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Thomas Barksdale Edmunds

Male 1887 - 1954  (67 years)



Thomas Barksdale Edmunds was born at Cedar Grove Plantation in Drake's Branch, Virginia on July 18, 1887.  Cedar Grove was the home of Samuel Morton Edmunds and Nannie Barksdale Edmunds.  Samuel was a veteran of the CSA who chose to remain on the family land post-war when most other of his generation left southside Virginia and moved west seeking a better economic environment.

The family history which remains related to Tom's childhood is minimal.  Documentary evidence and family lore indicate that Samuel was highly respected in the Charlotte County area, but struggled year in and year out to keep the family estate.

Tom was one of seven children, five girls and two boys born over a span from 1880-1896.  One sister died in infancy before Tom was born.  A second older sister lived to the age of just short of her 18th birthday, dying when Tom was 14.  His oldest sister married at the age of 21, then died at the age of 33 leaving behind two children.

Tom's only brother, Samuel Morton (Mort) Edmunds was by all accounts Tom's best friend and confidante.  Mort contracted tuberculosis and was institutionalized as was the practice of the time.  He died at the age of 44.  

The two younger sisters lived long and productive lives.  Charlotte apprenticed and then became a nurse, while Janette attended college at Farmville (now Longwood) graduating with a degree in education.  She enjoyed a long career as an elementary school teacher first in Richmond and then at home in Chase City, Virginia.

Tom undoubtedly attended school in the public schools of Charlotte County, Virginia.  It can be surmised that he spent many of his formative years working on the family farm.  Around his 15th year, the farm was foreclosed and the family moved to nearby Chase City.  

There is a gap of roughly sixteen years where nothing is known of Tom's life.  His daughter (my mother) is certain he did not attend college, but remembers him as a lifelong learner who put a premium on education.

The story is picked up with the onset of World War I.  Tom was 30 when the U.S. joined that war, so presumably he was beyond draft age.  He appears to have been employed in some capacity in Washington, D.C. during the war.  This can be assumed because it was there that cousins introduced him to Isabel Carter Bouldin.

In true southside Virginia fashion, this pair was destined to marry.  Cedar Grove Plantation, the Edmunds home place was neighbor to Roanoke Plantation, the home estate of the Bouldin family.  Though Isabel had rarely visited Roanoke, it was her father's birthplace.  The two never met in Charlotte County as children since Isabel's father left Roanoke to attend Washington and Lee University (then Washington College) before Tom's birth.  He became an IRS agent and eventually settled in Greensboro, NC where Isabel was born and raised.  Isabel was in Washington as one of the first employees hired to work with J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI.

After their engagement, Tom enrolled in the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University) possibly in its first class (found a history paper indicating school opened in 1919 -- he graduated in 1920).  His diploma is in the possession of his granddaughter (Nan Hannah).

Dr. Edmunds returned to Virginia and set up his practice in Lynchburg.  He married Isabel in 1920 and their first child was born on October 31, 1921.  The marriage produced three daughters.

The optometric practice thrived in his office located at 617 Main Street in the heart of Lynchburg.  The office included his assistant, Mrs. Hart, and an Optician, Mr. Hart (presumably husband and wife).  Mom remembers several young optometrists who worked in the office then moved on to establish their own practices.

First arthritis in his legs, then heart problems, slowed Tom, but he continue to practice until shortly before his death in 1954.  Mom is now suffering with dementia and has been unable to recall how the practice was closed, though she believes it was sold to a young optometrist.  Mom does remember her father traveling to Philadelphia on occasion for continuing education courses.  In her memory, she recalls thinking it was funny that her father was in school just like she was.

We are also in possession of a lengthy letter written from Tom to Isabel over several days.  This letter was written on paper provided by the Central YMCA of Philadelphia where he lived while attending school.

Life of Thomas Barksdale Edmunds

Owner of originalNan Hannah
Date21 Aug 2013
File nameLife Of TBE.txt
File Size4.39k
Linked toThomas Barksdale Edmunds

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