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Frank Veney… the other half of the Bethany Veney Story

February 16, 2009

In April 1915, the Page News & Courier featured a story about Frank Veney, stating that he claimed to be over one hundred and twelve years old at the time. Though he was, according to census records, more than likely born around 1830 rather than 1803, in his remarkable life span, Veney made the claim of having been married no less than 25 times. The paper read, “Whether his claim of having lived more than a century can be substantiated, the old man bears unmistakable marks of having weathered a long and checkered career. All this is evidenced by his flowing gray locks, his palsied form and unsteady gait. All this coupled with his great memory of the stirring incidents recorded by ancient history and we find the elements that contribute to perhaps the oldest person in Page County.”

Though he claimed to have been married twenty-five times, Veney, in his March 30, 1915 interview, could only recall the names of eleven of his wives. Interestingly, Frank Veney can be found in the 1860 Page County census records as being a free man, 30 years of age and living with his son, Joshua (12) at the William H. Brumback place in Luray. Though he was free, many of the wives that Veney could recollect had been slaves. To the best of his memory, his first wife was “Nancy.” Though he could not recall the first name of the next wife, he did remember that her last name was “Mullen.” Veney could not remember his third wife’s name whatsoever but did recall that she had been a slave and was owned by a man by the name of Mills in Greene County. The fourth wife recalled was Fannie Brady, “who died after being married on year leaving an infant child” (perhaps Joshua). “On her dying bed the woman requested as her last wish that Frank marry her sister, Mary, in order that the child should be taken care of.” Frank Veney married her as his fifth wife, and then followed by Sarah Smith. However, that “domestic felicity was of short duration” as he had “found out some things on her that made him leave her.” Frank Veney’s next marriage was to Mildred Todd, and then a “woman by the name of “Read.” Finally, by the mid 1850s (according to how Bethany Veney’s account reads), it appears that he finally married Bethany. Bethany was at that time a slave belonging to John Printz. According to Frank Veney, “She was a noted cook employed by the late Daniel Adams (likely this was G.J. Adams) who conducted a hotel for many years in Luray. Before being in the employ of the Adams hotel she was bought by the late David McKay of Luray. She did a great deal of the cooking for the hands of Mr. McKay while he as engaged in building a railroad (actually a turnpike) in Bath County.”

Though standing in stark contrast with the story that appears in Bethany Veney’s personal account The Narrative of Bethany Veney: A Slave Woman, published in 1889) and reasoning for leaving Page County in 1858, Frank Veney recalled “Influenced that she possessed in the culinary art finally led to her settling in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she now lives at One hundred and three years of age.”

Frank Veney continued that “After leaving these parts Frank Veney says he never heard anything of her whereabouts for three year, and thinking she was dead, the old man made another matrimonial plunge” with his next wife, Mandy or Amanda Jeffries. To this particular marriage was born a daughter, Flora (ca. 1874), who later married Cyrus Dixon in 1902. It is with Flora Dixon that Frank Veney resided at the time of the interview, “in the western suburbs” of Luray.

Interestingly, Frank Veney stated at the end of his interview that he had been in “correspondence with his former wife in Massachusetts, who has made many contributions to his comfort in his declining years.”

From an article written by Robert H. Moore, II for the Heritage & Heraldry column of the Page News & Courier, July 1, 2004.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 12:09 pm

    This is a very interesting story between Bethany and Frank Veney. I can’t wait to be in Luray, Va to see if things have changed… When things seem to had changed shortly after the Civil War, but once she reached Luray, VA, and spending six to seven weeks there, she was ready to leave. It is apperant that she did not see the change that Luray, Va and wanted to return north. In 2009, I am leaving Dallas, Tx to move to the home land of my people, which is Luray, VA and I am wondering, now too, if there is change.

    • March 18, 2009 9:01 am

      Hi Venita, Glad you enjoyed reading the story. Hope you enjoy your return to Page County.

    • yolanda permalink
      April 26, 2011 5:46 pm

      Cis, it’s very interesting to read something about Moms fathers family. This was diffintiely a story to be shared. Thanks for sharing…

  2. March 30, 2009 11:09 am

    Dearest Cenantua,

    It is a pleasure to see that you have taken the time to write me back. This is an honor. I am the granddaughter to William Veney of Luray, VA. William Veney and Nancy Deane had a daughter by the name of Lillian Renee Deane (Veney). Lillian Renee Deane is my mother. She lived in Luray, VA up until my grandmother Nancy Passed away in 2005. In June I will be moving to our home on West Main Street. I am the founder of Global Slavery Remembrance Day.com or http://www.projecta23.com. On March 25th, 2009, I was presented by the City of Hampton, Virginia Mayor, a Proclamation Proclaiming March 25th, as International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the City of Hampton. I don’t know how I’m related to Frank Veney until I get to Luray but I am very sure Frank and William were very much related. There are not too many Veney’s not related in Luray, VA. Smile. Also I loved how Bethnay Veney spoke so very well of Frank. It did my heart good and I am ever so grateful to Bethnay for including him in her book. He is either my great grandfather, grandfather or an uncle. Whichever, I know we are related. I am a Diversity Program Manager and I really am in prayer that Luray, VA has made the change that Bethnay Veney so loving desired. Luray, Va is such a beautiful place on earth for all to see, seek and visit. I hope to meet you in person soon. Sincerely, Venita Benitez

    • Richard Fox permalink
      June 13, 2010 7:51 pm

      Greetings – I am the great-great grandson of David Kibler, the “owner” of Bethany mentioned in her narrative. I would love to exchange everything I know for everything you know about Bethany, who I consider to be my sister in the Lord!

      Sincerely,
      Richard Fox

      • June 30, 2010 10:41 am

        Hello Richard,

        Everything I know about Bethany has been posted here. Thanks!

    • sandra veney permalink
      August 30, 2010 4:10 am

      i,m written a book on were,s is my father,i,m would like to use this story in my book.call me this number 410 687 1884,aunt betty,s story.please send more about the veney,s

      sandra veney

  3. March 30, 2009 12:31 pm

    So good to hear from you again Venita! Thanks for sharing the family information. I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to meet after your return to Luray. Incidentally, I, along with a few others, are hoping to place a headstone for a member of the United States Colored Troops who was buried in Luray… Noah Thornton. He was originally a slave in Page County, either escaped or was freed, served in the 82nd USCT during the Civil War, and returned to Page County after the war. Being back in Luray, I hope you will participate in the event!

    • Richard Fox permalink
      July 16, 2010 8:22 am

      Hello Cenanuta – It turns out that I am the third great-grandson of David Kibler, Bethany’s “owner” mentioned in her narrative. Even more importantly, I am the third great grand- HALF NEPHEW of Jerry and Susan Kibler, David’s half brother and half sister who took Bethany to the “religious meeting” in Powell’s Fort Valley where she found Christ. I live about 20 miles from Luray and would love to talk to you or anyone else about our shared interest. Please email me at foxrff@gmail.com or phone at 540-636-4982 and we can talk!

      Also, I understand that folks at the Page County Heritage Association have considered having a Bethany Veney day in Luray – also, the new Luray Valley Museum at the Luray Caverns has a wonderful exhibit on Bethany that I know you’ll want to see.

      Dick Fox

  4. April 1, 2009 10:36 am

    Dear Cenantua,

    It will be an honor! Thanks for the invite. I will see you at the end of June. Write me with more details at venita@projecta23.com Also, I will do some research on Noah Thornton and the United States Colored Troops burried in Luray. My great grandfather and several uncles where also confederate soldiers too. As you can see, I have it all in my family. I am related to the Wingfield’s (first president of Virgina Jamestown 1607) the Gosnold’s, Keene’s, Garner’s, Chappelier’s and the Lawsons. See you soon.

    Sincerely,

    Venita

    • April 1, 2009 10:43 am

      Hi Venita! For the story of Noah Thornton, just take a look at the post from a few days ago. I figured since I mentioned it in my response to you the other day, it would be a good time to put it in this blog. Enjoy!

  5. Benetta Kuffour permalink
    April 21, 2009 8:15 pm

    Cenantua,
    As a decendent of Bethany Veney. I had been researching other members of her family, but not being a researcher stopped, with the idea that I will begin again sometime in the summer.
    Bethany Veney had a sister by the name of Matilda. I understand that there was Matilda Veney. Could Frank Veney have married Bethany’s sister not knowing it? (smile)
    Do you know if Aaron Jackson was from Page County and who could have possibly owned him?
    Thanks for any help that you can give me and for he help you have given me in the past. It has been greatly appreciated by my entire family.
    Benetta Kuffour

    • April 21, 2009 8:34 pm

      Hello Benetta! How nice to hear from you again. I hope to expand this blog in the near future with information just like that. I want to shed some light on things such as who Aaron Jackson’s owner may have been… as well as others. I’m not sure about Matilda, but didn’t say you knew more information about her brother Stephen?

      Best, Robert Moore (aka “cenantua”)

      • yolanda permalink
        April 26, 2011 5:52 pm

        My Mom, recalls hearing about Matilda…she most diffinitely a relative of my Grandfather, William Veney.

        • October 8, 2011 10:01 am

          Sister, I am so glad to see you here writing about our family. Keep up the good work because you are much better at this then I. I’ve been needing help and now I can see you. Thanks.

    • April 21, 2009 8:37 pm

      Benetta, I forgot to add, but am sure you have seen Venita’s comments… perhaps the two of you might be able to assist one another regarding the Veney lines that remained in Page… of course, I’d be delighted if you both kept me updated on any progress :-)

    • July 27, 2009 6:47 am

      Dear Benetta,

      I think I can assist you with your Veney family research. My name is Gloria Roye. My parents are William “Buster” Roy and Mary Roye. My father’s parents are Major Roy and Louise Veney, both from Warsaw, Virginia.

      I just came back from the 2009 Veney Family Reunion, which was held in Charleston, South Carolina. The Veney Family reunions are not your typically family reunions. We have a society, a committee board, a historian, a treasurer, a annual business meeting, held at the reunion etc..

      At the reunions family history is discussed at lenth, there was lots of talk about Bethany Veney, who is our decendant. The 2010 reunion will be held in Richmond, Virginia.

      I can send you wriiten information about the Veney Family Reunion Society, so you can see what we are all about.

      Gloria Roye

      • Anita Veney permalink
        October 9, 2009 10:22 am

        My name is Anita Veney at our Family reunion this year we discussed Bethany Veney’s information. My family is also from Warsaw Virginia. I’m sure, I’m related to Bethany, I am a descended from 2 lines of Veneys. My Maternal Great GrandParents are Ada Jane Blue Veney & Emanuel Veney. My Paternal Great Grandparents are Maria Jackson Veney and Thomas Veney. I look forward to finding more information about Bethany Veney and our connection.

      • Lisa Veney Boykin permalink
        January 5, 2010 2:47 pm

        Hi Gloria can you please log on to the Veney family site on facebook and let everyone know what information you have about the reunion for 2010? There are over 500 Veney’s listed on facebook. Have you ever heard of Jesse Veney? His son Edward and Cora Veney were my great grandparents. There are over 100 of us in Johnstown, Pa.
        Than you for your help! Lisa

        • marjorie miller permalink
          September 27, 2011 6:42 pm

          HI Lisa, It’s your cousin Marjorie (Browne Miller)…mother Betty (Veney) Browne, We share the same great grandparents. I remember you as a little girl when my 6 siblings and I would go visit our Grandmother Florence Walker in Johnstown Pa.

  6. May 4, 2009 10:23 am

    I have spoken to the Veney’s family members in Luray, Va and they are waiting for me to arrive there in the middle of June. My email address is venita@projecta23.com. I can’t wait for all of us to meet.
    Under the shadow of the Almighty,
    Venita

  7. Jordan Veney permalink
    May 15, 2009 11:06 pm

    Hello. I have read the narrative and after reading the comments, I am interested in learning more about my family’s history. You all have very valuable information and I am thinking I could add to some of it and maybe find out more for my self as well. My e-mail address is jveney@nmsu.edu. I am hoping someone can help me :)

    Jordan

    • May 17, 2009 10:01 am

      Are you descended from the Veney line from Page County?

      Robert

    • June 20, 2014 8:18 am

      My father was William Veney and my grandmother was Ollie Lawson….would love any information on Veney ,Lawson history. Thank You

  8. May 29, 2009 9:44 am

    That’s what I would like to know too..

  9. Jahrod Pender permalink
    November 25, 2010 5:14 pm

    Hi I’m Jahrod Pender, a descendant of Angeline Lomax, who was a neighbor, of Leroy and Kitty Veney on the Page County, Luray 1870 census. I noticed that Leroy Veney had a grandchildren named Leroy and Andrew McAfee or Mcfee, does anyone know anything about connection of Lomax,Veney,or the Mcfee family? Angeline Lomax had grandchildren named John and Andrew McAfee! What is the Veney Nationality or Race, I see Mulatto next to their race, even Angeline Lomax has Mulatto next to her, her daughter Harriet Lomax was even described as white the same year on another census. A cousin said Harriet Lomax was part cherokee or blackfoot indian. Were the Veney’s native american? Maybe the Lomax and Veney are from the same tribe?

  10. sharon D. Outlaw permalink
    March 7, 2012 10:48 am

    The Cyrus family have been in Luray since the 1700’s. And we’re still searching. Cyrus, Broadus/Broaddus, Veney, Johnson. Step-toe are all family.

  11. Angela Preston permalink
    June 10, 2014 2:02 pm

    My husband, Anthony Preston, is a Veney by way of Thomas Veney in Pholadelphia, PA (Germantown) passed away May 2000. However, my mother-in-law gave him her last name. Anthony was born in PA, moved to Maryland and then in his teen his monther moved back to Gretna, VA (maiden name Bennett). We know Thomas Veney was married to Gloria Veney and they had three children: Thomas Jr, Glen and Cynthia. He worked on the police force and possibly with the DA and other government officials. If you can be of any assistance in finding the relatives of Thomas Veney, Anthony’s father, please contact us at 770-595-2834.

    Have a bless day.

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