The Clopton Chronicles

A Project of the Clopton Family Genealogical Society









Waldegrave James Clopton &

His Wife Frances D. Lamar


By Lois Eulalia Armstrong Goocher &

Suellen Clopton Blanton,[1] [email protected]



Perfect and Eternal Joy


                When death has drawn the curtain

                To all that’s bright and fair,

                And left you nothing but a memory,

                Then think of God’s Tomorrow

                That’s coming over there,

                With perfect joy for all eternity[2]



Life was precarious for little ones in the antebellum South.  A glance at the Bible of Waldegrave James “J. W.” Clopton[3] and his wife Frances, reveal the terrible and tragic drama of tiny lives born and then too quickly lost.  The Bible records the birth of eight children, four were to die before or shortly after their fifth birthday.[4]  The first hurtle for babies of this period was simply to be born close to full term.  The good news was that by the nineteenth century doctors had entered the specialized field of obstetrics and infant care.  The bad news was they didn’t know what they were doing.  Although physicians understood there existed a correlation between the mother’s activities and the baby in her womb, they were, alas, a little fuzzy about the details.

Expectant mothers were often sick and suffered exhaustion, pain, and life threatening complications, but advisers of the day, like Dr. William Buchan, suggested thinking happy thoughts would go a long way to assure the successful delivery of a bouncing, healthy baby.  “The anticipated pleasure of presenting a fond husband with the dearest pledge of mutual love ought naturally to increase her cheerfulness.”[5]  The expectant mother was also rather mysteriously cautioned that deformities, stillbirths, and other horrors occurred when mothers behaved in an “unnatural” manner.[6]  Mrs. J. Bakewell threw herself into the fray by darkly forecasting “that but few young married women are aware how much the future bodily health, mental vigor, and moral tendencies of their offspring, depend on their own conduct and state of being during pregnancy.”[7]

To add to the excitement, doctors didn’t have a clue of how to scientifically determine if a woman carried a baby in her womb.  Many an “expectant” mother was found to be with tumor instead of child.  One young student threw up his hands and declared that all women should be considered pregnant until proved otherwise.[8] Even the length of gestation was in question.  Physicians concluded most pregnancies lasted about eight or nine months but held firm in their conviction that women might sometimes carry a child for twelve months.[9]

                Antebellum society focused much attention on the activity of the bowel, and pregnancy was no time to shirk ones attention to details.  There was absolutely no understanding of the effects of medications on the unborn.  The favorite purgative potion of the day was a little number called Calomel, mercury chloride.  A heavy, white, odorless powder, the drug caused diarrhea, increased salivation, and caused teeth and hair to fall out.  Just for good measure, an enema of milk and water often followed a dosage of mercury.[10]

When the baby was born was very important.  To be born in the malaria killing summer time or in the depth of winter’s chill, was not a good thing.  It is no coincidence that Mary Virginia Clopton and James Brown Clopton, who both died in infancy, were born in July, and that Waldegrave Lamar Clopton, who was barely two years old when he died, was born in December.

                The lush warm and moist Southern countryside brought forth not just rich crops but infestations of mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes meant malaria, and without a doubt, malaria, referred to as “fever and ague,” posed the greatest health hazard in every region of the American states with the exception of New England.  Not that anyone understood malaria was caused by mosquitoes.  There existed a vague theory that certain diseases were caused by noxious emissions from the earth or air.  If malaria didn’t kill children after they were born, they had a pretty good opportunity to die while still in the womb.  Malaria brought on fevers and chills.  High fever can cause miscarriages.  Fevers hovering around 104 degrees can actually lead to mental retardation or death of the unborn baby.[11]  If malaria itself didn’t finish the fetus off, quinine, the popular medication for the disease, often did.[12]



In Sorrow Thou Shalt Bring Forth Children


                Walking Close to the Savior

                Gives me courage to bear

                Every test that life brings me,

                Trouble, sorrow and care.[13]




The birthing process itself was fraught with danger, both to the mother and the infant.  Infections were not as common in home births,[14] but convulsions and hemorrhaging, those age-old harbingers of death,[15] were ever present.[16]  It must also be remembered that many women entered the birthing chamber very ill due to malaria, dysentery, or any one of a host of fevers.

How much quinine, opium, mercury, arsenic, morphine, calomel, had passed from the mother to her unborn babe, effected the newborns health from the start.  If the baby had the strength to nurse, mother’s breast milk offered some defense from illness.  The importance of breast feeding was one thing antebellum mothers understood very well:  If the mother died or did not have sufficient milk for the baby, a substitute was found as soon as possible.  Evidence exists that white women would provide milk for black infants, and black women for white.

                There was just one little hitch:  just as there was no understanding that drugs taken by the mother effected the child in her womb, physicians were slow to realize that drugs taken by nursing mothers also may be passed on to the suckling infant.  While there were a few physicians who warned against the use of certain drugs by nursing mothers,[17] most women continued to take liberal doses of an alarming array of medicines.  Wine and brandy consumption was also encouraged for medicinal purposes and to increase the quantity of milk.

                If children could survive until the age of five, they had a pretty good change of making it to adulthood.  But between birth and that magic birth day stood measles, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, worms, and whooping cough, to name a few.[18]  Physicians saw no reason to adjust medications and dosages for their youngest patients and enthusiastically administered the same remedies to young and old alike.  Bleeding was still a popular form of treatment, and babies were routinely relieved of quantities of blood.  It was thought that pus indicated infection was being drawn out, so delicate infant skin was assaulted with mustard, garlic, ammonia or any number of other irritating ointment to cause blisters which usually became infected.

                The wonder is not that four of J. W. and Frances’ children died, it is that four survived!



With Pen in Hand



                I never saw a worse looking set of

                Soldiers in my life.  I am fearful

                That the government will never be

                Able to get mutch service out of that




            It was 1865 and the War was drawing to a close.  J. W. Clopton had been exempt from serving in the Confederate army because he made oil cloth which was in high demand by the army and navy.[19]  Oil cloth was simply material impregnated with oil or covered in paint making it waterproof.  It had many practical uses.  When the War was young, each soldier was given a ground sheet which was to be placed under blankets to keep the soldier nice and dry for a good nights sleep.  As the War drug on and supplies dwindled, oil cloth found many uses.  It was slung over branches to make shelters, and used in numerous other ingenious ways.[20]

                J. W. certainly sensed the end was near.  Federal troops had occupied Savannah since December  The final months leading up to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia[21] would see raids and skirmishes in Alabama, but the day of the big battles was over.




Montgomery, Ala                   

                                                                                January the 29th 1865


Uncle Thom[22]

                Dear Sir I now resume my pen to write you a fiew lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and that I have not forgotten you although I have neglected to write and I have no excuse to offer except procrastanation, that thief of time which often makes us put off until tomorrow what ought to be done today.  So it has ben with me.  I ought to have riten but did not doo it and thus it went on until now.  This leaves my family and myself in our usual health and I trust it will find you and yours in the enjoyment of the same blessing.

                Maw is down at sister Virginia[23] about 45 miles below here.  She was quite well when last heard from.

                I saw a man yesterday late from Virginia who lives near Uncle Patricks[24] widow and near cousin Patrick[25].  He said the family was all well when last he saw them about a month ago.  Cousin Patrick passed through here about eighteen months ago a(nd) staid two days and nights.  Hew was on his return home.

                There is nothing in the way now worth your attention here.  I wis you to write and let me know what has become of your children I have heard nothing of them for several years I used to hear from Cousin Lizzie[26] once and a while, but since the War commenced I have heard nothing from her.

                A part of Gen Hoods[27] army have bin passing through here during the last seven or eight days.  They are a very ruff looking set and I think are fully entilled to the name of Ragged Rebbles.  They appear very mutch demolished and disheartened.  I never saw a worse looking set of soldiers in my life.  I am fearful that the government will never be able to get mutch service out of that army anymore.

                I have been engaged in making oil cloth for the Government until the Yankees cut the Railroads in Atlanta.[28]  Since then I have not been able to get any material as I got all my material from North Carolina and I am now down to little or nothing.  I made some little money at the business, but my expences are so heavy that it will take all that I made and all that I had before the ware.  My expenses now are near a thousand dollars a month.  So you see it won’t take me long to be like the Killkenny Cat and eat myself up.

                I was in Eatonton about twelve months ago, but I was a stranger in a strange place.  I found no person there that I knew or knew me except Uncle Stephen Marshall[29]

 family.  All my old friends and relatives were gone, and I did not care to stay in the place.

                If ever this cruel war ends intend visiting your part of the country and intend to go and see you for I am more than anctious to see you once more in this world.  Give my love to all your family and receive the same for your self.

                Write soon your affectionate


                W J Clopton

                1.  Waldegrave James21 “ W. J.” Clopton  (James Brown20, Waldegrave19, Waldegrave18, William17, William16, William15, Walter14, William13, Richard12, William11, John10, William9, Thomas8, Walter7, William6, Walter5, William4, Walter3, William2, Guillaume1 Pecche, Lord Of Cloptunna and Dalham)1 was born January 1, 1818 at Georgia2, and died May 14, 1872 at Montgomery, Alabama and buried Oakwood Cemetery3.  He married Frances D. Lamar4 October 15, 1839 at Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia5.  She was born January 5, 1823 at Georgia6, and died at Montgomery, Alabama and buried Oakwood Cemetery.



Children of Waldegrave Clopton and Frances Lamar are:

        2                 i.    Mary Virginia22 Clopton, born July 12, 1841 at Montgomery, Alabama7; died October 10, 1844 at Montgomery, Alabama and buried Oakwood Cemetery7.

The Bible records Mary Virginia Clopton's life as the first child born "about 8 oclock pm," and "Dide on the 10th October at 4 oclock a.m., age 3 years and 2 months & 28 Days 1844."

        3                ii.    James Brown Clopton,  born July 3, 1844 at Montgomery, Alabama7; died June 23, 1845 at Montgomery, Alabama7.

The Bible records James Brown Clopton as the second child who was born "about 1/2 past 11 oclock am," and he "Dide on the 23 of June at 4 oclock am 1845, aged 11 months & 20 Days."

        4               iii.    Frances Flora Clopton, born May 1, 1846 at Montgomery, Alabama8; died 1929 at Alabama and buried Oakwood Cemetery9.  She married George D. Tisdale

        5               iv.    Waldegrave Edwin Clopton, born May 29, 1848 at Montgomery, Alabama10; died September 30, 1853 at Montgomery, Alabama10.

Waldegrave Edwin Clopton is recorded in the family Bible as the 4th child "born May 29th 1848 1/4 to 7 pm," and he "Dide in Montgomery at 2 oclock pm, Aged 5 years, 4 months, and 1(?) Day.

        6                v.    Katharina “Kitty” Clopton, born Abt. 1849 at Montgomery, Alabama11.

        7               vi.    Amanda Jourdan Clopton12, born Abt. 1853 at Montgomery, Alabama13.  She married C. A. Lund April 30, 1889 at Montgomery, Alabama14

        8              vii.    Ministrations “Minnie” Clopton, born Abt. 1855 at Montgomery, Alabama15.

        9             viii.    Waldegrave Lamar Clopton, born December 12, 1857 at Montgomery, Alabama16; died February 4, 1860 at Montgomery, Alabama16.

                                 Waldegrave Lamar Clopton was the "8th child born at 7 p.m., 1857," and he "Dide in Montgomery at 2 oclock a.m., aged 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days.".





1.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher), Original Bible donated to Auburn University by Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher.  Copy of the original pages consists of four pages with many entries by different hands.  The earliest entry is dated 1839, the latest, 1898.  Some sections were cut out of the original Bible by a descendant.  Copy located Clopton Family Archives.

2.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

3.  Tombstone, loc. cit.  Entry in Bible states he died "Age 54 years. 5 months 14 days."  Construction of Oakwood Cemetery was begun in 1818 and was named for the oak trees in the area.  According to an article by John F. Maclean in the May 4, 1998 edition of the "Montgomery Advertiser," there are about 200,000 graves.  The cemetery has areas designated for Confederate soldiers, Jews, whites and blacks.  The most famous grave is that of Hank Williams, Sr., of country must fame.  The article noted a yellow fever epidemic in 1853 caused the death of many people, but it failed to give an estimate of the number.

4.  Her name is given as Frances D. Lamar on the certification of marriage, dated October 15, 1839.

5.  Georgia Marriage Certificate, Marriage License dated October 14, 1839, signed by Wm. B. Carter, cc.  Certification dated October 15, 1839, signed by P. R. Clements, a minister.  Special thanks to Pauline S. Carter, Deputy Clerk, Probate Court of Putnam County, for supplying this document, July 30, 1998.  The October 22, 1839 issue of "Southern Recorder," notes they were married at the residence of John Edmonson, Esq., by the Rev. P. R. Clements.  The groom, it states, was then living in Montgomery, Alabama.  Also listed in Family Bible.

6.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

7.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher).

8.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

9.  Tombstone, loc. cit.

10.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher).

11.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

12.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher), Her middle name is difficult to read.  The translation may not be correct.

13.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

14.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher).

15.  Montgomery County, Alabama June 28, 1860 Census, First District,  (Courtesy of Morris Lathon Clopton).

16.  Waldegrave James Clopton & Frances D. Lamar Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher).





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[1] Ragged Rebbles and the Killkenny Cat is an excerpt from The Clopton Chronicles, The Ancestors and Descendants of Sir Thomas Clopton, Knt., & Katherine Mylde, and is the property of the Clopton Family Genealogical Society which holds the copyright on this material.  Permission is granted to quote or reprint articles for noncommercial use provided credit is given to the CFGS and to the authors.  Prior written permission must be obtained by the Society for commercial use.

Lois Eulalia (Armstrong) Goocher, is the great-granddaughter of Waldegrave James Clopton and Frances D. Lamar by their daughter Frances Flora Clopton.  Suellen (Clopton) DeLoach Blanton is Founder and Executive Director of The Clopton Family Genealogical Society & Clopton Family Archives.

Special thanks to Pauline S. Carter, Deputy Clerk, Probate Court of Putnam County, Georgia; Juleigh Clark, Public Services Librarian, and the staff of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Library of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia;  Peggy Charlotte (Schleucher) Clopton; Bruce M. Rodenberger, M.D., Sacred Heart OB/GYN, Allentown, Pennsylvania; and, to Clopton descendants Morris Lathon Clopton and  Katherine Elizabeth (DeLoach) Eubanks, B.S., R.N.

[2] “The Sun Will Shine Again,” by the Reverend A. H. Ackley,  Copyright, 1933, by Homer A. Roderheaver.  From Triumphant Services Songs, Compiled by Homer A. Rodeheaver, George W. Sanville, Yumbert P. Rodeheaver, and Joseph N. Rodeheaver, The Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Company, Chicago, 1934.

[3] He was the son of James Brown Clopton, Sr., of New Kent County, Virginia, and his wife, Mary R. Reese, of Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia.  An abbreviated genealogy follows.  For a complete genealogy of this Clopton line, see William Clopton of St. Paul’s Parish & His Wife Joyce Wilkinson of Black Creek

[4]Although we know Frances gave birth to eight children, how many miscarriages she may have endured we cannot tell.  When one considers the gaps as long as four years between births, and that she was about 34 when she gave birth to her last child, it is safe to say she may have been pregnant as many as sixteen times.

[5] William Buchan, Advice to Mothers, on the Subject of Their Own Health; and of the Means of Promoting the Health, Strength, and Beauty of their Offspring, Boston, 1809, in The Physician and Child-Rearing:  Two Guides, 1809-1894, New York, 1972, p. 11.

[6] William P. Hort, “Report of the Committee on Midwifery and the Diseased of Children,”  New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, II., 1845, p. 571.

[7] Mrs. J. Bakewell, The Mother’s Practical Guide in the Physical, Intellectual, and Moral Training of Her children, New York, 1846, p. 22.

[8] Sally G. McMillen, Motherhood in the Old South, Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infant Rearing, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1990, p. 30, quotes John Wilson, a matriculant at the Medical College of South Carolina.

[9] McMillen, Motherhood, p. .30-31, cites “Length of Gestation,” in Physician’s Visiting List, Philadelphia, 1857.

[10] McMillen, Motherhood p. 38, 217.

[11] McMillen, Motherhood, p. 48-49.  See William H. Deaderick and Loyd Thompson, The Endemic Diseases of Southern States, Philadelphia and London, 1916; “Of Argues and Fevers:  Malaria in the Early Chesapeake,” William and Mary Quarterly, XXXIII, 1976, pp. 31-66.

[12] Webster’s New Unabridged Universal Dictionary of the English Language, Webster’s International Press, New York, 1976, p. 1480. Quinine, a bitter, crystalline alkaloid extracted from cinchona bark/  It was known to cause abortions but was the only medicine known at the time to treat malaria.

[13] “Walking Close to His Side,” by the Reverened A. H. Ackley, Copyright, 1934, by Homer A. Rodeheaver, from Triumphant Service Songs

[14] Before the Civil War, the only hospitals were found in large urban areas and were considered teaching institutions.  Middle and upper class white people were cared for at home.  Infections were rampant at hospitals because there was no understanding of the importance of cleanliness.

[15] McMillen, Motherhood, p. 81.  Notes census figures reveal at least one out of twenty-five white women in the South who died in 1850 died in childbirth, twice the maternal mortality rate in the New England and Middle Atlantic states.

[16] See Brief Communion for a retching account of  the medieval death of Thomasine Clopton following childbirth.

[17] McMillen, Childbirth, p. 133, cites D. Henry, “The Effects of Opium,” 1847, located in the Waring  Historical Library and Annex, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.

[18] McMillen, Childhood, Appendix One, extracts a table from the U. S. Federal Ceensus, Mortality Statistics or the Seventh Census of the United Stated for 1850.  In that year alone, 83,969 children under the age of five died.  “Unknown” accounted for 22,891 deaths, while of the named illnesses and diseases specifically cited, dysentery claimed 10,475 young children, with croup claiming 9,662.  Teething was still cited as a cause of death, accounting for 2,421 young lives.

[19] The United Daughters of the Confederacy recognize his contributions to the Civil War, and will accept membership through his line.

[20] James I. Robertson, Jr., Ph.D. and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Tenting Tonight The Soldier’s Life, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1984, p. 45-46.

[21] April 9, 1865

[22] His uncle, Dr. Thomas B. Clopton (1798-1874), son of Waldegrave Clopton, Jr. and  Mary Brown.  He and his third wife, Cornelia A. Harrison Palmer moved from Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia, to Americus, Sumpter County, Georgia by 1860.  See Dr. Thom.  Thomas B. Clopton settled into the Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia area along with his brothers, Miller, Waldegrave, and James Brown, W. J.’s father.

[23] His sister, Mary Virginia Clopton.

[24] His uncle, Patrick Henry Clopton, Sr. (1782-1829).  He and his wife, Harriet Dowles, remained in Virginia as did another brother, William, and two sisters..

[25] His cousin, Patrick Henry Clopton, Jr. (1828-1889) the husband of Delilah Tignor and Elizabeth Catherine Mills.  He was a Second Lieutenant in the C.S.A.  He served from Virginia  in the 56th Infantry, Company D; and, Virginia’s 10th Cavalry, Company D.

[26] His cousin, Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clopton (1837-1924) daughter of Dr. Thomas B. Clopton and his second wife, Harriet B. Claiborne.  She remained in Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia.  See Dr. Thom

[27] John Bell Hood of Kentucky.  He was a highly regarded officer who suffered a number of defeats in a vain effort to save Atlanta.  He resigned as commander of the Army of Tennessee on Friday, January 12, 1865.  He was replaced by Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of Zachary Taylor.

[28] Richard J. Lenz, The Civil War in Georgia, Infinity Press, Watkinsville, Georgia, 1995, p. 7-8.  Beginning in August 1864 through late November the Federals attacked and destroyed key railroad tracks surrounded Atlanta.

[29] His uncle, Stephen B. Marshall (1798-1864) was married to Martha T. “Polly” Reese, Mary T. Reese’s sister.