1829: Col. George Blow to George Blow, Jr.


Col. George Blow

This letter was written by Col. George Blow (1787-1870) to his son, George Blow, Jr. (1813-1893). A biography (by Gary Williams) claimed that Col. Blow was a frequent toastmaster at political functions” but because he was “blunt-spoken and often egotistical, he was no popularity seeker…Blow could foresee the ‘necessary evil’ leading to a civil war” and the “economic decline in Virginia concerned him.” At his 2,000 acre plantation — named Tower Hill — on the Nottoway River, Blow “employed the scientific doctrines advanced by his friend and distant cousin, Edmund Ruffin.” Col. Blow’s father, Richard Blow, was a well-to-do shipowner and merchant who had established over a half-dozen stores across southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. Richard also owned wharf property in Norfolk and Portsmouth that he willed to his son.

The colonel wrote the letter to his son, George Blow Jr. (1813-1893) while attending Hampden-Sydney College 1828-29. The letter was conveyed by a trusted family slave named Claiborne who delivered it with a horse to carry the 16 year-old boy back to Tower Hill for vacation — a distance of 100 miles, more or less. Later in 1829, young George would enter William and Mary College and earn a B.A. in 1831. From there he went to the University of Virginia where he took law courses and graduated in 1835. He was admitted to the bar in the same year.

He practiced law in Norfolk until 1839 when he emigrated to Texas. In 1839 he was serving as Prosecuting Attorney for the Republic of Texas, Fourth Judicial District. He later served as a member of the House of Representatives from Bexar County. Captured (as District Attorney) with the members of the District Court of San Antonio, Texas, by Mexican General Adrian Woll March 1842.

Tower Hill Plantation

Tower Hill Plantation

In 1842 he returned to Virginia, probably because of the death of his mother Eliza Waller, and resumed his law practice, serving also as Commonwealth Attorney for Norfolk Circuit Court from 1856 to 1860. In 1846 he married Elizabeth Taylor Allmand who bore him ten children before her death in 1868 at the age of only 44. During the same period he was a member of the Virginia Militia rising to the rank of Brigadier General. In 1861 he resigned his commission and was appointed Lt. Colonel in the 14th Virginia Regiment of Infantry. “Captured with Norfolk in 1862,” we believe he was exchanged for a Union Officer and – although forced to give his home to a Union Officer – remained in Norfolk for the duration.

He was a member of the Virginia Secession Convention in 1860, first voting “nay” but later “yea” to secession. According to the published lists of visitors in the 1984 edition of the Register of Former Cadets, Judge Blow was a member of the VMI board in 1851-1852, 1857-1860, and 1861-1862. Following the war he resumed his legal practice until he was elected Judge of the Norfolk Circuit Court in 1870.

Image 31

Addressed to Master George Blow, Student Hampden Sydney College, Prince Edward County, per boy Claiborne

Tower Hill
21st April 1829

Dear George,

I wrote you by mail last week a large letter which I hope you received in due time. Writing so lately, and so fully, leaves me nothing to add at this time. Claiborne will inform you that we are all well. You must take good care of the horse and not travel too hard or too fast. Take a slow gait. Make Claiborne walk in all rough, uneven places, & get down at hills. This course, although apparently slow, will in effect really expedite your journey. I think from 30 to 35 miles per day will be enough.

As I have not been able to get any smaller notes than a fifty, I had enclosed you one of that amount. You need not spend it all merely because you have it. But if your necessities and your debts will absorb it all, then use it, reserving enough for your expenses back.

I would recommend to you not to bring much heavy luggage as you will have to return so soon. Avoid all chance of the small pox on your return. Travel no road in which it has made its appearance.

Hoping soon to see you once more in the bosom of your family in fine health & spirits. I remain your affectionate father, — G. Blow

If you return by Old Dr. [Robert] Walker’s & Gen’l. [William H.] Broadnax’s ¹ — you will find a welcome & good quarters at their homes.

¹ Ann Eliza Walker, daughter of Dr. Robert Walker, married Meriwether Bathurst Brodnax (17xx-1832), brother of General William H. Brodnax. General William Henry Brodnax commanded the Virginia commanded the Virginia Militia which were called out and quelled the insurrection of Nat. Turner in 1831. He was a prominent member of the Virginia Convention of 1829-30, and of the General Assembly 1818-1819 and from 1830-1833. Brodnax resided in Dinwiddie County southwest of Petersburg. Dr. Robert Walker lived on Kingston Plantation in Dinwiddie County.

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