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The Mary Fairfax family papers and Louis R. Stockstill papers

Identifier: MS2378

Scope and Contents

This collection is divided into two distinct parts that in most ways are unconnected collections. They were donated together by the same donor and one of the record creators is present in both collections. For these reasons these two collections were retained as one unified collection as separate series.

The Louis Stockstill personal papers contain biographical materials, war medals, correspondence, scrapbooks, articles, and photographs related to the life of Louis R. Stockstill, especially concerning his work as a journalist. The Louis Stockstill records date from 1920-2004.

The Cook/Fairfax family letters and papers are primarily composed of correspondence much of which has been transcribed. The Cook Fairfax family records date from 1823-1905. The Cook Fairfax papers also include government documents as well as several artifacts related to the life of Mary Allen Cook Fairfax. There are letters from before Mary Fairfax’s birth that are part of the Cook family history. The letters written and received by Mary Fairfax date from 1847-1898 and are to her brothers before the American Civil War about her life in DC and then to her cousin Rachel in New Jersey during the Civil War and also to and from Confederate veterans following the death of Jefferson Davis. Most of these letters relate to the history of Washington DC during the Civil War and years after from the perspective of a supporter of the Confederacy. The series also includes research materials added to the collection by Louis Stockstill for the writing of a book that planned to publish the Mary Fairfax letters. If produced, the manuscript is not in the collection. The Cook family materials date from 1823-1905.

The American Civil War era correspondence was primarily written by Mary Fairfax (at the time her name was Mary Cook) and reveals her activity as a Southern sympathizer during the war. Mary Fairfax grew up on Capitol Hill in an historic DC residence. The letters describe her family and associates as well as information about Washington prior to and during the Civil War. Fairfax writes about the city of Washington, political figures, and President Lincoln with detailed descriptions of battles, she likely gleaned from newspaper coverage. There are a few letters to Belle Boyd, the Southern spy who Fairfax encountered while a prisoner herself at the Old Capitol Prison. Fairfax’s letters are a record of other prisoners and the circumstances of their arrests in the panic and martial law which followed the Lincoln assassination. Fairfax provided a first-hand account of the public celebrations in Washington following the fall of Richmond.

Upon the death of Jefferson Davis in 1889, Fairfax draped her house in black and received ovations from the Southern press, Southern legislatures, and numerous associations of former Confederate soldiers. There is also a letter from a group of local DC citizens rebuking her actions and calling on her to remove the draping from her house.

Within the letters written by Mary Fairfax is the history of enslaved and free Black people who lived in Washington DC. This history is seen through the descriptive lens of a White Supremacist and is replete with racist beliefs and harmful language. The gains for Black people during this time in Washington are not portrayed positively, but are, nonetheless, descriptions of Black history in Washington DC. This scope and content note includes some, but not nearly all, of the examples of Black history found in this collection.

In her letter from November 8 1862, Mary Fairfax wrote about visiting the “contraband camp” with the intent of selecting a girl and boy to work as servants. This letter provides one example of how White people considered and interacted with the people living at the camps.

In her letter from March 17 1863, Mary Fairfax wrote of walking past Duff Green’s Row which she identified as being a place to house stolen enslaved people, but by 1863 was used to house Confederate prisoners. The factual aspects of this letter are that Duff Green’s Row served as a space where Black people lived during the Civil War. “Duff Green’s Row, an imposing row of five brick townhouses across the street from the east front of the Capitol at the current site of the Library of Congress, was a refuge for runaway slaves newly arrived in D.C.” The Guide to Black Washington website of the United State Senate. URL. accessed 12/8/2022

In her letter from April 10 1865, Mary Fairfax describes the public celebration in the streets of Washington DC following the retreat of the Confederate army from Richmond Va. on April 2, 1865. Her description includes Black and White celebrants on Pennsylvania Avenue. This celebration included flying flags, cannon’s being fired, and bands playing.

In her letter from May 29 1862, Mary Fairfax described Black people being admitted to the grounds of the US Capitol beyond those who served as the nurses of White children. Fairfax identified the previous winter as the time when this inclusion began, describing when Hessian officers escorted Black women to hear the debates and those Black women sitting in the galleries of Congress. Also in this letter, Fairfax described at length and with detail a lecture presented by John S. Rock. A lecture supposed to have taken place at the Smithsonian Institution as part of the abolitionist lectures series. The lecture took place at the Fifteenth-street Presbyterian Church and was described in the Washington Evening Star on May 24 1862. The article includes numerous quotes from Dr. Rock’s lecture. There are several brief online biographies of Dr. Rock, but none mention this lecture. The article “The Smithsonian Abolition Lecture Controversy: The Clash of AntiSlavery Politics with American Science In Wartime Washington” by Michael F. Conlin does not mention John Rock, but provides historical background about the lecture series. Conlin, Michael F. (Civil War History 46, no. 4 (2000): 301-323. doi:10.1353/cwh.2000.0002). John S. Rock (1825–1866) born to free Black parents had numerous careers including as a grammar school teacher, a dentist, a doctor, and a lawyer. Considered during his life as a gifted orator, Dr. Rock lectured on behalf of the abolitionist cause, voting rights for free Black people, and the newly formed Republican Party. Throughout the Civil War, Rock worked tirelessly as an advocate for the abolition of slavery. He died of tuberculosis in December 1866. The Library of Congress The Civil War in America Biography of John S. Rock


  • Creation: 1823-2004
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1861-1969


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright in her works to The George Washington University; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Please contact Special Collections if the copyright status of the materials you wish to reuse is unclear. Staff will provide additional information.

For re-use of materials in the collection not created by the donor, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. For such materials, researchers do not need anything further from The George Washington University’s Special Collections Research Center.

Biography of Louis R. Stockstill

Louis R. Stockstill (1920-2004) was born in Galena, Missouri, and raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. After graduating from high school he served with the 10th Armored Division in Europe during World War II. For this service Stockstill was awarded the Bronze Star. He attended The George Washington University serving as a part-time reporter for what was then known as the Army Navy Journal with an eventual title change to the Air Force Journal. Following graduation in 1951 he continued working for the publication eventually serving as editor in 1965. He left the Journal in 1968 to pursue a freelance career. From 1957-1960 he taught courses at GWU on topics such as national news reporting. He was very active during the Vietnam War with an organization he started with the wives of the POW/MIA’s. He wrote numerous articles, spoke before committees in D.C. and traveled the country meeting with families. He retired in 1975 and moved to Florida. He remained politically active until his death in 2004 - writing letters to newspapers, working on campaigns.

Biography of Mary Allen Cook Fairfax

Mary Allen Fairfax (nee Cook) (1831-1909) was the granddaughter of James Owner, chief boatbuilder at the Old Washington Navy Yard. Her father John Aquila Cook was a naval officer. Her mother was named Francis Faulkner Cook (nee Owner) and both her brothers, James Faulkner Cook and Stephen John Cook, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. She grew up in a house near the Navy Yard. She married Frederick Fairfax in 1868. They had three daughters, Lillian Vere Fairfax, Gwendolind Owner Fairfax Moncure, and Evelyn Leopoldine Fairfax.

Her home as an adult was on Capitol Hill on the site on Independence Avenue across from the Library of Congress. Mary Cook's letters to her Cousin Rachel in New Jersey before and during the Civil War reveal her support for the Confederacy and her deep animosity for the Union and Abraham Lincoln. She was a White Supremacist. She often wrote about battles and military engagements, the troops in Washington and other Civil War related topics. Following Abraham Linoln's assassination she was briefly incarcerated in the Old Capitol Prison and was only released after taking the loyalty oath. She died June 15, 1909 in Washington DC.


5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains biographical materials, correspondence, articles and photographs related to the life of Louis R. Stockstill especially concerning his work as a journalist. The majority of the collection is correspondence to and from Mary Allen Fairfax (nee Cook). Much of this Fairfax family correspondence has been transcribed. The majority of the correspondence reveal Mary Fairfax's activity and thoughts as a Southern sympthizer during the Civil War. The collection as whole covers the time period 1823-2004.


Organized into two series: Cook/Fairfax family letters and papers and Louis R. Stockstill papers

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Mary Fairfax family papers custodial history note

This note used Laura Millar’s article “The Death of the Fonds and the Resurrection of Provenance: Archival Context in Time and Space.”(Archivaria 53) for guidance and combines DACS 5.1 and 5.2 information.

Creator history: The primary creators and accumulators of the records are Mary Allen Fairfax (née Cook), other members of the Fairfax, Cook, and Owner families, and Louis R. Stockstill. The documents’ functions include activities such as interacting with family, friends, government agents, and work associates, bill paying, writing for pleasure and work, researching family history, and accumulating and sharing knowledge. Records history: Presumably the Fairfax family maintained the records from 1823-1941 in Washington DC. The largest portion of the Fairfax papers, letters from Mary Fairfax to her cousin Rachel Davis in New Jersey, were returned to Fairfax following Davis's death in 1867. Most likely the records remained in DC until the early 1960s. In 1941, Mary Fineran purchased the home at 235 2nd Street SE from the Fairfax estate and found the records in the house.

In several newspaper articles, Fineran recounts her neighborly relationship with Mary Fairfax’s daughters and describes the records as containing numerous writings related to the Civil War, mementos, letters, daguerreotypes, and a signed photograph of Robert E. Lee. (The Evening Star March 11, 1956, p. D-10 and June 25, 1960, p. 4) The current collection contains few writings by Mary Fairfax, no daguerreotypes, and no image of Lee. Circa 1961, in preparation for construction of the Library of Congress Madison building, the Federal government condemned several blocks of businesses and homes including 235 2nd Street SE. Mary Fineran moved to 415 First Street SE. In 1962, she gave the family papers to her Capitol Hill neighbor and friend Louis Stockstill.

In the mid-1960s, Stockstill researched Mary and her extended family at the National Archives and Library of Congress for a planned publication of Mary Fairfax’s letters. Stockstill transcribed the letters Fairfax wrote to Davis and other family members. These research materials include transcriptions and copies of government documents. From 1963-2001, Stockstill occasionally wrote to staff of the Huntington Library detailing his ideas for a partnership to publish a monograph and to subsequently donate the Fairfax papers. Sometime in the 1970s, Louis and his wife Oneta moved to Indialantic, Florida.

In 2004, Louis Stockstill died and sometime before 2018 the records moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma perhaps with Oneta Stockstill who died in Tulsa in 2010. The final owner before donation to GW was Jan Lee, Louis Stockstill’s niece.

Custodial history: A local Tulsa historian and Jan Lee’s neighbor suggested she donate these records to a repository. On her behalf, the historian contacted staff at the New York Public Library for help locating an appropriate repository. Since the Fairfax records detailed a Washington DC family and Louis Stockstill was a GW graduate and instructor, the NYPL contacted GW Special Collections. Special Collections staff spoke with Lee and on September 4, 2018, she donated a collection containing the Fairfax family records, the research materials created by Louis Stockstill, and Louis Stockstill personal materials. These records, maintained as one united collection, were processed in 2019.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Janet L. Lee, 2018 August 17 (Acc 2018.033)


In their article “Colophons and Annotations: New Directions for the Finding Aid” Michelle Light and Tom Hyry describe the use of a colophon to allow archivists to “ . . . acknowledge and explain their impact on the transmission and representation of a collection”(224). This colophon for the Mary Fairfax family papers and Louis R. Stockstill papers describes the archivist's decisions related to description and the primary influences on this work as identified by the archivist. Colophons are not standard within the SCRC so this note will also explain why the archivist chose to include one. The SCRC’s standard for arrangement and description along the processing continuum includes collection and series level notes about the records creators, an overview of the type of content, and the broad subjects found in the materials. In addition to those hierarchical levels, we typically complete a folder title inventory that includes date information. Staff does not review or describe the documents within the folders. Our primary goal is to impart to users the broad contents within a collection in enough detail to allow them to identify the boxes and folders likely appropriate for their research.

During processing the archivist conducted a closer reading of the collection materials, a decision influenced heavily by the time period of the records, the American Civil War, the current professional discourse surrounding unexplored narratives and social justice, and the value of acknowleding representation in the historical record. The fact that the majority of the letters in the collection are transcribed was invaluable for the archivist to be able to read them more quickly than the original handwritten letters that are also part of the collection. While Mary Fairfax’s letters describe a White woman’s perspective as an ardent supporter of the Confederacy, other factors such as the time period and geographic location supported the idea that the letters were more likely to contain Black history.

Using her voice, the archivist chose within the scope and content note aid to elevate the representation of Black people tht exists in the letters of a White Supremacist. The examples provided in the scope and content note are not comprehensive, but hopefully communicate that this collection contains Black history.

In this scope and content note, the archivist does explain that the letters themselves contain racist language and demeaning depictions of enslaved and free Black people. By including these fragments of Black history in the finding aid the archivist’s goal is to share the representation of marginalized people and let users know that within the monologue that are the letters of one individual they can still read diverse history. The archivist acknowledges that none of the Black history fragments in this collection can, by themselves, be used for substantive research, but representation is fundamentally important in society and this includes documenting it in the description of the historical records maintained in archival institutions.

The archivist is a White woman raised in the 1980s and her education, media consumption, discourse heard at conferences, read in journals and online, especially about race in America, contributed to the choices she made and the biases she has. As the discourse in the archival community related to reparative description continues to gain prominence it is understood that by including description of historically marginalized people in collections where they are represented, archivists have an opportunity to use their power to assist in shining some light on the unexplored narratives that exist in archival holdings.


Guide to The Mary Fairfax family papers and Louis R. Stockstill papers, 1823-2004
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America