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Cornerstone Contributions: Biography of a Contribution: the Nolting Note

Cornerstone inventory published in the October 26, 1887 The Richmond Dispatch
Cornerstone inventory published in the October 26, 1887 The Richmond Dispatch

How many of you contributed to a time capsule as a kid? The 1877 Lee Monument Cornerstone inventory included a listing of a “Master Nolting – $10 Confederate note.[1]” However, it didn’t mention the letter included with the currency, an image and transcription of which can be seen below.


 

Richmond Oct 25th/89

Mr. W. B. Isaacs

Dear Sir –

My Son a Lad of 10 years is very

anxious to contribute to the Lee Monument Corner Stone

and therefore enclosed you will please find a Confederate

note $10 – date /64 which please have deposited – and you

will ever oblige

Yours Respectfully

Geo. A Nolting


Letter from George Nolting from the Lee cornerstone box
Confederate $10 note issued in 1864

Confederate $10 note issued in 1864

 

So who was the father that wrote this note, and the son he refers to? George Augustus Nolting, Sr. was a Richmond native identified as a hardware merchant living at 607 North Tenth Street in an 1880 census.[2] A two-year-old son, George Augustus Nolting, Jr. is also listed on the census, putting him at the right age to be the son mentioned in this letter.

Letter from Nolting while imprisoned at Point Lookout

George A. Nolting, Sr. served in the Confederate Army as a sergeant in the Confederate Old First Virginian Infantry, Company H, according to a pension report filed by his widow, as well as several newspaper listings.[3] Towards the end of the war, Nolting was captured as a prisoner of war and held at Point Lookout, Maryland. A May 24th, 1865 letter he wrote while still held at Point Lookout details his plans to take the Oath of Allegiance and return home.[4] After returning to Richmond, he appears to have traveled to New York to source materials for an employer[5] before opening a hardware store with his brother in 1870[6]. This was dissolved in 1875 so that each brother could open their own stores. Unfortunately, in 1876, he was declared bankrupt[7]. Ultimately, he appears to have worked as a bookkeeper at the Richmond Iron Works towards the end of his life[8]. After his death in 1900, Nolting was mentioned on a list of individuals who “held high places in the public regard, and who were important figures in the social and business life of the city[9].”

Clearly this social prominence carried over to his children. George A. Nolting, Jr’s name appears frequently in Richmond newspapers of the early 20th century, noting his involvement in various social groups, such as the Male Choral Society of Richmond[10] and the press committee for a convention dedicated to the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.[11] His 1913 marriage to Constance Bates was also covered.[12] The 1920 census lists him as a government service agent for steamships, and military service records reveal enlistment in both World Wars.[13] Ultimately, G.A. Nolting, Jr. died at age 79 in 1956.

George Augustus Nolting Junior taken in 1918 – image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture

While this sweet note from a father advocating for his son serves as an entry point into learning more about the lives of these two men as individuals, it also reveals one of the main purposes of these Confederate Monuments – that the glorification of the men represented, and the ideals of the Confederate States of America, would live on in future generations. In Jefferson Davis’s Farewell Address, delivered to the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 1861, he states the reason for secession as follows:

“This is done not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit unshorn to our children.”

Seventeen years later, in 1907, this quote would emblazon the Jefferson Davis Monument erected several blocks down from the Robert E Lee Monument.

Marriage announcement for George Nolting Jr. and Constance Bates from The Richmond Virginian June 6, 1913

Transmit unshorn to our children. What better way to communicate these ideals than a city-wide celebration of the installation of the Lee Monument? What better way to create a sense of southern pride than to include a Confederate note from a young boy? George A. Nolting, Jr. was not the only child to donate to the cornerstone box.  The inventory also includes Charles E. and Walter B. Harwood – “two little boys who love to revere the memory of Lee” – and their contribution of twelve copper coins. Here I ask readers to consider the perspective of a young boy, staring at the monumental Lee statue, surrounded by friends and family, feeling the pride of contributing to such a celebratory and important day for the City of Richmond. It is easy to understand how this, in combination with Jim Crow laws and textbooks designed by the Daughters of the Confederacy absolving the South of any blame[14] could contribute to the culture of Lost Cause nostalgia and generational misunderstandings that have permeated renewed discussions surrounding Richmond’s monuments over the last five years.

–Maggie Creech
Manager of Museum Programs
Virginia Museum of History and Culture


Other posts in the Cornerstone Contributions series may be found in DHR’s archive of Archaeology Blogs.

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Footnotes:

[1] The Daily times. [volume] (Richmond, Va.), 26 Oct. 1887. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86071854/1887-10-26/ed-1/seq-1/

[2] Richmond Narratives. n.d. 2120 Hanover Ave. https://richmondnarratives.com/2120-hanover-2/  pg 3.

[3] 2120 Hanover Ave, pg 3

[4] Nolting, G.A., 24 May 1865. Letter to unidentified addressee. Virginia Historical Society Research Library. Thompson Papers, 1861-1910. Section 6.

[5] Nolting, G.A., 1866.  Letters to John W. Bradbury. Virginia Historical Society Research Library. Bradbury Papers, 1862-1869. Section 1.

[6] The daily dispatch. [volume] (Richmond [Va.]), 02 Sept. 1870. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024738/1870-09-02/ed-1/seq-4/

[7] The daily dispatch. [volume] (Richmond [Va.]), 27 June 1876. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024738/1876-06-27/ed-1/seq-1/

[8] 2120 Hanover Ave, pg 4

[9] Richmond dispatch. [volume] (Richmond, Va.), 01 Jan. 1901. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038614/1901-01-01/ed-1/seq-8/

[10] The Richmond Virginian. (Richmond, Va.), 16 Dec. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90052005/1917-12-16/ed-1/seq-18/>

[11] Richmond dispatch. [volume] (Richmond, Va.), 11 Oct. 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038614/1900-10-11/ed-1/seq-1/

[12] The Richmond Virginian. (Richmond, Va.), 06 June 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90052005/1913-06-06/ed-1/seq-4/

[13] Familysearch.org. n.d. George Augustus Nolting Jr.. [online] Available at: https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/L199-PZ8

[14] Janney, C., 2021. United Daughters of the Confederacy – Encyclopedia Virginia. [online] Encyclopediavirginia.org. Available at:
https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/united-daughters-of-the-confederacy/

Originally posted: April 5, 2022
Updated: April 14, 2022