A Collection in
The University of Virginia Library
Accession Number 12403
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Papers of John R. Guerrant and the Guerrant Family, Accession #12403, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
This collection was purchased by the Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library from Collectible Auctions, Graham, North Carolina, on November 19, 2002.
John R. Guerrant was born on July 12, 1865, in Callaway, located in Franklin County, Virginia. He and his brother Samuel "Cap" S. Guerrant, M.D., (July 12 1867-October 28, 1940), were orphaned at the age of ten and raised by their aunt (the sister of their mother), Mary (Saunders) Callaway, the wife of James Steptoe Callaway. Upon turning twenty-one, the Guerrant brothers inherited the family estate, "Algoma," which consisted of 5,000 acres near Callaway. Samuel Guerrant was a physician and horticulturalist at Algoma, and one of the most active civic leaders and Presbyterian churchmen in Franklin County until his death. John R. Guerrant graduated from Washington and Lee University and the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. On July 12, 1892, Guerrant married Katherine Randolph Lee (born August 27, 1865), the daughter of Charles Carter Lee (1798-1871) and Lucy Penn Taylor (1827-1913) and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Marie. In 1906, Guerrant served a term in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1906.
Guerrant had a large extended family and members of the following families are described in the diaries: Hale, Saunders, Shields, Early, Lewis, Dabney, Ingles. In addition, members of the Robert E. Lee family are described.
John R. Guerrant died in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1930.
The papers of John R. Guerrant and the Guerrant Family, ca. 325 items (4 Hollinger boxes, ca. 1.5 linear feet), ca. 1881-1926, 2001-2002, consist of diaries and other bound volumes, correspondence, notes concerning the collection, photographs, and negatives. The diaries in the collection primarily belong to John Reveley Guerrant, M.D. (1865-1930). Guerrant was a physician, a farmer and a horticulturalist. He graduated from Washington and Lee University and from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia.
The collection contains over thirty diaries and other accounts written by John Guerrant, covering his student years that he spent at the Oxford Academy in Floyd, Virginia (1881-1882), Washington and Lee University (1883-1886), and the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia (1887-1888); his years as a physician at Charity Hospital, New York and Roanoke, Virginia; and his year in the Virginia House of Delegates. Several of the diaries also contain personal expense accounts.
In addition to the diaries, the collection includes 170 photographs, and most are loose and unidentified. There is one album and ninety-five negatives, mainly pertaining to photographs that are in the collection.
Miscellaneous items in the collection include a ledger containing the genealogy of the Ingles family. Guerrant was a direct descendant of Mary Draper Ingles. In addition, the collection includes a letter from Samuel S. Guerrant, M.D containing the letterhead for Algoma Orchards. The collection also includes three ribbons that Guerrant received from Washington and Lee. The 1885 and 1886-87 diaries describe the athletic contests for which he received the ribbons. There is also a Farmer's Notebook for 1906, containing entries from 1906-1908 and lists of the distances of different locations from Algoma. Two copies of the Manual of the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia, Session 1906 are included, and one containing the autographs of twenty-three delegates was transferred to Rare Books. Other items include a picture of Washington and Lee University, horticultural prize ribbons from the 1911 Virginia state fair in Richmond, and the 1926 booklet "Instructions to the Medical Examiners" produced by the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. In addition, the collection includes the calling card of Katherine R. Lee and business cards of Dr. John Guerrant.
Of special interest in the collection are Guerrant's student diaries and the diaries describing the beginning of his medical practice, 1881-1902. The first two diaries in the collection contain accounts of routine activities and visits to family members. The third diary begins in September 1881, when Guerrant was enrolled in Oxford Academy in Floyd, Virginia, and includes his experience studying Greek, Latin and Algebra, playing baseball and other sports, and attending church activities. The fourth diary, covering February 8, 1882 through June 18, 1883, contains eight entries written in a secret code, the key for the secret code, and twenty-one entries written in Latin.
The fourth and fifth diaries cover student life at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and offer extensive information about student life. Diary Five covers June 19, 1883 to January 22, 1885. It is unique because 75 pages are in Latin. The June 25-June 28, 1883 entries include descriptions of the dedications of the Robert E. Lee mausoleum and Stonewall Jackson's grave. Guerrant describes the visit of the Old Soldiers to the grave of Stonewall Jackson and the orations given at the dedication.
He also talks about the mausoleum dedication: "When people were admitted into the mausoleum, the crowd was very dense before the door. The mausoleum was built behind the chapel. The people were admitted through the chapel and went out by a staircase that led down into the basement of the house." In a November 6, 1884 entry, Guerrant describes the construction of a new gymnasium at Washington and Lee and a "calathump" and mock dress parade carried out by about seventy-five students until 2A.M.: "Armed with horns and bells and other instruments of noise we proceeded to Professor Nelson's and began to make 'right hideous.'
Other events described by Guerrant include a torchlight parade on November 13, 1884, in which the town of Lexington and the Virginia Military Institute band and cadets participated as well as Washington and Lee students. Of note in the December 2, 1884, entry is Guerrant's report of a loud noise, which was the explosion of the Virginia Military Institute magazine. On December 3, 1884, Guerrant and his brother walked over to the Virginia Military Institute to find that the magazine was entirely demolished and "it is supposed that some expelled cadets were the authors of the deed."
Other content in Diary Five includes Guerrant's descriptions of boat races and other sports, including football baseball and boxing. In addition, Guerrant describes trips to Virginia sites such as the Furnace at Goshen, Natural Bridge, Lynchburg, and Alleghany Springs. Guerrant also describes the activities of the Lee literary society, of which he was a member.
Diary Six covers the period from January 24, 1885, to August 23, 1885. The February 2, 1885 entry describes a snowball fight among the students and the student election process for the president and manager of the final ball. Guerrant's May 2, 1885, entry describes athletic contests on the Lexington fair grounds, including the hundred yard dash, high jump, three legged race, hammer throws, broad jump and wrestling. On May 4, 1885, Guerrant describes other contests, including the hurdle race, sack race, running broad jump, potato race, baseball throwing contest, bicycle riding, mile race and glass ball shooting. Guerrant received the prize for swinging Indian clubs and received a ribbon, which is included in the collection.
The June 17, 1885 entry includes descriptions of the last day of commencement exercises, which included orations, performances by the Virginia Military Institute band, and a reception hosted by the president, George Washington Custis Lee Robert E. Lee's son), the president of Washington and Lee from 1871-1897. Other student activities described in Diary Six include sleigh rides and ice skating, campus elections, an "old folks" concert, a fishing party and boat race.
Diary Seven covers August 24, 1885 through February 27, 1886. A November 1885 entry describes the student celebrations of elections. The Washington and Lee students hired the Virginia Military Institute band to serenade prominent gentlemen in Lexington, including President Lee. President Lee did not appear, but others including Willie Anderson, Judge Edmonson, and Monsieur Davis give impromptu speeches to the students. Other events described in Diary Seven include the illnesses and deaths of Dr. Strider and Professor Campbell, a "calathump," Graham Lee Society debates, the Hop at VMI, and the Final Ball at Washington and Lee.
The Graham Lee Society debates included the following topics: "Was Slavery Morally Wrong in the South?" and "Ought Women be Allowed to Attend Washington and Lee?" The December 18, 1865 entry describes a student minstrel show. This diary contains observations about student attitudes about race relations.
Diary Eight covers February 27, 1886 through April 7, 1887. In the April 6, 1886 entry, Guerrant describes how students "put a darkey under the hydrant this evening" and were summoned to appear before the mayor. The president of Washington and Lee University, George Washington Custis Lee became involved and said that Negroes should be kept off campus, but not by force. The May 15, 1886 entry describes a university baseball game. The June 3, 1886 entry contains a description of Memorial Day celebrations. Guerrant notes that "Formerly, Memorial Day was on the anniversary of General Jackson's death, but as at that time flowers were scarce, the ladies determined to have the first Thursday in June for Memorial Day." One of his entries concerns Julia Jackson, the daughter of Stonewall Jackson.
The May 18, 1886 entry notes that Guerrant learned in conversation that "Julia would remain in bed for several days at a time without eating anything. One day at dinner a gentleman remarked to Miss Julia that she would not eat an onion. Thereupon Miss Julia ate the whole dish-full and went to a party that evening. Miss Eddie said that she was of unsound mind." The June 9, 1886 entry describes Guerrant's experience on the university crew team. The June 9, 1886 and June 11, 1886 entries describe a lecture on Montana and the Northwest by Professor Humphreys using a magic lantern.
The June 14, 1886 entry describes a boat race, student orations, and an awards ceremony. A ribbon for "Harry Lee- Port Stroke" is included in the collection. John Guerrant graduated from Washington and Lee with a degree in Latin in 1886. The June 16, 1886 diary entry describes the graduation ceremony. Colonel McClure discusses the causes of the Civil War and maintains that "a difference in opinion concerning the relation of the states and the union was the cause of the war" and not slavery. Guerrant returns to Callaway after graduation. The August 31, 1886 entry describes an earthquake that startled his family and other residents.
Diary Nine covers the period from April 8, 1887, to March 28, 1888. The diary begins with a description of a trip to Maryland and Washington, D.C. Guerrant describes a visit to the Corcoran Art Gallery, Arlington, and Georgetown and Mt Vernon. In the May 1, 1887, entry, Guerrant mentions that he attended a meeting of the Jefferson Society at the University. The next day, Guerrant visited the University Observatory and saw "the mechanical construction of the telescope and dome by a student." On May 3, Guerrant describes a trip to Monticello:
"Having completed 4 laborious miles, we came to the place on a summit of a high hill where Thomas Jefferson and connections of his family [lived]. The graves are surrounded by a fence of iron about ten feet high. A short distance from this is the house looking east and west. Either front commands an extensive view. Soon after we sat down on the grass that grows where once [was] the front steps, a darkey presented herself and asked for our cards, which is done according to the wish of Mr. Levi a Jew who owns the place. The house is not opened to visitors. In the east front yard we found two deer that were confined by long ropes which permitted [them] to graze over the green lawn. The house and grounds could easily be restored."
Throughout the diary, Guerrant describes lectures which he attended at the University, including lectures by Professors James L. Cabell and William C. Dabney. On October 25, 1887, he attended a lecture in "the new anatomical hall which is now about the best lecture room in the College". The November 1, 1887 entry describes a conversation with Dr. Dabney:
"He said that he graduated here when eighteen and married soon after and that on account of bad health had wandered about a good deal and had gone as far as Asia. He is now thirty-eight and has some children almost grown which he seems to think is praiseworthy. They (the Dabneys) came into possession [of] a considerable landed estate unencumbered. Dr. Dabney says that his habits are very regular, that he studies as much as he did when a student and that he has always done so."
Aunt Mary Callaway, who raised John Guerrant and his brother Sam, passed away on November 23, 1887 and Guerrant returned to Algoma for the funeral. Guerrant returned to the University on December 1, 1887. Guerrant recalls a conversation with Professor Minor on January 3, 1888: "He recognized my name at once wanted to know if I was a son of Major Guerrant. Said that I was of Huguenot origin and ought to be proud of it."
After college, John Guerrant's writings in the collection cover the years between 1890 and 1927. The first diary of this period begins August 15, 1891.The diary begins with descriptions of Guerrant's experience at the Charity Hospital in New York as he prepares for medical examinations in order to qualify for a position at a medical hospital. Guerrant returns to Virginia to manage Algoma and describes his trips to Pilot, Roanoke, Rocky Mount, Lynchburg, Bleak Hill and visits to relatives and calls to Katherine Randolph Lee.
Guerrant proposed to Katherine Randolph Lee in December 1891 and he describes the process of buying a new buggy and new furniture in addition to fixing the house, in preparation for the marriage. The notebooks contain a wide variety of content, including a combination of expenses, medical notes, trip notes, genealogy and some personal entries. In the 1891-1893 diary, Guerrant describes the burning of the old Algoma house. These books consist of smaller standard leather diaries in which family matters, preparations for building a house, problems with an impertinent servant, local events, the birth of two daughters and the early years of Guerrant's medical practice in Roanoke, Virginia are discussed.
The 1894 diary does not begin until June 6, 1894. Guerrant mentions his baby daughter Elizabeth, the trips he has taken with her and Katherine (Kitty), and the experience of having Elizabeth's baby picture made (September 7, 1894). The 1896 diary describes the birth of his daughter Marie and the illness of his wife Katharine.
In the 1898 diary, Guerrant writes about visits to the Algoma farm and the visits he made to patients in the area. The February 17, 1898, journal mentions that there was "considerable excitement this evening about the report that the Maine had been blown up in Havana harbor-perhaps by design". On February 18, 1898, he continues: "More particulars about the Maine disaster. About 251 men including two officers lost. Some think it accidental and some done by design. I am disposed to think that it was not accidental." In several entries, Guerrant mentions that he is considering sell the farm or part of the land.
The 1900 diary opens with Guerrant being called to serve jury duty. He is removed from the jury. The diary discusses maintenance of the farm and the treatment of patients. In a May 28, 1900 entry, Guerrant describes an eclipse that he witnessed while he was in Roanoke. The diaries covering 1900-1902 describe Guerrant's medical practice in Roanoke.
As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing Franklin County, John Guerrant recorded his experiences during his year in Richmond in a 1906 diary. In the January 19, 1906 entry, Guerrant says that Dr. George T. Snead made a motion to adjourn in honor of Lee-Jackson Day, but the motion was lost because Robert E. Lee, Jr. occupied the chair. Guerrant mentions Lee again in the March 10, 1906 entry. Both Richard E. Byrd and Lee gave speeches before the House of Delegates.
Throughout the diary, Guerrant records the status of various bills in the committees and on the floor. The entire 1908 and 1909 journals are in Pittman shorthand, with the exception of a few notes and lists of financial expenditures at the front and back. The 1910 journal only has entries from January 1 through January 18, all in Pittman shorthand. The diaries written through 1903-1914 consist of a mix of standard entries and entries written entirely in Pittman shorthand. The content consists of a combination of expenses, medical notes, trip notes, etc.
The 1908 journal written by Guerrant's elder daughter Elizabeth contains brief descriptions of family outings and visits to friends and relatives and ends with a description of her 15th birthday. She mentions her grandmother, Lucy Penn (Taylor) Lee, playing the piano, and picking peas to raise funds for a Confederate Monument that would honor her grandfather, Charles Carter Lee. She also mentions visits to her uncle George Lee in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Most of the pictures are group shots of family members or scenes from the Algoma farm in Callaway, Virginia (Franklin County). The Algoma farm, the Aria farm in Floyd county (home of Mrs. E.L. Wertz), and the Bleak Hill dairy farm of W.D. Saunders, a professor of dairy husbandry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, are included. A portrait taken by Plecker Studio in Lynchburg is included. It is probably a portrait of the diarist taken in the 1880s, possibly during his years at the Oxford Academy. The collection includes 19th century blueprint photographs, possibly taken at the School of Medicine or somewhere at the University of Virginia. John Guerrant may be in two of the cyanotype photographs.
The collection contains photographs of Guerrant's daughter, Elizabeth, as an adult including a head portrait and wedding photo. In addition, the collection includes pictures of Elizabeth's husband Walter and the baby Catherine Lee Trask. There are six pictures of Elizabeth and Walter hiking in Bryce Canyon. In addition, the collection includes unidentified head studio portraits, possibly of delegates that served with John Guerrant in the 1906 Virginia House of Delegates. There are many photos of Guerrant's Algoma farm, including the Nasseau and Blumenthal orchards, depicting various planting and harvesting machines, as well as other farm machines.
The collection folders and bound volumes are arranged alphabetically by the type of material. The diaries in the collection are organized in chronological order. Miscellaneous materials are contained in a separate folder. Photographs are organized in envelopes by name if possible. Unidentified photographs have been placed in separate envelopes. The collection also includes many negatives, which are contained in separate negative pages.