“The joy, often, is not in knowing, but in learning.”
NOTE: I just re-visited this section and realize that I never developed the actual depth of the story. Hopefully, I will, because it is a vast melancholy haze. Annie was probably returning to Wilmington after many years. The City had taken her father, Louis, a young druggist, just a month or so after Annie was born. Her mother and siblings had returned to Richmond, Virginia to stay with her mother’s family. On the day of the Great Fire, Annie and her 1st cousin, Cornelia “Neily” Carter, Mrs. Thomas Hundley, and her baby Virginia, were coming down to visit Uncle Samuel and Aunt Emily Skinner. All their possessions, aboard the steamer Bladen, were burned up in the fire, but they were all safe. Annie’s red hair was singed, and her clothing scorched, but she made it over the paddlewheel into a small rescue boat.
I’m not sure how long she stayed with her aunt and uncle, but she would have had the opportunity to visit her father’s grave in Oakdale Cemetery.
Perhaps Dr. Thomas F. Wood sought her out, or she visited him so that he could tell her of her father. Young Wood, shortly before joining the Confederacy, and becoming a front line surgeon had worked for Louis Erambert, in Erambert’s newly formed pharmacy. And during the War, when Dr. Wood had become sick, he had visited Capt. Skinner, at his home in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, and was warmly welcomed there.
Were the Skinners in their new home on Orange Street, at the time of her visit? Perhaps, that was one of the incentives for her visit at that time.
Still, it could be said that Wilmington never treated Annie well, or welcomed her.
Who would have thought that carrying out “historical” research would, or could, provide such joy and reward? Being told the story, is no where near as enjoyable as digging for the treasure and finding it. This is the story of “Miss Erambert, of Richmond, Virginia” as I now know it.
The key to finding out who Miss Erambert was, happened, as I was re-reading through the Fayetteville Observer & Gazette of January 28, 1886. In the left-hand column of the front page, was an article, which I had read previously, regarding Capt. T. J. Green, retiring from the boating business and as captain of the steamer Bladen, and young Capt. Jeff D. Robeson becoming his replacement. But, upon my second reading, my eye drifted across to the third column, and spying the name, “Erambert”, I focused upon a single sentence beneath the heading of “Local Twinklings“. The sentence read, “Miss Annie Erambert, of Richmond, has been visiting the family of Mr. M. A. Baker of this town.“
I now had a name upon which I could search. I googled for “Annie Erambert,” and quickly found the following PDF file, “CEDAR HILL CEMETERY, SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA… This is an complete collection of people buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery based on family histories, obits, the card catalogue and copying this cemetery.” Searching through the document produced an entry for “Annie Erambert Eley, b. 07-16-1862 d. 12-10-1947” who was the wife of “John Walter Eley”. Also listed was “Claud Erambert Eley b. 08-03-1893 d. 05-14-1969”, their son. Listed separately were “Sallie F. Erambert b. 04-08-1833 d. 02-18-1895” and “Samuel S. Erambert b. 10-02-1859 d. 08-31-1930”.
Between Ancestry.com and further googling, I determined that Annie Erambert Eley had a grandson, and managed to find an old, but still active email address for him.
The email that I sent was self-deprecating, but inquisitive, stating that, “You don’t know me, but if you are the grandson of Annie Erambert Eley, would you be willing to tell me more about her? I am doing research on the Cape Fear River steamboats, and she was on one the day of the Great Fire of Wilmington.”
Mr. Eley was nice enough to reply, and provided me with three additional bits of information: — Her name was Annie Dixon Erambert. — She was the daughter of Louis B. Erambert and Sallie Dixon, of Wilmington, NC. — She had red hair.
He did recall that she had told a story of a great fire, but he had always thought that the fire had occurred in Fayetteville, NC.
NOTE: I’m not sure where “Sallie Dixon” came from, but Louis Erambert married Sarah “Sallie” Frances Skinner, the sister of Capt. Samuel W. Skinner.
Obit for Claude Erambert Eley, Sr. ( http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/nansemond/obits/e400c1ob.txt )
The Cape Fear River Steamers