Tag Archives: Women

Addie Gray Bowles (1881 – 1918)

Addie Gray Bowles

Addie Gray Bowles – Gravestone in Shockoe Cemetery

Addie Gray Bowles (1881 – 1918)
Addie Gray Bowles enters the Jones family line on October 20, 1898, upon her marriage to F. Ellis Jones. She was born July 31, 1881, the fifth daughter of Drury Wood Bowles (1847 – 1910) and Regina Bowles (ne. Elmore) (1847 – 1906), of Richmond. Her father was the son of an ancient Virginia family whose seat was “Bowlesville”; a large plantation estate in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Her lineage is extremely well established and is documented in the various genealogies of Virginia’s oldest, colonial-era families. I will leave the specifics of her heritage for biographers whose purpose is different than mine. It will suffice to say that F. Ellis married significantly “up” in social class, if not in wealth (as most of the Bowles wealth was destroyed with the Confederacy.) Addie Gray was a warmly welcomed addition to the Jones family.

Like so many of the descendants of the old Southern families in the period after the Civil War, Addie Gray Bowles family’s wealth was history – but her principles and inherited sense of “place” in society was absolutely unshaken. She was raised in an ancient tradition of noblesse oblige that seems almost quaintly old-fashioned to us today. She was well-accomplished in the fine arts of domesticity, and upon entering the Jones household at just seventeen years old, took her place alongside her mother-in-law and her husband’s aunt “Deitz” (Lemira Virginia Smith), making herself indispensable in every way she could think of.

She was a famous cook, a gifted seamstress, and a devoted nurse. She extended her ministrations throughout the neighborhood, attending to the well-being of those less fortunate than herself. She was, as accounted by my Grandfather, one of the kindest and most unselfish individuals he ever knew, as well as exceedingly tolerant and sympathetic to the plight of former slaves and their children who struggled in post-Reconstruction Richmond. If this is true (and I have no reason whatsoever to believe it is not), then Addie Gray Bowles is to be credited – along with “Aunt Dietz” – with injecting into our family line the philosophy and principles of equality, fairness, and tolerance that have been carried through to the present generation.

My grandfather records in our family history that his mother’s life was unremarkable. I tend to believe that every generation is unfair to its parents, and perhaps makes too much romance around the myths of those long since dead. This has to be the case with Addie Gray Bowles, for her life and what little I know of it seem quite remarkable to me. If half of what he wrote about her character and abilities is true, then she was an exceptional person indeed.

In her absolute dedication to her husband’s family, her mother-in-law, Ella Cordelia Jones (ne. Smith), likened Addie Gray to the Biblical Ruth:

“…And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God…”
– The Book of Ruth 1:15

Addie Gray gave her husband just one child, my grandfather, William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951.) He was named after his grandfather.

Her father-in-law, William Ellis Jones, died in April of 1910 when his namesake was just a month shy of his tenth birthday. Just a few months later in November of that same year, she lost her husband and was left a twenty-seven year old widow. Instead of remarrying to ensure her own financial security, she redoubled her dedication to her remaining in-laws, her neighbors, her church, and to her sense of duty toward the well-being of those around her. In 1917, she and her now-teenaged son lost yet another close friend and in-law, Lemira Virginia Gibbs (ne. Smith) – the beloved Aunt “Deitz”

This loss was felt especially keenly by young William, who was as devoted to her as to any other member of his extremely close-knit family.

In 1918 when the “Spanish Flu” pandemic swept over Richmond, Addie Gray became a nurse to most of her own family and the neighborhood at large. She opened her home, making it a hospital to her brother’s entire family who were sick with the dreaded and rapidly spreading infection, and she nursed her son through it and saw him recover his health. For months she toiled in hospital rooms and visited the sick all over her neighborhood, trying to bring aid and comfort wherever she could. The many weeks and months of exhausting toil wore down her constitution; by October of 1918 she had contracted the infection herself. She died on October 14, 1918 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery next to her husband, F. Ellis Jones.

One year later, in 1919, Ella Cordelia Jones (ne. Smith) passed away. Her grandson William was at her side when she took her last breath. She was buried next to her husband in Shockoe Cemetery.

William Ellis Jones, the only child of F. Ellis Jones and Addie Gray Jones (ne. Bowles) was not yet twenty years old when cherished Aunt “Dietz”, his mother, and then his grandmother died in close succession. In the course of less than ten years he had buried every single person who was near and beloved to him.

He was a boy left alone; utterly and completely alone.


Primary Source: The Baby Book / William Ellis Jones Jr. Family History, By William Ellis Jones Junior (1936)

Lemira Virginia Smith (1844 – 1917) | Aunt “Dietz”

House on Smith's Hill - Destroyed in the Evacuation Fire of April 2, 1865

House on Smith’s Hill – Destroyed in the Evacuation Fire of April 2, 1865

Lemira Virginia Smith (1844 – 1917)
Lemira Virginia Smith was the older sister of Ella Cordelia Smith, who married William Ellis Jones (1838 – 1910). The two sisters were unusually close, and remained together under the same roof for the greatest part of their lives. Lemira was born on October 12, 1844, most likely in Petersburg, Virginia. We know nothing of her childhood, except that which can be assumed from her lineage and upbringing – which she shared in common with her sister.

Her story is noteworthy on several accounts, the first of which has to do with the circumstances of her marriage to a young Confederate Army doctor, William H. Gibbs. The marriage was planned for April 8, 1865, and was to take place at her father’s home on Smith’s Hill in Richmond. This date is quite significant, as it is one day after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox, and just a few days after the Evacuation Fire that destroyed Richmond.

Her father’s home on Smith Hill was completely destroyed in the fires that leveled Richmond. According to the family lore, the property was used by Confederate forces to hide several gunpowder magazines. This was a common practice during the Civil War; the belief being that it was better to distribute armaments in small collections all over town than to risk the capture of one, centralized storehouse. When the fire touched the gunpowder, the whole cache exploded and took the house and everything on the hill with it in a dramatic fireball.

Despite the loss of the city, the loss of her family’s home, and the uncertain, bleak cloud that hung over the prospects of every Southerner in those dark days, the marriage between Lemira and Dr. Gibbs did, in fact, take place on the appointed date. This fact demonstrates a level of fortitude and determined optimism that’s difficult to conceive of today.

It has to be assumed that Dr. William Gibbs died young, as he exits the family lore almost as soon as he enters it. We know that Lemira took up residence in the Richmond household of her brother-in-law, William Ellis Jones (1838 – 1910) and went with them to Dumbarton in the early 1880’s when he built “Summerfield”. She remained with the family in complete partnership with her younger sister for the rest of her life.

According to William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951) “Aunt Dietz”, as she was known to him and to his father, F. Ellis, was a most beloved and cherished person who was as much a mother to them in their separate generations as their own mothers. She did not have children of her own, and the impression given by my grandfather is that she looked to her sisters children as her own; caring for them, loving them, nursing them when they were ill, and educating them as they grew. She dedicated her life to the care and bringing up of her nephews and then later to the next generation of great-nieces and nephews.
In a particularly weighty entry, my grandfather records the following:

“…She taught me to read and what to read. Half the great books that I know were read to me by her; Shakespeare, Don Quixote, and Robinson Crusoe were read aloud to me before my teens. Whatever leaning I have in the direction of tolerance was drilled into my head by her example and precept. More than any other person, she educated me and gave me the character and personality I have today.

She died just before Christmas, 1917 and I was with her at the time. Her going left a void in the world that time has not filled. I would have my children cherish her memory with love and reverence, and tell their own children of her. I cannot hope that they will be like her, for she was the product of a culture now vanished from the face of the earth.”
William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951)

Aunt “Deitz” is recalled in these pages, her memory honored, and her contribution noted and deeply appreciated. I wish my grandfather was here to read his recollection of her published for future generations to appreciate.


Primary Source: The Baby Book / William Ellis Jones Jr. Family History, By William Ellis Jones Junior (1936)

Ella Cordelia Smith (1851 – 1919)

House on Smith's Hill - Destroyed in the Evacuation Fire of April 2, 1865

House on Smith’s Hill – Destroyed in the Evacuation Fire of April 2, 1865

Ella Cordelia Smith (1851 – 1919)
For the first time in this lengthy family history we finally get to learn something of substance in regards to the character and personality of some of the women of the family.

Ella Cordelia Smith entered the family line upon her marriage to William Ellis Jones (1838 – 1910) in 1874, and the birth of their first son, Florence Ellis Jones in 1875.

Ella was born March 14, 1851 in Petersburg, Virginia. She was the daughter of John Wesley Smith (1818 – 1854) and Francis Sephronia Osgood (1817 – 1903), who prior to the Civil War built a fine house on Smith’s Hill in Richmond. Her grandparents were, on her father’s side; John Walton Smith (1787 – 1861) and Mary Budd (unknown); and on her mother’s side; Sewell Osgood (unknown) and Francis Courtney (unknown), who was daughter of Thomas Courtney of King William County, Virginia.

Unlike most other women in our line, her lineage was carefully recorded in the family record for one crucially important reason; she was a daughter of one of Virginia’s “old” family’s. She was a child of the upper classes (as was her sister Florence, William’s first wife of 1866), and as such she elevated William’s “status” in the very status oriented society of Virginia. Ella’s people probably possessed significant wealth and property in and around Petersburg and Richmond prior to the Civil War. Whether they retained that wealth after the war is less important to the story. In the South (as it is among some of New England’s oldest families), genealogical longevity, establishment in the community and good breeding had more to do with maintaining or building social standing than did actual wealth.

William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951), recalled his grandmother fondly in The Baby Book. He knew her personally and I cannot improve upon his impression, therefore I will not attempt it:

“…I remember her as a stately old lady with charming manners. In her girlhood she had been beautiful, and she grew old gracefully. She had a gift for social life, and among a wide circle of friends was considered an amusing conversationalist.
She was not as tolerant of the changed order of things in the South after the War as was her husband. She was born a rabid rebel and continued so until her death. She loved the South passionately and had little patience with anything north of the Mason and Dixon Line. With northern people she was polite but constrained. I think she looked on them as undesirable aliens. She lived and died completely unreconstructed…

…She was proud, proud of her class, her state, and her sons. This pride served to create in her a sense of responsibility. It forced her to walk very straight and deal very high all her days. She demanded truth and courage from all persons with whom she had to do. She did not have much patience with weakness, none at all with her own…

…If the foregoing makes her seem a hard person, I have done her a great injustice. She was (one) of the most affectionate and lovable persons, but that side of her nature was reserved for her own. She simply had no taste for the hoi polio. She was an aristocrat by nature and she lived in awareness of that fact and under the obligation of noblesse oblige.”
– William Ellis Jones (1899 – 1951)

Ella Cordelia Smith was seized by a stroke shortly after her husband’s death in 1910. She suffered paralysis and involuntary muscle seizures and cramps, causing her a great deal of pain until her death on January 19, 1919. She was cared for in her final nine years of disability by her daughter-in-law, Addie Gray Bowles, and her sister, Lemira Virginia Gibbs (ne. Smith), who resided in the Jones household.

Ella Cordelia Smith is buried next to her husband, William Ellis Jones, at the Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond.


Primary Source: The Baby Book / William Ellis Jones Jr. Family History, By William Ellis Jones Junior (1936)

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