Mrs. W. C. N. Merchant of Chatham
Helped Prompt WWI Hospital Funding
Mrs. W. C. N. Merchant of Chatham, Virginia.
In The Women of the South in War Times (Revised Edition, 1924), author Matthew Page Andrews credited two Virginia women with leading a drive for supplementary funding for the American Hospital at Neuilly, a Paris suburb, during World War I.
At the United Daughters of the Confederacy convention in Chattanooga subsequent to the entry of the United States into the war, “Miss Nellie C. Preston, President of the Virginia Division, called attention to the work of the American hospital[s] in France, mentioning Neuilly above the others.”
UDC President-General Miss Mary B. Poppenheim of Charleston, South Carolina, responded by obtaining passage of a resolution establishing a bed at the hospital for an annual contribution from the UDC of $600.
Mrs. W. C. N. Merchant of Chatham, Virginia, suggested to the convention that the bed be named after Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and her motion carried unanimously. That action prompted an outpouring of further response: UDC organizations from 36 states funded 70 additional beds, each honoring a Confederate leader.
“Among the names of Southern leaders who had beds endowed in their names in France were: Davis, Lee, Cleburne, Jackson, Gordon, the Johnstons, Richard Jackson, Beauregard, Mitchell, Vance, Heath, Semmes, Wheeler, Forrest, Hood, Price, Stephens, Breckenridge, Zollicoffer, Maury, Cabell, King, Hampton, McWhirter and Ryan.”
The former home of Mr. and Mrs. W. C. N. Merchant, 226 Whittle Street, Chatham, Virginia.
- This article was first published in The Pittsylvania Packet, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia, #54, Fall 2004;
- Matthew Page Andrews, The Women of the South in War Times, New Edition Revised, was published by the Norman, Remington, Co., Baltimore, in 1924. The first edition of the book had been published in 1920. The above account is found on pages 449-456;
- The above photograph of Edna Maude Blake (Mrs. William C. N.) Merchant (1871-1951) was provided by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, through the assistance of Debbie Thomas, Virginia Division Historian; and Carol Estes, Administrative Assistant;
- The above photograph of the Merchant home was taken in 2000 by Henry H. Mitchell;
- The American Hospital of Paris at Neuilly continues as a noted institution today (see website);
- Mrs. Merchant was the wife of the local railroad stationmaster in Chatham, and lived at 226 Whittle Street in Chatham. She was one of the early leaders of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and served as its President-General 1927-29;
- The Merchants lost three infant daughters (twins Adeline and Margaret in 1903 and Mary Randolph in 1913); their oldest daughter Lillian Maude was born in 1890 and died in 1899;
- Mr. and Mrs. Merchant's home in Chatham was built by James M. Whittle around 1861 (see WPA article by Mattie S. Meadows), as an early step in his project of developing “Whittleton” (lower Whittle Street, now called “Whittletown;” during intervening periods the street has been known as Ridge Street, and Merchant Street). The structure served briefly as rectory for the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, then as home for attorney / famed Episcopalian clergyman / former Confederate cavalry officer (and cousin of General JEB Stuart) Chiswell Dabney (and his family, plus his brother, attorney Charles Dabney), prior to its becoming the Merchant residence. It is currently the home of Russell and Susan Hedrick and family;
- Research assistance was provided by Mary Catherine Plaster, Henry H. Mitchell, and Sarah E. Mitchell.
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Copyright © 2004 Patricia B. Mitchell.