By Morgan Bunn
Many years ago on the banks of Beirne Springs, not far from where the Fort Savannah Inn once stood, was the glove factory for the “celebrated” Donnally buckskin gloves, an early industry in Lewisburg that afforded women the opportunity of working from home. Four generations of Donnallys produced gloves in Lewisburg, which were sold up and down the east coast.
The last generation of “glovers”were the four sons of Charles Lockhart Donnally Sr. and Cynthia Williams Donnally: Charles Lockhart Jr, Hugh Wilson, Williams and Allen. All four boys grew up in Lewisburg, attended the Lewisburg Academy, and traveled up and down Washington Street from their home, to the tavern and Inn their father ran, beside John Withrow’s store, and to the sink where James Withrow ran Lewisburg’s largest tannery. All four boys learned the glove making trade along with the ins and outs of Inn keeping.
When the Civil War broke out, tempers flared amongst the brothers over allegiance to the Union and two of the brothers, Williams and Charles Jr., fled to Ohio while Hugh Wilson and Allen quickly aligned themselves with the South by joining 14th Virginia Calvary. Following the Civil War and the death of their father, Charles Lockhart Sr., the brothers tried to mend fences but in time three of the four brothers left Lewisburg for good. Only Hugh Wilson Donnally remained, living out his days in the family home on East Washington Street.
Upon leaving Lewisburg, two of the Donnally brothers, Charles Jr. and Williams, moved to Kentucky and became successful dentists. Charles Jr. set up a practice in Cynthiana, with a man named Edward Peckover; both men were considered highly skilled professionals and they quickly built up a successful partnership. After several years of success, a dispute caused the partnership to be dissolved and the doctors retained separate offices next door to one another. Shortly after the partnership dissolved, a second dispute erupted over a ten dollar debt that was due to Dr. Donnally but collected by Dr. Peckover, who in turn ended up calling Donnally a liar. Anger and insults were spoken, tempers flared, and a day after the argument began in the streets of Cynthiana, Donnally,who had grown increasingly angry over the insult, approached Peckover as they were both exiting their offices and expressed his umbrage over the insult. Before Peckover could reply, Donnally raised a gun and shot Peckover in the chest. Peckover died within minutes and Charles Donnally was taken into custody by the town sheriff.
While being arraigned before the county judge and still in the company of the sheriff and a deputy, Donnally was approached by Peckover’s brother-in-law and shot once in the stomach. Donnally, like Peckover, died within minutes. In less than an hour, Cynthiana lost both of the town’s well-respected dentists – all over a ten dollar dispute.
The following day, Williams Donnally arrived to accompany his brother’s body home one final time. Hugh Wilson, the only Donnally brother in Lewisburg, made arrangements for his Charles to be laid to rest in the Old Stone Cemetery where four generations of Donnallys are buried. Charles Donnally was quietly buried in what was then the newer section of the cemetery. His simple marble tombstone, inscribed with only his name and birth and death dates, says nothing of his rise and fall. The Lewisburg boy whose tragic end made headlines in newspapers across the country – from Los Angeles to New York and from St. Louis to New Orleans – came home famous not for what he had achieved in life but for how he had died.
The North House Museum has a collection of the “Celebrated” (as they were called in town) Donnally gloves and the tools used to make them. To learn more about the people buried in the Old Stone Cemetery and the ongoing restoration work in the cemetery, please visit us on FACEBOOK at Friends of Old Stone Cemetery. Behind every stone lies a story.