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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 46 -- Remembering Robert E. Lee.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 45 -- The Road Back to Ohio.

On the afternoon of our excursion to Walnut Grove Cemetery, as we passed along the Ridge Road leading from the tavern past our grandfather's house and the Van Pelt mansion, Minerva asked me whether we were near Elizabeth Zane's home, the place where she had died. I told her that we were, and, pointing it out to her, told her that it was just east of and adjoining our grandfather's farm. Then known as the McGlen farm, it had formerly been owned by Jacob Clark, the husband of Elizabeth Zane, and it was here she died in 1828 at the age of 63. She was born on the south side of the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in the little town of Woodsfield. Jacob Clark subsequently sold the acreage to Jacob Van Pelt, and for a time it became a part of the Van Pelt farm. It was afterward sold to Edward McGlen.

The first old log schoolhouse in the area stood on the Van Pelt farm close by the corner of the Clark farm, a gate opening into the field just at that point. "Is that house the one in which she lived?" Minerva asked. "No," I told her, "it is gone, and this one replaces it. The first log schoolhouse was built here in 1816, in the woods."

"Was not the Van Pelt farm formerly the property of the Lee heirs, one of whom is the present General Robert E. Lee?" asked Minerva. "A portion of it came from the Lee heirs, as also did the Chandler and Woods farms, as well as our own. As I now recall, three sections of land here were granted to the father of General Robert E. Lee for his military services in the Revolutionary war."

Our good friend, John Lee Van Pelt, son of Jacob, was named after General Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee owned much land in this section, and always stopped at Van Pelt's when out here from Alexandria, Virginia, collecting rents and payments on land, Van Pelt being his agent here in such matters. The Van Pelt residence was then a log building and stood down by the spring and the old pear tree at the foot of the orchard where we schoolboys used to get water and steal pears. On one of General Lee's visits here, when John Lee was a mere boy just learning to walk, someone of the family called him by name. Lee noticed it and asked where he got his name. The general was told that the youngster had been named in his honor.

General Lee said nothing until the next morning, but when about to leave, said, "Van Pelt, did you really name that boy for me?" "I certainly did," said Jacob. "Then let me say," replied Lee, "I have here some notes still remaining against you for this land not yet due. I am going to give this boy these notes. When he arrives at full age, I want you to pay him what is due me for them, with accrued interest. If you will agree to do this, I will hand them over." It was agreed to and the farm released. When Jacob Van Pelt died, the amount accrued to John Lee practically would have absorbed the whole farm, but John Lee Van Pelt waived his right, taking no more than the others, it being that part east of the road. He was a liberal-hearted, noble fellow, and this act was typical of the man. He married Miss Rebecca Martin, whose father, Ebenezer Martin, married a daughter of Elizabeth Zane, and who laid out the town of Martinsville on his land, now Martins Ferry.

During the war, one William Miller, who was a 1st West Virginia Regiment cavalryman during the Civil War, was taken prisoner by the Confederates and charged with being a spy. He was taken before General Robert E. Lee, who asked him who he was and where he lived. On being told Ohio, near Martinsville, he was asked whom he knew on the hills surrounding that town. Among others be mentioned Jacob Van Pelt. He was asked the names of Van Pelt's children. Miller named them, among them John Lee -- as he was always known and called -- Miller having enlisted from the Ohio side where he lived. When he mentioned John Lee, the general asked him if he too was in the army. Miller replied he did not know. General Lee told him he was free to go, and to take his kind regards to John Lee and tell him that if he was in the service and ever got captured, to ask to be brought before General Lee. Miller declared this incident saved his life; yet he knew nothing at the time of the origins of John Lee's name, and was not even then told of the land matter.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 47 -- The Story of Elizabeth Zane.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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