As a kid we moved around a lot, mostly in Rockingham County, Virginia. My dad would tell us it was because of the Gypsy in our blood. He said that we were related to the Gypsy Queen who was buried with her horse in the Ottobine cemetery. I remember imagining this woman who was a Queen in all her fine clothing and jewels and thinking how amazing it was that I was related to her. As far as I knew there weren’t any other royal families from the Shenandoah Valley, and certainly none of the other kids at my school were from royal families. It made me feel special.
When I began researching my family’s history, I decided to find out if the family lore about the Gypsy Queen was true. I asked my dad if he remembered any more details about her and he said he thought we were related to her through the McCall side of the family. Martha Jane McCall was his maternal grandmother, my great grandmother.
My siblings remember mostly the same story, just that we were related to a Gypsy Queen or princess who was buried with her horse. My mother remembered being told it was one of the Landes brothers (my father’s maternal uncles) who married the Gypsy Queen.
Unravelling the Story
A newspaper article revealed there was indeed a Gypsy Queen who was buried in the Ottobine United Church of the Brethren Cemetery (now the United Methodist Church) in Rockingham County, Virginia. Her name was Dilly Stanley and she led a band of 60 members. They had been camped in Clover Hill for six weeks due to Dilly being ill from gall stones.
Dilly immigrated from Ireland at the age of 12 with her parents Michael and Eliza Stanley. She was married to three men, William Broadway, a man by the last name of Cooper and a man who went by the name, Gypsy Kelley. Gypsy Kelley was with her when she died.
There is no evidence she was ever married to a McCall or Landes.
She died the morning of 26 May 1910. After her death, all of her belongings were burned including her tent and wagon. Her pet horse was said to be chloroformed, though it is not clear whether or not it was buried with her.
Dilly's Tombstone on the Find a Grave Memorial site. The United Methodist Church in Ottobine, VA.
submitted by Raderfarm submitted by Jetta Earhart
Martha Jane McCall (my great grandmother) had three brothers, William Perry McCall Jr, George Christian McCall and Abraham Lincoln McCall. Abraham died when he was 21 never married. William married a woman named Martha Robinson.
George married Stella Harrison who was said to have been a Gypsy. But he was never married to Dilly Stanley. There is a tree on Ancestry that claims Stella Harrison was a Gypsy princess, but there is no supporting evidence listed, which would be hard to come by in the first place.
Dilly Stanley would have been in her late 60s by the time any Landes brothers would have been of marrying age making it highly unlikely. Just to be thorough, a quick look into the marriage records for the Landes’ revealed that none of them had ever married Dilly Kelly or any of her daughters.
There was a Gypsy Queen who was buried in Ottobine. However, it is unclear if her horse was buried with her. Unfortunately, I am not related to her.
It is possible that Stella Harrison, a known Gypsy woman who married George McCall, my great uncle, was a Gypsy Princess. The search continues for more information on Stella.
If you’re curious about the stories you’ve been told about your family history and would like to learn more, take a look at the Family Lore research package and contact me.