Tag Archives: Dover

Dover: A Tour

20 Mar

“Dover” once stood on Dover Road near Hebron Church. In the 1850s, the mansion was enlarged by James and Ellen Bruce Morson into the large home seen in the pictures below.

dover 1 In a sales brochure put out by the American Trust Company in the early part of the 20th Century, the home was described as “A beautiful country estate, highly developed as a gentleman’s country home, with every natural advantage for a private country club.” At the time, Dover consisted of 350 acres and included a beautiful barn and stone gazebo.

Dover 3

Typical of the time, the home was decorated in the Victorian style with colonial influences. The billiard room had an incredible frieze as seen in the following photograph.

dover 5

The brochure boasted about the incredible finishes and marble mantel that could be found in the drawing room.

dover 4

The size of the rooms is one reason that the sellers were actively trying to interest country clubs to purchase the mansion, it would have lent itself nicely to that type of use.

Dover 2

It is unclear if the brochure worked or if any sales came forward, but sadly the mansion was destroyed by fire on the afternoon of February 8, 1933. Newspaper accounts said the fire began when a spark flew out of one of the decorative fireplaces. The mansion was a total loss.

dover 6

The ruins stood near the road for years and were a popular destination for many locals looking for an afternoon adventure. Finally they were declared dangerous and taken down.

To learn more about Dover Mansion, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 “Dover – Memories” by Virginia Strange Kiser and Vol. 8, No. 1 “Dover” by Elie Weeks, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office.



31 Jul

Recently, the Historical Society received an email from architectural historian Edward Polk Douglas. While reading the Society’s blog, Mr. Douglas noticed that a photo was mislabeled. The January 13, 2012 post on Lost Goochland featured a photo of the ruins of Dover Mansion. This photograph depicting the remains of a burned mansion has been published several times, including page 60 of our own publication, Goochland: Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard. Mr. Douglas recognized the photo to be Sabot Hill and not Dover as the photo was labeled in the Society’s collection.

The ruins of Sabot Hill

The ruins of Sabot Hill

We are now attempting to set the record straight. Close examination of pictures of both Dover and Sabot Hill confirm that the ruins are definitely Sabot Hill. This is a bonus for the society because we did not know we had a photograph of the ruins of that great mansion.

The following pictures are confirmed to be of Dover. The first two were taken in 1959 by Richard T. Couture, Professor of History and Historic Preservation at Longwood College. The third was taken by Society member Jane Saunders.

We would like to thank Mr. Douglas for bringing this to our attention. We are always striving to learn as much about Goochland history as we can. If you see anything that you should be corrected, please do not hesitate to bring it to our attention. Our email is goochlandhistory@comcast.net


Remaining walls of the main home. Taken Dec. 30, 1959 by Richard T. Couture


The remains of the east wing of Dover. Taken Dec. 30, 1959 by Richard T. Couture

The ruins of Dover

The ruins of Dover

Dover mansion by Jane Saunders

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.

Dahlgren’s Raid – Part III: Death and Destruction at Dover Mills

28 Aug

“For if,’ said he, ‘I can gain the woods before they overhaul me, I have no fear of my capture, or failure to reach Richmond in time to give warning.’ And away they went, plunging across the plowed fields, just as, from the Seddon place on the opposite side of the farm, the enemy’s troopers came galloping, hundreds of them, flying like birds, it seemed to me,—fences and closed gates offering no obstacle to their headlong rush.”  Ellen Wise Mayo

Ellen Wise Mayo

The women of Eastwood, Annie Jennings Wise Hobson and her sister Ellen Wise Mayo together with the house servants detained the Union soldiers long enough for General Wise to gallop off into the woods.  Annie was upstairs sending word of what was to be said to the soldiers while Ellen was at the front door talking with an officer, both doing their best to draw attention away from Gen. Wise crossing the fields towards the trees.

“I can see him as plainly now as then: his flea-bitten gray horse, his McClellan saddle, his very expression as he sat there sidewise, talking so insultingly. I see the flashing eye, and hear the voice commanding me to tell the truth. I clutched at the little child beside me and, even as I spoke, I could see out of the corner of my eye, over the trees, which concealed him from the trooper, my father disappearing in the woods. I declared most solemnly (God forgive me) that my father was in Charleston, South Carolina. Anxiety and excitement excluded fear of God or man.”  Ellen Wise Mayo

With his son-in-law Plumer Hobson’s knowledge of the area, Wise escaped Dahlgren and would arrive in Richmond in plenty of time to warn the Confederate government.  He had enough of a head start to prevent his being captured.

“The hero of Hatteras Island was not inclined to a personal encounter even with a single man, and, being well mounted, succeeded in making his escape into the woods.”  Louis Boudrye, Chaplain, Fifth New York Cavalry

Ruins of Dover steam mill.

It was at this point that the steam mill at Dover made it’s way into history.  The once thriving two-story mill would be reduced to ruins by the end of the day.  The elegant remains left from the wartime destruction of the mill have fascinated passers-by and photographers for 150 years.

“Between the Seddon mansion and the river was a large grist-mill with a saw-mill attached.  These were driven by about a one hundred horse-power steam engine.  These mills were fired in several places.  A few steps further and we were on the bank of the James river canal.  Here we found two or three canal boats loaded with corn meal and lumber from the mills we had just burned.  These were all burned.”  Samuel Harris, Michigan Cavalry, 5th Regiment


Most of the destruction and looting took place at Dover and Sabot Hill, Eastwood lost horses but no buildings during the raid.  The destruction of the barns and mill were written about in most of the accounts of this fateful day.

“Mr. Morson’s steam barn and farm stables, outhouses etc., Mrs. Seddon’s barn, stable and corn houses and Dover Mills were in flames.” Annie Jennings Wise Hobson

Martin Robinson, a freed slave, sent from Richmond to guide the unit, was supposed to take them to a point that they could then cross the James River.  It was part of the Dahlgren’s plan to attack from the southern side of the city while Kilpatrick attacked the northern edge.

“I afterwards learned that he came into our lines from Richmond…He was born and had always belonged in the immediate vicinity of Dover Mills, was very shrewd and intelligent, and it would seem impossible that he should not know that no ford existed in the neighborhood.”  Louis Boudrye, Chaplain, Fifth New York Cavalry

When the Union party arrived at the river, they discovered that the guide had delivered them to a place that they could not cross.  This could have been due to the fact that heavy rains had swollen the river or simply a miscalculation on Robinson’s part, but either way, Dahlgren, in anger, decided to hang the poor man.

“I had my doubts then, and still have the same, whether this guide intentionally or treacherously misled us…Under the circumstances I considered then and do now, that the guide done remarkably well to bring us out to within about fifteen miles of the point aimed at in a march of nearly two hundred miles.” Samuel Harris, Michigan Cavalry, 5th Regiment

At this point, Dahlgren and his men had no choice but to approach Richmond from the northern side of the river.  This, along with Wise’s warning, would ultimately doom the raid to failure.  Word of the raid and attack had reached Richmond with Wise and fear gripped the city.

“The enemy, once more, are within a few miles of Richmond.”  Mary Boykin Chestnut

Next Week: End of the Raid and Aftermath

Quotes from Part III were taken from Historic Records of the Fifth New York Cavalry by Rev. Louis N. Boudrye, 1865, Personal reminiscences of Samuel Harrisby Samuel Harris, 1897, The Family Letters: A Portrait of an American Family Through Letters From the 18th and 20th Century, edited by John T. B. Mudge, 2009, “A War-Time Aurora Borealis” by Ellen Wise Mayo featured in the Goochland County Historical Society’s Magazine, Volume 22 and A Diary from Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut, 1949

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

Dahlgren’s Raid – Part II: The Raid on Dover Mills

21 Aug

“At Dover Mills we halted about two hours on the property of Mr. Seddon, the Rebel secretary of war.  No Union troops had ever been there before and our appearance created excitement.” Louis Boudrye, Chaplain, Fifth New York Cavalry

March 1, 1864, would prove to be a day of great discontent for the inhabitants of the Dover Mills plantations.  Amidst the sleet, snow and rain would come Union soldiers bent on crippling the war effort in the area before sweeping on to what they had hoped would be a great victory in Richmond.

“Dahlgren’s original purpose is said to have been to cross the James river at either Jude’s Ferry which was on the Morson place just above, or at Mannakin Ferry, three miles below us, and to approach Richmond by the south bank of the James.  Whether it was or not, his force entered the Morson and Seddon plantations instead of coming straight on to ‘Eastwood’ and there lost considerable time firing buildings and appropriating horses.” Ellen Wise Mayo

General Henry A. Wise

Mr. Gathright of the Goochland troop and home on furlough, went first to Eastwood plantation to warn General Henry A. Wise of the Union approach.  Wise, former governor of Virginia, was visiting his daughter Annie Jennings Wise Hobson, and would have been quite a capture if not for the warning received from Gathright about the fast advance of Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s men into the vicinity of Dover Mills.

“My Company was directly opposite the house, and not more than one hundred feet from the front porch.  It was a large, old style Virginia mansion, with a wide porch across the front, and four large stone columns.” Samuel Harris, Fifth Michigan Cavalry

Dover plantation would be the first stop of the Union troops upon their entry into the area.  The large imposing mansion, home of James and Ellen Bruce Morson, was at first mistaken for the house of Alexander Seddon, Confederate secretary of war.  Seddon, in Richmond at the time of the raid, acutally lived at Sabot Hill, a plantation across the fields from Dover.  Sabot Hill would become Dahlgren’s second target.

Dover, the Morson home

“As I stood looking in the door, Mrs. Seddon came and said to me “Your men are pillaging my house and breaking my furniture.  Won’t you stop it?”  I said to her “Madam they are not my men.  If they were they would come out of there or I would shoot them.  There is Col. Dahlgren, the commander, go to him.”  She ran to the Colonel and made her appeal with what success I do not know.” Samuel Harris, Michigan Fifth Cavalry

The pillaging and degradation attributed to the soldiers during the raid would be greatly reported after the event.  Stories of their exploits were greatly exaggerated to the delight of southern sympathizers, but for better or worse, some of the stories were true.  In some cases, the plantation slaves apparently took part in the looting.

James Alexander Seddon, Confederate States Secretary of War

“The ties of affection we sometimes hear about binding master and slave together under the patriarchal institution, evidently did not exist in Mr. Seddon’s neighborhood…They have invaded both mansions screaming for silk dresses, breaking furniture and tearing everything to pieces…They said they were nearly starved, over worked and cruelly beaten without cause and certainly exhibited a most miserable condition….It is impossible to prevent some acts of disorder being committed upon the property of so prominent a Rebel official as Seddon especially under the example and imitation of his own house servants” Louis Boudrye, Chaplain, Fifth New York Cavalry

With disorder reigning at both Dover and Sabot Hill, the soldiers now turned their full attention on Gen. Wise, rumored to be staying at Eastwood, home of Plumer and Annie Jennings Wise Hobson.  This would be the last of the area plantations visited by Dahlgren and his men.

“Mr. Seddons house was in full view…the troopers of Dahlgren were plainly visible, galloping about the stables and barnes and setting fires to the buildings.”  Ellen Wise Mayo

All of the residences were within sight of each other giving the Hobson’s of Eastwood more time to prepare for the onslaught.   The period of time that the raiders had spent on the Morson and Seddon places had allowed Gen. Wise to dress, mount his horse and gallop off to warn Richmond of the upcoming raid.

Gen. Wise escapes!

“Have no fear’ father had said as he rode away.  Oh no.  Of course I had none!  There I stood, almost frantic, as a Union soldier dashed up, with drawn revolver, and demanded to know where the man was who hung John Brown.” Ellen Wise Mayo

Next Week, Part III – Death and destruction at Dover Mills!

Quotes from Part II were taken from Historic Records of the Fifth New York Cavalry by Rev. Louis N. Boudrye, 1865, Personal reminiscences of Samuel Harris by Samuel Harris, 1897 and “A War-Time Aurora Borealis” by Ellen Wise Mayo featured in the Goochland County Historical Society’s Magazine, Volume 22

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

Lost Goochland – Eastwood

30 Mar

#2 in the Lost Goochland series


The beautiful Italianate mansion pictured above was called “Eastwood” and once stood north of The River Road on a hill above Sabot Station.  The home was built in 1859 for Frederick Plumer Hobson and his wife Annie Jennings Wise Hobson.  Ellen Wise Mayo, sister of Annie, vividly described a visit to “Eastwood” that still manages to transport the reader to another time and place:

“The carriage from ‘Eastwood’ was awaiting us.  The lights from the country store glinted on the vehicle, its harness, and trappings, and the horses, chilled by the nipping air, pranced and fretted in the darkness, impatient to be off…Along the public road beside the canal, through ‘Eastwood’s’ outer gate, up the long hill to the highlands, past the tobacco barns, we sped, until at last we caught sight of the homestead, all its windows ablaze with loving welcome, looming up in its grove of oaks, half a mile away.”

During this visit, in March of 1864, Col. Ulric Dahlgren came to “Eastwood” in search of Brigadier General Henry H. Wise, the father of Annie and Ellen.  Legend has it that the women of neighboring plantations, “Dover” and “Sabot Hill”, stalled Dahlgren long enough to allow Plumer Hobson and Henry Wise to get to Richmond to warn of the Dahlgren’s impending invasion.

“Eastwood” survived the Civil War intact but the family did not.  Annie would give birth to and lose 4 children, one accidentally poisoned by a relative!  Plumer Hobson died in 1868 leaving Annie to take care of the plantation.  For a time she ran a school for boys at the house before finally selling the house, out-buildings and 680 acres to T.C. Bennett.

“Eastwood” would change hands many times before being bought by Mattie Merle Coffee of Des Moines, Iowa in 1907.  Mattie was the wife of Dr. W.O. Coffee who made millions on a mail order business offering “cures” for eye diseases.  Mrs. Coffee and her son Earl ran a small inn near Sabot Station called “Duck Inn” which is still standing in Sabot.  Tragically, one night in 1941, “Eastwood” burned to the ground.  Only a few furnishings survived the flames that brought down the last of the Sabot homes that had played a part in Goochland’s famous Civil War raid.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To read more about “Eastwood”: Read volume 22 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine featuring Ellen Wise Mayo’s full story “A War-Time Aurora Borealis” reprinted from the 1896 article featured in The Cosmopolitan.

Lost Goochland

13 Jan

New Year, new post, new series!

Lost Goochland

This new series will focus on Goochland’s lost architectural past.  The buildings that will be featured now exist only in faded photographs and memories growing ever dimmer.  The desired outcome of these posts is to draw attention to the rich historic sites that are still standing.  These silent witnesses to history need to be studied, preserved, and cherished.

Dover Mansion


Completed 1845

Burned 1933

Once described as “the stateliest home in Virginia”, Dover mansion stood about 1 mile north of the intersection of Dover Road and River Road West.  Ellen C. Bruce purchased the land in 1842 and married James M. Morson in 1843.  The Morsons either enlarged a pre-existing house or built Dover shortly thereafter.  The elegant Greek Revival mansion featured Corinthian columns, a large ballroom and eight bedrooms, some with built-in marble washstands, a luxury at that time.  The fireplace mantels were ornately carved Carrara and Florentine marble that had been taken from the Morson’s Richmond residence (later the White House of the Confederacy).  Large crystal chandeliers and opulent interiors graced many of the rooms in the home.  Dover would survive the Civil War and Dahlgren’s Raid in March of 1864 with only broken glass but ultimately would be lost to a spark from one of the prized fireplaces.  In February of 1933, an errant spark ignited the beautiful mansion and with no fire department, onlookers could only watch as one of Goochland’s antebellum jewels burned to the ground.

The ruins of Dover

The ruins of Dover

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To learn more about Dover Mansion, read Goochland County Historical Society Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 “Dover – Memories” by Virginia Strange Kiser and Vol. 8, No. 1 “Dover” by Elie Weeks, information on Dover can also be found in Goochland Yesterday and Today by Cece Bullard.  These are available for purchase at the Historical Society Office.