Donna Hechler Porter
Mr. Davy's Three Brass Buttons
Sure, it's after Halloween. But it's never too late for a spooky dooky story. I had a few to choose from, but I decided this year to revisit the reburial of David Crews.
That's right. Reburial.
David Crews passed away on the 4th of November 1821 at the age of 81. He had been estranged from most of his older children for at least two decades, and there are indications that his life with second wife Mildred Williford-Carlew was not as happy as he would have hoped even as his children by her seemed to have been as devoted to their father as his older children had once been. It seems to have been this devotion that was David’s undoing as the older children could not accept the younger children by his second wife. How much this came into play after his death is not known. There are, to say the least, circumstances which warrant raised eyebrows at the very least.
At the time of his death, David was living in the house he is said to have built for his second wife. the house, now called “Homelands," sat on the dividing ridge between Tates and Otter Creek on the current Richmond Turnpike and slightly southwest of Foxton and White’s Hall. (Although the house is larger now than it was when he lived there.) This was the same tract of land, and very near the site, of Crews' Station which he had built in 1781. He brought Annie and the children here from Virginia the spring of 1783. He left the station about 1785 and moved north to Jack's Creek where he had operated a ferry.
At any rate, he more than likely died at home, and he was buried in the family burying ground near the plantation house. A large, flat tombstone was placed over his grave and a short biography of the man was etched into the top.
Picture of slab in Richmond Cemetery, taken in the early '90s.
After his death, Mildred and several of the children ultimately left for Missouri. The house, however, remained in the family, descending through daughter China Crews Broaddus Collins’ family. And then, in the 1930s, it was decided it was time to sell, and for some reason the elderly woman living in the house directed an old colored man to dig up the body. After a period of time, he came back to the house hollering and carrying a shoe box.
“Miss, miss . . . here’s Mister Davy’s buttons.”
A shoebox. Three brass buttons.
And stories, of course, have circulated.
Now, to be fair, in those days bodies were buried in wooden boxes. No embalming was done. David’s body had lain to rest already a hundred years. In that time, the body would naturally have disintegrated and deteriorated to nothing. So would the wooden coffin. Brass buttons, which similar stories detail, would have been the only thing left.
But the shoebox? Hmmm…….
And just what did shoeboxes look like in the 18th century? The 19th century? And why did the old man still refer to David, affectionally, as Mister Davy even though the man had been dead a hundred years and the old man had never even met him?
A quick search proved what I feared in regards to shoeboxes. They are so mundane and ordinary, no one writes about them. Nonetheless, I did find a few sites and pictures of vintage shoe boxes.
They were oftentimes wooden, and they date back to . . . the 1920s. No earlier.
So, another mystery. How did the box get beneath the large heavy slab? And why? Why had three brass buttons been placed inside?
So many mysteries. And I have heard not a few theories in regards to David's burial, but none as substantiated as the finding of the buttons. So, I will not detail them here. You, however, can use your imagination.
I have no idea what happened to the buttons. If they were reburied beneath the stone slab when it was moved to the Richmond Cemetery along with several other bodies that had been buried in the family cemetery. It is conjectured that the crack in the slab happened during this move, but I have never had confirmation of that.
I haven't had confirmation of a lot of things. Unfortunately.
In July of 2005 plaques from the Daughter of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution were placed at the gravesite in Richmond in a formal ceremony honoring David Crews. At the same time, a larger marker was placed before the original grave. The inscription found on the flat slab, and which is no longer readable, is etched on this new marker.
David Crews was born March 2nd, 1740, and died November 2nd, 1821. He distinguished himself as a revolutionary patriot; penetrated the savage wilds of Kentucky at an early period when Indian tomahawk and scalping knife were familiar to her ventures; encountered many skirmishes with them and died with a full belief in the Christian religion with the hope of a blessed mortality beyond the grave.