Bells Across The Land

26 Mar

bell ring 3April 9, 2015 on the Courthouse Green   3 pm

In conjunction with a major event at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, the Goochland County Historical Society will join in a national commemoration to mark the beginning of the end of the American Civil War. The bells will ring first at Appomattox at 3:00 p.m. on April 9, 2015. The ringing will coincide with the moment the historic meeting between Grant and Lee ended. The Goochland event will begin on the Courthouse Green in Goochland at 3:00 p.m. After an invocation the Courthouse bell will be rung at precisely 3:15 p.m. for four minutes, each minute symbolic of a year of war. The public is invited.

To find out more about Bells Across The Land, visit the National Park Service Website by clicking here.

bell ring 2

Ben Lomond

25 Jan

Ben Lomond in 1976 during the fateful restoration.

Goochland’s Ben Lomond is named after a mountain on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. The name Ben Lomond comes from the Scottish Gaelic Beinn Laomainn which translates to Beacon Mountain. In 1736, Isham Randolph, Sr. of Turkey Island in Henrico County, was granted a Royal Patent for 3,000 acres in Goochland County. It was on a part of this land that he built his mansion, Dungeness. Isham’s grandson, Archibald Cary Randolph bought the property that comprises Ben Lomond from the Dungeness estate in the late 1700’s and built his own house. An 1801 insurance policy shows that the original house was roughly the size of the central portion of the house as shown in the picture above. One of Randolph’s passions was horses and it was on this farm that famed racehorse Sir Archie was foaled in 1805.

The ruins of Ben Lomond

The ruins of Ben Lomond

In 1806, Archibald Cary Randolph was forced to sell Ben Lomond and his horses to pay debts. Archibald was also known to be particularly bad with money.  In a case heard before the Supreme Court, Archibald along with his two brothers, were said to be “notoriously insolvent” and had wasted their father’s estate. Archibald sent Sir Archie went to his partner William Tayloe and Ben Lomond was sold to Benjamin Watkins. The property passed down through the Watkins family for several generations and then went through a succession of owners: Van Mater, Schuett, Hazelwood, Rutherfoord, Bremner, Lewis, Hicks, Woodruff and Liebert to name a few.

The house has been described as a two-story, central passage plan house that was popular in the eighteenth century. Houses built in a similar style in Goochland include Tuckahoe, Rock Castle. In the 1970’s, Ben Lomond was undergoing an extensive restoration and renovation  project when it caught fire. Neighbors could only stand in awe as the historic structure succumbed to the intense heat before the fire department could arrive. All that remains today is the western chimney, brick foundation and the steps. Strewn amongst the ground cover are fallen bricks from the massive eastern chimney, broken glass and pieces of metal. Two beautiful magnolia trees and scattered boxwoods give evidence of the park-like grounds that must have once existed. A few crumbling outbuildings stand as reminders of the once magnificent farm are slowly following the manor house into oblivion.


Past the decimated structure and just beyond the edge of the wood line is a square stone wall, the age of which is unknown. Inside this enclosure is speculated to be the grave of Sir Archie (1803-1833). He was the greatest racehorse of his day and sired many champions in his years at stud. His line went on to produce Man O’War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to name just a few. Part of the mystery surrounding Sir Archie is his burial place. Sir Archie spent his last 17 years at stud at Mowfield Plantation, just west of Jackson, North Carolina which also lays claim as his place of burial. For decades, this has been a heated debate.

Burial place of Sir Archie?

Burial place of Sir Archie?

The loss of Ben Lomond was another devastating blow to this part of Goochland. By the time of the fire, the historic area of Rock Castle had already lost Dungeness and Mannsville, both with Randolph connections, and Bolling’s Orapax. Today Ben Lomond survives as a haunting ruin that can only hint at it’s former glory.

To learn more about Ben Lomond: read Volume 3-1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

2014 Holiday Meeting

31 Dec

On Sunday, December 7, 2014, the Goochland County Historical Society held its annual Holiday meeting at historic Ben Dover in Manakin-Sabot.

Ben Dover

Ben Dover

The 1853 house was a big draw for the approximately 100 people who attended. Owner Louisa Preston gave us a quick history of the house and grounds and then the meeting moved on to Society business. President Wayne Dementi proposed the 2015 Board. Christina Dunn and Peter Gretz were then named and approved as the two newest Board members.

Delicious treats!

Delicious treats!

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter) was our speaker for the day. His entertaining and informative performance kept everyone’s attention.

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter)

Lord Cornwallis (Bruce Venter)

A big thank you goes out to the Preston family for making Ben Dover available for our meeting. Thanks very much to Louise Thompson for making sure the spread of treats was laid out for everyone to enjoy. Thank you to outgoing Board members Temple Bayliss, Bruce Venter, Sam Smith and Richard Carchman for your service to the Society. Also, thank you to our members for your support in 2014. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will be even better!

Richmond Magazine – November 2014

22 Nov

The November 2014 issue of Richmond Magazine is on stands now! This issue features a wonderful article, “Time Travel”, penned by Nicole Cohen with photos by Jay Paul.

Richmond Magazine - November 2014

Richmond Magazine – November 2014

The article is all about how the Goochland County Historical Society is striving to get history to the people through photographic installations in several public buildings: Goochland County Administration Building, Reynolds College, and soon in the High School and in the Parks and Recreation complex.

Time Travel by Nicole Cohen, Photos by Jay Paul

Time Travel by Nicole Cohen, Photos by Jay Paul

We are hoping the exposure helps to take our message to even more people: See It, Share It, Celebrate It!

Fall Meeting – Hatfields, McCoys and Elk Hill

23 Oct

On September 28, the Goochland County Historical Society held its Fall Meeting at historic Elk Hill. The main house at Elk Hill was built between 1835 and 1839 by Randolph Harrison, Jr. and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the property is part of Elk Hill Farm, a facility that supports troubled young people and their parents through a residential program that teaches academic, vocational, life and behavioral skills.

Elk Hill

Elk Hill

Our venue for the day was the beautiful Chapel that is surrounded by 100 year old trees. With sun shining through the stained glass windows, Michael Farley, Elk Hill CFO, gave a brief overview of Elk Hill and its mission. Then GCHS Vice-President Bruce Venter welcomed our guest speaker, Dean King, who spoke the adventures he had while researching his book, The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story (2013). Mr. King showed a slideshow of photographs of some of the people he interviewed and some of the locations where the feud occurred. Even though shot at and warned to stay away, he eventually gained the confidence of the citizens of the places he visited. His dedication led to the publication of the book as well as a reality series based on the book for the History Channel. We were even fortunate enough to have a direct descendant of one of the Hatfields in the audience for the presentation.

The Singleton Chapel, Elk Hill

The Singleton Chapel, Elk Hill

Afterwards, Elk Hill provided wonderful refreshments for the attendees and Mr. King graciously signed books. We would like to thank Dean King for a wonderful presentation. We would also like to thank Elk Hill representatives David Wyman (CEO), Michael Farley (CFO) and Ann Criswell (Director of Development) for taking care of us.

Dean King signing copies of The Feud

Dean King signing copies of The Feud

For additional information on Elk Hill, visit

To learn more about Dean King, visit

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”!


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