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York County Civil War hero grandmom of Gore Vidal

In my York Sunday News column, I wrote about how Mary Jane Rewalt stared down a room full of Confederate officers who were testing her loyalty.

That occurred in her Wrightsville home during the rebel invasion of 1863, and, as I outlined in my column, that exchange represented one of many dangerous encounters between rebel troops and their York County captives.

But on a national level, she is better known as author Gore Vidal’s grandmother.

June Lloyd, archivist emeritus of the York County Heritage Trust, links the heroic Mrs. Rewalt with Gore Vidal:

If an Internet search is any indication, Mary Jane Magee Rewalt’s primary claim to fame is being the grandmother of prolific, and sometime controversial, writer Gore Vidal. According to several Web sites, Vidal’s father, Eugene Luther Vidal was born in 1895 in Madison, South Dakota to Felix Luther Vidal and Margaret Ann Rewalt (also known as Annie). She was the child listed in the Wrightsville 1880 census as Maggie A., age 10, daughter of Luther and Mary Jane Rewalt. Gore Vidal’s mother was Nina S. Gore, reportedly a distant cousin of Al Gore. And who says all roads don’t eventually lead back to York County?

In her York Sunday News column for April 29, June will provide more details about the woman who stood up for her country.

Two Union batteries fight on Bunker Hill, overlooking the main streets of Hanover, on June 30, 1863. The Union cannons dueled with Confederate artillery units in high positions across town. The booming cannons and screeching projectiles terrorized residents hunkered in homes. The story of how the Confederate invasion of York County in 1863 enmeshed women and children has been too little told. (Drawing courtesy, York County Heritage Trust.)