Written by Edith Crockett, with contributions from John and Bronwen Souders, Jonathan Daniel, and Debbie Robison.
More than a few Waterford residents are so fascinated by our village’s history that they always keep a sharp eye out for early artifacts, letters, paintings and more about Waterford. Last year, Edith Crockett learned of a painting of a “vintage” building said to be located in Waterford. Not recognizing the structure, she contacted Bronwen and John Souders about its possible identity. The Souders immediately recognized it as a painting of their own barnyard, done in the 1930s, by a member of the Carr family, prominent in Waterford history. It was quickly acquired by them and now has “come home.”
Not long ago, another Waterford resident, Jonathan Daniel, acquired a letter from Edwin R. Gover written to a Reverend C.H. Nourse concerning a transfer of property, dated July 7, 1854. In an effort to learn more about the circumstances of the letter and to share its contents more broadly, Jonathan was kind enough to share its contents with the Souders, Debbie Robison and Edith, and generously gave us permission to include it in our newsletter:
Waterford, July 7, 1854
Rev. C.H. Nourse,
I received your letter on the Fourth, in which you wish to know whether I intend to stand to my proposition or not, in answer I would say that I always try to comply with all engagements that I make, it will not be convenient for me to be in Leesburg before August court Monday if that will suit you. You will let me hear from you or come up to Waterford I have my business to attend to and no one to assist me and I cannot leave it.
The proposition from your letter coming to me is not altogether correct. Statement in that I could not [have]]? Possession before the first of January instead of the first December and that all the rent up to that time would be coming to me.
Yours with Respect,
Edwin R. Gover
Our own Northern Virginia history sleuth, Debbie Robison, replied:
“This letter suggests that Gover needed to go to the courthouse to record something… I found a deed and trust agreement between Gover and Nourse recorded at the January 1855 court. I suspect this is the [same] transaction since this is the only transaction between the two men at least from 1833-1857.”
Longtime Waterford historians Bronwen and John Souders also went to work immediately, and responded with a stream of remarkable history about Edwin Gover:
“Edwin R. Gover was born on 13 Oct 1818 in Waterford, the illegitimate child of 21-year-old Ann Gover and Andrew S. Anderson (29), a New York transplant. Ann gave birth in the house of Garrett and Elizabeth Gover Hough, her older sister, her mother having died. Edwin was apparently raised by Ann with the help of the extended Gover family (Andrew went on to marry the daughter of a prominent area farmer).
Edwin was living in Leesburg by 1841 as a “mechanic,” probably in the leather-working trade. By 1850 he was identified in the census as a saddler, married and the father of an infant daughter. As of 1859 he was back in Waterford, “gaining in reputation every day, as one of the finest Saddle and Harness Manufacturers in the county.”
In the meantime, he had become active in Democratic Party politics in Loudoun. At the time, the populist Democrats, heirs of the Jacksonian era, were a small minority in Waterford, but gaining strength elsewhere as Virginia slid toward war. By March 1860, Gover was among those endorsing “the candidate best calculated to ensure the triumph of the Democratic Party in the coming contest, and thereby crush out Black Republicanism, preserve the rights of the South, and perpetuate for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of a constitutional Union.”
Nonetheless, when Virginia put secession to the vote the following year, Gover bucked his party and voted with the majority in Waterford against the ordinance. And, in June 1862, he was among the first to enlist in the Loudoun Rangers, Sam Means’s Unionist cavalry company. The following February, “a majority having voted for Gover, he was declared elected [2nd Lt.]. The boys dubbed him ‘Four Eyes.’ He was a kind and pleasant officer, but perhaps a little old [at 43] and slow for the position.” He was also called “the singing lieutenant” for his vocal talents. By the end of the war, Gover was 1st Lt. and senior officer of Co. A when he and his men were surprised and ignominiously captured on 6 April at Keyes’ Switch on the Shenandoah.
In the fall of 1865 he moved with his family to the farming village of Kansas, Illinois, a hundred miles west of Indianapolis. He died of typhoid in 1882 and was buried north of the village.
As for the Reverend Charles H. Nourse, he was about the same age as Gover, but cut from different cloth. He was born in Washington, DC, and became a Presbyterian minister. He voted for secession and as of 1860 owned a 40-year-old mulatto slave and her three young children. Nourse was arrested by federal authorities on several occasions, but never wavered in his support for the Confederacy, refusing to sign the oath of allegiance. One Union officer referred to the “reverend gentleman acting as a kind of rebel postbag.” He was able to cross enemy lines with relative freedom as a minister and acted as a rebel courier.
After the war he moved farther south in Virginia. In 1870 he was in Culpeper County, where he taught school in addition to his ministerial duties—and employed two Black domestics.”
What an amazing amount of history has surfaced – vividly – all from a short letter written in July, 1854. And there is more: thanks to generous donations from the Gover family a few years ago, the Foundation has in its collections an early sampler by Ann T. Gover dated 1829, and a desk, made in Leesburg, once owned by the Gover family.
Thank you to all the contributors to this glimpse into Waterford history of more than 140 years ago!