Miss Parkhill, Deaconess at Cathedral School for Girls, an Orlando preparatory school located at the southeast corner of Orange Avenue & Jefferson Street, mailed off a letter of introduction to Alexander T. Jones at Winchester, VA. In the letter dated May 9, 1916, the 75 year old schoolmistress opened with, “To my dear cousin,” and then proceeded to explain their family connection.
The Manor House, Residence of W. S. Jones, Vaucluse, VA.
The daughter of John Parkhill and Lucy Beverly Randolph, the deaconess was born Harriet Randolph Parkhill at Tallahassee, Florida on April 5, 1841. Harriet told Alexander Jones that they shared an amazing family lineage, a history documented in letters written by his very own grandmother, Ann Cary (Randolph) Jones.
On the 23rd of May, 1916, Alexander Jones replied to Harriet, and as a result of their exchange of letters, a prior generation’s correspondence between Virginia and Florida cousins became part of the Handley Regional Library System of Winchester, VA.
“Ann Cary Randolph Jones”, explains the library’s introduction; “wrote long, loving letters, replete with family and local news. Many of those sent to her Florida cousins were saved. The “Harriet” addressed in some of the letters – Harriet Parkhill – eventually sent them back to Winchester, to her cousin, Mrs. Jones’s grandson, Alexander Tidball Jones.”
A complex Randolph family tree
Lucy Beverley Randolph Parkhill, mother of Harriet, was the sister of the first wife of Francis Wayles Eppes, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson. Eppes, in 1871, built a residence on a central Florida lake that he had personally named, Lake Pineloch. The family lineage of Ann Cary Randolph Jones is traced through central Florida pioneer, William Mayer Randolph. William was a prominent 1870s figure in a settlement surrounding the 1838 Fortress Gatlin. Francis Eppes began building his home while the land upon which it was built was still deeded to William M. Randolph.
Ann never relocated to Florida, and yet she is linked to Orange County history through her brother’s son, William M. Randolph. Married to William Strother Jones II, the couple lived in Frederick County, Virginia, at a place known as “Vaucluse”.
Vaucluse Spring, Virginia on the Homestead of W. S. Jones
An esteemed New Orleans Attorney, William M. Randolph and wife Mary E. Pitts were heavily invested in central Florida property. They built the first free standing hotel south of Lake Monroe. Family members including Randolph, Preston, Magruder, Pitts, Eppes and Harney populated a large area around Fort Gatlin.
Although his business interests were at New Orleans and Florida, William M. Randolph chose to live out his final days, as his death notice reveals, “At Vaucluse,” Frederick County, Virginia, after a long and painful illness.”
William M. Randolph’s obituary states the man died at the home of a relative, “W. S. Jones”, and that after his death, Randolph’s body was transported to Florida, for burial at Fort Gatlin.
Harriet Parkhill did far more than preserve a family’s history by returning letters to her cousin in Virginia. Thanks to Harriet Randolph Parkhill, a long chapter in the story of Fort Gatlin was likewise preserved.
The Vaucluse Legacy is Part One of my four part Beyond Gatlin, a history of South Orange County. 200 plus pages, 70 plus Exhibits and a detailed bibliography picks up where my, First Road to Orlando left off – at Fort Gatlin.
The official unveiling of this history is November 9, 2017, the 179th Anniversary of Fort Gatlin. You can reserve, at no cost now, your very own signed and numbered copy, simply by emailing; BeyondGatlin@CroninBooks.com with a note to reserve a copy. You will be contacted when your copy is ready to be signed and mailed. Anticipated retail price $19 plus tax, and all advance orders are guaranteed that price.