James Francis Heizer & Phoebe Anne McCormick Heizer Collection
Scope and Content
This collection consists of 100+ letters written between the years of 1863–1868, and is accompanied by a book entitled, The Heizer Family: American Pioneers by James Harion Heizer c.1861-1868. The majority of the letters are authored by James Francis (Frank) Heizer (1841-1930), a private in the Confederate army, whose letters are mostly addressed to his love interest and eventual fiance, Pheobe Ann McCormick (1845-1906). This collection also includes a few of Pheobe's letters to Frank, though many of her letters were burned after being answered, as per a request by Pheobe in an attempt to conceal their relationship status until after the war. The letters include a variety of information about the war and Heizer’s movements throughout the state, along with his wishes for leave and travel plans. Along with these wartime details, the letters include a good deal of conversation involving the blossoming friendship between Frank and Pheobe, and eventually their romantic relationship. This period includes letters in which their engagement is made and then broken, and is followed by letters that include much sarcasm and veiled insults towards one another. After about a year, the pair had reconnected and had re-established their engagement, eventually marrying and having 9 children together.
- 1861 - 1868
Collection is open for research.
Permission to publish material from James Francis Heizer & Phoebe Anne McCormick Heizer Collection must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.
James Francis "Frank" Heizer was born in 1841 in Churchville, Augusta County, Va. His parents were James and Sarah J. Heizer and he had at least three siblings. Prior to the Civil War, he lived on his family’s farm and worked as laborer. On April 19, 1861, Frank enlisted as a private in Company I, 14th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry and McClanahan's Battery. Alongside details of Frank's military service, this collection details the relationship between Frank and his longtime friend and love interest, Pheobe Ann McCormick (1845-1906). Pheobe Ann(e) McCormick (also known as Annie) was born in Augusta County, Va., in 1845.
The pair's first engagement took place on April 18, 1864, when Frank revealed his feelings to Pheobe in a letter. A year later, the pair broke their engagement on August 10, 1865, based on Frank's "wishes to be released" so that he could freely pursue a career as a student and later, a traveling artist. The pair kept in touch through the years and eventually reconciled on January 21, 1867, re-establishing their engagement.
In a letter dated January 22, 1867, Pheobe accepted Frank's second proposal by stating: "I feel that I can't trust myself to write you a long letter now but will give you the reply that Gen'l Jackson sent to Santa Anna. 'If he wants me, let him come and take me.'" The pair married on February 21, 1867.
By 1870, Frank and Pheobe were living in Augusta County and they had the first of their children. Records suggest they had at least eight children: William A. (1870-1932); Ida B. (later Ott) (abt. 1874-?); Mary R. (later McComb) (1874-1949?); Eveline Frances (or Frances E. or F. Evelyn) (1878-1960); Willie (abt. 1877-?); James W. (married Lillian Holt) (1880-1945); Robert E. (1882-?); Francis P. (1887-?).
In 1880, the family was still in Augusta County and Frank’s occupation on the census was listed as “farmer.” By 1900, they had relocated to Buena Vista and Frank was working as a carpenter. Pheobe died in 1906, at the age of 61. James lived another 24 years and his daughter Frances continued to live with him. By 1920, Frank was working as a commissioner of revenue at the court house in Buena Vista. He died in 1930, at the age of 88. Both he and Phoebe are buried in Buena Vista, along with two of their children.
Find a Grave
Ancestry Library Edition
0.3 Cubic Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
This collection consists of 100+ letters written between the years of 1863–1868, accompanied by a book entitled, The Heizer Family: American Pioneers by James Marion Heizer c.1861-1868. The majority of the letters are authored by James Francis (Frank) Heizer, a private in the Confederate army, whose letters are mostly addressed to his love interest and eventual fiance, Pheobe Ann McCormick.
The collection is arranged in chronological order , with undated materials are at the end.
The James Francis Heizer & Phoebe Anne McCormick Heizer Collection was purchased by Special Collections in December 2015.
Alternate Form Available
This collection has been digitized. Digitized documents and transcripts are available online.
The processing, arrangement, and description of the James Francis Heizer & Phoebe Anne McCormick Heizer Collection was completed in June 2017.
- James Francis Heizer & Phoebe Anne McCormick Heizer Collection, 1861-1868
- Kenna Crane, Staff, and Kira A. Dietz, Archivist
- ©2017 Virginia Tech. All rights reserved.
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Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
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Newman Library, Virginia Tech
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