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The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.

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Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
fax (757) 683-5954


The Papers of Robert M. Rose


Born in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Robert M. Rose was the son of a Norfolk, Virginia family. Apparently there was something of the sea tradition in the Rose family. There was an uncle, Alexander F. Rose who captained his own ship and under whom, Robert's brother Alexander began his career in 1830. Much earlier than this, Robert Rose enlisted in the U.S. Navy as midshipman on board the USS Independence in 1809. While serving on the Independence, Rose attained the rank of lieutenant and continued in this capacity in subsequent assignments on the USS Columbus and the USS Terrier.

By 1815 Rose had married his wife Mary, a woman also from the Norfolk area. As a naval officer, Rose of course was away from his family for many months out of the year. Indeed his son Robert W. Rose was born in the summer of 1823 while he was stationed in Key West with the Terrier. The anxiety caused by these extended periods of separation runs throughout Mary's letters. Aside from maintaining several rental properties belonging to the family, Mary attended to the duties of her own household. Periodic outbreaks in the community of diseases such as yellow fever were always a source of concern for a mother with a young child. There is also some evidence that Robert financially supported his brother Alexander while he was in school. This went contrary to Mary's way of thinking. She felt that Alexander was given too much to study and too little to honest work.

Sometime in 1830, Mary and their son Robert began living in Portsmouth near Fort Nelson with the family of Lieutenant Joseph Smoot. In April of that same year, Rose had been promoted to Commander. References in Mary's letters dated immediately after this time indicate that Rose had visited with his family prior to taking command of the USS Erie. Within three months of his new command, Rose contracted yellow fever and died at a West India Station on August 27, 1830. The last letter in the collection from Mary was written the day before her husband's death and is especially poignant as it contains the welcome news of their son's recovery from the same malady.

The Papers of Robert M. Rose were donated by Caroline H. Tunstall, a former faculty member at the University. These papers are part of a larger family collection, the bulk of which was given in 1950 to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. Prior to the date of this former gift, the papers were in the possession of George H. Rose, one of the two sons of Dr. Robert W. Rose (Series II). Dr. Rose's second son, Robert W. Rose, Jr., married the sister of Dr. Robert B. Tunstall (Series III). Dr. Tunstall's son Charles, married his cousin by this marriage, Jane W. Rose. Mrs. Charles Tunstall is represented in Series IV and is the donor of the gift to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Caroline Tunstall, the donor of the gift to the Old Dominion University Special Collections , is married to the nephew of Mrs. Charles Tunstall.

The papers in the collection are original holographs with the exceptions of folders in Series I: Sub series C. Folders 24 and 25 are photocopies from the National Archives of materials relating to Commander Rose and his wife in the U.S. Naval Records of Officers. Folder 26 contains a carbon typescript of documents held at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Robert M. Rose is a collection of family papers including the business records and personal correspondence of four Norfolk families in the Rose-Tunstall lineage. The papers are arranged according to family into four series; however, the focal point of the collection is the papers of Commander Robert M. Rose.

Series Descriptions

Although Series I does not contain correspondence written by Robert Rose, there are multiple letters from his wife Mary and from several naval and business acquaintances. Those letters authored by Mary provide an insight into the Rose family, containing personal reminiscences as well as daily accounts of household and local affairs. There are, in addition, frequent references to the families and ship assignments of other naval officers. For example, Mary in her letter dated April 12, 1823 (Folder 1), recounts a rather grisly newspaper story concerning the pirating of a ship and the death of its captain at Campeachy. These and similar examples from Norfolk and naval life ca. 1820-1830 may prove of interest to the social historian.

Series II contains the correspondence and business papers of Commander Rose's son, Dr. Robert W. Rose. Although there are letters from family members and friends, here as in the first series, there is no correspondence actually written by Dr. Rose. What could be considered as an exception to this is a copy of a legal document written on behalf of Dr. Rose and addressed to the 1893 Provisional Congress of the Confederate States (Folder 32). The document concerns the loss of six runaway slaves for whom Dr. Rose seeks financial redress from the Provisional Congress. From the remaining correspondence and papers, especially those in Folders 33 and 34, numerous genealogical references to the Rose family can be found.

Series III and IV include the papers of Dr. Robert B. Tunstall and his son Mr. Charles M. Tunstall respectively. Both of these series may be of little interest to the researcher because of their limited scope. Dr. Tunstall's papers concern the financial settlement of his estate while those of Charles Tunstall and his wife contain memorabilia such as World War II ration tickets. The importance of these two series to the collection lies in the information they provide relative to the connection between the Rose and Tunstall families and in establishing the provenance of the papers.


Gift of Mrs. Caroline Heath Tunstall, November 18, 1977


Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


1 Hollinger Document Case

Collection Number

MG 23

Container Listing

Box 1

Series I: Commander Robert M. Rose

Sub series A: Correspondence

Folder 1: Mary Rose: April 12, 1823
Folder 2: Mary Rose: April 30, 1823
Folder 3: Mary Rose: June 14, 1823
Folder 4: Mary Rose: June 30, 1823
Folder 5: Mary Rose: July 19, 1830
Folder 6: Mary Rose: August 15, 1830
Folder 7: Mary Rose: August 25, 1830
Folder 8: S. Hambletori(?): February 19, 1820
Folder 9: James H. Henry: September 21, 1815
Folder 10: James H. Henry: November 8, 1817
Folder 10-A: James H. Henry: September 12, 1818
Folder 11: J. K. May: n.d. (ca. 1813-1820
Folder 12: J. K. May: February 10, 1820
Folder 13: George W. Stover: October 19, 1818
Folder 14: William P. Taylor: unsigned, n.d.
Folder 15: William P. Taylor: February 14, 1819
Folder 16: N.B. (?): May 8, 1830
Folder 17: N.B.: June 8, 1830
Folder 18: N.B. to Lt. Joseph Smoot: July 10, 1830
Folder 19: N.B. to Lt. Joseph Smoot: August 22, 1830
Folder 20: N.B. to Lt. Joseph Smoot: October 13, 1830

Sub series B: Business Papers

Folder 21: Certificate of membership, Naphtali Lodge, October 9, 1811
Folder 22: Estate of Major Alexander F. Rose: 1817
Folder 23: Receipts, six items: (ca. 1830)

Sub series C: Miscellaneous

Folder 24: U.S. Naval Records of officers: entries for Rose, (photocopy)
Folder 25: U.S. Naval Records of officers: pension file for Mary Rose (photocopy)
Folder 26: U.S. Naval Academy Museum: Documents addressed to R. M. Rose and others, typescript

Series II: Dr. Robert W. Rose

Sub series A: Correspondence

Folder 27: J. R. Carter: n.d.
Folder 28: J. R. Carter: December 1, 1856
Folder 29: J. R. Carter: April 4, 1857
Folder 30: J. R. Carter: July 11, 1857
Folder 31: W. Menkins: March 17, 1818
Folder 32: Provisional Congress of the Confederate States from Dr. Rose: May 14, 1863
Folder 33: Susan Turner: October 24, 1855
Folder 34: Henry Wiekinton(?): December 21, 1855
Folder 35: John L. Hargrave to Catherine Jamesson: March 22, 1851
Folder 36: Signed "your truly attached aunt, M.E.J." to Mollie (Hodge): n.d., return address, 56

Sub series B: Business Papers

Folder 37: Receipts, bank loans: 1848 & 1865-1867
Folder 38: Receipts, Household: 1844-1866
Folder 39: Receipts, building and property: 1846-1851
Folder 40: Succession and Legacy Returns for Rose Estate: January 9, 1869

Series III: Dr. Robert B. Tunstall

Sub Series A: Business papers

Folder 41: Check receipts: 1883-1886
Folder 42: Promissory notes: 1871-1883
Folder 43: Property: 1881 & 1884
Folder 44: Receipts and invoices: 1883
Folder 45: Receipts and invoices: 1884
Folder 46: Receipts and invoices: 1885
Folder 47: Receipts and invoices: 1886
Folder 48: Stocks and bonds: 1880 & 1884
Folder 49: Taxes: 1883-1884
Folder 50: Deed of land: April 15, 1857
Folder 51: Family document appointing Alexander and Richard Tunstall as executors of Dr. Tunstall's estate: April 6, 1883
Folder 52: Partial inventory of the Tunstall Estate: April 18, 1883
Folder 53: Record of debts paid: 1883-1887
Folder 54: Summary of debts paid: March 19, 1884
Folder 55: Cash on hand statement: April 15, 1884
Folder 56: Richard H. Backer & Son lawyer's statement: October 9, 1884
Folder 57: Bank of Commerce Account Book, Alexander and Richard Tunstall: (ca. 1883)
Folder 58: Miscellaneous notes: n.d.

Series IV: Charles and Jane B. P. Tunstall

Sub-series A: Memorabilia

Folder 59: World War I War Bond: (encl. April 1, 1947)
Folder 60: World War II Ration Book: (encl. April 12, 1944)

Sub-series B: Miscellaneous

Folder 61: Assortment of printed calling cards, two with photographs: n.d.
Folder 62: The Citizen: A Democratic Weekly: December 1, 1944 (printed copy)

Revised 4/13/10