A Special Name leads to an interesting Dudley story!

The prompt for the third week of January in my 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks Challenge is “Special Name.”    While researching the Dudley families with their many offspring, I came across a few unusual or special names such as James Ransom Dudley, my third great-grandfather whom I blogged about 2 weeks ago – I mean, where did a name like “Ransom” come from?  Then, I came across “Ransom Stillender Dudley” – now there was a name I never heard before – Stilllender!  It turns out the Ransom Stillender Dudley was the nephew of my third great-grandfather – my first cousin four-times removed.  I usually don’t spend a lot of time on “collateral relatives” (not direct ancestors) but this guy had an interesting story and it was begging to be told!

Ransom Stillender Dudley was born on 21 September of 1835 in Pulaski County, Virginia, the son of William Parham Dudley ( brother to James Ransom, my 3rd gg) and Mary “Polly” Stephens Deatherage.  I was quite excited to find pictures of both his parents.   When Ransom Stillender was born, his father was 42 years old and his mother was 31.dudley, mary deatherage 001Dudley,William Parham crop [1346]

Ransom was the 10th child of 14 known children of William and Mary Dudley.  Evidentially he was named Ransom after his uncle Ransom Dudley but I was unable to discover where the name Stillender came from.  Sometimes I find children are given middle names from the mother’s birth surname but I didn’t find that to be the case here.  Searching through ancestors of the Deatherage and Dudley families, there wasn’t any “Stillender” to be found!

The 1850 U. S. Federal Census for 1850 for William Parham Dudley  finds Ransom S. as 14 years old.  Ransom S Dudley was not found on a 1860 Census for his parents or any where else in Virginia and that may have been because he had joined the military.  One record showed that in February of about 1860, Ransom entered the Confederate Army as a member of the Pulaski Guards.   On 23 May of 1861 was the date of the Secession of Virginia from the United States to become part of the Confederacy.  Governor Letcher of Virginia officially transferred Virginia forces to the Confederacy on 6 June 1861.  The Civil War had begun.  Ransom stayed with the Pulaski Guards for about a year and then went into active service for the remainder of the war and…you probably guessed…he was sent up to the front lines.

He was in Company C of the Virginia 4th Infantry Regiment with his official enlistment date of 17 April 1861 and mustering out on 14 April of 1864.  I was able to follow his Company and Regiment history to track his service in the War and use other sources to verify what engagements he was in.  Many of the battles were familiar to me as being part of American History.  Ransom went from Richmond to take part in an engagement at Harper’s Ferry, then up the Potomac, fighting and skirmishing under General Johnson to fight at the Battle of Manassas where they routed the Federal troops.  His regiment then went to Fairfax Court House and took winter quarter at Centerville, Virginia.  The next spring brought them to Romney and Winchester and falling back to Staunton, Virginia.  The next battle was Kernstown, which I was not familiar with.

civil war, battle of kernstown 001I found that Kernstown was General Stonewall Jackson’s only major tactical defeat during the war but was really considered a strategic victory as it helped to divert Union forces from a campaign to attack Richmond.  From this information, I knew that Ransom was with General Stonewall Jackson’s regiment and stayed with him until that general was killed at Chancellorsville. Then, came Gettysburg, and most are familiar with this tragic and horrific battle in Pennsylvania.  At Gettysburg, Ransom S Dudley lost his left arm on July 3, 1863 and was taken prisoner.  It seemed his luck had run out.

Ransom was sent to David’s Island in New York, a Union prison and hospital for Confederate prisoners, and lay for four months under the care of  the Christian Commission.  According to Wikipedia, the” United States Christian Commission was an organization that furnished supplies, medical services , and religious literature to Union troops during the American Civil War.  It combined religious support with social services and recreational activities.  It supplied Protestant chaplains and social workers and collaborated with the U. S. Sanitary Commission in providing medical services.”  After the four months, Ransom was sent home minus his left arm until his mustering out.

civil war, david's island, ny, prison camp 001

Ransom was in Tazewell County, Virginia (near Wythe and Pulaski Counties) in 1866 after the war.  I found an interesting note about him contained in the “Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia” (p. 71).  In the August term of the court meetings, this note was added: “Ransom S Dudley, having lost an arm in battle, it is ordered by the Court that he be released from payment of county levies.”  This was the first time I came across such an action where the veterans were given special considerations!

No Federal Census was found for Ransom S Dudley for 1870 but on January 3, 1871, he married Mary Susan Arther.  Mary Arther was born in Botetourt County, Virginia in 1844, the daughter of John A and Elizabeth (Good) Arther, and came to Pulaski County in 1867 with her parents.  They were married by J. M. Kirkpatrick.  The 1880 Federal Census found Ransom and his wife living in Dublin, Pulaski County, Virginia and he was 45 years old and Mary was 38.  His occupation was “drives engine” as he was an engineer for the Norfolk & Western Railroad.  He must have been quite competent at using just one arm!  Mary’s parents, John Arther and Elizabeth Arther were also listed as living with Ransom and Mary along with a niece named Lutey Arthur, age 11.  Also in the household was a black servant, age 9, named Willie Cocke.

I had to skip to the 1900 census as there 1890 records were destroyed by fire – a great loss!  But I found that Ransom was also appointed U. S. Postmaster for the City of Pulaski, Virginia on 9 March of 1886 and again on 27 Jan of 1890.   Despite his handicap, he was able to secure jobs and support his family.

pulaski co va map 001
Location of Pulaski County in Virginia

In 1900, Ransom was now 63 and rents his home.  He was listed as a Railroad laborer but was not employed for 6 months.  Mary was also listed in the household along with a surprise —James Andrus, age 10 was listed as their adopted son!  Ransom was full of surprises!  James was born in June 1889 and was attending school.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any more information on what happened to James Andrus, the adopted son, as yet.  Ransom and Mary did not have any children of their own that I know of.

grave of r s dudley 001On 21 February of 1908, Ransom S Dudley passed away and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia.  In trying to trace what happened to Mary, his wife, after Ransom’s death, I found her living with a niece and nephew, Phoebe and Dudley Sturdevant in Newbern, Pulaski, VA at age 75.  In 1922, at age 77, Mary applied for a widow’s pension which gave some vital information on the form.  It verified the date of their marriage, her age and place of birth, and that she was living with someone, probably a relative, named F. F. Wood.  She listed Ransom’s cause of death as ” Paralysis, resulting from injury” (sad) and stated she had not remarried.  Her income in 1922 from all sources was a mere $120 and she owned no property.   Mary died on July 27 of 1927, five years later, at age 83 due to dysentery and senility.  She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Pulaski, Virginia.

This ends my story of Ransom Stillender Dudley, a man with a special name and a special story.  He was a soldier, prisoner and survivor of the Civil War and a man who seemed to make the best of things despite his losing an arm and was compassionate enough to adopt a son.  Hope you enjoyed his story!


Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Also: FHL microfilm: 2,048,472.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1880; Census Place: Dublin, Pulaski, Virginia; Roll: 1386; Page: 240B; Enumeration District: 057.

United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia; Page: 25; Enumeration District: 0050; FHL microfilm: 1,241,724.

United States Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Newbern, Pulaski, Virginia; Roll: T625_1907; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 61.

Library of Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Confederate Pension Rolls, Veterans and Widows; Collection #: CP-5_139; Roll #:139; Roll Description: Prince William County (surnames FO-Y) to Pulaski County (surnames A-Hen).

Historical Data Systems, comp. U. S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2009.

A Brief History of the Dudley Family by Naoma Dudley Slone. Contributed to Ancestry.com.

U. S. Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.  Also: Record of Appointments of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publications, M841_145 Rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, Record Group #28, Washington D. C.: National Archives; Volumes 51 and 80.

Ancestry.com. Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia from 1800 to 1922 in two Volumes Harman, John Newton, Richmond: W.C. Hill Print. Co., 1922-1925; Vol. 1, p. 71.

Wikipedia: United States Christian Commission and Battle of Kernstown.

Find A Grave, database and images, memorial page for Ransom S Dudley, Find A Grave Memorial no. 99426181, citing Oakwood Cemetery, Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia, USA.

Certificate of Death for Mary Susen Dudley, Commonwealth of Virginia, Bureau of Vital Statistics, State Board of Health, Reg. Dist. No. 0773, Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia: Reg. No. 73.


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