Tag Archives: Richmond Virginia

The Delight of Research Never Ends!

From The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect project… never-ending research is bliss to me.

Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect – Book Promo Site

BookCover3DWell, I have been quiet for many months…  revising drafts, making changes, editing, editing, getting distracted, traveling, research, reading, more revisions…. and the book promo web site “The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect“.

Hope you’ll follow the link, have a close look, and let me know what you think. Load up the comments either here or there. Share the link. Tell a friend. And please, if you see anything at all that needs to be corrected – LET ME KNOW. As important is general feedback. This is still in beta and it’s better to correct errors now before I start to really promote it.

I seriously hope you will leave me a comment – either good or bad. I REALLY want to know what you think.

Just Finished Drafting the Final Chapter of the Book!

The only known photo of William Ellis Jones, II. If you know of another, please contact me!

The only known photo of William Ellis Jones, II. If you know of another, please contact me!

As some of you may have noticed, I have been very quiet. That’s because I have been very busy.

Tonight I finished the last sentence of the last chapter of “The Book”; the Biography and Civil war Diary of my g-g-g-grandfather, William Ellis Jones, II. The book is going to be called “The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect”, which is an homage to a line in William’s Civil War Diary, and (I think at least) a perfect metaphor for the mythology of the Lost Cause.

There is much more work to do. I have to complete the footnotes, finish two Appendices, write an Acknowledgements page, and go through the thing with a fine tooth comb for style, grammar, etc. – but it’s damn close.

Monday morning I begin searching in earnest for publishers.

I am so happy, and so proud of this accomplishment (I started working on this project in 2006), that I could just dance a jig and then spit!

Civil War Christmas, 1862

From the diary of William Ellis Jones, II, of Crenshaw’s Battery, Pegram’s Battalion, Hill’s “Light Division”, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Thursday, December 25, 1862
Christmas Morn broke very threatening, but cleared off beautifully and warm. The boys started at seven o’clock to go on picket, after which the camp was dull and lonesome. During the morning we were called up and paid off until the 31st of October; $119.10, for clothes and wages. After dark the boys of ours and other batteries enjoyed themselves by having a battle with lighted port-fires, which presented a handsome pyrotechnic display.

Friday, December 26, 1862
Christmas has come and gone, and I sincerely hope I will never spend another in the army.

William, my great-great-great-grandfather, would endure two more Christmases in the Confederate Army. He was wounded at Spotsylvania in 1864, but miraculously survived the War, despite seeing hot action in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Gaines Mill, in May/June of 1862, Second Battle of Mananas in August of 1862, the Battle of Sharpsburg, September, 1862, the Battle of the “Crater”, in Petersburg, July, 1864, Vicksburg, Second Battle of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and finally was present at the Fall of Richmond, in April, 1865.

Reading Between the Lines – Civil War Diary

COVER1862For months now I have been parsing through William Ellis Jones, II’s Civil War diary, plucking details, context, and hidden subtext from his scribbles. While the diary has been previously used by many Civil War scholars and is quoted in a countless list of books and articles about the 1862 Peninsular and Shenandoah marches and battles, no one to date had done a comprehensive study of the whole text.

Despite my lack of academic pedigree or publishing chops, I have the advantage over most of those scholars in that I’ve spent eight years studying William Ellis Jones, II’s family history. Having those details – knowing who, where, and what he came from – has given me a really precise lens through which to examine the intent and implications of the diary’s author.

That lens has allowed me to pluck meaning from seemingly benign statements. For instance; in August of 1862, William and his battery witness the advance of the whole of Jackson’s Army marching brigade after brigade into the Shenandoah Valley. He describes the endless lines of soldiers as “stretched out to the crack of doom.” This statement appears on its face to be a simple description of a very large, ominous looking advance of troops, until you dig deeper and discover why William chose to enclose the description in quotes.

“…stretched out to the crack of doom.” is a quote taken from the speech of a Mr. Stanton, published in the “Proceedings of the General Anti-slavery Convention” from the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, published in London in 1841. (Page 479.)

Mr. Stanton used the phrase in reference to the United States’ desire to extend and legalize institutionalized slavery not only within her own borders, but to use the nation’s growing international strength and influence to extend industrialized slavery into Mexico, Latin America, South America, and beyond. Today the idea that such an expansion of slavery was ever conceived seems preposterous to us, but a study of the antebellum, pro-slavery coalition operating inside and on the periphery of the United States Congress prior to the Civil War shows us that this kind of international expansion of slavery was exactly what the proto-Confederates intended. This was to become a central component of the United States foreign policy; if southerners could manage to wrest a majority in the House and Senate.

The idea that William read this speech, was familiar enough with it to quote from it, and had a firm conceptual grasp of the idea that the massive army he was watching (and serving in) represented a real physical manifestation of the policy that Mr. Stanton warned against in 1841, is simply amazing to me. He was just twenty-four years old, and had been born and reared in a city (Richmond, Virginia), whose very foundations were laid by the hands of slaves.

William in no way celebrated the idea of slavery in the use of this quote. Rather, I believe, he carefully selected it to record his true feelings about what was happening, while remaining just ambiguous enough for self-preservation (should his diary fall into the hands of one of his commanders.)

The diary is dotted with examples like this one; statements that show us the veiled concerns and conflicted loyalties of a less than enthusiastic confederate soldier.

When viewed from this perspective, it becomes clear why William chose to never write or publish any of his own words about the War, and why he chose to rear his sons with social and political leanings that were anything but in keeping with the spirit of glorification of the “Lost Cause”.

More to come.

Moving Around – Jones Locations in Post-War Richmond

One of the most interesting facets of doing genealogy work is identifying the physical places where my ancestors lived and worked. “Place” has always been a tangible entity for me. I am tied to place as much as I am to people and their stories. To me the places tell a story all their own, and form characters as relevant to our history as any other person or thing. I think of the places that were “home” to me as a child; my grandfather’s grocery store, my grandparents bungalow next door, the railroad tracks behind the house, the woods and cemeteries that surrounded my childhood home. These places are magical to me and have infused in me a sense of home and continuity that the wrecking ball and bulldozer can’t touch.

The places listed below are similar – an anchor to my past and the people who founded my generation. They represent the physical buildings and spaces occupied, footsteps still ringing in them, of those who came before me. It took me years in some cases to dig up this information, and I’ll spend years digging up more. This is just a sampling.


Clemmitt & Jones in June, 1877
This is the printing shop where William Ellis Jones, II, (1838 – 1910), did his apprenticeship as a boy, worked at as a compositor until the outbreak of the Civil War, and then returned to in 1865 at the conclusion of the war.
It was located at at “Eleventh Street between Main and Cary”.

Source: Company letterhead/bill in my possession

Clemmitt & Jones - 1877


In 1879, after William H. Clemmitt retires from the business, William Ellis Jones becomes sole proprietor of the printing company.

1899 “William Ellis Jones” listed the following in an imprint:
“Imprynted by William Ellis Jones, nexte ye signe of ‘The Mint’, in South Twelfth Street, Richmond, Virginia, July, 1899”

Source: Virginia Historical Society Rare Books Collection
Title: “Some notes on the first recorded visit of white men to the site of the present city of Richmond, Virginia : Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24, 1607 : a paper read at a meeting of the Association for Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, held at “Laburnum”, June 10, 1899 / by Robert Lee Traylor.”
Author: Traylor, Robert Lee (1864-1907)
Published: Richmond : Privately printed [W. E. Jones], 1899
Call No: F233.42 .T82 1899


In 1903 the location of the printing company was at 1207 East Franklin Street. The image below is what the building looked like.

Engraving of William Ellis Jones's Printing Shop in Richmond

Source: “Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James : the Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests”
Author: G. W. Engelhardt
Published: Richmond, 1903


Residential Addresses
I’ve got the general vicinity and neighborhood for several residential addresses for the Joneses of Richmond, but so far I have only nailed down one precise location.

In 1913, the “1911-12 Yearbook of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities”, lists among its subscribers, on page 104 “Jones, William Ellis, Mrs., 2507 Hanover Avenue, Richmond, Virginia”

I believe this is the first home that Thomas Norcliffe Jones built in Richmond, for his new wife Margaret White, and their growing family. He retained the property (as a rental), and it was passed on as such to his son William after his death. When William died in 1910 and the family’s income was cut off, I believe that Addie Gray Bowles (William’s widowed daughter-in-law) sold the Henrico property and the elegant brownstone on Church hill, and moved back to this very modest home in what is now Richmond’s Jefferson’s Ward.

You can Google Earth this address and from behind the foliage get an idea of the building. When the house was built in the 1830’s the streets were dirt and this location was considered to be on the remotest outskirts of the city.

Finding the Dietz Family and Jones Family Connection; a Genealogy Community Challenge

August Andrew Dietz (b. 10-19-1869 d. 9-26-1963) How is he connected to my family?

August Andrew Dietz (b. 10-19-1869 d. 9-26-1963) How is he connected to my family?

Calling all my followers and fellow genealogists, I have a “missing link” that I need community assistance solving.

Here’s the set-up:
1] My ancestor, William Ellis Jones, II (b. 1838 – d. 1910), the Civil War diarist and printer/publisher of Richmond, Virginia, mentioned several times in his diary (written in 1862), that his cousin worked at the Confederate Post Office in Richmond. This un-named cousin occasionally pulled strings to get packages across the siege lines to William.

2] I know that this cousin was not a paternal relation. All of William’s “Jones” cousins were soldiers in Alabama regiments. The rest (the majority of the Jones family) were still in Wales.

3] William Jones, II, was injured at Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 10, 1864. He retired to the invalid corps, February 1, 1865, and served as clerk in the Post Quartermaster’s Office in Richmond until General’s Lee’s surrender of the Confederacy in April of 1865.

4] By 1866, William was back at work in Richmond at his old job At Clemmitt’s Printing & Publishing Co.; but this time his name was added to the imprint. In addition to becoming a partner at the firm, William married Miss Florence Smith (birthdate unknown), of Richmond, Virginia. She was the oldest daughter of John Wesley Smith (b. 1818 – d. 1854) and Frances Sephronia Osgood (b.1817 – d. 1903), both of Richmond, Virginia, and grand daughter of John Walton Smith (b. 1787 – d. 1861), of London, and his wife Mary Budd (dates unknown), and Sewell Osgood (dates unknown), and his wife Frances Courtney (dates unknown), who was daughter of Thomas Courtney of King William County, Virginia.

5. Florence Smith Jones died not long after her marriage to William Ellis Jones. There were no children produced from this marriage.

6. Florence Smith had several siblings. Her brother was Edgar Alonza Smith, who is mentioned in early 1862 in William Jones, II’s diary, along with “relations” (whether relations of A.E. Smith’s or common relations is unclear, and part of the question I hope to answer by appealing to the general readership with this post.) Her sisters were; Lemira Virginia Smith (b. 1844 – d. 1917) of Richmond, who married Dr. William H. Gibbs (b. 1833 – d. 1910) of New York; and Ella Cordelia Smith (b. 1851 – d. 1918), of Richmond.

7. In 1874, William Ellis Jones, II married his first wife’s youngest  sister, Ella Cordelia Smith. She was 13 years his junior. Shortly after their marriage, the third Smith sister, Lemira Virginia Smith Gibbs, moved (with her husband) into the household of William Jones and wife Ella Cordelia. Dr. Gibbs practiced medicine in Richmond, and Lemira worked in the household alongside her sister, helping her rear her growing family (Dr. Gibbs and Lemira had no children of their own.)

8. William Jones, II, and his 2nd wife Ella Cordelia had three sons; Florence Ellis Jones, Thomas Grayson Hones, and Fairfax Courtney Jones. The eldest son, F. Ellis Jones, followed his father into the family business (the other two became prominent businessmen in other fields.) At the point of F. Ellis reaching about 20 years old, the imprint of the business changed from “Clemmitt and Jones” to “William Ellis Jones and Sons.”

9. These three boys, and at least one grandchild (my grandfather, William Ellis Jones, III, son of F. Ellis Jones) grew up in the household with Lemira Virginia Smith Gibbs – but interestingly they all knew her as “Aunt Dietz”.

I can find no one so far discovered in her family line who was named “Dietz”. I cannot determine where this nickname came from.

10. HOWEVER, and here’s where the missing link comes in:
In the census of 1890, Peter Dietz (b. 1835 – d. 1901), a German immigrant who had settled in Richmond in about 1873, was living in Richmond with his family, including his twenty year old son August  Andrew Dietz (b. 1869 – d. 1963). The occupation of the father is listed as soap maker. The occupation of the son, August Andrew, is listed as Printer.

11. August Andrew Dietz became, perhaps, the most famous printer/publisher in Richmond, founding The Dietz Press in 1901, when he was just 21 years old. He also became semi-famous as a philatelist (stamp collector), who specialized in the study of mail and postal history of the Confederate States of America. He authored many books on the subject and was the founder of several stamp collecting organizations that still thrive today.

His personal papers and collections were donated to the library at Virginia Tech in 2010, and part of that collection is described thusly “The August Dietz Civil War Collection contains materials originally collected by August Dietz, Richmond, VA, philatelist and printer. The collection contains single editions of Civil War-era newspapers, photographs, a woodcut and prints, quartermaster records, playing cards, a handwritten memoir, correspondence, and reproductions of stamps from the Civil War…” (Bold emphasis is mine.)

In a biographical note, related to the collection (which incidentally contains several factual errors, the following is included regarding his early printing career; “In 1883, he took his first printing job and eventually took an apprenticeship at Andrews and Baptist of Richmond, considered ‘the art printers of the South.’ It was here that Dietz learned about printing and Confederate philately, which Frank Baptist had been involved with during the Civil War.” (Bold emphasis is mine.)

FIRST –  I believe that Dietz “first printing job” was in the office of William Ellis Jones & Sons, probably as an apprentice in his early teen years. I further believe that his interest in Confederate postal history began, not at Andrews and Baptist, but under the guidance of William Ellis Jones, who was a printer before the war, who was a confederate veteran and would have known Frank Baptist, as they were both artillerists in Lee’s army, both printers, and both in the quartermaster’s office in the last years of the war. William worked in the quartermasters office until the fall of Richmond (un-like Baptist who went back to the battlefield), and William would have had access to those quartermasters records, and would have been in a situation to save them from the evacuation fires that consumed much of Richmond’s history.

SECOND: I believe that the Peter Dietz family had relations in Virginia prior to Peter settling in Richmond in 1873ish. It is my working theory that these relations are connected in some way to the John Walton Smith, John Wesley Smith, Ella Cordilia Smith, Lemira Virginia Smith line.

Part of my reasoning is the obvious “Dietz” name in common between Lemira Virginia (aka “Aunt Dietz”). The other is that it was very common, almost mandatory, that early apprenticeships were served under the supervision of blood or marriage relations; before a person was “set loose” to either succeed or humiliate his family out in public. I believe that William supervised August first, then graduated him to his friend and former comrade Frank Baptist in order to finish his professional education.

As of yet, I cannot prove any of my theories. I would like your assistance!


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