I’m not going to lie. I can be a bit impulsive at times. Usually this happens when out shopping and I purchase something and return it the next day because in reality, I never needed it to begin with. But sometimes, just sometimes, my impulsivity transfers into my research and assumptions of Sligo and I’m left feeling a little silly.
I follow a page on Facebook called “Spotsylvania Memory” which is constantly being updated with pictures and stories of the people who once lived in Spotsylvania and the surrounding areas. It is also a blog which you can follow here: http://spotsylvaniamemory.blogspot.com/. Anyway, one of the more recent Facebook posts included a picture I have come across many times before because it is labeled as “the Ferneyhough place.”
From the first time I saw it (after an initial impulse to assume it was a picture of the original Sligo) I felt confident it was not “our” Ferneyhough place, past or present. For one, the outbuilding placement didn’t match and, two (and I’m no period clothing expert) but it occurred to me that the clothing was more consistent with what people would have worn in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which would coincide with when present day Sligo was built (plus, and more importantly, this house looks nothing like Sligo).
Naturally, then, I wondered which Ferneyhough did this particular house belong to? When I saw the Facebook post I took a chance and asked whether it was known which Ferneyhough owned the place. Spotsylvania Memory answered my question indicating that as far as he knew the house had belonged to Robert Walker Ferneyhough. I was elated to have confirmation that this wasn’t Sligo (in case there was any lingering doubt) but also to know how there was a connection. Elation = impulsivity.
Excitedly, I proclaimed to the world what a great find it was, reassuring my belief that it was not Sligo pictured. I started looking more into Robert Walker because, ironically enough, I had recently been gifted something that had belonged to him (more on that in a bit). However, the more I researched, the more I decided that it couldn’t possibly have been Robert Walker’s property because he lived most of his life in Essex. So, I proclaimed to the world for a second time that this was not Robert Walker’s house and I took back everything I said.
Guess what? It is Robert Walker’s house. I take back what I said, again…for realsy this time.
Quick refresher course on Sligo and the Ferneyhough family. First we had John Robert Ferneyhough Sr. and Margaret Walker who had three children: John Robert Jr., Frances, and Margaret. John Ferneyhough Jr. married Frances Gilbert and together they had five children: John, Mary Ann, Thomas Gilbert, Edward, and Robert Walker. When Frances died John Ferneyhough Jr. married Eliza Thrift and together they had George Thrift and Sallie Magruder. If all of these same-named but different people don’t make you want to tear your hair out then maybe you’re more cut-out for this than I am. Also, for the purpose of this post, we’re only really interested in Robert Walker but I thought I might give a little more context by including all of the family tree.
Robert Walker was born in 1816 in Fredericksburg, presumably at Sligo. He married Frances Polexna Cauthorn in 1842 in Essex, Virginia where they lived until 1854 when they purchased the property in Spotsylvania County from William Hall (retrieved 22 May 2020, http://fbgresearchindxes.umw.edu/SpotsyEmbIdxSch.asp?andor=AND&Grantor=&Grantee=&property=&book=OO&page=373&process=newsearch&B1=Search). In 1860, there is a slave census for Robert Walker in Chancellor, Virginia which includes three females and one male infant. We know from Spotsylvania Memory that the house pictured above was once situated on Catharpin Road in Spotsylvania County and it stands to reason this is the same house purchased by Robert Walker and for which the slave census was taken.
Robert Walker and Frances had five children: John Robert (that makes a third John Robert Ferneyhough in case anyone lost track), Mary (who married Henry Garnett Chesley), Milton, Henry, and Charles. In 1885 Frances passes away and in 1896, the Spotsylvania property on Catharpin Road is sold to Mary Chesley and her brother, John Robert (retrieved 22 May 2020, http://fbgresearchindxes.umw.edu/SpotsyEmbIdxSch.asp?andor=AND&Grantor=&Grantee=&property=&book=AH&page=142&process=newsearch&B1=Search). By 1906 the property is sold out of the Ferneyhough family. Robert Walker eventually passes away in Stafford in 1907 at the home of his son, Milton.
This is all to say that I should delve deeper in my research before making any statements. I mean, in the end, nobody is hurt by it except for me and my pride. Sadly, I don’t think this is the first time I’ve made proclamations only to be proven wrong (by myself) so you would think I would have learned a lesson by now. I haven’t.
Anyway, I also wanted to share with you a pair of 213 year old books that once belonged to Robert Walker and Eliza Ferneyhough which we received from one of the Ferneyhough descendants. If my calculations are correct Robert Walker would have been this person’s great uncle (could totally be wrong, correct me if so!) and Eliza their great-great grandmother.
Robert Walker’s book is particularly special because in it he doodled and it’s all quite cunning. Eventually, the books ended up in the care of John Bowie Ferneyhough (as indicated by the sticker on the inside) who would have been the gifter’s grand uncle (is that a thing…he was the same generation as the gifter’s grandfather…or does that make him the great uncle and therefore Robert Walker a great-great uncle…oh, lort…). From there they managed to stay in the family and now they are back where they started, at Sligo. I have an old curio that I have been storing all of my Sligo related artifacts and it’s my hope that the books will always stay at Sligo.
Without further ado! The books!
One thought on “Robert Walker Ferneyhough”
I just talked with my brother about the books. I am so glad Henry sent them to you. He will be 104 this year! His father, Robert, was America’s little brother. His dad, My great uncle Bob was a renowned veterinarian in VA mainly horses.