Historian to present lecture on the Wharton family tomorrow

William “Jack” Davis

Heather Bell

The “Wharton Letters” will be the focus of a lecture this Sunday’s 3 p.m. lecture by William “Jack” Davis at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Newbern.

Davis will share his research on the personal letters of Confederate Brigadier General Gabriel Wharton, who built and lived at Glencoe, which now houses Radford’s Glencoe Mansion and Museum.  Davis is an American historian who was a professor of history at Virginia Tech and is the former director of programs at VT’s Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. Davis has written more than 40 books on the American Civil War.

Wharton and his wife Nannie Radford Wharton were prolific record keepers. According to Glencoe Museum research, “they penned thousands of letters and documents, including a cache of over 500 Civil War letters written between the couple. The Civil War letters will be published by Wharton descendant Sue Bell and historian William C. Davis in the fall of 2020.”

“This is a truly unique collection, one of the fullest and most unusual correspondences to survive the Civil War,”said Davis. “So often the woman’s letters don’t survive, but to have nearly the full dialogue between a husband and wife is practically unheard of.”

“The Whartons’ letters provide an insight into Southwest Virginia on multiple levels, from the Civil War in the region to life for the well-to-do of the community,” he continued. “They show the blossoming of a love between two people who married without knowing much about each other. “Letters provide an unfiltered view into an individual’s world. They are written with the idea that only the recipient will read them. Through the letters we see the true natures of the individuals. General Wharton was a passive man and a hopeless romantic. Nannie, on the other hand, was aggressive and much less sentimental.”

After the Civil War, General and Nannie Wharton settled in what is now Radford and in 1875 built a home they called Glencoe, which now serves as the Glencoe Mansion, Museum and Gallery. The Wharton residence remained in family hands for over 100 years. When the family sold the home, Bell’s parents saved the document collection, and we’re just now beginning to realize the extent of this family’s extensive record-keeping.

The New River Historical Society will meet at 2:30 p.m. at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum, right before Davis’s lecture.