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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
"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.
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
"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
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.
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
Mary survived her husband
for twelve years and finally died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. V.
L. Perry, in Hyattsville, Md.
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
In the last hours of
her life there was assuredly vouchsafed to her a vision of `rest.' It
was the last word she spoke."
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