James T. Ferriter

James Thomas Ferriter was born in December, 1843, either in New York or Massachusetts to Irish immigrant parents. Most census data lists his birthplace as Massachusetts. It is quite likely that he was born in West Springfield, MA, as he had a brother, Patrick, who was born there in 1849. His parents, Patrick Ferriter and Catherine Sullivan Ferriter, had married in Ireland on February 14, 1840. They moved to America and travelled where there were railroads to be built. Patrick's family landed in Dummerston, Vermont, in 1850, where many people with Irish surnames and the job title of 'railroad laborer' are listed in the census. By 1855, the family lived in New York long enough to welcome James' sister, Johannah ('Hannah') into the world. The family then moved to Richmond in 1857 when James was 14 years old. Richmond had become a busy center for railroad expansion and tobacco exportation. It was the only city at that time with three separate rail lines intersecting.  Richmond rail lines were growing in profits. This is likely what drew the family to the area. That, and the fact that Patrick's brother, Nicholas Ferriter, had also moved to Richmond to work as a moulder at Tredegar Iron Works. (We have some evidence of this sibling relationship, but the evidence is not as strong as we'd like it to be. Research continues.)

Soon after James's family moved to Richmond, his father, Patrick, died. He is buried in Richmond and is therefor thought to have died there, though the date of death is is not known. His widow, Catherine, then married John Burns on Nov 5, 1859. Unfortunately, Mr. Burns either left or died before the 1860 census was taken, as the family is shown living without Mr. Burns and with Catherine again using her first married last name of Ferriter (though the census of 1860 incorrectly lists the family name as 'Ferritan'). She was working as a shopkeeper and two of her sons, James and Thomas, were working as coopers. A cooper is a barrel maker.

As the Civil War approached, James's cousin, Nicholas Ferriter, and his family moved to Maryland. Nicholas' wife, Mary Ann Sullivan, had a number of family members who ultimately fought on the union side, though we also know that at least one of her brothers joined the confederacy. On February 17, 1862, at the age of 19, James T. Ferriter enlisted in the confederate army. He is listed as a 'substitute'. Enlisting with him were his cousins, John Sullivan (Mary Ann Sullivan Ferriter's brother), and John Lynch (likely related through Mary Sullivan's mother's Lynch line). According to research compiled by Leo Massei, Sr., they enlisted in a newly organized "Company Virginia" which later came to be known as the Letcher Artillery, which was so named to honor the governor of Viriginia, John Letcher.  John Sullivan deserted  a few weeks later in March of 1862 and went west to Nebraska. John Lynch stayed on but died on Jan. 2, 1863, in an army field hospital near Guinea Station, VA. According to Leo Massei's research, John died twenty days after he was wounded during the battle at Fredericksburg, VA.

James's brother, Thomas, also enlisted one month after James did so. He joined Company F, 1st Virginia Cavalry Regiment, at age 17. Records show he served through November, 1862. His company also fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862. There is no mention of Thomas after November, 1862. He may have died in that battle. No further records have been discovered as yet. The location of his remains are unknown.  Perhaps he rests at Oakwood Cemetery where as many as 17,000 confederate soldiers were buried—most of these unidentified.

James's youngest brother, Patrick, was too young to fight in the war and appears to have survived that time. He was listed as a paper maker in the Richmond Sherrif's Directory in 1877. No evidence for his existence after that date has yet been found. James's youngest sister, Ellen had died before the age of ten as she shows up only on the first census for this family in 1850 but is not on the 1860 census. There had been some confusion in early research between this Ellen and another Ellen.  The availability of newspaper articles online has helped to clarify that the person originally thought to be James' adult sister, Ellen, was actually his cousin, Nicholas' sister, Ellen, who lived in Richmond for a time, but who returned to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Private James Ferriter was listed as absent without leave from Aug 31 until Dec 31, 1862. After that he was present for many battles and it appears he did not suffer any punishment for having taken leave without permission.  This listing of being absent without leave may therefor be an error, but this cannot be known at this time.  Letcher's Artillery fought in the following battles: Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. It was at Gettysburg, on the first day of battle, where James Ferriter became severely wounded. A detailed account of the circumstances of this battle can be found elsewhere on this website in an article written by Leo Massei, Sr., some years ago. Leo has since passed on, but his research on this information is well worth reading and sharing. 

James had his right leg amputated below the knee in a field hospital. He was left behind when the confederate army returned to Virginia three days later. He was taken prisoner on the following day on July 5, 1863. James appears on the Roll of Prisoners of War at Calvary Corps Hospital on Aug 10, 1863. He then was admitted to Camp Letterman in Gettysburg and later to USA General Hospital West's Building in Baltimore, MD in September of 1863. James was released as part of a prisoner exchange on September 25, 1863. He was moved from Maryland to the town of City Point (now a part of Hopewell, VA). From there he was taken to 'Receiving and General Hospital No 9' (essentially a converted warehouse next to the railroad) and then on to Chimbarozo Hospital in Richmond. He also later appears on the rolls at General Hospital in Charlottesville, VA, from February 14- March 5, 1864. He was paroled on May 18, 1865 at the end of the war. Documents show that he was 5 feet 6-8 inches tall with fair complexion, dark hair, and blue/gray eyes. He was paid $12 a month for his disability.

James became a cigar maker after the war, as this was a booming business in Richmond. A few years later he was a barkeep. He married Annie Haley, of Richmond, in 1870, when he was 27 and she was 26. He then became proprietor of The Union House which was a bar and eatery with boarding rooms available. This establishment was on the corner of N 7th St. and E Cary St., one block from the original Union Depot train station, which was then located on Byrd Street--hence the title of 'Union House'.  He placed ads in the directories for Richmond stating "Transient boarding and lodging a specialty. One block from Union Depot. First class bar connected." Another listing referred to the establishment as "Ferriter Restaurant cor. 7th and Cary Sts (701 E Cary St) James T. Ferriter Prop." The original building no longer exists and one can now only see parking decks and office buildings where this business once existed.

James and Annie had one child, James T. Ferriter, Jr, who died as an infant. James's mother, Catherine, lived with the family for many years, as did James's sister, Johannah (Hannah). James's mother, Catherine, died in 1892 and is buried with her first husband, Patrick, in the family plot at Mount Calvary Cemetery.  Headstones labeled 'Mother' and 'Father' and grave plot diagrams of who was buried where clearly identify Catherine and Patrick as the parent's of James T. Ferriter and show that they are not to be confused with others who shared the name of Catherine or Patrick Ferriter. 

James became involved in civic life and was elected to the Common Council of Richmond where he served for fourteen years. He was elected to the Board of Alderman in 1898. He was involved in charity projects and belonged to the Elks Club and the was president of the Madison Ward Democratic Club for a number of years and he also belonged to the Knights of Columbus.  In 1886 (or 1888?), he ran for sheriff, but was narrowly defeated —losing by only 40 votes. He was treasurer of the R. E. Lee Camp for Confederate Veterans for 11 years.

James died of a stroke ('apoplexy') at age 58 on February 22, 1902. He left behind his wife, Annie; his niece, Katherine Simpson; and his sister, Hannah. His death prompted the writing of a lengthy newspaper article which ran the day after he died in the Richmond Dispatch. This article contained some exagerations about his civil war record, calling him a Captain (though he never was more than a private) and providing details of the battle that most were most likely historic fiction rather than entirely factual. His funeral was quite an event for fellow confederate veterans with many of them serving as pallbearers. Conspicuously absent from names of pallbearers are the names of his Ferriter cousins who also lived in Richmond at the time. It is presumed that the families were not close, as Nicholas and Mary Ann Sullivan had removed themselves to Maryland at the start of the civil war and then many years later returned to Richmond. The Sullivan family had members on both sides and it must have been hard to find a place that was mostly neutral. Maryland was not neutral, however, but quite divided. We have evidence that these Ferriter families were cousins as they were referred to as cousins in one newspaper article about a relative, Maurice Ferriter.

After James died, his wife, Annie, and his sister, Hannah, ran the business. It isn't known how long Hannah remained in the home at the Union Station but it is known that Hannah continued on the boarding house business.  Hannah had reportedly married a man named H L Simpson and had one daughter, Annie Simpson.  There is record of an H L Simpson who was a young student at the school that would become Virginia Tech.  Other records have been hard to come by.  No record of this marriage has yet been found but the search goes on.  Hannah used the last name of Simpson briefly, but she later went by her maiden name of Ferriter.  James' wife, Annie, died on January 26, 1907, at age 63.  She is buried with James at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Richmond. Hannah moved from The Union House location twice but kept up her boarding house business though it seems to have been scaled down. In 1910, she is shown running a boarding house at 509 N 5th St. In 1914, she is shown living at 502 N 7th St with her daughter, Kate Simpson, listed as one of her boarders.  She permitted a boarder, James McCue, to be buried in the James Ferriter family plot and she paid for (or made arrangements for) a headstone for him. It isn't known if Mr. McCue might have been related in some way or else a close friend. He was listed simply as a boarder along with other boarders in census data. Hannah's daughter, Kate Simpson, later married Frank Reed in Richmond on June 28, 1916.  Sometime after that, Hannah moved to Alleghany, PA, and lived with her daughter and son-in-law. The 1920 census shows Katherine living with only her son-in-law, Frank Reed, who is listed as a widower. One can see on this census where Kate Reed's name and the word 'wife' had been penciled in by the census taker —and then partially erased as corrections were made that meant she had died. One can imagine Mr. Reed giving her name to the census taker and then having to correct himself as he recalled that she was no longer living there. It is possible that she was a victim of the swine flu which swept the country in 1919 and 1920. A death certificate has not yet been located (research continues).  Katherine Reed must have been buried first in Alleghany,Pennsylvania, and then re-interred at Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Her remains take up very little space on the diagram for the family grave plots. This can indicate that someone's remains were condensed into a smaller coffin when as they had decomposed somewhat by that time.  It seems that re-interments were fairly common during this era.  Bodies had to be buried quickly as embalming was apparently not always done (though advances had been made during the civil war).  Later on, with money saved up for this purpose, the remains could then be re-interred in its proper family plot.

Hannah outlived everyone in her family and the legacy of this particular Ferriter family thus 'died out' with her death.  She died March 12, 1930 at age 74 in Alleghany, PA. She had made arrangements to be buried (apparently without having to be re-interred) in the same family plot with her mother; father; brother, James; sister-in-law, Annie; James and Annie's infant son; and her daughter, Kate Simpson. Also buried in the same family plot is one James McCue, boarder.

Margaret Ellen Ferriter Campbell

The piecing together of James T. Ferriter and his family's history would not have been possible without the initial research performed by Leo Massei, and also without the collaboration in research with Gary Lester--both second cousins to me on the Ferriter side. The following is a summary of the sources which were used to write this story

  1. Leo Massei's research which culminated in his story entitled, "James Thomas Ferriter", a publication that Leo made available to Ferriter family members.  Leo was descended from Nicholas Ferriter and he did a great deal of genealogic research on this line.  Leo Massei has since passed on and he is greatly missed.  His work lives on.  
  2. 1850 census for Dummerston, VT, regarding the 'Fariter' family
  3. 1860 census for Richmond, VA, regarding the 'Ferritan' family
  4. 1880 census for Richmond, VA, regarding the 'Fenster' family (James T Ferriter's family with Catharine Burns)
  5. 1900 census for Richmond, VA, regarding the 'Feniter' family (James T Ferriter's family with Kate Simpson)
  6. 1910 census for Richmond, VA, regarding Hannah 'Ferritter', James McCue, and Katharine Simpson. 
  7. 1920 census for Alleghany, PA, regarding Hannah S. 'Feriter' and Frank Reed.
  8. American Civil War Soldiers, a compilation of data by Ancestry.com, regarding James T. and Thomas Ferriter
  9. Fold3.com records regarding James T. and Thomas Ferriter.  This includes copies of original documents related to their confederate service.
  10. Richmond City Directories, 1889-1890 
  11. Chataigne's Directory of Richmond, 1895-96, regarding the committee work James T. Ferriter participated in as member of the Common Council from Madison Ward. 
  12. Massachusett's Town Birth Records, re:  James' brother, Patrick's recorded birth in West Springfield, MA
  13. Obituary and news article for James Thomas Ferriter, found by Gary Lester while searching online archived records of The Richmond Dispatch, dated Feb. 23, 1902. 
  14. Virginia Deaths and Burials Index
  15. Grave plot diagrams found by Gary Lester at the Library of Virginia.
  16. Records of interments at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia
  17. Headstone inscriptions

James T. Ferriter

James T. Ferriter

Birthplace: West Springfield, MA

b. December 1843
d. February 22, 1902
father: Patrick Ferriter
mother: Catherine Sullivan Ferriter

Related Blog Posts

Civil War Account of James T. Ferriter

Know Your Ancestors

Submit An Ancestor

Gather together a story on your ancestor for our website, get a picture and upload it to our site.