Many people are surprised to learn just how delicate are the threads of history. Over the Christmas holiday, we uncovered some surprising connections, and it’s all thanks to a case of mistaken identity.
For the past few months, we have selected photographs from our archive collections to share on the NSLM Facebook Page for “Throwback Thursdays.” These photographs have allowed us to interact with our members in new ways, as we have begun to share memories and hear stories through social media. On Christmas Eve, this photo was shared.
The photo is from the Gerald B. Webb Archive collection. Mr. Webb is on the right. Sometime in the past, an attempt was made to identify the other riders.
The sticky note in the archive clearly identifies the rider on the left as “Fred Walberg.” We had no idea who that might be. The identifier was unsure if the rider in the center is Dot Smithwick, a prominent foxhunter in the Middleburg area. When the photo was shared on Facebook, we immediately had help from one of our supporters, who suggested “Walberg,” could be a “Warburg” instead.
A huge thank you to James Plaskitt for his suggestion!
Warburg is a distinctive name, and one that has lots of meaning for us at NSLM. In 2008, Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan made a significant donation of sporting art to us, and the paintings by John Emms and Sir Alfred Munnings in that donation are a major part of the Museum experience. But was there a connection? With the help of online genealogical resources, a Christmastime investigation was afoot!
Our first research sweep found a major local connection: our newest corporate sponsor, Goodstone Inn & Restaurant. Goodstone Inn is on the site of Goodstone Farm, just a stone’s throw from the kennels of the Middleburg Hunt. We visited with the staff at Goodstone Inn to learn more about the history.
The property was owned by the Leith family, who settled in the region in 1768. Three Leith sons faught for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the property was sold to the Goodwin family (who renamed it Goodstone Farm) in 1915. The Goodstone mansion was destroyed by fire in 1939, and only the facade of the mansion remains today. The property was sold to Frederick Warburg in 1943. Mr. Warburg was a member of a prominent banking family; the amenities at the farm were expanded and the Warburgs used the farm as a seasonal residence for foxhunting and riding. The farm was renamed Snake Hill Farm, in part because of the winding road around the farm.
Now that we had the correct name, we were able to positively identify Mr. Warburg in the original photograph. Using genealogical resources, we worked backwards to uncover the rest of the connection. Felicia Warburg Rogan’s father was Paul Felix Solomon Warburg, whose brother was Frederick Warburg (1897-1973).
We can tell a lot from the photo, now. We know the photo was likely taken between 1943 and 1947, since the Warburgs purchased Goodstone in 1943 and Gerald Webb died in 1947. It’s quite likely that the horses in the original photo were Goodstone horses (though we can’t be sure). The location pictured could be Glenwood Park, built in 1932 and today the site of the Virginia Fall Races and the Middleburg Spring Races. We hope to discover if Dot Smithwick is the lady riding in the center. If you can identify any of these elements, please help us unravel the mystery!