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The Old Stone Jail Restoration Celebration, September 11, 2016!

8 Sep

The Old Stone Jail (1825)

The Goochland County Historical Society will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the restored Old Stone Jail at the Goochland Courthouse Public Square at 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 11, 2016. This celebration represents the culmination of research, construction and fundraising activity that began two years ago.

The Old Stone Jail has been restored to depict three eras of prison life over its nearly two centuries of existence.


Architectural historian Gibson Worsham, left, and restoration contractor Jim Haskell, right.

This project has been led by the work of architectural historian Gibson Worsham, with the construction phase managed by Goochland contractor Jim Haskell of Sermat Construction Services.

In addition to the ribbon-cutting activity, the Historical Society will unveil the inaugural phase of the Courtyard Green Commemorative Bricks installation.

The public is invited to attend, and tours of the newly restored Old Stone Jail will take place immediately after the ribbon-cutting.


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.

Out with the old…

6 Feb

Old Stone Jail

The Old Stone Jail on the Courthouse green has had a long and storied life.  Built in the first half of the 1800’s, burned during the Civil War and damaged in the 2011 earthquake, it has seen better days.  Part of the Society’s agenda for 2013 is placing the restoration of the Jail at the top of our priority list.  For this to happen, the Jail had to be cleared of old exhibits and other clutter that had accumulated over the years.  On a very warm January morning, Wayne Dementi, Andy Donnelly, Steve Fleming, Scott Johnson, Jess Lockhart, Phyllis Silber and Bruce Venter met at the Jail with their resolve steeled and their trucks ready.

Steve Fleming carries away and old exhibit

Steve Fleming carries away and old exhibit

Some of the old displays will be refurbished and placed in a new location.  The canal exhibit will hopefully find a new home in the administration building and some of the other pictures and objects will be put on display in the Society Museum and Gift Shop next to the Courthouse.

The Lock-Keepers House model

The Lock-Keepers House, part of the Canal Exhibit

With the Jail now empty, the restoration process can finally move forward.  Forms must be filled out, grants applied for and bids taken, the process is lengthy and detailed.  The Old Stone Jail has waited many years for a proper rejuvenation and it’s time has finally come.

Goochland County Court Square

14 Nov


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Goochland County Court Square consists of the Courthouse, Old Clerk’s office, Stone Jail, Knibb Building, brick wall and monuments to the Civil War and Vietnam soldiers. Together with the expansive lawn, these buildings come together to form a park-like setting missing from modern government complexes.

The 1826 Courthouse dominates the square. Begun in 1826, the Courthouse is a two-story, temple shaped building with a free-standing tetrastyle portico in the Tuscan Order. Flemish and American bond brickwork are used on the body of the building and it is topped with a slate roof. Dabney Cosby and Valentine Parrish built the Courthouse and it remains a fine example of Jeffersonian reform in Virginia Civic Architecture. Cosby had worked for Jefferson on some of the University of Virginia buildings and in turn influenced Parrish in the Jeffersonian style as well. Remarkably, little alteration has been done to the outside of the building. Apart from additions to the back, the building retains most of the original details.

The interior of the Courthouse also remains true in design to the essentials of the Jeffersonian plan. The judge’s bench still occupies a shallow apse, one of the few remaining in Virginia Courthouses. The gallery is a reinterpretation of the Doric order of the Theater of Marcellus in Rome. Resting on two wooden columns, the gallery is accessed by two matching staircases with original balusters that give way to a Chippendale Chinese rail. The upstairs of the Courthouse retains its two jury rooms, now used for storage.

The Old Stone Jail

The Old Stone Jail is thought to have been built between 1823 and 1833 using granite from the construction of the James River and Kanawha Canal. The building was burned during a raid by Union troops in 1865. The iron cells were removed in the 1930’s after which it served many official county uses. In 1980, the building was turned over to the Historical Society for use as an office and museum.

The Old Clerk’s Office (1847)

The Old Clerk’s Office, 1847, was the first official building on the Courthouse Square to house the records of the county. Before this time, Goochland’s records were kept at a building constructed by William Miller (Clerk, 1791-1846) near his home. The exterior of the building is largely untouched by alteration but the interior was modified for use as an office and is currently housing the Historical Society’s museum collection.

The brick wall surrounding the Square was originally built in 1840 to keep grazing cattle out. The wall was modified in 1958 with the construction of additional buildings. Other historic buildings include the 1906 Knibb Building, a brick office building and a storage house behind the Old Clerk’s Office. Two monuments to soldiers have been erected: the Confederate Soldiers Monument (1918) and the Veteran’s Monument (1998).

The James Clopton Knibb Building (1906)

Sadly, the taverns and shops that would have supported this County seat have disappeared, lost to fire and progress, but this area remains an excellent example of an old Virginia Courthouse Square. With its beautiful grouping of buildings, the picturesque Court Square manages to retain its historic nature while continuing to serve in its intended judicial capacity.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society