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JOHN MASON MOODY AND MARTHA WILLIAM (WRIGHT) MOODY

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Date: 14 Nov 2021 [unknown]
Location: Northampton County, North Carolinamap
Surnames/tags: Mason Moody Wright
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John Mason Moody, often called Jack, was born Nov. 22, 1809 in Northampton County, North Carolina, the only child of Captain William Moody and Mary Mason (Dancy) Moody. There may have been other children who did not survive, but I have never seen any indication of them. Census records for 1810 and 1820 indicate other children in the household, but it was customary for the overseer to live in the household, and it appears there was an overseer and wife and possibly these children were theirs. It is said that Jack was educated at Bingham School.

Martha William Wright was born Dec 3, 1816 in Greensville County, Virginia, the younger of two daughters born to William Wright and Martha Robinson (Crump) Wright. (The other child, Julia Ann, died in childhood.) Martha was educated at Mrs. Bobbitt’s school in neighboring Brunswick County and with a Mrs. Hachley in Norfolk, Virginia. Martha’s father, William Wright died in 1827, leaving Martha quite an heiress. On Aug 10, 1829 Martha (Crump) Wright remarried Rev. George Charlton, a Methodist minister. Her pregnancy in 1831 with perhaps some financial hardship caused little Martha to give up her studies in Norfolk and return home.

Martha William Wright married John Mason Moody in Greensville County, Virginia May 7, 1832. Her uncle, John Hamilton Patterson, (later mayor of Petersburg) served as bondsman. Was it a love match? I don’t know. Martha was only fifteen. She was wealthy, and judging from her portrait, attractive looking, as was John. My sense is that here were two young people who may have wanted to change their situations. Martha may have found it tedious helping her mother care for the new baby, and John may have wanted to get out from under the thumb of his father and be more on his own. Judging from “The Moody Letters”, it appears if it was not a love match in the beginning, it became love.

John immediately sold the land in Southampton County, Virginia left to Martha by her father. He and Martha made their home at her home in Greensville County until John’s father’s death in 1839. George and Martha Charlton moved to Petersburg where he built a handsome brick house on Harrison Street that is still standing.

Jack’s father, William, died Sept 17, 1839 intestate. Jack’s mother had died in 1837, and much to Jack’s dismay, his father, in his seventies at the time, married about six months later a very young girl, Mary Parham, daughter of William’s physician, Robert Parham. At William’s death Mary tried to get the “manor house” as her dower, but did not, receiving instead half of the mill. Jack and Martha and their family moved into “Mount Forest”, Williams’s home in Northampton County, where they lived with Jack’s overseer, Harrison B. Moody, and his family until Jack and Martha moved to Woodland in the early 1850’s.

In the 1840’s Jack and Martha visited and later invested in land in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Many families from Northampton County and neighboring Greensville County, Virginia, among them a number of Martha’s relatives had migrated to this area, and reports were coming back of rich soil and great opportunities. In 1847 Jack bought a house in Columbus, Mississippi today called “Rosewood Manor”. It is at 719 7th Street, North, across the street from “Leighcrest”, Frank Leigh’s home. Rosewood Manor is today on the Columbus antebellum tour. Jack also bought land “on the prairie”, several miles west of Columbus in the area of Cobb’s Switch or Bent Creek. The 1850 census shows the family both in Columbus, Mississippi and Northampton County, NC. Apparently during the 1850’s the family spent time in both places. I don’t believe Martha cared much for Columbus. In 1860 John and Martha sold the house in Columbus to her aunt, Mary (Crump) Leigh, who was also the mother of their son-in-law, Dr. Hezekiah Gilbert Leigh. They kept the prairie land, the management of which was overseen by John Mason Moody II, their son.

In 1846 John bought the property that was to become Woodland. The property had belonged to Archibald Smith and was inherited as her dower by his widow. This family was closely connected to Daniel Mason of the Western District, friend of William Moody and stepbrother of John’s mother, Mary Mason (Dancy) Moody. There was a dwelling on the property, said to have been built in the 1770’s. John Mason Moody hired Jacob Holt, a renowned architect from neighboring Warren County, to expand and completely renovate the building. This took several years. The family moved into the house between 1850 and 1853. The Smith property was surrounded by land already in the family. Much of this land was originally owned by Francis Dancy and bought after his death by William Moody, John’s father.

In the 1850’s John bought part interest in a hotel in Weldon, NC across the Roanoke River. Family history says that he would ride into nearby Garysburg, leave his horse and walk over the railroad bridge to Weldon where he’d enjoy a few drinks and the companionship of others at the tavern in the hotel. Martha complained, “Col. Moody, why do you go there? You have no business there.” So he bought an interest in the hotel. “Madam, now I have business there, I own it.”

John Mason Moody did not share his father’s love of horseracing and horse breeding, but it is said (family history story) that he kept a pack of fox hounds and he and Martha both use to ride to the hounds together. Jack was also instrumental in setting up an educational academy in Garysburg, preparing boys for Randolph-Macon College.

John Mason Moody served as a Representative in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1831-32 (having to leave when he married Martha and moved to Virginia) and as a Senator from 1844 – 1847. He was an ardent secessionist and was a member of the North Carolina Secession Convention. After the Civil War, John Mason Moody was forced to declare bankruptcy. Most of his North Carolina property was seized and auctioned off to pay his debts. Much of the property, including Woodland, was purchased and put in trust for Martha by my great grandfather, Dr. Hezekiah Gilbert Leigh, John Mason Moody’s son-in-law. The original property that Jack’s father owned, called “Mount Forest”, was sold (illegally) to Harrison B. Moody, his overseer who lived there. The deed is written completely in John Mason Moody’s hand, not witnessed, and was not registered until after John’s death.

John Mason Moody continued to live and farm at Woodland until his death. After the Civil War Martha spent most of the time in Petersburg. She was caring for her two grandchildren, Annie (Mollie’s orphaned daughter) and Willie (John Mason Moody II’s son). They needed education, which was not available in Northampton. Also I am under the impression that Martha never felt comfortable in Northampton after the war, due to the large number of newly emancipated slaves. Also her daughter, Alice, lived in Petersburg.

John Mason Moody died June 2, 1877. Family history says he was murdered by “poor white trash”, but several newspaper accounts of the day describe the incident as a duel. The man who shot John was a gentleman and former neighbor, who according to the accounts had testified against him in a court case. The men met and had words. Both were armed. John died of his wounds. Supposedly his blood stained the flooring of the right front room at Woodland. Jesse Brantley, who shot him, was never prosecuted. John Mason Moody is buried at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.

Martha continued to live in Petersburg in the Charlton home on Harrison Street. Throughout the late 1870’s and 1880’s Martha and her children mortgaged and sold of pieces of Moody property. Woodland and the Hays Neck tract were finally mortgaged in 1884. Martha died in Petersburg Nov. 7, 1885, probably of a stroke. She is buried in the Moody lot at Blandford Cemetery.

Virginia Leigh Refo, November 14, 2012

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