Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

Robert M. Rose Papers, 1809-1947 | Special Collections and University Archives

By Susan E. Yates

Collection Overview

Title: Robert M. Rose Papers, 1809-1947

ID: 00/MG 23

Primary Creator: Rose, Robert M. (-1830)

Extent: 0.4 Linear Feet. More info below.


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.

Date Acquired: 11/18/1977

Subjects: Families--Virginia--History--19th century, Families--Virginia--History--20th century, Rose, Robert M., d. 1830, Rose family, Tunstall family, United States. Navy--Officers

Languages: English


Business records and personal correspondence of four Norfolk families. Focal point is the papers of Commander Robert M. Rose.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

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.

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.

Collection Historical Note

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 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.

Subject/Index Terms

Families--Virginia--History--19th century
Families--Virginia--History--20th century
Rose, Robert M., d. 1830
Rose family
Tunstall family
United States. Navy--Officers

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 Hollinger document case

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Mrs. Caroline Heath Tunstall

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession #A77-86

Related Materials: Other papers related to Robert M. Rose were given to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland in 1950.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], Robert M. Rose Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Commander Robert M. Rose],
[Series II: Dr. Robert W. Rose],
[Series III: Dr. Robert B. Tunstall],
[Series IV: Charles and Jane B.P. Tunstall],

Series II: Dr. Robert W. Rose
Sub-Series A: Correspondence
Box 1
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 Library/Savannah
Sub-Series B: Business Papers
Box 1
Folder 37: Receipts, bank loans, 1848 and 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

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Commander Robert M. Rose],
[Series II: Dr. Robert W. Rose],
[Series III: Dr. Robert B. Tunstall],
[Series IV: Charles and Jane B.P. Tunstall],

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