MOUNT GILEAD — Members of the Morrow County Genealogical Society were delighted with a portrayal of Northern Spy Elizabeth VanLew by Chris Petee of Mount Vernon.
Sixty members of the society attended the 33rd First Families Luncheon at Trinity United Methodist Church April 27. Members and their families were present from California, Michigan and Illinois as well Morrow and several other Ohio counties.
Petee brought Civil War history to life as she portrayed VanLew and her high society life in Richmond, Virginia before, during and after the Civil War. She also showed the Southern belle’s desire to see slavery abolished and her wish to see the Confederacy defeated.
VanLew visited the Union Prisons in Richmond and provided food and clothing for prisoners after seeing the deplorable conditions of the prisons. She and many others in Richmond helped some Union prisoners escape and gave some books with coded messages. She was eventually asked to become an official federal agent for the north.
Petee’s narrative concluded with the story of VanLew’s messages being sent to General Grant in 1864, and the burning of Richmond by citizens in 1865 so Union forces couldn’t use anything remaining. She was reviled by Richmond society both during and after the war. She buried diaries that she kept, of which two have been found.
Petee carried off her account in a soft, flawless southern accent throughout her presentation. It was a story that she presented in the Summer Chautauqua last summer.
• Dan Rhodebeck gave an update on the digitizing project of county records by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints at the Mount Gilead Library. He said that if there are any churches that want records digitized, the project will be in the area for a few more months. Stan Sipe reported on additions to the library and Joyce Clemons gave a report on the Cemetery Preservation Group.
• In the candle lighting presentation, Ufferman said that the three candles symbolize the past, present and the future. The future is for their descendants who will gain a sense of pride through their research.
“You have passed on to them a heritage and a link with the past that will live through the ages,” Ufferman said.
• To obtain membership in First Families of Morrow County, you must prove that a direct descendant resided in Morrow County as of 1850. In the past 33 years, the members have proven 686 ancestors. This year there were 29 new proven ancestors.