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Chapter 2

DINWIDDIE COUNTY ON THE MAP


IN 1752 Dinwiddie was cut from Prince George. The act creating the county reads as follows:

Be it therefore enacted, by the Lieutenant - Governor, Council, and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, That from and immediately after the first day of May next ensuing, the said county of Prince George be divided into two counties; that is to say: All that part thereof, lying on the upper side of the run which falls into Appomattox river, between the town of Blandford, and Bolling's point warehouses, to the outermost line of the glebe land, and by a south course to be run from the said outermost line of the glebe land, to Surry county, shall be one distinct county, and called and known by the name of Dinwiddie, and all that other part thereof, below the said run and course, shall be one other distinct county, and retain the name of Prince George.

The new county honored by its name the governor who reached Virginia November 20, 1751. John Jones and Isham Eppes were Dinwiddie's first delegates to the House of Burgesses. Mr. Jones served through the session of 1758, when he resigned to accept the position of tobacco inspector. Mr. Eppes was succeeded in 1756 by Robert Bolling. Governor Dinwiddie, a Scot and prompted perhaps by the well - known thrift of the clans, inaugurated a policy that was so immediately unpopular that his namesake joined with Henrico, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Albemarle, and Amelia in entering protest. For affixing his signature to a patent, he required a fee of one pistole - a former gold coin equivalent to approximately $4 of American money. When the petition from the six counties was presented in November 1753, the Houseof Burgesses prepared an address that was delivered to the governor. Diniddie's answer not being satisfactory, a stronger address was prepared, expressing "Concern to find by his Honour's Answer to the Address of the House, That the Demand of a Pistole, as a Fee for the Use of the Seal, is made by his Directions," and acquainting "his Honour, that it is the undoubted Right of the Burgesses, to inquire into the Grievances of the People, of which we take the above Demand to be one." Furthermore, the address clearly stated that "the Terms and Conditions upon which his Majesty, and his Royal Predecessors, have been pleased to grant their lands to the Inhabitants of this Colony" could not be "altered or infringed.'' The fee, moreover, was said to deter settlers from taking up land in the frontier counties. Because the governor was unyielding, the burgesses framed an address to the king and commissioned the attorney general, Peyton Randolph, to deliver it. Meanwhile, they passed a resolution declaring "That whoever shall hereafter pay a Pistole, as a fee to the Governor, for the use of the Seal to Patents for Lands, shall be deemed a Betrayer of the Rights and Privileges of the People." The descendants of men who had "thrust out" Governor Harvie in 1635 and had rebelled against Berkeley in 1676 were not afraid to defy a governor. As usual the battle was eventually won by the colonists.

 
 FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR


One initial mistake, however, was not enough wholly to mar an administration that was on the whole progressive. Under Governor Dinwiddie, Virginia was divided in 1752 into four military districts, each with its own officer. The troops of Dinwiddie County, which fell in the Southern District, were commanded at first by George Washington. There was reason indeed to strengthen defenses and military organizations: France - seeking to gain possession of the West and Northwest, which belonged to Virginia by the royal charter granted to the London Company in 1609 - was planning a line of forts to extend from the Great Lakes to the Spanish Floridas. Without fortifications on the Virginia frontiers, settlers in the western part of the colony were not safe, and additional lands would certainly not be patented. Having obtained from the Indians permission to erect a fort at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, Dinwiddie in 1753 appointed the 21 year - old George Washington to acquaint the French with his plans. The young man delivered the warning message that paved the way for the French and Indian War, in which he was later to achieve his first fame and the military preparation that enabled him later to command the American forces during the Revolution. By the death first of Colonel Joshua Fry and then of the British General, Edward Braddock, Washington succeeded to the command of two important expeditions.

Dinwiddie County undoubtedly furnished its share of volunteers to accompany Washington. One of these, whose name was Peter Brown, suffered a mishap quite as serious as a wound inflicted by an enemy but far less glamorous. He enlisted as a soldier in the expedition to the Ohio; but while he was boarding a transport at Blandford on his way to join other soldiers at Fredericksburg "the Fall of a Tree" broke "both his Legs and one of his Thighs." His captain sent him to the home of one Walter Boyd, "where he lay more than a year unable to stir without assistance." On April 9, 1756 Mr. Boyd, saying that he had been at great Expense and Trouble . . ." and had "not yet received any satisfaction for the same," petitioned the House of Burgesses for payment. Walter Boyd was allowed 612 for his year's work; but Peter Brown, though the committee of the House reported that he had been rendered "utterly incapable of getting a livelihood," was given only L6.

Peter Brown was only a humble soldier, overtaken by a misfortune that caused his name to survive in the records. Arthur Watts of Dinwiddie, however, served George Washington well during the Northwest campaign and later was made a member of the county's committee of safety.

Another man who had come to the county prior to the French and Indian War was Howell Briggs (1709 - 1775), made famous by his posterity. As a very young man he had come to the future Dinwiddie and, with his bride, had established his home at a place he named Wales in honor of the crown prince of England. Here was born his son, Gray Briggs, who in 1754 became one of the first burgesses from Sussex County.


STORM CLOUDS GATHER


And Dinwiddie, like all Virginia, needed strong men, for at the close of the French and Indian War, Revolution was already in the air and troublous times were ahead. In the very year of 1763 when England signed with France the Treaty of Paris, thus ending the conflict that was echoed in America, a young Virginian by the name of Patrick Henry argued in behalf of the people against the pivileged clergy of the Church of England and startled the world by declaring that the king was no longer the father of his people but a tyrant and had forfeited all right to his subjects' obedience. In 1765 Patrick Henry went still further in his denunciation of British policy. The Mother Country had passed the Stamp Act, which imposed a tax upon American commodities, and the young patriot had introduced into the House of Burgesses resolutions condemning the legislation. Henry, in proposing the resolutions, merely said again what the colonists had claimed from earliest days - that the General Assembly should "have the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony." Warming to his own oratory, however, he exclaimed, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third - " "Treason! Treason!" cried members of the House of Burgesses. Then Henry continued, " - and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!"

Sitting as delegates from Dinwiddie County were Robert Bolling and Leonard Claibome, who carried back to their constituents news of the stormy session. Both were veteran legislators, for Mr. Claiborne had been in the House since 1758 and Mr. Bolling from 1756 to 1758 and again since 1762. Robert Ruffin had represented the county from 1758 to 1762. He lived at Mayfield in Dinwiddie and was prominent here until 1769, when he moved to King William.

A year after Patrick Henry delivered his Caesar - Brutus speech, the political philosophy of the Revolution was summed up in a pamphlet, written by Richard Bland of Prince George County - close by Dinwiddie. The title of the paper was An Inquiry Into the Rights of the British Colonies. Bland was called by Jefferson "the wisest man south of the James River." Certainly his pamphlet had a profound effect upon the thinking of the colonists and also upon the future colonial policy of Great Britain and the territorial policy of America. The colonies, said Bland, were "coordinate kingdoms" and not subordinate to England. All the dominions of the Empire, however, were held together bv allegiance to the crown. More than 150 years later Great Britain incorporated Bland's ideas into the Statute of Westminster, which defined the British Empire as a "Commonwealth of Nations" composed of independent units, voluntarily united.

Bland's pamphlet was widely read. That citizens of Dinwiddie were alert to what was being written and said, not only in their neighboring county but also through the country, is proved by the resolutions they passed when in 1767 the Parliament of Great Britain suspended the legislature of New York. England had been sending Royal troops to the colonies and requiring that they be comfortably quartered. New York, resisting, was penalized, and little Dinwiddie championed her cause. On April 2, 1768 the House of Burgesses took under consideration a petition of "sundry Freeholders of the Counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, Dinwiddie, and Amelia, . . . setting forth, that the Act of Parliament lately passed, suspending the legislative Power of the Colony of New York? had such a fatal Tendency, and seemed destructive of the Liberty of a free People, that the Petitioners are impressed with the deepest sense of the Danger of losing their ancient Rights and Privileges, as Freemen, dependent on and Subjects to the Crown of Great Britain; and praying that the House will be pleased to take the said Grievance under their Consideration, and implore his Majesty, in the most humble manner, for the Repeal of the said Act of Parliament; and that such other Measures may be pursued as shall be agreeable to the House."

During the terrible days that followed, Dinwiddie joined with the "up country" in alignment against the privileged aristocracy of the Tidewater.

TOWNS OF DINWIDDIE

Though the county had now a number of wealthy landholders, it was not so old and not so rich as other counties to the east, south, and north. Plantations and farms covered most of the area. Three towns, clustered near the falls of the Appomattox, were the trading and shipping centers for a vast inland country. These were, of course, Petersburg, formally laid out in 1748; Blandford, established the same year; and Pocahontas, which received its recognition in 1752. The settlement of Ravenscroft had grown up on a triangle enclosed today by Halifax, Sycamore, and Shore Streets. The places were described just before the Revolution by John Ferdinand Dalziel Smyth, who traveled through Virginia between 1769 and 1772. Smyth crossed the Appomattox "by a lofty wooden bridge at the town of Pocahontas.'' He found an excellent tavern at Boyd's "in Blandford, the charming, pretty town of Blandford, in a beautiful D lain on the river brink, on a very pleasant and delightful spot.'' Of Petersburg, however, he spoke less kindly:

On the southside of the river is the town of Petersburg, situated under a hill, amongst rocks, and is extremely unhealthy.

. . . Petersburg is in the county of Dinwiddie, in the lower corner; and Blandford stands in the upper end of Prince George's county; but neither of them is a county - town.

The principal tobacco trade in America centers at Petersburg, or Bolling's Point, which it is generally called, from the name of a family to which the greater part of the town and adjoining lands belong.

It is something remarkable that no child born at the place ever grew up to maturity, excepting the present proprietor, Mr. Bolling, whose seat overlooks Petersburg and the adjacent country and river; which is occasioned by the insalubrity of the air, and the extreme unhealthiness of the situation.

There are also valuable mills in the vicinity of this place, erected by Mr. Bannister, a very public spirited man, who resides in an elegant house near Petersburg, which are carried on by means of a canal, cut from the neighboring falls of the Appomattox. . . .

I purchased two horses at Petersburg; for the best I gave fifteen pounds, and the worst cost me twenty - five pounds; and a negro boy, whose price was forty pounds.

I began to prepare for my journey southward, having had the honour to visit . . . Mr. Buchanan's, Mr. Bolling's, Mr. Bannister's, Mr. Eppes's, Mr. Bland's, etc.


During this period many people, apparently, did not pay their bills, for in 1769 the county felt the need of a new debtors' prison and advertised in the Virginia Gazette for bids to be entered on the third Monday of October. That debtors were not considered dangerous criminals is shown by the specifications, which said simply that the building was to be of wood.

REVOLUTIONARY CONVENTlONS


John Banister, whom Smyth met on his visit to Dinwiddie, represented the county in the five Revolutionary conventions that crystallized sentiment and governed Virginia from the time the House of Burgesses ceased to exist until the adoption of the state constitution in 1776 and the election of a governor and a new general assembly. At the first convention the other Dinwiddie delegate was Robert Bolling; at the second William Watkins; at the third and fourth John Ruffin; and at the fifth Bolling Starke. John Banister, who became increasingly prominent as the years of the Revolution progressed, was the son of the man of whom William Byrd had spoken in 1733 and the grandson of the minister-botanist who in 1690 had settled in the future Dinwiddie. Robert Bolling -  (1730 - 75) of Bollingbrook was serving with Banister in the House of Burgesses in 1775 when that body was dissolved by Governor Dunmore and would likely have attended all the conventions had he not died in 1775. Since he was only 45 at the time, perhaps Smyth - the traveling diarist - would have attributed his death to the unhealthfulness of Bollingbrook. Though his life was not long, it had been sufficiently eventful, for he not only had large business interests but was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1757 and, with the exception of four sessions, had served continuously until his death. He was a descendant of the Robert Bolling who married Jane Rolfe, Pocahontas's granddaughter, but his ancestress was Robert Bolling's second wife, Anne Stith. Like most men of his day, Robert Bolling of Bollingbrook was married twice. His second wife, Mary Marshall Tabb, will enter the story a bit later. William Watkins' roots were sunk deep in Virginia soil, for his immigrant ancestor was one James Watkins, who had landed at Jamestown in 1608. John Ruffin was the son of the Robert Ruffin of Mayfield, who had served as member of the House of Burgesses. Bolling Starke was the son of William Starke and Mary Bolling Starke. After the establishment of the Republic he served as member of the State Council and later as Auditor of Virginia.

The Revolutionary Conventions were epoch - making in the history of Virginia and of America. Boston, because of its well - known tea party at which tea was dumped into the water as a protest against the British tax, had been penalized by having its port closed. At the First Revolutionary Convention, which was called to order in Williamsburg on August 1, 1774, Virginia delegates voted to send supplies to Boston, suspended transatlantic debts and commerce, and elected delegates to a continental congress. Richard Bland of Prince George, close friend and neighbor of Dinwiddie folk, was one of the delegates to the Continental Congress. The others were Benjamin Harrison, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, and George Washington - all well known to Dinwiddie.

To attend the Second Virginia Convention, John Banister and William Watkins did not have far to travel, for the meeting was held - not in Williamsburg - but in a place thought to be safe. The little village of Richmond, quite near Petersburg, was chosen as the place for the convention. When the delegates gathered in St. John's Church, the air was charged. John Banister aligned himself with the liberal forces, of which Patrick Henry assumed leadership. Speaking in behalf of "embodying, arming and disciplining" Virginia militia, he made the speech that all people know. "Gentlemen may cry 'Peace! Peace!' " said the orator, "but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! . . . Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but, as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" When the resolutions were adopted, the war virtually began.


At the Third Virginia Convention John Banister and John Ruffin were in attendance from Dinwiddie. Provision was made for dividing Virginia into 16 military districts, for raising regular regiments, and for a committee of safety. The Fourth Convention, also attended by Banister and Ruffin, declared that Virginia was ready to protect itself "against every species of despotism." The Fifth Convention, at which Banister had Bolling Starke as his fellow delegate from Dinwiddie, declared Virginia a free and independent state and instructed Virginia delegates in Congress to propose separation from Great Britain. Whereupon, a state constitution was adopted. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence - based upon resolutions proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and phrased by Thomas Jefferson - was approved by the Continental Congress. The 13 colonies were indeed at war with the Mother Country.

WAR FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE

Dinwiddie County had already begun to prepare for the conflict. On June 10, 1775 the "Volunteer Company of Dinwiddie County" had advertised in the Virginia Gazette that it "would willingly engage with an expert ADJUTANT to instruct them in military Discipline." The county committee of correspondence was soon seriously about the business of running down people suspected of giving information to the enemy. One Thomas Irving, who lived in Petersburg and served as deputy postmaster, was carefully watched. On January 2, 1776 the Dinwiddie Committee of Correspondence addressed the following letter to Edmund Pendleton, President of the Virginia Convention:

Hon'ble Sir:

The committee of correspondence for Dinwiddie County beg leave to inform you that a certain Thomas Irving an inhabitant of this town is deputy post - master for Mr. Dixon that he is also an agent for Neil Jameison, who we understand is inimical to this country, and a partisan of Lord Dunmore's. The committee would not chuse to be officious in acting without authority from the Convention, but are clearly of opinion it is highly improper and may be of great prejudice to suffer the said Irving to continue post - master which may give him an opportunity by opening letters - - of conveying intelligence of the most dangerous nature to the welfare of this Colony.

We are fully persuaded that in no other part of America would an agent for an avowed enemy, at this time assisting Lord Dunmore in the most atrocious acts of violence and despotism be suffered to keep open store in the heart of that very country on which they are using every diabolical measure in their power to bring ruin and desolation. Tho' solicitous to serve our country ever ready to offer the right hand of friendship in the cause of Liberty, yet we are anxious not to exceed the line of our duty and therefore beg, Sir, you would be pleased to point it out to us.

We are

Your Honours most obed't and very humble Servants,

WILLIAM HARRISON
BOLLING STARKE
JOSEPH JONES

Though the fighting of the Revolution was for the first years in the North, far South, and Northwest, Virginia furnished provisions, leaders, and companies of soldiers and strove at the same time to strengthen home defenses. Prominent among the men who were engaged in Revolutionary activities were Lieutenant Colonel Francis Eppes, John Banister, Richard Taylor and Captain Edward Walker.

Because Richard Taylor has not appeared earlier in this story of Dinwiddie and because both he and his sons played no insignificant part in the affairs of the county, perhaps it is well to pause and identify this man who had much to do with supplying provisions for the soldiers of the Revolution. His home was Spring Garden, actually in Prince George County but very near Petersburg. His son by the same name, however, lived within the town. Another son, George Keith Taylor, has been called the father of penal reform in Virginia - but more of him later! The elder Richard Taylor was a merchant and the owner of a mill. Shortly before the Revolution, Roger Atkinson of Mansfield in Dinwiddie County wrote that "Dick Taylor is erecting and hath begun a fine Merc't mill . . . Dick will be rich and I think he deserves it."

So the Council resolved on June 7, 1776 that this successful merchant should "be employed to furnished (sic) the minutemen ordered to Rendezvous at Petersburg, with provisions while they remain at that place." These minutemen served as patrols along the James. Vessels came to the town for arms and provisions or to seek a place of safety.


The following orders from the Journals of the Council of the State of I Virginia reveal the strategic importance of the port on the Appomattox:


Fryday the 7th of June 1776.

Resolved that Mr. Richard Taylor be employed to furnished (sic) the minutemen ordered to Rendezvous at Petersburg, with provisions while they remain at that place.

Monday the l0th of June 1776.

Resolved that the Elizabeth City Committee be desired to engage proper persons to remove the several vessells now lying in Hampton River to some place of Security in Appomattox River, recommended to the care of the Committee for Dinwiddie County to be by them safely kept 'til the farther order of this Board. And the former Committee are requested to send to Burwells Ferry, by the said vessells four of the eighteen Pounders and Hampton; and if any of the Cannon there should burst in proving them to send such to Appomattox.

Tuesday the 11 th of June 1776.

Ordered that Mr. Richard Taylor do deliver to Captain James Cocke. out of the provisions at Petersburg, such as he may want for the use of his Cruiser.

Monday the 24th of June 1776.

Ordered that John Bannister do deliver, out of the Rifles which he contracted to furnish for the public use, to Captain Walker, of Dinwiddie twenty three, for the use of his Company. Ordered that a warrant issue to Captain ,Edward Walker of Dinwiddie for forty five pounds five shillings and five pence half penny, for advanced pay to four men, and for necessaries furnished the whole Company.

Tuesday the 25th of June 1776.

Resolved that the Committee for the County of Brunswick be allowed to dispose of the salt in that County belonging to the public among the inhabitants thereof, upon their replacing the like quantity in the hands of Mr. Richard Taylor at Petersburg.

Tuesday the 2d of July 1776.

Ordered that Mr Richard Taylor of Petersburg deliver to Colo. Russel, for the use of Thomas Madison, Contractor of Provisions to the Frontier Rangers, fifty Bushels of Salt.

Saturday the 13th July 1776.

Ordered that a Warrant issue to Robert Nicolson for the use of William Buchanan & Co for Fourteen pounds eight Shillings and Eleven pence - And for the use of Andrew Johnson & Co five pounds thirteen Shillings & eight pence for Sundry Goods, by them furnished Captain Edward Walkers Company of Militia from Dinwiddie.

Thursday August the 29th 1776.

A permit was issued to Captain John Marnex of the Boat Smallhope burthen 15 Tons, Virginia built, the property of Messrs Robertson & Oldham Merchants of Petenburg laden with Tobacco Bread and Flour as per manifest filed to proceed to the Island of Curracoa, or other port allowed of by Congress he having given Bond with Security for that. purpose which is ordered to be recorded.

Thursday [Tuesday] November 12th 1776.

Resolved that Thomas Shore Esquire be impowered and requir'd to take into his possession the Sloop Agatha now lying at Petersburg and that formerly belonged to Robert and John Shedden and John Syme and have the Sloop appraised advertised and sold for the benefit of the Public and return to this Board an Account of the said Sale.

Saturday August the 31st 1776.

Ordered that a Warrant issue to Captain Edward Pegram for the use of Captain Edward Walker for Thirty pounds and four pence 1/2 for pay of his Company of Volunteers and for their rations and Forage.

Though the theater of war continued to be far from Virginia, in Dinwiddie - as elsewhere in the state - lack of preparedness was a cause for increasing apprehension. The British might arrive at any moment; the people must be ready. Rightly, of course, Virginia soldiers had gone to states where they were needed; but the Old Dominion should be protected. Accordingly, on August 29, 1776 militia of Dinwiddie County, "who with laudable zeal for the public service" had enlisted in a company then stationed at Hampton, were discharged in order that they might return home to train companies there. Toward the end of September the Council took cognizance of "the present naked and defenceless situation of this Country occasioned by the late Removal of three Battalions of Continental Troops to New Jersey" and ordered the organization of volunteer companies of militia - two of these to be formed in Dinwiddie County.

TORIES ARE WATCHED


Meanwhile, the "defenceless situation" of the patriots was emboldening Tories to give no end of trouble. Dinwiddie, however, was keeping a watchful eye. John Banister was hard at work and informing the Governor. With a company of 70 men, in August 1776, he was attempting "to apprehend the Delinquents." He wailed, however, that he "never knew so great a change among men . . . since the Enemy have been posted at Petersburg." Because there were a few Tories giving trouble and a consequent "impropriety of political conduct," he inquired just how far he was permitted to go in dealing with the miscreants and added, "I have not seen any of the Laws."

But Dinwiddie had already handled one Richard Hanson, who had violated a day set apart by the Continental Congress for fasting. The committee of Dinwiddie County ordered the culprit to appear and faced him with his crime - the feasting of friends at a dinner prepared and served on the very day that the Congress had requested citizens to eat no food. Hanson, either penitent or pretending to be, apologized profusely. Then he and his guests inserted in the Virginia Gazette, at their own expense, a statement declaring "that at the time of his giving the invitation to his neighbors . . . he did not recollect that it was the day set apart for that purpose, until it was so late in the day that he apprehended his countermanding the invitations might be supposed to arise rather from a want of hospitality than a religious attention to the appointed solemnity." He professed great respect for the orders of the "Hon. Assembly," declared that, since his "first residence in this colony," he had been obedient to the laws; promised never by "word or deed" to "give cause for complaint in future;" and concluded - by expressing the hope "that the present contest may be ended with honor and advantage to the United Colonies of America."
 

SOLDIERS RECRUITED


So the curtain drops upon Richard Hanson but not upon the Revolution in Dinwiddie. By order of Council dated February 12, 1777, soldiers were recruited from Dinwiddie and neighboring counties to be enrolled in the Fifth Battalion. Virginia's rather violent interest in military activity had been brought about through the insistence of John Peter Muhlenburg, a clergyman who had become the most brilliant of Revolutionary generals. The Reverend Mr. Muhlenburg had first been a Lutheran, who practiced his ministerial profession in Shenandoah County. He went to London, however, in 1772 and was ordained a clergyman of the Church of England. His entrance into the army of the American patriots had been dramatically staged in January 1776, when on a Sunday morning he ascended his pulpit, dressed in the robes of a clergyman, and chose as a text, There is a time for every purpose . . . a time of war and a time of peace." His eloquence had risen to a great height when he cried out, "The time to fight has come." Then he threw aside his black robe and stood before his parishioners in the uniform of a Continental Colonel. Immediately he began to enroll the members of his church in the Eighth Virginia Regiment. From that time forward he urged preparedness. It was due to his insistence that Dinwiddie and her neighbors recruited soldiers for the Fifth Battalion.

Meanwhile, Washington was battling in the North, Nathanael Greene in the South, and George Rogers Clark of Virginia had gone to the Northwest in order to prevent England from annexing Virginia territory to Canada and in order to capture Hamilton - the governor of Canada. On all fronts Virginians were in the leadership or prominent in the ranks of fighting men. Peter Francisco, a giant of a fellow, who was landed in Prince George County very near Petersburg was covering himself and his state with a glory to which legend has added much. Daniel Morgan of course, the hero of the Battle of Saratoga.

That Virginians were fighting on several fronts outside of their state does not mean, however, that the citizens who remained at home sat in idleness, because Virginia knew full well that its time was to come. For Dinwiddie County that time came during 1781 - as it did in varying degrees for the rest of the state. All the while the county had been doing its part, as the records show full well. The Jenny, for instance, had been employed to carry provisions to the "head of the Elk." That was in 1779. Two years later John Banister was still diligently at his post. Captain Callender reported in 1781 that he "went to Petersburg," where he found three vessels had already been dispatched and "two others had been up that were sunk." The Governor wrote in following kindly fashion:


At Hood's I Engag'd a Large Vessel to go up and take a Load of Meal & flower Collo: Bannister was so kind as to interest himself in getting flower & meal Down from all Quarters. I find at this place one Vesel is gone Down with a Load & another will go off immediately with 200 barrels, so that I hope the Army will not be in want of bread.


The year 1781, however, saw the British reach Virginia in full force. Governor Thomas Jefferson, the man who had phrased the Declaration of Independence and who had been a leader in Revolutionary thinking, was a prize worth taking back to England. So it happened that General Cornwallis, having had one success in the Carolinas and some failures and determining to take the war into Virginia, advanced northward and dispatched Colonel Banastre Tarleton to capture Jefferson, then sitting with the General Assembly in Charlottesville. The raiding Tarleton cut his way through Dinwiddie County. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold had landed at Westover, just below Dinwiddie County, and had marched against Richmond - then only a village with small chance to resist an invading force. The Continentals around Petersburg, now in real danger, had long been lacking supplies of all kinds. The following sad letter that James Patillo, descendant of an early patentee in Dinwiddie, wrote to Colonel Davies reflects a plight which many other soldiers suffered :

July 6th

When a man is destitute of money, cloaths and friends; he is in my opinion an object of pity - whether this may be my case or not, I will leave it you to judge, when I tell you that I am realy destitute of the two former, and if I don't find the latter in you, I am absolutely lacking of the whole - My dear Sir, you was an eye witness to the hard duty I perform'd at Chesterfield & you may well know likewise that I have never drawn a farthing of pay since I have been in service: & when cloathing was to be had, I would get nothing but a shirt & pr. of shoes - The cloathing I brought from home is now worn out & I can scarce hide my nakedness, and as you are the only person that can befriend me in this case, I most humbly request you to give me an order for such necessarys, as you may think proper, as you are well acquainted with my circumstances, as also with what cloathing I have already drawn - if you are kind enough to give me an order please to send it by Capt. Darby, as I shall have an opportunity of seeing Capt. Peyton soon.

I am Dr. Colo., with all due respect

your very humble Servt.

WAR COMES TO DINWIDDIE

Though Tarleton failed to capture Thomas Jefferson, General Benedict Arnold, having reached Virginia, pillaged his way up the James and reached Petersburg. Despite the valiant resistance of General von Steuben and General Muhlenburg, he created much havoc and destroyed the stores upon which the American army depended. To make matters worse, Major General Phillips, another British officer, arrived with fresh troops and more provisions and established headquarters at Bollingbrook - the home of the late Robert Bolling and of his widow, who was a match for British or Continentals. Mrs. Bolling was imprisoned in the east wing of her house - and in a back room at that. In the yard were planted two sentries, who stood guard with crossed bayonets. Over and over the British - perhaps merely to annoy the Americans - set fire to the fences about Bollingbrook; and sometimes, the story goes, all around was in a light blaze."

General Phillips became ill at the Bolling home. Soon after Lafayette cannonaded the town, Phillips breathed his last, exclaiming in despair that the Americans would not even let him die in peace. General Arnold then assumed command of the British forces in Virginia but was relieved by General Cornwallis, who marched through Dinwiddie probably along the Stage and Halifax roads - and who reached Petersburg soon thereafter. So it happened that from Dinwiddie County the British set out for Yorktown and for the defeat that led to the permanent establishment of these United States of America. Thus it came about that the county figured prominently toward the end of this war and of another - more tragic - that resulted in cementing the Union. From the pen of John Banister there survives an account of those days in Petersburg that preceded the surrender at Yorktown. Thus he wrote to his friend, Mr. Bland:


Richmond, 16th May, 1781

My Dear Sir:

Notwithstanding I have written four letters to you, since I have had the pleasure of one from you, I cannot forbear to acquaint you of the late very distressing scenes that have taken place, at and near Petersburg. We were not, as I wrote you, visited by Arnold, in his first expedition into the country, but General Phillips, coming to Portsmouth with a reinforcement, enabled them to come up the river, with about 2,500, at a time when the militia were all discharged to about 1000. On Wednesday, the 24th, they approached Petersburg, by the way of my White - Hall plantation, where they halted in the heat of the day, and refreshed; then proceeded at about two o'clock, to advance in two columns - - one by the old road, leading to the church, the other along the lane and across the ravine at Miller's old mill; here they received a fire from Captain House of Bsk. county, at the head of forty militia, which was supposed to do execution, but only a Jauger was known by us to have been killed. Capt. House continued to retreat and fire, until he came to Taylor's mill, where he joined Col. Dick, at the head of 300 picked militia, who kept up a constant fire, and prevented their, taking the heights for upwards of half an hour, but attaining these, they, with cannon and three times the force, dislodged Dick from his ground, but, notwithstanding, he made a regular and steady retreat through Blandford, and formed behind a battalion posted at Bollingbrook warehouses, their right extending to Mrs. Bolling's gate, their left to the warehouse, their front the morass, opposite to the warehouse, terminating at Blandford bridge, which Dick had taken up as his infantry crossed. This was our last resistance. The enemy advanced in front, their infantry and German Riflemen; against these, our battalion kept up a steady and constant fire, until they were ordered to retreat, which was not until four pieces of cannon from the hill, between Dr. Black's and Mrs. Bolling's, flanked them effectually; they then retreated in order, along the causeway, by the river to Pocahontas bridge, which they took up, but ascending the hill to gain the Heights, by T. Shore's house, the enemy played their cannon with such skill, that they killed and wounded ten of our men.

All of the wounded are since dead. Our cannon was served well from Baker's but the enemy's extreme caution, has prevented our getting an account of their killed and wounded; the former though, it is clear, was not less than fourteen. The latter were sent down the river in their gun - boats. By the way, these gun - boats are of infinite use to the enemy, bringing them up in force to the shallowest landing. They carry from fifty to eighty men. After our militia had gained the hill, they retreated towards Chesterfield court house, where they halted the next day. This little affair shows plainly the militia will fight, and proves that if we had force to have occupied the Heights, they would not with that force have entered the town. In consequence of this action, I was obliged to abandon my house, leaving all to the mercy of the enemy. The enemy, the next day, ordered the inhabitants to move out the tobacco, or the warehouses should be consumed with it. By the exertions of the people, the tobacco was removed, and by the soldiery burnt, and the houses spared, except Cedar - Point, which was put in flames by a soldier without order. The day after  this business, the whole army crossed the Appomattox, and then after burning the bridge, proceeded to Osborne's, and having there destroyed the shipping to a great amount in value and number, shipped off the tobacco, they marched on to Manchester, where, on Richmond - hill, we remained with a superior force, (I mean to the detachment sent for this purpose) quiet spectators of the destruction of all the warehouses and tobacco, with several dwelling houses adjoining. . They marched that evening to Osborne's and on Tuesday, the 31st, they embarked at the Hundred, and sailed down the river, as far as Burwell's, where upon the arrival of an advice - boat, they all stood up the river, and arrived in the night of last Thursday, again in Petersburg, and I was again obliged to retreat, leaving them in possession of all my estate. They have not as yet burned my mills, but have taken all the bread and flour, to the amount of E800, or E100 - eleven of my best negroes the first time, and now I expect they will get the rest. Your man I sent to Amelia I believe he is yet safe. Your father received the following protection from General Phillips :

It is Major General Phillips' positive orders, that no part of the property of Col. Theodorick Bland, receive any injury from his Majesty's Troops.

              J. W. NOBLE,
Aid de Camp, Major G. Phillips.

April 25th, 1781

Major General Phillips is very happy to show this favor, on account of Col. Bland Junior's many civilities to the troops of convention, at Charlottesville.

The troops still continue at Petersburg, and expect Lord Cornwallis from Halifax, where the van of his army, under Tarleton, is arrived. It is very clear, without naval aid the enemy will be possessed of the lower country, as the people are tired of the war, and come to the field most reluctantly. This, added to our exhausted finances, and bad councils, with a powerful enemy in the country, are prognostics of no favorable complexion. In my last, I touched largely upon the conduct of Eastern friends, in this day of peril, compared with our conduct to them, in their day of trial. Greene is in South Carolina, but how employed, we are not informed. Before you receive this, it is probable the enemy will have penetrated to Fredericksburg, and have destroyed all the tobacco in their route. I beg to hear if we are to expect any assistance from the eastern confederates, or our allies. If you write, Geo. Nickolson, who is in Philadelphia, will give a ready conveyance to the letter. Jack, who is the only one of my family with me, joins in affectionate regards to Mrs. Bland, and Bob, with your sincere friend,  

J. Banister

Soon the Revolution was officially at an end. Then it was that Dinwiddie County settled down to the progress for which pioneer years had paved the way. On October 22, 1779 the "Freeholders Merchants and House Keepers of the Towns of Petersburg, Blandford, & Pocohuntus" had sent the following petition to the House of Delegates:

That they are persuaded it will be of Publick Benifit to Incorporate into One Borough, the aforesaid three Towns to be call'd Petersburg, together with some Lands adjoining belonging to the Estate of Colo Robert Bolling deceased John Tabb Esq., the Land known by the name of Ravenscrofts Town, & a small part of the Land adjoining belonging to the Heirs of Peter Jones deceased, which small part of land, they conceive will be no way injurious to the Heirs of the said Jones - allso all the Land not included in the Town of Petersburg which lies between the aforementioned Lands & Appomattox River known by the name of the "Subberbs," great part of which Lands is already improved.

Your petitioners are of opinion that the said Town will be very much improved in few years, principally oweing to the proprietors of the vacant Lands (never until now) chooseing to lay off the said  -  vacant Lands in Lotts & dispose of the said Lotts in fee simple.

The three towns and the one settlement were not incorporated, however, until 1784. Then they were "stiled the town of Petersburg." There are many vivid stories that have to do with the gay little town, but the most interesting of these were penned by travelers. Thomas Anburey, a British officer who was among the captives at the Battle of Saratoga and interned in Albemarle County, later toured Virginia and wrote  -  graphically of his travels. He went to Petersburg, of course; and this is what he said:

The town of Petersburgh is situated on the borders of the Apamatock River, and on the - opposite side are a few houses, which is a kind of suburb, independent of Petersburgh, called Pocahunta. The principal trade of Petersburgh arises from the exporting of tobacco, deposited in warehouses and magazines, . . .

At Petersburgh resides a Mrs. Bowling, who has considerable warehouses, besides a very extensive plantation and estates, whose son has married a very agreeable young lady, lineally descended from Pocahunta, . . .

The tobacco warehouses at Petersburgh, as well as at Richmond, are crowded with that commodity, as they cannot find purchasers, and the planters will not export it themselves, on account of our numerous privateers; some few merchants have ventured small sloops to the Bermuda islands, and have been successful; . . . and I cannot help making the same reflection, at seeing such places as Petersburgh and Richmond in the same state as that of Lancaster, all trade being at a stand in these places, where no doubt, before the war, it must have been very considerable, . . .

The Marquis de Chastellux also traveled in America just after the Revolution; and he, too, went to Petersburg - naturally enough. His comments, like those of everyone else who wandered through Dinwiddie in those days, had to do not only with the town and county but also with the remarkable Mrs. Bolling. Here, in part, is what the count had to say:

The town of Petersburgh is situated on the right bank of the Apamatock; there are some houses on the opposite shore, but this kind of suburb is a district independent of Petersburgh, and called Pocahunta. We passed the river in a ferry - boat, and were conducted to a little public - house about thirty steps from thence, which had an indifferent appearance; but, on entering, we found an apartment very neatly furnished; a tall woman, handsomely dressed, and of a oenteel figure, who gave the necessary orders for our reception, and a a young lady, equally tall, and very elegant, at work. . . . The mistress of the house, already twice a widow, was called Spencer, and her daughter, by her first husband, Miss Saunders. . . . We were very good friends with our charming landladies before we went to bed, and breakfasted with them the next morning. We were just going out to take a walk, when we received a visit from Mr. Victor . . . He told us he was come to pass a few days with Mrs. Bowling, one of the greatest landholders in Virginia, and proprietor of half the town of Petersburg. He added, that she . . . hoped we would come and dine with her, which invitation we accepted, and put ourselves under the guidance of Mr. Victor, who first took us to the ware -   -  houses or magazines of tobacco. These warehouses, of which there are numbers in Virginia, though, unfortunately, great part of them has been burned by the ~nglGh, are under the direction of public authority. There are inspectors nominated to prove the quality of the tobacco brought by the planters, and if found good, they give a receipt for the quantity. The tobacco may then be considered as sold, these authentic receipts circulating as ready money in the country. For example: suppose I have deposited twenty hogsheads of tobacco at Petersburg, I may go fifty leagues thence to Alexandria or Fredericksburg, and buy horses, clothes, or any other article, with these receipts, which circulate through a number of hands before they reach the merchant who purchases the tobacco for exportation. . . . You often hear the inhabitants say, "This watch cost me ten hogshead of tobacco; this horse fifteen hogshead; or, I have been offered twenty," &c.

The warehouses at Petersburg belong to Mrs. Bowling. They were spared by the English, either because the Generals Phillips and Arnold, who lodged with her, had some respect for her property, or because they wished to preserve the tobacco contained in them in expectation of selling it for their profit. Phillips died in Mrs. Bowling's house, by which event the supreme command devolved upon Arnold; and I heard it said, that Lord Cornwallis, on his arrival, found him at great variance with the navy, who pretended that the booty belonged to them. Lord Cornwallis terminated the dispute, by burning the tobacco; but not before Mrs. Bowling by her interest, had time sufficient to get it removed from her warehouses. She was lucky enough, also, to save her valuable property in the same town, consisting of a mill, which turns such a number of mill - stones, bolting machines, cribbles, &c. and, in so simple and easy a manner, that it produces about 800 6 a year sterling. . . . It is turned by the waters of the Apamatock, which are conveyed to it by a canal excavated in the rock. Having continued our walk in the town, where we saw a number of shops, many of which were well stocked, we thought it time to pay our respects to Mrs. Bowling, . . . Her house, or rather houses, for she has two on the same line resembling each other, which she proposes to join together, are situated on the summit of a considerable slope, which rises from the level of the town of Petersburg, and corresponds so exactly with the course of the river, that there is no doubt of its having formerly formed one of its banks. This slope, and the vast platform on which the house is built, are covered with grass, which affords excellent pasturage, and are also her property. It was formerly surrounded with rails, and she raised a number of fine horses there, but the English burned the fences, and carried away a great number of the horses. On our arrival we were saluted by Miss Bowling, a young lady of fifteen, possessing all the freshness of her age; she was followed by her mother, brother, and sister - in - law. The mother, a lady of fifty, has but little resemblance to her country - women; she is lively, active, and intelligent; knows perfectly well how to manage her immense fortune, and what is yet more rare, knows how to make good use of it. Her son and daughter - in - law I had already seen at Williamsburgh. The young gentleman appears mild and polite, but his wife, of only seventeen years of age, is a most interesting acquaintance, not only from her face and form, which are exquisitely delicate, and quite European, but from her being also descended from the Indian Princess, Pocahontas, daughter of King Powhatan, . . . We may presume that it is rather the disposition of that amiable American woman, than her exterior beauty, which Mrs. Bowling inherits. My visit to Mrs. Bowling and her family, having convinced me, that I should pass part of the day with them agreeably, I continued my walk, with a promise of returning at two o'clock. Mr. Victor conducted me to the camp formerly occupied by the enemy, and testified his regret that I could not take a nearer view of Mr. Banister's handsome country - house, which was in sight; there being no other obstacle however than the distance, about a mile and a half, and the noonday heat, we determined that this would not stop us; and walking slowly, we reached, without fatigue, this house, which is really worth seeing. It is decorated rather in the Italian, than the English or American style, having three porticos at the three principal entries, each of them supported by four columns. It was then occupied by an inhabitant of Carolina, called Nelson. Next day we were obliged to quit this good house and agreeable company; but before I left Petersburgh, I observed that it was already a flourishing town, and must become more so every day, from its favorable situation with respect to commerce. First, because it is placed immediately below the Falls, or Rapids of the Apamatock and the river can here float vessels of fifty br sixty tons - burthen. Secondly, because the productions of the southern part of Virginia have no other outlet, and those even of North Carolina are gradually taking this way, the navigation of the Roanoke and Albemarle Sound being by no means so commodious as that of the Apamatock and James river. But these advantages are unfortunately balanced by the insalubrity of the climate; for I have been assured, that of all the inhabitants of the three little burghs of Pocahunta, of Blandford and Petersburgh, which may be considered as forming one  -  town, not two persons are to be found who are natives of the country. Commerce and navigation, notwithstanding, produce a concourse of strangers. The situation, besides, is agreeable and the climate may probably be rendered more salubrious by draining some morasses in the neighbourhood.

The Mrs. Bolling whose house was occupied by the British and who elicited much comment from the travelers through Dinwiddie was none other than the widow of Robert Bolling, who had represented the county in the House of Burgesses prior to his death in 1775. She was Mary Agarshall Tabb, as it will be recalled. Indeed she must have been endowed with business ability of the sort few modern women possess. The lass of 17 who was the bride of her son Robert was - as both Anburey and Chastellux pointed out - a descendant of Pocahontas. The little girl's father was Robert Bolling of Chellowe, a most learned gentleman,  who wrote in French an account of the Bolling family. His grandfather, moreover, was the John Bolling who was born at the death of his mother, Jane Rolfe, the daughter of Pocahontas' son Thomas. Robert Bolling's young wife, in whose veins flowed the blood of brave and kindly Powhatan, died in 1787, leaving one daughter - Mary Burton Augusta Bolling, who married John M. Banister. Robert Bolling - as was not unusual in those days when women died young - had three other wives. Of Robert Buckner Bolling - the son of Robert Bolling and the fourth wife, Anne Dade Stith - we shall hear when we reach the South's Fiery Epoch, which ushered in the War between the States.

At Bollingbrook was enacted a drama that immediately preceded American Independence. Dinwiddie was soon to be solving new problems.

 

 

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