It's All Relative: Richmond Families (Pt. 1)

By The Valentine

Sponsored by Julia and Tunnicliff Fox Charitable Trust, Altria Group and Richmond Family Magazine

What defines a Richmond family in 2016? The classic nuclear family has been left behind along with our black and white television sets and tuna noodle casseroles. This exhibition explores the changing definition and composition of what makes a family in our Richmond community over the past five centuries.

The Valentine

The Valentine has been collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond, Virginia's stories for more than a century. Located in the heart of historic downtown, the Valentine is a place for residents and tourists to discover the diverse stories that tell the history of this important region.

It's All Relative Exhibition Logo (2016) by Elizabeth Anne EnrightThe Valentine

Stettinius Community Center

It's All Relative: Triptych 1, Dana Ollestad, 2016, From the collection of: The Valentine
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It's All Relative: Triptych 2, Dana Ollestad, 2016, From the collection of: The Valentine
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It's All Relative: Triptych 3, Dana Ollestad, 2016, From the collection of: The Valentine
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Valentine BoysThe Valentine

Richmond Families

What defines a family? Communities across the United States are actively engaged in a national dialogue. In what ways might this discussion be uniquely Richmond? It’s All Relative: Richmond Families (1616-2016) explores the history of our city’s families through a selection of artifacts, images, and media sourced from the Valentine’s rich collection as well as newly gathered stories and a few special loans from the community. Not all families sit for formal portraits or create a legacy of material goods, but every family has a rich story to share. Richmond’s story is one of settlement, progress, setback, and rebirth across several centuries. What was Richmond before there was contact between the native peoples of the region and the English? What was the impact of slavery, war, and reconstruction on the lives of our citizens, and how do these events continue to shape our city’s families today? How do artifacts, images, and voices convey meanings and stories? 

It's All Relative- View of Gallery 1 (2016) by The ValentineThe Valentine

Gallery One

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (1835/1847) by William James HubardThe Valentine

William James Hubard’s painting illustrates the biblical story of man’s fall from grace. Richmond’s Christian community members have traced their own family lineage directly to the first couple created by God to inhabit his Garden of Eden.

The doctrine of the fall of man is extrapolated from Genesis 3. According to the narrative, God creates Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. God places them in the Garden of Eden and forbids them to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent tempts Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, which she shares with Adam. They immediately become ashamed of their nakedness. Subsequently, God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and places cherubim to guard the entrance, so that Adam and Eve will not eat from the "tree of life"

The Courtship of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, Unknown artist, 1907, From the collection of: The Valentine
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In 1616, the Virginia Company invited Lady Rebecca (Matoka or Pocahontas) (ca. 1597-1617), a daughter of the native leader Powhatan and wife of Englishman John Rolfe (1585-1622), to visit England with her family. They were entertained by the Anglican bishop of London and introduced to England's royal family.

In 1613, Matoka, assuming the name Rebecca, converted to Christianity and assimilated into colonial life. On April 5, 1614, John Rolfe married Rebecca. This is the first documented marriage of an English colonist and a Native American Indian. Surviving documents indicate that John Rolfe struggled with the moral repercussions of marrying, in his words, a "heathen." A letter sent to the royal governor requested his approval of this first recorded church union between an American native and an English colonist in Virginia.

Early in 1617, the Rolfes prepared leave King James’s court and return to their family home in Virginia. However, Rebecca sickened and died at Gravesend. Her child, Thomas (1615-1680?), was educated in England, married and later returned to Virginia, where he attempted to connect with his mother’s family. Thomas and Jane had one child, Jane (1650-1676), who married Robert Bolling in 1675. Soon after giving birth to her son, John, in 1676, Jane died. Through John Bolling (1676-1749) many people today can claim descent from Powhatan and his daughter Matoaka (Pocahontas).

Projectile Points, -6200/1800, From the collection of: The Valentine
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The Powhatan, also known as Virginia Algonquians, are a Native American people in Eastern Virginia. It is estimated that there were approximately 18,000 Powhatan people in the region when the English settled Jamestowne in 1607. One member of this community was Mataoka (Pocahontas, later Lady Rebecca Rolfe), a daughter of the paramount chief Wahunsunacawh (Powhatan).

Powhatan created a powerful organization by affiliating 30 tributary peoples, whose territory was much of eastern Virginia. This territory was home to a large extended family of first people who had their lives forever changed by the arrival of the English.

The Pocahontas Jug (Reproduction), Reproduction, 1610, From the collection of: The Valentine
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In 1616, John and Rebecca Rolfe with their infant son, Thomas traveled to England, and according to family accounts, King James I and his wife, Queen Anne of Denmark presented a silver-mounted German salt-glazed stoneware wine jug. The Rolfe family treasured the original until it entered the collection of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in 1987. This early 21st century reproduction belongs to a Richmond, Virginia family.

John Dixon and Rosanna Hunter Dixon (circa. 1770) by Cosmos AlexanderThe Valentine

Cosmo Alexander was a Scottish portrait painter. A supporter of James Edward Stuart's claim to the English and Scottish thrones, Alexander spent much of his life overseas following the defeat of the Jacobite cause in 1745. The collapse of the rebellion led to a surge of Scottish immigration to all 13 of the American colonies, including a sizeable number to Virginia.

In 1766, Alexander moved to Philadelphia and cultivated a following among Scottish families who had relocated to the American colonies. As was the custom for artists during this period, Alexander traveled extensively, undertaking commissions including these portraits of John and Rosanna Dixon and their daughter Mary. The Dixons lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, before relocating to the new state capital at Richmond in 1780.

Catherine Harrison Murchie, Attributed to John Durand, 1782, From the collection of: The Valentine
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According to the family Bible, Scottish immigrant John Murchie (1750-1831) of Manchester, Virginia, married Catherine Harrison, a daughter of William Harrison of Virginia, in 1782. This oil portrait and its companion of John (currently on view in This Is Richmond, VA) are attributed to the artist John Durand. An English tradition, wedding portraits were commissioned by the colonial gentry class not only as a symbol of status but also to illustrate family connections.

John and Catherine produced five children beginning with the birth of Martha in 1783. In 1791, Catherine died following the birth of their youngest daughter Catherine (d. 1792). John Murchie remarried to Susanna Temple in 1804.

Murchie Family Bible, R. Bowyer, 1796, From the collection of: The Valentine
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A Family Bible contains successive generations’ recording details about a family's history. This information usually consists of marriages, births, deaths, baptisms and confirmations. Other items, such as letters, newspaper clippings, photographs and even pressed flowers might be placed inside the Bible as mementos of family events. They were common in the 19th century. Today, Family Bibles are sought out genealogical resources.

This Bible was presented to Judith Ann Buck Murchie (b.1800) by her mother Judith Ann Hughes Buck (1768-1833) in 1827. The handwritten family register starts with the marriage of Matthew Murchie to Anna Boyd in March 1680 and continues to the last recorded entry of the death of Marion R. Murchie in 1906.

Note the connection to the portrait of Catherine Harrison Murchie in this exhibition and to the companion portrait of John Murchie (both recorded in the notes) in the Valentine’s exhibition, This Is Richmond, VA.

Henry Clay (1850) by Unknown artistThe Valentine

American statesman Henry Clay (1777-1852) was born on the Clay family farm in Hanover County, Virginia. Clay was the seventh of nine children of the Reverend John Clay and Elizabeth Hudson Clay.

Clay's father was a small planter owned more than 22 enslaved people at his death in 1781. Henry and his brothers each inherited two enslaved men from their late father’s estate. Their mother received 464 acres along with her late husband’s remaining enslaved people. Elizabeth Clay soon remarried. Henry Watkins, who proved to be a caring stepfather to her first family. Watkins moved the Clays to Richmond. He and Elizabeth had seven more children. A total of 16 overall children in a family was not an unusual number in the late-18th century.

Edgar Allan Poe (1900) by Flavius J. FisherThe Valentine

The author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to actors David (1789-?) and Elizabeth Arnold Poe (ca.1787-1811). Elizabeth had immigrated to America from England in 1796 and married David Poe in 1805. The Poes had three children: William Henry (1807-1831), Edgar and Rosalie (1810-1874) before the marriage failed.

David Poe vanishes. Elizabeth suddenly found herself a single mother with few family resources. Her death in 1811 was a catastrophe that caused her young family to be being physically separated forever. William Henry was sent to live with David’s parents in Baltimore, Maryland. Edgar was taken in by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan of Richmond, Virginia, and the infant Rosalie was sent to yet another Richmond family, the MacKenzies.

Edgar Allan Poe took the name of his foster family and grew attached to his foster mother, Frances Keeling Valentine Allan (1784-1829), only to suffer great loss with her early death.

Hand of Mrs. James Taylor, Moses Ezekiel, 1886, From the collection of: The Valentine
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The left forearm and hand with wedding band of Margery Jane Porterfield Taylor (1847-1927), the sister of the donors. It was fashionable for wealthy Victorian women to have their hand recorded in marble by a prominent sculptor when on the Grand Tour. The Taylors were in Rome, Italy, in 1886 where they met the Richmond-born sculptor Sir Moses Ezekiel.

Moses Jacob Ezekiel was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Jacob and Catherine (deCastro) Ezekiel. He studied anatomy at the Medical College of Virginia. In 1869, Ezekiel enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Art (Berlin, Germany). Admitted into the Society of Artists in Berlin on the merits of his bust of George Washington, he was the first foreigner to win the Prize of Rome. He died in Italy in 1917.

Hand, Leslie Garland Bolling, 1935, From the collection of: The Valentine
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Harlem Renaissance sculptor Leslie Garland Bolling (1898-1955) was born in Surry County, Virginia, to Clinton C. Bolling, a blacksmith, and his wife Mary. Leslie Bolling’s work reflected everyday themes, family life and shared values of southern African-American culture during the Jim Crow era.

In 1948, Leslie Bolling married Ethelyn M. Bailey, and the couple settled in New York. The couple had no children. Bolling died on September 27, 1955. His body was returned to Richmond for burial following his death in 1955.

Vase Vase, Glasfabrik Johann Loetz Witwe, Austria, 1902, From the collection of: The Valentine
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This Loetz silver overlay art glass vase was a 1902 wedding gift to Mary Alice Larcombe (1882-1906) and Blair Burwell Stringfellow (1872-1946). Miss Larcombe was the daughter of John Southey Larcombe and Mary Alice Griffith of Washington, DC.

The Stringfellows had one child, Blair, before Mary Alice’s death in 1906 devastated the young family. Stringfellow married Elizabeth Prussia Hargrave (1890 – 1984) and Elizabeth raised her stepson along with his younger half siblings. Blair Burwell Stringfellow, Jr. (1905-1960), grew up to become a partner in the family investment banking firm Scott & Stringfellow (founded 1893).

Valentine Silver Wedding Presentation Compote, Nowlan Company, 1911, From the collection of: The Valentine
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Benjamin Batchelder Valentine (1862-1919) and Lila Hardaway Meade Valentine (1865–1921) received this engraved sterling silver compote in 1911 to mark the couple’s silver wedding anniversary. The Richmond-made piece is inscribed:

Benjamin B. and Lila Meade Valentine
With Love and Congratulations
For your Silver Anniversary
May you both live
to celebrate the Golden
Your Brothers
Oct. 28, 1911

Credits: Story

Julia and Tunnicliff Fox Charitable Trust
Richmond Family Magazine


Dana Ollestad

with special thanks to Tyler Kirby of Departure Point
James Mattise

Elizabeth Anne Enright

Image 360 RVA

Custom Art Installations

Terry Brown

David B. Voelkel
The Elise B. Wright Curator of the General Collection

The board and staff of the Valentine

Michael Lease and Kimberly Wolf and their project
Battery Park Stories: Reflections of Our Neighborhood

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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