Chiswell Langhorne

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Chiswell Dabney Langhorne
Chiswell Langhorne.jpg
Nationality United States
Occupation Auctioneer, Industrialist
Spouse(s) Nancy Witcher Keene
Parents John Scarsbrook Langhorne
Sarah Elizabeth Dabney

Colonel Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (November 4, 1843 – February 14, 1919) was an American railroad industrialist. He was the father of Nancy Witcher Langhorne and the maternal grandfather of both Joyce Grenfell and Michael Langhorne Astor.[1]

Langhorne was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the eldest son of John Scarsbrook Langhorne (who inherited Langhorne Mills in Lynchburg along with the bulk of his father's property) and Sarah Elizabeth Dabney (whose family owned the "Edgemont" plantation).[2] The family were wealthy slave-owners before the American Civil War. The Confederate General Jeb Stuart was a relative [1].

The Langhorne family lived in greatly reduced circumstances after the war. Chiswell, however, made a new fortune working first in the tobacco auctioneering business and then in railroads.

As a youth he entered the Confederate Army and served with distinction during the war. Soon after the Civil War he went to Danville, Virginia and resided at Langhorne House. The sale of loose-leaf tobacco by auction on a warehouse floor originated in Danville just before the Civil War. The practice, which was called the "Danville System", was quickly and widely adopted. It is said that Langhorne originated the auctioneer's fast-talking "chant" which proved very effective at evoking a heightened sense of bidding and was also copied everywhere.

In 1864, while the civil war was still in progress, Chiswell Langhorne married sixteen-year-old Nancy Witcher Keene. In 1885, by which time he had at least six surviving children, he moved his family to Richmond. Through the influence of his wartime commanding officer he landed a construction contract with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. This was the start of his railroad fortune.

By 1892 he had installed his family at Mirador, a colonnaded house in Albemarle County, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

He died in Richmond following an illness of several weeks.


He and Nancy Witcher Keene (1848—1903) had 11 children:

  • Elizabeth "Lizzie" Dabney (1867—1914); married to Thomas Moncure Perkins [daugh Nancy Perkins Lancaster, noted interior decorator]
  • Elisha Keene (1869—1916); married to Sadie Reynolds
  • Irene (1873—1956); married to Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl
  • Harry (1874—1907; married to Genevieve Peyton
  • Nancy Witcher ("Nannie" to immediate family) Nancy (1879—1964); married to Waldorf Astor, eldest son of William Waldorf Astor and Mary Dahlgren Paul
  • Phyllis (1880—1937); married to Robert Brand, 1st Baron Brand
  • William "Buck" Henry (1886–1938); Married Edith Forsyth
  • Nora (1889—1955); mother of [Joyce Irene Phipps Grenfell, Actress/Comedian]; mother of [Thomas (Tommy) Wilton Phipps, scriptwriter]
  • 3 children (John, Mary, and Chiswell Jr.) all died in infancy between 1870-1872.[2]


  1. ^ James Fox (2000). Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia. ISBN 0-684-80812-9. 
  2. ^ Speight, John F. "Genealogy Data Page 850". Retrieved 2009. 

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