The Randolph Family

An 1871 map of the old servants’ property at Hampden-Sydney shows several families living there, including the Browns, Evanses, and Randolphs.  Payton Randolph was born around 1820, and had four daughters: Mary (b. 1856), Martha (b. 1860), Rhoda (b. 1865), and Ida (b. 1868). Census records show that Rhoda (Rhodie) Randolph, lived at Hampden-Sydney with seven children: Lewis (b. 1887), Monroe (b. 1888), Mary and Peyton (twins, b. 1892), Louise (b. 1894), Ida (b. 1897), and Rhodie (b. 1906). She worked as a “laundress for the college boys.” Rhoda also raised her niece, Edmonia Goldman, and her grandson (Mary’s son), Francis Randolph. Rhoda’s grandson lived his entire life at Hampden-Sydney.

Affectionately given the name “Francis [Frances] the Axeman,” because he carried his axe everywhere he went, Francis lived in a small house near the old servants’ cabins until he was moved to a nursing home in 1996.  Francis the Axeman was known for roaming campus carrying his axe, offering to chop firewood for campus residents.  Those who feared him at first glance quickly learned that he was a well-liked figure on campus.  The story is told that students attempted to test Francis’s intelligence by offering him a nickel or a dime when they saw him; they joked frequently because Francis always took the nickel.  Hampden-Sydney alum and Francis’s friend Joe Trotter asked Francis why he always took the nickel, to which he responded, “I pick the nickel, Mr. Trotter, because if I picked the dime, they’d quit.”

Francis is buried in the cemetery at Mercy Seat Baptist Church, just outside of Hampden-Sydney’s campus.

Edmonia Goldman’s daughter Frances also went on to work at the college, running the popular “Log Cabin” daycare program. She married Willie Scott, who also worked for Hampden-Sydney as a bell ringer, and the two had five children: Willie, Jr., Valarie, Delores, Gregory, and Lewis. Willie, Jr. worked for the college in the dining hall, and Delores worked in food service.

This incredible family has had members working at Hampden-Sydney for well over 100 years. Today, Frances lives in Mercy Seat and remains an active community member. Many of her children, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren still live in the area as well. What a legacy!

*Read more about Francis, from former H-SC resident Jack Jeffers

1 Comment

  • Tom Ward says:

    As an HSC grad (’91) and a former student of Chuck Bolton’s, I was very impressed by the work you have done here. I especially like this part on Francis the Axeman, who I remember well!
    Keep up the good work!
    Tom Ward

Leave a Comment