Field Day of the Past – 2014

20 Oct

Field Day 2

On September 19th, Field Day of the Past opened and the Goochland County Historical Society was there to join in the celebration. The weekend’s weather held beautifully, bringing out the crowds to join in the yearly event. As in past years, the Society manned the Rockett’s Voting Precinct building to greet attendees.


This year we were joined by local artist Patti Rosner who was promoting the Villages of Goochland – Painted by District project. The three completed village paintings: Hadensville, Sandy Hook and the Courthouse were on display for the event. In addition to helping give the history of the Voting Precinct, Ms. Rosner talked about the Villages project and sold mugs, cards and prints of the completed districts. When the project is completed, the profits from the sales of the merchandise will go to the Goochland County Historical Society and the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services.

Patti Rosner

Patti Rosner

On Saturday, Maymont interpreters held a rally beside the Voting Precinct to commemorate the historic struggle of women’s right to vote. The rally featured costumed debaters on both sides of the argument to the delight of spectators.


The GCHS would like to thank all of the volunteers who helped this year: Andy Donnelly, Chris Dunn, Ginny Olsen, James Richmond, Phyllis Silber, Catherine Southworth and Ennion Williams.

The Moonshine Ladies

31 Aug
Martha Napier and Mary Manley

Martha Napier and Mary Manley

In July, GCHS archivist James Richmond happened across the above picture listed for sale at an online auction site. Thanks to fast action from Mr. Richmond and GCHS director Phyllis Silber, they were able to obtain this original press photograph for the Goochland County Historical Society photographic collection. The photograph is mother and daughter, Martha Napier and Mary Manley sitting in jail. These two suffered the misfortune of getting caught making moonshine during the infamous period in American history known as Prohibition.

The two women were arrested and convicted on December 8, 1930 for operating a still in Goochland. The ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920 ushered in a period when the production, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States. Prohibition lasted until 1933 when the unpopular law was finally repealed. Bootleggers, such as the two women pictured, set up stills to produce moonshine to fulfill the needs of drinkers. Moonshine, produced primarily in the southern states, was so called due to its being produced under the shine of the moon and was also called “hooch” and “White lightening”. Mrs. Napier and Mrs. Manley pled not guilty but the evidence convicted them anyway. They were sentenced to one year in jail and a $50.00 fine. According to the note on the back of the photograph, they were then “remanded to the Henrico County jail because the jail of this county is unsafe”!


31 Jul

Recently, the Historical Society received an email from architectural historian Edward Polk Douglas. While reading the Society’s blog, Mr. Douglas noticed that a photo was mislabeled. The January 13, 2012 post on Lost Goochland featured a photo of the ruins of Dover Mansion. This photograph depicting the remains of a burned mansion has been published several times, including page 60 of our own publication, Goochland: Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard. Mr. Douglas recognized the photo to be Sabot Hill and not Dover as the photo was labeled in the Society’s collection.

The ruins of Sabot Hill

The ruins of Sabot Hill

We are now attempting to set the record straight. Close examination of pictures of both Dover and Sabot Hill confirm that the ruins are definitely Sabot Hill. This is a bonus for the society because we did not know we had a photograph of the ruins of that great mansion.

The following pictures are confirmed to be of Dover. The first two were taken in 1959 by Richard T. Couture, Professor of History and Historic Preservation at Longwood College. The third was taken by Society member Jane Saunders.

We would like to thank Mr. Douglas for bringing this to our attention. We are always striving to learn as much about Goochland history as we can. If you see anything that you should be corrected, please do not hesitate to bring it to our attention. Our email is


Remaining walls of the main home. Taken Dec. 30, 1959 by Richard T. Couture


The remains of the east wing of Dover. Taken Dec. 30, 1959 by Richard T. Couture

The ruins of Dover

The ruins of Dover

Dover mansion by Jane Saunders

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.


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.


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, print the entry form and contest rules and get started!

Goochland – A Historical Sketch

28 Feb


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.


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.


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