Novel stolen during Civil War returns home

Published 5:19 pm Sunday, April 13, 2008

By Staff
Michigan woman reunites descendants with piece of history
Staff Writer
When J.C. Sample left Washington in 1863 with retreating Union troops, he took a souvenir. Last week, 145 years later, the copy of “The Siege of Kenilworth” Sample stole from a house in Washington found its way into the hands of two men who possibly are the descendants of the book’s rightful owner.
The unusual reunion was made possible by Joyce Yarde, a bed-and-breakfast owner from Hillsdale, Mich. She bought the book in a box of 10 at auction more for its worn look than its content.
When curiosity about the book’s plot led Yarde to turn a few pages into it, she found an inscription penned by Sample in 1863.
The 168th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of the units involved in the occupation of Washington during the Civil War.
Many of the book’s former owners have left their own marks on the book, described on its title page as “an historical romance” in four volumes. Several other names are written on the inside of both the front and back covers. Milton Sample, presumably a relative of J.C., apparently once presented the book to the Harmony Literary Society, as he noted on one of the book’s blank pages.
That sent Yarde, a self-professed history buff, on a quest to return the “captured” property in her possession to its rightful owner, if one were living and if she could find him or her. She Googled “Little Washington, North Carolina” and came up with Blount Rumley, director of the N.C. Estuarium. A few weeks of e-mail correspondence ensued and, confident that she had at least found someone who could point her and the book in the right direction, she mailed the book to Rumley.
said Rumley, who is a distant cousin of the Blount likely mentioned in Sample’s inscription. “When I received the book, it was wrapped in Christmas paper.”
Rumley thinks the Blount from which the book was stolen was most likely Thomas Harvey Blount, who owned a plantation home near where Beaufort County Hospital now stands. That man died in 1861, according to Tom Blount, 91, the man’s great-great-grandson. But there are at least two other possibilities, he said. There was another plantation owned by a Blount family halfway between Chocowinity and Aurora.
And Tom Blount may not be the rightful owner either. John Gray Blount represents a branch on another family tree from Tom’s and may be the true heir. Asked where the novel would make its home, Rumley said he and Tom Blount had come to a decision.