Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Cornelia Branch Stone 1840 ~ 1925

 


Cornelia Branch Stone

No one can read an account of the daily life in our Southern states during the Civil War without becoming impressed with the fact that the lofty zeal and heroic fortitude of the Confederate women has received too little attention in our literature. A Southern man in his writing has given us a glimpse of the "war women'' of Petersburg. "During all those weary months," he says, "the good women of Petersburg went about their household affairs with fifteen inch shells dropping, not infrequently, into their boudoirs or uncomfortably near to their kitchen ranges. Yet they paid no attention to any danger that threatened themselves and indeed their deeds of mercy will never be recorded until the angels report But this much I want to say of them, they were 'war women' of the most daring and devoted type." The following succinct report of a Confederate general in the midst of the war shows that the women of Winchester were in no wise second in their unselfish fortitude to the women of Richmond, Petersburg and elsewhere. "Its female inhabitants (for the able bodied males are all absent in the war)," ran the general's brief, "are familiar with the bloody realities of war. As many as five thousand wounded have been accommodated here at one time. All the ladies are accustomed to the bursting of shells and the sight of fighting and all are turned into hospital nurses and cooks." Throughout the whole South, in every city, town and hamlet arose heroines to meet the emergency of war. On first thought it would have been expected that these women, reared in luxury and seclusion, would have become greatly excited and terrified when under fire and amid scenes of actual war, but almost invariably they exhibited a calm fearlessness that was amazing.

But it was after the war, when the contemplation of ruined homes and broad desolation was thrust upon the South, that the real test came. The men met the awful responsibility and their hideous trials with amazing courage, and to the glory of the Southern woman be it said that the women became equal sharers in courage and in work. They have never faltered and never shown any weariness. Those left penniless, who were once wealthy, took up whatever work came to hand. Not a murmur escaped their lips. They cheered each other as they strengthened the energies of the men, and they kept up their work for the Confederate soldiers and keep it up till this day. Memorial associations were organized all over the South. The two great societies of Richmond, the Hollywood, and the Oakwood, each look after thousands of graves, the names of whose occupants are unknown. But probably the most noble work for the support of charity as well as of loyal sentiment has been done through the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A foremost worker in this noble society is Mrs. Cornelia Branch Stone, for several years president of the Texas Division, and whose biography will well illustrate the strength of character and the executive ability for which the leading ladies among Southern womanhood were distinguished.

A wise counselor, of clear judgment and indefatigable energy, remarkable administrative ability, tact, high literary attainments, loyal to duty, and a gracious and charming personality, these are the characteristics which make Mrs. Cornelia Branch Stone one of the most admired and influential women of the South. She has been and is an active worker in every organization which stands for the good of the people and the uplift of mankind.

She was born in Nacogdoches, Republic of Texas, in February, 1840. Her father, Edward Thomas Branch, a native of Chesterfield County, Virginia, went to Texas in the fall of 1835. He enlisted in the army of Texas, under General Sam Houston and participated in the battle of San Jacinto, which victory decided the independence of Texas from the Republic of Mexico. He was a member of the first and second sessions of the Congress of the Republic of Texas, was district and supreme judge of that republic and was a member of the first legislature of Texas. From this distinguished father, Mrs. Stone undoubtedly inherited her keen virile mind, though her mother, Ann Wharton Cleveland, was a woman of rare culture and intellect.

At fifteen years of age Cornelia Branch was married to Henry Clay Stone, a Virginian by birth. After his death in 1887 Mrs. Stone devoted her time to the education of her only son and when he had graduated in medicine she took up her active work in the organization which she has since pursued with such distinctive success. Her first official position was president of the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. While Mrs. Stone was president, the Texas Division increased twenty-six chapters in two years. She served as president-general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and during that administration she kept in touch through correspondence with all the daughters and the heads of departments, writing every letter with her own hand. Any one reading her decisions and rulings while presiding over this body cannot but realize the excellency of Mrs. Stone's mind.

She was later first vice-president of the Texas Federation of Woman's Clubs, during which time she was chairman of a committee to secure an amendment to the poll tax law of the state of Texas. The effect of this was to better enforce the poll tax, one-fourth of which is paid to the school fund of Texas, and it was wholly through the efforts of Mrs. Stone that the amendment was carried, increasing the school fund by many thousands of dollars. As chairman for two years of the committee on education in the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, she contributed many papers on educational interests, secured scholarship in several colleges of Texas and recommended in her report the provision of a fund by the clubs for the maintenance of the beneficiaries of these scholarships when unable to pay board and lodging. She has held offices of trust in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and as first vice-president has served as acting president at their convention. Although Mrs. Stone loves the cause represented by the Daughters of the Confederacy and as guiding hand for it gave her best efforts of pen and brain, she is moreover an enthusiastic Colonial Dame and patriotic member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and is known prominently among the womanhood of her state as a Daughter of the Republic of Texas. It was largely through Mrs. Stone's efforts that the name of Jefferson Davis was restored to the tablet on Cabin John's Bridge, near Washington, this great historic arch having been erected while Davis was secretary of war.

While Mrs. Stone was serving as president-general of the Daughters of the Confederacy, affliction laid a heavy hand upon her, through the loss of her only son. Doctor Harry D. Stone, a brilliant and most promising physician, who after the death of her husband had become the very soul and joy of her life. But this did not embitter the strong woman. With her sorrow still upon her heart she took up her work with renewed zeal. When her term of office expired she was known and loved by each of her sixty thousand daughters, and as a token of their appreciation of her sterling worth she was presented with many beautiful and valuable badges, each inscribed with a legend of the esteem and honor in she was held by the daughters.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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