Like many businesses, the Poe Museum was closed on July 4th for Independence Day. As we observe the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we might not realize that Poe would have celebrated the holiday, too.
At the time of Poe’s birth in 1809, only thirty-three years had passed since America had declared its independence from England. Such Founding Fathers as the author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson and the nation’s second president John Adams were still alive. In fact, Poe would enter Jefferson’s University of Virginia while its founder was still residing at nearby Monticello. (Jefferson’s death occurred while Poe was at the University–on July 4.)
David Poe's Grave
The spirit of the American Revolution was ever present during Poe’s childhood. His grandfather, David Poe, Sr. had been honorary Quartermaster General of Baltimore during the Revolution and a friend of the Marquis de Lafayette. In Richmond, Poe would have attended Sunday services at Monumental Church with John Marshall, who had served in the Continental Army long before becoming Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Poe would have also seen the “Virginia Giant” Peter Francisco, who fought the British with distinction at the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of Germantown, the Battle of Stony Point, and other battles before witnessing Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. Both Marshall and Francisco are buried at Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery along with Poe’s foster parents and a number of his friends. Another Revolutionary War hero living in Richmond during Poe’s time was the “Hero of Stony Point” Major James Gibbon.
When Poe was fifteen, he was honored to serve on the honor guard selected to escort the Marquis de Lafayette on the latter’s 1824 tour of Richmond. Poe must have known about the friendship between his grandfather (who had died in 1816) and the Frenchman. While in Baltimore during the same United States tour, Lafayette visited Poe’s grandfather’s grave. According to J. Thomas Scharf’s Chronicles of Baltimore (1874):
“The next day he [Lafayette] received visitors at the Exchange and dined with the corporation, &c., &c., and in the evening visited the Grand Lodge; after which he attended the splendid ball given in Holliday Street Theatre, which had been fitted up for the occasion. After the introduction of the surviving officers and soldiers of the Revolution who resided in and near Baltimore, to General Lafayette on Friday [October 8, 1824], he observed to one of the gentlemen near, ‘I have not seen among these my friendly and patriotic commissary, Mr. David Poe, who resided in Baltimore when I was here, and of his own very limited means supplied me with five hundred dollars to aid in clothing my troops, and whose wife, with her own hands, cut out five hundred pairs of pantaloons, and superintended the making of them for the use of my men.’ The General was informed that Mr. Poe was dead but that his widow [Elizabeth Cairnes Poe] was still living. He expressed an anxious wish to see her.
“The good old lady heard the intelligence with tears of joy, and the next day [October 9, 1824] visited the General, by whom she was received most affectionately; he spoke in grateful terms of the friendly assistance he had received from her and her husband: ‘Your husband,’ said he, pressing his hand on his breast, ‘was my friend, and the aid I received from you both was greatly beneficial to me and my troops.’ The effect of such an interview as this may be imagined but cannot be described. On the 11th General LaFayette left the city with an escort for Washington.”
Being surrounded by reminders of the American Revolution during his childhood might have influenced his decision to enlist in the United States Army when he was eighteen, but he hired a substitute to serve the remainder of enlistment after just two years.
Poe would have observed the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence during his lifetime. Celebrations of one kind or another had been taking place since 1776 when, on July 8, Philadelphians hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence started shooting into the air, lighting bonfires, and exploding fireworks (although the name Independence Day was not used until 1791). Before long, similar celebrations were being held throughout the young nation, and they increased in popularity after the War of 1812. By Poe’s time, Independence Day celebrations could include parades, cannon fire, bonfires, the ringing of bells, drinking, and fireworks, but the day did not become a national holiday until 1870. Unlike the Poe Museum’s employees, Poe worked on Independence Day. We know this because there are business letters written by him dated July 4.
The Poe Museum will reopen at 10 A.M. on July 5 and will be open its regular hours the rest of the weekend.
Last Sunday, the members of the Poe Museum were invited to a special Poe-themed tour of Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery led by Jeffry Burden, President of the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery. In the above photo, some of the guests are visiting the grave of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. In the below photo, Jeffry Burden shows members Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew’s monument. (Notice the guest sporting a new Poe Museum tote bag.)
In addition to the graves of Poe’s first love Jane Stanard and his foster father John Allan, Burden showed the group the lesser known graves of other Poe acquaintances. Below is a photo of the grave of John Carter, the doctor Poe visited his last night in Richmond. Poe left his walking stick at Carter’s house on East Broad Street, and it was from Carter’s heirs that the Poe Museum acquired the walking stick. According to a later account by Carter, published in November 1902 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, “On this evening [Poe] sat for some time talking, while playing with a handsome Malacca sword-cane recently presented to me by a friend, and then, abruptly rising, said, ‘I think I will step over to Saddler’s (a popular restaurant in the neighborhood) for a few moments,’ and so left without any further word, having my cane still in his hand. From this manner of departure I inferred that he expected to return shortly, but did not see him again, and was surprised to learn next day that he had left for Baltimore by the early morning boat. I then called on Saddler, who informed me that Poe had left his house at exactly twelve that night, starting for the Baltimore boat in company with several companions whom he had met at Saddler’s, and giving as a reason therefore the lateness of the hour and the fact that the boat was to leave at four o’clock. According to Saddler he was in good spirits and sober, though it is certain that he had been drinking and that he seemed oblivious of his baggage, which had been left in his room at the Swan Tavern. These effects were after his death forwarded by one of Mrs. Mackenzie’s sons to Mrs. Clemm in New York, and through the same source I received my cane, which Poe in his absent-mindedness had taken away with him.”
The next images shows the recently damaged monument of Rev. John McCabe, a poet who contributed his work to the Southern Literary Messenger while the journal was under Poe’s editorship. In his “Chapter on Autography,” Poe wrote, “Dr. JOHN C. MCCABE, of Richmond, Virginia, has written much and generally well, in prose and poetry, for the periodicals of the day — for the ‘Southern Literary Messenger’ in especial, and other journals.” In a March 3, 1836 letter to McCabe, Poe (who has just rejected one of McCabe’s poems for publication in the Messenger) writes, “I feel exceedingly desirous that you should be even more favorably known to the public than you are at present, and that this object should be accomplished thro’ the medium of the Messenger.”
The next picture shows the unmarked grave of Eliza White, daughter of Poe’s boss and owner of the Southern Literary Messenger Thomas White. Before his marriage to Virginia Clemm, Poe is said to have been a favorite dancing partner of Miss White’s. When Poe married Virginia, Eliza White was one of the few guests invited to the small ceremony. Over a decade later, she visited Poe and his wife at their cottage in Fordham, New York.
If you did not have a chance to join us for last weekend’s tour but still would like to visit historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery, you should come to the dedication on October 7 at 1 P.M. of a plaque honoring Poe’s first and last fiancee Elmira Royster Shelton.
As a way of thanking our members for all their support, we will be hosting a special members-only Poe-themed guided tour of Richmond’s historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery on Sunday, September 9 at 2 P.M. Our guide, Jeffry Burden of the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery, will show participants the graves of those Poe knew best, including his first love, his first and last fiancée, his foster parents, and his childhood friends. Shockoe Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of several prominent historical figures in this very historical city, so you will also learn more about US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Revolutionary War Hero Peter Francisco, and more. The tour meets at the caretaker’s cabin at 1:45 P.M.
If you would like to join the tour, reserve your spot today by writing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 888-21-EAPOE. If you are not already a member, sign up today and get a free tote bag. You can’t beat $25* for a tour and tote bag. (*$15 for students and teachers, $35 for a couple, $50 for a family)
From June 17 until June 23, the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference brought students from across the country to the Poe Museum for a week focused on the craft of writing. When not taking seminars from professional writers—including award-winning poet J. Ron Smith, editor Mary Flinn, and novelist David Lawrence—the group, which included only one Virginian, toured area Poe sites around the Commonwealth.
In the above photo, the students are visiting Fort Monroe, at which Poe was stationed from December 1828 until April 1829. It was there that Poe attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.
Here the students are visiting the University of Virginia, where they will see Poe’s dorm room and some of the Poe artifacts housed in the school’s library.
In this photo, the conferees are standing atop the mountain featured in Poe’s short story “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.”
The conference director was Edgar Award-winning author and Poe Foundation President Dr. Harry Lee Poe, who is pictured here in the Ragged Mountains.
In the foreground is the grave of Elmira Royster Shelton, Poe’s first and last fiancée. It is just one of the important graves to be found in Shockoe HIll Cemetery. Following in Poe’s footsteps, the students also visited Elmira Shelton’s house, Poe’s mother’s grave, the birthplace of Jane Stanard (inspiration for “To Helen”) and more Richmond places familiar to Poe.
The students also visited a number of other Poe sites in Richmond as well as the Library of Virginia, where they saw some rare documents with the Director of Special Collections Tom Camden.
At the end of the week, each student read the works he or she wrote during the conference. Afterwards, they enjoyed refreshments at a reception held in their honor.
We would like to thank all those who made this year’s conference a success.
If you are interested in attending the 2013 conference, please let us know by emailing us at email@example.com or by calling us at 888-21-EAPOE. Information about next year’s conference will be posted on this website in the fall.
One of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite places for a stroll in Richmond was Shockoe Hill Cemtery. Located at 4th and Hospital Streets, the cemetery was a retreat from the noise and activity of the city. The cemetery was established in 1820 as Richmond, Virginia’s first city-owned cemetery, and the first burial took place there in 1822. Seven years later, Poe’s beloved foster mother was buried there. She would be only one of many important figures from his life to be interred there.
During a recent visit to the cemetery, I took some photos of a few of the graves of people Poe would have known.
These are the graves of Poe’s foster parents, the Allans. From left to right, the monuments are for Louisa Allan (Poe’s foster father’s second wife), John Allan (Poe’s foster father), Frances Valentine Allan (John Allan’s first wife and Poe’s foster mother), William Galt (John Allan’s uncle who left Allan a fortune), and Rosanna Galt. Although Allan inherited a fortune, he left Edgar Poe out of his will.
This is the grave of John Allan’s oldest son, John Allan, Jr., who died during the Civil War.
Here is the grave of Allan’s second son, William Galt Allan, who also served in the Civil War.
This is the grave of Allan’s third son, Patterson Allan. Like his brothers, Patterson died young. John Allan’s second wife outlived all three of her children.
Above is a photo of the grave of Anne Moore Valentine, Poe’s “Aunt Nancy.” Valentine was the unmarried sister of Poe’s foster mother Frances Valentine Allan, and she lived with the Allans even after Frances Allan’s death in 1829.
This is the grave of Poe’s first and last fiancee, Elmira Royster Shelton. The inscription on this monument is only barely legible, but you can still read the name of Elmira’s husband Alexander Barrett Shelton.
Here is the grave of Poe’s first great love, Jane Stith Craig Stanard, the woman to whom he dedicated his poem “To Helen.” She died from “exhaustion from the mania” when Poe was fifteen, and he and her son are said to have paid frequent visits to her grave in the months after her death.
This plaque was placed at the base of Jane Stanard’s grave in 1923 by Poe Museum founder James H. Whitty and Poe Museum benefactor John W. Robertson. They dedicated the plaque on the first anniversary of the opening of the Poe Museum and considered the event so important that they invited the President of the United States, Warren G. Harding. He declined the invitation with the below letter.
Shockoe Hill Cemetery is also the final resting place to a number of historical figures including the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Revolutionary War hero Peter Francisco, and Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew.
Excellent jazz accompaniment for the evening’s festivities was provided by Jack Winn Duo and Poe fans young and old (plus a stray bat or two) really got into the spirit of the event.
Of course, this Unhappy Hour also served as the Poe Museum’s first event of our busy fall season. Make sure that you check our events calendar for information about all kinds of exciting things that will be happening in October.
First up on Sunday October 2nd from 2-4pm is the launch party for Richmond Macabre a horror anthology dedicated to Poe and featuring stories set right here in the River City. We hope to see folks at as many of our October events as possible. October is Poe’s month after all!
If you missed last summer’s unique tour/performance of Richmond’s historic Shockoe Hill Cemetery, you’re not alone because every performance was sold out in advance, causing many people to miss this rare opportunity. That’s why Edgar Poe, the Allans, Elmira Shelton, Jane Stanard, and the rest of Poe’s Richmond family and friends are returning for five more performances this September 22-24. Don’t miss what could be the last opportunity to walk in Poe’s footsteps as he (portrayed by Chris Patrick) guides you through the historic final resting place of many of his closest friends while reliving pivotal moments from his life either in the places they occured or next to the graves of those involved.
For the event, the Poe Museum is teaming up again with the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery and Haunts of Richmond. The performances will be held at 8 P.M. on September 22 and at 6:30 and 8:00 P.M. on September 23 and 24. Admission is $18 for adults and $15 for children under 14. Each tour is limited to 25 people, so book now to reserve your spot. Purchase tickets at http://hauntsofrichmond.com/whatsnew.htm#homecoming or call 888-21-EAPOE for more information.