Monday, July 4, 2011



Writing and creating these chronicles is a bit like time travel,  a roller coaster ride between the past and the present. It seems with every new journey I manage to uncover ever more surprising links and hidden secrets, as you will see with this story about the Dutton girls.

In this story much of the action takes place in the same geographical area but over a period of a hundred years...



While  trawling the web for bits and pieces on the American Civil War to include in Dennis Brown’s Quaker chapter, I came across a delightful love story about a dashing young Union Lieutenant and a pert young lady from Waterford in Virginia.

This anecdote documented by Meredith McBean McMath, brought alive a family’s often told story, and its contents remained in my mind long after I had finished writing the extended story of my Quaker family.

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, my earliest Brown Quakers were also those of the young heroine of Meredith’s account...

...On a road in the heart of Virginia, a handsome soldier in Confederate uniform approached a pretty young miss.  The fellow’s name was J. William Hutchinson and he was actually a Union officer with the 13th new York Cavalry, but acting as a Scout in enemy territory.  Soldiers weren’t allowed out of uniform, but he needed to be mistaken for a Rebel soldier in order to gather information.  So he became a turncoat, literally turning his blue cavalry jacket inside out to let the muslin lining be taken for Confederate homespun.

In this ‘disguise’ Lieutenant Hutchinson approached the young lady and politely asked directions.

From there things took an interesting turn.

Although a Virginian, the girl was a Quaker from the town of Waterford, and she and her village were faithful to the Union cause.  Her name was Lida Dutton, and, she was soon to become the editor of an underground newspaper.

While it was against the tenets of Lida’s faith to knowingly lie, it was against her nature to knowingly help a Confederate get where he was going any faster than he should.   Her solution was to give the fellow directions only a local could understand:  “Left at Brown’s stump, right at Uncle Harmon’s well, left at Zilpha’s Rock....”

At the end of these impossible to follow instructions, Hutchinson quietly asked, “Miss,  which side would you like for me to be on?”

She blurted, “If you’re a Rebel I hate you ;  if you’re a Northerner I love you!”

At that point he was pleased to introduce himself as Lieutenant John William Hutchinson of the 13th New York Cavalry, followed by a presentation of the ‘lining’ of his jacket, the brass buttons and navy wool of a Union officer.

Then he told her he planned to hold her to her promise.

                                                Meredith McBean McMath

And he did.



Our American Quaker Brown’s go back a long way, and so too do the Dutton’s, in fact they both go back to the Nottingham Lots where they were neighbours.

The Browns were among the first Friends from England to establish their early settlements along the Delaware in 1677. Like all my Quaker forebears there was a great deal of marriage and intermarriage in those first formative years in Maryland, and later in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and for me, sorting them out became very taxing indeed.  

The Dutton’s didn’t disappoint me.

While this particular story is about three clever and daring young ladies of the 1860’s, Lida and Lizzie Dutton and their cousin Sarah Steer, for me their Quaker story really begins with a great-great seven times-removed Aunt, the twenty year old Ann Brown, preparing for her marriage in her home on one of the newly established Nottingham Lots, way back in the early 1700’s.. 


The ceremony takes place in the year 1707 in the home of the bride’s father, William Brown the Immigrant and his second wife Ann Mercer. The groom is Robert Dutton, an original resident of the Nottingham Lots and the ceremony  is witnessed by Andrew Job and John Churchman, Ann’s cousin.

 Both young people are Quakers;  All those present are residents of William Penn’s Nottingham Lots.   Robert’s father, John Dutton, is deceased and his mother Mary is now married to John Neeld of Aston.

The 20 year old bride is about the same age as the more modern 1864 counterparts of our main story, but while all four girls are Quakers, Ann will not be called on to put her pacifist beliefs to the quite the same test.

Signatures of Robert and Ann Dutton on a 1712 lease.
The Dutton’s would later acquire further large tracts of land from his deceased father’s estate.  In 1716 Robert will build a mill at the North East settlement, a mill with a forge and furnace for iron working.  His business will prosper and he will make regular business trips to Jamaica. But Robert makes one trip too many and we suddenly hear no more about him or of his family.

Until finally in 1736, again in the home of her father William Brown,  his daughter, the widowed  Ann Dutton, is married to the widower John Underhill.  Her son Robert, and daughter Elizabeth Dutton witness the simple Quaker ceremony.

An so the spirit of the pioneer Quakers, both Dutton’s and Browns, is passed down through the generations  to our three inventive and patriotic young ladies of Waterford.



Waterford, Virginia circa 1864 from the Waterford Foundation

Quakers in Virginia in the 1860’s were in an awkward situation, their sympathies torn between the Union and the Confederacy. The peaceful separation that existed between Quakers and the slaveholding estates to the south quickly became mired as Virginia moved towards secession and war.

The town of Waterford in Loudoun County virtually straddled a no man’s land  and would do so throughout the Civil War with the southern rebel Confederates treating  the citizens of Waterford as traitors to the cause.  As a consequence the town suffered deprivation with pillaging and continuing seesaw invasion from both armies.

With the imposed blockade from the North and with no resident force to protect them, Loudoun County was at the mercy of the soldiers from the south.  Farms were torched, barns destroyed, livestock including horses confiscated.  The situation became so grave one Quaker mill owner, Samuel Cornelius Means was finally pushed to such an extent he personally raised a Union Cavalry Unit, the Loudoun Rangers, the sole Union Cavalry unit from Virginia.

While most Quakers maintained a strict neutrality caring for soldiers from both sides of the  conflict, they all feared being conscripted by force into Southern armies
Two Quakers fled to Maryland to escape this harassment and arrest:  John B. Dutton and Samuel Steer used their business and family ties in Maryland to set up trade stores on the border, thus enabling them to assist their Waterford families with goods and supplies.

Their daughters though stayed behind and became active participants in a surprising underground movement to support the Union cause. They became the editors and publishers of a subtle, rabble rousing newspaper.



 The Janney's property adjoined the Brown's.

Time travel back to Virginia’s beginnings threw up some interesting connections.  Not the least was that of Amos Janney, farmer and surveyor, and, as you’ve probably guessed,  a Quaker connecting back to the Nottingham Lots.

Amos was given the task of surveying the extensive Fairfax estates in Virginia, in a particular area around the Catoctin Creek that would become known as Taylorstown; a hamlet I might add that is just five miles north of the village of Waterford.

(The accompanying map shows the close proximity of the original Catoctin Creek settlements to  Waterford, and for keen eyes even includes the areas mapped by Amos Janney and settled on by Richard Brown.)

Following Amos Janney’s surveying of the Fairfax land, those measurements were then included in Richard Brown’s patent registered in the Proprietor’s Office in 1741...

...The land grant begins by identifying the proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia: Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron in Scotland. It then declares that Richard Brown, previously of Pennsylvania, will be given a tract of land near the Catoctin Creek. The land had been surveyed by Amos Janney...

The purchaser was my Brown ancestor, Richard the Entrepreneur (see Quakers 3), who was brother to Ann Brown, Robert Dutton’s wife, both the children of William Brown the Immigrant and his second wife Ann Mercer.

Richard went on to build grist mills and forges and accrue even more land holdings.  His third wife, the Irish born Mary Norton provided Mercer, the son who would continue my particular strand of the Brown family... (and provide the fodder for the following six Quaker chapters.) 

While the Janney’s would join the marriage merry-go-round when a Janney nephew, Mahlon, marries a Brown niece, Sarah in the Quaker Meeting House in Fairfax.

 And the Dutton story will continue a hundred years later when the Janney’s become fellow residents of the Dutton’s in Waterford and with them help celebrate the outcome of the Civil War.



Lida and Lizzie Dutton were bright, well educated, extremely clever and very forthright with their opinions on the war and the Confederacy.  They were not anyone’s image of what pious and retiring young Quaker girls should be.

Lida was just 19 and Lizzie 26 and engaged to a Lieutenant Holmes of the 7th Indiana Regiment.  Their brother James had already joined the Union army.  For the Dutton’s the war had become personal, not only did they have loved ones at the front, they themselves were constantly in the midst of battle.

It seemed though, they managed to stifle their Quaker beliefs as one of their future editorials would only too blatantly show...”Christians make the best soldiers.”

Together with their cousin Sarah Steer they created and published a secret newspaper to help cheer the boys in blue, the soldiers of the Union, while at the same time nursing the sick and injured from both sides of the war. They had no background in journalism but as the Southerners continued to harass and torment the town and countryside, burning barns and homes and pillaging supplies, the three girls dreamed up a plan to strike back at the Rebels.  

The Waterford News was born on May 28th, 1864, a four page edition with proceeds from its 10 cent price to be handed to the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a non government organization formed in 1861 to provide health and medical care to Union troops. Their efforts would raise over $1000 for the Commission.

Publishing and distributing a clearly  pro-Union newspaper within the jurisdiction of Southern Rebels was a hazardous and dangerous occupation.  At the time Loudoun County was under blockade by the Union, a desperate  attempt to cut off supplies to the southern armies. 

But Rebel raids and attacks  continued to strip the Loudoun County of livestock and grain.  Despite the efforts of men like John Dutton and Samuel Steer who had fled to Maryland and now filtered much needed supplies back to the town, the citizens of Waterford and the surrounding County were suffering.

The girls hoped their paper would help persuade the newly installed President, Abraham Lincoln,  to lift the embargo and perhaps even garrison the town of Waterford to provide some protection from attack. 

The three cousins wrote and edited their copy in the Dutton house in the centre of town.  The contents were then smuggled across the border to Maryland where a newspaper editor, a friend of John Dutton, set and printed the editions.

Sunnyside, the Dutton house on Second Street where the Waterford News was written.
The paper’s contents were quirky and full of news from home – ‘The young ladies of Waterford...are hereby notified to meet the first opportunity and lend their mutual aid in filling a large mud-hole with stone, said mud-hole being located in the middle of Second Street...the men have driven around it so much that it is extending each side.  Being fearful the gentlemen will get their feet muddy, the ladies will try and remedy it.’

Or in the Wanted column...

  • ...A Union commander to take charge of the Rebel Conscripting officers.
  • ...a great big Pound Sponge Loaf or Ginger Cake to be distributed amongst the Union Ladies of Waterford who haven’t tasted any for a long time...
  • ...a straight-jacket for the Editor who was bent on having her own way.

But while the paper showed evidence of the girls keen sense of humour it also reflected the tragedy  of the times.  Lizzie’s fiancé Lieutenant David Holmes was killed in the Battle of Petersburg; a short time later the editorial of the July 2 1864 Waterford News read...

...let not kind words, loving tones and love of good deeds cease to find a place in our hearts.  Now, if ever, is the time to ‘cast bread upon the waters’, when tired and weary ones are all around us and starvation stares so many in the face...when hope leaves and misery looks at us with hollow eyes...


With the war limping to a close General Grant authorises a raid on Loudoun County, this Union foray a precursor to Sherman’s victorious March to the Sea.

In local circles it becomes known as The Burning Raid, though in the Waterford News the Dutton girls call it ‘The Fury Order’.  The idea was to burn out the farms still able to provide forage to Confederate raider Colonel Mosby and his men.

Over a period of five days from late November 1864, the people of Loudoun County watched the Union soldiers destroy what they had been hiding and protecting from southern marauders for four years. 

The fires and the resulting smoke hung darkly over the countryside.  Some cheered the soldiers on, anything to stop the rebel Mosley and his gang.

Others though found it hard to accept.  When a Union soldier demanded matches from one Quaker lady for the sole purpose of burning down her barn, she quietly held the match sticks in the steam from her kettle before handing them over.  Her barn was saved.

I wonder did the three Waterford News Editors cast their minds back to an editorial they wrote in the July 2, 1864 edition, just five months prior to the burning...

...many threats have been made about burning our houses over our devoted heads.  But Waterford is still standing and we trust it may stand long in the future to remind other generations that in its time-honoured walls once dwelt as true lovers of their country as ever breathed the breath of life-long suffering, but stood faithfully to the end...

The burning and destruction however did have the desired affect on Confederate diehards, the spirit of rebellion had been broken.  By April of the following year the people were welcoming a peace.

And how did the good people of Waterford celebrate?

A record of sorts was written by a disgruntled Confederate who wrote a short bitter note and slipped it into his record book for posterity to read in later years...

...great rejoicing with the Union people in regard to the fall of Richmond and the surrender of General Lee.  It is said Samuel M. Janney had the old gobbler (turkey) killed and invited many of his Union friends to eat and be merry. William Tate shut himself up in a room and laughed his fill... Bill Lemmon and Lot Tavener have gone fishing, they say the work is done.  Thorton Witacker says the backbone of the Confederacy is broken and the war is about over...


Aerial view of Waterford and the Catoctin Creek  by Laura Shaw

With their newspaper’s work done and the war over, the three girls continued writing articles.  Susan Steer achieved her ambition to open a school for the children of freed slaves and became the first teacher of black children in Loudoun County.

Lizzie had maintained a correspondence with a friend and comrade of her deceased fiancé, a Lieutenant Joseph Dunlop who returned to Indiana to marry his childhood sweetheart.    His wife died after only two years of marriage, and some years later on a business trip to Washington, James made contact with Lizzie Dutton and they were married in 1882.


And that just leaves the story of Lida Dutton and her handsome Lieutenant.

John William Hutchinson made good his promise to hold her to her word when she said all those years ago, if he was a Northerner then she would love him, if he was a Southerner she would hate him.

When the war ended the dashing young man came back to Waterford to claim his sweetheart, and they married.   He joined the Quaker church and the young couple moved to New York.

Lida always blushingly denied she had said ‘love’,  her actual word, she claimed had been ‘like’.  But that was an argument that held no ground.  The two raised a loving family and in their old age were inseparable, surrounded by children and grandchildren. 

They were married for 53 years before the gallant Lieutenant passed away.

Following in the footsteps of all our Quakers they shared a momentous moment in history, and a story their family will never forget.

Robyn Mortimer ©2011

Much of this historical information in this chapter has been sourced from the Waterford Foundation Society.