Clarissa Walton Fleming

The picture is of Clarissa Fleming on Main St. in The Plains, Va. c1920

Clarissa Walton Fleming as remembered by Mike Harris, January 2015.

Clarissa Walton Fleming , name sake of Clarissa Tilghman Walton Fleming, was possibly the most colorful of the Green Mont group. She may have been something of a tom boy growing up. Someone told me she had badminton courts in the north lawn at Green Mont. I know that she and Old Man River, her grey hunter ( buried near Broad Run in the north-west corner of the west pasture) ,could tally-ho with the best of the Orange County Hunt. Roberta (Rust) Jeffries has his portrait , I believe.

Also, possibly against her father’s wishes, she joined The American Red Cross and sailed for France towards the end of WW I. She arrived too late to see any action, but of course no one knew when The War would end. The very fact that she volunteered speaks highly of her grit ; certainly never a shrinking violet !

Uncle Rob Fleming left her his estate, most of which was farmland, now the greater part of The Equestrian Center .There is a wonderful sketch of the property which shows the various pastures and buildings; I believe Roberta Jeffries owns this as well.

There was no residence on the property , nor do I recall it having a name , i.e. Green Mont , Mount Eccentric , Glen Bolton. So far as I remember the property was ‘Clarissa’s Farm’ ; if someone knows better, please correct. (from Henry/ I think she referred to it as “West Hope”. It has been historically known as “The O’Bannon Tract”. The farm is now partially incorporated into the equestrian facility “Great Meadow”)

There was a wonderful cabin up in the woods, completely hidden from US Route 17 ( see below re cattle ) that was the southern and western property boundary.
This was a great place for her to have cocktail parties. (Before buying Homewood she lived at Green Mont). I don’t know who built the cabin; I do recall, however, that it was very comfortable, up-to-date heating and plumbing, an electric stove, and a well stocked refrigerator. (1/18/2015 added by Henry: Clarissa built the cabin. I have her farm ledger which has it accounted for, to the nail; every board and length of pipe; every stick of furniture. A couple of thousand dollars for the whole thing.)

Another memory, somewhat scary in hindsight, was that Aunt Clarissa kept count of her cattle from her car. Quite often she wandered over to the left side of the road; fortunately in the ’40s and early ’50s there was nowhere near the traffic as today.
However, from my perch on the front fender – to be ready to open gates – it could be a little hair raising to see a loaded hay truck heading straight for us. She always was able to get out of the opposite lane, although sometimes to the left hand shoulder.
Aunt Clarissa was forty years my senior, never married, and as Henry Rust has pointed out, passed along to me the relationship she had shared with her unmarried uncle Robert Fleming. I am sure her inheritance from Uncle Rob must have caused some dissent among her sisters, but other than from my mother, I never heard of it .

Harriot Jane Downman Fleming died in December, 1945. My father in February 1946 .
Aunt Clarissa came to Boston to ease Mother’s shattered state of mind. That was seventy years ago, and I remember rather little of the rest of that winter and our subsequent move to Richmond. There is no question that there was a shift in the family dynamic, and Aunt Clarissa took on a more important role in the family generally, and my life particularly.

She bought Homewood in the late 40s-early 50s and although Mother found solace at Green Mont, I spent more and more time at Homewood. When Aunt Frances owned Homewood, she had always put me in the small bed room at the head of the stairs.
That had been Sam Carter’s room, and therefore I should consider it mine. When I laid that claim of ownership on Aunt Clarissa she said that was fine with her – go to it. And I maintained that claim for the next forty years.

Aunt Clarissa was a social person, and always an advocate of living up to one’s station in life. To the best of my knowledge she was the only one of the Flemings to use the broad A . In fact the only person I have ever known this side of Bermuda to enunciate so aristocratically.
She will always be thought of as the family genealogist. She traveled to England and Ireland to research Downmans and Flemings, discovering and authenticating heraldry .
Later she took Aunt Roberta to Europe and Egypt where she rode a camel to the pyramids.

This trait of her personality was duly noted by her Rust nieces- the only people I have ever known to openly, and with great affection, call their aunt ‘Chris’ or ‘Clariss’. In any event, before Homewood, Aunt Clarissa and her dog Sandy lived on the third floor at Green Mont. Either Betsy or Jane wrote and beautifully water colored the following :

Although kind to the poor
She disdains the obscure
And even her dog’s ‘ristocratic.

He’s such a big cheese
He has pedigreed fleas
And sleeps on her bed in the attic .

During my adolescence when life with my mother became too dramatic I would hitch hike to Aunt Clarissa’s. Think about this sixty-something year old lady becoming a surrogate parent to a fifteen year old boy …. I don’t want to belabor this; let it suffice that she was my refuge during some tough times.

Aunt Harriot moved to Homewood some time in the late 50s – early 60s.This arrangement worked for many years,until age took its toll from them both .

Henry, Lee, probably Wendy, Aunt Harriot and I were at Homewood when Aunt Clarissa had the stroke that pretty much did her in. We called the Volunteer Fire Department she had faithfully supported. Her last words at Homewood were that she would ‘never see this house again’ .

In the Assisted Living  facility she could look out her window to someone’s pasture .
Her last words to me were that she could see all of her land, adjacent to Henry Rust’s property.

IMG_2258 blog.jpeg  Some unidentified party guests having cake on the Green Mont “badminton court”

Marloe Woollett:  Whenever I visited Aunt Clarissa I was taken to (Grace) church and ALWAYS reminded about the windows!  But one of the things I remember as being so magical is that before we left Homewood, she would serenely throw a “roast” into the oven for “Sunday Dinner” (Aunt C. did indeed enjoy her meals!!) and the doggone thing would be perfect by the time we returned  (even if we stopped by “Selby” where she and Cousin Rebecca Mackall enjoyed a toddy or two!)

Re: the Orange County Hunt Club:  Harriet Harper () was a remarkable woman.  She wrote a book about all her years of riding side-saddle (Around the World in Eighty Years On a Sidesaddle.), throughout the U.S. and even in Europe, and on the endurance 100 mile 3-day trail rides started in VT.!  One of my most favorite things when I visited Aunt C. is that she would take me up to see the hunt hounds and all the puppies, but I remember the (Harper) name very well.

And this brings me to the spelling of the name Harriet.  That is the usual spelling and how it is that in the Fleming family it was Harriot, I do not know!  But I do know it drove Mother crazy, for her name was never spelled “correctly.”  Mrs. (Harper) was a “Harriet!”

If any one has anything they would like to add  about Clarissa, a story or maybe just a memory, please email it to me and I’ll post it. It would be so appreciated. Thanks

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