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ADDRESS DELIVERED BY

The Honorable Sam Rayburn

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, U. S. CONGRESS

AT THE DEDICATION OF THE MARKER OVER THE GRAVES OF HIS GREAT-GREAT GRANDFATHER COL. GEORGE WALLER AND HIS WIFE ANN WINSTON CARR

I N OAKWOOD CEMETERY MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA MAY 6, 1951

In an early edition of the Poems of Edmund Waller, Poet Laureate of England during the reign of Charles II, published in the year 1705, there is a short life of the poet. The author, whose name is not given, says "The antiquity of his family, and the services they have rendered their country, deservedly place it among the most honourable in England."

Many people do not know who their grandfathers were. Heredity, however, is a fact which must not be forgotten. We owe a great deal to our forefathers whether we know who they were or not. If they lived evil lives we must suffer, if they were decent and well ordered, we start in life with great advantages. It is pleasant then, for one reason, to be able to look back for centuries and feel you have nothing to fear and nothing to blush for, and that honour and respect may be freely given. For the pedigree of the Waller family is not merely a list of names of which nobody ever heard, they have been distinguished in the church, the law, and in literature.

Again, we know the importance of a knowledge of history, the reason for things being as they are, how we obtained our liberties and privileges, the great names to whom we owe gratitude and whose memory we delight to honour. Some of the most interesting things in the world are its antiquities and its ancient buildings, with their associations and connections with the past.

Genealogy has always been an important subject and has played a part in the history of the world. Among the nations who have not known the true God, reverence for the departed has formed part of nearly all the different forms of religion. The Chinese worship their ancestors; and with some savage tribes it is the only sort of religion practiced. In the great book of records of the past---the Bible--- genealogy occupies a prominent position. Several lines of descent of immense antiquity and importance are found here. The children of Israel were most careful in preserving the names of their fathers and forefathers. How often we read of some reward or promise being given to an individual, that it should be not only for himself, but for his seed for ever; thus greatly increasing the value of the blessing. How they loved to think that their bones would rest and mingle with the ashes of those who had given them life.

The family of Waller traces back to Alured de Waller of Newark, Nottingham. He lived in the reign of King Henry II, and dies in the year 1183. The name Waller is recorded in the Doomsday Book. Alured was of Norman origin, and his grandfather no doubt came over with William the Conqueror, and fought in the Battle of Hastings, in the year 1066, for he was one of those who received grants of land in the conquered country. Alured was an "esquire" and a "gentleman of coat armour." The crest and shield still used by the family as borne by him, are therefore very ancient. The crest was no doubt a sprig of the walnut tree fastened in the helmet, from which is derived the "walnut tree proper" of heraldry. The shield black, with a "Bend engrailed argent", as the heralds have it, that is, a band slanting across the shield, on which was embroidered or painted three golden walnut leaves. The number three is no doubt suggestive of the Holy Trinity. These were days of the crusades, and as Alured was probably a soldier he might have taken part in one of them.

In the year 1405 Thomas de Waller the sixth generation from Alured de Waller purchased from Lord Clinton the estate "Groomsbridge" in Kent, which for the next 200 years remained the seat of the eldest branch of the family.

About this time the prefix "de" fell into disuse, and the name is henceforth written plain and unadorned.

In the Battle of Agincourt fought on October 25, 1415, Sir Richard Waller, a grandson of Thomas, the purchaser of Groomsbridge, distinguished himself. In this great battle, perhaps the greatest victory every achieved by the English nation, Richard captured one of the generals of the French army, Prince Charles, Duke of Orleans. According to the custom of the time he was brought to England with other prisoners of war, and entrusted to the care of his captor, now Sir Richard Waller, who kept him prisoner, or rather in "honourable restraint" at Groomsbridge. Here The Duke lived for twenty-four years, waiting for the ransom demanded by the victors, before he was set free.

The illustrious guest seems to have been a devout Churchman and made many benefactions to the parish Church of Speldhurst, and to the Chapel of Groomsbridge, over the porch of which his arms, carved in stone, remain to this day.

The oak panelling that adorned the apartment of the Duke is still preserved in the present house, and is beautifully carved with the "linen pattern," and a freize with the initials "R.W."

The panel over the fireplace is decorated with the ducal arms, the lilies of France, and though now over 500 years old, appears wonderfully clear and fresh.

For his services Richard was knighted. The King also granted to him and his heirs for ever, the addition to his crest of a shield bearing the arms of France suspended from the walnut tree, and the motto "Azincourt", "Hic Fructus Virtutis."

Two hundred and thirty-five years after the battle of Agincourt, we find one of Sir Richard's descendants, William Waller, immigrating to Virginia in 1650, marrying Mary Allen, and patenting land in 1669.

Three generations from William Waller, George Waller married Ann Winston Carr, the daughter of Captain William Carr and his first wife Elizabeth Winston, and moved from his native Stafford County, where he was born in 1734, to what is now Henry County, but at that time a part of Pittsylvania County, and acquired a large estate on Smith's River. The town of Fieldale is situated on the Waller Plantation. With George Waller came his brother-in-law Mordecai Hord, who acquired a like estate, adjoining the Waller plantation, which he called "Hordsville" and which has for the past 140 years been the home of one branch of the Hairston family.

The following is a list of George Waller's children and their consorts.

Elizabeth Born 1762 Married Jacob McCraw
Mary Winston Born 1763 Married Major John Redd
John Born 1765 Married Polly Cooper
Carr Born 1767 D. S. P.
Ann (Nancy) Born 1770 Married 1st, Thomas King 2nd, Thomas C. Morrison
George Born 1773 Married Polly Staples
William Born 1775 Married Mary Barksdale
Edmund Born 1779 Married Maria Duncan

George Waller's fidelity to public service was soon shown in his being one of the first Justices of the new County of Henry when that County was formed from Pittsylvania County in 1777. For many years he was an active member of the Court, Sheriff, Collector of Public Funds, Exchequer, and filled many honored public offices with courage and honor.

As major of militia, on the 11th day of March 1781, under an order from his superior officer, Colonel Abraham Penn, he marched sixteen companies or detachments of militia, from Henry County, to join General Adam Stevens at Hillsborough, N. C., for service in the then impeding battle of Guilford Court House fought four days thereafter. He was afterwards promoted and commissioned a colonel of militia, and as such ordered into service "to the southward."

Colonel Waller was with General Washington at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, after which he returned to his home in Henry County, lived the life of a gentleman planter, and served his county and state until his death on November 18, 1814.

Colonel Waller's wife, Ann Winston Carr, survived him for many years. She died in 1839 and was buried beside her husband on the plantation they loved so well until.a few weeks ago, when their remains were moved to this spot.

This stone has been erected by the contributions of some of their many descendants, not only of this county but of Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and other points.

Sufficient funds have been deposited with the Cemetery officials to insure that the graves will be cared for in perpetuity.

Colonel Waller belonged to that group of grand old patriots whose service and sacrifice are without a parallel in the history of mankind. They fought well, wrought better, and laid the foundation of the greatest government the world has ever seen, and while they bequeathed to us many blessings, they also laid upon us the obligations to carry on as they carried on.


Donald E. Dye, Jr. reports that a copy of the original address is on file at the Bassett Public Library, Bassett, VA


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