William Henry Wingfield

Captain Wingfield… served in Company C, 11th Regiment, Infantry of Virginia, C.S.A. He enlisted March 18, 1862, and served until the close of the war. Available records indicate that the 11th Regiment participated in the battles of Leesburg and Manassas. It was commanded by Brig. Gen. W. R. Terry of Wytheville, and composed a part of Lee's Army at Appomattox. At one time Captain Wingfield was commanding officer of the Nowlin's Store Company No. 3 in the 117th Regiment of Virginia Militia.

After the war Captain Wingfield purchased the large estate of Dr. W. L. Graham in Campbell County on Little Falling River, where he reared a large family and lived until his death in 1907. From 1886 to 1901 he was a member of the Campbell County Board of Supervisors from Falling River District. During this period the county invested heavily in stock of the, then, Lynchburg-Halifax and North Carolina Railroad, to attract industrial development to the county. This railroad is now the Lynchburg & Durham division of the Norfolk & Western Railway system.

The Wingfield estate, including the family burying ground in which he was buried, is now in the possession of several of his grandchildren.

The Union Star, Brookneal, Va. Friday, June 21, 1946 (appears to be front page, column 4 and 5 at top)

This is the total biographical information included in a newspaper article on the ceremonies surrounding the presentation in June 1946 of a collection of over 300 books to the library in Brookneal in honor of William Henry Wingfield (WHW). It was noted that his nephew, Dr. Marshall Wingfield of Nashville, preacher and noted genealogist, eulogized his "achievements and antecessors" but no further summary was included. How Granddaddy Willie Bob, who had not inherited property and had minimal education, was connected to this family was never clear to me as a child, though I do remember hearing something about Captain Wingfield.

Using census records and, for more distant ancestors, information compiled on the Wingfield.org website (www.wingfield.org) a good deal more can be discovered.

  1. Thomas Wingfield, c.1664-1720, m. Mary [--?--], c.1670-1715, immigrated to New Kent Co., Va. (now King & Queen Co.) c.1690 from England. They were parents of
  2. John Wingfield, c.1695-c.1755, New Kent Co., Va. (later Hanover Co.), m. Mary Hudson, 1706-c.1779. They were parents of
  3. Charles Wingfield, 1728-1803, Goochland Co., Va. (later Albemarle Co.), m. Rachel Joyner, c.1731-c1802, and
    John Wingfield, 1742-c.1802, Hanover Co., Va., m. Susannah Morris (or Austin), c.1745-c.1800.
  4. William Wingfield, Sr., 1758-1836, Franklin Co., Va., son of Charles and Rachel, and
    Mary Wingfield, c.1764-aft.1840, daughter of John and Susannah, were the parents of
  5. William Wingfield, Jr., 1791-1862, Franklin Co., Va., m. Mary Brooks Tench, c.1795-aft. 1860. They were parents of
  6. William Henry Wingfield, 1826-1907, Campbell Co., Va., m. Letitia Bennett, 1830-1907. They were parents of
  7. William Preston Wingfield, 1861-1931, Lynchburg, Va., m. Nannie Bob Elder, 1863-1937. They were parents of
  8. Willie Bob Wingfield 1900-1983, Lynchburg, Va., m. Amye Beatrice Johnson, 1903-1991.

Sometime between 1800 and 1810 William Wingfield Jr., WHW's father, came to Franklin Co. from Albemarle Co. with his parents and siblings. His father William Sr. was the 4th surviving son and the land he inherited in Albemarle Co. would not have permitted him to live the same life his father had as a substantial landholder. He sold his Albemarle lands and moved on to an area not yet fully settled that offered cheaper land and new opportunities. He was repeating a pattern each of the previous 3 generations had followed. In each generation the young moved further west. First, Thomas came from England to tidal Virginia in about 1680; then his second son John moved to the western part of New Kent Co. (later Hanover Co.) and farmed in Amelia Co. in the 1720's; and John's son Charles moved on to Goochland Co. (later Albemarle Co.) in about 1760. He inherited 550 acres known as "Prospect" from his grandfather Capt. Charles Hudson when his mother Mary died. Strong connections continued between Charles and his kin in Hanover County, however. This is seen most vividly in the marriage of his sons to Hanover cousins.

The Wingfields were prosperous farmers and what is recorded of them shows they followed at least some of the cultural patterns of the tidewater elite. In Albion's Seed, by David Hackett Fischer, which describes in detail the "folkways" of this elite, detailing their social and cultural norms, we learn that the marriage of first cousins, though condemned in New England, was common in Virginia. It was important for the cohesion of the elite, and these marriages were arranged by the elders. Marriage of first cousins is quite common among the Wingfields. William Sr. and Mary, his wife, were first cousins. Two of his brothers were also married to cousins. His father Charles' comments (at the wedding of son Francis to his first cousin, Elizabeth in 1790) on cousin marriage were recorded. He "told the group that his mother and father (John and Mary Hudson Wingfield) were cousins and their children turned out all right. He said 'If you have good blood you can keep it in the family.' He added that he would rather breed his fine racing mare within his own stable than breed her to a jackass." ("John and Mary Hudson Wingfield of Hanover County, Virginia" by LeBron C. Preston and Richard Wingfield Quarles in The Virginia Genealogist, Volume 36, Number 4 October-December, 1992) So much for hybrid vigor!

William Jr. was never as prosperous as his father or grandfather. He never owned slaves, and so far I haven't even found evidence he ever owned any land. In 1820, shortly before WHW was born, he was supporting his wife and 2 small children by farming, either as a tenant or on rented land. At this time William Sr., also in Franklin Co., now in his 60's, had an extended household of 21 people, 7 white dependents and 13 black slaves, and the household included 8 men engaged in farming. He may not have been as prosperous as his father, Charles, but had land and slaves.

William Jr. moved south to Rockingham Co., NC (about 40 miles away) to farm, where WHW and one younger brother were born in the mid 1820's. If this was an attempt to obtain better opportunities by moving on, it must have failed. By 1831 the family had returned to Franklin Co., and in 1840 6 members of the household were engaged in 'manufacturing and trades' rather than farming. This was everyone in the household except the 2 children under the age 5.

WHW began his escape from this struggling lifestyle by marrying his boss's daughter. In 1850 he is listed as a laborer on Stephan Bennett's tobacco farm in Franklin County. He was 24 and the oldest daughter, Letitia, was 20. They married in January of 1854.

In 1860 he and his young family lived in Campbell Co. where he was listed as an overseer. The nearest large establishment in the census was a large tobacco farm owned by Elizabeth Nowlin. She is listed as having $16,000 in real estate and $60,000 in personal property (primarily slaves). The 3 unmarried adult children living with her were not involved in farming so she would have needed an overseer. (It is interesting to note that the oldest daughter was a librarian, and that her 2 younger sisters as well as her brother were all listed as medical students). Besides proximity, another piece of information supporting this connection is that Stephen Bennett of Pittsylania Co., quite likely either Letitia's grandfather or greatuncle, had been married to a Lucy Nowlin. This would provide a family connection through Letitia. The third indication that WHW worked on the Nowlin Plantation is his experience as "commanding officer of the Nowlin's Store Company No. 3 in the 117th Regiment of Virginia Militia." If Nowlin's Store Company No. 3 was manned almost exclusively by Elizabeth Nowlin's dependents, (and her husband ten years earlier was listed, not as a farmer, but as a merchant), it would be natural for it to be led by her overseer.

While WHW's parents and deaf and dumb sister Parthenia are listed in the 1860 census as having personal property worth $70, he and Letitia already had accumulated $715 of personal property. One can only assume Stephan and Mary Bennett doted on their oldest daughter and helped the young couple out. It also seems likely that their connections helped him obtain his position, whether through family or business is unimportant.

There are no surviving records documenting WHW's service as a Captain. He enlisted and served as a private. Company C, 11th Regiment was raised in Campbell Co., and at least some of his neighbors would have served with him, so it seems unlikely that he could have totally fabricated his service as an officer, and his later life certainly shows evidence of his leadership skills. Perhaps he rose in rank in the last days of the war, a time when the ranks thinned and records are poor.

After the war, WHW purchased "the large estate of Dr. W. L. Graham in Campbell County on Little Falling River." Who provided the funds for WHW to purchase this land? He certainly did not have the means himself. The deed recorded in 1886 shows that he bought the 537 acre estate at auction in October of 1872. The contract allowed him to pay for the land over 3 years, but the deed was not actually recorded for 14 years. His father-in-law died in 1876, and may have been the source of a bequest. In any case, he seems to have been able to take advantage of the economic disruption after the War and devaluation of land at that time when he purchased the land for $7.50 per acre.

Wm Preston and Nannie Bob Wingfield space Willie Bob Wingfield on Preston St.
William Preston WingfieldspacWillie Bob Wingfield
Nannie Bob Elderspaceeeeeeon Tulip St., Lynchburg, VA
about 1885

WHW had at least 9 children, but only 2 of them were boys. The older son, Robert Calvin, married but had no family and was remembered as a bachelor farmer, remaining in Campbell Co. his entire life. William Preston Wingfield, the fifth child, farmed in Campbell Co., living near his in-laws, the Elders, until after 1900. He then moved to Lynchburg, and Willie Bob, his youngest child, was raised entirely in town, on Tulip Street.

Family stories were told about the Elders, and pictures survive of some of them, but relations with the Wingfields were cooler. We detect some alienation of William Preston from his father in the naming of his sons. The Virginia custom of naming the oldest sons first for their paternal grandfather, and then for their father is not followed. Preston's older two sons were named Ralph and Conrad (apparently not family names at all). His third son, and seventh child finally bears the name William (in the form of Willie), but seems to take one name from each parent, rather than being named for his grandfather. None of the daughters bear family names, either. Only in the end is there evidence of continuing ties, when he was buried in the Wingfield family cemetery in Campbell County.

William Preston had over the years at least 2 small businesses, neither of them successful. He was a carter at the time of the 1910 census ('proprietor' in the 'freight transfer' business), and his death certificate lists him as owner of a gas station. This document also indicates he lived with one of his sons, while Nannie Bob, his wife, lived with another (Willie Bob) and was listed as a widow in the 1930 census, even before his death. At this time, perhaps due to the Depression, his business could not even support a small household. His sisters and their daughters were the driving force behind the memorial to William Henry that occurred in 1946, and it was the sisters' offspring who controlled the estate at that time.

© Footie Lund 2004