Mary Pettigrew

(Tyrrell County)

Featured Character – A Soldier's Life

Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Virginia

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

Born on March 12, 1826, Mary Blount Pettigrew’s mother died giving birth to her sister, Ann Blount Pettigrew.  Their father, Ebenezer Pettigrew, sent the sisters to live with their maternal aunt in New Bern.  They attended several ladies’ schools in both New Bern and Raleigh.  Befitting their status as future belles of the southern aristocracy, the sisters studied piano and French.  Along with her cousin Mary Bryan, Mary Blount Pettigrew left North Carolina in 1841 to attend Miss Breschard’s, a noted ladies’ school in Washington, DC.  After graduating, Mary Blount Pettigrew became hostess for her widowed father at Magnolia, his plantation along the banks of Lake Phelps.  During the antebellum period, Mary Blount Pettigrew frequently visited her Petigru relatives in South Carolina.  Following traditional custom, she even accompanied her brother Charles Pettigrew and her cousin Carey Petigru on their honeymoon in Europe. 

Upon the outbreak of war, Mary Blount Pettigrew sought refuge at her cousin’s plantation in upcountry South Carolina.  In March 1864, she became a matron at Chimborazo military hospital in Richmond.  After the war, Mary Blount Pettigrew lived with her heavily indebted brother Charles Pettigrew at Bonarva Plantation.  Together with her sister-in-law, she opened a Sunday school for the freed plantation slaves, but complained about their “hard to get on with” attitude.  In June 1868, Mary Blount Pettigrew married Peter Fielding Browne, an older doctor she met in Richmond during the war.  Although he purchased Bonarva from Charles Pettigrew, Browne preferred to live on his Virginian estate, which upset his new wife.  Forced to sell Bonarva in 1880 after her husband’s death, Mary Browne moved into a small house with her sister-in-law and three nieces in Plymouth.  Her fortunes destroyed by war and emancipation, Mary Blount Pettigrew Browne died almost penniless in 1887.