Needlework, Finishing, Designing, Quilting, Some Discoveries and Adventures in Stitching from Windy Ridge Designs

Thursday, December 29, 2011

AotH Bonus Block - Part One

I've completed the final bonus block of the Anniversaries of the Heart series.  But, of course, as usual, I have to complicate things a bit.  First of all, I have two stories to tell about this final block.  Then, I have to stitch a border piece to go around the perimeter of the whole thing because I messed up when I was starting out and didn't allow for the extra linen we need on the sides for framing.  Too focused on getting started!

I have chosen another neutral linen and juiced it up with fray preventer and am just about to start stitching that border - I've even decided on the pattern I'm going to use.  But, right now I'm focused on stitching on the birth sampler and won't move to work on the border until I've reached a certain point on that.

Doesn't mean I can't show you a bit of the final block and tell you about Miss Willie Fairfax.  Don't you just love that name?  Miss Willie was my Godmother.  I have no idea how my parents knew her; whether she attended church with us in Alexandria, or she worked with my mother, or what.  But, we saw her a lot when I was little.  I can remember back to when I was three.  I have many vivid memories of that year and I know it was when I was three because we moved to Oakton, Virginia when I turned 4.

I remember riding the bus with Miss Willie down in Del Ray.  We went to Mr. Pasquallie's.  He was the shoemaker.  Really.  He actually made the shoes.  Of course, he repaired them as well.  Remember those times, when we wore shoes forever, having them repaired so that we could keep wearing them?  Now they're made to fall apart in six month - forget about repairing them.  I can still smell the air of Mr. Pasquallie's - all leather and shoe polish.  I also remember visiting Miss Willie at her house.  It was a craftsman-style bungalo and she had a veranda that was shady and wide and went around at least two sides of the house.  We sat there and sipped lemonade in the summer.

Miss Willie was a diminutive, blue haired, lady who smelled like lavendar.  I've done a little research on her.  I gather she was born about 1898; which would have made her in her 60's when I knew her.  The census information I can find on her is intriguing and I think that she and her sisters may have shared a family tragedy that changed their lives forever.  First of all, in researching, I was only able to find Miss Willie in the Census records three times; once in 1910, then 1920, then 1930.  Oddly, In 1910, she is with her sisters, Nannie L., Huldah V. and Fannie R., living with Nannie Sar??? and (perhaps) her husband Upton Sar??? with Emily ???? their grandmother.  Now, whether she is the grandmother of Nannie who is married to Upton or the girls, that is unclear.  In 1920 and 1930 the girls are living with their Aunt, Nannie Davis.  At all times, they are living in Alexandria, Virginia.  Then, I found a transcription of a Manassas Journal dated April 5, 1907.  It's one of those little society entries that says Misses Nannie and Huldah Fairfax, of Alexandria, were visiting Miss Lillian Hixson of Manassas for Easter that year.  So, I looked up Lillian Hixson and sure enough, she lived with her family in Manassas.  Then I found only two birth records for Fairfaxes, but both of them were at Wolf Run Shoals, Fairfax, Virginia.

Well, I grew up in Fairfax and never hear of Wolf Run Shoals.  Where was that?  Googled it and found that it was, interestingly enough, on the Occoquan River at the boundary between Prince William and Fairfax Counties.  Huh.  Did some more checking and found a blog about Civil War (River) Fords.  The guy was talking about Wolf Run Shoals, even had a picture of a Civil War era map on his blog.  When I blew up the map, it was noted with the names of property owners - namely DAVISes.  Well, that was just a little too co-inky-dinky if ya know what I mean.

Then I found someone's research on Rootsweb where the Fairfaxes and Davises of Fairfax/Prince William Counties are linked (one of those family alliances so to speak).  And I found a fella named George Caleb Fairfax who was married to Emma J. Fairfax in Washington, D.C. on October 15, 1891.  I actually found that marriage record.

And it got more interesting.  George had some sisters named Fannie, Huldah, Winnifred and Anna.  "Nannie" is a nickname for the names Nancy and Anna.  The researcher had written down that George had five children.  Didn't even put in his wife's name.  But, Emma was his 1st cousin,  daughter of his father's brother.  Maybe that's why they were married in Washington.

But wait, it gets worse.  There was a notation about him committing suicide while in jail, but that was it, no further explanation.  I was able to find lots of queries on Google about him shooting some guy, but again, no details.  So I dug deeper.  And then I found it.

George Caleb Fairfax was a mail carrier; delivered mail from Fairfax Courthouse (now Fairfax City) to the post office in Farr, Virginia (near Clifton).  According to newspaper accounts, George was insane.  He'd already attempted suicide by hanging himself.  His wife had discovered him and cut him down.  Well, this particular day, June 5, 1907, he went into the Woodyard Store in Farr, Virginia and, it is reported,  had a disagreement with Isaac F. Woodyard who worked in the store.  The disagreement was over where the Democratic primary polling place should be.  Even the papers remarked on the triviality of the disagreement.  Incensed, Fairfax went home, got his gun and went back to the store where he shot Woodyard at point blank range with a double barreled shotgun.  Woodyard died instantly.  Witnesses were in the store, one of them was Fairfax's own brother in law who attempted to stop him, but George Fairfax shot at him too.  Missed.  Then he ran off into the woods.

Pursued by witnesses and the sheriff, George Fairfax was found and taken to the jail in Fairfax City to be detained and await a preliminary hearing.  On the 7th of June the jailer discovered him collapsed on the floor where he confessed later to the doctors who were summoned to tend to him, he had taken strychnine tablets.  George Caleb Fairfax died when he was 38 years old.

I found George and Emma in the Census records only in 1900.  They were married with two children - Clarence and Maggie.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that Maggie could actually be Nannie.  I don't know.  But, that's my guess.  I also am not so sure that George killed Woodyard over a polling place dispute.  The reason I say that is because in the 1920 Census records, I found Emma (a widow) living with her son, Walter E. who was born in 1908.  So maybe there was more to the dispute between George and Woodyard?

I really think I'm onto something.  I think that the family were devastated by the press - this story ran in all the D.C. and Virginia papers - even down in southern Virginia.  I think that the girls ended up with an aunt - whose relationship I haven't been able to work out yet - and that their mother may have been cast out on her own.  If my guesses are right, they had a hard, sad life.  It would not have been easy at that time to overcome a scandal of that sort.  Clearly further research will have to commence.

Miss Willie made me a quilt, probably when I was a baby.  I remember always having it.  It was an Irish Chain quilt made with little squares of white and mint green and a 1930's fabric with white and mint and little tiny red tulips.  My brother was always sneaking off with my quilt.  Often he was allowed to do this because he was the spoiled brat, baby, only boy, of the family.  One day too many I caught him with my quilt - I guess I was about ten or so - and I grabbed it away from him and he grabbed it back.  There commenced a tug of war and the quilt split in the middle.  Typical of my mother (for she often punished me to punish him) she took the quilt away from me (as my brother had lost interest as soon as it was torn) and threw it away.  I have missed that quilt ever since.   I've even looked for a little 1930's print that would be close to the tulips, etc. so I could re-make it for myself.  Alas, no luck yet.

Sadly, Miss Willie died in 1988.  I have not yet been able to determine where she is buried and even more sadly, I have no photographs of her.  We lost contact with her after my family moved out to Oakton.  I would have liked to have visited her and wish I'd pursued it more then.  All I have left of her is up in my head.  And that's why she takes a spot on the bonus block of AotH.

Note that I changed the color used on the house to GA Banker's Grey.  I wanted a blue gray like was shown in the picture on the chart.  I have shifted some things around to accommodate names and wording, but stayed true to the charted design.  Hope you enjoyed.


  1. Wow, what a story. Doesn't this add so much more to this stitched piece?
    Happy New Year Katherine!

  2. Enjoyed reading the family story! Hugs!

  3. What an interesting story! Your stitching is beautiful!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this story. Lovely stitching
    Wishing you a Happy New Year

  5. What a sad story ... but sweet, too, that Willie made enough of an impression on you that you wanted to remember her. I enjoyed reading about her and love your stitching so far!

    Happy new year!


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