Mary OMelia is seen in an undated photo provided by the American Civil War Museum. OMelia served at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va.,as housekeeper for Jefferson Davis and his first lady, Varina Davis, and was a confidante of the first lady.The American Civil War Museum
RICHMOND, Va. – Mary O'Melia left Ireland for America as a young widow with three children before she was hired as housekeeper at the White House of the Confederacy. An intimate witness to history, she also has been much of a mystery.
That was until this year, when a woman with a distinctive Irish lilt to her voice called The American Civil War Museum. The housekeeper, the woman said, was related to her late husband, and she had in her possession a necklace that Confederate first lady Varina Davis gave O'Melia.
But there was more.
"What really took my breath away is she said she had a photograph of Mary," said Cathy Wright, curator at the Civil War Museum, formerly the Museum of the Confederacy.
"Considering that it's been almost 150 years since she left the White House that anyone has been able to look at her face is just remarkable," Wright said in an interview.