Robert E. Lee photo subject of Augusta County Historical Society talk

Robert E. Lee

An old Staunton home. A cluttered attic full of history. A mysterious old photo. And using the photo to look at an 1869 gathering of wealth and fame at White Sulphur Springs – and what it said about those challenging times.

That photograph and the story behind it are the subject of the Augusta County Historical Society Stuart Talk on Thursday, Sept. 27 by local historian Pamela Patrick.

The old Staunton home was the historic Stuart House on Church Street, once the home of Justice George M. Cochran and his wife Lee, both of whom passed away in recent years.  The cluttered attic bothered Lee Cochran and she asked Dr. Jim Patrick, Pamela’s father and former president of the ACHS, to sort it out. The mysterious old photo emerged from that effort and Pamela Patrick will speak on the photograph and the meeting it revealed. Her talk will be at 7 p.m. September 27 in the second floor lecture room at the R. R. Smith Center for History and Art. (A copy of the photograph is inserted below.)

The remarkable event pictured, as revealed by Patrick’s research, centered primarily on a meeting between Robert E. Lee and George Peabody, a wealthy man who literally pioneered the concept of philanthropy. Lee’s purpose in attending was to honor Peabody, and about 20 other prominent men joined them. The photograph found in Staunton’s Stuart House showed 13 of the attendees in a formal pose.  Ironically, Alexander H. H. Stuart, the builder of the historic Stuart House and ancestor to Justice Cochran, was at the meeting but was not pictured.  He almost certainly would have been given the photo later stored in his home’s attic.  Photos of other poses by the meeting participants have since become quite noted.

Patrick has identified all those in the photograph and at the meeting and has found each had his own fascinating history.  During her talk, she will describe the men, their remarkable meeting, and it’s importance to the times.

A resident of western Augusta County, Patrick is a retired RN and who spent 20 years in area hospitals before retiring from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center. A native of New England, she has devoted much of her spare time to history and unearthing tales of the past, particularly tales of bravery.  She is a member of the ACHS and previously presented a program on William Sheppard, the Presbyterian minister to Congo.

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. More information is available online at

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