Albert B Osborne.

Makers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) online

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home from England, to America, Thomas Nelson, at the remark-
ably early age of twenty-one, w T as voted a member of the Virginia
House of Burgesses. He was elected to that First Convention
which assembled at Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1774, for the pur-
pose of deliberating upon England's taxation of her colonies.
Later, he was elected to the Provincial Convention. He received
in 1774 his commission as Colonel of the Second Virginia In-
fantry. In that Convention which gathered at Williamsburg in
May, 1776, to shape Virginia's Constitution, his leadership was
marked. He was the member chosen to offer the resolution in-
structing the Virginia delegates in Congress, at Philadelphia, to
propose a Declaration of Independence. He enrolled his name
among those of the signers to the paper asserting his country's
liberties, on July 4, 1776. In August, 1777, he was appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia State forces. He was chosen
Governor of Virginia in June, 1781, and Thomas Jefferson spoke
in favor of his appointment to this office.

"His popularity was unbounded," says the historian; "Cer-
tainly his patriotism was," w r rites a prominent author of the
present day. "When money was wanted to pay the troops and
run the government, Virginia's credit was low, but the Governor
was told that he could have plenty on his personal security, and
he borrowed the sum needed; when regiments mutinied, and re-
fused to march, the Governor simply drove over to Petersburg,
raised the money on his individual credit, and paid them off."

In the siege of Yorktown, holding the rank of Commander-
in-Chief of the Virginia Militia, and Major-General in the Ameri-
can Army, he led about three thousand men, raised and equipped
at his own charge. George Washington commanded that the
Continental gunners, when firing on the town, should take par-
ticular care to spare all injury to the beautiful home of the
Governor of Virginia. However, as soon as he heard of Wash-
ington's order, Nelson caused heavy artillery to be trained on his
house, and offered five guineas to the man w r hose gun should harm
it, saying to Lafayette: "Spare no particle of my property so long
as it affords comfort or shelter to the enemies of my country."


The General Orders of Washington for October 20, 1781, (the day
succeeding Cornwallis' surrender) give high praise to the work
of Nelson and Nelson's militia.

"To the Nelsons/' says the writer quoted above, "peace canie
with poverty : the Governor's vast estate went for his public debts.
He gave the whole of it. When a question arose in the Virginia
Convention as to the confiscation of British claims, he stopped
the agitation by rising in his seat and declaiming 'Others may
do as they please ; but as for me, I am an honest man, and so help
me God! I will pay my debts.' Years afterward, Virginia did
tardy and partial justice to the memory of Nelson's great serv-
ices by placing his statue among the group of her great ones in
her beautiful Capitol Square ; and, in company with Washington,
Jefferson, Marshall, Henry, Mason, and Lewis, he stands in
bronze, tendering the bonds with his outstretched hands, in per-
petuam rei memoriam."

On July 29, 1762, Governor Nelson married Lucy Grymes.
Her parents were Philip Grymes of Middlesex County, Virginia,
and Mary Kandolph, his wife, daughter of Sir John Randolph of
Wllliamsburg. "The Grymeses," says the author of "The Old
South," "enjoyed the reputation of being the cleverest family in
the Dominion."

Francis Nelson, for whom Judge Nelson is named, the fourth
son of Governor Nelson and Lucy Grymes, his wife, was born and
lived all his days at Mont Air, Hanover County. He married
Lucy Page, daughter of Honorable John Page of North End,
Gloucester County, Virginia, and grand-daughter, on the maternal
side, of Colonel William Byrd of Westover, the famous courtier,
councillor, man of letters and founder of the City of Richmond.

It is interesting to note, in passing, that through this mar-
riage, Judge Nelson is related, not only on the Nelson but also
on the Page side of the family, to Thomas Nelson Page, the gifted
Southern author, whose w r ork has been quoted above, and who is
at present, (1916) United States Ambassador to Italy.

Philip Nelson, the fifth son of Francis and Lucy Page Nelson,
born about 1811, inherited, and, like his father, spent his entire
life at Mont Air. Though perhaps to the world's eye a quiet one,
his life w r as rich in friends and in works of kind unselfishness.
His memory is cherished by all who knew him, and of his days
it may truly be said, in the words of the poet :

"The actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust."

His wife was Jane Crease, widow of Reverend George W.
Nelson, of Alexandria. She was the daughter of John Crease,
the chosen superintendent of the organization of the First Na-


tional Bank in Little Rock, Arkansas, and sometime Minister
Plenipotentiary to South America.

Judge Frank Nelson, the third child of this marriage, was
born at Mont Air. .July 4, 1850. His boyhood, spent on his
father's plantation, was that of the typical Eastern Virginia lad
of gentle birth, and in that time bright with the last glories of
a civilization shortly to pass in fire and blood. He studied at a
private school for some years, and in 1864 entered Washington
College (now Washington and Lee University). The death of
Frank Nelson's father took place during the war between the
States, but the boy returned to Washington College and ended
his course in those fruitful days when General Robert E. Lee was
at the institution's head. For three years after leaving Lexing-
ton, he held an instructorship at the Episcopal High School, Alex-
andria, Virginia. At this time he first became interested in the
work to which he was to devote his life, the field offered by the
study of law. He took the Summer Law Course at the University

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of Virginia under that Past Master, John B. Minor; examined
before the open court for license to practice law, by Judge Fitz-
hugh, the Judge asked him one question :

''What is a Valid Contract?" And receiving the definition,
the Judge said, "I perceive you sat under old John B.," and there-
upon he signed the license.

The Far West of the Seventies promised many golden oppor-
tunities to Eastern and Southern youth. Frank Nelson left Vir-


ginia and entered the former law office of his uncle, Judge Wat-
kins, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Brooks-Baxter campaign was then raging in Arkansas;
Frank Nelson was on armed duty in Little Rock for a great part
of his visit West; and he presently decided upon a return to his
own State and people.

On January 18, 1879, accordingly, he began the practice of
law in Rustburg, Virginia. His professional patronage, large
from the first, has increased yearly. To-day he stands promi-

f / t/

nent among the leaders of Virginia's Bar. At that Bar, as in
private life, in every incident of his career, it may be truthfully
said that Frank Nelson is a descendant whom even the houses of
Byrd of Westover, Page of Gloucester, and Nelson of Yorktown,
may well be proud to own.

Judge Nelson is an ardent Democrat, and his interest in
political problems has not been merely a passive one. He has
given much and active service to his party, and his influence
upon his fellow-citizens is, upon all public questions, always
elevating. He has been called, at different times, to honorable
offices by the voters of his community. For twelve years he con-
tinued a member of the Board of Supervisors for Campbell
County. From this position he resigned in order to accept the


office of Judge of the County Court. There has been no more
popular in ember of the Campbell County Supervisors, and no
Judge in Virginia points to a record of fairer lustre. Since 11)10,
Judge Nelson has fulfilled the duties of Campbell County's rep-
resentative in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In Rustburg, on December 16, 1880, Judge Nelson married
Miss Ida Dandridge Withers. Mrs. Nelson was born January
16, 1857. Her parents were Colonel Robert W. Withers, for many
years Clerk of Campbell County, and his wife, Blanche Payne
Withers. Colonel Withers is remembered as a most gallant Con-
federate soldier, five times wounded in battle, twice almost
fatally, who won his Colonelcy by great bravery.

Judge and Mrs. Nelson have nine children. All of these are
now (1916) living. Page Dandridge, their eldest son, heads the
Rustburg Motor-car Company; Blanche W., the eldest daughter,
is married to Doctor W. C. Rosser, who has been called Rust-
burg's most talented physician; Frank Nelson, Junior, is chief
draughtsman with the Norfolk and Western Railway at Roanoke,
Virginia ; Carrie Peyton and Evelyn Byrd are their parents' com-
panions at home; William is engaged in the study of medicine
at the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond ; Louise Carter and
Mary Watkius are at school in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Ida
Withers, the youngest of the household, is a pupil in the Rust-
burg High School.


A"OX(J attorneys of note in South Carolina is .John Hani in
Mai-inn, nf Chester, who was born in Richburg, Chester
County, South Carolina, October 23, 1S74.

After receiving his preliminary education in the
public schools, he attended the University of South Carolina,
where the degrees of A.B. and LL.B. were conferred upon him in
June, 1893. By special act of the Legislature he was admitted
to the Bar in 1893, being at that time only nineteen years of age,
and his career since then has been steadily successful. He formed
a very fortunate partnership with William A. Barber, a man
older and already established, who at that time held the office of

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Attorney-General of South Carolina, which association continued
for several years.

Mr. Marion has filled many prominent positions of trust,
among which may be mentioned that of Special Circuit Judge,
his appointment to which office was made by the Supreme Court
of South Carolina. For the past fifteen years he has been General
Counsel and Director of the Carolina and Northwestern Railroad
Company. He is a member of the American Bar Association and
of the South Carolina Bar Association, in which latter organiza-
tion he has held different offices. Mr. Marion was at one time
Director of the People's Bank of Chester, and is now President
of the Wood Concentrator Company. Naturally he is interested
in educational matters, and has been for years a member of the
Board of Trustees of the Chester graded schools.

Though a Democrat, strong in his views, and of influential
standing among the people, he has not sought public office, and,
with but one exception, has never filled a political position. This
was when he represented Chester County in the General Assem-
bly from 1898 to 1900.

The tendency of the Marions seems to have been towards the


ministry of the Gospel, but as the profession of law is built upon
similar lines, both requiring a like mentality, while perhaps the
latter affords even greater opportunity for efficient public service,
it is not surprising that some members of the family should
choose the practice of the law* for their life work. A shyster or
a jingler of rhymes may be made, but the lawyer no less than the
poet must be born, and John Hardin Marion is a born lawyer,
thoroughly imbued with the dignity, the requirements, the respon-
sibilities of his profession. He is a tireless student, keeping ever



in touch with the trend of the times. For some years he has been


keenly interested in the organized effort of the American Bar
Association, by suggestion and advocacy of numerous very neces-
sary judicial reforms, to improve conditions so as to make the law
the efficacious instrumentality that it should be in promoting the
ends of civilization. He is particularly interested in the simpli-
fication of legal procedure and the more speedy dispatch of busi-

An eminent member of the Supreme Court Bench of South
Carolina says of Mr. Marion : "He has been a student of the law
all his mature years. He has an ample library of law books. His
preparation is tireless and thorough. He is much of an advocate
before judge and jury. He has good voice, pleasing countenance,
is apt in anecdote and repartee. He is perhaps at his best before
the jury. But before a court he is strong and helpful. His
private library of select volumes is full, and he diligently studies
them. He adds to the accomplishments of a lawyer the attain-
ments of the scholar. He volunteered in the Spanish war when
very young. His father was a Confederate veteran, and his people
were all patriots. He is a man of quiet but determined courage.
His word is as good as his bond, and he may be trusted in all
the relations of life."

Taking great interest in the cotton industry of the South,
Mr. Marion has devoted considerable time and money to the
development and improvement of machinery for the baling, com-
pressing and general handling of the cotton crops. Thus he is
endeavoring to be a help to his people in their industrial enter-
prises, as well as in their legal troubles.

When the United States was drawn into war with Spain as a
result of the Cuban Kebellion, Mr. Marion made ready response
to the call for troops, and during that stirring, though brief
period, held the rank of Lieutenant of Company "D," First Regi-
ment Volunteer Infantry. When peace was restored he served in
the Militia and National Guard until 1907, when he retired as
Lieutenant-Colonel of the First Kegiment of South Carolina In-

In religion Mr. Marion holds to the creed of his fathers, and
is a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. His
father and grandfather were both, from early manhood, ruling
elders in this church.

Conspicuous among the Marions of the early history of South
Carolina is General Francis Marion of Revolutionary fame. He
was born at Winyaw near Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732,
and was distinguished as a partisan leader.

On December 31, 1902, Mr. John Hardiu Marion was mar-
ried to Miss Mary Pagan Davidson. She also belongs to Chester
and was born there June 28, 1873. Her parents were Colonel


and Mrs. William Lee Davidson, her mother's maiden name hav-
ing been Annie Irvine Pagan. Colonel William Lee Davidson
was the son of Benjamin Wilson and Betsy Latta Davidson of
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was Colonel of the
Seventh North Carolina Infantry, C. S. A., and served with
distinction throughout the war. He was a grandson of Major
John Davidson, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declara-
tion of Independence. Annie Irvine Davidson Avas a daughter
of Major James Pagan, of Chester County, who attained the
rank of Major in the Confederate service, and was long a promi-
nent and highly respected merchant of Chester, and of Anne
Fayssoux, whose father, Peter Fayssoux, was son of Doctor Peter
Fayssoux of Charleston, the Continental surgeon referred to and
quoted by McCrady in "South Carolina in the ^Revolution" (p.
349). Pierre, or Peter, Fayssoux, the father of Anne Fayssoux
Pagan, married Kebecca A. D. Irvine, a daughter of General
William Irvine, of Pennsylvania, whose Revolutionary record and
career may be found in any biographical dictionary or encyclo-
paedia. He served on Washington's staff, and was President of
the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati, at his death in 1804.

Mr. and Mrs. Marion now have a family of five children :
John Hardin, Junior, Annie Irvine, Jane Hardin, James Taylor
and Mary Davidson.

Mr. Marion's earliest American ancestors came to the United
States from Ireland in 1821, locating in Fairfield District, South
Carolina. They were Patrick Marion, who was born near Craig-
billy, County Antrim, Ireland, in August 1772, and his wife, Jane
McNeely. W T ith them was their son, John Alexander, who also
was born in Antrim County, Ireland, in 1819.

Patrick Marion had a brother and a sister older than him-
self. The former, William Marion, was born in 1757, in County
Antrim, Ireland, and came to America, settling in Fairfield Dis-
trict, South Carolina, in 1810. Nancy Marion, their sister, did
not cross the ocean, but married a British army officer, Captain
David Taylor, who, for twenty-five years w r as in command of an
artillery company.

When John Alexander, son of Patrick and Jane (McNeely)
Marion, reached maturity, he became a planter in Chester
County, South Carolina, and married Margaret Jane Sterling.
They had six children, the eldest of w T horn was James Taylor,
born July 9, 1845, who received his second name in honor of
Captain Taylor of the British Army, before mentioned. When
sixteen years of age he enlisted in Company D, Seventeenth
(17th) South Carolina Infantry, C. S. A., was later transferred
to Company B, Fourth Cavalry, and was captured at Cold Har-
bor, Virginia, May 30, 1864. He spent thirteen months in Elrnira
prison. After the war he engaged in merchandising at Lewisville,


Chester County. He was a man of great energy and public spirit,
was widely known and highly esteemed in business, social and
church circles. He married Jane A., daughter of Peter and Re-
becca King Hardin. She was born August 24, 1853, and died
June 20, 1916, having outlived her husband five years. These
were the parents of John Hardin Marion.

One of Mr. Marion's uncles was the Reverend John Preston
Marion, a Presbyterian minister of note, in the Carolinas. An-
other uncle was Thomas David Marion, a physician and surgeon
of wide reputation. He was born in Chester County, January
18, 1854, and died in October, 1893.

The Hardin family has been in Chester County since the

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Revolution. In the Civil War it contributed a number of soldiers
to the Confederacy. An uncle of Mr. Marion, James C. Hardin,
was one of the early editors of the Chester "Reporter." Another,
William Henry Hardin, was President of the Lancaster and
Chester Railroad for years, and served several terms as Mayor
of Chester. Both are now dead. Peter Lawrence Hardin, a third
uncle, represented Chester County in the General Assembly and
in the State Senate for about twenty years, and died in 1914.
Many deserved tributes to his personality and usefulness are in
the files of the State newspapers. Colonel William Hardin of
Barnwell County, was a Revolutionary partisan leader, associ-
ated with General Francis Marion in lower South Carolina.

In Mr. Marion's children are represented some of the best
names of South Carolina. English, French and Scotch-Irish
blood flovv's through their veins, making a blend of fine American-
ism. The Hardins, Pagans, Davidsons and Sterlings have made
good local history, and are to be found in the ranks of lawyers,
physicians, clergymen, bankers and planters. On library shelves
in different biographical and historical books are to be found,
here and there, pages devoted to the various meritorious deeds
and inherent moral worth of men belonging to these families.

The Maryon family of England originated in the ancestor
who came at the time of the Conquest from Normandy. Until
1800, the name was seldom found domiciled outside of a radius
of twenty miles in Hertford, Essex and Cambridge. The name
in the twelfth century was de Marinis and, as is often the case,
after running through a gamut of varied etymology, it settled
down into Marion or Maryon. The name is seldom found in
Ireland, though in the seventeenth century a family of Maryon
is listed in the Peerage of Ireland, and in a brief census list of
the same period is a record of James Marion and his wife Cath-
erine. It is not revealed in the older records, and in England it
is by no means numerous. In France it occurs much more fre-
quently, and there have been many distinguished men of the name
in that country.


The ancestors of John Harclin Marion came originally from
France. They were French Huguenots seeking safety and reli-
gious liberty after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The
father of Patrick Marion was born in France about 1730, and
emigrated to Ireland some time prior to 1757.

Disturbed by frequent invasions the Irish people had been
unable to acquire skill in the manufacture of their wool and flax.
About the time of the Huguenot troubles in France there was
more quiet in Ireland, and those in authority in the latter coun-
try offered great inducement to the French immigrants. Those
among the French who were capable were paid by the Govern-
ment to instruct the Irish in manufacturing. So, while French
immigrants were coming to America, many others were landing
on the Northern coast of Ireland. Among the Huguenots who
came to America in the seventeenth century were Benjamin
Marion and Louise d'Aubrev, his wife. Thev settled in South

V / C/

Carolina. A grandson of this Benjamin and a son of Gabriel
Marion was Francis Marion, the Revolutionary hero mentioned


OVEMBER 17, 1839, four miles from Williams ton,
North Carolina, John Dawson Biggs was born. He was
the second son of Henry W., known as Harry Biggs, and
his wife, Christine Gurganus Biggs, who resided on their
plantation and were highly respected citizens in their community.
It was an interesting coincidence that they were both born on
the same day, April 4, 1810. Harry Biggs, the father of John
Dawson Biggs, was the son of William and his wife, Edith Biggs,
who lived in Martin County during the struggling days of the
Revolution, and the father of William was Kader Biggs.

During the two decades which preceded the Civil War, edu-
cation was sadly neglected in Martin County, and many men and
women, who owned slaves and a large number of acres, grew up
without "book learning." In Mr. Biggs' case, however, his edu-
cation was early begun. He attended the country school, the
land upon which it was situated having been given by his father,
and it is still known as the Biggs' School. After a few years he
entered the Williamston Academy, four miles distant, to which
he walked daily, and during this period he put in practice the
same principles of application and industry which he exercised
in after life in all that he undertook to do. He did not finish the
course at this school on account of the pressing needs of his
family, but entered the mercantile establishment of dishing
Briggs Hassell where he remained until he volunteered for service
in the Civil War.

During the exciting days before the war, Mr. Biggs mani-
fested great interest in affairs of state and being an ardent lover
of his southland, he was among the very first men of his country
to offer his services to the Confederacy. Mr. Biggs entered the
war a private. Having never been called upon even for militia
duty, he had absolutely no military training. He soon won
honor and promotion, however, becoming a lieutenant ; and upon
the death of Captain William Lanier in 1864, he was made Cap-
tain of Company H, Sixty-first North Carolina Infantry, Cling-
ham's Brigade. He participated in the battles around Kinston
in 1862, in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, battles around
Suffolk, Virginia, the battle of Drewry's Bluff, Howlet House ou
May 20, 1864, at Cold Harbor, where Clingham was wounded, and
in the battles around Petersburg, including Ream's Station and
the Crater. Just before Captain Biggs' death, Colonel Wilson



G. Lamb, an intimate friend, while attending a meeting of the
Society of the Cincinnati, at Petersburg, visited the Crater, and
brought a shrapnel shot from the very spot where Captain Biggs'
regiment had distinguished itself and where his company was
almost entirely annihilated in the assault on Fort Harrison.
Mr. Biggs was also in the fighting around Wilmington, North
Carolina, in 1865, and around Kinston and Bennetsville. In the
latter battle he was wounded in the leg and sent to a hospital in
Greensboro where he remained until after the surrender. From
Greensboro, a distance of over a hundred and fifty miles, he
limped all the way on his wounded leg to his home in Williams-
ton, where he found only devastation and poverty. There, begin-
ning life anew, many were the hardships that he suffered during
the terrible days of Keconstruction when conditions were far
worse than during the Avar itself.

After the war Captain Biggs began his business life as a
merchant with the late Dennis Simmons, the firm being known as
John D. Biggs and Company. About this time he married Mr.

Online LibraryAlbert B OsborneMakers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) → online text (page 32 of 48)