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Rose-Tunstall Family Papers

Collection ID: MG 23

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of family papers, including the business records and personal correspondence of four Norfolk families in the Rose-Tunstall lineage. The bulk of the collection includes material related to Commander Robert M. Rose. While most of the papers consists of original documents, copies of documents are found throughout the collection.


  • circa 1809-1947, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 11/18/1977



0.40 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Born in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Robert M. Rose was the son of a Norfolk, Virginia family. Apparently there was something of the sea tradition in the Rose family. There was an uncle, Alexander F. Rose who captained his own ship and under whom, Robert's brother Alexander began his career in 1830. Much earlier than this, Robert Rose enlisted in the U.S. Navy as midshipman on board the USS Independence in 1809. While serving on the Independence, Rose attained the rank of lieutenant and continued in this capacity in subsequent assignments on the USS Columbus and the USS Terrier. By 1815 Rose had married his wife Mary, a woman also from the Norfolk area. As a naval officer, Rose of course was away from his family for many months out of the year. Indeed his son Robert W. Rose was born in the summer of 1823 while he was stationed in Key West with the Terrier. The anxiety caused by these extended periods of separation runs throughout Mary's letters. Aside from maintaining several rental properties belonging to the family, Mary attended to the duties of her own household. Periodic outbreaks in the community of diseases such as yellow fever were always a source of concern for a mother with a young child. There is also some evidence that Robert financially supported his brother Alexander while he was in school. This went contrary to Mary's way of thinking. She felt that Alexander was given too much to study and too little honest work. Sometime in 1830, Mary and their son Robert began living in Portsmouth near Fort Nelson with the family of Lieutenant Joseph Smoot. In April of that same year, Rose had been promoted to Commander. References in Mary's letters dated immediately after this time indicate that Rose had visited with his family prior to taking command of the USS Erie. Within three months of his new command, Rose contracted yellow fever and died at a West India Station on August 27, 1830. The last letter in the collection from Mary was written the day before her husband's death and is especially poignant as it contains the welcome news of their son's recovery from the same malady.

Note written by Susan E. Yates

Language of Materials



Business records and personal correspondence of four Norfolk families. Focal point is the papers of Commander Robert M. Rose.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into four series: Series I: Commander Robert M. Rose; Series II: Dr. Robert W. Rose; Series III: Dr. Robert B. Tunstall; and Series IV: Charles and Jane B.P. Tunstall.

Source of Acquisition

Mrs. Caroline Heath Tunstall

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A77-86

Related Materials

Other papers related to Robert M. Rose were given to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland in 1950.

A Guide to the Rose-Tunstall Family Papers
Susan E. Yates
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US