 1862.  Harper's Weekly.

Executing a Deserter, 1862. Harper’s Weekly.

The Confederacy did not publish statistics on desertion, but Reeder states that at least 320 of Randolph’s nearly 2,000 men deserted from their regiments, with 32 deserting twice, five deserting three times and one deserting five times!  Forty-four of these deserters were arrested, 42 were court-martialed, and at least 14 were executed.  196 captured Confederates took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union before the end of the war, with 67 joining the Union Army.[iii]  These new Union recruits were derisively called “Galvanized Yankees” by their old comrades.

As the Confederacy was gradually mythologized and romanticized  after the war, a history of desertion, however well supported by friends and family during the war, was not a heritage that was proudly maintained even in Randolph County.  Certainly we never hear anyone boasting about their Galvanized Yankee ancestors.  But the fact remains that many of those who served, served involuntarily.

A case in point is the service history of Frank Toomes.     William Franklin Toomes (Jr.) was born October 25, 1838 in the Sumner community of Guilford County, less than a mile north of the Randolph County line.  He was the son of William F. Toomes (b. 1808) and Sarah (“Sallie”) Jenkins (b. 1812).   The elder Toomes was a blacksmith.  In his Apprentice Indenture, dated August 25, 1824, Abraham Delap agreed to teach William “to read, write, & cipher thro the Rule of Three, and learn the Blacksmith Trade and give him a sett of Tools at $55” when he reached the age of 21 years.  Well before that time there were problems between apprentice and master, as seen in the  advertisement placed in the Greensboro Patriot of October 11, 1825 by Delap:  “Ranaway from the subscriber, three apprentices to the Blacksmith’s Business, named William Toombs. Willis Parish and Henderson Parrish…”  [iv]

Blacksmith and apprentices

Blacksmith and apprentices

According to family tradition, Frank followed his father into the blacksmithing trade, and when the Civil War broke out, both of them were working as blacksmiths in Cedar Falls or Franklinsville.  (The wartime pay records of the Cedar Falls factory exist but do not show either Toomes as an employee, so they must have worked at the nearby Franklinsville or Island Ford factory downstream.)  As blacksmiths, the Toomeses would have been exempt from conscription when the Confederacy first established the draft in April, 1862.  Male employees of the Deep River cotton mills and ironworks qualified as exempt “indispensable” employees until late in the war.  No lists of cotton mill exemptions are known, but one for the Bush Creek Iron Works in Franklinsville exempts 30 male employees.  Exemptions were granted (or not) by the regional Enrolling Officer, who at some point decided the cotton mill could do without one of its blacksmiths.  Again according to family tradition, when the Enrolling Officer came to the mill, Frank Toomes would hide, submerged in the mill race, breathing through a straw until the coast was clear.

On December 2, 1863 (perhaps when it was too cold for a swim), Frank Toomes was discovered; he was forcibly drafted into Company E of the 58th North Carolina Infantry regiment on December 25, 1863 at Camp Holmes in Raleigh.[v]  Within days Toomes must have been sent to the western front, because his very meager Confederate record bears the single remark, “Deserted Jan. 10, 1864, near Dalton.”  [vi]

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

On or around February 1, 1864, 23-year-old Frank Toomes entered the Union lines, surrendered and was taken prisoner to Nashville.  On February 12th, he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and was assigned to Company H of the 10th Tenn. Cavalry regiment.  Within a week, Toomes was hospitalized with the measles- at that time, a life-threatening disease.   Toomes was admitted to Hospital No. 19, where he recuperated until February 25, when he was transferred to Bed #61 of “G.H.” (General Hospital) No. 8, for treatment of scurvy.

Nashville's Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8.  It had 368 beds.

Nashville’s Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8. It had 368 beds.

Occupied by Federal forces in 1862, Nashville had become a major resupply center for the Union army, with numerous railroad, blacksmith and transportation units.  At least 24 separate military hospitals had been created from the comandeered public buildings of the city, each with a specialty.  Number 11, for example, was the “Pest House” (720 beds for contagious smallpox patients).  Number 16 was reserved for the U.S. Colored Troops, and Number 17 for Officers.  Those hospitals were well documented at the time by photography, and in modern times by the Internet.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8.  It had 206 beds.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8. It had 206 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8.  It had 144 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8. It had 44 beds.

A visitor in 1864 wrote “The Masonic Hall and First Presbyterian Church [and the smaller Cumberland Presbyterian Church] constitute Hospital No. 8… As we enter the Hall, we find a broad flight of stairs before us, and while ascending, perceive this caution inscribed upon the wall in evergreen: ‘Remember you are in a Hospital and make no noise.”  up this flight… other cautions meet us, such as ‘No Smoking Here” – “Keep Away from the Wall,’ &c.”

Union Hospital Ward

Union Hospital Ward

The 540 beds of Hospital No. 8 were under the supervision of Medical Director Dr. R. R. Taylor, originally a surgeon with the 4th Iowa Cavalry.  Miss Annie Bell was the Matron (nurse) of the Hospital.

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Private Toomes was “transferred to Louisville,” on April 6, 1864, where he recuperated at Brown General Hospital (a 700 bed unit) until he returned to his unit in May.

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

It isn’t clear what duties Pvt. Toomes may have had, but it is possible that he was one of the regimental blacksmiths.  A cavalry unit traveled with a portable forge, as horses needed constant hoof care and shoe replacements.

The 10th Tennessee Cavalry was organized and began recruiting in August 1863.  Company H mustered in on February 12, 1864, formed of “men mostly from other states.” [vii] It was under the command first of Capt. Jonathan Haltall, and then of Capt. J.L.N. Bryan.  The regimental history says-

“During the summer and fall of 1864, it was engaged in arduous duty in Tennessee.  Late in the fall [Oct. 13] it was sent to northern Alabama, to watch the movements of Hood’s army, and had an engagement with a largely superior force of Rebels at Florence [October 30; 4 other Union regiments were engaged at nearby Muscle Shoals and Shoal Creek at the same time].  Overpowered by numbers, it was compelled to fall back to Nashville.  [where it was on the front lines at the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30.]  On the first day’s battle before Nashville [Dec. 15, 1864, when Hood tried to break Sherman’s supply line from the city], it lost severely in officers and men.” The four-day Battle of Nashville was also a debacle for Hood, marking the effective end of the Army of Tennessee.

union-quartermasters 9th army corps petersburg 1864

The Regiment spent the winter of 1865 in camp at Gravelly Springs, Alabama, and the conduct of some of its men at that time shows that the unit must have been a tough and unruly group.  Brig. General Richard W. Johnston, commander of the 6th U.S. Division, reported from Fayetteville, TN, on February 8, 1865 that “The troops under my command have killed 18 guerillas and captured 12 since my arrival here, not counting a number of men belonging to the 10th and 12th Tennessee Cavalry Regiments (U.S.A), who had deserted and become guerrillas of the worst type, who have been captured and forwarded to their regiments.”

The 10th Tenn. moved to Vicksburg, Miss., in February; was sent to New Orleans in March, and was in Natchez until May.  It returned to Nashville June 10, 1865.  [viii]

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Frank Toomes apparently became a good soldier with the 10th Tennessee, as he was promoted to 1st Duty Sergeant of Company H on July 16, 1864.  His file for December 1864 notes that Sgt. Toomes had “Lost 1 Army Revolver @ $2.00.”

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Toomes was promoted to “QM Sgt” (Quartermaster Sergeant) on June 30, 1865.  When the regiment was mustered out of service on August 1, 1865, Toomes’ pay for the year (he had last been paid on December 31, 1864) was $275.00, after deductions made for his uniform and clothing.

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

Toomes made his way back to Guilford County, where on September 5 1867, he married Susan Thompson.  [Marriage Bond Book 03, Page 451].  His wife must have died within the next two years, for the census of 1870 finds Frank Toomes living with his brother Alpheus.  Alpheus Toomes and his young family were close neighbors to George Watson Petty (b. 1837), another farmer living near Westminister Post Office, Sumner Township, Guilford County.

Toomes Petty House 2013

House built on Branson Mill Road, Level Cross, NC, by R.V. Toomes, 1924-25.

In 1874 Frank Toomes travelled west to Howard County, Indiana, well beyond the battlefields of 1864, where he married again, to Annie E. Davis (b. 1858) on May 17, 1874.  On their return to North Carolina, Frank and Annie settled in the Level Cross community of New Market Township of Randolph County, no more than 2 miles south of his brother, where they had ten children.  Frank carried on blacksmithing, farming, and distilling to provide for his family.  He was successful enough to loan money to neighbors who needed help buying property (see Randolph Deed Book 100, Page 437, where in May 1895, he loans $60 to buy 11 acres).

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Frank Toomes died February 21, 1913, 49 years after deserting one army and joining another.  His son Robert Vernon (“Bob”) Toomes (24 Feb. 1886- July 8 1945) followed family distilling business.  In 1924 he built a modern “bungalow” house on Branson Mill Road in Level Cross for his wife Allie Hodgin (1888-1947) and their eight children.  Bob and Allie Toomes’ daughter Elizabeth (1917-2006) married Lee Arnold Petty (1914-2000), a grandson of George Watson Petty of Sumner Township.  Lee Petty and Frank Toomes’ great-grandsons Richard Lee Petty (b. July 2, 1937) and Morris Elsworth Petty (b. 22 March 1939) are all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

SOURCE NOTE: When I say “family tradition,” that indicates the information came from the family’s historian Howard Toomes, son of William Howard Toomes, brother of Elizabeth and grandson of Frank Toomes. Family photos and more information came from Brenda Toomes Williams and Rose Toomes Luck (daughters of Frank’s son Ralph V. Toomes), all of whom live within a mile of the Toomes-Petty House on Branson Milll Road. Thanks to Richard Petty and his daughter Rebecca Petty Moffitt for allowing me to research stuff like this while I supervised the move of the Petty Museum back to its old home.

[i] Full disclosure: I contributed photos and information to Wally’s book, but don’t let that keep you from buying it!

[ii] The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), p.108.

[iii] Ibid, p.109.

[iv] Guilford County, NC Apprentice Records, NC State Archives.

[v] All of the quoted Frank Toomes service records, both Confederate and Union, were accessed through http://www.fold3.com/, a website that specializes in historical U.S. military records.

[vi] Dalton is in the far northwest corner of Georgia, 27 miles east of Chickamauga and 32 miles south of Chattanooga.  It lies at the south end of Mill Creek Gap, a strategic railroad passage through the mountains from Tennessee into the interior of Georgia.  After the Confederate rout at Missionary Ridge in November 1863, Braxton Bragg made his headquarters at Dalton, where he was replaced by General Joe Johnston in December.  There was no further action around Dalton until Sherman began his march into Georgia in May, 1864.

[vii] http://www.tngenweb.org/civilwar/rosters/cav/cav10/memo.html

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Regiment_Tennessee_Volunteer_Cavalry