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Virginia Federal Convention
Biographical Sketch of the Author
R. A. BROCK,
2.21 . 178
The message referred to on p. ix, line 12, may have been one of Jefferson Davis', President of the Confederate States of America.
Hon. Hugh Blair Grigsby, LL.D.
The pure, devoted and earnest life of Hugh Blair Grigsby was a beneficent one, and signal in its incitations. Few, if any, among his contemporaries exerted a more inspiring influence in the cause of education and in behalf of virtuous resolve in Virginia than he; not one, certainly, in glowing utterance, and in appealing picture, sounded more surely the key-note of State grandeur and the common weal.
Justly remarked the late venerable and admirable Marshall P. Wilder," in his last penned effort, on his couch, in his last days-an address to be delivered before the New England Historic Genealogical Society, upon the completion of nineteen years' service as the president of that learned body, at its annual meeting in 1887 : “Recall the traditions of men ; each generation in its day bears testimony to the character of the preceding. He who worships the past believes we are connected not only with those that came before us, but with those who are to come after. What means those hieroglyphic inscriptions on the Egyptian monuments ? Says one of them : 'I speak to you who shall come a million of years after my death.' Another says, 'Grant that my words may live for hundreds and thousands of years. The writers were evidently thinking, not only of their own time, but of the distant future of the human race, and hoped, themselves, never to be forgotten.”
a Hon. Marshall Pinckney Wilder was born September 28, 1798, and died at Boston, Mass., March 16, 1886.
Hugh Blair Grigsby was born in the city of Norfolk, Virginia, November 22d, 1806, and died at his seat, “Edgehill,” Charlotte county, Virginia, April 28, 1881. He was the son of Benjamin Grigsby, who was born in Orange county, September 18, 1770, and was a pupil of Rev. William Graham, at old Liberty Hall Academy, the precursor of the present Washington and Lee University. Among his fellow-students was Archibald Alexander, the subsequently eminent divine, and who was his companion when in early manhood they sought their life-work in a horseback journey to Southside Virginia. Leaving his companion in Petersburg, Grigsby, "with his sole personal possessions in a pair of saddle-bags,” continued his solitary ride to Norfolk, where he located, and was the first pastor of the first Presbyterian church in that then borough. Here he married Elizabeth, daughter of Hugh and Lilias (Blair) McPherson, and providentially and faithfully labored until, as is recorded on the handsome marble obelisk erected to his memory in Trinity churchyard, Portsmouth, Virginia, "in the faithful discharge of his calling, he fell a martyr to yellow-fever on the 6th of October, 1810."' His widow married, secondly, January 16th, 1817, Dr. Nathan Colgate Whiteheado (born in Southampton county, Virginia, April 8th, 1792,) who, although educated as a physician, relinquished practice and was for twenty-seven years the honored president of the Farmers Bank of Virginia, in Norfolk. He died in 1856. Hon. John B. Whitehead, ex-mayor of Norfolk is the issue of this marriage. In connection with the prime service of Rev. Benjamin Grigsby as founder of the first Presbyterian church in Norfolk, it may be pleasing to add a singular exemplification of pious constancy and fealty, as recently communicated to the writer by Mr. Whitehead. He writes : "From the completion of the building of the first and only Presbyterian church in the borough of Norfolk, in 1802, to the present time, the elements for the communion service in our church have been presented by the mother and grandmother of Mr. Grigsby and the writer ; by our grandmother until 1822, and by our mother up to December, 1860; and by my wife to the present time, and, with the exception of three years (during the period of the late war) have been furnished from our old home (in which I reside) from the year 1808. I would also state that the Wednesday evening prayer-meetings were held in our parlors from 1808 to 1827, in which last year the late distinguished scholar and jurist, William Maxwell, LL.D. (long the effi
6 The paternal ancestor of Hugh Blair Grigsby is said to have emi. grated from England to Virginia in 1660. His grandfather, the immediate progenitor of the Grigsbys of Rockingham county, John Grigsby, was born in Stafford county in 1720; accompanied, in 1740, Lawrence Washington in the forces of Admiral Vernon in the expedition against Carthagena ; married first, in 1746, a Miss Etchison and settled on the Rapid Anne river in Culpeper county. His wife dying in 1762, he married secondly in 1764, Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin and Ann (Campbell) Porter, of Orange county, Virginia. The issue by the first marriage was five children, the eldest of whom was James Grigsby, born November 1oth, 1748. The issue of the second marriage was nine children, the youngest of whom was Captain Reuben Grigsby, born June 6th, 1780, in Rockbridge county ; educated at Washington Col. lege; teacher; farmer; member of the House of Delegates of Virginia; Captain United States Army in the war of 1812; sheriff of Rockbridge county ; trustee of Washington College 1830-43; died February 6th, 1863. (See obituary, Richmond Enquirer, February 1oth, 1863). An interesting incident in the boyhood of James Grigsby has been transmitted. Whilst hunting with a pack of hounds near the Natural Bridge in 1781, he encountered the French tourist, the Marquis de Chastellux, and was his guide to the Bridge, and prevailed upon him to become the guest of his father. These attentions the Marquis records in his
“Travels, of which he presented a handsomely bound copy to his youthful guide and entertainer. James Grigsby married twice, first, in 1768, Frances Porter, the sister of the second wife of his father, and settled at “Fancy Hill,” Rockbridge county. Their eldest son, the father of Hugh Blair Grigsby, was christened Benjamin Porter Grigsby, but appears to have omitted the use of the second name. He was a trustee of Washington College 1796-1807.
Among the descendants of John Grigsby were the following officers in the Confederate States Army:
Generals E. Frank Paxton, Albert Gallatin Jenkins and J. Warren Grigsby, Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby, and Major Andrew Jackson Paxton.
The editor is indebted to Miss Mary Davidson, Lexington, Va., of the Grigsby lineage, for the facts embraced in this note.
c The Whitehead is a family of early seating in Virginia. Thomas Whitehead was granted 162 acres of land in Hampton parish, York county, March 6, 1653. Book No. 3, page 9. Robert Whitehead, John Bowles and Charles Edmond were granted 3,000 acres in New Kent county, March 25, 1667. Book No. 6, page 45.