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By Linda Emley
At the close of my last story, Fannie Elizabeth Shotwell had just married her prince charming, Milton Franklin Royle. She and her husband set up housekeeping in Lexington in 1857 and lived a nice normal life in a cottage on Franklin Street until the Civil War started in 1861. Fannie’s husband was a strong Southern man and her father, Judge Shotwell, a Union man.
Just before the battle of Lexington started, the Royles and Fannie’s brother, Jabez, and the Shotwell family went to Richmond. When they tried to return to Lexington, they found that Martial Law had been declared.
They went up and crossed the river at Napoleon, but after hearing that the Federals were looking for Mr. Royle, they returned to Richmond and went out to William Shotwell’s farm. “All day, the booming of the canons and the roar of the volleys fired, could be plainly heard, and at night they stood at their window and watched the glare of a terrible fire, that they felt meant dire disaster to them,” is how Fannie’s daughter recounted it for the DAR chapter in Richmond.
Fannie’s husband owned a dry goods store in Lexington with two other men. It was The Dry Goods Firm of Royle, Newman and Wells. During the Battle of Lexington, the Federals burned their store, together with the whole block, claiming that they provided protection for the Confederates, who could conceal themselves behind the stores.
Their home was spared, thanks to a faithful old Negro women who hid their valuables, leaving only food provisions to be pillaged by soldiers. The family soon moved to a new home on South Street that had a big barn that was used by more than a few soldiers as a hiding place.
“Lexington changed hands constantly during the early part of the war. One day it changed three times; first the Federals, then the Confederates, and then again the Federals. Each time the houses were searched by the incoming soldiers for any stragglers that might be left behind,” Fannie’s daughter recalled.
The Federal men were always hungry and Mrs. Royle and her cook spent the day serving food to the searching parties, though not always willingly. That night, Price’s men had barely escaped from Lexington when the Federals marched in. At midnight, the usual search of homes began and the sound of the bayonets striking against their doors could be heard all around town.
Mr. Royle, being a Southern man, was compelled to leave the house and hid in the barn loft. Judge Shotwell stayed with his daughter, Mrs. Royle, in the house. Finally five heavily armed Federals arrived and began the search of the house. They followed Fannie around the house and the first door they came to was locked. The soldiers exchanged glances when she tried to explain that it was an accident, and all five followed her closely as she went to unlock it.
They searched the parlor, and when they came to the dining room, they stopped and looked at the table. Mrs. Royle asked them to be seated and they eagerly devoured all the food that was left from the previous raids. After some discussion, they decided it wasn’t necessary to search further. They thanked Mrs. Royle and left with out searching the barn.
“The Federals turned the seminary where Mrs. Royle went to school into a smallpox hospital and quartered their horses in the dining room and assembly hall. It could never be used again and was finally burned. The Masonic College, near the battle ground, was riddled with cannon balls and the dormitories burned,” is how the daughter remembers her mother’s recollections.
“After the battle of Lone Jack, a number of wounded Federal soldiers were brought back to Lexington and taken to the old Anderson mansion on the bluffs, which had been turned into a hospital,” she continued. “Mrs. Royle and other ladies who were strong Southern women carried baskets of fruit and other delicacies to the wounded Federals. Some historians have said unkind things about the way the Northern soldiers were treated by the women of Lexington, but these reports were entirely unfounded.”
When the war was over, Mr. Royle went back into the mercantile business, but used the name of his father-in-law, Judge Shotwell. No Southern man could carry on a business in his own name. He continued to run this business until a few years before he died in 1910.
Mrs. Fannie Shotwell Royle moved back to Richmond in 1913 with her son and daughter. They built a home in Shotwell’s addition on what was part of her father’s old cornfield. Fannie lived there until she died on July 4, 1928 at the age of 91. She wasn’t buried in the Shotwell Cemetery like most of her family, but was laid to rest next to her husband in Lexington at the Machpelah Cemetery. The Royle children, Frances Royle Bane and Charles Hamnett Royle, were buried in Lexington at the same cemetery as their parents.
After additional research, I didn’t find anyone with the Royle name who lived in Ray County except for Fannie, her two children and her son’s wife, Lillian Simms Royle. So it looks like Richmond’s Royle Street got its name from our Fannie Shotwell Royle. I see a trip to Lexington in my future. It’s time to visit Fannie and place some flowers on her grave as a thank you for being a part of our Ray County history.
You can write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her in person at Ray County Museum.