OLD HOMES OF DINWIDDIE
THE area known as Dinwiddie County—bordered as it is by Amelia, Chesterfield, Prince George, Sussex, Brunswick, and Nottoway—is traversed by rivers, creeks, and runs and comprises terrain varied in soil and topography. From the old Halifax Road to the Nottoway line the land rises gently, flat fertile fields merging into rolling country prophetic of the plateau and mountains to the westward.
There are no great mansions in Dinwiddie such as those in counties through which the tidal rivers flow. Scattered everywhere, however, are old homes that reflect the comfort and happy living of a more leisurely day. Many of the country houses evidence having grown in size as families increased and became more prosperous. A cottage came first; then a larger house was added; then a kitchen, perhaps, and a connecting passageway. Just this happened on the Eastern Shore, though the architecture there differs somewhat from that in Dinwiddie. In Accomac and Northampton the pleasant houses of the past are described as "big house, little house, colonnade, and kitchen" and lack the balance and symmetry achieved in Dinwiddie, where the "simple little house" lent itself admirably to a plan that involved its becoming a matching wing of the major structure of three, five—and sometimes seven—dependencies. Many an old-fashioned garden has survived the ravages of war, reconstruction, and poverty; while many another, with its unkempt borders and flowering bushes, long neglected, serves only as a reminder of past glory.
The good roads that traverse the county make these homes readily accessible to the visitor. A random trip along these principal arteries, with excursions into excellent byways, brings the traveler to the homes of men and women whose stories have been told in part as the development of Dinwiddie has been recorded. Unfortunately, because early county records have been destroyed, the dates many of the houses were built can not be definitely established.
U. S. Highway 460 enters Dinwiddie at the western limit of Petersburg. Wide and smooth-paved and curving only in great loops, it describes a course slightly southwesterly as it progresses toward Nottoway. First are the places that can best be reached by this highway and State 38, with which it connects.
County 601 connects with U. S. 460 one mile from Petersburg. Right on this road, half a mile from the junction and just south of the Five Forks battlefield, is CEDAR LANE. This was the home of James Boisseau (1822-72), whose career was varied and distinguished. The Boisseaus were French. Of Hugenot persuasion, they left France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 deprived them of religious freedom. The first of the family in Virginia was the Reverend James Boisseau, minister of the Church of England. James Boisseau of Cedar Lane was the son of another James who died about 1824. Because his mother died three years later, the lad was reared by his aunt, Miss Sallie Boisseau of Flat Rock. After his graduation at the College of William and Mary in 1842, he returned to Dinwiddie to teach school and to buy Cedar Lane. In 1851 he was graduated in law at the University of Virginia and the next year became commonwealth's attorney. He was commissioner of the revenue from 1847 to 1851, member of the House of Delegates from 1857 to 1859, presiding justice in 1860, and in 1870 he became Dinwiddie's first county judge. As a member of the Secession Convention in 1861 and as a Confederate soldier, he served his county before and during the War between the States. In his youth he earned the soubriquet "Jimmie Straight" because of his erect figure, and so he was called until the end of his days. James Boisseau was 38 when he married Martha Elizabeth Cousins, daughter of Captain William Henry Cousins, distinguished veteran of the War of 1812. Four of his children reached maturity—Sterling, Ada Cousins, Emma Robinson, and Preston. Judge Boisseau is buried at Cedar Lane.
On County 601 about a mile from Cedar Lane is SYSONBY; and half a mile farther, MANSFIELD. Both these estates are part of the property acquired by Roger Atkinson. There were two other Atkinson plantations—OLIVE HILL, now falling into ruin, and THE FOREST, which was burned. The main house at Sysonby is a solidly comfortable one-story structure above an ample basement. A front portico leads into a center hall, flanked by two rooms on each side. Mansfield is considerably more pretentious than Sysonby. To its original story-and-a-half has been added a large ell, extending rearward. The older portion, however, is built along lines similar to those of Sysonby. Besides the usual plantation outhouses, there are offices and cottages that were recently built.
Though Roger Atkinson has been made famous by his posterity, he was a considerable person in his own right. Born in White Haven, Cumberland, England, June 25, 1725 to Roger and Jane Benson Atkinson, he came to Virginia about the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1752, along with John and Robert Bolling, Richard Eppes, Richard Kennon, Frederick Jones, and William Pride, Roger Atkinson was named trustee for the building of a bridge over the Appomattox River from Bolling's Point in Prince George County. The next year he married Anne, the daughter of John Pleasants. His first patent of land in Dinwiddie County - 99 acres on Reedy Creek — was not recorded until 1757. Three years later he added to his holdings 1,190 acres on the south side of the Appomattox River, running to Reedy Creek; and in 1765, 137 acres on both sides of Mahipponock Creek. As a farmer and merchant he prospered considerably, so that by 1782—two years before his death — a list of tithables shows him to have been a man of means. As a vestryman of Bath Parish, as a writer of distinction, and as the ancestor of notable people of Dinwiddie, he contributed generously to the county of his adoption.
To the left of U. S. 460, five miles from Petersburg and a quarter of a mile from the highway stands WALES, a long rambling house of great charm and historic interest. The land was patented by Captain Howell Briggs (1709-75), son of Henry Briggs of Sussex County, who settled in that part of Prince George County later to become Dinwiddie. It seems he acquired his land from Walter Jones. At any rate, he built Wales; and there he brought his bride, Lucy Gray, daughter of William Gray of Surry; and there lived his distinguished son, Gray Briggs, who became one of Sussex County's first representatives in the House of Burgesses and who retired to Wales, where he died in 1807. Captain Briggs died in 1775. It was the first owner, Walter Jones, a native of Wales, who gave the estate its name.
Wales is composed of five sections. The small west wing, now matched by another on the east and connected with the larger central portion, appears to be the oldest. All units are of story-and-a-half construction, fronted by small porches. The house contains eleven rooms and a hall. Features of the interior are extensive paneling and hand-carved mantels.
About seven and one-fourth miles from Petersburg State 38 joins U. S. 460 and curves in a northwesterly direction towards Amelia County. Five miles from U. S. 460 on State 38 is a junction with County 611. If the traveler turns right on this road and goes about a mile, he will find on his left DENMARK, another estate that takes its name from a foreign country. The house, built before the middle of the nineteenth century, is well preserved despite its hundred years. A two-story frame rectangle it is, with a high brick basement, a one-story wing, and a small front porch.
Twenty-seven miles from Petersburg U. S. 460 meets County 625. Left from the county road, about a half mile from the intersection with the main highway, stands HEBRON CHURCH, established in 1856 by staunch Presbyterians then getting a foothold in a county that was largely Methodist and Baptist. Scottish folk roundabout—the Aliens in particular, for whom County 625 was locally named—were influential in bringing to Dinwiddie the teachings of the "Kirk." The Mother Church of Presbyterianism in this area was Namozine in Amelia County close by.
MOUNT LEVEL, near Hebron Church, is one of the Allen estates. Built of undressed lumber and with hand wrought nails, the house is one of the oldest in this section of the county. Here, prior to the coming of the Norfolk and Western Railway, was a stage stop, where horses were changed and travelers were refreshed at a tavern known as the Halfway House. In those days Mount Level was owned by the Newbills, whose family graveyard is still reserved. General Nathaniel P. Newbill, incensed because the railway disturbed his peace, sold his estate to William H. Beasley of Petersburg and moved to Texas—where, no doubt, railways, overtook him. The Beasleys added a wing to the left of the house, converted the porch into a veranda, removed the original aspen grove, and planted Pawlonia trees, lindens, elms, maples, catalpas, willow oaks, and many shrubs. In 1870 Charles S. Stringfellow bought Mount Level. In 1876 Doctor Peter Woodward Allen, son of Doctor Allen of Oak Forest, became the owner.
Two and a half miles farther on County 625 is OAK FOREST, built in 1847 by Doctor Edward Henry Allen, and still in the possession of the Allen family. Here Doctor Allen reared a family of seven children and thence, in the good old saddlebag days, rode through Dinwiddie, Nottoway, and Amelia counties to bring health and comfort to the sick and aged. In the late ante-bellum days, Oak Forest accommodated a few "young lady" boarders, who attended here a school bearing the pretty name "Oak Forest Seminary."
U. S. 1 branches from U. S. 460 about a mile from the Petersburg city limits and, running in a southwesterly direction, bisects the county. Seven miles from Petersburg is a junction with County 613. Turning right here and traveling one and seven-tenths miles to County 631, turning right again and driving for about a mile, the visitor finds on his right SWEDEN, another estate with an alien name. Only the chimney and stone foundations of the house and a graveyard surrounded by a crumbling wall remain to mark the plantation that once belonged to Peterson Goodwyn, about whom we have heard much in the story of Dinwiddie. In a beautiful vault, standing lonely in the neglected graveyard, are buried Thomas Whitworth (1794-1874) and his wife, the daughter of Colonel Peterson Goodwyn, Eliza H. Peterson Goodwyn, who died in 1847; and their infant grandchildren, Thomas W. Willson, who died in 1861, and Mary A. Willson, who died in 1876. Beneath Thomas Whitworth's name this verse is inscribed :
Beneath the name of Mrs. Whitworth are inscribed these words :
Other tombstones in the little burying ground are inscribed to: Amey Eppes Allen, daughter of Colonel Peterson Goodwyn, who died on February 1, 1829; Daniel E. Allen, who died on October 24, 1847; Eliza Ann Eppes Allen Archer, who died on April 22, 1851; Peterson Goodwyn, son of Colonel Peterson Goodwyn, who died October 15, 1836, aged 36 years; Alberta M. Goodwyn, infant daughter of Albert T. and Martha Goodwyn, who died in 1832; Martha T. Goodwyn, wife of Albert T. Goodwyn, who died March 12, 1831; and Albert T. Goodwyn, who died April 18, 1847.
On County 613 about eight and a half miles from U. S. 1, BURNT QUARTER stands to the left of the road. This house, beautifully preserved and furnished, is Dinwiddie's show place. On October 20, 1865, 400 acres on the south side of the Appomattox River, "Beginning at Robert Coleman Senr's head line," were granted to Robert Coleman, Jr. Just who these Colemans were can not be definitely determined. A Robert Coleman was one of 40 persons transported to Virginia by William Farrar on June 11, 1637. A Robert Coleman was one of five persons transported to Virginia on March 2, 1638 to "New Norfolk on Nansemond River." Whether the Robert who patented land in 1665 on the Appomattox River was one of these who came over in 1637 and 1638 can only be surmised. He might, of course, have been the son of either. On February 2, 1662 a Robert Coleman of Gloucester County was granted land for the transportation of three persons to the colony. Unfortunately, there is no record of the "head line" grant referred to in the grant of 1665. Robert Coleman, Sr., however, on October 29, 1668, received 223 acres on the south side of the Appomattox. It is certain, however, that a Robert Coleman owned the Burnt Quarter estate and that he built a house here in mid-eighteenth century. The estate was acquired by Joseph Goodwyn — twin brother of Colonel Peterson Goodwyn (1745-1818)—through his marriage to Mary Coleman, a descendant of the patentee. Mary Elizabeth Goodwyn, daughter of Joseph and Mary Coleman Goodwyn, married John W. Gilliam and subsequently became owner of Burnt Quarter. Their son, Yates Gilliam, by inheritance and purchase from other heirs, acquired the property.
Burnt Quarter is a rambling 15-room dwelling of frame construction. The center or main portion of the house is of two stories, with hip roof, and is rectangular in shape. Wings of a story and a half adjoin the main section on both sides, the wings having gabled roofs. There are three porches; one on the west end, a small glassed-in porch on the east end, and a double-columned front porch on the south side of the main section. The beaded weatherboarding is of the original colonial pine. There are four large brick chimneys, two inside and two outside.
The walls are plastered and are painted in colonial blue; the flooring is of pine boards of varying widths. There is a huge fireplace at the north end. Some beautiful paneling and hand-carved furniture are to be found in the library, drawing room, and great dining room on the first floor. Family portraits hanging on the walls show scars inflicted by Federal troops during the War between the States.
The house stands amidst gnarled old trees, with flower and vegetable gardens inclosed by a white picket fence. Among the trees, two ancient mulberries attest Burnt Quarter's participation in the unsuccessful colonial attempt to institute silkworm culture in America.
But the plantation's rolling acres produced abundant crops of tobacco and grain, and during the Revolution one of the Continental granaries was located on the estate. A family tradition—for which unfortunately there is no historical proof—has it that Colonel Banastre Tarleton of the British forces, on one of his marauding expeditions, stopped at Burnt Quarter long enough to set fire to the granary and all the plantation buildings except the dwelling, thereby supplying the name by which the estate has ever since been known.
After the Revolution Burnt Quarter experienced peace and prosperity until the War between the States. In those happy, opulent ante-bellum days (1854), a young lady of the household, Miss Goodwyn, became a bride in a dress said to have cost $1,000 and a veil valued at $500, carrying a bridal handkerchief priced at $30.
As shown by extant documents, during the War between the States Burnt Quarter furnished the armies of the South needed supplies, ranging from plantation-tanned hides for soldiers' shoes to grain for their horses. Colonel John W. Gilliam, Sr., then master of the plantation, died in the Confederate service, leaving two daughters and three sons. Of the boys, John W., Jr. was a lieutenant in the army, Dr. Joseph P. served in the Medical Corps, and 12 year-old Samuel Yates bemoaned the fate of extreme youth that kept him out of the army.
The battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, was largely fought on Burnt Quarter's fields. Federal General Merritt used the "big house" as his headquarters and as a military hospital., With Confederates in the peach orchard back of the house and Federals in the field at the front, the dwelling was in the line of fire during part of the battle, as is testified by bullet holes still plainly visible in the walls of several rooms. A cannon ball nearly demolished the great chimney at the end of the drawing room. On the walls of this room hang family portraits that were slashed by Union soldiers, the cut pieces having been pasted back in place. General Hancock, visiting the house several years later and viewing the damage, offered to have the portraits restored. Mrs. Gilliam, the mistress of the house, refused this offer, saying: "Let them stay as they are."
With her two daughters and youngest son, Mrs. Gilliam occupied the house while battle raged roundabout. The story has been handed down that, exhausted by the harrowing experiences of the day, Mrs. Gilliam retired early as the night shadows were falling. But firing had not wholly ceased, and a musket ball passed through the wall of her bedroom, through the pillow on which her head lay, and through the opposite wall, without the slightest injury to herself.
General G. K. Warren, commanding the Fifth Corps, won a decisive victory in the battle of Five Forks, trapping and capturing about 5,000 Confederates; yet he was relieved of his command and later had to defend his conduct before a court of inquiry. It seems that he committed a grave offense in ignoring some command of a superior officer.
In the course of the inquiry, which was finally ordered in 1879 on General Warren's insistence, Burnt Quarter was visited by several distinguished officers and engineers of the Federal army. In the house these notables studied numerous maps in reviewing General Warren's conduct, and one of these, a map of the Five Forks battlefield, hangs on the wall in the hall. Sitting at Burnt Quarter, the court of inquiry was treated with dignified courtesy, and attested its appreciation by presenting the household with a copy of its proceedings and various maps it made and used. The court of inquiry, after long deliberation, cleared General Warren of any blame. Meanwhile he died, August 8, 1882, allegedly "of a broken heart," without learning of his vindication.
Among the many interesting traditions of Burnt Quarter is that of an amiable ghost, who never harms anybody though her ghostly presence may be felt. "Nissy" Coleman is said to visit — so gentle a spirit should not be said to haunt — her bedroom in the second-floor east wing. On very still nights, they say, you can hear the rustle of her skirts as she ascends the inclosed stairway, enters the room, and hovers about the bed. Servants decline to remain in the house alone after dark, though conceding that "Nissy" has never sought to harm them.
On U. S. 1, thirteen miles from Petersburg, is Dinwiddie, the village so frequently mentioned throughout the pages of our history. The courthouse faces an open square, flanked on one side by the clerk's office. Its red brick walls and white pillars stand as solid evidence of generations that have done business within its walls. On February 7, 1849 the County Court of Dinwiddie, "having at the last term appointed Commissioners to contract for the building of a new brick Court House," advertised for bids, which were to be received within two weeks. That the courthouse was completed in 1851 is attested by a letter written that year by Dr. James Boisseau of Mt. Liberty, Dinwiddie County to Judge James Boisseau at the University of Virginia. He wrote:
The Court House has been finished and was received by the Court on Monday . . . It is a very neat and tasty building; externally it does great credit to the builders, but some of the internal arrangement is very bad and does not speak so well for them as the former. The seats for the Magistrates are so low that it is impossible for them to see the Lawyers when persons are standing in front of them, which you know will frequently be the case, unless we can have better order kept in the new C. H. than was in the old. The Bar generally is displeased with those seats and speak of having them altered at their own expense.. Mr. Click and many others advised Capt. Jones to have them higher, but in Mechanics as politics he was immutable and steadfast in his opinion.
On November 15, 1858 the court resolved that the courthouse be so remodeled as to have "three rooms on the first floor for clerk's office and sheriffs office & peoples room — a court room, & two Jury rooms on the 2d floor — and that the materials of the old clerks office be used in said work and that Wm. M. Gill, Wmson Perkins, Charles Yount, Robert Cheatham, C. F. Goodwyn, C. A. Hargrave and Daniel Malone be a committee to advertise for and make a contract for the performance of the same and make report to Court." The office of the superintendent of schools, now on the first floor of the courthouse, looks toward the little building wherein General Winfield Scott first practiced law.
Among the scattering of houses in the pleasant community is RIDGEWAY. The initials W. E., evidently those of the mason or architect, and the date 1812 are cut high in its chimney. The house was built by Archibald Thweat and passed to Kidder Meade, to two Doctors Anderson, and in 1847 to Major Isaac Roney, who named it for his former home, Ridgeway—two miles from the village. The next owner was John Y. Harris, who married Major Roney's daughter Ella. Set back from the street, behind shrubs and flowers, the simple and spacious white frame structure presents a hospitable façade to passersby.
County 626, running north from the courthouse, turns sharply to the left at its junction with County 661. Straight ahead on County 661 about three miles from the village is MOUNT LIBERTY, right of the highway. The two-story frame house—rambling and severely plain—was built in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In 1864 and 1865 Mount Liberty was used by the Federal troops as a resting place. Tradition has it that a Masonic emblem in the structure saved Mount Liberty from destruction. This was a Boisseau home, in which lived James Holt Boisseau, Dr. James Poythress Boisseau, Samuel Goodwyn Boisseau, and other descendants of the Reverend James Boisseau—the Huguenot who came to America as a minister of the Church of England.
On U. S. 1, 23.5 miles from Petersburg, is a junction with State 40. Three miles west of U. S. 1, State 40 crosses County 610. If the traveler turns right on this road and drives two miles, he reaches MONTROSE, a charming story-and-a-half house that has been marred by the addition of a front veranda. A tiny hall, with a tiny stairway extending steeply, opens into a room on its right and another on its left. Quaint dormers cut the rooms of the low second story. Lawn, boxwood, old trees, and flowering shrubs furnish an appropriate setting. The house was built when oak and pine timbers were hewn from virgin forests. Hand-wrought nails, mortised joints, and ancient hinges bear testimony to the antiquity of Montrose. No one knows, however, when or by whom the house was built; but the Reverend Theodorick Pryor was living here in 1828, for here that year was born his son, Roger Atkinson Pryor, soldier and jurist.
Four and a half miles from U. S. 1, State 40 turns sharply north. If the visitor, however, will take State 638 and drive two and a half miles, he will find HARPER'S HOME on his left, which holds a story worth relating. The house is constructed in two sections, the smaller undoubtedly the older. This was long the home of Colonel J. W. Harper, who inherited in 1837 from Elizabeth W. Harper. The Colonel lies in the family burying ground in a huge grave that stretches at the foot of the graves of three of his four wives—Sarah, who died in 1856; Susan, who died in 1876; Sallie, who died in 1882. His fourth wife, Lizzie Ferguson, survived him by many years. The old man planned every detail of his funeral. Indeed, he had his coffin made and stored away long before his death. The precaution was well taken, moreover, for Colonel Harper measured six feet, seven inches and knew that no undertaker carried his last need in stock. George Moore, a Negro who worked on the place, always declared that Colonel Harper was buried on his side so that he could hear his dogs run over his grave as they set out on fox hunts. After the War between the States Colonel Harper seldom admitted that he was a nephew of General Winfield Scott. As a matter of fact, he was so incensed by his uncle's failure to join the Southern forces that he buried the General's picture in the mill pond.
In order to reach OLDEN PLACE the motorist must return to the junction of County 638 and State 40 and travel four miles to County 613 and then southward on this road almost three miles. A little storyand-a-half house, once connected with a larger house by a passageway that has now fallen to ruins, was built by Ludson Worsham, whose name first appears in the Dinwiddie land tax records in 1792. In 1806, however, the following grant is recorded :
William H. Gabell esquire governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia: To all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: Know ye, That by virtue of a Land office Treasury warrant number fourteen thousand, nine hundred and fifty-four issued the fourteenth day of December seventeen hundred and eighty-two, there is granted by the said Commonwealth unto Ludson Worsham, a certain tract or parcel of land, containing four hundred and one acres by survey bearing date the tenth day of April eighteen hundred and four, lying and being in the county of Dinwiddie on the waters of Tommy Heton Creek and the Long Branch. . . . It witness whereof the said William H. Cabell, esquire, governor of Virginia hath hereunto set his hand and seal . . . at Richmond on the nineteenth day of June.
That year the record shows Ludson Worsham as owner of 401 acres "on the waters of Tommy Heton Creek and the Long Branch." The son of the builder, Doctor Henry C. Worsham, inherited Olden Place in 1839 and about the middle of the century erected the larger house, which was used for the boarders in attendance at his school for "young ladies."
The new building is much more elaborately constructed than the original home of Ludson Worsham. It stands two and a half stories above a high basement and contains large rooms with beautiful mantels and paneling. The school was not operated after the War between the States. Its story, however, is told in another section of our book.
Back on State 40 about a half mile from the junction with County 613 the traveler comes upon one FERGUSON PLACE; and, about a mile farther, upon another. The first of these, which typifies the "big house, little house" construction, was the home of Captain James H. Ferguson (1832-1913). The two sections are connected by a passageway—commonly called a colonnade, though quite innocent of columns. The wide-boarded floors, flat-head nails, massive locks, H and L hinges, and hand-carved mantels attest the antiquity of a house well worth the restoration it has not received. Mid the tangled underbrush of the burying ground are many old and unmarked graves. The stone erected to the memory of William Ferguson (1789-1847) has a legible inscription. An earlier Ferguson, however, undoubtedly built the house.
The second FERGUSON PLACE has been comfortably remodeled. This house was the scene of the Negro insurrection of 1865, which has been fully described in the history of Dinwiddie. Between the sleepers of the floor the ringleader secreted himself until he was discovered by Mrs. James H. Ferguson. Bloodstains on the floor remained until the present owner grew tired of having in her home this gruesome reminder of the tragic past.
On State 40, eleven and a half miles from the junction with U. S. 1, DARVILL stands near the highway. The house is of unusual construction—a gabled two-story building, probably the first, having been extended by two wings that changed the entrance of the original section from the side to the gabled end. The wings are of story-and-a-half construction with outside chimneys and a single dormer in each. The basement harbors an apparatus for distilling liquors, presumably used in an earlier day. The large hall on the first floor is wainscoted, and the wide flooring is of hard pine. The house has four flights of steep, winding stairs. This was the home of Doctor William Feild Thompson, who represented Dinwiddie in the State Senate from 1850 to 1863 and whose son, Knox Thompson, sat in the House of Delegates from 1891 to 1895.
Slightly over a mile west of Darvill is WHITE OAK GROVE, the home built by William B. Thompson, father of Doctor Thompson. This house, like many others in Dinwiddie, was not built all of a piece. The smaller section—story-and-a-half with one dormer in its steep roof—is undoubtedly the older. On the chimney of the larger are the initials W. B. T. and the date 1811. Both sections have outside end-chimneys. A basement contains a huge fireplace in each of its two rooms. The south room, which was probably the parlor, is exquisitely paneled to its ceiling; and each of the four windows has 18 small panes. In the family burying ground tombstones mark the graves of William B. Thompson (17791845) and his wife Prudence (1779-1821); and of Doctor William Feild Thompson (1810-1891) and his wife Mary Ellen Cousins Thompson (1826-1893). William B. Thompson was the son of William F. Thompson and Margaret Darvill. Because Colonel Joseph Buffington Darvill objected to his daughter's marrying Thompson, he brought Margaret to Virginia. The suitor followed, however, found Margaret, married her, and presumably lived happily ever after.
About a mile south of the intersection of U. S. 1 and State 40 stands WINONA or BOLLING HALL. William Byrd passed this way in 1739 when he set out to survey the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia. The house faces a lawn dotted with linden, elm, mimosa, maple, and locust trees. The old formal garden on the north side of Winona has been partially restored. The hipped-roofed structure rises two stories above a three-room cellar. The floors are of six-inch pine boards, and the mantels are plain. The Bollings of Petersburg owned the estate in 1834, but the present house was built somewhat later by Doctor John Feild. Federal soldiers camped near Winona during the War between the States, forcing Doctor Hume Feild and his family to vacate. The soldiers who occupied the house played havoc with the furnishings. They went so far as to cut up carpets and rugs for use as weatherstripping. Some of the tacks that fastened the strips in place are still visible.
West from its junction with U. S. 1, State 40 runs to the Sussex County line. Four miles from the junction it crosses County 646. Northward, a bit more than a mile, County 646 meet County 655. At the end of this little road stands SAPONY CHURCH, the oldest church in Dinwiddie. The original building was completed in 1728. Because the ancient walls collapsed in 1870, the restoration of the building was soon undertaken. Old timbers, as well as the original pulpit, lectern, and pews, were used in the reconstruction. It was in 1725 that the vestry of Bristol Parish entered into an agreement with a Mr. Carpenter for erecting a chapel, "a good substantial building upon the lands of John Smith upon Sapponey convenient to the upper Nottoway River road." Its collapse in 1870 is described in Tyler's Quarterly Magazine (vol. 9, p. 68) in these words:
According to eye Witnesses, a large congregation had assembled that Sunday, and the services being finished, were leaving the church, when bits of plaster were seen to fall from the ceiling. Mrs. Lucinda W. Cutter, one of the oldest and most influential communicants, was the last to leave. She was still on the steps of the church when it collapsed.
The Reverend Devereux Jarratt, the long-time rector of Bristol Parish, whose story is told in the history of Dinwiddie, is buried under the pulpit. His body and that of his wife were removed from their old resting place and brought here when the church was being repaired. An obelisk to Devereux and Martha Jarratt bears the following inscription:
There are memorial windows to Elizabeth Grammer Withers, the Reverend E. B. Jones, M.D., and Susan A. Hardaway Heartwell.
On State 40, six miles from the junction with U. S. 1, is a junction with County 609. Right on this road, a short distance from the State highway, HILLTOP stands on the highest spot between Richmond and Raleigh. The rectangular frame house rises two and a half stories above a brick basement and has outside end-chimneys. Leroy Lunsford, who obtained a 7971/2-acre tract here by a purchase in 1841 and another in 1847, is thought to have been the builder of Hilltop. Immediately, however, the 7971/2 acres on the stage road were purchased by D. W. Brodnax, who may have built the house. In stagecoach days, Hilltop served as an inn.
On State 40, about two miles from County 609, the motorist comes upon County 619. Should he turn right here and travel about a mile, he will see on his right a private road that leads to KINGSTON, a stately two-story house that invites the artistry of some restorer. Outside, boxwood seems to be holding wake above the remains of a once-lovely garden. Within, large rooms, small rooms, hospitable halls, with floor boards, paneling, mantels, and the 20 windows, each with 18 small lights, could be brought back to the charm that many a Dinwiddian remembers to have characterized Kingston not so long ago. The first owner of Kingston was Captain Robert Walker and the next Doctor Robert Walker. General William H. Brodnax purchased the estate from Doctor Walker's nephews. On November 1, 1848 it passed to Henry Y. Mitchell, who left it in 1862 by will to his brother, John J. Mitchell. Doctor Henry Green Hunt purchased Kingston in 1891. It was inherited by his children. Captain Walker, builder of the house, served as justice of Dinwiddie between 1763 and 1776. He died in 1797, soon after the house was completed. Though most of the Captain's 20 children died in infancy, his son Robert lived to be an eminent physician, having received his medical education in European universities. A pioneer in the treatment of smallpox, he once had at Kingston a hospital for smallpox victims. It is safe to say that the house achieved its reputation for hospitality before and after Doctor Walker's unfortunate guests were entertained there.
If the traveler taking this tour of old places in Dinwiddie wants to find RACELANDS, he must return to the courthouse village, travel about half a mile northward on U. S. 1, turn right on State 141, continue eastward about six and a half miles and then northward on County 670 for about a mile. The house stands behind an old-fashioned tangled garden filled with native and imported trees and shrubs, and faces a field that was once a celebrated race track. The rear portion of the house, much older than the front, is one of the oldest buildings in the county. It served as a tavern in the merry stagecoach days and was a place where travelers rested and horses were changed. The property was later owned by Mary Wynn Goodrich, who sold it William Wynn. After 1839 it came into the possession of John M. Wynn, and it was later purchased by Marshall Moncure, whose son—Ambler Moncure—long made his home here. William Wynn was renowned throughout Virginia as an owner of fine horses. A note of tragedy creeps into the pleasant annals of "Racing Billie" and his horses. The story goes that after one of his daughters was found dead in the house, Colonel Billie left Racelands for a distant state. Then it was that John M. Wynn succeeded him. Marshall Moncure married John M. Wynn's daughter. Troops passed this way during both the Revolutionary War and the War between the States.
In this hurried trip up and down the highways and byways of Dinwiddie, only a few of the pleasant places have been visited; and many, equally important, have been skipped. For instance, there was no stop at Cedar Grove, the birthplace on August 23, 1749 of Joseph Jones, son of Thomas Jones, grandson of Abraham Jones, and great-grandson of Peter Jones, and son-in-law of Abraham Wood. Joseph Jones, a gallant soldier in the Revolutionary War, rose from colonel to brigadier general and finally to major general, and died at Cedar Grove on February 9, 1824. William A. Jones of Warsaw, member of the National House of Representatives from 1891 to 1901, was an ardent advocate of Philippine independence. Keeping up with the Joneses, however, has furnished work and entertainment for the student of Dinwiddie history. It is gratifying to realize that throughout the length and breadth of Virginia, Joneses today are carrying on the tradition of Peter Jones, trader at Peter's Point and the man for whom the city of Petersburg was named. No visit was made to the thrifty Bohemians of Dinwiddie, whose small but productive farms are scattered over a wide area. These people, of whom the county continues to be proud, add a sturdy element to the solid citizenry. At Bohemian Hall, their social center, they gather regularly for wholesome recreation.
However, between the covers of one small book, the complete history of Dinwiddie cannot be told. Perhaps the sequel will be written by another author.
|*Source: This is Part I of the book, Dinwiddie County, "The Countrey of the Apamatica" compiled by the workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia. We have photos of many of the homes mentioned above which are still extant and will get them included as soon as time permits.|
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