30 August 2015

Charles W. Washington: His Body Has Been Through A Lot (and a Bit of Serendipity!)

Charles W. Washington was born about 1802, possibly in Wilkes County, Georgia. I do not know the names of his parents, but I can tell you he had two brothers. Of the three, Charles was "the middle." Robert Beverly Washington was the elder brother, and James H. R. Washington the younger.

Approximate location of Washington Academy land on
today's map.  It possibly extended closer to the Ocmulgee
River. Full map here.
In a 1923 Macon Telegraph (Georgia) article, Charles's niece (Mrs. Ellen Washington Bellamy) offers this anecdote:
..."In 1824, one year after Macon came into being," she began after a few minutes, "Robert and Charles Washington came to Macon from Milledgeville. They were the grand-nephews of George [Washington, first president of the United States], and were the brothers of my father...

"Charles Washington opened the first mercantile establishment in East Macon, where the remains of the mounds are. He lived at the foot of one of those mounds...He owned ground from the Fifth Street bridge on the river to what is now Riverside Cemetery.

"He gave to the city the ground on which the first male academy was erected. It was the square on Second Street extending to First and from Walnut to Ocmulgee. The institution was known as Washington Academy and it was from the academy that Academy Street derived its name...
Fast forward more than 200 years after the birth of Charles, when I am researching Macon's Old City Cemetery. Established in 1825, it was used by the city of Macon until 1840 when the more notorious Rose Hill Cemetery was opened.

There are very few markers visible in the Old City Cemetery versus the hundreds of possible burials. One of the names I discovered as a burial solely from a newspaper article was Charles W. Washington. From The Weekly Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) 25 February 1891 article entitled Whose Bones Lie Buried with bracketed comment by original author:
"To the memory of Charles W. Washington. Drowned in Walnut Creek March 1, 1833. Aged 31 years."

[A tremendous gale had swept over the interior of the state on Feb 28, 1833, causing great destruction to property, and several lives were lost. The water courses were suddenly swollen on the following day, and at night the northern mail stage, in passing Walnut Creek, was swept away and upset. Two passengers and the driver escaped by swimming. Another passenger, Mr. C. W. Washington, was drowned. His body was recovered and brought home. He was the brother of the late R. B. Washington and of Hon. James H. R. Washington. He was a merchant much respected and his death was deeply lamented.]
While the story seemed a tiny bit familiar, I couldn't immediately place why and put it out of my mind. But when I come across the aforementioned article with Ellen Washington Bellamy's recollections, I connected the dots. Here is another snippet:
Drowned in Creek
"Uncle Charles lost his life in a tragic manner. He was on his way home from Savannah where he had gone on business. Of course, he was making the trip to Macon by stage. There had been a terrible freshet in his absence and the driver of the stage was unaware that the bridge over Walnut Creek had been washed away. Before he realized it, he had driven the stage into the swollen stream. The debris submerged the stage and before Charles could extricate himself he was drowned.

"He was buried in the old city cemetery, but I later had his body moved to Rose Hill to the family lot. He died in the full vigor of a useful life.
There you have it. Several years before studying up on the Old City Cemetery, I had transcribed Charles' grave stone in Rose Hill Cemetery. I went back to my files, to be sure. Back when I was using pen and paper to transcribe cemeteries (imagine that!) -- and there the transcription was.

Enhanced image.  Original by James Allen.
In Memory of
Charles W. Washington
Who was drowned in Walnut Creek March 1st, 1833
In the 31st year of his age. In the full vigor
of a useful life.

Since this is basically the same as the transcription found in the 1891 article about the Old City Cemetery, I wonder if it's the same stone first placed there?

Here is an item that ran in the Rhode-Island Republican (Newport, Rhode Island) 27 March 1833. It's the only one I found closer to the actual time of the accident:
The savannah [sic] Georgian states, on the authority of a letter from Macon, that a violent tornado, accompanied with rain occurred in the latter place on the 2d inst. A good deal of damage was done by the blowing down of chimnies, houses and fences. One white boy and several horses and mules were killed by the falling of buildings. The Augusta stage was washed down, in attempting to cross Walnut Creek, and one passenger, Mr. Charles Washington of Macon, and 3 horses were drowned.

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