Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Laura Lavelette Confederate Bride

Confederate soldier Corp. Nathaniel Pruett brought his 16-year-old girlfriend Laura Lavelette Driskill to Caswell County, North Carolina for their wedding on December 30, 1864. It seems that his interest in this young lady was more important at that time then his duties as a soldier. An official record for Co. B 1st Battalion Virginia Infantry “The Richmond City Guard” show Nathaniel Pruett as “absent without leave since December 29, 1864.”

Laura Lavelette Pruett (Driskill) in 1864. This tintype photograph was said by the family to be taken at the time of he wedding when she was 16 years old.

I was thinking that Nathaniel and Laura would have been required to travel to Caswell Courthouse (Yanceyville, which is 17 miles south of Danville and off the railroad line) to obtain a license to marry. Rick Frederick of the Caswell County Historical Society sent information about weddings in Caswell County which is on the society website.

In 1909, the Washington Post reported that a Pelham magistrate was forbidden to issue marriage licenses or unite couples. The practice of Justices of the Peace issuing licenses was abolished. “For years an average of 300 couples, mostly runaways, came to Pelham owing to the leniency of North Carolina laws.” Pelham is just across the state line in Caswell County from Danville.

“During the early days, Pelham became famous as the place where many were married. A Rev. Thomas Walker lived with his wife Ginny, and family on the present old 29 south of the Pryor farm Preacher Walker (as he was known) was a Circuit Rider minister who traveled from place to place in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia. Couples came from far and near by wagon, buggy and train to be married. When train connections could not be made, they were given overnight accommodations. It is said the Walker home had the figure 18 in the parlor floor over which brides who were under age stood so they could get married. William Abner Fowlkes and Ella Frances Sanders were married by him on July 24, 1887…. Preacher Walker kept a journal of the marriage performed….” (supplied by Betty Ann Wells).

When the census taker came around the Birch Creek District of Halifax County, Virginia in 1860, Nathaniel Pruett, the oldest child at age 23, was at home with his parents William C. and Frances Pruett and four brothers.

Back on August 15, 1864, while the company was stationed at Fredericksburg, Pruett had been promoted to corporal. Then on December 5, 1864, he received a total of $94.41. There is a notation “Received near Petersburg.”

With all that money in his pocket, Nathaniel’s attention turned to Laura Lavelette of Charlotte, County. When Laura was only six years old, her father William Driskill died in 1854. He was buried in the Red Hill community along the line between Charlotte and Campbell County. Laura was the youngest of fifteen children. Nathaniel may have been lined up with Laura by one of his Confederate buddies. .It had to be the railroad that got them together so quickly and to North Carolina for the wedding and back. Nathaniel returned to his military company relatively fast. Nathaniel returned north on the train to Barksdale Station and she stayed with her in-laws.

Before the War in 1860, Nathaniel lived with his parents at their log cabin just north of Barksdale (sometimes called Whitlock) Station in Halifax County. The Richmond and Danville Railroad was completed not so far from where Nathaniel grew up to Danville in 1856. By late 1864, the Piedmont Railroad would have been completed to Pelham just beyond Danville.

Nathaniel continued to serve with his unit and is shown as present in January and February. He often told about being present with Robert E. Lee’s army at the surrender at Appomattox in April of 1865. Ethel Pruett Hardister’s prize possession was a fragment of an apple tree leaf which her father Nathaniel brought back as a souvenir of that day. Great aunt Ethel gave it to me before she died.

Apple tree leaf remains and a not by Ethel about her father bringing it back from Appomattox in 1865.

The old home place. This is the cabin that William C. Pruett built in the 1850s when Nathaniel lived before the war. The property is still owned by Ann Tingen, a Pruett descendant.

This is Nathaniel's Smith & Wesson pistol. It was handed down through Nathaniel and Laura's oldest son Willy Pruett. Now is possession of cousin Betty Jean Rader of Florida.

Nathaniel inherited 50 acres of land from his father where he settled after the War.

Nathaniel Purett still owned the 50-acre tract in Halifax County when he died in 1900. By the will of his father, he was prevented from selling the land. It was sold by the court later to settle a lawsuit.

Nathaniel and Laura's daughter Annie Brooks Jones (1880-1969) dictated this note about walking to the nearby Mercy Seat Church beore they moved to Danville in 1888. For more on the church and Barksdale Station in Halifax County see:

In 1888, he and his family moved to Danville. He and Laura had eight children.

Six of the eight children

Annie Marie Jones (Ricketts) (1903-1978), daughter of Annie B. Pruett (Jones) with her grandmother Laura Lavelette Driskill Pruett in 1904.
A charcoal of Nathaniel Pruett in his last years.
A tin-type photograph of Nathaniel and Laura.

Nathaniel made this "jumping jack" of cedar while "sitting around the barn in Halifax County.
Laura L. Pruett

Tombstone in Green Hill Cemetery, Danville, Virginia.
Nathaniel died in 1900 and Laura died in 1933. They are both buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

Text and photographs copyright 2010 by Robert D. Ricketts. Reproduce by premission only.