Heart of a Southern Woman

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Langhorne Reunion, Meadows of Dan, Virginia, 2014 -a Celebration of Family!

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Descendants of Early Settlers of the Meadows of Dan, Virginia,  Reunion

 

The first weekend in August, 2014, descendants of James Steptoe Langhorne (pronounced Lang’n) and his wife Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro Langhorne gathered for their very first reunion. They came to Meadows of Dan to see the old home place, the Langhorne Mill, Langhorne School, and church founded by their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and yes even 4th great grandparents!  While some of the  50 reunioners actually live here in Patrick County and showed the others around, the large majority of the family attending were from all over the United States including California, Oklahoma, Florida, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and of course other areas of Virginia! They filled the Woodberry Inn, visited local sites like Mabry’s Mill, Floyd’s Country Store, and the Chateau Morrisette Winery, aa well as toured the Cockram Mills Complex with Gary and Ron Cockram along with having brunch at the lovely Crooked Road Café. They shopped their cousins’ and other’s businesses like the Greenberry House, Poor Farmer’s Market, and the candy factory. Above it all, they took in the scenery of beautiful Patrick County and the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Saturday morning, the group took a tour of areas of special interest to the descendants. Thanks to permission from local land owners, and the leadership of family members Harvie and Pat Spangler, brothers, and cousin Beverly Belcher Woody who wrote up a tour guide for the family, family members got to see where the Langhornes had settled back in the 1840’s, taking over the massive 13,000 acre plantation named Langdale– inherited through their own father and grandfathers, originally part of a land grant. Grandpa Steptoe as he was called in the family, first saw the area when he was a teenager and reported it as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Because the area had some of the few flat plateaus in the geographic area on the Dan River, with beautiful meadows, James Steptoe Langhorne named the area the Meadows of Dan, according to many published articles.

 

Steptoe went completely blind, and never actually saw his beloved home site again. Nevertheless, he married, settled here, and owned slaves who worked the agricultural part of his plantation. He established a grist mill, a school, and he and his wife and his brother William Langhorne who never married, gave land and built a log church where the current Meadows of Dan Baptist Church is located. Steptoe, his wife, his brother William, and at least three of his nine children and a couple of his grandchildren are buried at that church. Some members of the family attended services at the church Sunday morning while here for the reunion.

The family was so excited, so happy to walk where their grandparents had walked, worshiped, and worked almost 175 years ago! When we ate our last meal together at The Crooked Road Café that Sunday, we were acutely aware that we were sitting on the Dan River where our grandparents’ plantation was located so long ago! We were having coffee where they might have had coffee themselves, how amazing!

The Langhorne family is known for our most famous ancestors, and first cousins to the Patrick County Langhornes:  Lady Astor, Nancy Langhorne from Danville originally, who became the first American woman to sit in England’s Parliament!  At one time, she was the wealthiest woman in the world; and her sisters became the famous Gibson Girls.

Steptoe lost most of his money after the Civil War, as did most Southerners. However, his children and grandchildren went on to do incredible things. Steptoe Langhorne’s nine children included:

1.Henry Ellis Langhorne, 1849-1865, who drowned in the mill pond at age 16.

2.Charles Putney Langhorne, a twin b. 1852 who died at birth but whose sister

  1. Viriginia Alice, twin of Charles, grew to marry Charles M. Cassell of Virginia Tech fame.
  2. Frances, Fannie married Wallace Wolford Spangler and had six children who became quite famous in their own right. There have been many interviews written of her son, the famous State Legislator Charles Langhorne “Tump” Spangler, and the musicians including son John Watts “Babe” who became the famous “Old Virginia Fiddler” on the radio in Richmond, Virginia. Her daughter Mary Josephine married a cousin Dudley “Babe” Spangler who was also a renowned fiddler and recording artist of the area. At the reunion, we were pleased to have Charles Langhorne “Tump” Spangler’s sons Harvie and Pat Spangler with us, as well as his granddaughter Betty Smith, daughter of Tump’s son Thomas, who told us some family stories. Dudley and Mary Josephine’s three children, William Wallace Spangler, Bernice Spangler Irvin, and Margie Spangler Cartwright were with us as well. We also had grandchildren of Lila Ann Spangler present. The Spanglers played music, directed our tours, recited original poetry of their own and their Mom’s, and enriched our experience beyond compare!
  3. Sarah Elizabeth Langhorne died at age eleven, 1857-1868.
  4. Mary Omohundro Langhorne, 1860-1952 married William Caldwell Shelor first, and Charles Davis DeHart second. She had nine children like her parents.
  5. Nancy Armistead Langhorne, 1863-1917 married William Pinkney Howell and they had seven children.
  6. Evaline, Evalyna, or Evelyn Langhorne married Walter Thomas Houchins and had seven children. She is this author’s great-great- grandmother and the reason this particular reunion was organized. Having started researching my family tree, I studied the Langhorne family whom I had heard of my whole life, but few of whom I had ever met. My mother knew them well it seemed, but our family never took the chance to visit the Meadows of Dan. My father was in WWII, his parents lived with us, there were four children, life was busy! Suddenly, I am in my sixties and through my research I meet the Spanglers! Last year I attended their biannual reunion, and went home buzzing with the desire to introduce the rest of my mother’s family (she was one of seven herself) to the Spanglers. Not being well myself, I decided to organize a reunion of the groups I knew, the descendants of the sisters: Fannie Langhorne Spangler and Evelyn Langhorne Houchins! The rest is now history, but we hope to expand to include descendants of all nine Langhorne children in the future.
  7. Ernest Lindsey “Jack” Langhorne, 1879-1953, was actually Steptoe’s grandson, but was adopted by him for various reasons. He married Mary Susan Blackard and they had fourteen children! One of his great- grandsons, James Callaway Langhorne has distinguished the family by writing a book that was published this year titled The Virginia Langhornes. It is a book full of history, pictures, and genealogy! His research has proven along with some others, that the Langhornes were not from Wales afterall, but originated in England, with our first ancestors reaching Virginia in the mid 1600’s, John and Rebecca Carter Langhorne. He was planning to join us and speak with us at the reunion, but a bad bout of strep throat sadly prevented his attendance.

Because the famous Langhorne/Astors, and in Patrick County the Spanglers are the family so well known, I’d like to tell you a bit about  Evelyn Langhorne Houchins’ descendants. Her six living children were born and raised in Patrick County, Virginia. Unfortunately, upon the early death of their mother in 1900, they were scattered with relatives or in boarding schools across the state. Only three of the six had children.

One of her daughters, Julia Elizabeth Houchins Nichols became an attorney and the first assistant District Attorney in the state of Virginia. She had a grandson, great-granddaughter, and great-great-grandson at the reunion! Her grandsons are also talented musicians as well as the greats! In the family are gifted and courageous firefighters and emergency personnel who can save your life!

 

One son of Evelyn’s, Guy Maurice Houchins, had two children, both of whom moved to Oklahoma, with Guy Jr. becoming a Geophysical Engineer with an attorney daughter Sarah Stuhr who was present with us at the reunion! Guy’s other child, a daughter, became the famous actress, Mary Stuart Houchins (went by Mary Stuart) who played the character “Jo” or JoAnn Tate on the Soap Opera “Search for Tomorrow” which ran on CBS for 35 years!

 

Another daughter, my grandmother kate, Katherine Steptoe Houchins Kerse (pronounced Kearse) became a nurse and raised seven children in Richmond, Virginia with her police officer husband Thomas P. Kerse. All seven of those children are now deceased, but nine of her grandchildren from all over the country attended with greats and four great-great-grandchildren present at the reunion!  She would be so proud! They included  Roger Buck, PhD geophysicist college professor at Columbia (Pat Spangler, grandson of Fannie Langhorne is a PhD Geophysicist Professor Emeritus from the University of Florida, and remember the Geophysicist Engineer son of Guy Houchins, grandson of Evelyn Langhorne.) Three geophysicists in one family, that’s amazing to me!

There are lawyers, landscapers, computer specialists, other teachers and college professors, financial planners and several tax advisors. Contractors, musicians, realtors, and generally good people abound. I believe I counted at least six PhD’s among the Spanglers and the Houchins present from these branches of the Langhorne family!  I was a family therapist by profession-every family needs one! Actually, three of us in this branch of the family taught/now teach children with emotional/behavioral disorders. There were several other teachers, and two special education supervisors in these branches. Just in case you’re wondering, just like our country, we are split politically. That might lead to lively “discussions”, but the music in our souls unites us and reminds us of our love of family.

We are thankful to our homeland of Patrick County for hosting us, to the many proprietors who were especially hospitable to us like Shep and Angie Nance and Melissa Turman at the Woodberry Inn & Restaurant and many others.

If you are interested in more pictures and stories of this family, you can find them on Helen Holshouser’s blog at heart2heartstories.com.

 

 

 

 

This gallery contains 44 photos


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John Langhorne Arrived in the Royal Colony of Virginia about 1666 and his Descendants Reunion Next Week! –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #29

The Langhorne family reunion is coming up in a week and a half, August 1-3, 2014,  and I am so excited!  As far as I know, this is the first reunion this branch of the family has ever had. Parts of this group reunion regularly, but not as Langhornes! The Spangler branch of this family has a reunion every other year! The descendants of Evelyn Langhorne, my great-grandmother, are relatively small in number, 52, I think I counted recently! We were close as children, but as the older generation died, and as we moved to many different states in the US, we don’t see each other as often as we’d like! Due to my genealogical research, and to the miracles of facebook, I began to renew friendships with my immediate cousins, and  to get to know some of my Spangler cousins, and attended their reunion in 2013!  I fell in love with their wonderful family, my cousins,  and with Patrick County, Virginia’s breathtaking beauty in the mountainous area of southwest Virginia.  This is where our great- great- grandfather, James Steptoe had a 13,000 acre plantation! This is the same family as Lady Nancy Langhorne Astor, and the Gibson Girls, and many other people I have been writing about in my blog. They are a large family whose first immigrant, John Langhorne, came to  Virginia about 1666.  That is a lot of history! 348 years! Many families were huge as was the tradition. When some of us decided to organize a reunion, we quickly realized we did not have time to do the research and organization to find all the Langhornes. So, I got together with the Spanglers, and we decided to try uniting our two branches, the descendants of Fannie Langhorne Spangler  and Evelyn Langhorne Houchins, sisters and daughters of James Steptoe Langhorne and Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro! I volunteered to head up the organizing effort, because I wanted it to happen so strongly!  Even though we emphasized our two branches of the family, we were open to any Langhorne relation joining us! 

As part of this challenge to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks, I have chosen to highlight the Langhorne family to encourage people to attend the reunion and drum up interest! But of course, I have ended up learning so much! I even met another cousin , a descendant of a different child of James Steptoe Langhorne, the author of the new book The Virginia Langhornes, by James C. Langhorne. We have actually only met online, and will meet in person at the reunion where he will meet all of us as well as speak to us about his book. How I am looking forward to that! I am already planning to interview some family members while there, (look out!) , so that I can blog about them later! 

John Langhorne, arrived in Virginia by 1670 with his wife Rebecca Carter. Wow, here it is, 344 years later, and the history between us is staggering! John and Rebecca settled on a plantation on the James River and became members of the landed gentry very quickly.  Besides my cousin james C. Langhorne’s book, one of the foremost historians writing about John Langhorne has been Thomas Litten.  He states that John was born in 1640 and came to Warwick County, Va. in 1666. dying in 1687.  Just think, he lived only 47 years.  When I realize what he accomplished in 47 years, it amazes me!  Thomas Litten tells us in “The Langhornes–A First Family of Virginia”         

 

“Due to the destruction of a large number of Warwick County records during the Civil War, all that is known of Captain John Langhorne, is that he was a powerful and influential man. Upon his arrival in Virginia, John Langhorne purchased 1,300 acres from William Whitby, Jr. who was a Burgess for Warwick County. To this he later added 700 acres, which was acquired by a royal grant through the importation of indentured servants. As the most densely populated, and hence the most civilized and desirable county in Virginia, Warwick was an excellent location for John Langhorne to build his fortune. His 2,000-acre plantation was one of the largest in the lower Tidewater region. Among the larger planters of his day, John Langhorne traded his tobacco directly with the mother country for a hefty profit. He also handled shipments for the smaller planters who could not afford direct trade with England.

By the mid 1670’s John Langhorne had been appointed with Col. William Byrd I and Maj. Robert Beverley to fortify the three main rivers of Virginia. The coveted assignment proved to be very lucrative, and over the next several years, the House of Burgesses recorded many payments to John Langhorne, the largest of which amounted to 90,000 pounds of tobacco. At a time when most of the modest Virginia farmers made their living off of little more than 1,000 pounds of tobacco annually, this was an incredible sum. John Langhorne, William Byrd, and Robert Beverley were not soldiers themselves, rather they were assigned to oversee the construction and operation of the essential forts. On the heels of his success with the York River Fort, John Langhorne was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1680, thus establishing a tradition of political service that would characterize his prominent descendents.

Capt. John Langhorne died around 1687, leaving his large estate in the capable care of his wife and his good friend Col. Miles Cary II of neighboring Richneck plantation, until his eldest son John Langhorne, Jr. (1666-1688) came of age. John Jr. along with the youngest son William Langhorne died early, leaving Maurice Langhorne to inherit the entire estate.

As the sole heir of John Langhorne, Maurice Langhorne (1670-1698) inherited a huge estate. Around 1690 he married Anne Cary of “The Forest”. Anne Cary was the daughter of Capt. Henry Cary, a planter who was well-known as the master builder of Williamsburg. The marriage of Maurice Langhorne to Anne Cary was a good one, for the Carys were one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the Virginia Colony. In 1695, Maurice and Anne Langhorne had their only child, whom they named John Langhorne. Within three short years Maurice Langhorne died, and young John was sent to “The Forest” to be raised by his maternal grandparents Henry and Judith Cary. Anne Cary Langhorne soon remarried, a member of another prominent Tidewater family, Benjamin Harrison III of Charles City County. Until John Langhorne III (1695-1767) reached his majority, the Harrison family operated Gambell plantation. For the next twenty years, John Langhorne would spend his days in the polite atmosphere of the Cary plantation.

When in his early twenties however, John Langhorne III had become anxious for his own personal success. Thus in 1719, he took over Gambell and married Mary Beverley of Middlesex County. Mary Beverley was a granddaughter of Capt. John Langhorne’s old friend and contemporary Maj. Robert Beverley. Throughout his long career, Hon. John Langhorne served as a Justice of the Peace, a member of the House of Burgesses, Sheriff of Warwick County, and Presiding Justice of Warwick County from 1749-1762. In addition to his numerous political duties, John Langhorne III continued to expand his land holdings by purchasing new plantations in Chesterfield County, and was also a highly successful merchant, continuing the tradition laid out by his fortune-founding grandfather some fifty years before. John Langhorne and Mary Beverley had three children who left issue. Their only daughter Lockey (named after Judith Lockey, the wife of Capt. Henry Cary and mother of Anne Cary) was successfully courted by Thomas Tabb. Lockey’s considerable dowry helped to establish the Tabb family as members of the Tidewater elite. The elder son, Maj. Maurice Langhorne II (1719-1790) removed to Cumberland County to live near his cousin Col. Archibald Cary of “Ampthill” and his lovely wife, the former Mary Randolph of “Curles”. This Maurice Langhorne bought thousands of acres in Cumberland and established himself as a great success in his own right.

The younger son, Maj. William Langhorne (1721-1797) held possession of the Warwick County estates and became the most prominent of the three. He married Elizabeth Cary Scarsbrook, a cousin of George Washington and Thomas Nelson, and daughter of the wealthy Yorktown merchant Col. Henry Scarsbrook. Henry Scarsbrook was the great-grandson of Capt. Nicholas Martiau, the man whose plantation was later turned into Yorktown. Like his father, William Langhorne served as a Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, and as a Burgess. He was also a magistrate for forty years. During the Revolutionary War, William Langhorne served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette, was a member of the Committee of Safety, and was the only representative of Warwick County for the first four out of five Revolutionary Conventions. His service has been commemorated on a memorial in Williamsburg. Of his nine children, two sons were the most prominent. Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne (1760-1797) married the daughter of his Uncle Maj. Maurice Langhorne of Cumberland, thus reuniting two lines of family inheritance. Marrying of cousins, a common practice among the wealthy families of Virginia and other colonies likewise, helped to keep money in the family. John Scarsbrook Langhorne’s younger brother, another Maurice Langhorne (1769-1818) married Martha Holladay of “Indian Fields”, and their grandson Maurice Finney Langhorne married Lillian Isabelle Blair Polk, a close relative of President James K. Polk.

Due to the untimely drowning of their father in the James River in 1797, the three sons of Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne received equal portions of both their father and their grandfather’s estates. An interesting event occurred at this time. Peter Carr, a favorite nephew of Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to George Washington under the name of his kinsman John Langhorne. The letter was intended to “elicit political sentiments useful to the republican cause in Virginia.” However, when it was discovered that John Langhorne had recently died and that the true author of the letter was Peter Carr, George Washington became very suspicious of Thomas Jefferson, as he had assumed that Peter Carr had written the letter under the instructions of Thomas Jefferson. The infamous “Langhorne Letter” was published in 1803.

The eldest of the three brothers and heirs of John Scarsbrook Langhorne’s estate was William Langhorne (1783-1858) who moved to Bedford County, where he wed Catherine Callaway, the daughter of the extremely rich planter and iron manufacturer Col. James Callaway of “Royal Forest”, whose third wife was Mary Langhorne of Cumberland. William Langhorne was, like his father-in-law, a planter and iron manufacturer, who was said to be the most courtly gentleman of his day.

The second brother Maurice Langhorne (1787-1865) moved to Lynchburg, where his inherited wealth was fantastically increased by his successful forays in the Lynchburg tobacco market. Before he died, Maurice Langhorne built for his children the famous “Langhorne’s Row,” a set of four extravagant Greek Revival Lynchburg townhouses, whose architectural sophistication was unmatched anywhere in Virginia with the sole exception of Richmond.

The youngest brother Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne (1790-1854) would surpass them all. Although he was first seated on some of the Cumberland County lands that he had inherited through his mother, he quickly resolved to move to Lynchburg with his brother Maurice. In 1816 Henry S. Langhorne married Frances Callaway Steptoe, the highly sought after daughter of Hon. James Steptoe and Frances Callaway of “Federal Hill”. Here begins a series of interesting family connections that beautifully illustrate the “web of kinship” that existed between Virginia’s ruling families. Frances Callaway was an older sister of Catherine Callaway, wife of Henry Langhorne’s brother William. Hon. James Steptoe was the eldest son of Westmoreland County planter Col. James Steptoe of “Nominy Hall” and his second wife Elizabeth Eskridge of “Sandy Point” (a daughter of Col. George Eskridge, the guardian of Mary Ball Washington). Hon. James Steptoe had two sisters, Elizabeth Steptoe who married Col. Philip Ludwell Lee of “Stratford”, and Anne Steptoe who married Samuel Washington and became the mother of George Steptoe Washington who in turn married Lucy Payne, the sister of First Lady Dolly Payne Madison. Hon. James Steptoe also had two half sisters who were his mother’s daughters by her first husband William Aylett. The first sister, Mary Aylett, married Thomas Ludwell Lee, and the second, Anne Aylett, became the first wife of Richard Henry Lee of “Chantilly”.

The powerful connections of the Steptoe and Callaway families ensured that the Langhornes, although newcomers from the Tidewater, were met with constant success in the Virginia Piedmont. As the planting of tobacco was no longer as profitable as it had once been, Henry S. Langhorne erected in Lynchburg, the second largest milling firm in Virginia. He never abandoned planting though, and continued to buy numerous plantations in Bedford, Campbell and Amherst Counties. In 1845, he retired and relocated to “Cloverdale”, the 3,500-acre Botetourt County plantation he had just purchased from his niece’s husband George Plater Tayloe of “Buena Vista”. His eldest son John Scarsbrook Langhorne (born 1819) married Sarah Elizabeth Dabney of “Edgemont”, a great-granddaughter of William Randolph II of “Chatesworth”. He inherited Langhorne Mills, along with the bulk of his father’s estate. The second son James Steptoe Langhorne (1822-1905) was given an ample number of slaves and the 13,000-acre “Langdale” plantation located near the border of North Carolina.”

This brings us up to the children of James Steptoe Langhorne some of whose descendants will be visiting the remains of his Langdale Plantation in just over a week’s time! Wow! Living history! Our newest author of Langhorne history, James C. Langhorne has done research that found some differing information from Thomas Litten’s work. Progress and change are to be expected as new discoveries are made. As I learn more, you will hear about it! Expect lots of pictures from my own camera!