A Little Genealogy Research and a Lot of Beautiful Scenery!

On Saturday, February 22, 2020, we decided to go to the Bedford Museum and Genealogy Library in Bedford, Virginia. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find any information on my ggg-aunt, Tabitha Ann Rhodes, but as she’d married John K. Oliver from Bedford County and lived there for 12 years, I figured it was worth a shot.

The young woman working at the museum was quickly able to locate cemetery information and two folders containing letters and files on John Oliver, but it was all a mixed review.

I’d learned of the location of the cemetery previously from another researcher, and what they had at the museum confirmed what she’d posted on findagrave: There are 7 graves in the small, overgrown Oliver cemetery, and only one is marked with an inscribed stone.

As I started going through the family history folders, I realized that some of the information was quite accurate, but some was not. An Addie Lawless was listed as the third wife of John K. Oliver, but there were no dates and absolutely no information given. I’m not sure who Addie was, but the professional genealogist who did the research on this seriously missed the mark. Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver was John K. Oliver’s third and final wife, and I have the marriage license and chancery suits to prove it! 😉

As I was in one room going through records for my family, Wayne was in a room across the hall trying to learn more about his family history. While most of his ancestors were from Appomattox, the books at the Bedford Museum and Genealogy Library covered Wrights from all over southern Virginia. Much more than “comprehensive,” the amount of information was actually overwhelming, especially since it was hard to know where to begin searching!

But as I flipped through the handwritten and typed pages in the Oliver folders, I mentally listed what I did know about Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver and the Rhodes family. Robert P. Rhodes and his wife, Mildred Marshall Rhodes, apparently had no sons, but they had a lot of daughters: Tabitha Ann (m. John K. Oliver in 1855 in Nelson County), Sarah Jane (m. John William Anderson in Albemarle County in 1846), Elizabeth Columbia (m. John Walker Clements in Nelson County in 1848), Cynthia Frances (aka “Aunt Fannie”), Eliza M., Cornelia Edna, Mary M., and Evalina or Adaline (whom I can’t find at all after the 1860 census when she was 17 years old). After John K. Oliver’s death in 1867, Tabitha Ann returned to her family’s farm on the Rockfish River in Nelson County, as she was listed there in 1870 and 1880 Nelson County census records.

Two of the Rhodes sisters, Cynthia Frances and Cornelia Edna, went to live with the Anderson family in the Avon area of Nelson County after the death of their sister, Sarah Jane Rhodes, in 1873 to help with the children. (Cynthia and Cornelia were both mentioned in the will of John William Anderson, which was written in 1899 and recorded after his death in 1902.)

In 1878, Tabitha and two of her sisters, Eliza and Mary, deeded their Rockfish land to their nephews, James T., Willard O, and Samuel M. Anderson (sons of their sister, Sarah Jane Rhodes and John William Anderson), even though they retained the right to remain on the property during their lifetimes. Eliza and Mary Rhodes apparently stayed on the Rhodes land in Rockfish at least through 1910 (according to census records), and family stories say that at some point after that a fire destroyed their home. Tabitha was not listed as living with her sisters in either the 1900 or 1910 census.

Cornelia Edna Rhodes died in 1904 and was buried in the small family cemetery where John William Anderson and Sarah Jane Rhodes Anderson were buried. In 1910, Cynthia Frances Rhodes (Aunt Fanny) was living near her nephew, Charles Willard Anderson (another son of Sarah and John W. Anderson), and three of his children (John E., Lewis, and Sallie) were living with her.

Mary and Eliza Rhodes both died in 1917, and Cynthia Frances “Aunt Fanny” Rhodes died in 1918. They were all buried at Hebron Baptist Church cemetery.

But again, where was Tabitha Ann Rhodes Oliver? The 1890 federal census records were lost in a fire, so I have no idea where she was living then, though it seems likely that she was still in Rockfish with her sisters, Eliza and Mary.

In 1894 Ann T. Oliver (sometimes she was known as T.A. Oliver…) was the plaintiff in a chancery suit in Bedford County against Frances A. Oliver (a daughter of John K. Oliver by his first wife) and her husband, Benjamin K. Milam. (She was the defendant in another chancery suit in 1882!) This shows that Tabitha was still alive in 1894 and still had ties to Bedford County, even if she no longer lived there.

I haven’t been able to find any information about when she died, but I find it a little hard to believe that after her death her body would have been taken to Bedford County–a distance of close to 60 miles–to be buried near John K. Oliver as wife #3…. At some point I’ll try to go to the courthouse in Bedford to see if there are deeds or other documents that might provide additional clues, and I’ll also make another trip to the Nelson County courthouse to look again for possible death information (which is sketchy, at best).

When we finally left the Bedford Museum, we headed north towards Big Island, the area of Bedford County where Tabitha lived for 12 years. Beautiful country….

We were close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we made a quick stop at the (closed) visitor’s center along the James River.

After that, we just sort of wandered! Given where we were, it wasn’t too far of a drive to Glasgow, VA. There’s not much to see in this tiny town, aside from an oddly shaped mountain and a random dinosaur sculpture….

…but our favorite place to go in Glasgow is a small park where the Maury River meets the James River–and it never disappoints!

I’ve always loved confluences, and this one is so interesting because the rivers are distinctly different, with different colors. When the Maury joins the James, it maintains its individuality far downstream, as if stating, “You are you, and I am me, but together, we are stronger and more beautiful.” (I think this metaphor holds true in other ways, too. <3 )

I absolutely love the color of the fast-moving Maury….

We sent our prayers and blessings out to these amazing Virginia waterways.

As we left Glasgow, we drove up the mountain for this view of the James River downstream from the confluence. It never disappoints, either.

Across the road from the overlook, the rocks show undulating movement from ancient times. It’s so interesting to think of the forces of nature that formed our Blue Ridge Mountains….

At this point we could have continued further west to Buena Vista, VA and driven home on I-81 and I-64, but we opted to drive east until we met Rt. 29 North, then turned onto Rt. 56 West at Colleen, and then drove north on Rt. 151. Gorgeous scenery, all the way home!

There are so many beautiful places in Virginia, and so many “roads less traveled.” We love having the opportunity to get out and explore on day trips like this!

Until next time,

Sharon & Wayne

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