LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) On a sunny day on the banks of the Maury River, it’s not unusual to see a group launching boats.
But they usually don’t have a coffin floating alongside.
“I’ve been telling this story on my Ghost Tour for years.”
Local artist and entertainer Mark Cline pulled this expedition together.
“And then someone handed me this pamphlet written by Charles Chittum,” Cline says.
A pamphlet with an unusual story.
147 years ago on the very day this group set out, Robert E Lee died while torrential rain storms lashed Lexington.
“All the coffins were kept in a warehouse down by this river," Cline explains. "They washed away. So the problem was: they had nothing to put Lee’s body in.”
Charles Chittum and a friend went downriver, where two miles down – at a place now called Chittum’s Island – they found the only coffin in Lexington.
Barbara Chittum Hutchens is the great granddaughter of Charles Henry Chittum. She joined the expedition, riding down the much calmer river as her ancestor did and finally pulling in the coffin at the same spot he recovered Lee’s.
“We’re all very proud of this," she says of the Chittum family.
“So the best we can figure," Cline explained as he placed Babara in a select spot on the end of Chittum's Island, "This is where he was standing when this was photographed.”
And now Barbara is photographed in the footsteps of Charles.