Tag Archives: Goochland Courthouse

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.


Amazing things are happening in Goochland!

13 Aug
D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough

200-year-old bricks found at the center of the Courthouse columns! Footing for a 20-30 foot high brick wall that surrounded the stone jail was uncovered! Recently, archaeologists D. Brad Hatch and Jennifer McDonough from Dovetail Cultural Resource Group came to the Courthouse Green at the behest of the Historical Society to search for the footings of the wall long thought to have existed around the jail.

Various items found during excavation

Various items found during excavation

The first hole tried showed evidence of the long missing wall and immediately, the archaeologists started bringing things up that had been covered for a century or more. Nail, bits of pottery and ceramic, pieces of glass, chunks of brick and a 1905 Indian head penny.

1905 Indian head penny

1905 Indian head penny

The dig continued as the searchers tried spot after spot searching for more evidence of footings. Starting from the first hole, the pair moved outward, away from the jail and then across the jail yard looking for more evidence. Finally, with a little help from some ground penetrating radar equipment, the remains of the former wall were found in a large enough quantity to establish the size and length. Goochland’s nineteenth century jail wall had been proved to have existed!

The proof of the former wall.

The proof of the former wall.

Most of what is left in the ground is the rubble that was left when the wall was pushed down a century ago. Pieces of brick and cement remain as a testament to the walls that once surrounded jails in Virginia in the 1800’s. Once these structures were deemed no longer of use, most were taken down. The bricks were often used in other structures and what was left was pushed down and covered over as is the case in Goochland. This is just the first step in the upcoming restoration of the Old Stone Jail.

Courthouse column

Courthouse column

A few days after the excavation, workmen came to patch and paint the columns on the front of the historic Courthouse. During the patching, the bricks that make up the interior of the columns were briefly exposed. The is possibly the first time these bricks have seen the light of day in almost 200 years! What will turn up next?

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

A Nation Remembers Appomattox

15 Apr


Goochland Courthouse Green with the Civil War monument in the foreground.

Goochland Courthouse Green with the Civil War monument in the foreground.


On Thursday, April 9, 2015, people across the country came together for a bell ringing ceremony to commemorate the end of the American Civil War. 150 years ago, Gen. Grant and Gen. Lee ended their meeting in Appomattox marking the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, the site of the McLean house and the meeting between the two Generals, was the location of the first bell to ring on the 9th.

Rev. Lauren Lobenhofer

Rev. Lauren Lobenhofer

At 3:15, bells across the land began ringing and continued to do so for four minutes, one minute for each year of the war. This event brings a symbolic end to the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Civil War. The gathering in Goochland was held on the steps of the historic Court house. Society President Wayne Dementi welcomed all who attended and then introduced Rev. Lauren Lobenhofer, pastor of Gum Spring United Methodist Church who provided a prayer for the occasion.

(Kneeling, l to r) Jacob Massey, J.T. Massey (Standing l to r) Sophia Pryor, Dr. James Bowles, Isabelle Duke, Ned Creasey, E. Steve Fleming.

(Kneeling, l to r) Jacob Massey, J.T. Massey (Standing l to r) Sophia Pryor, Dr. James Bowles, Isabelle Duke, Ned Creasey, E. Steve Fleming.

The ringers then stepped up and began tolling the bell. One of the ringers, Isabelle Duke, had a great-grandfather who was among the men from the Army of Northern Virginia who was at Appomattox for the final meeting between Grant and Lee. She remembered stories from her childhood that he would tell about the meeting and the fact that he walked home afterwards. Proof that 150 years is not as long ago as it seems.

Dr. Bruce Venter

Dr. Bruce Venter

Once the ringing ended, Dr. Bruce Venter read from several eye witness accounts to the event. He concluded by talking about the more than 750,000 lives lost during the 4 years of the conflict and the fact that Lincoln’s assassination occurred just a week after the meeting. It was a somber ending for the solemn event.


The Historical Society would like to thank everyone who participated in this commemoration.

Bells Across The Land

26 Mar

bell ring 3April 9, 2015 on the Courthouse Green   3 pm

In conjunction with a major event at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, the Goochland County Historical Society will join in a national commemoration to mark the beginning of the end of the American Civil War. The bells will ring first at Appomattox at 3:00 p.m. on April 9, 2015. The ringing will coincide with the moment the historic meeting between Grant and Lee ended. The Goochland event will begin on the Courthouse Green in Goochland at 3:00 p.m. After an invocation the Courthouse bell will be rung at precisely 3:15 p.m. for four minutes, each minute symbolic of a year of war. The public is invited.

To find out more about Bells Across The Land, visit the National Park Service Website by clicking here.

bell ring 2

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.

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


Goochland’s Courthouse

5 Nov

1914 Postcard View of the Courthouse

In 1826, the gentlemen justices of Goochland County requested an act of the Virginia assembly to adjourn court to a tavern that once stood in the courthouse area.  This request came so that Goochland could then begin building a new courthouse to replace the old one which had fallen into disrepair.  William Miller, Clerk, was ordered to invite the Masonic Society to lay the cornerstone, which was done on September 23, 1826.  The cornerstone was inscribed on all four sides.  The first side had “Dedicated to Justice and Masonry”, the second side: “Sept. 23 A.D. 1826, third side: “D. Cosby and V Parrish, architects”, and on the fourth side: “Goochland Lodge No. 115 Fecit. Wm. Mountjoy, Richmond”.  The Courthouse was built by Dabney Cosby and Valentine Parrish for the sum of $5, 250.  Cosby had previously worked on buildings at the University of Virginia and Hampden-Sydney College and Parrish would go on to build Byrd Church among other structures.  On August 20, 1827, Colonel William Bolling of Bolling Hall sat as judge for the first time on opening day in the new courthouse.  The courthouse has undergone some changes, notably an addition to the back and walkways connecting it to other buildings, but the front portion has remained remarkably true to the original design.  It is surrounded by a Clerk’s Office (1847), Stone Jail (1833) and a nineteenth century brick wall that was constructed to keep cattle off of the courthouse lawn.  The courthouse was restored in the 1990’s and continues to operate as the seat of the Goochland County Circuit Court almost 200 years after building.

2010 photo of the Goochland Courthouse