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April 8, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Notables: The Bolling Brothers, Part I

Courtesy Library of Congress. 

The Bolling and Hubard families are not strangers to the followers of Slate River Ramblings. Over the years, numerous posts have discussed their plantations, including Cellowe and Rosney, and their contributions to Buckingham County history. Recently, Charlie Henneman, who inherited a collection of Bolling-Hubard papers, shared a marvelous biographical sketch, an excerpt from “Family Notices,” written by Robert T. Hubard, dated June of 1858.

Robert Thruston Hubard (1808–1871) was educated at Hampden-Sydney and the University of Virginia. He lived at “Rosney” in Buckingham County and, after 1850, at “Chellowe,” which he purchased from his brother-in-law, Robert Bolling.

In an essay entitled “Family Notices,” Hubbard characterized his maternal uncles, the Bolling brothers: Powhatan and Lenaeus (a. k. a. Linneaus). Dramatically different in character, these Bolling brothers remind us never to stereotype a Virginia planter.

First, Robert T. Hubard takes on the eccentric Powhatan Bolling (1767–1803), who resided at Rosney.

Powhatan Bolling

The two brothers Powhatan and Lenaeus were quite different in many traits of character. Powhatan Bolling died when I was an infant or before my birth, but I have heard a great deal said of him—part of which was no doubt true and part error or falsehood.

He was generally considered rather eccentric and this may have originated mainly from the fact of his contempt for the then prevailing fashions as to dress and his determination to dress always according to his own taste. He always dressed very well, very clean, and often in such a showy manner as to excite the admiration and the wonder of weak mind[ed] people.

For instance, he wore a three cocked hat, a red coat made of the finest English broadcloth, blue vest or pants and etc. Being tall, well formed and a very commanding appearance, always confident and self-possessed, conscious of good descent, endowed with no ordinary intellect, well educated, acquainted with the world, fluent in conversation and possessing no little tact, he was quite a prominent man in his day.

Had his passions been more under his control, had he exhibited more stability and more discretion, he might had he lived longer been a distinguished man. He had some ambition and was a candidate for Congress in opposition to John Randolph the first time that Randolph offered. John Randolph was elected by a majority of five votes over Powhatan Bolling and it was generally thought that in mind and in powers of debate they were well matched.

Powhatan Bolling had, I think, served one session in the Virginia Legislature before offering for Congress, though I am not sure of the fact. After being defeated by John Randolph, Powhatan became more dissipated than before and so continued until his death. He was engaged in two, three or more duels, was very brave and by no means unwilling to engage in a duel or fight for a doubtful cause and certainly for any good and sufficient cause. The ignorant and the vulgar admired him, talked about him and loved him, or were over awed by him and dreaded him; while intelligent and independent men admired his manly appearance, his fine manners, his good sense and etc., although they deplored some of his excesses and his errors.

Click here to learn more: Buckingham Notables: Powhatan Bolling

Coming Next: Buckingham County Notables: The Bolling Brothers, Part II

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