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SPRINGFIELD FARM – HOME OF JOSIAH WILLIAM WARE

Courtesy of Judy Ware
Judy C. Ware

According to records, it was in 1760 that Edward Snickers (a soldier in the French & Indian War) became heavily involved in land speculation in Virginia that would become the basis of his fortune.  Snickers was a friend of George Washington.  In his diary, Washington mentions “stopping at Snickers, sometimes for the night and sometimes to bait.”  It was partly through his association with Washington, and also through original land grants from Lord Fairfax, that he acquired his fortune.  (At one point, the town of Blumont was actually named Snickersville.)    His wife was Elizabeth Taliaferro.

Upon his death, Edward bequeathed 4,000 acres of his vast property to his four children.  Out of this settlement, the 411 acres of land called “Springfield” went to his daughter – that area still being called by that name today. Sarah Snickers married Col. Morgan Alexander (an officer in the Revolutionary War).  (ref. 3, 28, 138,160)   In the last will and testament of Edward Snickers, he wrote “I give and bequeath to my well beloved daughter Sarah Alexander, the tract of land on which I now live, containing 411 acres, known by the name of Springfield.” (ref. 200)

On Nov. 10, 1796, James Ware married Elizabeth Alexander, the daughter of Sarah & Morgan Alexander.  James had acquired land along the Shenandoah River himself and built a home there called Riverside, but  Springfield” was passed onto them as an inheritance to Elizabeth.  One record states that “Josiah William Ware was born at Springfield on August 19, 1802.”  (ref. 4, 23)

It was from his mother (Elizabeth Alexander Ware) that Josiah inherited Springfield, and he started construction of his home there shortly before his marriage to Frances Toy Glassell in 1827.  It was called “one of the most beautiful of the valley houses.” (ref.110, 195)   According to his son (Rev. Josiah W. Ware), “Springfield was a stock farm chiefly – thoroughbred horses and pure bred other stock.”  He goes on to say, ‘our house was large, and the rooms were spacious, and there were, I’m sure, at least 20 servants on the place.  The house was imposing in appearance; lumber was seasoned for three years before being used.”  (ref. 81)

One of Josiah’s grandchildren (Cornelia) remembers, “it was a very lovely, large house, cream stucco, with a cupola.   When President Rutherford B. Hayes visited, the Berryville band played lustily from the balcony.  There was an avenue of fine trees leading up to the house, which Grandfather had planted.” (ref. 3) 

Captain Stevenson, who was a guest at Springfield, said “it was a fine old plantation near the Shenandoah.  He (Josiah) had some of the best blooded stock in Virginia and had spent a great deal of money in importing horse and sheep; some of his sheep costing $500.00 a head, and his horses fabulous prices.” (ref. 181)

Author, John Esten Cooke, wrote that “Col. Josiah W. Ware was a prominent racing enthusiast and horse breeder.  He owned lands most of the way from “Audley” to the river, and he was instrumental in the forming of Clarke County.  Through Merritt & Co. of Hick’s Ford, Virginia, Col. Ware imported 5 champion stallions which stood at Springfield in the 1830’s.”  (ref. 30)

Besides the main house at Springfield, there was also a smokehouse in the back and also an ice house – still standing today. (I have pictures of these, inside and out).  In the front yard, right beside the circular driveway, is a stile – a set of steps or series of steps that were constructed back in 1827 to assist ladies in dismounting from their carriages.  It also made it easier to mount a horse from this place. 

According to Josiah’s son, there were ‘quarters’ for the servants – “a large stone building, two stories, well lighted, and there was no limit to fuel for warmth.  Besides the rooms for the married, there was a large room for the single of each sex, and I think an infirmary.” (ref. 84)

When the Civil War broke out, Springfield became caught in the middle of it all.  As Josiah’s son (Rev. Josiah Ware) remembered, “General Wesley Merritt ended up making his headquarters at Springfield, and occupying one of the guest rooms.  The union troops were camped on the front lawn.  In appreciation for the hospitality shown him, Gen. Merritt guaranteed that the property should be unharmed by the Union army.  In 1863, however, a picket was killed by one of Mosby’s men on Morgan’s Lane, running along the west side of Durham Farm.  In retaliation for this, an order was issued for several homes in the valley to be burned – with Springfield being first on the list.  Without warning, a troop of cavalry rode up the side of the house.   Getting some straw they entered pell-mell, announcing that they had orders to burn the house.  The soldiers started smashing things, but my mother (Edmonia) spoke with the officer in charge and told him of the guarantee from Gen. Merritt.  She said it was verbal, but that if he would hold his action in abeyance until he could dispatch a soldier to the camp, the statement would be verified.   The officer replied, ‘No, Madam.  If the order were in writing, it is my duty to see it, but the word of a lady is sufficient.’  From our house, they went to the home of Province McCormick –which they burned.” (ref. 84)

Cornelia Ware wrote that her father (Sigismund Stribling Ware) remembered that day as well.  When the soldier told his mother (Edmonia) that he was going to have to fire the house, she was a very brave woman.  She was standing “with the two little boys at her skirts. She showed not the slightest fear, even when smoke began curling out from piles of straw placed around in the house.”  (ref.84)    Sigismund also said “he’d never forget the smell of the burning straw the devils brought in and spread in the house, and he almost fainted with the thought ‘everything else is gone, and now the home is burning!” (ref. 40)

There were many events that took place on Springfield as a result of the war.  A young officer was killed and his body was brought to Springfield.  “His men requested permission to bury him there, so his grave was placed between the parlor window and the garden.  (His brother late came from North Carolina and took his remains home.)  In a letter from Edmonia to her daughter Elizabeth, she states “I decked the body of a young Col. with flowers and he was buried near the parlor window until his friends can come.  His band played funeral dirges and we had our own burial service.”  (ref. 19)

Edmonia also wrote ‘when Gen. Parley fell back from his raid into Maryland, he camped (as usual) on Springfield and was there several days.  He was followed by the Yankees – the 6th Corps under Wright and the command of the infamous Hunter.” (ref. 19)  It was during times like this, that Springfield sustained much damage and loss and constant fear of being burned.  There are many firsthand stories of the destruction that fell upon the beautiful home and the slaughter of so many prized animals.  As one letter said, “They took away or killed all animals, practically.  They killed the flock of Cotswold sheep.” (ref. 81)   “Many sheep (60 or more) were simply killed by troops and left on the hills at Springfield.” (ref. 84)   As Elizabeth observed, “you can imagine how it affected Josiah to see all of his fine blooded horses led out, his magnificent “Cotswolds” that had cost thousands of dollars slaughtered on the lawn  . . . to find his home threatened and eventually sold over his head!”  (ref. 40)

When the war was finally over, things were never quite the same.  Most of the slaves had either run off or had been “recruited” in the Union army.  Josiah wrote to his son James (as early as 1863) that “there was a capture (of many runaways) on Monday but no farmer was permitted to go into town until Tuesday – by which time (no strictness or guard being established), numbers of Negro men went out.  Young Jim Bell was there Monday night.  When I got there Tuesday morning, he was gone and I lost him – and this was the case with many.” (ref. 41)  Josiah’s daughter Lucy also wrote that “the biggest changes you’ll notice now (year 1864) will be in the loss of servants, which I think are a relief.  Kitty, little Emily & her family, Richard, Martin, and Jim’s sons are gone.  Frank was recaptured and has behaved very well since.” (ref. 15)

As with so many other southern men of influence and property, Josiah “suffered the loss of his old home by the depreciation in property that followed the financial panic of 1873.” (ref. 22)  Cornelia wrote that Josiah “was a very kind man and that his loss of property was not entirely the result of the war but that he had been too generous to friends and relatives by going on their notes.  He regretted so deeply that he could not give his second set of children the same advantages of education as he had given his first.  He often spoke of this and felt that it was not fair, but it couldn’t be helped. Springfield was sold shortly after the war to a northerner (Mr. Clagett) and the family moved to Durham which was the farm Grandmother (Edmonia) had inherited from her father.  It was a beautiful farm, and the house they built at that time was a good, comfortable home; but none of the elegance of Springfield.” (ref. 2)

All of the difficulties Josiah faced (including his time in a Union prison during the war) took its toll on him.  Although he remained very active until his death, “he never fully recovered from the hardships which he had endured.” (ref. 3)  As one book from the Clarke County Historical Association said, ‘The War Between the States inevitably dispersed the breeding stock that Col. Ware had gathered together and improved with such care - destroying his life’s work.  He bore the loss with courage and fortitude, never uttering so much as a word of complaint.  His vision of the future has today become a reality, however.” (ref. 61)

With the loss of his assets, the number of loans he had covered for other people, and the rise in property taxes, Josiah was forced to sell Springfield – the land that had been in his family for over five generations. (ref. 40)    There were many who were deeply saddened to hear of what had happened to the beautiful estate.  As Capt. Stevenson wrote, “I was very sorry to hear from him that the Union troops had, after we left that place, killed all his fancy sheep and carried off all his fine horses.” (ref. 181)   Even Senator Thurman of Ohio told Josiah, during one of his visits to the White House during President Hayes’ administration, that he thought Josiah “should be compensated for them, since their destruction was a loss to the agricultural interests in the United States.”  (ref. 84)  The timing was still too close to the war though, and feelings against the south were bitter.

In a letter he wrote to his son James in 1874, he explained how unfairly the transactions went:   

“The court’s order of sale was – first to offer the mountain farm.  If not sold for enough, then that over the road.  If that did not bring enough, then sell as much of the other as would be necessary to make up the deficiency.  The first two sold so low that theJWWareLetter1874Pg1.jpg (365809 bytes) (commissioner) did not report them – but sold all the home farm, instead of just enough to pay the claims.  When the point was made that they had no right to sell more than sufficient to pay the debt, they took all the buildings not laying off the quantity from the farm, but laying off the farm from the rest to the purchaser.

The land sold for 41.60 subject to perspective dower-when it was proven by all the carpenters that the buildings could not again be put on it for 30,000 (by 30 or 40 substantial citizens), that land and buildings would be cheap at $80 per acre subject to same encumbrance, this too monstrous sacrifice from such witnesses was one cause of complaint. 

Again, before the judge confirmed the sale, we brought to his notice that in making up the amount the Com. had failed to give credits for moneys paid to the Com. and in one instance, I had sold a part (corner fields) for 3,600 - payable in six installments withJWWareLetter1874Pg2.jpg (325815 bytes) interest from date.  The interest on this (for six years) they charged to me, although the deed of trust and notes were payable to them and the deed & trust on their application was confirmed by the courts. 

The same thing for another tract sold for $800 in the same way - in every respect.  In this, they not only charged the interest in my account but charged the principle on the grounds that the purchaser said he could not pay it.  (I afterwards found out one of them advised or warned him not to pay it.)   The judge struck out the principle on the ground that they had not exhausted the purchasers means or resources, leaving all open to future decision.  I thought after I had made a clear deed and the notes and trust made payable to the Com. and all on their approval confirmed by the court, I had no further responsibility about it.  They had also added in my tax account which I had paid - they paid not a cent of it.  On my motion, a Com. was ordered to restate it - investigating the credits we claim, making it from 1500 to 2,000 less than they sold for.  This was done to get more land for the purchaser and more commission to themselves - avowing if too much, they could pay the surplus to me - when not one of them has available means or given any security.  Nor did I want more sacrificed than necessary - to give him more land and they more commission.

Finding they were going on to lay off the land without waiting for the Com. to investigate the orders, I applied to the judge “stay it” until that could be done (that it might be done understandingly) and he refused.  The Com. laid off the very worst to me giving neither wood or water.  If the court confirms that with so much more land than necessary, I ought to have some remedy.  I cannot afford to lose all these credits.

One of my appraisers of my land stated he had been offered $50 per acre for his farm three times since the war (half down), and he would gladly give two acres of his for one of  mine.  I do not object to selling—the house is too large for me now.  I only objected to too much sacrifice and not having my proper credits.  I do not know the bond in appeal - I suppose, to cover costs if a failure.  Edmonia’s perspective dower right, of course affects its adequacy, but my witnesses proved it worth $80 subject to the same.  The new law would not avail me if appeal court did not set aside the decree.  I want to sell land to pay the debts; indeed all my land.  I can do better with the money as I am. 

In his later years, Josiah stayed very active in politics and current affairs.  In 1876, he staunchly supported the election of Rutherford B. Hayes & corresponded with him.   During the Hayes administration of 1877 – 1881, he stayed in correspondence with Mr. & Mrs. Hayes – Lucy being his cousin.  He even went to visit at the White House.  He also was in contact with such people as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Robert E. Lee, and many other noted people of his time.  As he wrote in a letter to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1882 (just one year before his death):

“Of last August, I was 80 years old, am very active for that age, never have used a cane, can jump any fence I can put my hands on, walk 3 miles to town and back to dinner, and work all the afternoon.  I go to Winchester on horseback after breakfast (13 miles) and return (26 miles) to dinner at one, and work all the afternoon.  It does not seem to me remarkable that I can do this . . . I cannot see the difference between myself & 40 years ago - - but if I could but step from one day into the other, no doubt I would see a vast difference.”  As his obituary stated, Josiah died on August 13, 1883 “at his home on Monday morning after a brief illness.  On the 5th he attended church, and seemed to be enjoying the vigorous health and activity so remarkably displayed by one who had passed his four score years, but during that week he was partially paralyzed, which was aggravated by softening of the brain.”  (ref. 22)  [This sounds like he might have had a stroke.]  He is buried in the family section of the cemetery yard of Grace Episcopal Church.

Judy Ware, July 19, 2002


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Judy Ware, July 19, 2002


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This site maintained by John Reagan and last updated July 12, 2009