The marriage of Martha Ball and Richard A. Taylor (my 3rd great-grandparents) on March 5, 1825 in Powhatan County, Virginia was surely viewed with great favor by both families. Richard was the only son of Blagrave and Judith Anderson Taylor. His parents had already given him land and slaves, and on their deaths he would inherit all of their property. Martha was one of seven daughters of Isham Ball (my 4th great-grandfather), a prosperous tavernkeeper in Powhatan County and she probably brought a comfortable dowry to the marriage.
Isham Ball’s tavern is documented in the Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory project. View the record online at the Library of Virginia. When Louise C. Palmore visited on January 25, 1937 she wrote,
“Typical of the 1700 period. The yard has several huge box-woods and many old garden shrubs. There is a fence around the yard. There is a square Colonial porch in front with nine steps and square columns. Long benches on either side of the porch with slat-like seats. The house from the exterior seems to have from seven to nine rooms; there are at least three or four on the fist floor. There is a dormer upstairs and several front dormer windows. There is a large basement partially above ground with several half size windows. It is a very interesting old place. Isham Ball was the first postmaster and this was the first post office in Powhatan County.”
A photograph taken by Elizabeth A. Rust accompanies the report but the pictured dwelling does not match the tavern described in the report- there are no porch, columns or dormer windows. Perhaps this is the back of the tavern, or it could even be of an entirely different dwelling. In most cases, the photographer and report writer are the same, not different as in this case. I could not find a Mutual Assurance record for a Ball property in Powhatan County.
I have not located Isham Ball’s tavern; it was probably torn down years ago. Palmore’s 1937 report located the property in the town of Ballsville on the north side of Route 13. Both the town of Ballsville and Old Ballsville are shown on the 1864 Gilmer map of Powhatan County and the 1880 Laprade map. Take a drive on the Old Buckingham Road (Route 13) between Ballsville and Tobaccoville (formerly Old Ballsville) and enjoy the beautiful countryside named for Isham Ball.
“Beginning at a corner red oak standing on the south side of the main road, running thence South Eighty four degrees east, a new line of marked trees, nearly corresponding with a small branch thirty three chain and thirty six links to pointers newly made on a line of Joseph Howard, thence with the said Howard’s line bearing North three degrees West, thirty chain to the main road, …thence up the said road agreeable to its meanders forty three chain to the beginning corner red oak;” 15 May 1816, Taylor to Aston Deed, Powhatan County Deed Book 5, 483-484.
Locating ancestral property is notoriously difficult. Where’s the corner red oak? 33 chains? Small branch? It takes time and patience to pinpoint where property lines fell 200 years ago. Fortunately, there are maps that help genealogists place family homes in Powhatan County.
Taylor family historian, Ann K. Blomquist, mapped the original John Taylor 1731 purchase of 400 acres and John Taylor’s subsequent gift of 100 acres to his brother William Taylor in October 1742. This is the same tract William transferred to his son Robert Taylor in 1765 and 1771. Read the Blomquist essay about William Taylor online here. Note that the house, Travelers’ Rest, discussed in my last post, is within the William Taylor property. The odd property line may have been drawn up by the brothers to accommodate William’s home.
The map detail below is from an old map of Powhatan County made in 1864 by the Confederate Army as they prepared for a final defense of Richmond and the surrounding area. Look for Belmead in the top left corner. That’s where the very wealthy Cocke family lived. Mrs. Cocke was reported to have offered to adopt Blagrave Taylor’s daughter and purchased homespun cloth from his widow. Find the dot marking the home of Mrs. Taylor. This is Travelers’ Rest and Mrs. Taylor is the widow of Robert Taylor’s grandson Blagrave. Her mother-in law, Polley, who inherited a lifetime right to the house, may have been another Mrs. Taylor still living there as well, as she died about this time. The small dot under Mrs. Taylor’s name marks the property of Daniel Taylor, Robert’s son.
Trace the road we know as Bell Road today and look for the property marked WD Taylor. This is William Daniel Taylor, grandson of Robert Taylor. He inherited this property from his father, George Taylor, who was given the land by his father Robert Taylor.
Note that the house we know as Provost is not marked on this map. Many residences of Taylors known to be living in this immediate area are not included on the map, including that of my own third great-grandfather, Richard A. Taylor. The map was made under the duress of war and probably focuses on features deemed important to defense.
This map detail below is from the Laprade map commissioned by Powhatan County in 1880. You can see the complete digital map at the University of Virgina Library. The roads and riparian landmarks closely correspond with current Powhatan County roads, although village and road names continued to change through the years. The area we know as Provost is identified as Oakville and the map shows Taylor dwellings on two areas of the Cartersville (Bell) Road. These would be the holdings of Robert Taylor’s sons Daniel and George. Many of the families identified on this map were closely allied with the Taylors through marriage to the descendants of brothers John and William Taylor. Much of the property on both sides of the Cartersville (Bell) Road belonged to the Taylor family. Robert Taylor purchased farms for his children, including his daughters. Polly and her husband Peter Pollock lived on a farm owned by Robert Taylor and marked on Michaux Ferry Road. Daughter Elizabeth married John Aston, a miller. Robert purchased a mill with Aston and deeded other property to him. One parcel is marked on this property near the corner of Jefferson Road and River Road as the Old Aston Mill. Today you can purchase a home in the new community of Aston, most surely sited on the location of Robert Taylor’s daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and John Aston.
Many of the other names and properties marked on the map have strong Taylor connections through marriage, too many for a simple blog post!
During the 1930’s, as America struggled with the Great Depression, Virginia created a public works project to document historical structures across the state. Louise B. Weisiger visited Powhatan County and on August 19, 1937, submitted a report describing Traveler’s Rest to the WPA of Virginia Historical Inventory. She interviewed local residents, searched deeds at the courthouse, visited the home and even took a photograph. Ms. Weisiger’s report is located at the Library of Virginia.
Based on this report and other evidence I believe Travelers’ Rest was the home of my fifth great grandfather, Robert Taylor.
Drive down Bell Road from Provost towards Route 60. Just a short distance from Provost on your right is a dirt lane. Pull into the dirt lane and the dilapidated dwelling there is most likely the home Ms. Weisiger described as Traveler’s Rest. Margaret Palmore, now deceased, the owner of Provost, was a caretaker of the property and she graciously gave me permission to enter the home several years ago. The property had been owned by Samuel Palmore, her husband’s father. He acquired the property in 1915 and thought it could date back to before 1750. Mrs. Palmore said it was empty when the Palmores owned it and that her husband told tales of local teens using the house for parties. Some things never change! The Palmores sold the house in 1932 to Leo Carpenter and his heirs remain the owners of the property. Mr. Carpenter enclosed the porch and added a second story for his large family.
Ms. Weisiger wrote, ” Travelers’ Rest comes up to its name; such a sweet restful place. Now the weeds are very high. The house is being repaired and will be an attractive home. It has one very large chimney in the center of the house about ten feet square and the bottom part is made of rock. There are four fireplaces to the one chimney. This home has six rooms. It has six panel christian cross doors put together with wooden pegs. Part of the doors have “h” hinges and part have modern hinges. The original house had only one porch, colonial style. Now there are three porches; one on the back and two small ones on the front.”
Compare the two photos: the right hand porch of the Weisiger photo is the enclosed porch of the top photo. A new entry was added to the right side of the enclosed porch and a second story. This is compelling evidence but the most exciting discovery is inside the house.
Central interior chimneys like the one described by Ms. Weisiger are not commonly found in surviving colonial Virginia homes. Generally the chimney is on an outside wall and there are frequently two at opposite ends of the home. This could have been to prevent the spread of fire, it may have been cooler for hot southern summers and it may have been adapted from building practices brought by English immigrants. The Powhatan dwelling I visited has the central chimney and four fireplaces exactly as described by Ms. Weisiger. Two had late addition brickwork and two were blocked off. There are also very old six panel doors and a beautiful arched doorway.
Much like today’s homeowners, Robert Taylor insured his home against fire damage. The policy with the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia was signed by Robert Taylor. who resided at Taylor’s Seat in Powhatan County, on September 30, 1802 and insured his dwelling and barn for $1200.00, a large sum in 1802.
The house is described as a wooden dwelling, one story high, 40×26, underpinned with brick. 200 yards from the house is a wooden barn, 20×20 feet with a shed all round in 40×40 feet. There’s even a sketch of the house and barn. Robert Taylor reduced the value of his property to $1150 when he renewed the policy on June 22, 1805. The house was described the same, but slightly smaller at 36×26. The barn is 150 yards from any house with the same dimensions as 1802. The drawing shows an adjacent wooden kitchen and smoke house. In 1820 Robert Taylor declares his residence to be worth only $750.00.
I looked at all of the property insured in Powhatan County in 1802 and most have detailed drawings of the dwelling. Most show homes with chimneys on the end like the Toney home pictured here valued at $850 with two barns. Edmund Toney was Robert Taylor’s neighbor.
The detailed drawing and description made for Robert Taylor’s home is consistent with the Travelers’ Rest photo and description. While there is a slight discrepancy in building measurements between policies, it is likely the same dwelling. Robert called his home Taylor’s Seat in the 1802 policy but did not specify a name in later policies. House names can change over the years and Travelers’ Rest may have been a later name.
The little house is sited on John Taylor’s original 400 acre land purchase in 1737. More importantly it is also part of a gift of 100 acres John Taylor made to his brother William in 1742, the same tract William transferred to his son Robert Taylor in 1765 and 1771. Researcher Ann K. Blomquist documents the location of the parcels on page 19 of her book, Taylors and Tates of the South. Robert may well have lived in this house his entire life.
When Robert Taylor died 1n 1826 he left a will (Powhatan County, Will Book 7, page 307) detailing the distribution of his assets including the property where he was residing. “I lend unto my daughter in law Polley J. Taylor widow of my son Charles Taylor deceased during her natural life the remaining part of the plantation whereon I now live lying on the West side of the said Courthouse road on which is situated my mansion house and is bounded on the North by the lands of Gater Clark, on the West by Blagrave Taylor on the south by the lands of the estate of John Swann Junior dcsc and on the East by the land above mentioned as given to my son Daniel…” Robert further specifies that since Polley was pregnant, the property should be divided between her son Blagrave and the unborn child if the child was a son.
Tracing the home’s history, it is important to note that Robert Taylor’s oldest son, Blagrave (my fourth great-grandfather) did not receive any land in Robert’s will. Robert was very specific in this regard as he had already given Blagrave acreage. The Blagrave receiving the property in the will was Robert’s grandson.
When Ms. Weisiger visited the property she provided interesting details, gleaned from neighbors, about a former owner of the house, Blagrave Taylor. She did not have a family genealogy or Robert Taylor’s will because she mistakenly assumed that Robert Taylor’s son Blagrave inherited the house, when it was his grandson, Blagrave. Robert’s son, Blagrave, was born about 1771 and died in 1828. Blagrave Taylor, grandson of Robert, was born in 1823 and died in 1861. They were uncle and nephew with the same name. Ms. Weisiger relates the following in her Historic Inventory report:
“Robert Taylor was a successful farmer and owned many acres of land. To his son Blagrave, he gave Travelers’ Rest.
“Blagrave Taylor had a shoe shop and made shoes before the war between the states. One pair of shoes are now in the possession of Mrs. A. P. Jenkins, Powhatan, Virginia. Mr. Taylor also made wooden spectacle frames. One pair was given to Dr. R.D. Tucker and are now in possession of Mrs. R.D. Tucker, Powhatan, Virginia. He trained for duty in the war between the states in Major W.S. Dance’s Battery, but died before he saw actual service. His wife, Amanda Taylor, had quite a hard time (as many others did). She had to sell her carriage and go to church in a wagon. She also spun thread and wove the cloth to make suits to sell to Mrs. George Cocke, Bellmeade, Virginia.
“Mrs. Cocke wanted to adopt the youngest child of the Taylor family, but Mrs. Taylor would not give her consent. Shortly afterwards, the child died.
“During the war Mrs. Taylor was so easily frightened, she closed her home and came to Powhatan, Virginia, to live.”
With the exception of the confused identity of Blagrave Taylor, much of this report is factual. Blagrave Taylor married Amanda Ligon on November 4, 1850 in Powhatan County. His obituary was published in the Religious Herald on April 25, 1861. The wealthy Cocke family lived nearby at Belmeade and it is entirely possible that Amanda Taylor did weaving to support her family after the death of her husband. Daughter Annabelle Marvel Taylor, born in 1856, is reported to have died during the war, so this may be the child Mrs. Cocke offered to adopt.
Dr. R.D. Tucker, referred to in the report as owning the spectacles was Dr. Robert Daniel Tucker. His great-grandfather was Robert Taylor and his grandfather was Robert’s son, Daniel Taylor. The informant Mrs. Charles Baughn (Lois Palmore Baughn) was a granddaughter of Blagrave and Amanda Taylor. Grace Truman Howard, granddaughter of Blagrave and Amanda Taylor, married John William Jenkins and she may be the Jenkins informant for the report. She was a postmaster in Powhatan County and would be a likely source. These family connections lend great credibility to the Weisiger report.
The property was registered as the estate of Blagrave Taylor in the Powhatan County Land Books for many years and son Oswald Blagrave Taylor sold the property in 1915 to Samuel Palmore.
Today the property is parcel 014-41, registered in the name of Leo H. Carpenter at 4791 Bell Road in Powhatan. The property record and a map may be accessed at http://www.powhatanva.gov and includes this property sketch and a photo. Note that the house dimensions are remarkably similar to those recorded on Robert Taylor’s Mutual Assurance records.
Documented Owners of 4791 Bell Road:
1731 John Taylor
1742 William Taylor
1765/1771 Robert Taylor
1826 Mary J. Williams Taylor (life interest)
1826 Blagrave Taylor (Robert Taylor’s grandson)
1861 Heirs of Blagrave Taylor (wife Amanda Ligon Taylor, children: Philip Malangthon Taylor, Oswald Blagrave Taylor, Emma J. Taylor and Valera Trueman Taylor)
1915 Samuel Palmore
1932 Leo H. Carpenter
This post makes the case that the home at 4791 Bell Road is the same home described by Louise B. Weisiger on August 19, 1937, as Travelers’ Rest for the WPA of Virginia Historical Inventory. However, in the book Powhatan Pathways by Margaret Palmore and John M. Kerr they state that Robert Taylor built his home, Taylor’s Seat, on the site across from Provost where Rosemont is presently located. Historic maps of the area also note Taylor residences on that location but I believe Daniel Taylor was left the property on the east side of Bell Road and grandson Blagrave Taylor the property on the west side of Bell Rd, including, as specified in his will, the property where Robert Taylor resided.
The interior chimney described in the Weisiger report is a remarkable feature and correlates closely with the home at 4791 Bell Road. I doubt if there were two properties with this unusual chimney configuration in the neighborhood. The Historical Inventory map places the property (175) on the east side of Bell Road at the location of Rosemont. This must be an error because in 1937 Rosemont occupied that land. Weisiger’s report sites the property at “.1 mile east of Provost, Virginia on route #16, thence .1 mile west on private road.” This description is closer to the location of 4791 Bell Road than the the “175” depicted on the Historical Inventory Map (Library of Virginia) depicted here.
Have I made the case for Robert Taylor’s home? I welcome your thoughts.
On my trips to Powhatan, I always park and take a few minutes to gaze down Bell Road towards Provost and Rosemont. These Virginia woods, rustling cornfields and nearby James River were home to generations of Taylors and I can see their stories here.
Just across Bell Road from the Provost home stands Rosemont, a stately dwelling built by C. L. and Rosezilla Dodd in 1898. Like Provost, this house is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and you can read about its unique architecture and interesting history here. There’s a small graveyard behind the house where a subsequent owner and his family are buried. There are no known Taylors buried here. The site has also been known as Taylor’s Seat, Hard Scrabble and Oakville.
This house is not connected to the Taylors but it stands on land that was part of John Taylor’s 400 acres purchased in 1731. John’s nephew, Robert Taylor (my fifth great-grandfather), acquired the land in one of his many land purchases from John Taylor’s children and grandchildren. In his will dated 25 April 1825, Robert Taylor gave his son, Daniel Taylor, 200 acres, stating, “I give and bequeath to my son Daniel Taylor his heirs and assigns forever all that part of the tract of land whereon I now live lying on the east side of the road, leading from the main River Road along my lane and by or near my mansion house, commonly called the Courthouse Road.”
Road locations and names change over the course of time, but I believe the River Road is now known as Cosby Road and Courthouse Road is now Bell Road. Powhatan County deeds record that Daniel Taylor sold a small piece of property in this area in 1869, shortly before he died. There were probably houses on the site or nearby. Daniel Taylor most likely lived very close to this house.
Daniel Taylor, born in 1786, was the seventh of Robert Taylor’s nine children. He served in the War of 1812 with his brothers. He was nearly 40 when he received the land from his father’s bequest, but most likely had lived and farmed there all of his adult life. It is curious that Daniel did not receive title to the land earlier like Robert’s other children. Robert surely loved and trusted Daniel as he named him co-executor of his estate along with his brother George, stating in his will, “having implicit confidence in their integrity it is my will and that they should not be compelled to give bond and security for the due performance of the task committed to their charge.” Daniel had seven children with his first wife, Susannah Moore Williams, and five more children with his second wife, Louisa Blagrave Davis. Daniel died on 12 of September 1869 from rheumatism and Louisa received a small widow’s pension for his War of 1812 military service. Daniel Taylor was my fourth great grand uncle.
The Provost area of Powhatan County, Virginia was home to my mother’s Taylor ancestors for nearly 200 years. It’s an easy drive from Richmond and it is possible to see sites where I believe the Taylors resided. Today’s post covers the house called Provost and the Taylor’s long association.
Typing Provost to your map software should deliver you to the intersection of Bell, Cosby and Cartersville roads. The Provost address is 4801 Cartersville Road. I like to drive west on Highway 60 and then turn right on Bell Road. As you turn right on Bell Road much of the land you see there was home to various members of our Taylor family for many years. The church they attended and the graveyard where their bones may rest, the Peterville Church, is located deep in the woods there. but that’s a story for another day. Continue down Bell Road until you reach the intersection of Bell, Cosby and Cartersville roads. The house on the left is Provost.
Provost was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The report shares “The land on which Provost stands is part of 400 acres patented by John Taylor. The land was conveyed on September 17, 1731 for 40 shillings, “in this our colony and dominion of Virginia.” It became known as Taylor’s Seat. In 1758, Taylor devised [willed} part of his property to his granddaughter, Martha Taylor, and in 1772 her father gave her the piece of land her grandfather had bequeathed her. Martha Taylor married Thomas Smith and in 1793 they sold the Provost property to Robert Taylor. It is uncertain which of these owners built Provost. A county wide survey conducted for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 1991 estimates Provost’s date of construction as circa 1783.”
John Taylor was my sixth great-grand uncle and he purchased the land Provost stands on 284 years ago. John was born about 1698, probably in Virginia, perhaps not far from his land grant. This land was a very good buy. There was abundant fresh water from springs and creeks, plentiful fish and game, the land was fertile and the cash crop of tobacco could prosper. The nearby James River was easily reached by the Deep Creek. Generations of Taylors could thrive in a place like this.
In October, 1742, 273 years ago, John gave his brother William 100 acres of his 400 acre parcel. This 100 acre piece did not include the land where Provost would be built, since we know from deeds that William’s son, Robert, purchased it in 1793. Robert is my fifth great-grandfather and he must have been a successful farmer because he purchased much of the original land grant (and more) from his Uncle John’s descendants as they moved west or needed cash.
Robert’s oldest son, Blagrave, (my 4th great-grandfather) married Judith Anderson on July 18, 1796 and later Robert deeded property to Blagrave. Perhaps the young couple lived in the house at Provost or Robert’s other adult children may have lived there as they matured and married, Certainly, as stated in the report, the residents would have taken advantage of the opportunities for commerce that the home’s location on a major wagon road presented. Do read the report and learn more about the home’s construction and more recent uses.
For today, gaze at this beautiful home and imagine the Taylors living and farming on this property in 1731, 284 years ago. Picture the house in 1800 surrounded by fields of tobacco and wheat, all land owned by the Taylors for as far as you could see. If only this old house could speak and share stories of the Taylors and their kin. The Provost estate has been on the real estate market for over a year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a piece of my ancestral heritage in Virginia?