Alvy Dortch left Mecklenburg for economic reasons

Alvin(Alvy) Dortch endured many tragedies and hardships. He was one of five children. His mother Sarah Poythress died when he was only age 9. His father and two other siblings died by the time he was age 14. He also suffered from severe depression. I assume Alvin’s older sister Martha was like a mother figure to him. Martha married John Vaughan and died about the time Alvy was being sued for debt. Maybe after she died, Alvy didn’t think there was any reason to stay in the area. Since he couldn’t farm, it was hard to remain in a predominately farming area and survive economically.

After his parent’s death, Alvy lived with Rebecca Stanley, who I believe was his aunt. (Rebecca’s maiden name was Poythress). His brother, Oliver Jasper Dortch (known as “O.J.”) was living with Dr. Riggan, who was a dentist. Dr. Riggan had three marriages without any children. I’ve been wondering if there’s any family relationship with Dr. Riggan or his second wife Eliza Hart. Or perhaps Dr. Riggan was simply generous and tried to help his neighbors out of financial difficulties.

Alvy was conscripted into the Confederate Army at about age 18, while he was visiting Petersburg. He was first made a guard at a hospital. After getting sick several times, he put in a request to be transferred to serve with a troop of men who he knew. He ended up being a prisoner, yet survivor, of Point Lookout.

His oldest daughter, Theresa, had a seizure by the fireplace. Her dress caught fire and she died in front of her two young children, Fanne and Maude (ages 5 & 2). This happened while the men of the area were out harvesting tobacco. That same day, Alvy took his granddaughters Fannie and Maude Gray home with him. He raised them as his own children. His youngest child, Millard Dortch, was two years younger than his granddaughter Maude Gray and four years older than his other granddaughter Fannie Gray.

Part of Sally Vick’s 1951 letter. Sally was daughter of Alvy & Tennessee Dortch

With his war wounds, Alvy was unable to farm.  So, he created a wagon train business carting goods from the farmers in Mecklenburg, Virginia, to markets in Petersburg. Virginia’s economy was in tatters for decades after the war. There was catastrophic economic damage from the economic “Panic of 1893”. 15,000 businesses and 500 banks in the U.S. failed. No one had money. Farms were failing from drought and farmers lost their lands.  During the country’s economic crisis, Alvy struggled to provide for his wife, eleven children and two grandchildren. He applied for a military pension but received a rejection letter. He borrowed money from Dr. Riggan, but couldn’t earn enough to pay back the last $120 of the loan before Dr. Riggan died. As executor, Dr. Riggan’s (third) wife called in his debts.  Alvy became insolvent.

During times of trial, we often want to be with someone who understands us. I believe that’s what led Alvy to move to Southampton County, Virginia. There, he lived near his friend,  Samuel J. Glover. I haven’t been able to figure out yet, if Alvy’s wife, Tennessee Glover, was related to his friend. Samuel and Alvy had been in the same military unit. After the war, Samuel Glover lived with a ‘Hart’ family that is possibly related to Eliza Hart, second wife of Dr. Riggan. After leaving Mecklenburg, all of Alvy’s adult children were working, trying to earn money where they could. His wife, Tennessee, and a few children temporarily moved to Petersburg to get jobs, while Alvy worked at various odd jobs. The whole family moved to Kankakee, IL (just south of Chicago) about 1903. The family worked in factories there, including the Paramount Knitting Company. Tennessee and Alvy ran a boarding house.  It was big enough to house their young adult children, 4 grandchildren and 3 boarders.  One boarder married Alvin’s daughter Martha.

Fannie Gray married George Stowe, had eleven children and remained in the Kankakee area most of her adult life. When Fannie was much older, her daughter Catherine started asking about where she was from, interested in knowing more about her family in Virginia. Fannie didn’t really remember or know. Catherine started writing letters, which were given to me when I started asking the same questions.

1942 Fannie Gray

Virginia Veteran records & monuments

These are some pictures I took in Jan 2006 at the Virginia War Monument, located at: 621 S Belvidere St, Richmond, VA 23220. I highly recommend a visit.

I’ve visited this Monument several times. I’ve also told several friends and family who are veterans about this monument. They all told me they were really impressed and glad they visited. This picture above (that I use for my profile picture) was taken by my husband during our visit in March 2008.

Here is a link to this monument’s website. There are more pictures with a brief video clip: https://vawarmemorial.org/plan-your-visit/

All the names of known Virginia veterans, who died in combat from World War II to Vietnam, are on the wall. There is also a research room and visitor center.

Mar 2008, in the Virginia War Monument visitor center
March 2008, in Visitor Center at the Virginia War Monument

I asked about WWI veterans at this monument. I was told about another monument in Richmond, built in 1932. It’s in the William Byrd Park. The gold star began with WWI. Families hung a blue star in their window, often near their front door. One blue star for each soldier in their family. A silver star for wounded. When someone died, a gold star was placed over the blue star. The newspapers also ran columns labeled Gold Star Veterans when casualty lists were reported. Or small town newspapers reported on a local gold star veteran.

1918 newspaper clipping
Mar 2008, Virginia WWI monument

Here is a link about this WWI monument. It ended up raining on my visit. Some brighter pictures and more information about the monument are at this link: https://www.carilloncivic.org/CarillonHistory.php


Virginia did something unique after World War I, which I think is a treasure 100 years later. All veterans who survived WWI were asked to fill in a questionnaire. I’ve seen some records handwritten, some typed. Questions like: their occupation before the war, religion, how many times gassed, where served, and their opinion about several things. It used to be one of the searchable databases on Library of Virginia website and you could download TIFF files of these scanned records. Now, with the updated website, you can search by the veteran’s name. These questionnaires are also a part of the transcribing projects.

Here is a link to the WWI collections on the Library of Virginia website. Info about war and Virginia veteran projects (includes pictures): http://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/ww1/#questionnaires

Charlie Lee Clark-WWII veteran

Charlie Lee Clark was the son of George Clark and Blanche Woodard. Charlie was born in Richford, New York, but was raised in Halifax County, Virginia. Charlie married Rosa Drewery Dortch, who was known by her friends and family as Drew Dortch. (Her brother, Robert Leonard Dortch was the previous veteran spotlight on this website.) Relatives told me that Eugene Dortch who was listed in records as the son of Charles Dortch and Rosa Perkinson (Drew’s parents), was really the son of Charlie Clark and Drew Dortch. Drew and Charles were not married when Eugene was born, so he was adopted by Drew’s parents. Eugene and Drew were raised in Mecklenburg, Virginia. I’m not sure if Charlie ever lived in Mecklenburg or how he and Drew knew each other. On the 1930 Census, Charlie is living with his parents in Halifax county, VA, listed as single, and Drew is with her parents in Mecklenburg, VA, listed as single. I first see them together (noted as married) on the 1935 Richmond City directory. On the 1940 Census, Eugene was living with his parents at 3112 Elwood Avenue. I found a 1940 “for rent” ad in the Richmond Times Dispatch Newspaper for this Ellwood Avenue house . Listed as 7 rooms, $40.00 per month. Charlie and Drew rented this home for decades! Between 1935 and 1939 Charles and Drew are listed on city directories at 2 different apartments on South 3rd street. Charlie lived at this Ellwood Ave home from 1940 until his death in 1960. Drew is believed to have stayed in this same home until her death in 1980. This home is in the area of Carytown. It’s near museums and monuments. It’s also not far from Maymont, where I believe this picture of Charlie (above) was taken; near the waterfall and Italian gardens. Link to see Maymont info: https://maymont.org/visit/

The Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 9 Jun 1945

Charlie was in his mid 30’s when he joined the Navy during WWII. Charlie survived his ship being sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. He would have been 39 years old at the time of this event! Before and after the war, Charlie worked for Dupont.

Charlie and Drew’s tombstone are the two front tombstones in this picture. This cemetery is the Richmond National Cemetery, in Henrico, Virginia. On Charlie’s military papers (not pictured in this post), under physical descriptions and markings, the record says: tattoo Left tricep, in horseshoe “R. D. D”. (His wife’s initials)

Pictures of Charlie and his family are from Jamie Malagorski and Aggie Reynolds. Virginia Oakley Shutt and Mary Walker (Drew’s cousins & friends) also talked to me about Drew and Charlie back in 2002-2003.

Robert Leonard Dortch-WWII veteran

Robert Leonard Dortch was in the Army during WWII. I’m told he went more by his middle name of Leonard. His registration card says he was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, 165 pounds, blue eyes, black hair and dark complexion. After the war, Leonard lived in Norfolk for awhile. While married to Virginia Johnson, he ran a restaurant with her in Norfolk.

These pictures (below) are believed to be soon after Leonard married Virginia (Dec 1953). He wanted to introduce his bride to his friends and show her where he grew up. These pictures were most likely taken in Forkesville, where these people who are pictured lived. The first picture is Leonard with his wife Virginia Johnson, and Annie Burton Wright. The second picture is (left to right), Ida Lee White, her sister, Leonard, Grady Clary’s wife, Annie Burton Wright and Grady Clary. Leonard was also married to Patricia Morse. And he had a relationship in high school and later in life with Ida White. Leonard had 4 children. One child with Patricia and 3 children with Virginia.

Leonard was the son of Charles Dortch and Rosa Lee Perkinson. Leonard’s father was an alcoholic, and his brother David died in an accident of a still catching on fire. When WWII started, only his mother and sister Drew were still living. His father and 2 brothers had died. His mother died in 1945. His sister Drew Dortch, (the wife of Charlie Clark ) was on his registration card as next of kin.

Leonard was one of the first people I started asking about on my early visits to Mecklenburg; asking if people knew where he lived or anything about his family. I’m a descendant of Charles’ sister, Theresa India Dortch. Leonard’s parents and brothers were buried in the Perkinson, Smelley, Walker family cemetery off Country Club Rd. Drew was buried by her husband in a veteran cemetery in Richmond. I met Ray Hines who told me he was good friends with Leonard. Ray told me he was at Leonard’s funeral and the burial was at Crestview in 1988. He also helped me ID some of the people in the pictures. I’m told Charles Dortch had a farm off Route 1. (Or highway 1), and that Leonard was raised there.

All of the pictures in this post were shared with me, by Jamie Malagorski.

Henry Clay Kidd-WWI Veteran

Henry Clay Kidd was a wounded WWI veteran. He stayed awhile in a European hospital recovering. Henry was gassed badly during the war. It affected his lungs and skin for the rest of his life. He returned to the United States Apr 1919.

I met Elva Kidd White two months ago (Mar 2020). She showed me this picture (above) of her father. I asked Elva what she did as a teenager for dating or courting. She answered me, “Nothing! My father said I wasn’t allowed to date!” She did not date until after she left home and moved to Richmond. Elva knew Warren White when she was younger. They wrote eachother letters during WWII. I asked Elva how her parents met. She said she didn’t know, that wasn’t the type of question they could really ask. Adults found it intrusive or too personal. This is Elva’s parents: Henry Clay Kidd and Susie Littleton Seymour’s wedding picture. They married 1 Mar 1923, in Brodnax. (Brodnax is a town partly in Mecklenburg County, partly in Brunswick County)

Henry Kidd owned a store in South Hill. At first, Henry’s family lived in town; then they moved to the country to have a farm. Their farm supplied the store with produce, milk etc… Elva told me she never felt hungry. They were always well fed and did well financially during the Depression. Her father tried to help people with jobs, and tried to be a good and fair employer. On Sundays, Henry’s family went to church, then visited with his wife’s family in Brodnax. They had a car, electricity, and a phone at home and also at the store long before more rural parts of Mecklenburg had these luxuries. Elva wrote in her family history memoirs book, “Even during the Depression, I always had plenty of food and the clothing I needed. My father didn’t even finish the grammar grades, but had beautiful handwriting, was a hard worker, and provided for his family. He worked on Saturday nights until midnight, but never worked on Sundays. He started with asthma when he was in his early 40’s: A result of the mustard gas and trench warfare of WWI”

Henry Clay Kidd

Above is the ship manifest showing Henry coming home to his father Charles Kidd, in Bracey, VA. Charles would have been married to Lucy Burton then, (1919) living on highway 903 in Bracey. Henry Kidd was the sister of Nancy Kidd. Two of Nancy’s sons (Charles and Aubrey Tudor) have been the last two veteran spotlights on this website. Here is a chart showing Henry’s branch of the family. This download is a PDF size 8.5×11.

I’m very thankful to Elva’s sons, Brent & Randall White, for helping me meet Elva and get copies of these pictures. The White family has done an amazing, truly impressive job, preserving older pictures and stories!

Charles Tudor-WWII Veteran

Charles Allen Tudor

This picture of Charles Tudor was his parent’s picture. It’s still hanging up on the wall of his parent’s old house. I asked about the frame and was told that’s how the military pictures were framed, with the eagle frame and rounded glass. The rounded glass broke, but the frame and picture were untouched. New, flat glass was put into the frame, which thankfully is much easier to make a copy of the picture.

Charles was the son of James Oliver “Ollie” Tudor and Nancy Elizabeth Kidd. Charles was the 6th of 11 children. I met Charles’ younger brother Lindbergh Tudor. Lindbergh told me he had several older brothers in the war, but he was too young to enlist by just a few months. Aubrey Tudor, another sibling of Charles and Lindbergh will be the next veteran spotlight post. I met Elva Kidd White who told me she wrote letters to her cousins oversees every Sunday. (Elva’s father and Charles’ mother were siblings.) She showed me a copy of his last letter home, written 27 Nov 1944. This letter was received, then the next day, the family found out he had died. Here is Charles signature and the last paragraph of the letter, about lots of rain and asking about Thanksgiving:

Charles Tudor’s signature
Note: J O Tudor was Charles father
Charles Tudor’s name on the Virginia War monument in Richmond, Virginia