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George Inness in Goochland

18 Apr
George_Inness_-_Gray_Day,_Goochland_-_Google_Art_Project post

“Gray Day, Goochland” by George Inness, 1884

“There is no quarter of the globe so desirable as America, no state in America so desirable as Virginia.” Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in 1795 and by the spring of 1884, one of America’s most accomplished landscape painters, George Inness, left New York City bound for Virginia. Inness found his inspiration in Goochland.

For three months, Inness called Goochland his home while painting landscapes and enjoying the slower paced and incognito lifestyle. From Inness’ letters, it is clear that he stayed in the Courthouse area, possibly at the Old Inn which was situated adjacent to the jail, which he references in multiple letters.

During his stay in the Courthouse area, Innes explains in his letters home how pleased and happy he was with the progress being made on multiple paintings. Inness’ vast collection of paintings totals over 1,150 works, with four to six attributed to Goochland. “Gray Day, Goochland,” pictured here, is the most notable.

How Inness ended up in Goochland remains a mystery. He traveled to many parts of the country but his first trip to the South led him to Goochland. Inness suffered from epilepsy and was advised to seek out tranquil locations for relaxation. This or possibly his desire to remain unrecognized (as his popularity was at its peak) led Inness to end up in Goochland.

Inness’ trip to Goochland began the final ten years his life where his artwork took on a more abstract rendering of shapes, softened edges and saturated color.

Contributed by Ryan Dunn of the Goochland County Historical Society.

To learn more about George Inness in Goochland, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 20 “Why Not Goochland? George Inness in Goochland” by CeCe Bullard.  Available for purchase at the Historical Center and online.


Moonshine and Old Age

2 Feb

Mary Manley’s grave marker

Recently while looking for unrecorded cemeteries in the county, we came across on the grave of what appears to be one of the longest lived Goochland County residents. That person is Mary Lou Napier Manley. Her grave has just a funeral home marker, which is barely legible in early 2017, some 35 years after her death. She was buried in the Beasley Cemetery near Columbia.


Martha Napier and Mary Manley c. 1930

Mary Lou was born on September 12, 1870 and died March 1, 1982, making her 111 years old at death. We found her death certificate on the internet. Local legend has it that Mary Lou operated a moonshine still in the Goochland County woods just outside of Columbia. The archives of the Goochland County Historical Society contain a photograph of Mary and her mother, Mary Napier in jail after being convicted on December 8, 1930 for operating a still in Goochland. She died in Charlottesville in a nursing home. If she made moonshine, she must have drunk it as well which leads us to the conclusion of this short tale – Drinking moonshine must not be very hazardous to one’s longevity.

Contributed by Richard Toler of the Goochland County Historical Society.

To read more about The Moonshine Ladies pictured above, check out our post from August 31, 2014 here.

Relic Recall: Uncovering the forgotten stories behind our stuff

10 May

gold dustWhat is it: Gold dust and gold nuggets from Goochland gold mines.


Most people today do not realize that Goochland County has a long history in gold mining. When the early colonists came to Jamestown, one of their intended missions was to find gold. After early failures to locate anything near Jamestown, Christopher Newport led an expedition, in November 1608, up the James River about “four days above the falls”. They actually found samples of gold in gravels near the Indian village of “Rassawek” at the confluence of the Rivanna and James Rivers. Due to conflicts with the Monacan tribes, they never returned to the area, and soon the “gold” in Virginia became the golden leaf of tobacco and mining for actual gold was forgotten.

In 1829, gold was again discovered in western Goochland. A very distinct gold belt passes through Goochland along the current day Shannon Hill Road, from Shannon Hill in the north to Columbia in the south, near where Newport found gold in 1608. From 1830 to the start of The Civil War, nearly fifty gold mines were put into operation along this gold belt. The largest of these mines were known by such names as Bowles, Tellurium, Busby, Fisher, Moss, and Payne, with most of these names representing the people that owned the land where they were located.

A label attached to the gold samples in the picture provided information that the samples had been donated to GCHS in 1968 by Mr. & Mrs. Harrison Tilman of Crozier. Research into family history revealed that Mrs. Tilman was Edna Withers Kent, who had been born in Kent’s Store just across the county line in Fluvanna in 1896. Her father was George Henry Kent, the longtime owner, druggist and postmaster of Kent’s Store explaining why the samples were displayed in antique glass medicine bottles. Mrs. Tilman’s first husband had been Stuart C. Cottrell of Goochland, whose mother was Harriett Alexanna Bowles, a member of the Bowles family that owned and operated the Bowles and Tellurium gold mines in the 1800s.

The Tellurium mine was the largest of the Goochland gold mines, opened in 1834 by Judge D.W.K Bowles and G.W. Fisher. Bowles introduced, in 1836, a stamp mill which pounded the ore rather than grind it. This mill may have been the first of its kind in the country. The mill was expanded in 1848 but fire destroyed it in 1857 and it never reopened, although minor attempts were made up until 1910. For the most part, however, the Civil War marked the end of the gold mining era in Goochland.

Our relic of the past serves to remind us that in western Goochland, much like Christopher Newport 400 years ago, we can still say, “Thar’s gold in them thar hills”.

Relic Recall is contributed by Phil Harris of the Goochland County Historical Society.