Ann R. Harvey Durrum lived to be 104, spending her entire life in Appomattox County, Virginia. Her parents, Nathan Tanney Harvey and Harker Hutchinson Wooldridge, lived in the part of Charlotte Co. that was annexed to form Appomattox in 1845, 3 years before her birth. Back country inhabitants of Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, and Prince Edward counties found travel to the county seats inconvenient for business and voting, and the state eventually authorized the formation of this new county. Clover Hill (formerly in Prince Edward Co.), a stop on the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road and home to fewer than 100, was designated the county seat and eventually renamed Appomattox Courthouse. A Courthouse was built across the road from the Tavern and other businesses were established there during the 1850's. However, these businesses eventually relocated to Appomattox Depot, 3 miles away, as transportation patterns changed. The railroad was routed through the Depot in 1854 and eventually the stage stopped running.
Appomattox was a tobacco farming area. Though population was stagnate (decreasing from about 9,200 to 8,900 from 1850 to 1860), tobacco production almost doubled in the same period, from 964,000 pounds to 1,777,000 pounds per year. This was possible because slaves, who comprised slightly over half the population, were not free to seek opportunities westward like the poorer white citizens.
In the 1860 census we see that the Harvey family was surrounded by relatives, including brothers, sisters and the parents of both Nathan and Harker. Nathan was a shoemaker, who farmed on the side, but most of their relatives were exclusively farmers. Nathan Harvey did not own any real estate or slaves, as he was not a farmer. However, an older Harvey (perhaps an uncle) living close enough to be on the same page of the census, owned 77 slaves in 1840.
Ann married John J. Durrum in Dec. 1866, a year and a half after he was released from the Fort Delaware prisoner of war camp. He was a farmer, though his step-father was a shoemaker like Ann's father. His father had died either shortly before or after he was born in the part of Prince Edward Co. that would shortly be annexed into Appomattox. He had 2 older brothers, and his mother remarried quickly - he had a half-sister only 1 year younger than he was. By the time he was 15 he no longer lived in their household, probably working as a farm laborer. 2 years later he enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy.
Appomattox County records were burned in 1892. Because of this there are no court or property records to elaborate this picture, which is put together mostly from census records.
With the formation of the county "Court Day", held one Thursday a month, became quite a social event. Civil and criminal cases were adjudicated in the courthouse, and farmers were attracted for business and social activities. Auctions of cattle and slaves were held next to the courthouse, and farmers set up stands to sell their produce. Political speeches might be given, and the local militia might gather to exercise, marching around the town.
Ann and John raised a family of seven children, born over 15 years. The youngest was Cora Fannie, Grandma Bea's mother. Farming in this period was much more difficult than earlier. By 1870, the economic boom of the late antebellum period had come to an end. Tobacco output had dropped to 657,000 pounds as a result of soil depletion and the loss of labor. Local farmers were forced to increase production of grains, such as corn, oats, and wheat, which had earlier been grown on a much smaller scale than tobacco.
The center of social activity in the county was the church. In the mid-1800's, the county had twenty-four churches, mostly Baptist. (The Durrums and the Johnsons seem to have been Baptists.) The large Scotch-Irish population of the area founded a number of Presbyterian churches. Ministers were quite often the school teachers too, so there was a close tie between churches and education. We know the church continued to be the center of many folks' social life in the 1930's and '40's from Cora Durrum Johnson's journal.
At age 70 in 1919 Ann applied for a Confederate widow's pension, based on John's service. She lived with her son J.W. Durrum. She finally died December 26, 1952, 33 years later.© 2005 Footie Lund