Dale Delafield Luke please click here to go to home page
Dale Delafield Luke was one of my great grandfathers.
Dale was born around 1838, almost certainly in Portsmouth. His parents were John and Lydia Luke. John was born around 1793 in
Virginia. Lydia was born around 1810, also in Virginia.
Dale married Martha Shepherd on October 3, 1860 in Portsmouth. Church records from the Portsmouth Monumental Methodist Church
(copy of the records are available at the Library of Virginia) show that D.D. and Martha were married at Monumental.
On April 20, 1861, at age 23, D.D. Luke enlisted into the 9th Virginia Infantry. At various times, D.D. is in A and G Companies of the 9th
Virginia Infantry. Records indicate D.D. missed roll calls in 1862, and was considered absent without leave (deserted). However, on
April 9, 1862, D.D. received a special order, #81/31, from the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, Confederate States of America. It
was not uncommon during the Civil War for soldiers to switch or be recruited into new units, without the old, previous units, which they
were in, being informed. This would result in the soldiers missing roll calls and being considered absent without leave. This was likely
the case for Dale.
Confederate States of America army records at the National Archives have the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office Special Order
#81/31. This was an order, issued on April 9, 1862 to Dale D. Luke, and about 25 other men, to report to Wm. N. Nash in Norfolk, to
work on gunboats. It is possible that a gunboat worked on by Dale was the CSS Virginia, one of the first ironclads to be used for war
purposes, designed by John Luke Porter (and others). Porter is believed to be Dale’s cousin (see later, for more information on this
connection). Confederate records indicate that Dale D. Luke had distinguished service.
The CSS Virginia was previously the USS Merrimack and continued to be referred to by the Union side as the Merrimack, even after it
was converted to an ironclad by the Confederate navy and renamed the CSS Virginia. The CSS Virginia was scuttled on May 11, 1862,
in Hampton Roads, when threatened with capture by Union forces.
In the 1870 census, Dale age 30, and Martha, age 25, list: Jim W., age 6; and Lydia, age 2, as children. Dale lists his occupation as ship
carpenter and Martha is a housekeeper.
D.D. Luke was listed in the 1879 Portsmouth Personal Property Tax Book. Wm. F. Luke was also listed. Both owed $1.00 tax, probably
a low amount for the times, and indicating an ordinary, or less, tax amount for personal property. D. D. Luke continues to be listed in the
Portsmouth Property Tax Book until 1882. In 1883 and 1884 (after which the records cease to be available) no D.D. Luke is listed. Wm.
F. Luke, D.D.’s brother, continues to be listed through 1884.
In the 1880 census, Dale, age 42 and Martha F., age 37, had five children: John (or Jim) Wesley, age 17; Lillie (also given as Lydia in a
different census), age 13; Eva (my grandmother), age 9; Rachel, age five; and Dale Delafield, Jr., age 1. Dale was still a ship’s
carpenter and Martha still a housekeeper in the 1880 census. They lived at 24 Clifford St. in Portsmouth. The 1880 census shows
Martha’s middle initial to be F. This middle initial will be important later in helping to track Martha F. Shepherd Luke to other records.
Often verifying that various records refer to the same person, especially where surnames are common, depends on very specific
evidence such as middle initials, ages, and other collaborative information.
Dale Luke, Jr. died at age 1, of cholera, on May 30, 1880 and John Wesley Luke died at age 20 of (looks like) phthisis (possibly
tuberculosis) on July 21, 1882.
Dale Delafield Luke was living in 1882 - he was informant on his son’s John Wesley death record in 1882 - but after 1882 he disappears
from records that he might have been expected to be found in. Also he paid personal property tax in 1882. Although Dale D. Luke
appears in an 1860-1861 Portsmouth City Directory, he is absent from the 1891-1892 and 1901 Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Berkeley
directories. However, his brother William F. Luke is in all three directories. The Portsmouth City death register for the period 1858 to
1896 has no record of D.D. Luke’s death. Cemetery records for the two Portsmouth Cemeteries used in the late 1800s and early
1900s, Oak Grove and Cedar Grove, yielded no information that D.D. Luke was buried at either cemetery. This suggests that perhaps
Dale D. might have left Portsmouth by 1890, perhaps as early as 1882/1883.
Dale does not appear in the 1900 census for Portsmouth. A D.D Luke could not be found in a special 1890 census of living
confederate veterans. D. D. Luke could not be found in the Portsmouth Will Books or in their deed records, after 1882.
No state death records from 1912 (when Virginia re-instituted state death record keeping) to 1920 could be found for Dale. Perhaps, he
died between 1896 and 1912. Dale would have been between 58 and 74 from 1896 to 1912, and his death during this period would not
Late in her life, when her memory was failing her, my Mother remembers her grandfather Dale being married a second time and helping
her mother, Eva, in Newport News. This would be around 1912, when my Mother was four or five. (See the paragraph below about a D.
D. Luke appearing in Newport News city directories in the early 1900s. This supports my Mother's recollection.)
No death records, or other references, could be found for a D.D. Luke in Warwick County or Newport News death registers, or other
records, through 1896. These records were reviewed, in case Dale D. might have followed his daughter, Eva, to Newport News, where
she went in the late 1880s, early 1890s.
Dale’s death location, date, cause, and burial site may never be known. Dale appears to have left Portsmouth during 1882 or 1883. No
records (e.g. death, census, tax, etc) from Portsmouth, or anywhere else, can be identified that mention a D.D. (Dale Delafield) Luke,
after 1882, except for what is provided in the next paragraph. Based on this, and what is provided in the Martha F. Shepherd section
(Martha was Dale's wife), coming up next, I believe it seems likely that D.D. Luke abandons Martha (or leaves for legitimate reasons or
dies) in 1882/1883, possibly by going to sea, never to return to Virginia in any way that public records would record that return. Perhaps
he died at sea or died once he got to his destination.
After the above paragraphs were written, a Dale D. Luke was found listed in the Newport News city directories for 1907 and 1908. In
1909, the listing was only Dale Luke. Dale D. was living at 1249 27th Street. In the 1910 census, William and Eva were living at 1125
26th Street. The close proximities of Dale’s address to William and Eva’s is likely not a coincidence and indicates that the Dale D. Luke
is Eva’s father. In 1902, a D. Delafield Luke was listed in the Newport News city directory, living on Chestnut Ave. “Carp” was listed,
possibly meaning Dale worked as a carpenter. It is not known whether this Dale D. Luke was my great grandfather, but very possibly he
was. These city directory listings have been the only references to a Dale D Luke found after the 1882-1883 time frame. That a Dale
D. Luke is in Newport News in the first decade of the 1900s is consistent with my mother’s recollection above about remembering him.
Where Dale D. is after 1882/1883 is still unknown and unexplained, except that he is in Newport News in the early 1900s, if this is the
Dale D. Luke who is Eva’s father.
In August 1882, according to the Norfolk Public Ledger, apparently about one half of the employees at the Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard
lost their jobs. As a ship carpenter, Dale could have been working there at the time, and if he was, perhaps Dale losing his job might
have been a factor in the difficulties that were being experienced by Martha and the disappearance of Dale during the 1882 to 1886 time
John Luke, Dale’s father, is in the 1840 Portsmouth census.
In the 1850 census, John Luke, was also a ship’s carpenter. In 1850, John and Lydia, Dale’s mother, had $2,000 worth of real estate.
John and Lydia had these children on the 1850 census: J., male, age 22, listed as being a clerk; G., male, age 16, listed also as a clerk;
Wm, male, age 14; Dale, age 12 (my great grandfather); and Sarah, age 10. A colored girl Hille, age 7, lived with the family. Dale was
attending school in 1850.
Lydia will use Etheridge on documents as her middle name, e.g. see the paragraph below about William F. Luke marriage to Georgiana
Bray. Internet sources indicate that Lydia is indeed an Etheridge prior to her marriage. Lydia M. Etheridge was born around 1810 in
The G (the first G is believe to stand for Granville) male in the 1850 John Luke census turns out to be G.G. Luke who serves in the
Confederate Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. G. G. was born in 1833. According to sources found on the Internet, G.G. attended one of
the Partridge Military Academies – one that was established in Portsmouth. He was teaching school and preparing for the practice of law
in Camden, North Carolina, when the civil war started. G.G. saw action at Fort Hatteras, Plymouth, New Berne, Drury’s Bluff (wounded),
Petersburg, and Five Forks. G.G. was one of the few officers from Portsmouth who survived the civil war. Internet sources indicate that
G.G’s wife was Mary Wright from Camden, North Carolina. G.G. is believed to have taught school in Camden, so his wife being from
there fits. G.G. died in 1895 and Mary in 1920.
In the 1860 census, John and Lydia had $3,000 worth of real estate and $100 of personal possessions. Listed in the family was (looks
like) Geo. W, age 33, male, who probably was the J listed in the 1850 census; Wm, age 23, the Wm in the 1850 census; and Sarah G.,
age 17, also listed in the 1850 census. Dale was no longer a member of John and Lydia’s household in 1860. In 1860, he married
Martha Shepherd, my great grandmother. Also, found in John and Lydia’s household now, not there in 1850, was Harriet, age 16; Sarah
V, age 17; Elizabeth Johnson, age 21; Ann A. Harvey, age 12; and Julia Johnson, age 5. Harriet would later be identified as a daughter
of John and Lydia. Why she is not in the 1850 census is unknown. Who the other persons were in relationship to John’s family is
A John Wesley Luke is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Effingham Street, in Portsmouth. His tombstone indicates he died on June 21,
1866 and was born in 1828. This is almost certainly the J. listed in the 1850 and the (looks like) Geo W. in the 1860 censuses for John
Luke. John Wesley is believed to have been Dale’s half brother, being the son of John Luke and his first wife, Harriett (more information
is provided on this later).
On August 14, 1872, William F. Luke, one of Dale’s older brothers, age 35 and a machinist, marries Georgiana (Georgieanna) Bray, age
23, in Gloucester County. John and Lilia Etheridge Luke are listed as William’s parents and Thomas J. and Martha A. Hogg Bray are
listed as Georgiana’s parents. Thomas Bray was a farmer. In the 1850s, a William F. Luke was a member of the Old Dominion Guards.
Like Dale Delafield Luke, William was in the Confederate Army.
Georgiana (listed as Georgia) is in the 1860 Gloucester County, Virginia census, age 12, daughter of Thomas J. Bray, age 53, and
Martha A. Bray, age 40. Thomas is shown as a manager for John Hogg. Also in the census are John T, age 21; Mary B, age 16; Julia ,
age 14; William H., age 6, Emma, age 4; and Joshua, age 1 month.
William and Georgiana (Georgia) are in the 1880 Portsmouth census, and they have a son, John M., age 1. Also in the household is
Harriet E, sister, age 37; and Mary White, not related, age 75. Harriet E. is probably William’s sister; in the 1860 John Luke household is
a Harriet, age 16. William and Georgiana Luke are living on Court St. An 1888-1891 Norfolk directory lists William F. Luke, apparently
alone, at 304 Court and a machinist. By the 1900 census, William is listed as alone and as a boarder at 304 Court St. William F. is now
alone because Georgiana Luke dies in 1883 (see later information from the Portsmouth Monumental Methodist church records). What
has happened to John M. by 1900 is not known. John M. would now be around 21, and could have left the home.
William is not in the 1910 census; presumably he is now dead.
A gravesite for William F. Luke is at Oak Grove Cemetery, along London Ave, close to old town Portsmouth. The grave marker indicates
that William F. was a Confederate veteran. Nothing indicates that he was buried next to Georgiana or any other Luke.
As indicated above, in the marriage record for William F. Luke and Georgiana Bray, Lilia, William’s mother, uses Etheridge as a middle
name. What Etheridge refers to in Lilia’s name in this marriage record is not known, but likely is her maiden name. Etheridge was a very
common surname in Norfolk County in the early 1800s, and continues up to this time to be a common surname in all those areas that
have been carved out from what was the 1800s Norfolk County. On the 1830 census, there were three Etheridges in Portsmouth:
Edward, Gilbert, and Samuel. Perhaps Etheridge was Lilia’s maiden name, and one of these Portsmouth Etheridges (Edward, Gilbert, or
Samuel) was her father and one of my great, great, great grandfathers.
Bray was a common name in Gloucester County in the 1800s. How William F. and Georgiana met would be interesting to know.
Gloucester County is north of Portsmouth, between the York and Rappahannock Rivers, on the Chesapeake Bay. Gloucester County
Courthouse is about 50 miles from Portsmouth.
What has happened to Dale’s sister, Harriet, named in John Luke’s 1850 and 1860 Census records is not known, except that Harriet is in
William F Luke’s (her brother) 1880 Census record.
Sarah G. Luke, Dale’s sister, marries a John Richard Bray and will live in Gloucester County after marriage. John is the son of Richard
B. Bray and Emily Hogg Bray of Gloucester County, Virginia. Richard B. Bray is Thomas J. Bray’s brother. Thomas J. Bray is father of
Georgiana Bray who married William F. Luke, Sarah’s other brother (see above). And Emily Hogg Bray is the sister of Martha A Hogg
who was Thomas J Bray’s wife. So, Sarah and William Luke, brother and sister, and brother and sister to Dale Delafield, marry Bray
cousins from Gloucester County.
I remember well my mother saying to me more than once that her family was related to “Brays”. I never understood what she met, who
the Brays were that she was referring to. I now believe she made these statements because she heard, when she was young, from her
mother, and perhaps others, about Brays. Perhaps, she even met Brays. I suggest that when Martha F Shepherd Luke was committed
to Eastern State in 1886 (see the Martha F. Shepherd section for more on this), with two of her daughters, Rachel and Eva (my mother’s
mother) still under 18, these two daughters (and perhaps the oldest daughter, Lydia, age above 18) were taken care of by Sarah G.
Luke and John Bray until they were older and able to go on their own. This would account for why my mother would remember Bray as
an important relative name since she would likely hear about Sarah Luke Bray, Eva’s aunt (and Dale D’s sister) from her mother, Eva.
That Sarah Luke Bray would be more likely than William F. Luke to be the caregiver for their nieces is logical since William’s wife,
Georgiana, dies in 1883, and therefore the references to the Bray name by my mother.
Did Eva, Rachael, and Lydia go to live with Sarah, their aunt, and John Bray in 1886, in Gloucester County? And, if they did, would this
be the explanation for why Eva, Rachel, and Lydia all end up on the peninsula (Hampton and Newport News, between the James and
York Rivers) in the late 1800s (see other sections for information that they did end up on the peninsula)? Gloucester County is very
close to Hampton and Newport News. I think the answer to these questions is yes.
The 1870 Abington, Gloucester County census shows a John R Bray, age 29, farmer, married to a Sally G. Bray, age 26. In 1860,
Sarah G. Luke was age 17 in John Luke’s census (see above). This age similarity helps to supports the conclusion that Sarah G. Luke
did marry John R. Bray and is the Sally G. Bray in his 1870 census. In John and Sally’s 1870 census record is a John L. Bray, age 5
months, and Richard B,. Bray, age 57, John’s father, and Seth T. Bray, age 22, Richard B’s son and John R’s brother.
In 1891, a John Luke Bray, minister, age 22, marries a Pauline J. Clements. John Luke Bray’s parents are John R. Bray and Sally G.
Luke Bray. This marriage record, and the 1870 Gloucester County census, is conclusive evidence that Sarah G. Luke, Dale Delafield
Luke’s sister, is living in Gloucester County, married as early as 1870. Perhaps Sarah met John R. Bray earlier in the 1860s, during the
civil war, in Portsmouth.
A John R. Bray is in the 1900 Gloucester County census, married to a Sallie G. Two children, girl and boy, age 20 and 19, named Emily
F. Bray and Elmer C. Bray, are also in the census record.
Currently, a Brays Point Road is in the Gloucester Point area of Gloucester County. This suggests that maybe the Dale Luke sister that
marries a Bray and begins living in Gloucester County lived in the Gloucester Point area. This area is in southern Gloucester County
just across the York River to Yorktown, and from Yorktown a short distance to Hampton and Newport News. So, this is a closer
geographic connection between Dale’s daughters, who were in Hampton and Newport News, and Dale’s sister in Gloucester County.
With the disappearance of Dale and Martha’s confinement in Williamsburg in the 1880s, the sisters could have been well-served by an
aunt in Gloucester County.
In 1866, John Luke’s will appears in the Portsmouth Will Book. John left everything to his wife, Lydia. John died on July 11, 1866, from
natural causes. He lived 74 years. His occupation on the death record was ship’s carpenter. No information was provided on his parent’
s names. The undertaker was Thomas Scott.
John Luke served in the War of 1812. War of 1812 records show John Luke, private, was at Lambert’s Point Rd. (which is in Norfolk, just
across the harbor from Creney Island), in Capt Richard Kelsick’s Company of Volunteer Riflemen, detached from the 7th Virginia
Regiment. These War of 1812 records are verified in a Society of the Soldiers of the War of 1812 of the 2nd District (Tidewater), State
of Virginia meeting book, available at the Library of Virginia. This society held annual meetings in the 1850s and 1860s, and John Luke
attended some of these meetings, and paid dues from at least 1857 to 1866 (the year he died). The book lists John as a member of
Capt. Keswick’s company.
Lydia is still living in 1870; she was in the 1870 census. In Lydia’s household were: William F., age (looks like) 39 (probably 33), a
machinist, who likely is the Wm. in John Luke’s household in 1850 and 1860; and Harriet E., age 30, housekeeper. Also in the
household was Julia Luke, age 13, female, listed as a mulatto and as a domestic. Is this Julia Luke, age 13, the same Julia Johnson, age
5, who was in John and Lydia Luke’s 1860 household? And, if so, as a mulatto, and now using the name Luke in 1870, was she a child
of a white Luke? This is not known, but it would be interesting to know what happened to Julia Luke, who her parents were, and where
her descendants, if any, are. By 1872, William F. has left Lydia’s household, to marry Georgiana Bray, as indicated above.
The above listing of a mulatto in the census of one of my ancestors (Lydia Luke) is not the only occurrence. For example, in the 1860
Elijah Torian census, a male, age 14, is listed and is identified as a mulatto.
Beginning with the 1850 Census and continuing with subsequent censuses, “mulattoes” were identified on the basis of skin color (skin
tone). Census takers were instructed to appraise skin tone and if the tone was judged by the taker to be not representing the color of a
white or a slave (African, black) then the counted individual should be identified in the census as a mulatto. As can be imagined, such a
task and system inserted into the census taking resulted in very unreliable and inconsistent mulatto-related results, as well as other
problems. These censuses cannot be relied upon to support the actual numbers of offspring of white males and African women slaves
that came out of the antebellum south. Although reasonably accurate counts from the census data are not possible, there should be no
doubt that the counts do reflect that the number of such offspring of white males and African slave females is not an inconsequential
number. The number likely was in the thousands, many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
The goals and objectives and other attributes of the US census was dramatically changed with the 1850 Census. Such changes
included: much more data sought compared to earlier censuses; the emerging field of statistics began to be applied to the goals and
objectives of what was desired from the census results; and politicians began to look at the US census as a way to support conclusions
representing their political views and objectives. This latter aspect, the interest of politicians in census results, was especially prominent
in the census data dealing with “mulatto” counts. Both pro (southern) and anti (northern) slavery groups now began to look at the
census and mulatto counts as a way to obtain evidence to support their respective positions concerning aspects of slavery.
That a mulatto is in the Lydia Luke (and the Elijah Torian) census records suggest to me that these individuals were offsrings of a Luke
(and a Torian) and as such the individuals had gained a certain acceptance, reflected in being included (and protected) within the
family; otherwise they would not be a part of the family counted by the census taker.
Lydia does not appear in the 1880 census and is presumed dead. No public death record could be found for Lydia Luke through 1880,
when she no longer appears in the census.
The Portsmouth Monumental Methodist Church records show that John and Lydia were members of Monumental. A John Luke was
listed as joining in 1814 (my John would have been about 20 at the time, and a Lydia Luke was listed as joining in 1840, probably after
her marriage to John, estimated to be in the 1833 to 1834 time frame. Other John and Lydia Luke family members listed in the records
include: Sarah G. Luke (who was a daughter in the 1850 and 1860 censuses); Mrs. Georgiana Luke, who is listed as having joined in
1873, and having died in 1883, and who was the Georgiana Bray that the Luke’s son, William F., marries in 1872; and D.D. Luke, who is
listed as being married at Monumental. The records also indicate that D.D. ceased to be a member of the church. The records show
that Lydia Luke “died in faith”, presumably meaning she was still an attending member, but no date of death is given. Also, church
records indicate that John Luke died in 1866, agreeing with public records.
In 1790, the only Luke in the Virginia census (tax records) lived in Portsmouth. His name was Isaac Luke. One report states that Isaac
was a ship carver. What ship carver means here is likely one who builds the decorative features found on sailing ships. No Luke would
be found living in Portsmouth in 1810. Why this is so is not clear. Isaac was one of the founders of a church in Portsmouth that
eventually becomes the present Monumental United Methodist Church, located in downtown Portsmouth. Isaac was in the Virginia Militia
during the Revolutionary War period.
Ship carvers were important members of the shipbuilding community in the 1700s and early 1800s. Starting as early as the 16th
Century, ornamentation became more and more of a standard addition to ships, so that by the late 1700s, most, if not all, ships sailing
the seas would seem awkward without such wood-ornamented carvings. The ornamentation would consist of: the figure head, often a
wooden figurine carving of a female mounted on the bow, in size between 5 and 10 feet long, depending on the ship’s size; the billet
head, decorative carvings resembling foliage and other designs, mounted at various sites throughout the ship; and the trial board, a
decorative carving mounted on the ship’s stern. Ship carvers were skilled wood carvers, who would turn oak and elm wood slabs into
amazing ornamental mountings.
The carvings brought pride and comfort to the crew who had to spend long periods aboard the ship at sea. The figure head often
reflected a unique attribute or characteristic that the ship-carving artist wanted to portray concerning the ship displaying the carving.
The carvings were, in effect, sculptured art, and today those carvings, still remaining from those early days, are considered with value as
important creations. Unfortunately, too few remain.
In the 1700s, and earlier, and into the early 1800s, when literacy was not prevalent, wood carvings served as needed messages to the
intended recipients. Most shops had wooden carvings out front depicting the shops' trades, again, for communication purposes. These
shop carvings represented another product that ship carvers might pursue for a living. By the second half of the 19th century as
wooden sailing ships were replaced by engine-powered, metal vessels, ship carving disappeared as a viable trade.
A 1761 Norfolk County deed book shows that Isaac Luke took on an apprentice, John Culpepper. Isaac’s trade was given as joiner
(carpenter). In 1761, Isaac lived on lot 75 in Portsmouth
Isaac’s wife was Rachael Dale Luke. Rachael’s (believed to be) nephew was Commodore Richard Dale, who was a commander of the
Portsmouth Shipyard, Gosport, for a period of time. Dale had an interesting and productive career serving on several ships, both
American and British, during the Revolutionary War, including serving as John Paul Jones’ first lieutenant in naval battles against the
British in English waters. Dale would become one of the first commodores of the US Navy and commanded a blockade of Tripoli in 1801
during the First Barbary War of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.
It is likely that Dale Delafield Luke’s first name, Dale, comes down from Rachael Luke’s maiden name, Dale.
Isaac’s children included: John (who died at age 19); Paul Dale; William B.; Isaac, Jr.; Rachel; and Elizabeth. Paul Dale served in the
American forces during the Revolutionary War. Paul Dale Luke died on December 28, 1819 at age 58.
According to information in a surviving Isaac Luke, Sr. family bible (printed in London), Paul Dale Luke, one of Isaac Luke’s sons, had
four children: Elizabeth, born January 6, 1790; John Luke, born September 7, 1793; William, born September 8, 1796; and Sarah P.,
born December 2, 1800. (Information from the Luke bible is available at the Daughters of American Revolution library in Washington,
The birth date of Paul Dale Luke’s son John (1793), the appearance of Dale in Paul Dale Luke’s name, and the relatively few Luke’s in
Portsmouth at that time suggest that this John Luke, son of Paul Dale Luke, is my great, great grandfather John Luke, who was also born
in 1793, and who named one of his sons Dale (my great grandfather).
Also, the Isaac Luke bible indicates that John Luke married Harriett Bateman, May 17, 1827, and that they had a son, John Wesley Luke,
on March 6, 1828 and another son William Fletcher Luke on October 2, 1829. From the bible, William Fletcher Luke died on February
9, 1830, and Harriet died December 28, 1829. Assuming that this John Luke, Paul Dale’s son, is my great, great grandfather, John
Luke, then John Luke married Lydia (my great, great grandmother) after Harriett’s death. In John Luke’s 1850 and 1860 censuses were
a J., age 22 in 1850 and (looks like) Geo W., age 33, which matches the John Wesley Luke’s age, who was born in 1828 to John and
Harriett Luke. A John Wesley Luke is buried at the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Portsmouth, born 1828 and died 1866, according to the
grave marker. No further census information, after 1860, surfaces that indicates a J. or Geo. W. Luke in Portsmouth.
It is very likely that John Luke, one of my great, great grandfathers, was the John Luke who was Paul Dale Luke’s son, and Isaac Luke’s
One of Paul Dale and Sally Luke’s children, Elizabeth, married William Porter. William and Elisabeth Luke Porter had John Luke Porter
(1813 to 1893), who was one of the designers and developers of the CSS Virginia (built from the previously named Union steamer,
Merrimac), the Confederate ironclad, reportedly the first ironclad to be used for war purposes. Assuming that John Luke, son of Paul
Dale Luke, was my great, great grandfather, then my great grandfather Dale Delafield Luke and John Luke Porter were cousins. Dale’s
father, John, and John Luke Porter’s mother, Elizabeth, were brother and sister.
An 1847 Elizabeth Porter obituary stated that she was the daughter of Isaac Luke, a member of the Methodist Church, that several
descendants were currently a member of the Methodist Church, and that she left two daughters and several grand and great
grandchildren. Although “daughter of Isaac Luke” is stated, it is probable that granddaughter is correct. Isaac Luke’s daughter,
Elizabeth, would have been too old to still be living in 1847. The 1847 Elizabeth Porter is probably the daughter of John Dale Luke, a
son of Isaac, and the mother of John Luke Porter.
The William B. Luke, identified above as a son of Isaac Luke, is William Benson Luke, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a ship
carver, as will as a ship’s carpenter. A bronze replica of the wooden figurehead that William B. Luke carved, in 1817, for the USS
Delaware, is on display at the US Naval Academy. The figurehead is of the Delaware Indian Tribe Chief Tamanend. William was born in
1790 and died in 1839.
The Methodist associations of these Isaac Lukes were also found in my Mother’s Lukes, as my Mother was raised a Methodist.
Luke was a fairly frequent name in the 1860 census in Norfolk County, which included the City of Portsmouth.
A Paul D. Luke is living later in Portsmouth, at the same time as Dale Delafield Luke. In the 1870 census, Paul D. Luke, age 49, was a
ship’s carpenter in Portsmouth, and was married to Lethe (Aleetha). A son, James, age 22, and a daughter, Jesse, age 6, were listed
with Paul and Lethe in the 1870 census. The relation between Dale Delafield and Paul D. is not known. Because they were both ships’
carpenters and were Lukes, it is more likely than not that they knew one another, if not related. This Paul D. Luke was probably not one
of Dale D’s brothers since Paul D. was born in 1820, and the Isaac Luke bible (see above) makes no mention of John Luke, Dale D.’s
father, being married prior to his 1827 marriage to Harriett Bateman. Possibly, Paul D. Luke was the son of William Luke, who also is
one of Paul Dale Luke’s sons (beside John). This is not known. Paul D. Luke is not in the 1880 Virginia census. Paul D. Luke died on
March 1, 1878, of a cerebral hemorrhage, at age 58. He and his wife, Lethe, and their daughter, Jesse, are buried together at Oak
Grove Cemetery, in Portsmouth. This Paul D. Luke was active in Portsmouth politics.
Portsmouth has been the site of shipbuilding and ship repairing from the 1700s to today.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, the British maintained a ship repairing capability at Gosport, a geographical area that eventually merges
into Portsmouth. After the Revolutionary War, the state of Virginia operated the facility at Gosport, and in 1801, the federal government
purchased and took over the facility. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union abandoned what was still called the Gosport Naval
Yard, and in the departure, burned and destroyed as much of the facility as it could. This included burning the wooden streamer,
Merrimac, at Gosport for repairs, and built earlier in Boston. It was from this burned-out steamer Merrimac, that the Confederates, after
taking over Gosport from the departed Union, found and built the ironclad, named the CSS Virginia, at Gosport, destined to make history
as one of the first, if not the first, ironclad war ships. The Confederates, themselves, would abandon Gosport, even before the Civil War
was over, so that the Union would again gain control of Gosport, even while the Civil War was being conducted.
Shipbuilding along the Atlantic Coast began early, soon after the first settlers. Because roads were dirt and often extremely difficult to
travel distances on, water transportation was the predominate mode of travel. Travel from, e.g. Philadelphia to Norfolk, likely was much
easier by water than by the roads of the period. Active shipbuilding centers included Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and
other sites on the Chesapeake Bay, Charleston, and Savannah. Estimates have been made that from the 1720s to the 1760s, about
750 ships were built in Philadelphia.
Shipbuilding might be considered the first major American manufacturing sector, and after agriculture, the most economically important
industry for a period of time in the 1700s. Customers included the British and the West Indies colonies. Most of the shipyards were
privately owned. Demand for ships were sufficiently high that many shipyards would build “speculative” ships, meaning ships not built
under contract, but to sell on an open market.
Those working as shipbuilders (often referred to as shipwrights) usually worked long hours, but on a seasonal and irregular schedule.
Shipwrighting was considered an important trade craft. As often has been the case for craftsmen, sons would follow their fathers into the
profession. This was the case with D. D. Luke, whose father, John, was listed as a ship’s carpenter in the 1850 Census. This father-son
progression is seen for others in this family history.
An excellent source on shipbuilding in the colonial period is “Shipbuilding in Colonial America” by Joseph A. Goldenberg.
The development of Gosport and shipbuilding activity in Portsmouth from the 1700s to the present is an excellent example of how a
cluster of technically-oriented businesses interact to reinforce one another and in the process produce a world-class ability to compete
with manufactured products and services.
Portsmouth is on the port of Hampton Roads, one of the most important American ports along the Atlantic Ocean.