In the files of the Goochland County Historical Society, there are often little pieces of history that get overlooked. In the file marked “Norton Family of Sabot Hill” there is a newspaper clipping donated years ago by a descendant of that family. We know the Norton’s owned Sabot Hill from 1883 until 1903, which helps date the clipping to that time period. It has been suggested that this could have been an advertisement to interest buyers. If so that would put the date closer to 1903 when the Norton’s sold Sabot Hill. The newspaper name is cut off and we do not know the author so we cannot give credit where it is due. So sit back and enjoy this little slice of the “sunny southland”.
A Shrine of History, Chivalry and Romance.
Sabot Island, Feb. 18th. – Mr. Editor – Having had occasion to visit Sabot Hill, I desire to chronicle some of the striking features of this notable plantation that impressed me, it being the grand old homestead of one of Virginia’s noblest sons, Hon. James A. Seddon, who was Secretary of War, and where Jefferson Davis frequently met to counsel with his cabinet and all the leading statesmen, and where he outlined many a speech, the general tenor of which was an endeavor to revive the drooping spirits of the people and to inspire confidence and hope. Sabot Hill bears the same relation to the upper James that Westover does to the lower James. At the entrance I noticed a massive stone wall, which formed a fence up the winding accent to the ridge leading to the magnificent mansion. As I looked at the house and grounds, I could but wonder at its beauty and its wonderful state of preservation.
Some years since, Mr. Arthur Seddon sold Sabot Hill to Prince Nestorowitsch, from Russia, who spent many thousands in improving the estate, and surely could not have more lavishly adorned the walls and ceilings. The former are finished with oil in the most delicate tints, while the latter are decorated with beautiful and elaborate designs in water colors and gold leaf which would attract the eye of the finest artists. Indeed the beautiful polished floors, the imported marble mantels, rosewood doors, silver hinges, the huge white pillars and broad winding staircase of Corinthian design, lavishly ornamented with gold leaf, adds each in its own graceful way, to the charm of the interior of this home of cultivation and refinement.
Mr. Seddon surely made no mistake in selecting this spot to build such a palatial home. The broad acres of rich and gently rolling uplands, the fertile low grounds and island, outbuildings and tenant houses, and all, are in keeping.
From these noble grounds one of the most beautiful views along the James can be seen. For miles you can see the sparkling waters of this historic river.
“To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible form, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness and a smile,
And eloquence of beauty; and she glides
Into his dark musings with a mild
And healing sympathy.”
A short distance west of the house is the garden of noble dimensions. The stately magnolias, the box, the marimosa, the great willow, and many other rare and imported trees spread their branches and their leaves which stir lazily in the charmes, languorous stillness of one of Virginia’s golden summer evenings. The velvet turf, the broad and picturesque avenues which lead me past the tall hydrangeas, the nodding Eulalia grass, the clinging fragrant Wistaria, and Hilliana honeysuckle, the sweet English violets, the Persian lilacs, the Perle d’Or, the Jacqueminot and other countless varieties of fragrant roses, brought to my memory the days when “Love’s Young Dream” was continually being sung in this same rural spot. Beyond this garden, the peaks of the Blue Ridge can be seen, also the C. & O. R. R. as it follows along the James in its broad and crooked course around the hills.
Owing to financial trouble, Sabot Hill was sold from Prince Nestorowitsch to a syndicate of wealthy Southern gentlemen. Two years since they sold it to Major Augustus Norton, of Ohio, who was president of the First National Bank in Athens.
Major Norton’s family, when he came to Sabot Hill, consisted of a wife and eight children, but soon thereafter, his eldest daughter, Miss Frances Johnson, married Prof. S. C. Price, and now lives in Mt. Clemens, Mich. Mrs. Norton is a great-great grand-daughter of Major General Israel Putnam, of fame in the French and Indian War, and in the War of the American Revolution.
This family possesses high literary and artistic talent and has added very much to our social surroundings.
There are other fine estates in this section for sale, and we would like to have many more families like this to come and settle in this part of our “Sunny Southland.” S.L.J.
To read more about “Sabot Hill”: read volume 10, No. 2 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.