Y History Walk – Back to the Prison

13 Aug

James River Correctional Center

On Sunday, June 26, 2016, more than 50 people gathered on the lawn in front of the clock tower at the James River Correctional Center property. They were there to take part in the second Y History Walk tour of the old prison property. Assistant Warden Nikki Linamen greeted all and gave a brief history of the property. The walking tour then began.


Anxiously awaiting the tour

A tour of the old chapel which was followed by an in depth look at the deserted cell block housed in the clock tower building. This was followed by a tour of the segregation building where prisoners who didn’t follow the rules were taken to seperate them from the general population. Following the prison buildings was a walk out to the historic brick kilns that once produced bricks that were used all over the state.


Inside of one of the cell blocks

Thank you to the Virginia Department of Corrections for making the property available to us for the afternoon and thank you to Assistant Warden Nikki Linamen for taking time out of her day to escort us around the property and answer the myriad of questions that were thrown her way. It was a wonderful afternoon and a fun and informative tour.


Bricks were produced here that were used all over the state.

Graduation Day

5 Jun

This weekend marks the end of the school year for Goochland students and the end of High School for the Class of 2016. This weekend also marked the occasion of at least one class reunion. At the class reunion for the Goochland High School Class of 1950, the following piece of history was shared. It is a small booklet that must have been handed out for an end of the year gathering and according to the names listed, it is from about 1905 or 1906. Following the picture is a poem by an unknown author, that was printed in the booklet.


The Close of School.


My pupils, ‘tis the end of school.

The term has reached its close;

We’ll say our farewells, go our ways,

And get an earned repose.

The bell no more will ring for you.

Until we meet again,

And sweet may your enjoyment be

Between this time and then.


Our separation’s long or short,

There’s only One can tell,

But what He does is always best,

As you all know full well.

,But oft I’ll think as days go by

Of all my pupils dear;

My thoughts will wander back to you

Thro’ all the coming year.


My wishes best go with you all,

My aid’s at your command

To fit you for life’s battles fierce,

To lend a helping hand.

Our meeting here from day to day.

Has knit us in a tie

Of friendship kindness and good will,

Which time will sanctify.


I’ve labored hard to teach you well,

True knowledge to impart,

To train the mind in wisdom’s ways,

And educate the heart.

And well I know our coming here

For months, from day to day,

Has done you good and fitted you

To find life’s better way.


You’ve laid foundations sure and strong,

On which to build a life,

That in the future time will shine

And triumph over strife.

But oft your thoughts will backward turn

To school of youthful days,

Where oft as boys and girls you met

When life was all ablaze


The time to say last words has come,

But ere we hence depart,

My thanks to you for kindness shown

I give with all my heart.

And now farewell! The day declines,

The sun is on the wane,

The shadows fall, the curtain drops

We break our school days chain.

One of the names listed is that of Blanche Layne. Read more about her school life in this earlier post, Memories of Cardwell High School.









Sabot Hill Meeting

22 May

Our first membership meeting of the year was held on May 15, 2016 in Manakin-Sabot. More than 60 people attended on what turned out to be a beautiful spring afternoon. A part of the reason for the excellent turn out would be the location, Sabot Hill. John and Sarah Van Der Hyde were gracious enough to open their home and the beautifully landscaped gardens to our members and guests.


Sabot Hill c. 1937

Sabot Hill, a Georgian-style mansion, was completed in 1937 by William T. Reed, Jr. The Baskerville and Son’s designed home has many handsome features such as the paneled entry and stairway and the 1719 woodwork and paneling in the library. The formal gardens are more than 100 years old and feature boxwood, roses, foxglove and a dahlia cutting garden. The current Sabot Hill occupies the same site as the 1850’s mansion of the same name that was built by James A. Seddon. Seddon’s mansion burned in the 1920’s.


Historical Society President Scott Johnson and Director Phyllis Silber present a thank you gift to hosts John and Sarah Van Der Hyde.

Lynn Price, our speaker for the day, discussed   “The Lady of His Excellency’: Martha Washington during the American Revolution.” Price is Assistant Editor at the Washington papers and gave an in depth account of some of the surviving correspondence between Martha and George Washington and what became of the bulk of their letters. The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer segment that kept everyone’s attention.

speaker and others

L to R: President Scott Johnson, speaker Lynn Price and Vice-President Bruce Venter.

Afterwards, John Van Der Hyde presented the listeners with a brief history of Sabot Hill and then encouraged the attendees to stroll the gardens.


Fountain in the garden at Sabot Hill

This was a not-to-be-missed occasion! We would like to thank John and Sarah Van Der Hyde for opening their home and gardens for the day. Thank you as well to Lynn Price for giving us such a wonderful presentation. We would also like to than Louise Thompson and Virginia Olson for getting the refreshments on the table in time and for cleaning everything up afterwards. This was a meeting that will not be soon forgotten.


Host Sarah Van Der Hyde with Penny

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

For more information on Sabot Hill read Volume 10.2 of The Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

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.

Under Every Tree

28 Apr

Phyllis book1

Finally there comes along a true guide to finding primary genealogy resources in Virginia! This little book will dispel the burden of where one should go first: a courthouse, library, or historical society. It provides detailed driving, and parking directions to the most helpful resources in each locality and a suggested visit-here-first for each county in the Commonwealth. The reader will also find valuable suggestions for places to visit in each county. Pack Under Every Tree with your essential research materials. Put it in the glove compartment of your car and head out.

Purchase online in the historical society gift shop or from www.undereverytree.com

Book Launch – “Kill Jeff Davis”

15 Mar

On March 6, 2016, the Goochland County Historical Society held its first event of the year at Hebron Church. The Society proudly sponsored the launch of “Kill Jeff Davis, The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864” the newest book by Bruce M. Venter.

kill Jeff Davis Jacket Cover

The book tells about the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid carried out in 1864 to free Union prisoners held captive in the Confederate capital. The raid ultimately failed but became a lasting note in history when orders were found on the body of slain raid leader Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. The orders contained a plot to Kill Confederate president Jefferson Davis and burn Richmond to the ground.

In an informative lecture followed by a lively discussion, Mr. Venter outlined the events leading up to the raid through to the outcome. He also disclosed some new facts that he discovered while doing research for his book. The raid is truly interesting and the excitement that Mr. Venter shows to the subject is contagious. If you missed this event, it is highly recommended that you attend one of his other book talks coming up around the Richmond metropolitan area in the next few weeks.


Bruce M. Venter

Dr. Bruce M. Venter is CEO of America’s History, LLC, Goochland County Historical Society Vice-President, an experienced tour leader, author of “The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America” as well as articles which have appeared in numerous national periodicals. “Kill Jeff Davis, The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864” can be obtained from the Historical Society office, most bookstores and through online dealers.

Thank you to Hebron Church for providing us a place to hold the lecture. Thank you also to Louise Thompson for setting up and taking down the refreshments. This was an excellent beginning for our year!


Hebron Church

To learn more about Goochland’s part in the raid, read these posts: Dahlgren’s Raid – Part I: The Raid BeginsDahgren’s Raid – Part II: The Raid on Dover Mills, Dahlgren’s Raid – Part III: Death and Destruction at Dover Mills,  and Dahlgren’s Raid – Part IV: End of the Raid and Aftermath.

Thomas Jefferson’s Elk-hill

31 Jan

Jefferson's Elk HillIf one is fortunate one sometimes finds a very important place of information while searching for a prosaic bit of evidence in the old deed books in the Goochland Clerk’s Office.

It was finding a deed to a William H. Miller of “Elk-hill” that led to discovering a description of the house owned by Thomas Jefferson in Goochland County called Elk-hill. Prior to this no one seemed to have any idea what the house looked like, what it was built of and how may stories tall it was. All that was positively known was that it was on a high bluff overlooking Byrd Creek near its junction with the Little James, and that it was on the 307 acres which Jefferson purchased from his wife’s sister in 1778. Fortunately, bricks of the foundation and chimneys, as well as huge tree stumps, marked the spot where the house once stood.

The land on which Jefferson’s Elk-hill house was situated was part of a Royal Patent dated June 16, 1714, granting all of Elk Island and 248 acres of upland to Charles Fleming and John Woodson.

John Wayles, the father of Martha Wayles (Skelton) Jefferson, purchased the land in question from Richard Weatherford by deed dated 12 September 1746.

John Wayles married Elizabeth Skelton, widow of Ruben Skelton on October 19, 1748. From this union there were two daughters, Anne and Martha. Anne Wayles later married Henry Skipwith, while her sister Martha, at age 17 married the 22 year old Bathurst Skelton in November of 1766 and moved to Elk-hill. Their only child, John, was an infant when Bathurst Skelton died in 1768. John died in infancy the year his mother, the widow Martha Skelton, married Thomas Jefferson on New Year’s Day 1772 and moved from her father’s home at The Forest, just outside Williamsburg to Monticello. Martha’s father died in May 1773 leaving her a large estate and making Jefferson one of the richest me in Virginia.

On September 21, 1778, during our Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson purchased 307 acres of land “with appurtenances” from Henry Skipwith and Anne, his wife, of the County of Cumberland for 710 pounds Virginia money.

The Elk-hill house was certainly built before 1766, when Martha Wayles moved to Elk-hill in November with her first husband, Bathurst Skelton. It may have been built some years earlier by Ruben Skelton whose widow, Elizabeth married John Wayles in 1748.

Jefferson was visited in 1781 at Monticello by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton of the British Army under General Cornwallis. Jefferson escaped capture, and Monticello escaped pillage, but Elk-hill was thoroughly worked over by Cornwallis and his troops. In a letter to Dr. Gordon in Paris, dated July 16, 1788 Jefferson states: “Cornwallis encamped his army all along the main James River to a seat of mine called Elk-hill, opposite to Elk Island and at the mouth of Byrd Creek. He remained in this position ten days, his own headquarters being in my house. He destroyed all of my barns, containing all of the same articles of last year, having first taken what corn he wanted, as was to be expected, all of my stock of cattle, sheep and hogs for sustenance of his army and all of the horses capable of service.”

The theft of his property and the burning of his barns in 1781 did not discourage Thomas Jefferson from purchasing on January 21, 1782, a tract of 312 acres from Edward Smith and his wife Sally.  Jefferson also purchased 50 more acres on May 19, 1783 from Judith Smith of Goochland and Ruben Smith of Cumberland County for 50 pounds. This tract adjoined the tract bought the year before by William Holman and William Bowman. The deed has a provision that Judith Smith shall have the right to occupy the house and land during her natural life with free use of water, wood, buildings and enclosures.

Jefferson did not keep his Elk-hill property very long. On August 5, 1799 he sold his 669 acres, all three tracts, to Thomas Augustus Taylor of Chesterfield County. The price was 1500 pounds current money of Virginia.

Thomas Augustus Taylor sold the 669 acre tract almost immediately to Hugh French. Hugh French soon died and his will was recorded on July 3, 1802, naming Robert French and Mason French as executors. By deed dated July 3, 1802, Robert French, acting as executor, sold at public auction the Elk-hill tract for 1701 pounds, 10 shillings to William H. Miller, “reserving one quarter part of an acre for a burying ground, where the said Hugh French is buried.”

William H. Miller took out a fire insurance policy on his dwelling, a kitchen and a barn at Elk-hill on January 28, 1806. This can be seen amongst the records of the Mutual Assurance Company of Virginia at the Virginia State Library. William Miller sold Elk-hill 10 years later to Thomas R. Harrison of Cumberland County who insured his house against fire on June 6, 1815. It is from the descriptions and dimensions given in the two Virginia Mutual Assurance Society policies that Mr. Calder Loth, Historical Architect with the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission has been able to sketch a “reconstructed” Jefferson’s Elk-hill.

Elie Weeks

The above is exerted from an article written by Elie Weeks in 1971 and was published in the Goochland County Historical Society Magazine issue Vol. 3, No. 1. The article is followed by historical Calder Loth’s “Explanation of the Conjectural Drawing” that explains his drawing of the house. This issue can be purchased in the Society store.