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October 21, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

The Ayres of Edge Hill

Ayres_James-Nathan_SRRJames Nathan Ayres (1849-1906), Photo by Joanne Yeck

Today, the house at what was once Edge Hill, located on Buckingham’s Slate River, is gone; yet, each spring, the Ayres cemetery blooms, profuse with periwinkle.

Once the home of Rev. John Ayres, eventually, Edge Hill was occupied by his son, Matthias Leake Ayers (1813–1853), and his wife, Martha Rebecca Hanes (1825–1855), of Humanity Hall, which lays adjacent Edge Hill, just across the river.  There, in 1848, Elijah Hanes established Humanity Hall Academy.

Two of Matthias and Martha Ayres’ sons, both educators, were buried at Edge Hill.

Prior to 1890, James Nathan Ayres (1849-1906), whose grave is pictured above, was employed teaching school in Buckingham County.  According to Harry S. Holman, “Cousin Jimmy taught Latin.”  In 1893, he was the principal teacher at Well Water School; Miss Hannah Winfrey was the assistant teacher.

Jimmy’s older brother, Thomas Eldridge Ayres (1847–1874), was educated at the University of Virginia (1868-1870) and married Olivia Winfield Blackwell (born c. 1847). Olivia was the daughter of Rev. John Blackwell, President of Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute.  Later, Thomas taught mathematics in Baltimore, Maryland.

There is no question that this extended Ayres-Hanes-Blackwell family of educators, living on Slate River, positively influenced generations in Buckingham County and beyond.

For more about Thomas Eldridge Ayres and other 19th century University of Virginia graduates, please visit Jean Cooper’s blog: Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874


Leave a Comment
  1. Amy Bersch / May 3 2020 8:49 pm

    I am the great-granddaughter of Bessie Ann Holman Snoddy. My mother is Mattie Snoddy Land who is the daughter of Robert Harold Snoddy, the son of Bessie. My husband and I now own the property which was once a part of Edge Hill. The cementary located there has the tombstone of James Nathan Ayres pictured above. We are building a home on the property and would love to find a picture of the original home that was there. I was wondering if you had any information or a picture of the house. If not, is there someone you could recommend we talk to. We would like to honor my ancestors in some way. Thank you!

    • Joanne Yeck / May 4 2020 7:00 am


      Many thanks for your comments. I do not have a picture of Edge Hill. My cousin, Harry Holman, may know more. You can reach him at

      Enjoy your new home!


    • Danny Newton / Sep 13 2020 3:20 am

      Hi Amy, do you know if there may be a grave in the Ayres cemetery for anyone with last name of “Newton”? I recall seeing genealogy information that one of my grandfathers is buried in an Ayres family cemetery. Don’t recall if it’s great or great-great. Thank you

  2. S Pickrell / Sep 23 2017 12:45 pm

    I am searching for the parents of Elizabeth Benecia Ayers 1774 who married Martin Chastain 1768. They lived in Buckingham Co. VA. Any help is most appreciated.

    • Joanne Yeck / Sep 23 2017 3:55 pm

      I don’t have any information about Elizabeth Benecia Ayers, however, a Slate River Ramblings reader might. Happy hunting! Joanne

  3. Danny Newton / Dec 21 2013 7:24 pm

    One of my great grandfathers, several times removed, William Newton, Sr; who is said to have been born in 1767 and died about 1814, was buried in a small cemetery with the Ayres family in Buckingham county. Does anyone know of the location of this cemetery?

    • Joanne Yeck / Dec 22 2013 1:00 pm

      Danny, I’m not familiar with a Newton-Ayres cemetery. Perhaps, another Slate River Ramblings reader can help. Joanne

      • Danny Newton / Dec 22 2013 5:50 pm

        Joanne, thank you for the reply. I’m not sure if the Ayres cemetery is the correct one or not. If he was buried in this one, I would venture to guess there would be no headstone other than maybe a field stone or piece of slate to mark his grave. My dad Charles L Newton, Jr is buried in the Scottsville Cemetery and his parents Charles L Newton Sr and Virginia Helen Thomas Newton are buried in the Newton family cemetery on Bridgeport Rd.

      • Joanne Yeck / Dec 23 2013 8:48 am

        Danny, Doubtless there are several unmarked and unnamed graves in the cemetery at Edge Hill as there are all over Buckingham County. Also, like many that have “gone to the woods,” the cemetery at Edge Hill is not very accessible.

  4. Kimberly / Oct 21 2013 9:55 pm

    Rev. John Ayers officiated at the marriage of my fourth great-grandfather, William P. Shepherd and Martha Gaines Booker, dau of Bernard Gaines Booker. They were married on 26 May 1830. This was printed in the Richmond papers on 6 June of that year. I haven’t been able to trace the Shepherds back beyond him. He appears out of nowhere in the early 1800s and I can’t fit him in with any of the other Shepherds/Shepards. Frustrating.

    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 22 2013 6:54 am

      Kimberly, Thanks for the information about the Shepherd-Booker marriage. Watch for posts, coming soon, about Rev. John Ayres and the Booker family.

  5. Harry Stuart Holman / Oct 21 2013 4:14 pm

    Dear Janet Ayres,

    I am working on a new book which includes the Ayres family. I would love to add your line if you would be so glad to send it. Both of my paternal grandparents descend from Jane Ayres Holman–daughter of Col. Nathan Ayres. Grandma Holman also descended from Judith Ayres Spencer–eldest child of Col. Nathan Ayres. He was the father of Rev. John Ayres of “Edge Hill,” Buckingham County–mentioned in Coz. Joanne’s account.

    Harry Stuart Holman

    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 21 2013 6:17 pm

      Harry, We all look forward to your next book!

  6. Nancy Baldwin / Oct 21 2013 11:29 am

    Enjoy so much the history shared in these stories. Thank you, Joanne, for your time and effort.

    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 21 2013 11:31 am

      Nancy, Thanks for following!

  7. Janet Ayres / Oct 21 2013 11:16 am

    Is our family connected to this branch of the Ayres family?    I enjoyed the article on Garnett Agee.   There is a resemblence to your mom.  Take care.   janet


    • Joanne Yeck / Oct 21 2013 11:32 am

      Janet, As far as I know, all Ayres in Buckingham County are related. It is just a question of how!

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