Friday, May 4, 2012

Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield in Virginia Part II

The Kentucky Years – A Summary

In Kentucky, Daingerfield bred for Keene a “galaxy” of great racers who wore the white and blue spots of Castleton Farm. Many of the horses earned over $100,000. A few of their hall-of-fame horses were Domino, Colin, Commando, and Sysonby. Daingerfield’s reputation was such, that in 1902 a “sensational” three year-old black colt owned by McLewee & Co. bore the name Major Daingerfield.[1] The Governor appointed the Major a member of the Kentucky State Racing Commission. In 1907, Keene’s total winnings were more than $397,000, which at the time was the greatest amount ever won by any one man in the world history of racing. Just before his death, Daingerfield compiled statistics that in the years 1905 through 1910, Keene’s winnings from his Kentucky horses aggregated over $1.2 million.[2]

In 1911, unhappy with the state of racing, Keene disposed of his horses and sold Castleton Farms. Daingerfield moved with his family to nearby Kingston Farms. Apparently this change also coincided with a decline in the health of both Daingerfield and Keene. At the age of 73, Daingerfield died on January 5, 1913 two days after the death of his business partner James R. Keene. The Daily New Record noted the return of “Captain Daingerfield” to Harrisonburg.[3] His body arrived on the afternoon of January 9, 1913 on the Baltimore and Ohio train. Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield is buried in Woodbine Cemetery.

His son, Algernon, was active in turf services in Washington, D.C., Kentucky, and New York. At his death in 1933 in Garden City, Long Island, Algernon was the assistant secretary of The Jockey Club in New York. Foxhall Daingerfield’s daughter, Elizabeth, continued the family interest in thoroughbreds. Elizabeth, also a successful breeder, is remembered notably for managing the Man o’ War line.[4] The headline of a New York Times article reads:
Her Success as Horse Breeder: Miss Elizabeth Daingerfield of Kentucky Talks of Her Care of $1,000,000 Worth of Racers – Learned from Her Father.”[5]
Nettie Gray Daingerfield

Though Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield was the focus of our narrative, his wife, Nettie Gray, and her family were a force on their own. From the early 1800s, when Robert Gray located in Harrisonburg, the Grays were leading lawyers and philanthropists in the area. Robert Gray’s son and Nettie’s father, Algernon S. Gray, continued the tradition. At the beginning of the Civil War, Gray opposed the succession of Virginia. He served as a delegate to the Succession Convention, but went along with the decision of the majority of delegates to join the Confederacy. During the War, however, Gray gave assistance to all Valley people, with conspicuous concerns for the sufferings of Dunkards and Mennonites. When Elder John Kline was murdered, Gray’s daughters, fearing for their father’s life, persuaded him to go to Baltimore.[6]

Nettie’s sister, Orra, well-educated and a resident of Richmond, was a known “ardent Republican” and outspoken on the plight of the blacks. In the late 1800s, she was a leader in the Richmond suffragette movement. After her husband’s death, Orra moved to Kentucky to live with Nettie and joined with Kentucky suffragette activists there until her death in 1904. Correspondence during that period between Nettie Daingerfield and Kentucky suffragette activists suggested Nettie’s sympathies similar to those of her sister.[7]

In the early 1900s at the age of fifty nine, Nettie became known to the general public with the publication of three books. That Dear Old Sword,[8] published in 1903, is a sweet novel about a beautiful, privileged boy kidnapped by circus gypsies. Our Mammy and Other Stories[9] (1906) are intriguing as a collection of stories about the servants of the Gray/Daingerfield family before, during, and after the Civil War. The 1870 Census records showed Nettie managing her household with two live-in servants: Peggy Brown and Eliza Frazier. Included with each story is a photograph or ink sketch of the servant who is identified only by a first name. One story is accompanied by a photograph of “The Captain” that another source identified as Foxhall Daingerfield. This tale has a feel of the truth about Nettie’s own romance with Foxhall during the War.

Her last publication, Frescati: A Page from Virginia History[10] (1909), was dedicated “to the memory of those who have died for the cause they deemed just.” Here, after the war, an old servant tells the history of the family who lived at the Frescati plantation. The description of the plantation before the War is as idyllic as a fresco painting, but the War shattered the family and the beauty. Nettie Daingerfield’s stories described the plantation life, the dedication of the servants, and the confusion of all people after the Civil War.

The novellas are written more in the romantic style of a Sir Scott rather than in the ardent tones of the “lost cause” of a Lt. Gen. Early. The author brings a familiarity to her subjects that lead the reader to see into her life in Harrisonburg before, during, and after the War, with the usual caution not to read too closely. One servant, Cupid, appears in all these stories, as well as in a play, The Southern Cross, and leaves us curious as to his identity. The play was written by Nettie’s grandson (son of Algernon), Foxhall Daingerfield, Jr. The play was produced in Lexington on April 13, 1909 for benefit of the Morgan monument. All these books are available at the Massanutten Regional Library as limited usage items. Nettie Daingerfield died in August 1821 and is also buried at Woodbine Cemetery next to her husband, Foxhall, and a son, William.
[1] New York Times. July 3, 1902 and October 6, 1902.
[2] NYT. FAD Obit.
[3] Daily News Record. January 9, 1913

[4] Zwicky Blog,

[5] NYT. July 18, 1922.

[6] Wayland

[7] 100th Anniversary of the founding of the equal Suffrage League of Virginia.

[8] Henrietta Gray Daingerfield. That Dear Old Sword. Richmond, Va. Presbyterian Committee Publication. 1903.

[9] Nettie Gray Daingerfield. Our Mammy and Other Stories. Hampton Institute Press, Hampton, VA. 1906.

[10] Nettie Gray Daingerfield. Frescati: A Page from Virginia History. The Neale Publishing Company. NY. 1909.


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