Friday, July 20, 2007

Follow This Trail

I know I'm a compulsive historian and archeologist. After all, my mother caught me trying to dig in the back yard to find lost cities when I was either 8 or 9 years old.

If you read this blog, you'll note that I wrote some about Ruth Bell Graham. Well, when I'm interested in a subject, I'm nothing if not thorough in my compulsion.

I read her biography and I ordered a package of CD's and a matching book called "Ruth Graham, A Pilgrim Journey", which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I found on my book shelf, and dusted off, a copy of the biography of her father, Nelson Bell, "A Foreign Devil In China."

I started reading this book about her father - and the beginning makes lots of references to Virginia ancestry and places. Being a compulsive researcher, I immediately turned to the internet to find places and people - more info, if you will, on what was in the book.

First, I found Belvidere Plantation which, unfortunately, is for sale. Belvidere Plantation is where Nelson Bell's (Ruth Bell Graham's father, the Chinese medical missionary) mother grew up. Her name was Ruth Lee (a lot of children had a middle name of Lee in those days - 1860's - for Robert E. Lee, although there was no family relationship) McCue. She was the daughter of Thomas McCue and Elizabeth Wilson. She was also the lady for whom Ruth Bell Graham was named.

When you go to the Belvidere Plantation web site, make sure you take the virtual tour. You will see something very important in the "parlor".

You will see the three steps and the double window in the "parlor" in the virtual tour. Read this document about Ann Allen. Pay attention to the reference to Belvidere Plantation at the bottom. You may ask, "what has Ann Allen, the woman for whom Ann Arbor, Michigan was named, have to do with Nelson Bell?" Well - her entire name was Ann Isabella Barry McCue. Note the McCue. Her son was Thomas McCue, who built Belvidere Plantation, and the memory of her granddaughter (most likely Nelson Bell's mother?) of hearing her grandmother, Ann Barry McCue, read to her in her mother's room - the present "parlor" - is pretty cool. She recalls coming in and sitting on the three steps by the double window to hear her grandmother read. Remember, Ann Barry McCue died in 1875 - so this would have taken place before then! And there it is in the virtual tour - the steps and the window.

When I find things like this, it just lights me up. I can't explain it - I connect dots that no one else has connected, and I LOVE it.
I read the above document all the way through, and John Marshall McCue was indeed, Ann Barry McCue Allen's first son, the alcoholic.

Meanwhile, at another web site, "Valley of the Shadow", about the Civil War, there are letters from John M. McCue (Thomas' brother) that mention an Anna Barry. If you read this document to the end, you'll see that John's brother Thomas had married in 1844 and had a daughter he named Anna Barry. At the beginning of the sentence in the letter mentioning Anna Barry, John says "Ma" has some physical ailments. "Ma" would be Ann Isabella Barry McCue Allen, the great grandmother of Lemuel Nelson Bell, Ruth Bell Graham's father.

There's also a list of books Mr. McCue wishes to purchase - and being the thorough wacko that I am, I looked for some of the titles on I found one of the most interesting titles "Woman and Her Master" - a copy from 1855, which would seem to be the book Mr. McCue wanted - what could he want with that book? I could not find "Cummings on the Apocalypse", although I tried - and I may try again.....

Here's a letter which refers to someone whose finances are less than desirable - something that happened to Ann's son, John, who lost everything and was the alcoholic.

In fact, go back to the list of letters - doesn't it seem that things are getting worse financially for Mr. John McCue? People are writing to ask that their debts be paid - and he pays in potatoes? Doesn't sound good.

Oh - and for those of you who want an aerial view of the Belvidere property, go here. Go in close and switch to "aerial view" and you'll see the rectangular property with mowed fields all around next to the red star - that's Belvidere Plantation - 705 Knightly Lane.

So here I am, picturing the legacy of the Bells, back to McCue and Barry, a legacy that spreads to Michigan and the naming of a major city, and then to pre WWII China for missionary work. I just wish someone from the McCue family would buy the property - I think it is infinitely sad that after 150 years of being in the family, it goes to whomever will buy it. Luckily, it is designated a historic place in Virginia - I think that protects it.

Well - I'm off to bed now. I have to come away from the vivid past and climb into bed in preparation for another day of work tomorrow. Like my daughter says, I just LOVE to research a subject to DEATH!!

1 comment:

smilnsigh said...

I don't do this form of research. But I do understand the thrill of searching. Well, on my limited scale of course.

But you are a first class *wanna'-be-private-eye,* as I call this trait, in myself. :-)