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Blackley Family papers

 Collection
Identifier: SC 0232

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Blackley Family Papers, 1830-2016, consists of hundreds of letters that span from 1830 to 2011; diaries; official United States, Confederate, and Texas documents; literary works; newspaper clippings; postcards; ephemera; and photographs. These papers document the related Scott, Bassett, Blackley, Hoge, Matthews, and Nix families of Texas and Staunton, Virginia.

Dates

  • 1830 - 2016

Creator

Access Restrictions

One file within the correspondence series marked as restricted is inaccessible to researchers until January 1, 2035 at the request of the donor. Access to original media, photographic negatives, and slides contained within this collection is restricted; reformatted access copies of these materials may exist, or researchers may request digital access copies be made. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact the Special Collections Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu) before visiting Special Collections to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Bio/Historical Note

The Blackley Family Papers document the related Scott, Bassett, Blackley, Hoge, and Nix families of mostly Texas and Staunton, Virginia between 1830 and 2016. James Scott (1799-1856) was a Tennessee native and former Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice who married Sarah Lane (1803-1880) and settled in Anderson, Texas. James was a prominent Texas judge who was friends with Davie Crockett. While in Mississippi and Texas, James and Sarah had six children. The eldest, Elizabeth “Lizzie” (1833-1917), was born in Mississippi in 1833, Sarah “Sallie” (1843-1914), born April 9, 1843 in Texas, and one of their brothers, Garrett (1838-1862), born in 1838, contribute the most to this collection of letters.

Lizzie married William H. Neblett (1826-1871), a farmer and attorney, in 1852. He eventually left her to go fight for the Confederacy. Her domestic struggle on the home front during the Civil War is the subject of Erika L. Murr’s book, A Rebel Wife in Texas: The Diary and Letters of Elizabeth Scott Neblett, 1852-1864 (2001).

In 1862, Sallie married Robert Houston “R.H.” Bassett (1836-1870). R.H. went on to enlist and serve in the famed Hood’s Texas Brigade from 1861 to his wounding in 1864. He worked briefly as the adjutant general to Major General John Bell. While leading the regiment, he was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga by an artillery shell fragment that lodged in his shoulder. This would effectively end his role in the war. Following the conclusion of the conflict and his recovery from the wound, R.H. tried his hand at politics in a bid to represent Grimes County, Texas in Congress. Their first child, Robert, died tragically in 1864 at only eight months old. R.H. died in 1870 because of health complications that appear related to edema.

R.H.’s brother, Noah (1839-1886), also served in the Texas Brigade. The correspondence between R.H., Sallie, and Noah provides a lucid account of the Army of Northern Virginia’s major campaigns and operations, including developments related to the Battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga.

Garrett Scott, Sallie Scott’s brother, died in action at the Battle of Antietam September 17, 1862 while serving in the Texas Brigade. His letters from the early years of the war offer yet another perspective of campaign and camp life.

R.H. and Sallie’s daughter, Barbara “Belle” Bassett (1865-1958), married William Mason Blackley (1863-1898) in 1884 and lived in Staunton, Virginia before moving to Washington, D.C. Research suggests they only had one child, Belle Blackley (1890-1967), whom never married and lived out her life in Washington, D.C. However, an 1888 letter contained in this collection written by Ida Carter, the Blackley’s “Black Mamy,” is addressed to a Col. Bassett Blackley, in care of W. M. Blackley. Carter begins the letter “Dear Little Bassett.” This letter seems to suggest that the Blackleys did in fact have another child, Bassett Blackley, prior to Belle. If that is the case, Bassett Blackley may have died in childhood.

The bulk of the twentieth-century material was created by or concerns William Mason Blackley's nephew, Charles “Chas” Phillips Blackley Sr. (1909-1999), his wife Catherine Matthews Blackley (1914-2010), and their son and daughter-in-law Charles “Chuck” Phillips Blackley (b. 1951) and Patricia Fry Blackley (b. 1952).

Charles “Chas” Phillips Blackley Sr. was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1909. His parents died from the Spanish Flu when he was 10. Their deaths required Chas and his sister Mary Gilkeson Blackley to move in with their aunt, Fannie Blackley Cushing in Staunton. These materials cover his travels throughout the Pacific and Asia aboard a “tramp steamer” with boyhood friend, George Earman in 1930, his 1927-1929 military training in the little discussed Citizens Military Training Camps (CMTC), time at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), his 1934 travels in Europe, World War II military service, and ownership and operation of WSVA, the first radio station in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Chas sold his share in WSVA and moved to Staunton, Virginia where he started the WTON radio station. Beyond his official jobs, Chas spent much of the early 1930s as an amateur playwright and author. Chas and Catherine Matthews were married in 1938.

While traveling Europe via train in 1934, Chas met David Kahn, a young Presbyterian judge of Indian descent. They would become lifelong friends. Mr. Kahn went on to become a governor of an Indian province under British rule and later head the Department of Sanitation for Calcutta. He and his wife visited their children, who had moved to the United States, and Mr. and Mrs. Blackley often until his health would not allow it. Evidence of their lifelong friendship can be found most clearly in this collection’s correspondence and photographs.

Chas’ WWII experience saw him drafted at age 35 and shipped to Camp Crowder, Missouri for training. He would eventually be transferred to Washington, D.C. where he worked as a private in the basement of the Pentagon. According this son, his superiors frequently called him upstairs to request autographed photos of American Broadcasting Company (ABC) celebrities. He was able to oblige them because of WSVA’s status as an ABC affiliate.

Catherine Matthews Blackley was originally from Cambridge, Maryland and came to the Shenandoah Valley to attend the State Teacher’s College at Harrisonburg (now James Madison University). She graduated in 1935 with a degree in home economics. For a short time she taught in Norfolk, Virginia before marrying Chas Blackley in 1938 and buying a home on Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg. After Chas was drafted and shipped to Camp Crowder, Mrs. Blackley traveled to Neosho, Missouri to be with her husband. While in Missouri, she volunteered with the Red Cross to help care for wounded soldiers. She continued this service after Mr. Blackley was transferred to Washington, D.C. After the war, they returned to the Valley and Catherine became a member of the Staunton School Board and was very active in volunteer work.

Charles “Chuck” Phillips Blackley Jr. was a professional engineer and graduate of Virginia Tech. He provided services in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Chuck married Patricia Fry in 1971. At the time he sold his office it was the largest engineering company in the region outside of Richmond, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia.

Patricia Fry Blackley graduated from James Madison University in 1987 and became a licensed real estate appraiser. After Chuck stepped away from his engineering office he teamed up with his wife and the couple became full-time photographers and writers. Their work can be found in hundreds of magazines, books, and calendars.

Extent

13.57 Cubic Feet (28 boxes, 2 flat folders)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Blackley Family Papers, 1830-2016, consists of hundreds of letters that span from 1830 to 2011; diaries; official United States, Confederate, and Texas documents; literary works; newspaper clippings; postcards; ephemera; and photographs. These papers document the related Scott, Bassett, Blackley, Hoge, Matthews, and Nix families of Texas and Staunton, Virginia.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Correspondence is arranged chronologically according to the name of the creator, or sender of the letter.
  2. Personal Papers is arranged chronologically by named individual.
  3. Ephemera is arranged chronologically.
  4. Photographs is arranged chronologically by individual or subject.
  5. Scrapbooks is arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

Charles P. Blackley Jr. of Staunton, Virginia donated this material in various accretions throughout from 2015-2018.

Other Formats Available

Digital images of nineteenth-century correspondence and papers are available upon request.

Related Material

Charles C. Phillips Civil War Papers. MS 0327. Virginia Military Institute Archives.

Murr, Erika, L., ed., A Rebel Wife in Texas: The Diary and Letters of Elizabeth Scott Neblett, 1852-1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Lizzie Scott Neblett Papers, 1848-1935, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Yourself and family are invited to attend the feast of Mondamin corn festival. n.p.: Staunton, Va.: J. Harry Drechsler, pr., [1890], 1890. JAMES MADISON UNIV's Catalog, EBSCOhost (accessed May 2, 2017).

Separated Material

All published monographs have been cataloged individually and placed in Special Collections’ rare book collection. Catherine Matthews Blackley’s Schooma’am yearbooks were removed and housed with the yearbook collection. They are retained due to heavy annotations.

Bibliography

  • Murr, Erika, L., ed., A Rebel Wife in Texas: The Diary and Letters of Elizabeth Scott Neblett, 1852-1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Processing Information

The collection as a whole required only limited preservation treatment. Some of the correspondence and papers did require Mylar sleeves. The 3D objects are housed together in one box with special housings created to protect them long-term. Most of the nineteenth-century letters required flattening to make them more accessible and to allow for proper digitization as per the donor agreement. Also, many of the diplomas and older photographs were removed from their frames for proper storage. Original order of materials was maintained wherever possible, taking into account provenance, storage needs, and accessibility for researchers.

Title
A Guide to the Blackley Family Papers, 1830-2016
Status
Completed
Author
Jake Harris, Joel Webster
Date
Summer 2016, May 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2019-07: Revised to include 2018 addition.

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
880 Madison Drive
MSC 1704
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612