Pistol Packin' Mama

Every family has tales of courage and great achievements. Mine is no different. But it’s interesting that everyone ignores the bad. If you spend time at a Thanksgiving with us, you will hear about my grandmother shooting the biggest bear in Colorado, how Rev. Henry Fry introduced the Emancipation Bill in Virginia in 1785, and how John Christian Bullitt created the city charter for Philadelphia. You won’t hear stories about Captain William Tucker's retaliation for the 1622 Jamestown Indian massacre. He negotiated a peace treaty and then poisoned the liquor at the treaty celebration. This killed about 200 Powhatan Indians. Nobody uses this as a nighttime story.

One of my favorite ancestors is Lucy Meriwether Lewis Marks.

Lucy was born in Albemarle County, Virginia in 1752. In his book Lewis and Clark: Partners in Discovery, John Bakeless, describes Lucy as “a Virginia lady of the patrician breed, a benevolent family autocrat, with a character so sharp and definite that her twentieth-century descendents still refer to her as Grandma Marks.” The stories, filtered down to me are about her intellect and undaunted courage. She owned a large library, which was unusual for a woman at that time. She was an herb doctor which was probably better than doctors who believed in "bleeding.". And she was tough. Supposedly, during the Revolutionary War, she saved the plantation by wielding a rifle and driving away a party of drunken British soldiers. And, like my grandmother and her bear story, she was a great marks-woman. A tale often told is about a group of men who left Locus Hill on a deer hunt. They returned at the end of the day empty handed and exhausted. Fortunately, while they stalked the woods, Lucy shot a large buck in her front yard, and it was dressed and cooked when they returned.

Lucy’s life was filled with war, deaths, marriages, and scandal. Her son, Meriwether Lewis died, supposedly, from suicide. Until her death she maintained that he had been murdered. As an aside, most of the family continues to believe in the foul-play theory. John Hastings Marks, another son, died at a “retreat” for the mentally ill. Even after these deaths, and the deaths of her two husbands, Lucy continued to ride horseback, serve as an herb doctor, and run the farm. She was 85 when she died in 1837. Her stories have become part of the family yarn. Strangely, there are quite a few stories that involve women and guns. Hmmm.

Many thanks to Christine Adreae’s website on Lucy Merwiether Marks

Family tree courtesy of Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies © 2009 Jefferson LibraryMonticello

There is more between the lines than leading

Today I’m in Richmond. I spent yesterday in Raleigh with the enormously generous and patient Denise Gonzales Crisp. I’m staying at The Jefferson Hotel. I was recommended to try another hotel that was less stodgy, but I’m, yes, stodgy. It suits me fine. I also decided to stay here because my grandmother’s Uncle Peter Meriwether Fry was the hotel’s long-time general manager from its opening in 1895.

Like most of the “official” information I have, there is no mention of anything salacious. In this instance, this could be true, as I never heard my grandmother say anything bad about her Uncle. And in Southern terms that would have been, “Well, I’d rather not say anything.” I have an old clipping from “Men of Mark in Virginia” published in 1908. It’s rather dry. But I like what is written between the lines.

The tone reads pleasantly and suggests a life of peace and harmony, but any of our lives could be rewritten in these terms. Clearly there was an issue of a lack of purpose, he tried agriculture and didn’t like that. He preferred to read about history, but was pressured to take on law, which was a common family profession. He dropped that and ended up in the family business as his father owned several resorts. It drives me mad that there is so little substance here. However, in the Jefferson’s little historical case, I found a nice portrait of his daughter at her Coming-Out party. Supposedly, he made a scrapbook at the Virginia Historical Society. That will be for my next visit.

The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia

FRY, PETER MERIWETHER, was born in Richmond, Virginia, March 21, 1856. His parents were Col. William H. Fry and Jane Margaret (Watson) Fry. His ancestry begins with Joshua Fry, who was educated at Oxford University and settled in Essex county, Virginia, between 1710 and 1720. He filled many public offices; was master of the grammar school at William and Mary college; professor of mathematics; member of the house of burgesses, and presiding justice and county lieutenant of Albemarle. With Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson he made a most interesting map of Virginia. In 1754 he was commissioned by Governor Dinwiddie as colonel and commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces with George Washington as major and next in command. He was stricken with fever at Fort Cumberland, and Washington and the whole army attended the funeral. On a large oak tree Washington cut the following inscription which can be read to this day: " Under this oak tree lies the body of the good, the just and the noble Fry."

Rev. Henry Fry was the second son of Col. Joshua Fry, and the latter was father of Joshua Fry, the great grandfather of the subject of this sketch. His grandfather was Hugh W. Fry, who was in business for years in Richmond, was president of Hollywood cemetery company, and of the old Dominion Iron and Nail works, and had a share in other business enterprises. His father, Colonel William H. Fry, was in business in Richmond for years, was captain of the Richmond light infantry blues and colonel of the 1st Virginia regiment, and during the latter part of the war was stationed in Richmond in charge of Camp Lee. He owned an interest in several summer resorts, and was one of the best known men in Virginia.

Peter Meriwether Fry, the subject of this sketch, spent his time in early boyhood partly in the city and partly in the country. While he had no regular tasks, he would assist on the farm during the summer with many things. He had a private tutor until he entered the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical institute, where he was graduated in agriculture in 1876. Mr. Fry read a great deal of history and literature and put much time upon the study of law, but never graduated or practiced the profession.

He began the active work of life as chief clerk at the Alleghany Springs during the season of 1876, representing his father's interest, liked the hotel business and determined to make the work his profession. From 1876 to 1895 he was chief clerk at the Alleghany Springs and the Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, and since 1895 he has been employed at the Jefferson Hotel the finest hotel in the South first as chief clerk for one year and afterwards as manager.

Mr. Fry is a member of the Hermitage Golf club, and president of the Richmond Chapter of the V. P. I. Alumni association. He has always been fond of athletic sports, preferably

base ball, but he has little time for such things at present.

In politics Mr. Fry, is a Democrat, who has never swerved from his party allegiance. In religious preferences he is a member of the Episcopal church. His advice to young men is never to keep so busy as not to have a little time each day for exercise in the open air.

On June 15, 1897, he married Miss Irene Virginia Hancock, and they have had three children all of whom are now (1907) living.

His address is the Jefferson Hotel, Corner Franklin, Jefferson and Main Streets, Richmond, Virginia.