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The Glengarry McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 8 - Mary Naylor McDonald


Mary Naylor McDonald, the oldest child of Angus W. McDonald and Leacy Anne Naylor (his wife), was born in Romney, Virginia, Dec. 27th, 1827, and named Mary for her father's mother and Naylor for her mother's family. At quite an early age she was sent to a school in Winchester taught by Madame Togno. At this school she was taught both Latin and Greek; and I have often heard it related that she translated the Greek Testament by the time she was twelve years old, her father having promised as

a reward for that accomplishment that she should study music.

She was of a most lovable and happy disposition, full of vivacity, and possessed of a ready sympathy which lent great charm to her manner. She was also very pretty, with a fair complexion, brown hair and dark, greyish-blue eyes, which sparkled with fun or filled with tears just as her mood or emotions prompted. She had a lovely voice, too, which gave great pleasure to her friends and she kept up her music—vocal as well as instrumental--until quite late in life.

Mary lost her mother when about fifteen years of age and was thus early brought to face responsibilities unusual for so young a girl.

She was married April 27th, 1852, to Thomas Claiborne Green, of Culpeper County, though at the time of their marriage he was living in Charles Town, Jefferson County, Virginia. (At that time there was no such State as "West Virginia"), engaged in the practice of law. Surrounded by a delightful and congenial society with children to bless their home, life flowed very smoothly and pleasantly for several years.

Finally, one memorable morning at early dawn, the little town where they lived was paralyzed with the rumor which traveled with telephonic swiftness that the Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, which was but a few miles distant, had been taken possession of by a lot of men armed with pikes, some of them over six feet long, and that these outlaws had gone into the houses of several of their friends and neighbors in the night, taken them from their beds and had there now with them in the Arsenal.

Could anything have been more startling to a quiet, orderly, Iittle Country village? Her husband, Thos. C. Green, happened to be the Mayor of the place at the time, and few more serious offenses than an occasional raid by a negro of a hen roost, had been brought to his official notice. In a little while the whole country shared with them all the startling details of this dastardly invasion and the hitherto quiet village became one of the historic localities in the great tragic drama that held the stage in Northern Virginia for the four ensuing; years.

Everybody knows how the insurgents were finally captured and lodged in the jail in Charles Town. Mary's husband was not only Mayor at that eventful epoch, but he was also appointed by the Commonwealth to defend John Brown. Naturally she heard much of the whole business and when sentence was finally passed that he should be hung Mary wanted to go off on a visit until the whole thing was over, but finding that to be impossible she announced that she didn't want anyone to tell her where the hanging would take place, or indeed anything in connection with it.

Not that she had any sympathy whatever for the culprit, but she was very tender-hearted and had no relish for suffering of any kind, much less such a gruesome event at that. She couldn't help, however, knowing the day it was to take place and in order to shut everything connected with it from her knowledge, she retired to her room upstairs and closed all the shades carefully, but when the sounds from the street made her aware that numbers of people were passing the house she decided to go to the attic where she hoped to get beyond the sound as well as the sight of the passing crowds.

The subdued light of her star-chamber, as well as the perfect quiet, had the effect of completely composing her agitated nerves—and if the facts could be known with absolute certainty it is highly probable that she uttered a prayer or two for the soul of the misguided creature who was about to be launched into eternity—so after awhile the close atmosphere of her apartment becoming oppressive, in an unwary moment, she threw open a window—and behold! swinging in mid-air the body of the lawless invader.

If she had exercised the greatest care in the selection of her vantage point, as well as the propitious moment, she could not have been more successful. Not an object intervened between the open window and the ghastly spectacle. With a scream of horror she fell back from the sight and it was some time before she was able to relate her experience, nor did she ever relish the distinction of being the only lady of her acquaintance who had witnessed the famous execution.

It was not long after that before the war came on in real earnest and her husband, having always been an enthusiastic believer in State Sovereignty, was among the first to enlist as a private in a volunteer company of his town, the "Bott's Grays," and was mustered into the service of the Confederacy in the 2nd Reg. Virginia Infantry, and was with that noble brigade when it received its baptismal name of "Stonewall" at the first Manassa. He seems to have borne a charmed life then as he did many times later, for, although he passed through the war without a scratch, his clothing bore many marks of shot and shell.

Their sweet home life was now broken up and Mary moved first to Winchester with her little children and later to Richmond. Her husband remained in the ranks for sometime but was finally induced by his friends to become a candidate for the Legislature and although he was elected he invariable joined his company again whenever there was a prospect of an engagement. His colleagues said that they always knew when to expect a fight by Green's seat being vacant. He had—in his character of free lance—an amusing encounter with General Early when they were on the retreat from Gettysburg. Mr. Green had dropped out of his regiment, which was crossing a stream, and was carefully removing his shoes and other articles of apparel before plunging into the water when General Early rode up and, with his usual oath, demanded to know what he was doing out of ranks, whereupon Mr Green politely insinuated that it was none of his business.

"Do you know that you are addressing General Early, sir?' he retorted in irate tones.

*'Do you know that you are speaking to a member of the Virginia Legislature?" returned Mr. Green, cooly continuing his preparations.

Mary continued to live in Richmond until the close of the war, and I remember an incident which occurred at the time of the surrender which was both tragic and humorous in which Mr. Alex Marshall played a prominent part, and although she knew that Richmond had been evacuated by the Confederates, Mary still loyally clung to the hope of ultimate success.

About three o'clock in the afternoon of the day of the surrender Mr. Marshall appeared at her house. She was passing through the hall as he entered the door, and as his face wore such a serious aspect, she exclaimed in alarmed tones: "Oh, Mr. Marshall, what is the matter?"

"Mary,'' he replied hesitatingly, unwilling to impart such distressing tidings, "General Lee has surrendered."

"I don't believe one word of it," she promptly returned, "and you just get right out of this house if you have come to tell me such a thing as that."

And when he still continued to assert it she just as peremptorily insisted upon his leaving the house, which he finally did, with tears in his eyes, saying:

"To think that Angus' child should treat me so."

He from the pavement at the foot of the steps and she in the doorway continued the conversation until finally from that safe vantage point Mr. Marshall convinced her that the melancholy news was only too true.

When all at last was over, like many another family, they returned to find their home in Charles Town almost a wreck, but with stout hearts and a still unshaken faith in God's mercy and justice (though it had been severely jarred by the results of the war) they both, Mary and her husband, went to work in good earnest to gather up the fragments and pick up again the dropped stitches of their lives. With her family of little children she necessarily had much to do in the way of sewing and her intense delight when she became possessed of her first sewing machine was almost pathetic. She frankly confessed that she just had to stop her sewing several times during the day to thank her Heavenly Father on her knees for the great invention which meant. so much to womankind.

Mr. Green, her husband, resumed the practice of his profession until June, 1876, when he was appointed by Gov. Jacobs to a seat on the Bench of the Court of Appeals, to which he was twice re-elected, holding the position at the time of his death, which occurred Dec. 1st, 1889, and the sentiments of his colleagues, at a meeting which was held by them to take appropriate action on his death, were expressed in the following tribute:

"He was one of the purest and ablest judges that has ever adorned the bench of this State * * * *  The plaintiff and the defendant were to him as impersonal the letters of an equation, and he applied himself to the solution of the questions before him as if he were searching by known and inflexible mathematical processes for an unknown quantity.

Truth was the object of his search and he followed it with unerring judgment. No Judge, on any bench, ever gave such exhaustive research to the salve number of cases, in proportion to those in which he wrote opinions, as Judge Green.

His devotion to duty and respect for right and justice are universally acknowledged and neither envy or malice ever called in question the purity of his life or his impartiality in the performance of his public duties. His nature was simplicity itself, confiding and loyal in his friendships but firm and uncompromising in his convictions of right and duty."

Mary survived her husband for twelve years and finally died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. V. L. Perry, in Hyattsville, Md.

A notice of her death, which appeared at the time, said:

"Mrs. Green was a woman of fine intellectual abilities, well fitted to be the wife of her distinguished husband, for whose integrity of character and nobility of mind she had the deepest admiration. She supplied the practical side to a great character, whose child-like simplicity was one of his peculiar attractions; sympathizing also with his intellectual life, following his political faith and aiding and supporting him through a married life of almost forty years.

To unselfishness of life she united fidelity to principle and duty; loyalty to the past, courage and hopefulness for the future; fortitude, refinement, simplicity; an indomitable truthfulness of character, a supreme tenderness of soul, a lovely and gracious humour, the keenest wit. * * * * For more than fifty years she Ient her energies and activity to work in the Church, Sunday School and among the colored people, whom she always attached to her by her charity and sweetness.

In the last hours of her life there was assuredly vouchsafed to her a vision of `rest.' It was the last word she spoke."

Five children survived her. Mrs. John Porterfield, Mrs. Cruger Smith, Mrs. J. E. Latimer and Mrs. V. L. Perry and one son, Thomas Claiborne Green. She lost two children in infancy and a lovely daughter, Mary, about the age of fifteen.


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