AUBURN LORENZO PRIDEMORE
EMINENT STATE SENATOR 1839-1900
By Rose S. Quillin
A tract of land, located in Scott Co., VA, four miles west of Clinchport, and approximately twenty miles from Gate City, the county seat, has remained in the same family since the Revolution. This land lay along a mere trail, the first across the Appalachian Barrier. The tract of land originally more than one thousand acres, belonged to the Pridemore family (early spelling Prigmore) and was later known as Purchase, VA.
Here lived Samuel Pridemore (born in 1784) with his wife Elender (born in 1789). This couple reared a son, Daniel Pridemore (born in 1810).
Daniel married Mary Ann Ingram (born 1810). She was the daughter of Isaac Ingram and Sallie Speers Ingram. They reared three children, Hiram Demosthenes Pridemore, Auburn Lorenzo Pridemore, and Sarah, who died in her early teens.
Since many of the most distinguished and illustrious men of America were born in log cabins, and the subject of this article was both distinguished and illustrious, it is easy to surmise that he too was born in a log cabin; however, the writer well remembers the original "Prigmore" home, not a cabin but a two-story log house. The downstairs of this house was used in my childhood as a loom room. The stairway versus the pole ladder was often referred to in conversations with my father, who reminded me that the real stairway, the clock, the nearby smokehouse (with its wooden lock), the barn, (larger than the house), corn crib and wheat bin did not bespeak of dire poverty of my mother's ancestors, but rather emphasized the fact that the crib full of corn, wheat bin, smokehouse, and always the goodly shaped stacks of hay and blade fodder to last until grazing time insured the thrifty owners an independence and ease of conscience which possessors of quick wealth cannot experience because these are the fruits of honest toil, which none but the holders thereof have just claim. (1)
It was with
background of great family solidarity, that these children grew up, as
did the children of Hiram D. Pridemore and his wife Susan Slemp
and as did the children of Charles Calhoun Johnson and his wife Addie
Johnson at Purchase, VA. Surrounding the same building, the dwelling
to be enlarged, but, in the yard and in the old garden, in spite
This security in a county which at that time held limited opportunities both educationally and otherwise, must have served as a stimulus for young Auburn L. Pridemore. He acquired a knowledge more comprehensive than is ordinarily allotted to any one man at that time. His attainments were largely the results of private study. In a sketch of him in Tyler's Encyclopedial of Virginia Biography, one finds that in August 1861 he recruited at the age of 24, a company for the Twenty-First Battalion, Virginia Infantry, of which he was Captain; in 1862 he was promoted to Major and later to Lieutenant-Colonel. In October 1863 he was commissioned Colonel of the Sixty- Fourth Regiment, Virginia Cavalry, which he commanded until the end of the war. (2) A brief review of the conflict in which he served with honor the State which gave him birth would not be amiss.
The firing upon Fort Sumpter was accepted as the first hostile engagement between the forces of the Confederacy and the Federal Government. Sumpter was evacuated by the forces on April 14, 1861. On the following day, April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call upon the Several States for their quota of militia to aid in maintaining the National Union. This call of President Lincoln's precipitated action on the part of Virginia, and two days thereafter, on April 17, 1861, an Ordinance of Secession was passed. The Governor, John Letcher, thereupon issued a proclamation announcing the accession of Virginia to the Confederacy. Immediately after this, a military league was formed of the people of Virginia with the "Confederate States of the South". By this agreement, the latter were bound to march to the aid of Virginia against the invasion of the Federal Government. (3)
Records show that the Federal Government at this time enlisted and his subjected to its control four times as many troops as the Confederates. These records also disclose that the Confederacy killed, wounded, captured and routed more Federal troops than it possessed. This amazing feat has rarely, if ever, been surpassed by the military achievements of any people. History does not furnish another instance in which our Southern people who, almost destitute of war equipment, won greater victories from armies far larger, supplied with the latest and most efficient arms. Here I am reminded of a first-hand story told to my husband as we drove William L. Johnson, a private in the Confederacy, over some of the camping places he had known during his service in the war. As he recounted to us a number of incidents, he turned to Hubert, whom he always called "Herbert", and remarked, "Herbert, I have always felt that if we had had the equipment you boys had in World War I, we'd have won that one!"
Not withstanding all the aforestated advantages of the Union, Pridemore proved himself, as did others wearing the gray - bold, resolute, sincere and courageous. He had conspicuous ability and strong convictions. Auburn Lorenzo Pridemore was proud of the opportunities to serve his country. He gloriously measured up to them. He met them. They were not easy. To substantiate this, references are made here to the battle of Jonesville.
On the last day of the year 1863, Lieutenant James W. Orr, a Lee Countian and friend of Colonel Pridemore, learned that the Federals were in Jonesville, and rushed eastward on horseback to alert Colonel Pridemore, then encamped at Yocum Station.
At the same time General William E. Jones, in command of the area Confederate troops, moved out of his encampment in Powell Valley west of Jonesville and marched toward the town. General Jones had been awaiting an opportunity to entrap the Federals under the command of Major Beers. Now that opportunity was at hand, because Colonel Pridemore, had the Powell Valley road to the east blocked as well as the road northward through Crank's Gap into Kentucky.
With Colonel Pridemore converging upon the county seat with a column of soldiers from the east and General Jones from the west, the Federals were soon trapped. On the afternoon of January 3, after a spirited charge upon the enemy in weather below zero. Major Beers surrendered his 383 men, three pieces of artillery, and 27 six-mule teams.
According to Lieutenant Orr, Colonel Pridemore mounted a stump after the surrender and made a speech to his men, complimenting them on their gallantry, and on what had been accomplished. For the Confederates this was a victory worthy of celebration, although many soldiers suffered frozen feet and one man froze to death on his saddle. (4)
The above experience of January 3, 1864 and others too numerous to be related in this paper, were only to be culminated in Colonel Pridemore's receiving the following Terms of Surrender in 1865:
HEADQUARTERS, CUMBERLAND GAP
of the same conditions that General Lee accepted from General Grant:
His acceptance of this order of surrender, without a trace of venom, in my estimation, makes Colonel Pridemore one of the preeminent men of Southwest Virginia's resplendent past.
life must have required more courage and patience than did the
of war, for war heroes were now faced with reconstruction, laws and
difficulties, because of burdensome taxation and constantly falling
In spite of all those difficulties, Colonel Pridemore realized now that
the war was over, but the battle of self-abnegation, the battle for
things and better conditions was now a new obligation, and the question
which the subject of this paper must have asked and answered was the
Numerous stories of his legal ability and of Hon. Patrick Hagan, under whom he studied law, are among my earliest memories. Those who knew Auburn Lorenzo Pridemore well, honored him and loved him. Of the humble and lowly he was especially regardful. He was always a defense attorney, consistently refusing to serve as a prosecutor. It was his career as an attorney that portrayed him as a man as strong, forceful and dynamic. He was strong in intellect. He was proud, high minded, sensitive, but not self-centered.
ability at rejoinder is illustrated by the following incident:
Another episode in the same courthouse, November 22, 1875, attests to his aggressiveness and earnestness. Henry S. Kane, another prominent attorney and Attorney Pridemore became so "terribly in earnest" that each was placed under $500.00 peace bond by Judge John A. Kelly, to keep the peace for three months. Patrick Hagan was Colonel Pridemore's bondman, and Colonel James B. Richmond went on the bond for Henry S. Kane. (6)
As proof of Colonel Pridemore's imperiousness, I give you a clipping from a local newspaper of the day with the heading:
Lion of Lee
the strong and sagacious legal lion of Lee, was conspicuous among the
to Bristol Thursday. He was going to Abingdon to appear together with
Patrick Hagan, in the case of Campbell and Hagan vs W. S. Whitely, als.
This case is to be heard during Judge Paul's special session of U. S.
now convened at Abingdon. It is a case of Settlement of Account and
some five thousand dollars. As might have been known, the case is one
no ordinary import, else the General would not have been in it, as he
had been elected to the House of Delegates, but was unable to take his
seat on account of the Reconstruction Regime. Thwarted in his ambition
to serve in the House of Delegates because of struggles of
Colonel Pridemore realized his ambition in 1871 when he ran and was
Member of the Virginia State Senate for the 1871-1875 term. According
manuscript statements of votes reported by Lee, Wise, and Buchanan
which composed the 19th Senatorial District in the election of 1871,
following were the candidates for State Senator from that district,
with the total vote
Thus, it was for fifty cents cost of the above one photoprint did I learn in April, 1966 that my grandfather's brother defeated my grandmother's brother, Campbell Slemp for State Senator in 1871. (8)
On the farm
belonged to our ancestors since the close of the Revolution and from
at night the glow of the fiery coke ovens in Wise County could be seen,
as a mere child I listened at the knees of my grandmother, Susan Slemp
Pridemore, to many stories; and many there were about Captain Hiram D.
Pridemore and his brother Colonel Auburn L. Pridemore. Very distinctly
The Imboden story had been a favorite; therefore it was such a happy experience to relate the family version within the past few months at the discussion period of a Southwest Virginia Historical Meeting to Professor Edward L. Henson who had done extensive research, and who gave a most interesting and informative paper on Gen. John D. Imboden.
It was a
to find positive proof that it was the knowledge and persuasive power
Colonel Pridemore that had helped promote the idea. It is also a source
of satisfaction to know that he lived to see the development. Not until
later did I come into the possession of an article published in the
Spectator", of Wednesday, August 3, 1887, in reference to the
of Southwest Virginia coal fields. This newspaper article not only
"The questions in State politics in 1871, were of a grave character, and the members of the General Assembly then returned, were in a large measure, new men, who had come upon the arena and unknown in the role of legislators before war. A. L. Pridemore was returning to the Senate. His was a far-off interior district, averaging seventy miles or more to the nearest line of railroad with no early prospect of having its condition improved through such agencies. The young Senator was not a medium man either in forming or expressing his views. There was a manliness and sincerity in his style that won him friends and all could discern he was there to promote the interests of his constituents and to serve the State with fidelity.
the Chesapeake and Ohio line of railway was then engaged in pushing its
completion to the Kentucky border, which was an accomplishment in 1874
- in that as well as many other interests of a like kind to different
of the State, there were frequent conferences and exchange of views,
under the auspices of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
General John D. Imboden was an attentive participant. Having never
the locality of his theme, noted his saying. (How they were employed
later has been related in the story the writer recalled from childhood)
however, my story did not include the fact that General Imboden was
by the distinguished Professor of Geology, in the University
"A company was immediately formed of Pennsylvanians and work continued on the railroad. Another company was subsequently formed, which has pushed the railroad by a complete track to the interior of Scott County and driving ahead for the Big Stone Gap.
Western line will build through the Gap, and is well on the way by the
Clinch Valley section, on which a large force is at work. Professor
has been recalled, and is reviewing his former work and finding new
to increase the wealth of that section of country.
The far-off interior corner was Scott County, the county of his birth; Lee County was his established home; Lee, Wise, and Buchanan had chosen him as Senator. Colonel Pridemore had made known their potentialities, and now Virginia was known beyond Appomattox - an achievement not to be discounted.
Early in his career as Senator, his ability as an orator was recognized. By the end of his term of service in that body, he established himself as a satirist of the first order.
Below is a sample of a satire of his published by a Richmond newspaper (10) at the close of his term. An original clipping of it is now in my possession. This satire fully illustrates his knowledge of existing conditions and problems:
THE VIRGINIA SENATE
Senate, its pleasure, its ills.
four ears in the State Senate, Colonel Pridemore's ambitions grew. On
8, 1876, from the home which he had established in Jonesville, VA,
Pridemore announced himself as a candidate for Congress of the United
This announcement was made by printed circulars and addressed to the
of the Ninth Congressional District. In the first paragraph of the
he sets forth his platform, and I quote:
fellow citizens, to the journal of the Virginia Senate, for the four
I served the State there, and challenge the production of one act of
against the interest and welfare of the people I then served.
been my hope
and my aspirations to do something in life that would encourage our
and laborers' sons to make strong efforts to raise themselves to a
in the affairs of the nation. Did you all know the trials, the
the poverty through which I have passed, I believe today, you would
over me the broad mantle of charity and help me in this my hardest
in life. I enter this contest trembling with fear. Yet, animated by the
voice of those who know me, encouraged by the smiles of those who trod
the fiery path of war with me, I enter the list and humbly appeal to
for your support, if I stand the equal of my competitors. If elected, I
shall not be a candidate for reelection the ensuing term.
Prior to the nominating convention held in Abingdon, VA, Colonel Pridemore was honored with the title "Brigadier General." This was of great value to him in the convention which nominated him for Congress. (12)
A rare find for me has been an extra edition of the MONTGOMERY MESSENGER, published in Christiansburg, VA, September 1, 1876, which gives a complete account of how the counties voted at the Abingdon Convention. The following quote is from a news item from the BRISTOL NEWS which was published in the extra under the title:
PRIDEMORE AND MCMULLIN AT ABINGDON
yesterday at Abingdon was enough to have turned an older head than that
of General Pridemore. There has been nothing like it in the county for
many years. How many desired to hear the discussion we can't tell. The
court room could not have held another man, and though the dense pack
almost to suffocation the interest not for a moment abated during the
hours that it lasted. If Pridemore had poured kerosene on the crowd and
ignited it with a parlor match, he would not have fired it more
than it was figuratively done by his admirable speech. We have never
anything like it. He was introduced by C. F. Trigg of the County
and was proceeding to address the crowd when Gov. McMullin passed
through the crowd up the steps to the stand with an agility that would
have done him credit at the age of 21. He cried out, "Hold, hold on."
claimed the right to open debate but the
The vote by the counties was given in the same Christiansburg paper, and after the seventh ballot Montgomery changed her votes solidly for Pridemore. He was declared the nominee and thus was chosen to break the power of the Carpet Bag Rule. In the general election in the fall, he defeated George T. Egbert, Republican, by a vote of 15,127 to 4,791 and served in the Congress from March 4, 1877 to 1879. (14)
In the presidential election of 1876 Pridemore's party boasted that the opposite party could not cope with the incorruptible Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate. However, the Republican candidate defeated Tilden. Some weeks after the inauguration the new president invited Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Edison to the White House to demonstrate their inventions. Mr. Bell fascinated the president with his telephone; Mr. Edison played his new phonograph.
The writer is not certain that Congressman Pridemore, then living in Washington, ever met Thomas A. Edison. However, Uncle Carroll Pridemore, enjoyed relating that when he was a young man a person came to Clinchport with the new wonder phonograph and one of the records he played was that of a speech of his Uncle Auburn Pridemore.
Pridemore fascinated an associate, young Theodore Roosevelt with first
hand Indian stories. In all probability, when Mr. Roosevelt, visited
Pridemore at the latter's home in Lee County in search of material for
his book, THE WINNING OF THE WEST, later written in four volumes, he
again the Indian story of the Henderson Indian Treaty on the Watauga,
saw arrow heads and other Indian artifacts - a vast collection of them
- which the
home in Jonesville, VA, the visitors crossed Wallen's Ridge, to
and spent the night with Congressman Pridemore's brother, Captain Hiram
D. Pridemore. My mother was always very proud of the fact that she
prepare the meals for their distinguished guest who later became
of the United States. A precious memory of the writer's is that years
surpassed that of his record as State Senator. He never faltered in his
fundamental beliefs as evidenced in the last paragraph of his speech
the bill H. R. 467 was before the Committee -
He made himself known to committees to which he was appointed, the most important of which was that of Foreign Relations. In connection with this appointment, he was sent to Europe, which furnished the writer with another story.
Not only was I impressed as a child that my kinsman had had the honor helping to plan a railroad but also of naming some railroad stations and some post offices in our native State. Auburn Lorenzo Pridemore was probably the only man in history who had his own private railroad station. The name of this station was Ben Hur, located approximately four miles from Jonesville. The station got the name given it by Colonel Pridemore from General Lew Wallace book, BEN HUR.
It is a unique one, in that it has a large fireplace and in his day a furnished bedroom. In the days when he made return trips from Richmond or Washington or the World's Fair in Chicago or Europe, no one, not even the servants imposed upon to meet him at nighttime when the roads were deep with mud or weather uncomfortable; instead, he spent the night in his own depot at Ben Hur.
the romance in the General's life would be unfair. He was thrice
Margaret Mitchell in the second paragraph of "Gone with the Wind" gives
a description that explains the physical attraction of Southern women
the day. During the years of the war Southern womanhood reached heights
of sacrifice and courage which will live forever in story and song.
such glorious women, men could not fail to be heroes. Miss Caledonia
Hill, daughter of Elijah and Eliza Hill, of Jonesville, VA, in 1869,
the bride of Col. Auburn
Now if I
was a man,
Ought to be
the 4th verse
of the Valentine, whose initials spell Beck was not successful in her
of the widower, and the Colonel was married the second time to Miss
Elizabeth Crockett, granddaughter of Elijah and Eliza Hill. Miss
was his new bride at the time of the Tilden-Hendricks Ralley in
To this union was born one son, Hiram Hagan Pridemore. Unfortunately
Crockett Pridemore did not live long, and General Pridemore
General Pridemore was seriously injured in a train wreck, which resulted in complications. It was during this illness he requested that his brother's children come to see him. Thus it was that the writer, a little girl, through no merit of her own, was driven with her mother and baby brother, Charles Franklin Johnson from Fairview to Jonesville. The journey as made in a hack with her mother's brother, Hiram Carroll Pridemore. The party left Fairview at daybreak. It reached the top of historical Wallen's Ridge at late lunchtime. (The first picnic lunch the writer can remember). An exciting experience and even now a pleasant memory was that of being led by the writer's uncle to the edge of the precipice and allowed to watch the plowing in the lowlands far below. The man, his team, and the plow she can see now as miniature toys. The party reached Jonesville long after sunset.
Fairview to Jonesville the little girl was a passenger because neither
the father nor mother could induce any of the neighbors to keep their
daughter. So the younger sister, Esther Mae, remained with the
and the father - hence the bad little girl was privileged to see
Auburn L. Pridemore. It was an ordeal to which, perhaps a child 4
years old should not have been subjected, but now how very happy she is
that her elders did not feel that she was too young to meet the loved
of the family. Now, even as this is written, the writer vividly recalls
the chilly feeling of his hand as he took hers, and can see the long
reached slowly out to draw her closer. Afraid? Probably she was, but
grownups were expecting a well-behaved little girl, and there was one -
afraid not to be. Now, more than sixty years later, how she wishes she
could have listened to his stories of the trips he had taken, of his
to Europe, and the many, many things about him for which she has had to
faithful to every duty to the General to the last, was Alex Martin, a
formerly owned by Captain Martin, and reared on a nearby farm in Lee
about one mile south of the Courthouse. Alex's desire to be free had
him some trouble, and he had to sojourn away from Jonesville for a
On returning, he lived for over 50 years with Colonel Pridemore. A more
trustworthy person Lee County probably has never produced. His
for the General's guests even unto the last one, and an adage he used
One of Alex's duties was to take the horses from the barn to the watering trough. The Sewell children would earnestly beg to ride and used the fact that the writer, then their guest, should be given an opportunity. They offered to gather the cobs and carry in all the chips, but Alex, knowing what was best, would shake his head and say, "Run along, run along. I rather do without your eggs than listen to your cackle."
to the writer later, which shows Alex's ability to think was one
to an incident which happened when he was deceived and cheated by a
of the county. In the days long ago hogs were marked by the owner, and
turned out for mast. These marks were on the ears of the animal. Alexa
had come to the General with the story, and after he was told to be on
his guard next time, Alex's answer was, "There will be no next time,
I'll give a hog an
not be fair
to either of these men, one a proud father, the other a man so proud of
his right-hand man, Alex Martin, who at the time of the writer's
visit was a lad of approximately thirteen years of age. This lad grew
and went into the field of Radiology. His advancement as an individual
in the field of medical science has been marvelous. He has had an
part in the investigation of the cancer cell. Dr. Martin is now
the oldest person
General Pridemore has left a legacy which those who bear his name will long cherish.
Purchase Farm, the place of his birth in Scott Co., VA, remains in the possession of two great-nieces. It is hallowed because of the fact that his descendants know there is not path in the woods which he has not trod, no hill that he has not walked in meditation. The pond, the spring, the blue green ridge were solaces for his heartaches, and inspirations for his full life. It was here he brought his first bride, and here his first child was born.
He died at his home in Jonesville, VA, May 17, 1900. The mortal remains were placed in the Jonesville Cemetery.
in Old Virginia, by James J. McDonald: Page 315. (2) A. Vol. 3, page
Tyler's Encyclopedia of Biography; B.
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