Danville, Virginia
Nancy Witcher Langhorne - Lady Astor
(right) The Langhorne House at 117
birthplace of Nancy & Irene Langhorne.  
When they lived in this house, it was
situated on the corner of Main and Broad
Streets, but it was later moved a short
distance down Broad Street.

After the Langhorne family moved to
Richmond in 1885, the house was still at
the corner of Main and Broad Streets, and
it was used as a private school.  The
picture below shows the 1903 class on the
porch.  The one-room school was in the
right front room of the four-room house.
Nancy and her sister Phyllis, who was eleven
months younger, both married hard-drinking
millionaires at a time when no self-respecting
Virginia girl would go north and suffer humiliation by
the Yankees.  After divorces, Nancy and Phyllis left
and had their horses shipped to England.

Nancy’s oldest sister had married well enough, but
to her lively sister, her life was sluggish and sleepy.  
The next oldest, Irene Langhorne, married Charles
Dana Gibson, who was a young artist making
$60,000 a year in New York.  He had invented the
“Gibson Girl” in 1890, five years before he met
in the world and being the first woman in England’s
parliament.  And she accomplished this a year
before American women had the right to vote.  

The future Lady Astor, Nancy Witcher Langhorne,
was born in Danville, Virginia.  Her father, Chriswell
Dabney Langhorne, had lost almost everything
during the Civil War.  He married Nancy Witcher
Keen in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on December
20, 1864, while the war raged.  Then in 1873, the
year that their daughter Nancy was born, he brought
his family from Lynchburg to Danville.  

“Chillie,” as he was known is credited with creating
the auctioneer’s Gregorian chant and the “Danville
System” of selling tobacco on the warehouse floor.  

The family lived in a house built in 1873 at the corner
of Main and Broad Streets.  In all there were eleven
children born, “all unwanted,” as Lady Astor liked to
say.  Nancy like shocking statements and this was
likely not her real belief.  

Concerning her years from 1919-1945 in the British
House of Commons, she is said to have had a
“cheerful lack or respect for any and all.  She once
remarked to Sir Winston Churchill: "If I were married
to you, I'd put poison in your coffee."  Churchill
replied: “If I were married to you, I'd drink it."
Nancy Witcher Langhorne, later known as "Lady Astor"
was born in Danville, Virginia
After her divorce Nancy was faced with choosing a
new husband.  “I must do better than Irene,” she is
reported in an old newspaper to have said.  “I must
have money, and lots of it.  Money is power.  I want
to do like Alva Belmont, and make myself felt.  And I
must have money to do it.  And I shall never marry
a man unless he has barrels of it.”  

Robert Gould Shaw had $10 million - Nancy married
and divorced him. Then Robert Walton Goelet had
his $50 million.  Or she could become Lady
Revelstoke with multi-millions plus a title.  

Then there was William Waldorf Astor’s son,
Waldorf, who was worth $200 million.  So, Nancy
picked the richest man in the world for her new
husband and became Lady Astor.  Her sister,
Phyllis, picked for her next husband Bob Brand, an
Oxford scholar who was said to be (maybe) the
wisest man in the empire.

Nancy came back to Danville in 1922 and 1945.  
When she died in 1964, a Confederate flag, which
was given her in Danville on her first return trip,
draped her casket.  

(Much of this story is compiled from an old newspaper article from
the early 1900s.)
Waldorf & Nancy Astor
Ellie Fitzgerald Ogburn Holton was born in 1895 in a house where Woodrow Wilson School in now located on North
Main St.  Next door, in front of Moffett Memorial Church, was the home of her uncle Thomas Benton Fitzgerald, one
of the founders of Riverside Cotton Mills.  T. B. was a cousin of her father James Henry Fitzgerald (b Aug. 4, 1850
Wythe Co. Va).  They moved to 504 West Main Street and
Ellie and her sister Pearl Ruth attended school in
the old Langhorne house
a block away.  Later Ellie attended the Loyal Street School where Sears and the Galileo
School were later located.

Ellie remembers being frightened by two big dogs at the Sutherlin Mansion which she passed on the way to school.  
Sometimes Mrs. Sutherlin, widow of Maj. William T. Sutherlin, would be in the front yard.  She lived until 1912.  Ellis
said that, in 1905 when she was ten years old, four cabins were built at Third Ave.and North Main Streets to keep
small pox patients. The reservoir was later built there.  Two cabins were for black men and women and two for white
men and women.  Only those who had small pox before were allowed in the area.  Each day Doctor Vann would
come from his house on North Main at West Thomas Street, where Davis Flowers was later located, to care for
those confined.  Doctor Cocke lived nearby where Wrenn-Yeatts Funeral Home is now.

In 1914, Ellie taught at the Harper's Dairy School on the Franklin Turnpike.  She boarded with Emma Harper for $15
a month.  Her salary was $45 a month.  In 1915, she taught the 7th grade in South Hill.  During the 1916 and 1917
school year, she taught at Schoolfield Elementary School, and from 1917 to 1919 at Stonewall Jackson on North
Main Street.  She taught at Danville High School on Grove Street until mid term in 1924, when her daughter Helen
was born.  She taught at Brosville School for nine years and Robert E. Lee Junior High School on Holbrook Ave. until
retiring in 1965.    
Bottom row: Wayles R. Harrison, Harry Thomas, Pearl Fitzgerald, George Wilson, Mamie Watson, Ethel Rowe,
Frank Browder, Robert Harper, John Eanes.
Top Row: A. Berkeley Carrington Jr., Virginia Griggs, Ellie Fitzgerald, Miss Sara Harrison (Teacher), Mary Haynes,
Billy Meade, Pinckney Harrison, Lawson Hodges.
Pictures at right: Ellie and
Pearl Fitzgerald were sisters
and they are also in the
school group picture above.  
Their father James Henry
Fitzgerald.