Tag Archives: Lost Goochland

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.

Lost Goochland – Ben Lomond

25 Jan

Ben Lomond in 1976 during the fateful restoration.

Goochland’s Ben Lomond is named after a mountain on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. The name Ben Lomond comes from the Scottish Gaelic Beinn Laomainn which translates to Beacon Mountain. In 1736, Isham Randolph, Sr. of Turkey Island in Henrico County, was granted a Royal Patent for 3,000 acres in Goochland County. It was on a part of this land that he built his mansion, Dungeness. Isham’s grandson, Archibald Cary Randolph bought the property that comprises Ben Lomond from the Dungeness estate in the late 1700’s and built his own house. An 1801 insurance policy shows that the original house was roughly the size of the central portion of the house as shown in the picture above. One of Randolph’s passions was horses and it was on this farm that famed racehorse Sir Archie was foaled in 1805.

The ruins of Ben Lomond

The ruins of Ben Lomond

In 1806, Archibald Cary Randolph was forced to sell Ben Lomond and his horses to pay debts. Archibald was also known to be particularly bad with money.  In a case heard before the Supreme Court, Archibald along with his two brothers, were said to be “notoriously insolvent” and had wasted their father’s estate. Archibald sent Sir Archie went to his partner William Tayloe and Ben Lomond was sold to Benjamin Watkins. The property passed down through the Watkins family for several generations and then went through a succession of owners: Van Mater, Schuett, Hazelwood, Rutherfoord, Bremner, Lewis, Hicks, Woodruff and Liebert to name a few.

The house has been described as a two-story, central passage plan house that was popular in the eighteenth century. Houses built in a similar style in Goochland include Tuckahoe, Rock Castle. In the 1970’s, Ben Lomond was undergoing an extensive restoration and renovation  project when it caught fire. Neighbors could only stand in awe as the historic structure succumbed to the intense heat before the fire department could arrive. All that remains today is the western chimney, brick foundation and the steps. Strewn amongst the ground cover are fallen bricks from the massive eastern chimney, broken glass and pieces of metal. Two beautiful magnolia trees and scattered boxwoods give evidence of the park-like grounds that must have once existed. A few crumbling outbuildings stand as reminders of the once magnificent farm are slowly following the manor house into oblivion.


Past the decimated structure and just beyond the edge of the wood line is a square stone wall, the age of which is unknown. Inside this enclosure is speculated to be the grave of Sir Archie (1803-1833). He was the greatest racehorse of his day and sired many champions in his years at stud. His line went on to produce Man O’War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to name just a few. Part of the mystery surrounding Sir Archie is his burial place. Sir Archie spent his last 17 years at stud at Mowfield Plantation, just west of Jackson, North Carolina which also lays claim as his place of burial. For decades, this has been a heated debate.

Burial place of Sir Archie?

Burial place of Sir Archie?

The loss of Ben Lomond was another devastating blow to that part of Goochland. By the time of the fire, the historic area of Rock Castle had already lost Dungeness and Mannsville, both with Randolph connections, and Bolling’s Orapax. Today Ben Lomond survives as a haunting ruin that can only hint at its former glory.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To learn more about Ben Lomond: read Volume 3-1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.


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

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.