Friday, February 8, 2013

Pictures From Our Past

In 1906, Nettie Gray Dangerfield published a small book Our Mammy and Other Stories in which she recalled the humanity, devotion, and idiosyncrasies of servants. Though some aspects of the stories may be adaptive, the individuals sketched in this book are believed to be servants of the Gray/Daingerfield family and their friends. A photograph accompanied each story and identified the subject by first name only.
The Massanutten Regional Library Main Library Reference Department would like your help in providing additional identification and biographical information. Below are pictures of the servants and some clues from the stories that may help to identify them. All the stories speak about events just before the Civil War, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. If you want more information about these personalities, the Dangerfield book is available in the Genealogy Room of the Main Library.

Mammy Sukey: proud of her royal African lineage; recalled the visit of George Washington and the second visit of General Lafayette.

Cupid: Foxhall A. Daingerfield’s companion before and during the War; maybe the son of Mammy; Cupid appeared in several Daingerfield books; may be related to Dan Cupid who ran a school. 

Aunt Lucy: comforter of children and the aged; a “capacious” person and ruler of the kitchen; outwitted her Master and refused to use a new stove; Bible teacher; appeared to be the most influential of the servants. Kin to educator Lucy Simms?

Margaret: companion of Little Nellie; lived at Hilltop; ran away before the War; afterwards lived in Staunton; married to a Yankee.

Charlie: mischievous and fearful young boy.

Tim: the 12 year old orphan child of Reverend Simpkins; got in the cross hairs of his step mother; after the war Tim apprenticed to a local lawyer.

Christopher: born after Emancipation, a large child who was student of Miss Weston; learned Bible verses from Miss Lucy; a bump on the head from a fall impaired his mental development; became the school janitor and was killed while saving the children in a school fire.

Amy: a freed household servant, who came into the household during the War to take care of the children; responsible for hiding the silver and other valuables.

Uncle Levi (Morton): as he lay dying, just days before the Emancipation was proclaimed, he asked his Master to give him his freedom papers; he spent his final hours under the care of Aunt Lucy.


  1. Cupid is mentioned in Virginia Warren's letters to her husband Edward Tiffin Harrison Warren during the Civil War. It may have been a common name for black slave/servants. Cupid drove the buggy that took Virginia back to her family home plantation in Orange County for visits to her father during the Civil War. Virginia's letters can be viewed on the UVA website under "Sally Magruder Warren". She lived in the house that is now the Virginia Quilt Museum. The Warren's were contemporaries of the Gray's in the mid to late 1800s in Harrisonburg. Unfortunately there are no Gray descendants left in the area. Rosemarie Palmer

  2. In Orra Gray Langhorne's book "Southern Sketches from Virginia 1881-1901", there is the same photo of "Aunt Lucy" (page 88). Her caption reads "one of the Gray family slaves". Orra and Nettie were Gray sisters.

    Aunt Lucy is purported to be the grandmother of Lucy Frances Simms, who was born into the Gray family. There is a letter from one of the Gray family women to Hampton Institute, stating that both Lucy and her half-brother Ulysses Grant Wilson were descended from a slave purchased by the Gray's from the Lincoln's. This may have been Aunt Lucy. Dale MacAllister has a copy of the this letter. Rosemarie Palmer