Tuesday, February 23, 2021

52 Ancestors - POWER: Councilman Harry W. Escue

Mattie Coleman Escue
(1882 - 1978)

There was a time when everyone in Shenandoah, Virginia knew my grandfather’s cousin, “Miss Mattie Escue.” It’s a small-town thing. She was a school teacher and EVERYONE – whether from a small town or a big city – can recall a particular teacher from their past. In Shenandoah, it was Miss Mattie.

I do not know if Mattie’s husband Harry W. Escue enjoyed the same kind of “fame,” but he was well-liked enough to serve several terms on the town council. Admittedly, his was hardly the powerful position of a governor or president, but in a small town, the council was indeed the seat of power where big decisions affecting the lives of the town’s citizens were made. Here are some of the ordinances written while Harry Escue was a councilman:

1912: That fire crackers and other explosives be exploded only between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Christmas and New Year’s days, under penalty of $1.00 fine and costs.

1913: That the Eagle Hotel management be notified by the Sergeant not to pump sewage into the gutter before ten o’clock at night. However, any sewage that is run through the terra cotta pipe may be pumped at any time.

1914: That notices be posted that a fine of $1.00 shall be imposed upon any person riding on sidewalks either on roller skates, bicycles, or wagons.

1917: All users of electric lights who own their meters shall pay 10 cents per kilowatt with a minimum of $2.00 per month for business and $1.50 per month for private residence.

1934: Repealed an ordinance from 1897 that regulated the speed of locomotives through town.

1935: Set license rate on slot machines at $25 per annum.

Yes, important issues.

Harry Escue and son
probably Emile

What else is there to know about Harry W. Escue? First of all, the “W” stands for “Waltzingham.” Where in the world did that name come from? Often children will carry their mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name; however, I have yet to find this name in Harry’s lineage. Admittedly, I have not tried that hard.

What I do know, though, is that Harry Waltzingham Escue was born to Lilburn Henry Escue and Lutie Belle Brown on 4 October 1871 in Albemarle County, Virginia. 

Lilburn was a veteran of the Civil War and earned a living as a carpenter. He and Lutie Belle married in 1868 and had three children: Mary, Harry, and Loula. 

By 1880, Lilburn was out of the family picture. Lutie and children were living with a woman known as Mary Beadles. Meanwhile, Lilburn had moved back home with his parents as had 5 siblings ranging in age from 24 to 45. All of them claimed to be single.

For the rest of his days, Lilburn was enumerated in census records as living with a sister. He died 17 February 1923. His death certificate shows his body was found on a lot in Charlottesville where he had frozen to death.

As for Lutie Belle, she made her home with her children. In 1900, she was a dressmaker living in Shenandoah with her daughter Lula Belle Wade and family. In 1910 Lutie Belle was with Harry.

Harry had married Sallie Florence Drummond in 1893. They had 4 children: Lula Florence, Clement Willard, Emile Clarence, and Emet who died in infancy. Sallie’s untimely death in 1906 might have prompted Lutie Belle to move in with Harry to care for the children.

Harry remained a widower for 16 years. In 1922 he married Mattie Coleman, daughter of Jack Coleman and Emma Jollett Coleman. At the age of 40, Mattie became a stepmother to adult children.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
23 Jan 1939

Harry worked all his adult life for the Norfolk & Western railroad. The town of Shenandoah was a major hub along the route between Hagerstown, Maryland and Roanoke, Virginia. In 1939, Harry was awarded a Diamond insignia for 50-years of service.

Harry died a year later in 1940. Mattie outlived him by 38 years.

Harrisonburg Daily News Record
11 Jan 1940


the Escues
Coverstone Cemetery in Shenandoah, VA

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Another great family story...very interesting how the family of Harry's parents split up, but sisters, brothers were there for them. And I loved reading the ordinances passed for the town!