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January 19, 2014 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County 1856: Physic Springs Farm

Slate River Ramblings_Physic Springs_1856_Sale

In 1856, something was stirring in Buckingham County.

A significant number of valuable Buckingham farms and other businesses were advertised for sale in the Richmond newspapers.  Did sellers attempt to take advantage of a strong market?  Did they anticipate a dip? Was the climate in Buckingham shifting towards increasing industry, making those properties more valuable? Did the political battles over the Kansas Territory concern Buckingham County slaveholders?  Was it just coincidental?

Among the properties for sale were Physic Springs Farm and its Grist Mill.  Owner Martha G. Spencer advertised in the Richmond newspapers:

The Undersigned wishing to dispose of her PHYSIC SPRING property, takes this method of offering it at private sale.  The tract contains by survey 473 ACRES of land of a fair quality, and in good condition, with timber and water well distributed.  The improvements consist of a good Dwelling House, with all the usual farm houses; and a very good Grist Mill, in good repair, which will be sold with, or without, the tract, as purchasers may prefer.

Martha Spencer added that the farm was located in an “agreeable community,” convenient to the well-known Buckingham Female Collegiate Institute and other good schools.

In 1860, Martha G. Spencer and three of her unmarried children were living with her son-in-law, Dr. A.W. Fontaine, and his wife, Mildred.  Also in 1860, William J. Fontaine (age 26) was employed as a Miller.  His water-powered mill, grinding corn and wheat, is among those listed on the 1860 Industrial Census producing over $500 in business per year.  Was he operating the Physic Springs Grist Mill? Or, perhaps, Diana Mills, which was given as the address of Dr. A.W. Fontaine?


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  1. Shirley Robinson / Aug 5 2021 5:31 pm

    I am interested physic spings.does anyone have pictures or info. My grandparent bought the property many years ago.

    • Joanne Yeck / Aug 6 2021 6:43 am


      I don’t have more on Physic Springs. Hopefully, someone who does will see your comment.


  2. Kaye W. Mathews / Jun 2 2014 6:10 pm

    I have the picture of Dr. Fontaine. The original has gone by the wayside but it was 18×24. I had it restored at Dementi Foster Studios in Richmond. He is on horseback, with a black dog by his side and in front of an old building. If I can figure a way to do a photo of it I will post it in Slate River Ramblings. I was always told that Dr. Fontaine is buried next to his mother. Yes, Louise named her son after her first husband and her maiden name. Her Mother had a son after Louise was married and named him Herbert Fontaine, and his son was Herbert Fontaine, Jr. Then when Daddy was away in WWII, a sister was born and Mama named her Louise Fontaine, fearing that Daddy might not make it home. He did and later a son was born. Daddy was working out of town, Mama didn’t know what to name the baby until a telegram arrived at the hospital addressed to Fontaine Poindexter Ware, Jr. I named a daughter Elizabeth Fontaine. My sister named a child Lynn Fontaine, another sister named her son Fontaine Scott. Elizabeth name one of her sons Stephen Fontaine. Yes, we love the name Fontaine. I grew up with great Aunt Harriet (Louise’s baby sister) always telling me about him and how the family and Louise loved him. Louise later divorced her second husband.

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 2 2014 6:36 pm

      Kaye, If you’d like . . . please scan and send the photo directly to me and I’ll turn it and your comment into a post. That way, the majority of Slate River Ramblings readers will have an opportunity to learn about Dr. Fontaine. My email address is: Joanne

    • Louise Davis Hume / Jun 3 2014 12:59 am

      Yes, do send the portrait of Dr. C. O Fontaine to Joanne. If your copy is also 18×24 you may have to scan it in sections. I’m sure Joanne will know how to stitch it together.

      As Overton died in 1907 and is buried in the Presbyterian church at New Canton in Buckingham and his mother died after 1918 and we think she is buried beside her 2nd husband in Fluvanna. He might be buried beside his father in New Canton, but I am not sure about that.

      • Joanne Yeck / Jun 3 2014 8:22 am

        Louise, Thanks for the vote of confidence about the portrait of Dr. Fontaine. I’ll do my best! Joanne

  3. Beverly Ware Jordan / Apr 14 2014 4:53 pm

    The picture is of Dr. Overton Fontaine. My sister, also, has the lantern doctor’s hung in the hall, to light when they were home. Peace.

    • Joanne Yeck / Apr 14 2014 7:31 pm

      I didn’t know the tradition about doctors and the lit lantern. Thanks. Joanne

  4. Jeremy Winfrey / Jan 20 2014 6:35 pm

    I also came across a reference for Clement Rush Fontaine (abt 1791 – 1851) and wife Elizabeth Webb (1808 – 1837) saying she was buried at “Dove’s Rest” near New Canton.

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 20 2014 7:06 pm

      Jeremy, Thanks for the addition.

  5. Louise Davis Hume / Jan 19 2014 8:07 pm

    On 01/19/14, slate river ramblings . . . . wrote:

    “…..In 1860, Martha G. Spencer and three of her unmarried children were living with her son-in-law, Dr. A.W. Fontaine, and his wife, Mildred. ”

    . Abraham Walter Fontaine’s first wife, Mildred Spencer died 18 DEC 1861 in New Canton, VA. age 26.

    In 1870 Census Dr. Fontaine was head of household in Marshall District of Buckingham Co. including, son Willliam A, mother-in-law, Martha Spencer and her daughter, Alice.

    On 25 October 1873 Abraham Walter Fontaine, MD was married to Caroline Beadles Davies(Davis) by W.S. Thompson. – Buckingham Marriage records: Book 1, page 12.
    Carrie was the younger sister of my Gr-grandfather, Joshua Davis(Davies) who had the Dillwyn P.O. in store attached to his home. They were raised in Releath, Crowan, Helston, Cornwall, ENG.

    Clement Overton Fontaine was born to them on 11 December 1875. He became a doctor also and practiced in Campbell County, VA. He married Louise Poindexter of Campbell Co. but Overton died in 1907 before they had any children and is buried at Trinity Presbyterian Church in New Canton. Louise remarried and named her first child Fountain Poindexter Ware. The name “Fontaine” has been passed down in the Ware family for several generations. I doubt they know where it originated.

    After Dr. Fontaine died 5 AUG 1883, Aunt Carrie married Dr. William Beverly Pettit, Jr. (1858- 1918) Her name is on his gravestone in the Pettit Family Cemetery, Glen Bernie Farm, Palmyra, Fluvanna County, VA but there are no dates for her. As we can not find her in the 1920 Census, she may have died shortly after he died.

    Louise Davis Hume

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 20 2014 7:14 am

      Louise, Many thanks for enriching this post with more details about the Fontaine family. Joanne

    • Beverly Ware Jordan / Mar 29 2014 10:08 am

      I am Fontaine Poindexter Ware’s daughter, and, yes,we were told all about him. My sister has a portrait of him on his horse and the lantern he hung in the entrance, so everyone knew he was in. I would, however, love any information on the subject. Most of us are in the Richmond area. I was told he was related to Mathew Fontaine Maury. Thanks. Peace.

      • Joanne Yeck / Mar 29 2014 10:16 am

        Thanks for your comment, Beverly. Is the portrait of Dr. Clement Overton Fontaine? The image sounds charming. While I don’t know a great deal about the Fontaine family, other readers of Slate River Ramblings may. Jeremy Winfrey, who also commented on this post, has been working on Fontaines. You might contact him. Thanks for joining the conversation. Joanne

      • Louise Davis Hume / Mar 30 2014 11:47 pm

        Beverly, I am glad y’all know where the name Fontaine came from in your family. If the portrait your sister has is of C. Overton Fontaine, I would love to have a scan of it if you could manage it. He was the only child of my aunt Carrie and I know very little about him except what is in official records. Louise

  6. Jeremy Winfrey / Jan 19 2014 12:34 pm

    Staunton Spectator, Volume 37, Number 4, 17 January 1860.

    AN EXPERIENCED MILLER WANTED – Who can come well recommended for honesty, industry and sobriety. Liberal wages will be given. A single man is wanted. Apply immediately to
    WM. J. FONTAINE, Diana Mills,
    January 17, 1860. 3t Buckingham, Va.

    From what I have in my Diana Mills folder, I’m pretty sure Diana Mills was run by WIlliam J Fontaine, and his father Clement before him. Furthermore, as early as 1828, C.R.Fontaine was already listed as the postmaster for Diana Mills.

    Maybe William’s brother Dr Abraham W Fontaine helped the Spencers at the Physic Springs Mill. Of course, in 1850, he was merely listed as a student, living with the Spencers. His ultimate marriage to eldest daughter Mildred Spencer surely explains why the widowed Spencer would have moved in with her son-in-law by 1860. The 1860 property of A W Fontaine, I associate with Diana Mills, as well. Living a few farms down is Walter L Fontaine (brother of elder Clement), who looks to own a large piece of property, with R Nicholas as the Miller next door. I think undoubtedly, this is Diana Mills. Maybe R Nicholas answered the above add??

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 19 2014 2:03 pm

      Jeremy, Thanks for these details. More about Diana Mills to come in a future Slate River Ramblings post. Joanne

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