Rosena B. (Rose/Rosa)

Of all Caroline’s children Rose may be the most difficult to write about, not because we have so little information, but because of the nature of what we have.

First is the matter of her given name. Lewis and Caroline’s third child appears in the 1850 U.S. Census as Rosena B., 15, likely named for her mother’s apparently only sister, Rosena (Rose) [Ellett] King, who lived nearby. But two years earlier in her brother Junius’ diary he referred to her as both Rose and Rosa Littlepage. As her aunt was also known as Rose or Aunt Rose, the family seemed to be at pains, if informally, to distinguish between them. Caroline referred to her in her journal only once, as Rose. I shall also.

Rose’s death is next to appear in an official document. The 1855 King William Register of Deaths gives her name as Rose, 20. It only records the month of death, July.1 Her father Lewis is recorded as providing the source of information which included the cause of death, diarrhea. Her death surely caused great sadness within the community surrounding King William Courthouse, none more than in the household of “Brother,” the newly minted Doctor Junius, who proved powerless to save his little sister. We have no definite indication of her place of burial. She surely would have been buried at Woodbury, Mount Hope where she was born, or – most likely – at the Littlepage family seat, Aspen Grove.

As grief receded and life went on some family members took steps to remember her. Her older sister that same year named her first born Rose B. L. Hanes.2 Several of Rose’s other brothers and sisters also found ways to incorporate Rose into the names of their children. The portrait of Rose shown on this page was passed on within the family for at least a century.3 But the most lasting tangible evidence of Rose is the diary she kept for 1853. It, and a transcription, resides at the Virginia Historical Society, donated at the same time as Caroline’s Journal.4

Like her mother’s journal, Rose’s diary provides the reader a window into her family and community. But it also shares the thoughts of a teenage girl poised between childhood and whatever-comes-next. Writing in a style less guarded and more personal than her mother, Rose recorded both family events and personal opinion, her joys and accomplishments, her doubts and fears.

That winter, with some satisfaction, she assumed the role of housekeeper while her mother was recovering from the birth of her last child. In spring when her mother was better Rose then slid almost effortlessly back into her role as the household’s eldest child.5 Her relationship with her father Lewis seems strained.6 While she hints that he might have a drinking problem, she seems fearful of writing too candidly in her journal.7 That summer she watched her infant little sister, Helen May, die, and a few weeks later – a bit overwhelmed – assisted in the birth of her nephew, Herbert. In November the family moved from Mount Hope, the only home she had ever known, to Woodbury, her Quarles great-grandparent’s home a few miles away. Rose was reluctant to go. Throughout her diary Rose wrote of having the “blues.” 8 In fact she wrote of melancholy and death more often than is comfortable for a reader who knows she has less than two years to live.9 And at one point Rose eerily complained that she had never been so much “indisposed” from eating summer fruit and berries.10

Rose seemed to be planning her wedding, even though she did not disclose in her diary a serious beau.11 But as she frequently wrote of love and marriage, longing and disappointment, what may have been hidden between her lines is suggested in Ethel Littlepage [Jackson] Ahern’s family papers. Ethel gave no source but wrote about Rose’s “Cousin Tom” who appears frequently in Rose’s diary:12

Thomas Edmund Littlepage was born Aug. 27, 1829. Thomas Edmund fell in love with his first cousin Rose Littlepage daughter of Major Lewis and the two families were opposed to the marriage due to their relationship. The two young people never showed any interest in anyone else so after several years the families agreed to their marriage. Rose fell ill of feavor (sic) and died before their marriage. She was burried (sic) in her wedding dress. After the funeral Thomas Edmund left King William and was heard from only once. He wrote a letter to his brother John Lewis Littlepage (I have the letter) saying he was in Hampton Roads aboard a little brig named the Elizabeth Watt waiting the tide to sail for Havana. He said it was a nice little boat and his companions were fine but he was a broken-hearted man. This was the last family or friends ever heard of Thomas Edmund Littlepage. There is no record of this son.

If Ethel’s story is true then much of what is hinted in Rose’s diary is, at least partially, explained.

Rose resolved to write in her diary for one full year; she almost made it. For those reading her words Rose moves quickly from appearing only as a short branch on a family tree; she becomes, as she was, very real; and not that much different from your or me, here and now. But Rose would leave us with nothing more. The only reference we have of her after her death is that journal entry of Caroline’s, 18 February, 1867. She wrote, “This day 12 years ago, I commenced keeping a journal. –The day Rose left home to spend some time with Mary at Locust Hill, the first week she paid her after they went to housekeeping, before the birth of Rosa Haynes, their first child, who is now eleven years…” 13

  1. The description of the painting of Rose inventoried by the Clarke County (Va.) Historical Association in 1947 gives her day of death as 17 July.  (back)
  2. Rose Ha(i)nes is listed as being five in the 1860 U.S. Census which was enumerated as of the third of July that year. If this is correct she seems to have been born before Rose Littlepage died. (See 1. above.) This suggests that Rose had a severe lingering illness. Or Molly may have simply renamed her first born. A definite date of birth for Rose Hanes has not been found.  (back)
  3. This photograph of Rose’s portrait is among the collection of the Clarke County (Va.) Historical Association, Berryville, Virginia, archives number: 1947.00290.081. In 1947 the painting was owned by Mrs. Thomas Blackwell of White Post, the daughter of Nannie Littlepage. Likely painted in May 1849 by John Toole with the other Littlepage portraits, Rose would have been 14. Its current location is unknown.  (back)
  4. Mss5:1 L7333:1. The volume actually incorporates three diaries. The first was written by Junius while a student at Delaware College in 1848-49. The second are entries by Caroline from 22 April to 31 August, 1849. Both contain rather brief entries. Rose’s diary from January to December, 1853 is much more extensive.  (back)
  5. Rose’s two older siblings, Junius and Molly were married. Bill, the next oldest, was 15.  (back)
  6. “From some cause unknown to me, I don’t think Pa loves me as well as the rest of his children, or ever has done since the year 1849. Would that year could be erased from my memory, but no it is indelibly impressed.” 11 June, 1853.  (back)
  7. I do wish I was not afraid to write all my heart dictates here. Every time I commence writing in this strain, I have a presentiment that I had better be on my guard not knowing but some one might chance to read it one of these days.” 18 March, 1853.  (back)
  8. “I feel that there is no solitude like that of the heart, when it looks around and sees in the vast concourse of human beings, not one to whom it can pour forth its sorrows, or receive the answering sigh of sympathy. We know not one day what the next may bring forth, but the Scripture saith “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” so I must be content to remain in a state of uncertainty in relation to those very important matters. It seems that my fate is destined to be a sad one, perhaps I deserve such a one.” 4 February, 1853. Here Rose is adapting from the 1803 novel Thaddeus of Warsaw, by Jane Porter.  (back)
  9. “I feel so wretched sometimes that I am almost tempted to commit suicide. I see no reason why I should desire to live a day longer. It has been a long while since I enjoyed any real happiness, aye very long and I don’t know how much longer it will be before I do. Perhaps never again.” 23 October, 1853.  (back)
  10. “It is the first time I’ve ever had the dysentery in my life.” 6 July, 1853.  (back)
  11. At the top the opening page of her diary someone itemized Rose’s wedding cloths, $249 worth. Above the list is written, “She hopes to have occasion to purchase them very shortly.”  (back)
  12. Cousin Tom was the second son of Col. Hardin Littlepage of Aspen Grove.  (back)
  13. Diarrhea, although frequently given historically as a cause of death, is more properly a condition with many possible causes. The dehydration effects are, however, often fatal, especially among children without access to reliable methods of treatment. That Rose “left home to spend some time with Mary at Locust Hill,” in the bottomlands near the James River, a few months prior to her death suggests that it was something Rose ate or was “in the water” – bacteria, a virus, or parasite – that caused to her death. The 1855 KW Death Register lists seven deaths from diarrhea (one chronic), eight from dysentery, and six from typhoid, but no obvious local epidemic.  (back)