Memories of a Long Life

By Betty Churchill Lacy

When I was five years old I was taken by my parents in their four horse coach to visit Dr. Peyton Grymes near Orange Court House. From there we drove to Montpelier to visit ex-President Madison. I distinctly recall Madison as a worn, feeble old man in dressing gown, and a black silk cap lying on a couch. It was not long before his death. Mrs. Dolly Madison in her turban also made an impression on me, for she was very kind, and took me all round the rooms to see the many beautiful things with which they were filled. I remember with special delight a music box that was wound up for my amusement.

About this same time my mother, Cousin Betsy Gordon and myself, with three servants, drove in the same coach and four to Richmond. It took us a night and two days to make the trip, and I remember we stopped for the night at a very uncomfortable roadside tavern, where the entertainment was very poor. We paid a visit to the widow of my Uncle, Major Jones, in Richmond. My father was never in a public conveyance in his life, but once outside of Virginia, when he drove his own coach to Washington.

A coach and fourHis was the last four horse coach in Virginia, and he wore knee breeches and ruffled shirts to the day of his death. When I was between five and six years old I was sent to live with my sister, Mrs. Coalter, in order that I might have the opportunity to go to school. Before entering on this part of my life, however, I should like to give an outline of the history of Chatham, and how it first came into the possession of my family.


Click here to read more of Mrs. Lacy's memories online.

Editor's notes:

Betty Churchill Jones was born at Ellwood Plantation in Spotsylvania County. When she was young, she was sent to live with her half-sister, Hannah Coalter, at Chatham so that she might have the opportunity to go to school in Fredericksburg.

Betty met James Horace Lacy, a tutor to her cousins, while visiting them at Eagle Point in Gloucester County. He successfully courted the young heiress. In time, the couple bought Chatham, which they used as their winter residence.

This narrative tells how she and her six children lived through the Civil War as evacuees in Lexington and later Pulaski County, making do with "Confederate candles" and coffee made from rye and sweet potatoes. Meanwhile, her husband served as a Major in the Confederate Army. After the war, Chatham, ruined by the Northern occupation, was sold, but the Lacys retained Ellwood until Mrs. Lacy's death in 1907.