All posts by Brian Nilsson

Seeking Information on Ruben Nelson, Former Slave of James Fontaine in Hanover Co., Virginia

The Society has received a query for any information on a former slave, Ruben Nelson, who, based on a 26 September 1867 application in the Freedman’s Bank Records, was owned by James Fontaine (1799-1872) of Hanover County, Virginia.  Reuben was born around 1842 in Louisa County, as was his wife Mary Ann.  After the Civil War they lived in Richmond where Ruben worked in a hotel.  They had six known children:  Robert; Louisa; Ruben W.; James E.; Bertina; and William J. Nelson.  In the 1870 census Ruben is identified as mulatto.

1867-09-26 Reuben Nelson Freedman Application

James Fontaine had 38 slaves in 1850, one of whom was about the age of Ruben, and 51 slaves in 1860, with two about the age of Ruben, per the census slave schedules generated in those years.  In 1860 eight of the 51 were house slaves.

James’ wife, Juliet Morris, daughter of Richard Morris, was from Louisa County, where Ruben and his wife Mary Ann were born.  Could Reuben have been owned by the Morris family?  Richard Morris  had 41 slaves in 1850 and 90 in 1860.

If you have any information on Ruben or Mary Ann or their family, please contact the Society’s librarian at  We are also looking for any photographs of James Fontaine, if any exist.  Thank you!

2018 Society Annual Meeting Will Be October 19-21 in Yorktown, Virginia

The Society’s 2018 annual meeting will take place on Friday-Sunday, October 19-21, 2018, in Yorktown, Virginia.  The theme will focus on descendants from several of the five Fontaine siblings who settled in Virginia from Ireland, as well as the family’s role in the Revolutionary War and in Yorktown.  Our events will include participation in the annual Yorktown Day festivities on October 19, which includes a parade, fifes and drums performances, and special programs that commemorate the 236th anniversary of America’s Revolutionary War victory over the British at Yorktown.

James Fontaine (1686-1745) and his wife Lucretia Desjarrie and their daughter Elizabeth landed in Yorktown in October 1717 where James’ brother John Fontaine (1693-1767) met them and took them home to the family plantation John had established.  Their brother Francis Fontaine (1697-1749) and his wife Mary Glanisson followed, arriving in Virginia in May 1721.  Francis became the Rector of York-Hampton Parish two years later, in 1723, and remained in this role until his death in 1749.  He preached in Grace Church in Yorktown and is believed to be buried in the churchyard.

A number of family members were in Yorktown on that fateful day of October 19, 1781, when the British surrendered to General George Washington.  Lt. Col. William Fontaine (1753-1810), grandson of another of the five siblings, the Reverend Peter Fontaine (1691-1757), was with Washington and wrote about the surrender.   William’s brother, John Fontaine (1750-1792), was there as well with his Henry County, Virginia (VA), militia unit, as was their uncle Aaron Fontaine (1753-1823) who was there as part of his Louisa County VA militia unit.  Aaron’s future son-in-law, Edmund Bullock (1763-1852), was there with his Hanover County VA militia unit; the two men knew each other even though Edmund did not marry Aaron’s daughter Elizabeth until they were all living in Kentucky.

Please check back for more details as we have them.  For now, please mark your calendars!

New Detailed Article on Matthew Fontaine Maury’s Leadership Role in Conducting a Physical Survey of Virginia After the Civil War

The lead article in the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society’s 2017 annual magazine focuses on a little known aspect of Matthew Fontaine Maury’s life when he conducted a detailed survey-based physical assessment of Virginia. Based on an idea generated and then commissioned by the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Maury returned to the United States in 1868 to take up the position of Professor of Meteorology at VMI.  His job description included the production of this physical survey, with the thought that such a project would help the state’s rebuilding efforts.  Author and researcher Richard Nicholas brings this little-known aspect of Maury’s life into focus in his 29-page article, “Matthew Fontaine Maury and the Physical Survey of Virginia and Albemarle County,” is complete with photographs, including of the full chapter on Albemarle County, citations, and a brief summary of Maury’s Fontaine ancestry and his legacy.  The magazine (Volume 75; 2017) is available for purchase from the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society’s Store.

New Table of Contents for 40+ Years of the Society’s Newsletters!

Have you ever wished you had an index or table of contents for all the Society’s newsletters to find an article or information that you remember reading but now cannot find?  We have solved that problem by creating a comprehensive Table of Contents for all our newsletters!  The Society began issuing newsletters intermittently in 1972 and then on a regular basis beginning in 1984.  The Table of Contents is included in the hardcopy and CD versions available from the library and will be kept current.

Newsletters Table of Contents

Report on Society’s Oct. 20-22, 2017, Annual Meeting in Franklin TN

Thanks to Russell Hooper’s effort our annual meeting in Franklin, Tennessee, was a great success with over 70 attendees, many who arrived early to visit the Tennessee State Capital Building in Nashville.  The tour included visits to the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, the Supreme Court Chambers and the Governor’s Reception Room, as well as the State Library. Hall ways and rooms were lit by enormous ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.  We viewed busts and portraits of historic Americans such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and three other past United States Presidents, well known literary figures, and early American heroes such as Davy Crockett and Daniel Morgan. There was even a bronze bust of Cherokee Chief Sequoyah who created a written alphabet for native Americans. Numerous ceiling portraits done in 1859 include one of Matthew Fontaine Maury, the Pathfinder of the Seas. We also visited the adjacent Tennessee State Museum where we viewed a bust in storage of Matthew Fontaine Maury.

On Saturday we visited the farm where Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) grew up and a small cemetery where several of his siblings are buried, followed by a visit to the Abram Maury Family Cemetery in a more urban area.  Franklin’s founding father, Abram Maury (1766-1825), is buried there, as well as many other Maurys.  Matthew Fontaine Maury is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. We had lunch at the historic Franklin Masonic Hall where we had presentations by Tina Jones and Rick Warwick about recent Maury research and efforts to document the families of freed slaves. Masonic brothers gave us private tours and explained several masonic traditions. Several of Abram Maury’s sons were prominent Masons.

Saturday evening we had dinner and a program at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Keynote Address on the life of Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury was given by Howard Cohen, Deputy Chief of the Maritime Safety Office of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Descendants of Mary Ann Fontaine Maury
Descendants of Mary Ann Fontaine Maury
Descendants of The Reverend Peter Fontaine
Descendants of The Reverend Peter Fontaine
Descendants of The Reverend Francis Fontaine
Descendants of The Reverend Francis Fontaine

Itinerary for 2017 Annual Meeting!

Friday, October 20, 2017:

Optional Trip to Tennessee State Capitol:

12:30pm:   Bus arrives at hotel to pick us up.  Registered attendees are asked to please arrive by 12-12:15 so we can load up as quickly as possible when the bus arrives.  Note: Please try to grab a bite to eat before the trip.

1:30:   Arrive at State Capitol for private tour with the Tennessee State Museum Curator.  We will be viewing Commander Matthew F. Maury’s portrait painted on the Capitol ceiling and also his bust in the State Museum.

4:30-5:30: Arrive back at Hotel. Our precise return time will depend on how much time we spend at the Capitol and State Museum. The Curator will spend as much time with us we would like.


4-6pm at the Hotel:

There will be a Registration table setup outside the hotel meeting room. It will be to the left when you enter the hotel.   There will be people available all evening for registration.

7-9pm: Business Meeting:

Saturday, October 21:

9am:  Buses arrive at Hotel to pick up.

Again, please try to start gathering in the lobby between 8:30-8:45 so we can load as quickly as possible.

10am:  Arrive at Old Maury Farm off Blazer Rd. This is the farm where Commander Matthew F. Maury grew up.  We will visit a small Fontaine-Maury Cemetery by the side of the road where several of Cmdr. Maury’s siblings are buried.   The County Historian has had an historical marker honoring Cmdr. Maury placed by the cemetery.

10:45am: Depart Blazer Rd.

11:00am:   Arrive Abram Maury Family Cemetery in Founders Pointe Subdivision:

Franklin’s Founding Father, Abram Maury, is buried here along with many other Fontaine Maurys.

11:45-12: Depart Abram Maury Cemetery

12-12:15: Arrive Historic Franklin Masonic Hall:

We will have lunch at the Hall.   Several of Abram Maury’s sons were prominent Masons at the Hall and we will see some of their signatures in the Ledger.  Daniel Worsham Maury, for example, was at the laying of the Hall’s Cornerstone.  Daniel was the First of the Maury clan born in Tennessee soil (1799).

Two local historians will be with us and one will give a fascinating talk about some of her Maury research.

Several Brothers at the Hall will be giving private tours.

2:30: Depart Hall

2:45-3pm: Arrive at Hotel

Saturday Evening:

5pm: Buses will Arrive to pick up.

6pm: Arrive at St. Paul’s Episcopal:

The Church is hosting a cocktail gathering for us before the Dinner.

During dinner, Howard Cohen, Deputy Chief of the Maritime Safety Office of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, will deliver his Keynote Address on Commander Matthew F. Maury and his extraordinary legacy in our Nation’s history.  Howard will be sharing several short videos. One, I believe, is from a Pentagon Ceremony honoring Cmdr. Maury that few have ever seen.

9:30-9:45: Bus will Depart for Hotel

10pm: Buses arrive at hotel.

Sunday, October 22:

Open Day for Society Members to explore Franklin.

Please understand these times will be somewhat fluid.

New Details, Registration Form for Annual Meeting 2017

The Fontaine Maury Society meeting for 2017 will be held this year in Franklin, Tennessee, on October 20-22. The meeting will focus on Franklin’s founder, Abram Maury (1766-1825), grandson of Mary Anne Fontaine and Matthew Maury, and Abram’s young cousin, Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873).

Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, the grandson of Reverend James Maury (1717-1769), was born in Virginia in 1806, but moved to Franklin with his branch of the family in 1811 to join up with cousin Abram Maury who founded Franklin in 1799. Coincidentally, October 20 is the 301st Wedding Anniversary of Matthew Maury and his wife Mary Anne Fontaine, October 20, 1716.

We have already reserved a block of room for us in the Holiday Inn Franklin-Cool Springs at a rate of $109 per room. It is located at 1738 Carothers Parkway, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027, 615-277-8700. Please be sure to tell them that you are with the Fontaine Maury Society to get the group rate.

Unfortunately John Grady, author of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Father of Oceanography, A Biography 1806-1873 (published in 2015 in Jefferson, N.C., by McFarland & Co., Inc., and available from and former longtime Editor of the Navy Times, is no longer able to attend to speak about his comprehensive biography about the Commander but rest assured that we will have a keynote speaker who will enthrall us with details of the local family.

The historic Franklin Masonic Hall, the oldest public building in Franklin (1823) and one of only three Masonic Halls in the Nation listed as National Historic Landmarks, will serve as a base of operations throughout the weekend. Several Fontaine-Maurys were members of the Hall and we can view their names in the original ledger. Society member and organizer of our weekend, Russell Hooper, will also try to display some of his private collection of Fontaine-Maury papers, the largest such collection in private hands, at the Hall.

We are including an optional visit to the Tennessee State Museum in downtown Nashville to view Commander Maury’s bust. The museum is a 20 minute trip from Franklin. Another point of interest for us is the State Capitol in Nashville where a portrait of Maury is painted on the ceiling. We will be also visiting the Abram Maury Cemetery in Franklin where Abram Maury and other prominent Tennessee Fontaine-Maurys are buried.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, the Mother Church of the Diocese of Tennessee, is planning to host a cocktail event for the Society the evening of the 21st in Otey Hall. Commander Matthew Maury’s lifelong friend and teacher at the Harpath Academy in Franklin in the early 1800s, Bishop James H. Otey, founded St. Paul’s and established the Episcopal Diocese in Tennessee.

An option for Sunday for those who might have time would be a visit to Maury County, twenty minutes to the south where several prominent Maurys are buried at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Commander Maury’s mentor, Bishop James H. Otey, is also buried at St. John’s. Maury County was named in honor of Abram Maury in 1807.

Please complete the registration form below and mail it to the address provided!

2017 FMS Registration form

Transcription of the Will of Aaron Fontaine (1753-1823) by Claudia Edwards

Aaron Fontaine, son of the Reverend Peter Fontaine, was one of the founders of Louisville, Kentucky, where he and his family arrived by around December 1797. Found in the Jefferson County, Kentucky, Will Book 2, Society member Claudia Edwards photographed Aaron’s will from that book and has transcribed it. She has graciously agreed to let us publish both the original and her transcription for all to see. Thanks Claudia!

Will of Aaron Fontaine from Jefferson County Will Book 2

Transcript of Will of Aaron Fontaine


Seeking manuscript entitled “Tales of a Black Sheep” by Stephen Maury

The Society has received a query from a gentleman writing an article about Matthew Fontaine Maury and the Maurys of Charlottesville who is looking for a narrative written by Stephen Price Maury (1850-1941) of his life there, last told it was in the possession of his granddaughter Judith Maury Gravely. Does anyone know where the manuscript is now or have a copy of it?  Please contact the Society’s librarian ( FontaineMauryLibrary at ) with any information.