Interview with Sam Monroe

Material Information

Interview with Sam Monroe
Monroe, Sam ( Interviewee )
Nicholas, Jennifer ( Interviewer )
Luttrell, Keely ( Interviewer )
Tidewater Main Street Development Project (TMP)
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history
Family history
Rural life
Historic preservation
Historic Christ Church
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Lancaster


Sam Monroe describes his family history in detail as well as its connection to Historic Christ Church, from riding horses around its exterior over fifty years ago to enjoying the restored site as it is today. He also talks about his and his father's career with the Texas Company, now Texaco. He shares memories from his time in Arizona and Colorado, where he rode horses with musician John Denver.
General Note:
To access audio version of this interview, click the Downloads tab at the top of the page.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
Interviewee and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier:
TMP-163 ( SPOHP )


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Full Text


The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director: Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 3523927168 3528461983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the almost 50 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 6,500 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by r esearch scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SP OHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history inte rview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam Websters dictionary, Chicago Manual of Style, and program specific transcribing style guide, accessible at SPOHPs website. For more informatio n about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 3523927168. May 2016


T MP 163 Interviewee: Sam Monroe Interviewer: Jennifer Nicholas, Keely Luttrell Date: October 21 2017 N: Hello, my name is Jennifer Nicholas. L: N: With the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Today is October 21, 2017 and I am interviewing Mr. Sam Monroe at the Historic Christ Church in Lancaster County, Virginia. Can you start of f by telling me where and when you were born? M: Well, I was born eighty two in three weeks, whatever that figures out to, in Norfolk, Virginia. N: what they did for a living? M: and my mother is Margaret Norvel l mother from Beaumont, Texas and my father was born in Columbus, Texas and lived in Houston for many years. He initially started off in various jobs, but then joined the Texas Company, which then became Texaco, which is now Chevron. He worked in the state of Texas and in Dallas. In 1930, he was transferred from Dallas to Norfolk, Virginia to run the Mid A tlantic District, which was Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West th Carolina was included or not for the Texas Company. N: Very neat. Do you remember anything about your grandparents?


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 2 M: Yes, my grandfather, Samuel Edward Monroe, who I am named after, and grandparents. They lived in Houston. They were from Columbus. My grandfather worked also for the Texas Compan y in Houston. They lived dow n there. My grandfather died in I think it was about 1953 and my grandmother in 1968, I believe it was. They were in their eighties at that and Claudia Wilbarger Norvel l c ertainly. She was a huge historian and DAR and C olonial Dames individual that lived in Beaumont. She loved books. She which stretched from around the Austin area down into the Mexican bor der. N: M: Her p ortrait hung in the state capito l in Austin for a long time. N: there as well? M: No. I was born there in 1935. I have two brothers. My oldest bro ther, Norve l l, he was born in Lynchburg and then my brother, Doug, he was born in Norfolk in 1933. This was after my mother and father had been transferred to Norfolk. So, t but we lived there for a short whi le. My father, after a period of time, was transferred back to Texas and then from Texas in the early [19]40s to New York. I really grew up in New York and down here. But we were summer


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 3 people in the Northern Neck in Irvington, Virginia when he bought the property in Irvington in 1938. So, N: fun as a child? M: No. n 1938, my father was with the Texas Company and, as I told you, he h ad the territory. In Irvington, in this area, there were a few service stations and consignees, t and they would deliver it to the station and then they would pay you later. Consignment was kind of the way that operated. A nyway, the consignee in Irvington was a guy by the name of Colburn Treac le Colburn was also a r ealtor. My father would come over, and Co lburn was in Irvington there, and my father w ould come over and see him. And, in 1938, Co lburn not only talked to him a bout oil and gas and everything, but he talked to him about real estate. And, a s a good r ealtor does, he enticed my father into buying thirty acres in Irvington. Your question was what did we do for fun. After moving around and after growing up a little bi t, we spent every summer from the day school was let out in New York started school, in Pelham Irvington to spend the summer and work down here. We came and we had a farm. On the farm, if it h ad two legs, we had it, if it had four legs, we had it. P igs, chickens, cows, horses, turkeys, roosters, guinea hens. You name it, we had it. It was really wonderful. He, of course, was stationed in but my


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 4 mother did. Our primary responsibility, when we got here, was number one, to take care of the farm animals and the other thing was to paint white fences that ran on the old property. So, w e would start white washing fences the next day and do as muc h of it as we could, and it seemed like there were a million miles of fences. The only interruption we had were the paint fights that my brothers and I got into. We painted more of each other than we did fences. N: [Laughter] M: That was the fun. And the fun things were growing up in the area on the water, crabbing. We had boats, we had full responsibilities as a child, and we were given the great freedom to do really whatever we wanted to. N: M: We did a lot of horseba ck riding. My father was a big Texas Range R ider and they gave him a wonderful saddle when he left Texas. He had a Palomino that he brought. My mother had a Tennessee Walker that she rode and rode primarily with us Then, m y grandfather gave my two brother s and myself gave each one of us a Paint. So, w e did a lot of horseback riding, primarily when my father was here, but my brother and I did a lot of riding by ourselves. We used to ride over here to Christ Church and that was an interesting ride at that t ime becau se the church was in ill repair, of course. N: Very cool. Do you remember what your favorite holiday as a child was, and can you tell us a little bit about it?


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 5 M: Yes, two holidays, or really, three. Christmas, Easter, and when school let out. N: I guess you could call that a holiday, for sure. M: That was truly good. We spent most of those, because of location, in New York. As I sa y we lived in Pelham New York, which was just about on the New Haven railroad just about thirty m inutes outside of N ew York City, because my father was at the Chrysler Building. Pelham really was a huge Southern town because all the people from North C arolina in the textile industries and everything moved there and a lot of other people from the South because it was so where we lived. N: That makes sense. So, what was school like when you were a child? M: It was good. I went to the local elementary school, Prospect Hill. I started off at S iwanoy and then we moved to Pelha m and went to Prospect Hill. From Prospect Hill, went to Pelham Memorial High School. My brother s basically did the same thing. But then, at the appropriate time, they went miles sou th of Princeton. So, w hen my time came up, which was 1950, I went to Lawrenceville and s pent four years there. And then, graduated from there and went on to Washington and Lee in Lexington, Virginia. N: Very cool. So, you said that you and your brothers us ed to ride horses a lot. Did you ever go to school riding a horse?


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 6 M: No, no. We were in New York. The horse was a huge part of our early life down here because the roads down here were small. Many of the roads that are cut through today, they were dirt ro ads at that time. And the road right outside of Historic Christ Church here was the primary road from Irvington to Kilmarnock. So, w e would come over and ride around here. One of the interesting rides that we had was when my brother, who was two years olde r than I am, when he dismounted from his house over here at Christ Church he dismounted and stepped down into a grave and he kept going. N: Oh, no. M: So, yelling for me to come give him a hand to get out. Of course, I was a little nervous about doing th at because just the idea of the graveyard, where the old thing, hold your breath when you pass the graveyard. But t he church was in ill started the complete renovation of Historic Christ Church, which was not developed in the [19]50s I forget. We had since sold our farm in [19]49. My father died in August of 1949. He was only forth nine years old. So, m y mother put the farm on the market and s old it within three weeks. So, we were gone from here B ut had many friends in the area a nd we would come back and visit all the time. She was living back in Pelham, New York as that was the home for all my brothers and myself, too. They were off at school. I was at home there. She decided, in the early [19] 60s, that she wanted to come back to the Northern Neck and bought the property that I


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 7 live on today. I think it was about 1962 she moved back here to be with her friends, Anne Ste ph ens, Mary Herndon, Dick Herndon, and Anne S te ph ens husbands were instrumental in getting the Historic Christ Church Foundation going with other folks as well. My father and Dick Herndon worked together at the Texas Company in New York. N: Do you have an earliest memory of the church? M: Yeah, it was on our horseback rides here because there was no reason to everything was overgrown. Of course, we were here in the summertime, so the weeds had taken over. We would ride horseback over here. As curious as young people are and yo ung boys are, we would explore a little bit. All of the outside tombs and everything they were really torn apart. Pieces here and pieces there. These are the Carter tombs that I guess would be on the east side of the church. They were spread all over the place. We would go inside of the church, and the doors were just barely hanging on and it was kind of somewhat open, the weather inside, vines growing inside. Just kind of a spooky place in a way. I guess you could call it the early graffiti on the walls, which is nothing like graffiti today. I know a lot of the painting graffiti those are exceptionally good artists that do things li on us that this he [19]50s, when the group got together and formed a foundation.


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 8 N: foundation? M: had died in August of [19]49 and then we were go ne except to visit friends down here until [19]62 or [19]63 I guess it was. N: Do you remember going to any events at the church as a child or even later? M: t here now s been restored, but a ll of the pews and family areas most of it, if not all it, are original wood and everything. It, fortunately, was not destroyed by vandalism or whatever at that point because there They might have broken windows and stuff. But no, the church was not functional at that point. Of course, the other churches around were the Irvington Methodist and Baptist and Grace Church in Kilmarnock. All of those were very active and in White S tone, too. N: Very cool. Can you tell me a little bit more about the surrounding churches and how their interest was in the Christ Church? M: except for Grace Church in Kilmarnock, which is t his being the Episcopalian religious group here. Grace Church, the rector there is the primary rector here at Historic Christ Church. So, any function that you have here today basically has to be cleared by the rector, who is David


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 9 Ma y now, and by the foun what might be on the program here. Grace Church, in the summertime, has early eight and that goes from I know the first of June through Labor Day. There have been many weddings and funerals and everything. N: Very, very cool. So, do you remember Mr. Reverend Combs? M: Reverend Combs? No, I do remember. See, I left. Now, my brother might remember that, but I never really lived he re full time until the mid [19]80s. After I graduated from Washington and Lee, I was married to my wife, who was at Sweet Briar, and we were married our senior year and lived in Lexington. Then I went on into the Army for a little while at For t Sill, and after leaving there went to Dallas and I started working for the Texas Company. From there, I was transferred to Amarillo, where I supervised thirty three service stations in the panhandle of Texas. My oldest brother was at the University of Texas. He was there and then my brother Doug was at Wa ch ovia in Winston Salem. born in 1959 in Dallas. Our daughter was born in Amarillo in 1962. We moved back to New York and I started working at the Chem ical Bank in ch ovia in [19]65 and he came with his family, his wife Kit who had gone to Hollands, and they had five children and they moved here. A nd really, the Lancaster National Bank in Irvington, he star


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 10 Chesapeake Bank. It has grown hugely. I went on to, a fter leaving Chemical in [19]62, I went to Baltimore because it was closer to Irvington and I could get down here in three hours versus seven hours from New York. N: M: Then, went on many, many trail rides in Arizona and Colorado and I used to ride with a name that you might know, John Denver. He was quite a hor seman and a nice guy and a wonderful fly fisherman. We had many wonderful trips there. Wally Schirra, the astronaut, used to ride with us and many fun people. Anyway, I had an opportunity, after taking our kids for a number of years to a ranch in Arizona, to go to start a ride in Durango, Colorado and we moved there. I had an opportunity to run a bank there, which I did until the late [19]80s, when we moved back here to Irvington. So, t But o ne other son was born in 1965 in New Jersey w hen we lived in the Princeton area. He lives in Charlotte now, my oldest son lives here in Irvington, and my daughter lives in Richmond. N: M: Yeah. N: Do you have any specific stories about your experiences with John Denver and that group? M: Yeah, we had wonderful things. I put a number of books together on this thing called Shutterfly, which you might know. You take your photographs


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 11 and you upload it and it really tells a tale. I was the photographer on all of t hese rides. The ride in Arizona was called the Desert Caballeros Ride. And then, i n 1981, we started the Durango Mountain Caballeros Ride in Durango, which, of course, is in the southwest corner of Colorado. We would ride through the San Juan Mountains and the willamanutch John Denver was living in Carbondale, which is new Aspen. N: M: He and his good friend Rob v an P elt who lives in Carbondale he got John Denver to come on the ride with us. He wa s really a very gracious, wonderful entertainer. I mean, sitting around the campfire at night and wrote a song about the Durango Mountain Caballeros, which, if you me up John Denver on there and you can hear the song. I had noticed, because I was riding behind him and being the photographer I was taking a lot of pictures of everybody, that he was doing all of this stuff and he was looking up in the sky. There were a lot of eagles that you could find. He wrote this song. Then, w e got back to our place just north of Durango called Tamarron. It was a resort there. We always had our post ride celebration there, which was really, really a lot of fun, very nice, and after s pending six days on the trail and everythi ng, which was not a rugged ride, think that it was a rugged ride. B ecause we had wranglers that took care of the horses at night after we


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 12 rode. But we rode we cross ed over the Continental Divide any number of times, way, way up in the high country, up eleven thousand, twelve thousand, sometimes thirteen thousand feet. It was spectacular. Your question was about Denver. He was just a good guy. N: All right. Very, very cool. How popular were trips like that across America? Was it really popular for people to do things like that? M: The ride in Wicken burg, Arizona, there are probably two hundred and fifty riders. I f you can imagine two hundred and fifty people on horseback. And i n order to mak e two hundred and fifty people move, your support group needs to be equally as large So, hundred and fifty wranglers and food people and everybody else that follows you on the trail. Well, o ur ride in Durango we could never have an y more than thirty people because we did ride through the wilderness area and you had to maintain where you were riding. It was what you take in, you carry out. need ed to hav e the support group that took the be dd ing and the food and the wranglers that took care of the horses after you got in. So, w e always rode with a BMW and a lot of the feder al forestry people. There would be one or two in there. I guess there were twenty of have ten guests. So, i t was not publicized at all from that standpoint. N: Very coo. You mentioned there were some federal people with you. Was the federal government really involved in the rides?


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 13 M: No, we wanted them along just to s how that we were not destroying anything. They were good horse people, and if there was a problem with the trail, they recorded it and would come back and have it fixed or whatever. So, i t was mostly BMW people that rode wit h us. So, they were good folks. N: Cool. Very, very neat. So, returnin g to the Christ Church, however do you remember any stories or very specific memories of Mr. Herndon? M: Sure. Our families came here at about the same time. They lived over in the White Stone area and had a wonderfu l farm over there called Long Lane Farm. He and my father worked together. My father was a general sales manager for the Texas Company in New York and Dick Herndon was one of the vice presidents of the company. Down here is really where I remember them spe cifically. They would get together with Big Steve, the Ste ph ens that built the Tides Inn, and Dick Herndon and my dad. A nd John Hardy, who also was with the Texas Company H e was from Danville and went to VMI, as did my dad h e went to VMI. Class of [19]21 The Herndon s had two children, David and Sharon, just a little bit younger both of them, than I am. They grew up here in this area and we spent a lot of time in the summertime over at their place over on Long Lane Farm. hly allergic to nuts, and if you go over to Well, in 1950 I came back to the area after my dad had died in [19]49 and spent a week or two with the Herndon s. What did I do? I help ed plant a lot


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 14 of the pecan trees there on the farm. My allergy I still have it, but I t. But I always chuckle as I go by there and look at it. N: That's lucky. Great. So, what is your involvement with the Foundation for Historic Christ Church? M: I have a number of gravesites out here. My wife died in May. N: M: No real involvement, but I look forward to getting involved in the future. N: What do you hope happens to the church eventually? M: I hope it prospers and remains as beautiful a place as it is. N: your most favorite thing about the church? What do you think is so appealing to people? M: Well, the history behind it. Peopl e are stopping by here all the time to see this. You know, t his dates back into the 1600s, but the church was not completed, I think, until about 1735. It is the best Georgian colonial church in the country. You look at the church and the structure is basi cally unlike a lot of the other old churches in Virginia. Of course, Virginia has probably the oldest besides a lot of the churches that are in the Southwest, which we visited here last month a number of them, my brother and I did. The church was built by Carter because he lives out here on the Corrotoman wonderful. Then, the foundation has restored the church and the area


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 15 around it and they maintain it. So, taken care of. Of course, contributions are necessary and volunteers, a anything I can to help the church from that standpoint. N: Do you remember what your reactio n was to seeing the restored church? Like, when you first saw it restored right now. M: you? N: M: When you go in you will have to visualize, a nd after looking at these pictures on the wall here, what it was like when we first saw it. Then, you can see as the restoration goes on, that picture over there has a number of older pictures and new er pictures. These are mostly older pictures here. The r estoration has been incredible. The tombs had to be restored. Some were smashed beyond repair, so they have redone a number of the tombs to bring it back. They did the walls. As you can see, the wall that surrounds was not there, but there had been one the re, and they rebuilt winter for maybe a Saturday afternoon wedding or a service or whatever. ust a beautiful place. N: Do you know how often they hold events at the church, like today?


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 16 M: Frequently. They are open every day, volunteers. The church opens at volunteer will take you t hrough. They have all kinds of things. I guess the most recent big thing they had was, of all things, a beer fest. It raised a lot of money. It was a wonderful event It was different. I mean, h ere in this area we obviously have a crab feast in some place s in Irvington at the museum. We also have oyster roasts as we did last weekend at the Chesapeake Academy School, which is a small little school in Irvington, a primary school, and fundraisers. They have a number of fundraisers here. that standpoint. The foundation board is very active in maintaining the presence of the church and publishing it. Steve Harris is And Robert Teagle, who got you all here, he does an outstanding job. N: He's great. that, is there anything else you would like to share about the church? M: will understa wonderful, quiet place. They have, I think, big future ideas for expanding N: Thank you ver y much. I really appreciate it. M: Okay. That N: Yeah. [End of interview]


T MP 163 ; Monroe ; Page 17 Transcribed by: Mackenzie Goode, November 20, 2017 Audit edited by: Patrick Daglaris, November 27, 2017 Final edited by: Patrick Daglaris, December 15, 2017