"There was George Kitely, Lord Ragland's son, went through the Court
last week, and was what they call whitewashed, I believe. Lord Ragland
would not pay a penny for him, and --"
William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair, chapter 54
Who Was Reuben Ragland?
Early Earls and Druids
In 1670, Evan Ragland from Somerset -- the ancestor of all
American Raglands -- arrived in Virginia. He -- 14 years old -- and his cousin John Davis
had been abducted ("shanghaied") from the dock of the port town of
Watchet in Somerset -- a crude but common practice at the time. The Raglands lived in
Stogumber and St. Decuman's parish near Watchet, and the boys had taken a stroll
on the dock.
They were thrown on a ship that took them under harsh conditions to Virginia. Evan
was sold as an indentured laborer (serf) to Stephen Pettus, owner of a plantation
along the Chickahominy River in New Kent County. After five to seven
years, due to his superior education, Evan was able to buy his freedom.
He married Susannah Pettus, his former master's daughter, inherited the 500-acre plantation and acquired wealth.
Very few among the old Virginia families are as well documented as the Raglands who can look back on a
genealogy of more than seven centuries. Reuben Fenton Ragland, born in
1818 in Owingsville, Bath, Kentucky, was a direct descendant of
the legendary Evan who in turn was a direct descendant and member of the highest
Welsh nobility with close ties to Tudor royalty. Reuben's grandfather Gideon was a grandson of the involuntary immigrant Evan Ragland.
One of the early ancestors, William ap Jenkin (1327-1377) was the only child of "Jenkin the Apple Tree", a clerk
to the Lord of Abergavenny at Llanvapley. William married the daughter and heir of Vychan ap Howel, a descendant of the
early Welsh kings of Monmouth and Glamorgan. Upon Vychan's death, William inherited his title and property
as Lord of Cerf-Y-Ddwy-Gwlyd, his coat of arms and his family name, Herbert (Hir-Bert in Welsh, meaning "very tall").
The Ragland name first surfaced in the 12th century when Walter Bloet was granted Rhaglan or Raghelan (1254) -- meaning probably in Welsh rhag 'fore' and glan 'bank', hence 'rampart', or, in another interpretation meaning 'border' -- a place in the lordship of Usk in southern Wales. His descendant,
Elizabeth Bloet, married Sir James Berkeley who became lord of Raglan in 1399. Shortly after his death, Elizabeth "the lady of Raggeland"
took as her second husband William ap Thomas Herbert, "a member of a minor Welsh gentry family."
In 1418, William ap Thomas
was knighted by King Henry V and in 1432, he acquired Raglan
Castle (Castell Rhaglan in Welsh) from his stepson James, Lord Berkeley, for 1000 marks (almost £667).
Sir William ap Thomas fought with King Henry V in France, becoming known as Y marchog glas o Went, the Blue Knight of Gwent.
In the 1430s, he enlarged and modernized the castle which became a huge fortress.
In 1418, Sir William's nephew, a ten-year old boy, Robert ap Jevan whose father had died early, and two more of his siblings, came to live at
Raglan Castle. Robert was the first family member to take the Raglan/Ragland name (both versions used indiscriminately).
Sir William ap Thomas was a Welsh nationalist and a hero, a military genius admired and praised by the bards as the knight who would free Wales from the English yoke.
Neither Sir William ap Thomas nor his son, Sir William Herbert, Viceroy in Wales during the War of the Roses,
would fight to regain Welsh independence. Quite to the contrary, they helped to integrate Wales with England.
One might speculate that the campaigns in France
convinced both knights of the need for England and Wales to be united in the struggle with Normans and other Gauls.
Sir William Herbert added a palatial double-courtyard mansion to the moated Yellow Tower with its
double drawbridge. He also served in France and became rich by trading and importing Gascony wine.
King Edward IV made Sir William Baron Herbert of Raglan. In 1462 "the young Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII, was placed in the custody of Sir William and
his wife, and was brought up at Raglan Castle." In 1465, Raglan became an independent lordship "with a weekly market and a fair, held twice a year."
'Not farre from thence, a famous castle fine
That Raggland hight, stands moted almost round....
The stately tower, that looks ore pond and poole,
The fountaine trim, that runs both day and night,
Doth yeeld in showe, a rare and noble sight.'
(15th century poem)
In 1468, King Edward elevated William Herbert to the rank of Earl of Pembroke. "The remarkable feature of the honour
was that Earl William had become one of the first members of the Welsh
gentry to enter the ranks of the English peerage."
Already then, poets praised Raglan's exceptional size and beauty:
"Hundred rooms filled with festive care, its hundred towers, parlours and doors, its hundred heaped-up fires of long-dried fuel, its hundred chimneys for men of high degree..." (Dafydd Llwyd, 15th c.)
The Earl of Pembroke's son, William Herbert, himself named Earl of Huntingdon, married Mary Woodville, sister of the future queen.
In 1502, Sir Walter Herbert, Earl William's brother, entertained his sister-in-law, the wife of King Henry VII, at Raglan.
"Mae Rhaglan yn fwy o ddatganiad o gyfoeth nac o bresenoldeb milwrol bygythiol" -- "Raglan is more a statement of wealth than an intimidating military presence" (CADW:Castell Rhaglan)
In 1492, Elizabeth Herbert, granddaughter of the Earl of Pembroke and owner of Raglan Castle, married Sir Charles Somerset, a son of Henry Beaufort, 3rd duke of Somerset. In 1504, Sir Charles
became Baron Herbert of Raglan, Chepstow and Gower, and later Earl of Worcester.
His grandson William, 3rd Earl of Worcester, made Raglan Castle
"an Elizabethan great house; he also laid out fabulous Renaissance gardens
to enhance his sumptuous home."
Thomas Churchyard (1587) mentioned him "Earle Worster living nowe, Who buildeth up, the house of Raggland throwe."
The famous library of Raglan Castle was established by William Herbert, the first Earl of Pembroke, who was a great supporter of Welsh literature and chaired the solemn gathering of Eisteddfod, an all-Welsh competition of bards. The library contained a collection of manuscripts of Welsh bards and the druidic
religion in new Welsh language which were excerpted by Llywelin Sion, a bard from Glamorgan, about 1560. The library was subsequently destroyed by Cromwell but the Horae Pembrochianae, the Pembroke Hours survived, an exceptionally beautiful illuminated manuscript of the Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, written about 1440 for William Herbert, and now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During the English Civil War, the castle resisted a thirty weeks' siege by Lord Fairfax's troops,
and when it finally fell, Parliament tried to destroy what is considered Britain's
"finest late medieval fortress." The Duke of Somerset, however, was allowed
to leave the castle with his armed men in full dress, music playing. Joshua Sprigge (1647), Fairfax's chaplain, commented on Somerset's tenacity "The two Garrisons of Ragland and Pendennis, like winter fruit, hung on."
Cromwell's technicians worked for months to undermine the tower. After the castle's furnishings had been dispersed and the roof timbers sold it was in too bad a state to be rebuilt. The ruin of Raglan castle is now a tourist attraction and venue of an annual summer
art festival. (Above quotes in italics from John R. Kenyon: Ragland Castle. CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments. Cardiff 1994)
Raglans and Raglands
William, Earl of Huntingdon left no male heirs. That is why his daughter
Elizabeth passed Raglan Castle to the Somersets. However, Robert ap Jevan's
line continued, and his
great-grandson "Sir John Ragland, Knight," "(Ragland John,1570, son of Sir Thomas Ragland, Knight," mentioned in the Cardiff records, vol. II, ch.IV)) is again mentioned 1596 in
the Cardiff records vol.IV, ch.III when his daughter Joan married "Thomas,
son of William Bawdrippe, Esq., Knight." John Ragland was born in 1545 at Llys-y-Fronydd, Wales.
His father "Raglan Thomas 1558 gent of Lyswurney aged 45 years",
according to the Cardiff records, had
moved from the old family home at Llys-y-Fronydd across the Bristol Channel to Somerset, England,
to escape danger from pirates. Sir John married Alice Kingsonn
at St. Decuman's Parish, Somerset, in about 1564, and died there about 1605.
(When moving from Wales to England, the Raglans definitively adopted the English spelling by adding the letter -d- to their name, whereas the name of the castle retained the Welsh spelling)
Sir John's great-grandson was the famous Evan Ragland who was kidnapped. Had the boy remained in England there
is little doubt that he would have carried the title of Sir Evan Ragland, Knight, had he been the eldest son -- which he wasn't, being the fourth son of Thomas Ragland and Jane Morgan.
There were also other Raglans living in Glamorgan, for instance at
where they built several houses.
"About 1440, a new family came to Llantwit Major, the Raglans or Raglands. Robert Raglan built a house which is now the Old White Hart public house, making it the oldest continually inhabited house in the town. Then about 1465, Raglan built a new house, which in time was used by the church as a presbytery, and which in 1874 was extended and became the village school, now the "Old School" used by community groups.
At Llancarvan a John Raglan acquired by marriage
Carniiwyd Manor in the 12th century. The local Raglans, considered rich and influential, also built the Raglan Chapel in early Norman style, as part of St. Cadoc's church.
The Old Swan Inn on the other side of the square is another Raglan house. There is a tradition that this pub was at one time a mint. This dates from the Civil War when the owner, Edward Maddocks, struck brass tokens for his workers. The Old Swan was was also a popular inn for American visitors before the 1939-45 war when St. Donats Castle was owned by William Randolph Hearst."(http://www.theoasthouse.net/llantwithistory.htm)
Some time before Evan Ragland was taken to Virginia, his distant relative William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, had become
Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household and, as such, "furthered the exploration and colonization of
America" so vigorously "that the Rappahannock river in Virginia was renamed
Pembroke in his honour" (1619).
Unfortunately, his family ties to William Herbert (whom Shakespeare dedicated his first folio) did not help Evan Ragland at all.
He never returned to Britain, perhaps because of the traumatic experience of his first and only voyage. But his son John, born about 1690 in
St. Peter's Parish, New Kent Co., Virginia, visited Britain and married in about
1715/16 Anne Beaufort. They returned to Virginia and had 8 children.
It is an interesting fact that Raglands/Herberts and Beauforts
married twice two centuries apart: if Anne Beaufort was a Somerset --
which is very likely -- John and Anne had been distant relatives.
John Ragland was a planter and land speculator
in Hanover Co., Virginia. He owned 1600 acres, recorded in the Registrar's Office
in Richmond, VA. His plantation home was Ripping Hall
in Hanover County on the Mechumps Creek, sometimes also called 'Rippon Hall' which burnt in the 1820s but was rebuilt.
Incidentally, the 19th century Lord Raglan to whom the eponymous sleeve is
ascribed, was Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, the youngest of the Duke of
Beaufort's 11 children. He was the Duke of Wellington's
military secretary during the Napoleonic wars, lost his right arm during the
battle of Waterloo, and was
Field Marshal and British Commander in chief
during the Crimean war. For his merits Queen Victoria revived the title of the
old manor by creating him Baron Raglan of Raglan in 1852. (His tailor invented the raglan sleeve to cover the baronet's missing right shoulder; it was quickly copied by other tailors and remained in fashion for many decades)
"Lord Raglan (Fitzroy Sommerset) Commandant en chef de l'Armée Anglaise en Orient.
Né le 30 septembre 1786. Lith. par Maurin. Lith. de Turgis à Paris. Paris V5 Turgis, éditeur
rue Serpente, 10, et à New York, Broadway 300"
It is an amusing fact that Thackeray, in Vanity Fair, had anticipated (by four years) the existence of a Lord Ragland (with a letter -d). Poetic prophecy? Or had the Queen read Vanity Fair when she made Fitzroy Somerset a baronet, and decided to turn poetry into reality?
By a curious twist it is quite possible that Thackeray met with Reuben Ragland. The writer visited Petersburg during his first and highly successful tour of the East Coast and spoke about the English humourists of the 18th century to the Petropolitans, as the educated Petersburgers jokingly called themselves.
"Thackeray lectured in Petersburg in 1853...probably in the Courthouse, as his secretary sat on a bench in the square below. In any case, the lecture attracted only a few persons, and the great novelist afterward sat in his hotel whiffing his cigar and philosophizing over this queer break in a hitherto continuous spell of successes." (Edward A. Wyatt IV: Along Petersburg's Streets. Historic Sites and Buildings. Richmond 1943) However, even if Reuben Ragland had been introduced to Thackeray, the fictitious Lord Ragland cannot have derived his name from Reuben Ragland because Vanity Fair was completed five years before Thackeray came to Petersburg.
The fictitious Lord Ragland continued his literary career when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made "Lord Robert Ragland, Senior Vice President of Grant Arms," a villain in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Murdered Munitions Magnate (1888). A young English nobleman of unknown rank, "Charles Ragland," even succeeded in seducing the invincible Scarlett O'Hara. (Alexandra Ripley: Scarlett, 1991)
A real Lord Raglan (the 3rd Lord Raglan, grandson of Fitzroy Somerset: soldier, linguist, anthropologist, and a writer of wide ranging interests) continued the literary saga by publishing, in 1933, Jocasta's Crime, a study of incest, and in 1936, an essay The Hero, creating a character/descent typology of outstanding men, still popular today.
The controversial Reuben Ragland, part I
Reuben Ragland came to Petersburg during the 1840s from Kentucky where his family had moved, coming from Buckingham County, Virginia. After serving in the 9th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, he started his remarkable business career in Petersburg as a livery stable owner; later he bought a tobacco factory on Halifax Street, and built another one on Washington Street.
"Soon after the campaign of 1862 opened on the Peninsula, I received my orders to secure a suitable building in Petersburg and open a hospital with four hundred beds, and to purchase a large amount of ice, as much as could be had, and to house it. I rented a large and comparatively new tobacco factory, known as Ragland's, which stood at the corner of Jones Street and West Washington, just opposite the residence of Hon. W. B. McIlwaine. It was a three-story building, commodious and well ventilated, and furnished regulation space for about four hundred beds. This I soon fitted up and put in commission. It could not have been better fitted for hospital purposes if it had been built with that view, and had never before seen any hospital civil or military, which surpassed it in its appointments." (Civil War Memories of John Claiborne)
Reuben Ragland's factory was called the 'Confederate States Hospital' and was used as such until the end of the war. The tobacco factories served as war hospitals for Confederate soldiers because during the siege the tobacco and cotton shipments from southside Virginia and North Carolina ceased and the warehouses stood empty.
The tobacco factory near Halifax Street which served as a hospital for North Carolina soldiers
One more Ragland brother, John Davis Ragland, was active in Petersburg
before and after the Civil War.
The brothers Reuben and John Davis built three houses in the downtown commercial section of
Sycamore Street. They were busy buying and selling real estate in Petersburg.In 1858, Reuben Ragland bought the Petersburg Stock Exchange building -- now the Siege Museum -- and in 1860, together with others, he established in this building the Bank of the City of Petersburg with a
capital of $1 million -- a large sum by the standards of the day --
and obtained the right to issue Petersburg bank notes which bear his signature.
The Bank of Petersburg aka The Siege Museum
In addition to the bank he established, in March 1863, together with other Petersburg citizens,
the Insurance and Savings Society of Petersburg with a capital of $200,000 with power to increase it
"to a sum not exceeding one million of dollars."
Reuben Ragland's Bank of Petersburg collapsed after the Civil War in April 1865. The City government was "actually bankrupt for a short time, since cash on hand was in" (now worthless) "Confederate money...To meet the fiscal emergency, on 1 May 1865 the City government negotiated a short-term loan from Reuben Ragland and William Cameron, the tobacconist." (William D. Henderson The Unredeemed City. Reconstruction in Petersburg, Virginia: 1865-1874UP of America, Washington DC 1977)
In July 1865, Reuben Ragland opened the First National Bank of Petersburg with himself as President. "Later he reorganized the First National Bank as the Commercial National Bank." (ibid.)
Reuben Ragland owned about two dozen properties in Petersburg, plus several tobacco farms in Prince George and Dinwiddie Counties, of which he sold 1,800 acres in 1871 and 1874. He was, like many other Virginian entrepreneurs of his day, probably also buying and selling slaves, although his brother John Davis is better known as a slave trader.
Building the most elegant southside residence
For the construction of his future private residence he bought
the southern corner lot at the
intersection of Sycamore and Marshall Street and moved two existing houses to
other lots. Marshall, a builder with a team from Baltimore experienced in
technology (the upper circumferential cornice of the main building ('cap'), for
instance, looks like a wooden structure but is cast in concrete) erected the
current mansion which the Richmond Dispatch, in 1857, called "the most elegant
Later, Reuben and his brother had two more mansion-size buildings erected on South Sycamore Street by Marshall, one of which later served as the Petersburg Club.
How the construction of Reuben's own residence proceeded is described in a letter, found in a private
Petersburg archive, dated August 21st, 1855:
"My dear nephew,
your kind and affectionate letter to Mary was duly received & read with much
pleasure by the whole household. Mary requested me to reply in her name which I
promised to do, agreeable to the request of your father. I visited his home yesterday & found things progressing tolerably well, the upper rooms are plastered & if Rushmore will... on his departure any thing may be in readiness by the 1st November, they are at present engaged in running? up the back porch & the painters are at work on the cornice, did your father intend that it should be painted this coloring white
& drab. I think not & he had better give instructions to have his wishes carried out
- I called again yesterday evening in order to make up for lost time -
Marshall owing to the fact that bricks had not arrived for Raglands house had
his force employed in cleaning down & ....the front which is a great improvement
if Rushmore does his duty - the home will be handome (sic).
Barnes has written word that the iron railing is ready - so much for your
future residence...." etc.(signature missing)
A late 1850s water color of the mansion -- curiously without its chimneys -- by
William Skinner Simpson sr. or jr. is kept in the Siege Museum. Actually, what does the word "mansion" mean? The Latin origin is "mansio" which means lodging, hotel. A Roman mansio was a large and elegant residence for the use of traveling guests. It had bedrooms, a restaurant and spaces for restoring health and beauty -- bathing, oiling, massage and make-up -- which the ancient Romans considered very important.
Reuben Ragland was a man of considerable taste and elegance. He must be credited with the simplicity and symmetry of the house's interiors which groups relatively few but large rooms around a central staircase. Tall French windows, pocket doors, 14 foot ceilings, a large front porch and
side balconies determine the character of the house. Unused small rooms and late 19th century additions provided ample space for installing the 11 current bathrooms. The continental style of the house's interiors may reflect the taste of Reuben Ragland's mother -- Rhoda Chastain -- who was from a French family and lived in the house until her death shortly after construction finished in 1858.
The exterior and interior decoration was kept simple in the tradition of the earlier Federal and Greek Revival styles, thus avoiding the excesses and gloominess that often characterize the later Victorian period.
"The three Ragland houses were among the most pretentious of the late ante-bellum period. The first, built in 1856 at the southeast corner of Sycamore and Marshall Streets...was described in the press as the most elegant residence in Southside Virginia. Here, in 1859, was given a banquet honoring Roger A. Pryor, recently elected to the House of Representatives and soon to become a leading secessionist. It is singular that Petersburg, strongly unionist in sentiment until secession appeared inevitable for Virginia, had been intimately associated with both Pryor and Edmund Ruffin, leading Secessionists who found the political climate of South Carolina more congenial." (Wyatt, op.cit.) Brigadier General Pryor later had the dubious honor of being appointed to represent the Confederate Army at the formal surrender of Petersburg.
Literature on 19th century architectural styles in Virginia likes to show the mansion as an example and illustration of the Italianate style.
On adjacent lots on Sycamore and Marshall Streets, more homes and outbuildings
in Italianate style were built by the Raglands who apparently
employed the same architect from Baltimore, whom elegant Marshall
Street owes its name.
Reuben Ragland built two more large and beautiful houses on Marshall Street for his sisters Nancy and Julia. (Incidentally, his three sisters Elizabeth, Nancy and Julia married their first cousins from the French family Chastain. Their and Reuben's mother had been Rhoda Chastain: Nancy married Silas Chastain; Julia married Berry Chastain; and Elizabeth married her aunt Magdalena Chastain's son Elijah Carter!)
The lavish lifestyle of the Raglands, probably Petersburg's richest citizens,
was demonstrated at the wedding of tobacco manufacturer James T. Tosh with Reuben's daughter (?) Ada which took place in the mansion. A huge banquet
table in the ballroom was so heavily laden with sterling silver and food that
it collapsed under the weight.
In 1870, Reuben Ragland and his second wife Lavinia lived in the mansion with four sons (Waverly, 21; John Davis, 19; Emmet, 17; and Reuben Fisher, 15). Also recorded as sharing the household were Reuben Ragland's son-in-law James Thomas Tosh (who died in an explosion in the Romaine's fireworks factory in Blandford), his wife Ida (Reuben's eldest daughter), and their children Charles and Evelin. There were three servants in the household recorded as "black", and one as "mulatto". (1870 Virginia Census) (Interestingly, another Ragland, Henry R. 35, lived in Petersburg in 1870 and was "black", as well as a Laura Ragland, 14, listed as "mulatto")
The controversial Reuben Ragland, part II
Reuben Ragland played an economically important role during the Civil War.
He kept part of his fortune (and presumably of his banks' capital) in form of a treasure of
silver ingots in the mansion, hidden under the
steps of the center hall staircase where the marks of later removal can
still be seen.
On Saturday, June 18th 1864, General Lee's retreating Army of Northern Virginia
entered Petersburg "tired, hot, sweaty, filthy dirty, ragged and hungry. The troops of the Army of Northern Virginia kept moving through Petersburg as Lee and Beauregard conferred, and throughout the day for that matter.
Many had empty canteens after their all night march of thirty miles or more. Some people came out with water buckets and tin cups. Reuben Ragland, a
rapidly rising businessman, gave out coffee (scarce and expensive), serving it from a wooden hogshead sitting on a wagon bed. People atop the Oron
Front building threw down plugs of tobacco to the troops below.
in the Civil War; War at the Door (The Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders Series, by William D. Henderson. Lynchburg, VA 1998)
Though Reuben Ragland did not personally serve during the war, Petersburg's 41st Virginia Infantry Regiment had a Ragland Guard company which fought in various battles, including that of the Crater. It was quite common during the war that well-off citizens financed their own military units. (Incidentally, many dozens of Raglands served as Confederate soldiers, indicating that the Raglands continued essentially to be a Southern family)
Local lore has it that Reuben Ragland lost his fortune and his mansion after the Civil War and disappeared. Reality, however, proves the contrary. Although Ragland had been a fervent supporter of the Confederate cause, he "did not serve in any capacity in the Confederate government, and after the war became a Conservative Republican, serving in the City Council under Mayors Walter C. Newberry and J. Pinckney Williamson. During Reconstruction, Ragland maintained ties with both Conservative and Radical Republicans, a course followed by more than one Petersburg businessman." (Henderson, op.cit.) Ragland tried to revive the shattered city economy by sending his collaborator Alexander Donnan of the First National Bank north "to secure capital to revive Petersburg's cotton mills." (ibid.)
On March 14-August 7, 1867, "Ragland Reuben & Co" filed a claim before the U.S. Court of Claims
for "return or reimbursement for ...property seized or destroyed during the Civil War."
The result is unknown.
In 1870, apparently in order to raise money for his new commercial ventures, Reuben Ragland and his wife Lavinia sold their mansion to Frederick R. Scott for $12,500, the equivalent of 147,000 of today's dollars. (Deed book 33, p.219) Also in 1870, Reuben Ragland's total estate value was estimated at $115,000, and his personal value at $90,000. (1870 Virginia Census)
"In March 1871, it was evident that Reuben Ragland, President of the First National Bank of Petersburg, F.R. Scott and local attorney John Lyon were aiding Northern investors in their effort to buy the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad." (ibid.)
In 1872, Ragland succeeded in obtaining from the City of Petersburg, the majority of Petersburg Rail Road Company stock "to pay City's debt to Reuben Ragland." (local newspapers) The City sold to him 4,755 railroad shares for $261,525. "Reuben Ragland secured control of the railroad by amassing enough capital to purchase the City of Petersburg's stock in the railroad. He convinced the Radical Republican Mayor, Franklin Wood, that the sale of the city's shares at this time would help pay off the large municipal debt." (Henderson, op.cit.) Ragland's campaign for the presidency of the railroad company even provoked a physical fight between his attorney, J.M. Donnan, and the editor of a local newspaper who opposed Ragland, during which Donnan was shot and "severely wounded in the leg."
In February 1872, Ragland was elected President of the Petersburg Rail Road Company. In the following years, he became one of "America's Rail Road Kings" as President of the Petersburg & Weldon Rail Road Company, the oldest and most important of the Petersburg railroads, for the stock interest of which the City of Petersburg is said to have demanded an "exorbitant price" (local newspapers). Ragland and others gave bond to the City Council for payments due in 1875.
Ragland planned the extension of the Petersburg & Weldon Rail Road to Washington and Baltimore and testified before a Senate Committee.
"Ragland was attempting to get a Free Railroad bill through the State Legislature in 1873 to unite all lines from Weldon, North Carolina, to Washington."(Henderson, op.cit.) The attempt failed because of opposition from other railroad tycoons. "The fights between railroad leaders for control of the lines passing through Petersburg certainly weakened each line financially." (ibid.)
Faced with a strike at the railroad company, Ragland hired convicts as laborers, resulting in growing public criticism of the "Ragland Administration." (local newspapers)
In 1875, the City of Petersburg showed interest in regaining control of the railroad company. With bond due, a "Railroad War" (local newspapers) resulted; Reuben Ragland resigned as President of the Company. Management was re-organized but the City, engaged in pitched legal battles against Ragland, had no luck in running the business, and in March 1876 the Petersburg Rail Road Company became insolvent. At the same time, a Richmond Court decided the Petersburg suits against Ragland in favor of the City.
This decision ended Reuben Ragland's short but splendid career as a railway tycoon.
He died in Petersburg in 1896 and is buried in Blandford Cemetery.