Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Thomas Philip Kerse Captains the Lady Jane! 52 ancestors in 52 weeks


Lady Jane, boat belonging to Thomas P.Kerse

Lady Jane

For years now I have been begging my family to find old pictures they might have of the Lady Jane! This was a boat, at 50 feet long, a small yacht,  belonging to my maternal grandfather, Thomas Philip Kerse whom you may have read about in the post I just finished, or in the post regarding his first boat the Evelyn, apparently co-owned by him and his father James H. Kerse. My mother talked often and lovingly of the Lady Jane and her family’s adventures traveling on her– picnicking on the Chesapeake Bay– diving off her –swimming and playing with their large family and friends. My older sister and brother had at least both seen the boat of the many stories, but I never had, because the family had sold the boat when my grandfather died, long before I came along.  So  you can imagine my surprise and delight when I came across a word press blog post about the Lady Jane! The post was written about 5 years ago by  Preston Larus and I found it through a google search! I had been searching for photographs through newspaper archives for a long while, perhaps I had never just googled her, regardless, I was thrilled to find this picture and story! In fact, I was so thrilled, that I contacted the author Preston who could not have been more solicitous and friendly! We talked about Richmond and specifically the area where we had both lived as children! He was not aware of the “back story” of the Lady Jane–who had owned it before his grandfather, and that it had been as beloved by that family as by his own! Can you imagine the stories that boat could tell if it could talk! 

My mother was one of six sisters and one brother who traveled with their police officer father Tom and nurse mother Katherine aboard the Lady Jane! In fact the Lady Jane was named after their youngest child, Janey Bell, b. 1923; as the Evelyn, their first boat had been named after their first child Evelyn, b. 1912 (or Katherine’s mother, Evelyn Langhorne). Mom often spoke of the friends they invited to travel with them on this remarkable boat! What I didn’t know was that my grandfather often captained the boat for chartered trips–to Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Pa., Washington, DC, Maryland, the Eastern Shore, Islands. He took day trips as well up and down the James River.  He also held fundraisers for various groups especially for Sheltering Arms Hospital where my grandmother had graduated in the first class of nursing students! I can find all this in newspaper articles at genealogybank.  It all seemed so romantic and adventurous–and it colored the dreams of this author as a child! Below, I am going to share with you a newspaper clipping I found about the Lady Jane, but more importantly, I am going to share part of the blog post by Preston Larus, with his permission! 

Kerse, Thomas, Lady jane, fundraiser for Sheltering Arms


Boats We Love

by Preston Larus

I welcome your comments, suggestions, and referrals.

Preston Larus


(941) 232-3574          FAX (941) 296-7336

Keller Williams Realty – Lakewood Ranch

6710 Professional Parkway, Suite 301

Sarasota FL 34240



The Lady Jane

Lady Jane, different view

My grandfather was a Chancery Court judge in Richmond, Virginia in the ’40s and ’50s, but every summer he took a month off and sailed the Chesapeake Bay. When he got too old to handle sail, he bought the Lady Jane, a 50-foot Chesapeake deadrise workboat hull fitted with a cruising boat cabin structure. By the time I was a boy, my uncle Brockenbrough Lamb Jr. owned the boat and visited us every summer for a weekend or so. In the eyes of a 10 year-old, there was nothing more grand, from her pilothouse trimmed in green leather, to the helsman’s seat (a huge green stool with a steel tractor seat atop it, to her massive Yachtsman-style anchor. Long and skinny, she got by with just around 80 horsepower, and tooled along at about 9 knots. She went to the wreckers a decade or so ago, but not before logging thousands of miles up and down the Bay and down the intercoastal to Florida.

This gallery contains 4 photos

Kerse (Kearse, Kierce, Kearsey) James H. — Irish Cop, Yachtsman, Animal Lover– 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge


Evelyn, yacht of Thomas and James kerse

James H. Kerse, my great-grandfather, 1857-1921,  was born, raised and died in Richmond,Virginia. Not only that, but he served the city well as a police officer for over a quarter century! As the son of an Irish immigrant, I am told that James was definitely identified as an “Irish Cop”! He married his beloved wife, Mary Catherine Botto, herself the daughter of an Italian emigrant. We have a family story about a neighbor who walked by James ‘s house one day and lamented that his Irish friend had gone and “ruined his life” by marrying “that Italian woman”! LOL As I understand it, he loved that Italian woman with every ounce of his being,and she was the practical one, the business woman who allowed him his pleasures of boating, fishing, and hunting with her business savvy and entrepreneurship–she is another story. 

James however, as a sergeant with the Richmond City police force for many years, was apparently well thought of, well-respected, and seen as a down to earth, friendly man. He died in 1921, my mother was only three, so she did not know him. How do I know as much as I do about him? Besides family stories, I discovered something remarkable about the Richmond Times Dispatch –not only did it report news, but in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s , it functioned as our facebook of today! We can find amazing stories of the everyday occurences of our ancestors in the paper–in archives in State libraries, as well as on websites like Genealogybank.com where I got all of the articles cited in this blog post. 

One of the funniest stories I found about my great-grandfather told of a cow coming to vist him one Halloween night in 1913! This has to be one of the funniest pranks ever pulled by teens or friends on a Halloween night–look at this story! Notice the charm and wit as my grandfather handled this situation! No wonder he was a popular police officer! (click on the image to enlarge it for reading)

Kerse, James H. lost cow

As funny as this article is, i know my great-grandfather was well-respected because I found an article about his being wanted as the chief of police. This was published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on March 11, 1905:

 Although we know that he was not made the chief, the very proposal shows he was held in high esteem by his peers and superiors. 

I wanted to include one last story about my great grandfather James and his son Thomas–my mother’s father– my grandfather. This is the story of James and his son Thomas taking a party of individuals on a weekend excursion aboard ship on the Evelyn, a yacht first owned by James and handed down to Thomas his son. (Thomas later owned another yacht which he named the “Lady Jane”. Evelyn was his first-born daughter of six, Jane was his baby daughter.) It is a wonderful story on many fronts–it tells us about the historic Tangier Island off the coast of Virginia. However, of great interest to me was the fact that the trip took place in 1917–just as we were joining World War I. Notice how this pleasure cruise must deal with the military precautions and activities  in the Chesapeake Bay.  Stories like this bring this period in history right to our front door! 

There are actually several other stories tht I found–about James training his setters to fish as well as hunt!  Stories of him actually arresting people on the streets of Richmond, and keeping the peace! It is such a wonderful way to fill in some history–I feel I’ve gotten to know my great grandfather in ways I never expected, Here’s hoping you have the opportunity to find your own family stories!. Have a great day and ek, Helen

This gallery contains 3 photos