Spring Meeting – 2014

10 May

The Goochland County Historical Society held its first meeting of 2014 on April 27. The setting for the meeting was Byrd Church and author Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy was the featured speaker.

 

Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy

A warm clear day brought a large number of Goochlanders out and into the historic church. Society President Wayne Dementi welcomed everyone before introducing Church elder Knight Bowles. Bowles then gave the attendees a brief history of Byrd Church. Vice-President Bruce Venter then took the podium to introduce the speaker, Andrew O’Shaughnessy, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello as well as Professor of History at the University of Virginia. Mr. O’Shaughnessy gave a fascinating summary of his book The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, winner of the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival in Regional Literature and the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize. During his talk, O’Shaughnessy debunked the myths and stated the real reasons that led the British Empire to the loss of its colonies in the New World. He explained that the loss was not due to a failure of the military or incompetent leadership, though these two reasons have been widely accepted. The loss of America was actually due to a shaky political climate at home and American fighters who would just not give in or give up.

 

The Men Who Lost America

The Men Who Lost America

Following his talk, Mr. O’Shaughnessy treated all to a question and answer segment and then graciously signed books for those desiring to learn more about this turbulent time period. We would like to extend a special thank you to Louise Thompson, Ginny Olsen and Ginny and Preston Perrin for setting up and taking down the refreshments.

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Byrd Presbyterian Church

23 Apr

Byrd Presbyterian Church is located four miles west of Goochland County’s Courthouse. The rectangular brick structure is considered to be an outstanding example of the simple brick churches built in Virginia during the 19th century.

Byrd Presbyterian Church

Byrd Presbyterian Church

Begun in 1837 and finished in 1838, the church was constructed using Flemish bond on the front and common bond on the 3 surrounding sides. Originally there were two front doors. One door served the main floor while the other provided access to the balcony. There is also evidence that originally a front portico was planned, but never built. The building has managed to retain many of its original features including a slate roof, interior fittings, and twelve original windows with their rare 19th century venetian blinds. During renovations in the 1880’s, the two doors were changed to one central door and modernizations such as a metal pressed ceiling, tongue-and-groove wainscoting and moveable pews were added. Behind the church is a large, for its congregation, cemetery with headstones dating back to the 1850’s. Many Goochland notables are buried there including the Purchasing agent for the Confederacy in London and several descendants of Patrick Henry.

Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies

Byrd’s congregation is a direct descendant of a group organized in 1748 by the Reverend Samuel Davies, a leader in the fight for religious freedom in Colonial Virginia. The group began meeting in Tucker Woodson’s barn on land near the Goochland Courthouse. In 1759, land was acquired near Byrd Creek for the purpose of erecting a new place of worship. This building remained in use until deterioration forced the congregation to share nearby Lickinghole Church. In 1837, Samuel and Mary Finch conveyed 1 acre of land in the Belham community to the Presbyterian elders. On this land, the current church was built and dedicated as Union Church. It would remain “Union” or “Brick Union Church” until 1883. At that time, the congregation decided to change the name back to the earlier “Byrd Church”.

The outline of the original door can be seen to the right of the current door.

The outline of the original door can be seen to the right of the current door.

In the fall of 2000, Byrd Presbyterian Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is notable for its architectural significance, location, cemetery and its connection to Samuel Davies. The beautiful landscape surrounding Byrd Church as well as its history makes it a wonderful stop on any tour of historic Goochland places. To learn more about Byrd Church: read Volume 20 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

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Barns of Goochland

8 Apr

Barns of Goochland

We are pleased to announce a new contest. The Goochland County Historical Society is inviting local photographers to submit their photographs as part of this year’s Society Calendar Contest! The theme for the 2015 calendar will be “Barns of Goochland”. The contest is open to everyone. From the entries we receive, a minimum of 14 photographs will be chosen. Entries will be evaluated based on appeal, content and photographic skill. Head over to http://www.goochlandhistory.org, print the entry form and contest rules and get started!

Goochland – A Historical Sketch

28 Feb

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In the fall of this year, the Goochland County Historical Society will be publishing the 45th volume of our magazine. In commemoration of this, we will be posting a few articles on the blog from the back issues. Our first post will be the first article printed in Volume 1, No. 1, a short history of the county by Helene Barret Agee, the first Society historian.

HISTORICAL SKETCH

Goochland County, named for Sir William Gooch, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1727 to 1749, was formed in 1728 from Henrico, an original shire of the Virginia Colony. The original boundaries of Goochland were from Tuckahoe Creek, on both sides of the James River, west as far as the English King’s Dominion extended. From Virginia were formed the states of Ohio, Kentucky and parts of Tennessee. The present boundaries of Goochland are: Tuckahoe Creek on the east, the James River on the south, Fluvanna County on the west and portions of Louisa and Hanover Counties on the north. The county’s land area consists of 289 square miles. The highest elevation is 520 feet, taken at Shannon Hill, the lowest elevation 110 feet, taken at the point where Tuckahoe Creek joins the James River.

Goochland’s present courthouse is believed to be its third. It was “received” as completed on August 20, 1827, by the Commissioners for the County. The county has had several jails. The last was built of stone and is still standing. The brick wall around the present Courthouse Square was built in 1840.

By virtue of inheritance, Goochland claims Manakintowne, on the south side of the James River where the Huguenots settled in 1700. By the same token the county fell heir to the three original Monacan Indian Village sites namely, Mowhemencho, Massinacak and Rassawek.

Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell in Goochland County on April 13, 1743. When Albemarle was formed from Goochland on October 16, 1744, Shadwell then fell within the borders of the new county and Albemarle inherited this historic site. Thomas Jefferson spent his early childhood at Tuckahoe, also in Goochland, where he was tutored by the Reverend William Douglas and others.

George Washington was the first President of the James River Company which later became the James River and Kanawha Company. The James River and Kanawha Canal, on the south border of Goochland, played an important role in the economic and social life of the county. In the year 1808 the canal was considered one of the most successful internal improvements in the country.

Thomas Mann Randolph, born at Tuckahoe, and James Pleasants, born at Contention, served as Governors of Virginia.
James A. Seddon of Sabot Hill was elected to the First Confederate Congress and later became Secretary of War, Confederate States of America.

Goochland furnished a son for the cabinet of each of the opposing governments during the War Between the States, Edward Bates of Belmont in the cabinet of Lincoln, and James A. Seddon in the Confederate cabinet of Jefferson Davis.

Other members of the Bates family in Goochland also became prominent: Frederick Bates was governor of Missouri from 1824 to 1826; James Bates a member of Congress from Arkansas, and Thomas Fleming Bates a member of the Virginia Convention of 1829.

General Nathaniel Massie (born 1763-died 1813) served with the Goochland Militia. Later moving to Kentucky where his father, Nathaniel Massie, Sr., had been granted lands, he established, in 1791, a village which later became Manchester, one of the four earliest settlements in what is now Ohio. He laid off the town of Chillicothe, and became the first Major General of the 2nd Division, Ohio Militia, when Ohio was admitted as a State, serving until 1810. He held many high offices, including the presidency of the Senate.

During the Revolutionary War Lord Cornwallis and is troops invaded Goochland. They encamped at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Elk-hill, for ten days and destroyed all barns with contents and appropriated all cattle, sheep and hogs for the sustenance of their army, and all horses capable of service. Colonel Tarleton raided Rock Castle (Queen Anne Cottage) and tore from the walls the Tarleton coat-of-arms and carried it away. Upon retiring from the County, Lord Cornwallis admired an imposing view overlooking the James River and declared that if he should ever reside in America this would be his choice for a home site. This location has since been known as Cornwallis’ Point.

On his way to Monticello to visit Thomas Jefferson in 1824, General Lafayette visited Goochland and spent the night at the Courthouse.

During the War Between the States, Colonel Ulric Dahlgren and his troops paid a visit to Goochland, leaving souvenirs at many places, especially Sabot Hill, Dover and Eastwood. Goochland recalls with pride eighteen-year-old James Pleasants who single-handed, “killed one Federal and captured thirteen.”

Those who are interested in Genealogy will be glad to know that Goochland’s official records were not destroyed during “the War”, and that eight counties were formed from Goochland soil since its separation from Henrico on 1, May 1728. These counties are: Albemarle (1744), Cumberland (1749), Amherst (1761), Buckingham (1761), Powhatan (1777), Fluvanna (1777), Nelson (1808), Appomattox (1845). Their early records are available in the Goochland County Clerk’s Office.

Ben Dover

27 Jan

Between the villages of Manakin and Sabot stands Ben Dover. The approach to Ben Dover with its surrounding magnolias and shade trees is a journey to another place and time. It is hard to believe but underneath its current façade, stands the last of the grand Italianate mansions that once graced this part of the county.

Ben Dover

Ben Dover

In 1853, William B. Stanard had Ben Dover built in the Italian Villa style that flourished in the middle of the 19th century. The house is thought to have been inspired by an illustration published in Andrew Jackson Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses (1851). Along with neighboring Eastwood and Sabot Hill, Ben Dover differed greatly from the typical regional style employed at other plantations in the area such as Boscobel and Joe Brooke. The home originally featured an irregular roofline, decorative fenestrations, and a three-story tower. It was constructed of locally fired bricks and then stuccoed to resemble ashlar. Some of the opulent interior flourishes were silver plated doorknobs, hand-painted ceilings and marble mantles with cast iron fireguards.

Ben Dover before renovations

Ben Dover before renovations

The end of the Civil War saw an economic decline that brought about the sale of the plantation in 1872 to James Murray, a British engineer. After Murray’s death, his family sold Ben Dover to former Union General W. Horace Rose. During Rose’s tenancy, Ben Dover began a series of alterations in a battle to hold off the heavy deterioration of the house brought about by the flat roof and the use of porous handmade bricks. Rose had the house painted white and added an extensive five-bay porch. Another change Rose brought to Ben Dover was the addition of the pool, pool house and bowling alley. The circa 1905 single-lane Brunswick bowling alley is considered one of the best preserved in Virginia. This little alley helped secure the inclusion of Ben Dover to the National Register of Historic Places.

Brunswick Bowling Alley

Brunswick Bowling Alley

In 1925, Ben Dover was acquired by William T. Reed, Sr., the president of Larus & Brother Tobacco Company and a major figure in Richmond society during the 20th century. Reed counted among his friends Virginia Governor Harry Flood Byrd and aviator Charles Lindbergh who made a landing at Ben Dover in the 1927. Due to heavy damage caused by water seepage, the tower and second story of the porch had to be removed. It was at this time that Reed changed the Italian style façade of the house to Colonial Revival. The interior of the house, though updated, remained largely intact.

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The interior of Ben Dover is very spacious and still has remnants of the opulence that once graced it. The hand-painted ceilings are long gone but the marble mantle and cast iron fireguard still exist in the dining room. In the basement you can see the room that Rose converted into a dance hall. A long staircase leads you to the second floor with high ceilings and large bedchambers. A smaller stairway then leads you to the third floor with two more rooms.

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Ben Dover is a historical asset to the county and the region. It is notable for its changing façade that shows how plantations adapted to changing tastes. It is also notable as one of the two remaining plantations, out of five, visited by Ulric Dahlgren during the Goochland part of his ill-fated raid on Richmond in 1864. Beautifully landscaped grounds feature several supporting outbuildings including the wonderful bowling alley. For all of its historical assets, Ben Dover was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April of 2000.

Dining room with marble fireplace

Dining room with marble fireplace

Ben Dover is currently listed for sale through realtor Pam Diemer (Pam@PamDiemer.com). As with the Lockkeepers House, the Historical Society is hoping for a buyer that will respect the history of these two properties. To learn more about Ben Dover: read Volume 4, number 2 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

2013 in review

25 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Twelve Ways to Help Our Historical Society Grow in 2014

24 Jan

We would like for our historical society to experience significant growth in 2014. Everyone’s help is needed and appreciated. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Plan to attend all of our meetings this year. Our next meeting is scheduled for April 13, 2014.
  2. Invite at least one friend to attend each meeting with you. We welcome guests of all ages. If you know of someone who might enjoy a personal invitation, contact our office.
  3. Help publicize our meetings and special activities and fundraisers by sharing information with other community groups. If you belong to organizations that would be willing to post notices about our historical society in their own newsletters and websites and on bulletin boards in their facilities.
  4. Purchase one or more of our 2014 calendars to give as  gifts. These calendars are keepsake editions and make wonderful gifts for all occasions. You can purchase calendars at our next meeting, through our online gift shop or contact our office to order one.
  5. Contact our vice-president Bruce Venter to make suggestions for programs you would like to see us feature at our quarterly meetings.
  6. Contact James Richmond to make suggestions for articles you would like to see included in future issues of the society magazine and on our blog.
  7. Contact our president Wayne Dementi if you would like to join one of our special committees devoted to Goochland County cemeteries, genealogy, and oral history or become a board member.
  8. Make a tax-deductible donation to the Goochland County Historical Society. Because our non-profit organization depends on membership dues for operation, monetary donations are greatly appreciated at any time of the year. A list of donors will be included in our December newsletter.
  9. Help us locate local businesses who might be willing to purchase ads in society publications such as our magazine or make tax deductible donations to the Goochland County Historical Society. Contact Phyllis Silber to make suggestions.
  10. Raise the level of your membership.
  11. Give a gift membership in the Goochland County Historical Society to someone special.
  12. Remember someone dear to you with a tax-deductible memorial donation to the Goochland County Historical Society. Notice of memorial donations will be printed in our newsletter.
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