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April 14, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part III

Buckingham County Postal Map, 1896

Need to catch up? Click here: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

In 1960, Buckingham County historian Lulie Patteson wrote a short history of Dillwyn for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, entitled “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town.” At that time, citizens of the county remembered anecdotes of the founding of a new commercial center and the earliest days of the Buckingham Branch of the Ohio and Chesapeake Railroad. These personal anecdotes are characteristic of Miss Lulie’s charming style. Her article continues:

Another forceful character of the time was the station agent, a Mr. Harden. His family was the first to move into the new town.

Laborers moved in very quickly to be near their work. Businessmen came in eager to establish their particular line of goods. Then came the post office, named White Hall in honor of two of the most active men who fostered the town. James Anderson was appointed postmaster and Willie Smith was his assistant. Zach Griffin was the first mail carrier out of Dillwyn and the first two rural mail carriers were Garnet Smith and W. E. Hardiman.

Business grew as years passed and there were calls for food and lodging. So William Pryor and his wife moved to the town and set up a boarding house.

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If a Slate River Ramblings reader knows more about the station agent, Mr. Harden, please comment!

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Interested in the history of post offices in Buckingham County? There’s lots to explore at Slate River Ramblings. Begin by clicking this link: Buckingham County Post Offices, Part I

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Want to learn more about lodging in early Dillwyn, click here: The Culbreth Hotel

Coming next: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part IV

April 13, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Book News: “Mr. Jefferson’s Fluvanna Nephews”

On the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743), I’m delighted to announce that the current issue of Fluvanna History includes my article, “Mr. Jefferson’s Fluvanna Nephews.”


In it, I follow the lives of four of Randolph Jefferson’s sons who lived, married, and, in one case died, in Fluvanna County, Virginia.


Want to learn more about Thomas Jefferson, Jr.; Isham Randolph Jefferson (aka Randolph, Jr.), Peter Field Jefferson; and James Lilburne Jefferson? You can purchase a copy online at the Fluvanna Historical Society store.

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The mission of the Fluvanna Historical Society is to protect, preserve, and promote the rich history of Fluvanna County, Virginia. To learn more, visit their website: Fluvanna Historical Society.

April 7, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part II

Dillwyn Station. Photo by Joanne Yeck.

Need to catch up? Click here: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

In 1960, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress printed “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town,” a short history of the place written by Buckingham County historian Lulie Patteson. She begins by reminding her readers that lumber town founder H. M. White originally planned to expand the town at Rosney (aka Rosny). Anticipating growth with the coming of the Buckingham Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, White imagined new commerce for Buckingham County. Lulie’s article continues:

Soon it was apparent though that White Hall was growing far faster than Rosney. So White Hall became the main town. Men may have had such rosy dreams that day in 1892 since the coming of the railroad was an established fact at that time. This would mean better pay for labor, a market for their wood and contact with the outside world. That is, until the wood was used up.

Randolph Griffin, a Negro man who sold White the 200 acre tract of land, never would have accepted to a $1.50 an acre if his commercial spirit had been sharper.

The first train chugged over the branch railroad either May 31 or about June 1, 1892. Timber owners were eager to sell and laborers were anxious for the employment. Timber buyers longed for the commodity. Many never had [access to] a train.

One person we are sure road the first train. He was Capt. John Doswell who, for all those early days of the town’s history, was the conductor on the Buckingham branch road. No one who ever rode with Capt. Doswell could easily forget him. He was the self-appointed host to all his passengers and literally took a personal interest in them.

Two elderly sisters, busy housewives who hadn’t been on a train for many years, once bought tickets from Dillwyn to Richmond. They were going to visit their brother. At Bremo, Capt. Dosell, with his usual courteous attention, saw them safely off his train to wait for the eastbound James River train.

Shortly afterwards, along came the westbound train from Richmond to Lynchburg. The sisters hasten to board it. Then Capt. Doswell dashed up and stopped one of the sisters telling her it was the wrong train. “But my sister is on there,” the woman said. “I’ll get her off,” the captain promised. And sure enough, just as the wheel started to turn slowly, Doswell appeared with the wandering sister, holding her firmly by the arm.

Capt. Doswell didn’t relax his vigilance until the sisters were on the right train.

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For more about the early days of Dillwyn, put White Hall in the search box at Slate River Ramblings and enjoy the results!

Don’t know where to start? Begin here: Buckingham News: White Hall, 1899

Coming next: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part III

April 2, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Book News: Central Virginia Heritage, Spring 2022

Central Virginia Heritage (v.38, no.1)

I’m delighted to announce that the current issue of Central Virginia Heritage (v.38, no.1), published by the Central Virginia Genealogical Association, contains my article, “Remembering Millwood: A Miller Plantation in Buckingham County, Virginia.”

Other articles include: “Company D—The Amber Grays Louisa, Fluvanna, Goochland, and Hanover Counties, and Field and Staff at the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 1862”; “The 1950 Census: Are You Ready?”; “Statement of William Peebles of Tennessee, regarding the family of Peter and Mary Potts of Lunenburg County, Virginia; Marriage Announcements in the Daily Progress (Charlottesville, VA) October 1895”; and “Marriages in the Central Gazette (Charlottesville, Va.).”

Many thanks go to Editor Jean L. Cooper, especially for including the aid for the 1950 census!

Click here for details at Amazon: Central Virginia Heritage, Spring 2022

You can read more about Capt. Robert Henry Miller and Millwood in my book, “At a Place

Called Buckingham,” Volume Two. Available online at Braughler Books.

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Members of the Central Virginia Genealogical Association focus on the history and families of the old counties of Albemarle, Augusta, Hanover, and Orange. Today this includes the present Piedmont counties of Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Buckingham, Campbell, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Hanover, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Orange, and the Shenandoah Valley counties of Augusta, Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah.

Click here to learn more about the Central Virginia Genealogical Association and their resources.

March 31, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

This photo of Radford K. Ranson, life-long councilman in Dillwyn, was taken by Mrs. R. J. Wojnicki, who often wrote about Buckingham County for The Daily Progress.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Progress.

In 1960, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress printed Lulie Patteson’s short history of Dillwyn, Buckingham County, entitled “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town.” As always, Lulie’s style is engaging, leaving the reader wanting more. The article begins:

It was the night of April 6, 1892, and from a little stream beside a lonely road the frogs, recently released from icy prisons, were telling the world that spring had come.

But no seer among them could foretell what the morrow would bring. For it was on April 7, 1892, that a band of workmen began clearing the road into a site of what then was planned as a temporary lumber town.

This little railroad tie-producing town one day would mean a great deal to Buckingham County. The town eventually was named White Hall and later was renamed Dillwyn.

Pulpwood alone one day would feed, clothe, school, and even provide luxuries for hundreds of families. This temporary town in a backwoods section of Buckingham County years later ended up not only permanent but became the business center for the entire county.

H. M. White, whose name always will be associated with the beginning and early development of Whitehall, had been in the county for some months looking over timber resources. He and Mrs. White were boarding at Buckingham Courthouse while he fostered the railroad tie business and the building of the Buckingham branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad from Bremo to Rosney, not White Hall, was to be the main business location.

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For more about “Rosney” (aka Rosny), click here: Buckingham Houses: Rosny, 1959, Part I

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Coming next: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part II

March 24, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VIII

Mary Belle (Moon) Hancock. Courtesy James Hughes Hancock, Jr.

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

The Moon-Hancock Era

In 1870, Snowden became home to yet another Harris cousin — John Schuyler Moon. At the death of his widow, Elizabeth (Tompkins) Moon, the farm was divided among their children. Her daughter, Mary Belle (Moon) Hancock, inherited the portion containing John L. Harris’s house.

The chain of owners is a follows:

1856–c.1870:                      Estate of John L. Harris

c.1870–1876:                      John Schuyler Moon

1876–1892:                        Elizabeth (Tompkins) Moon, widow of John Schuyler Moon

c.1893–c.1944:                   Mary Belle Moon and, husband David Wimbish Hancock

c.1944–1965                       Hancock Family

The Moon-Hancock family enjoyed life at Snowden for nearly one hundred years. Today, members of the Hancock family continue to cherish memories of life at Buckingham County’s Horseshoe Bend still vivid in the 21st century.

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Commerce at Snowden

Across the 20th century, many improvements changed the landscape at Snowden.

The ferry established in Peter Jefferson’s time continued to run between Scottsville and Snowden until, in 1910, a bridge made it obsolete. The ferry had operated under the supervision of Randolph Jefferson, the Harrises, and the Moon family. On the Scottsville side, Randolph’s son, Peter Field Jefferson, owned the landing for decades, to be followed by his grandson, Peter Valentine Foland.

Additionally, during the 20th century, Snowden was home to commerce as well as farming. Both a dairy and a brick factory operated on the lowlands. To learn more, follow these links:

Slate River Ramblings: Snowden Dairy

My article: Snowden and the Scottsville Brick Company (Scottsville Museum)

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To learn more about the Moon-Hancock era at Snowden, please consult my article, “The Dwelling at Snowden: A Virginia Historical Inventory Case Study” (Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020).

March 17, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VII

Richmond Whig. Courtesy Library of Virginia, Virginia Chronicle.

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

John L. Harris enjoyed living at Snowden for less than ten years when he died in Madison Parish, Louisiana on February 9, 1856. Family history perpetuated the legend that he had gone to the Deep South to bring a bride back to Snowden.

Richmond’s Whig ran this simple statement: “Died, In Madison Parish, Louisiana, the 9th February, 1856, JOHN L. HARRIS, of Snowden, Buckingham county Va., in the 59th year of his age.”

Harris’s sudden death led to yet a third legal dispute over the fate of Snowden.

A wealthy man, in 1850, Harris’s substantial personal property was valued at $78,300. This included forty-seven slaves residing in Buckingham County, though he likely owned more, living on his properties in Louisiana and Mississippi.

He had many connections in the Deep South, including members of his immediate family. At the time of his death, he may have been visiting his brother, William Hawes Harris, or tending to his own extended properties in Louisiana.

The Last Slaves at Snowden

Following the death of John L. Harris, the protracted dispute over the rightful heirs of Snowden included not only his extended Harris family but also enslaved women who were the mothers of his children.

In 1937, a fragment of this story was revealed by Mrs. McCraw in her survey for the Virginia Historical Inventory. She wrote that Snowden (over 1,500 acres) was sold at public auction and bought by John Moon for $80,000, adding: “Capt. Harris, by his will, devised a part of his estate to his slaves, each to be paid a definite amount as he or she became of age. Mr. Moon paid these legatees over a period of many years.”

Even if this had been Harris’s wish and he had also freed his slaves upon his death, there would have been many impediments to achieving his bequeaths.

Within months, his holdings in Buckingham County and at least two other states, Mississippi and Louisiana, became the subject of long legal battles. Claimants included brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and, eventually, African Americans who had once been enslaved at Snowden.

In 1868, a group of former Snowden slaves initiated a Chancery Case in Buckingham County against Harris’s extended family, claiming the right to at least some of his Virginia property. The object of the suit was to establish a will, presumably naming these now freed men and women as rightful heirs. Then, Buckingham’s courthouse promptly burned to the ground, destroying the submitted documents.

In the September Term of 1869, the Court concluded that a portion of Harris’s property was to be divided among the following former slaves: Betsy Harris, Henry C. Harris, Josephine Harris, Eliza Harris, Sarah E. Harris, Ellen Harris, Jane T. Harris, Minerva Lewis, Susan Dillard, Margaret Harris, and Selena Harris. Betsy, Henry C., and Josephine Harris were to receive the largest parts of the estate.

Missing and scant court records make the precise outcome of this case virtually unknowable. Just how attorney John Schuyler Moon distributed Harris’s property may never be fully known. What is known is that Moon ended up purchasing Snowden. To add to the confusion, while the Moons occupied Snowden by about 1870, in 1885, the plantation was still taxed in John L. Harris’s estate.

Coming Next: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VIII

March 10, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VI

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

The Dwelling House at Snowden

In 1937, Mrs. Elizabeth McCraw wrote the entry for Snowden for the Virginia Historical Inventory. Her description reads as follows:

This is a very large white house situated on an elevation above the highway. The large lawn surrounding the house is well-kept in the flower beds and borders are an added beauty to the place. A flight of very wide steps lead to the one-story porch. The railing to the porch has been removed in recent years. A wide hall extends through the house and there are four rooms on each floor. The parlor is a beautiful room with the original imported wallpaper still on the walls and the blue water scenes of the paper are still bright in color. There is a large fireplace and a carved mantel in each room. The first floor rooms on the left of the hall have folding doors between them and they can be made into one very large room. This was the banquet hall on many occasions. The white stairway which leads from the front door to the second floor is noticeable, on entering the hall. At each end of the upstairs hall there is a French window. There are two large windows in each room. The basement contains four well finished rooms.

Approximately seventy years after Elizabeth McCraw wrote her inventory, I toured the house with University of Virginia Emeritus Professor of Architecture K. Edward Lay, who enthusiastically expounded on details about the house’s construction and design.

Professor Lay noted that the house’s strict exterior symmetry was carried throughout the design, particularly in the window placement and the distinctive four chimneys. The two-leaf front door, as well as the “flat four-light rectangular transom on the first floor and a flat three-light one on the second floor over what had been a one-story coupled column portico” repeated the symmetrical straight lines.

This was an extremely orderly house!

Examining the interior of the basement, Lay observed, “The exposed joists in the cellar have both reciprocating and pit sawn marks and could have been reused from an earlier building.” This feature has led to the speculation that the Harris house was built on top of the burned Randolph Jefferson dwelling, however, Professor Lay doubts that the cellar preexisted Harris’s construction.

Whether or not Harris’s house sits on the remains of Randolph Jefferson’s dwelling remains a subject of debate.

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To learn more about John L. Harris’s house, consult my article “The Dwelling at Snowden: A Virginia Historical Inventory Case Study” (Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020).

March 3, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part V

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

Snowden and the Harris Family

Ultimately, in order to divide Randolph Jefferson’s estate among his children and his widow, the farm was sold out of the family. A large percentage of the remaining land, 1,445 acres, was purchased by Capt. John Harris of Albemarle County, who lived at Joshua Fry’s former plantation, Viewmont. Snowden added significantly to Harris’s expansive network of plantations, mills, and commercial ventures. When he died in 1831, he was said to be the richest man in Albemarle.

Capt. Harris’s plans for Snowden were interrupted by his death in 1831 and long disputes over his will, especially concerning who would inherit the plantation. Ultimately, the valuable farm was purchased by his great-nephew, John L. Harris (c.1797–1856). Born in Amherst (later Nelson) County, Virginia, Harris was a merchant, doing business in Lovingston, Nelson County. In 1846, he was a middle-aged bachelor when he began paying installments toward purchasing 1,277 acres of the plantation.

By the time Harris acquired the farm, Scott’s Landing, on the northern bank of the James River across from Snowden, had grown into the bustling town of Scottsville. The ferry still operated from Snowden’s landing, serving Buckingham County and adding commercial income to Harris’s investment.

In 1849, Harris paid his first land tax at Snowden. In about 1850, he completed building a fine Georgian style house at the crest of the hill, overlooking the Horseshoe Bend of the James River. That year, he was enumerated there on the federal census, age forty-five, though he may have been a few years older. Thomas Baber, a local carpenter, was living with him, possibly finishing work on Harris dwelling house, which still stands today.

When John L. Harris acquired Snowden, there was no “big house” on the property. The Randolph Jefferson dwelling had burned in early 1816 and no evidence has been found that another was built between 1816 and Harris’s construction of his own dwelling c.1850. An assessment of the property written in July of 1836 states: “The improvements on this place are hardly worth mentioning consisting mostly of an old one story dwelling house with two rooms.”

A bachelor, Harris was free to build a house reflecting his own taste, without any input from a wife. The result was a large and showy dwelling for a single man. The story persists in the Harris family that he was planning to bring a bride to Snowden, explaining the size and grandeur of Harris’s home.

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To learn much more about the Harris era at Snowden, please consult my article “The Dwelling at Snowden” (Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020).

Coming Next: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part VI

February 24, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part IV

Illustration by Genevieve and Maude Cowels.

Need to catch up? Click here: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part I

African American Life At Snowden

Over the decades in which the Jefferson family owned the plantation known as Snowden, dozens of enslaved African Americans made it their home.

While it was still Peter Jefferson’s distant plantation across the river from Albemarle County’s first courthouse with only an overseer in charge, Snowden was home to at least six adults and, eventually, a child. Named in Jefferson’s 1755 inventory were: Betty, Quash, Nell, Bellow, Crummel, Sanco, and little Bellow/Bella. The inventory of Snowden’s property included six hoes, indicating that all of the adults were involved in farming.

In 1764, when Thomas Jefferson turned twenty-one, he began the redistribution of slaves to satisfy his father’s will. Ultimately, twenty-four slaves were assigned to Randolph. Quash, Nell, little Bellow/Bella, and, possibly, Betty, left the farm, taking up residence at Monticello. Initially, Crummel, Sanco, and Bellow may have stayed on in Buckingham, while other slaves were selected from Shadwell in Albemarle County and ultimately moved to Snowden. During the years between this distribution and 1776 when Randolph took possession of the plantation, a slave named Hannah died at Snowden as a result of a beating by the overseer, Isaac Bates. Additionally, Randolph received little Rachel, a gift from his mother, Jane Jefferson.

By January of 1782, Randolph Jefferson paid tax on the following individuals:

Nimrod, James, Squire, Peter, Adam, Hanibal, Lucy, Jane, Flora, Effy, Edy, Phillis, Dinah, Orange, Milly, Pat, Daphney, Juno, Dilce, Mary, Sally, Betty, Will, Jupiter, Cyrus, Jack, Frank, Syller (Sully?), Thornton and Jacob.

The following year, some of the names were missing from the tax record and these individuals were added: Statey, Tinny (?), Esther, Luce (Lucy?), two Jennys, Isaac, Cary, Elijah and Perkins. Cary, it is known was a recent birth at Snowden.

Most, but not all, will remain only names in tax records. However, in a few special cases, details of the lives of slaves at Snowden survived in correspondence and other records.

Thomas Jefferson eventually purchased Ben and Cary, whose lives at Monticello differed sharply. Ben proved a satisfactory worker, while Cary was disruptive and eventually was sold to a Georgia slave trader.

Much later, in May of 1813, Fannie was trained at Monticello as a spinner, to work on the Spinning Jenny sent to Snowden by Thomas Jefferson from his Bedford County plantation, Poplar Forest.

In the early 1800s, Squire was frequently mentioned in Thomas Jefferson’s memos and in correspondence between the Jefferson brothers. He may be one of the two individuals named Squire listed on Peter Jefferson’s 1757 inventory, one of whom was a boy valued at £27.10.

The story of Orange and his wife, Dinah, is complex and moving. Sometime before 1782, Orange was transferred from Albemarle County to Snowden in Buckingham. There, Orange was a trusted and mobile servant, running errands for Randolph Jefferson as he had previously done for Thomas Jefferson. He was particularly motivated to visit Monticello, where Dinah remained. Separations like this were common with enslaved couples; some planters were more accommodating with visits than others. Ultimately, Orange and Dinah had at least three children together.

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My book, The Jefferson Brothers, is currently discounted online at Braughler Books. Learn much more about slavery at Snowden in the chapter entitled “The Jefferson Servants.” Click here to download a PDF of Chapter 1, “Peter Jefferson, Gent.”: The Jefferson Brothers

Coming Next: Snowden: A Plantation in Buckingham County, Part V