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A son/grandson of slaveholders on slavery… Thomas Almond Ashby

April 1, 2009

Though not a resident or native of Luray or Page County, Virginia, Thomas Almond Ashby (1848-1916) was the grandson of Luray native, Mann Almond (1791?-1883). Mann Almond was also a Page County slaveholder and, during his lifetime, T.A. Ashby would have known his grandfather, even visiting him (and been around his grandfather’s slaves) in Luray in his youth. Therefore, I have posted this story here as a record of reference.

The son of Thomas Newton Ashby (1819-1878) and Elizabeth Mann Almond Ashby (1826-1892), Thomas Almond Ashby was born (in Front Royal) on November 18, 1848.Ashby graduated from Washington College (now Washington & Lee) in 1870 and then, three years later, graduated from the University of Maryland with his medical degree. Within four years of graduation from medical school, Ashby married Mary C. Cunningham in 1877. In 1880, Thomas Almond Ashby was listed as a physician in Baltimore, Md. with his wife Mary and a daughter, Mary E. (born ca. 1879). Also living in the household at the time were his mother and brother William R. (age 16) as well as two mulatto servants, Alice Lee (28) and Lizzie Randolph (17) and one black servant, Mary Smith (age 9).

A practicing obstetrician until his death, Almond was also known for teaching at the University of Maryland as well as helping to establish the Women’s Medical College of Baltimore, the first institution for the medical education of women in the South. Ashby also helped to found the Maryland Medical Journal of which he served as editor until 1888. Taking after his grandfather’s literary abilities, Ashby wrote at least four books including a gynecology textbook (1903), A Hurried Trip through Europe (1911), Life of Turner Ashby (1914), and The Valley Campaigns (1914).

His work in The Valley Campaigns is a first-class recollection of one of the most fascinating times in America’s history. Having lived through the war as a non-combatant and a teenager, Ashby’s recollections are a valuable resource when considering life in the Shenandoah Valley, His account of slavery are of particular interest and are covered heavily in both Chapter 1 and Chapter 27) of The Valley Campaigns. The complete version of the book can be found online at this link, which is part of the University of North Carolina’s “Documenting the American South” website.

Thomas Almond Ashby died in Baltimore, Maryland on June 27, 1916.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne G permalink
    June 29, 2010 5:18 pm

    Hello Robert. I’m a doctoral student taking a break from my dissertation this summer and doing some family genealogy. In the process I have discovered that my great-great grandfather was Godfrey Goodrich, a mulatto on the Luray Census of 1870 that seems to have lived with the John P. Grove family. Prior to that he lived in Edinburg during the 1860 Census. Do you have any suggestions for other information about free colored persons and the white families they worked for in Page and Shenandoah counties?

    • June 30, 2010 10:46 am

      Hi Suzy,

      It’s difficult to trace the activities of free colored prior to the 1870s except through census records. I haven’t seen a record of manumissions for either county (regretfully). Page’s info on them is sketchy after 1870, but there are interesting stories that appear in the Luray papers. Regretfully, the papers aren’t indexed. I do believe that someone has been dedicating some time to free blacks and slaves in Shenandoah County and she has posted a fair amount of material to the Web. I’ll have to check on the site, but think it is with the Shenandoah County Historical Society or something along those lines. Enjoy your summer off from the dissertation. I hope to start my PhD in the Fall of 2011.

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