Standing in the Shadows

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Unidentified couple standing at the corner of the house while a family picture was taken at Green Mont in 1891

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Note: When I had this picture scanned in July 2017 in preparation for the reunion, I realized that there were more than just “a couple” standing at the corner of the house. It might have been the entire “staff” lined up there, standing just outside the frame.

Black History Month   February 2017

In honor of Black History Month, I did a little  checking into the African American community that did so much to keep Green Mont going for all those years. The only names I could gather from those few who had any direct knowledge were furnished without surnames so it was not possible to dig into those. Alex Green seemed to be the only last name anybody knew.

R. B. Lee Fleming’s farm “Labor Book” of 1912

My only other resource was R. B. Lee Fleming’s Green Mont “Farm Labor” book. This ledger contains the farm employment records for the years 1913 to 1929. This book is such a window into the farm, its activities and it’s actors. Surnames were not always recorded in this log, but they were recorded often enough that I was well armed when I went to visit AAHA in The Plains.

The Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, or AAHA.

from their web site…

AAHA is an organization designed for the purpose of teaching a complete and accurate history of the United States by including the influences of African Americans, Native Americans of both North and South America, and European Americans. Though our base is in Fauquier County, we have not limited our holdings and interests in this area. Our library houses books that include European and American classics, U.S. history, texts about Native Americans and African-Americans.

Further, our mission includes the creation of a network for persons with similar interest by making available to those interested in local history and tracing their family roots. AAHA promotes and publishes scholarly research. The facility is open to the public for tours, research, and study. This Resource Center houses a museum, reference, and research library pertaining to the African American way of life.

I have known Karen White (one of the founders of AAHA) for several years in and around The Plains. I asked her if she would help me with my search for information. Initially I had just asked her about Alexander Hamilton Green but fortunately she got interested in what I had brought in and we managed to do a search of some of the “Jackson” names I had as well.

A little more about Alexander Hamilton “Alec” Green

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This picture is identified as being Alec Green at Green Mont. It does look like Alec, but it is most certainly not taken at Green Mont.

Between what I was able to find on the Green Family at the Afro American Historical Society of Fauquier County and information I was able to pull from R. B. Lee Flemings Farm Labor book (spanning the years of 1912 to 1929), I gain a fuller picture of “Alec” Green.

Alex’s father was George W. Green, born Feb 23, 1855 to Beverly Green and Jane Darcus in Fauquier County, Virginia. I have not discovered any information, yet, as to whether George and his parents were slave or free. It is likely they were slaves.

Alex’s mother was Annie Woodson, born in 1869, to William Woodson and Mary ?, also of Fauquier County.  Since Annie was born after the Civil War, she was never a slave. I have no additional information regarding her parents.

George and Annie were married December 22, 1888. George was then 33 years old. Annie was 19. Annie bore  16 children over 29 years. The first, William Green appears to have been born before the wedding on August 27, 1887, or at least that’s how it is shown in the records.

There was William, Berry C. and Birdie C. (twins) (1889), Bessie J. (1892), Minnie Lee (1894), Raymond Honer (1896), Alexander Hamilton (1898), George Henry (1901), Annie (1903), Theodore Roosevelt (1905), Irvin Wesley (1907), Taft Green (1909?), Delaney Deluth (1910), Daisey Blair (1912), Robert S. (1914), and finally Mattie, born March 30, 1916. Annie was 48 when she had her last child. Alec was her seventh. George Green, the grandfather of all this lot, died Aug 3, 1918. He lived to be 62; long enough to see all these children born.

I had always thought the man I knew as “Alec” had been born at Green Mont, grown up there, and had therefore held a special place in the hearts of the Flemings. However, there is no evidence from the R. B. L. Fleming’s farm ledger that anyone with the surname of Green worked at Green Mont during those years until Alexander Green was hired as a 19 year old farm hand in 1917. With 15 siblings and two parents living on Green Mont, certainly one of them would have shown up in the Farm Labor ledger somewhere. One might conclude that Alexander Green was merely a young man from the neighborhood who had taken a position as a farm hand, for $12.00 per month.

In 1918, Alex Green receives a raise; $15.00 per month. He continues with the farm until November 1919.

Annie Green, presumably Alex’s younger sister, age 15, joins the house staff in March of 1919 at $8.00 per month. She leaves after a month but then returns for September through December of the same year. Another Green, whose first name I can not decipher, shows up on the books in November 1919 as house help but stays for only 2 months. Through out this period there seems a fairly rapid turnover of household staff.

No Greens worked at Green Mont in 1920 although Annie returns to the household in August of 1921, for $20.00 per month, and remains until April 1922. In May of 1922, Alex Green, then 24, returns, but this time as household help, at $20.00 per month. For the next 4 years, under Alex, the household runs smoothly, usually with only one other, but with virtually no turnover in staff for that entire period.

Alex  leaves in April of 1926. Robin Brundage remembers he went to work for a utility company in Washington, D.C.

Both Robin and my brother Bill heard stories of Alex’s semi-pro? baseball endeavors. I feel pretty sure that Alex wasn’t playing much ball while he was working for the Flemings. His baseball career would have to have taken place in one of the gaps; between Nov. 1919 and April 1922 or between April 1926 and 1929, when he went to work for my grandmother, Mary Rust, in Leesburg. Robin thinks it was when he was in DC. There might be negro “sand lot” baseball records that would tell us that.

I have heard two different accounts of Alex encountering Flemings in and around construction sites in the period of 1926-1929. Mike Harris relates a story of Aunt Harriot being hailed by Alex while walking down the street in D.C., whereupon Harriot apparently told him to get out of the ditch and go back home, or something like that. Another story has my grandmother tracking him down and calling down manholes after him. Judging by the chaos of the household at Green Mont at that time, I can only imagine that Harriot’s message had as much to do with the Fleming’s needs as Alex’s. As to my grandmother, she had only known Alex as her mother’s  congenial and totally competent jack of all trades. My guess is that my grandmother, Mary, was merely looking for someone to run her house in Leesburg. I don’t know if Mary had a prior acquaintance with Alex. She was married and gone from Green Mont by 1912, long before the time Alex came to work there there as a farmhand in 1917.

Alex taking on this job in Leesburg for Mary Rust coincided with the start of the depression in 1929. That might have been a factor in Alex’s decision to accept my grandmother’s offer.

Alex  married Hattie V. Douglas, born Sept. 6, 1906 in Loudoun County. Not much help in figuring out if the “Voila” from the Wirt St. House was indeed Mrs. Green. I didn’t find a wedding date, but their one child of record, Alexander Hamilton Green Jr., was born on June 15, 1932 in Leesburg, VA. Robin Brundage remembers 3 sons; Joe, Duty and Harry. I did not find them listed under the Descendants of Beverly Green (Alex’s grandfather).

Alex died on February 27, 1971 in Leesburg, VA at the age of 73. Hattie V. died on March 20, 1977. The only time I met Alex Jr. was shortly after his mother’s death. My father took me along when he went to ask him to clear out the house when it sold to close my grandmother’s estate. Not a fun time. I would have been 24; Alex’s son, 45. I never understood why the house was not left to Alex and his family.

The records show Alexander Hamilton Green Jr. married Mary Elizabeth Sewell, daughter of Ed Bridges and Florence Sewell, on August 30, 1952. He died on December 26, 2002. That would have been his father’s 104th birthday. I do not know if Alex Jr. and Mary had any children. Those records would be in Loudoun County. I didn’t go there.

I want to conclude by saying that Alex and his family my well have grown up at Green Mont. There is just nothing that suggests that from the farm “Labor Book”. Alex’s Father was neither an employee, or even a tenant farmer, on the books at Green Mont during the period of 1912 through 1929. It is totally possible that they had lived there before 1912 and moved away. I have no way of knowing that.

I do know of a house just outside of town that was the home of a family by the name of Woodson during the time I was living in The Plains. I clearly remember a young man known as “Woody” (Woodrow (Wilson?) Woodson). Was he Alexander Hamilton Green’s great nephew?

I wonder when Alex became Alec? It would be interesting to see what name he went by as a baseball player if any of those records exist.

Winnie Jackson

There have been a number of Jacksons employed at Green Mont. Leafing through R. B. Lee Fleming’s “Labor Book” I find Anna, Winnie and Georgie Jackson all working in the house between 1916 and 1918 and Nanncie Jackson in 1921. Winnie Jackson is one name that I had stumbled across before.

When I was sifting through the collapsing structures at Green Mont in 2014, I came to the 4 holer outhouse that was attached to the back wall of the old log house that I feel was used as a school house. It had been crushed by the giant Allanthus that had grown through the cabin wall eventually bringing both structures down.

The outhouse was a gable roofed affair about 5 feet by 10 feet. It was framed in hand hewn chestnut timbers covered outside with horizontal siding. The 2 chamber interior was of whitewashed boards. Carved into the wall, in quite large lettering, was “Winnie Jackson”.

I immediately thought of Joseph “Junior” Jackson who I had know in the late 1960’s. Junior and his wife, Violet (not Viola as many referred to her), rented one of the houses on the farm. My brother Bill had worked with Junior in 1960 when Bill had spent a summer working at the Dairy. Junior was one of the regular hands. Violet, his then future wife, was related to another of the farm families by the name of Timbers. I’m not sure whether she was a daughter or a cousin.

I was unable to find Winnie Jackson or her family in the records at the AAHA. There are so many families named Jackson and time was limited. I did, however, find Junior, and Violet, but could only trace back as far as Junior’s father, Joseph Sr.

Junior was killed in an automobile accident in 1968. Violet stayed on in the house they had been renting at Green Mont until 1975 when she left to move in with her family.

Back to Winnie. I found her in the Farm Labor book. She was ocasional household help in 1916 and later employed in the house for $4.00 per month from February through July of 1917, the same year that Alexander Green started working at Green Mont as a farmhand.

When I first gazed upon Winnie’s name on the outhouse wall, I marveled at her boldness in placing her name on those pristine boards. I don’t know the whys and wherefores of outhouse protocol but there must be some rule about this. There was more than one outhouse at Green Mont; but this was the grandest and undoubtedly the one that the Fleming family had used. I wondered what my great grandfather must have thought about it.

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I did not know, then, that Winnie had been employed at Green Mont several years after the indoor plumbing had been installed (c1910) when this was no longer the grandest facility; so, my great grandfather may never have even seen her fine handiwork.

Nimrod Caisson

My brother, Lee, and I used to marvel at this name on a roadside mailbox, which may have been at the end of Walter Munster’s driveway, just across from Green Mont. On it was the name Nimrod Caisson.

Andrea, my sweet neighbor, tells me it’s pronounced “Casen” and that Jimmy Caisson worked in the stables at Kinloch. She happens to know that Nimrod was his father. In the Green Mont “Labor Book”, I find an Edward Casen (Caisson?) was on the books as a $12.00 per month farmhand in both 1915 and 1916. Could this be Nimrod’s father? The spelling of the surnames tended to be phonetic, if the last name was included at all, and the spelling of names could vary from month to month. I’ll check Kinloch’s records and find out how “Casen” was spelled.

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the crew  1902?

I wish I had the previous edition of the “Farm Labor” book. I can’t imagine what stories it could tell. I would, for instance, like to know more about the major rebuilding of the Green Mont house that took place around 1902 . The construction crew was largely African American. I wonder what might have happened to those old ledgers. Could they possibly have just been thrown away. Perhaps the only reason that this one was preserved was because it was the last. It was R. B. Lee Fleming, in the saddle, to the very end. The “Labor Book” is  a fascinating document and will be featured in its own article.

Building the new Green Mont Living Room 1902

Back to AAHA

The farm labor book of R. B. Lee Fleming creates a context; a connection between the individuals and the periods of time worked, the nature of the work, siblings and various generations in the workplace, and how each were compensated. The folks at AAHA very much want to have a copy of this book and I am making them a photographic copy.

One of the women examining the book when I took it with me to AAHA was Miriam Hall Porter. She just happens to be the grand daughter of Lucy Hall, the woman who had done so much of the Fleming’s laundry. Miriam looked up at me and asked “ I wonder just how much laundry my grandmother did for $2.00?”

Others who are remembered at Green Mont

from Clarissa Fleming’s “Downman”, Chapter 8

Julia, the cook

Mother usually had three servants, sometimes four- cook, maid, who was generally a young girl (no ball of fire), nurse and yardman. One of the cooks stayed with mother for 16 years. That was Julia. She was a very good cook……

Mother said she could never have raised her children without Julia’s help. Julia was very patient with us, even when we tried her good nature.

(Julia must have worked for the Flemings prior to 1912. She does not appear in the 1912-1923 ledger)

Mary would come from Pittsburg with her children, Billy, Jane and Betsy, and the wonderful Manny (noted as “Mammie” on the back of the picture below) who was from South Carolina and only decided to nurse for Mary when she found out that her prospective mistress knew the Sloans in Columbia, South Carolina.

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“Mammie” with Billy, Betsy and Jane Rust at Green Mont c1920

W. F. Rust III: Other members of the farm crew then (1960) were Junior Jackson, at that time a hearty, robust young man with a great sense of humor; and Jesse Timbers, who had a wife and ten children, and whose eldest daughter Junior would marry.

Mike Harris 2/17/17: Two others : Mac was a young man who cut the lawn ( with a push mower) and served as butler . Estelle , the cook , was a dainty lass who weighed in some thing north of 200 pounds . She made the best spoonbread ever .Breakfast at Green Mont was a feast .

Marloe Woollett 2/26/17: Since this is Black History Month, I have to add a remembrance that, though it is not directly connected to Greenmont, is nevertheless an event, that reflects something of the times that existed then.

At some time when Mamere (Frances) lived at “Homewood,” she came home from (I guess the hospital,) recovering from pneumonia.  Mother and I were there at the time, but I was probably only 5.  Nevertheless, I so clearly recall an enormous, big, strong black man named Norris, who was so gracious and kind, carrying Mamere from the car, up the front steps, and then on up the stairs to her bedroom, wearing white gloves. I remember this so clearly because there was much discussion about it after he left…was it out of dignity and respect that he felt for her, and that thus he did he not want to physically touch her etc,. etc.  That day has stayed sharply in my mind all these many years.

Mike Harris: When you write the book about people who made The Plains what it is , don’t forget the Carters. Not the Samuel Henley Carters , but the other family who had three sons : Streets of Cairo (aka Streets) ,Violet , and Fels Naptha .

Henry Rust: “Violet” sounds more like a daughter’s name. Wasn’t there someone named after a US President? The Carter’s, I believe, used to live in the house by the railroad track on the way to Middleburg; the building that is now a restaurant.

Mike Harris: There must have been someone named ‘Roosevelt’ , but he was elected after these boys were born. I don’t know where they lived as children , but before The Plains Library was established that was the jail. Streets Carter would break into the jail on cold nights. This became a municipal nuisance , so the powers that be gave him the key. All this is was related to me by Aunt Harriot .

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