The Juicy Details of a Household Inventory

Look around your home and take a mental inventory of all of your possessions. Imagine listing every dish, piece of silverware, pot, or tool you own. What would that list reveal about you? Would we learn your occupation, financial status, hobbies and more?

The inventory prepared for Peter Ogilby’s bankruptcy is an interesting document, full of juicy little details for descendants and curious genealogists. Most of our ancestors do not leave diaries or letters to provide first hand accounts of their lives. Instead we turn to documents like Peter Ogilby’s inventory. Studied together with other documents such as census records and chancery causes, it is possible to enrich our understanding of Peter and Harriett’s life together.

In 1825, when this inventory was taken, Peter Ogilby was 33 and in the prime of his life. Harriett Ball Ogilby (my 4x great-aunt) was 25. This is a relatively small number of household goods, but the items therein reflect a comfortable life. Note many of the items are domestic household items. As a married woman, Harriett owned nothing. By law, everything belonged to Peter and was part of the inventory.

Legatee of Mrs. Hendrick’s Estate

Had I not already known that Harriett’s mother was a Hendrick, this item would have sent me on a search for the Hendrick link. Harriett’s mother, Sally Hendrick, died before 1808. Harriett was named in her grandfather’s (John Hendrick) will of 1814. However, John Hendrick had married late in life, a second time, to her father’s (Isham Ball) sister, Martha, who died in 1816, leaving several minor children. The estate would not be settled until 1831. Meanwhile, desperate for cash, Peter Ogilby had already sold his wife’s inheritance to J. W. Nash.

One Cradle and Furniture

Did this cradle hold a baby in 1825?  Harriett and Peter had a daughter, Sarah, about 1820. The next recorded child is Peter, born about 1830. Most couples of this time frame had a child every other year. The 1830 census records five children living in Peter’s household, so the unfortunate couple must have lost three children between 1820 and 1830. It is likely an unknown Ogilby baby was sleeping in the cradle in 1825.  The cradle furniture is the mattress, linens, blankets and perhaps a canopy or tester.

Two Cows and One Calf, Churn, Three Butter Pots

Butter-making was a routine household task requiring some skill. Virginia’s hot summers could sour the milk or spoil the cream and any contamination could prevent the curdle necessary for butter. Churning the cream takes about an hour and then the butter had to be kneaded to release moisture. It was placed in a ceramic butter pot and covered with gauze. Two cows would barely provide the milk for the household’s dairy needs.

Two Feather Beds and Furniture

These were a real luxury and considered family heirlooms. Poorer households did not possess one feather bed, much less two. Once again, furniture here means the blankets, pillows, linens and draperies as the bed may have been canopied. Heavy drapes provided privacy and warmth in winter. Come summer the bed was draped with a lighter fabric to keep out flying insects.

Spinning Wheel and Cotton Cards

These implements indicate Harriett was spinning cotton into thread. Milled fabrics were available by this time, so it is possible these implements were already family heirlooms. Harriett may also have been practicing thrift by spinning and weaving some of her own fabrics. Note there is no loom mentioned here.

Tea Board with Its Contents, One Tea Kettle, Coffee Mill, Coffee Pot, Salt Cellar, Pepper Box

A tea board was a large tray, sometimes on a stand, where hot beverages like coffee and tea were served. Coffee, tea and pepper were imported to Virginia and were considered little luxuries, available only to those with the cash to purchase them.

Grid Iron, Tribbet, Iron Pot, Iron Pot Rack

The cooking in this household was done over an open fire. A grid iron supported pots over the fire. A tribbet or trivet was generally a three-legged stand to support a kettle near an open fire.

One Bay Mare

Peter had one horse, and it had a debt against it.

Two Trunks

Chancery causes prior to 1825 refer to Peter living out of state or in Georgia. Perhaps the trunks were a part of Peter’s wandering life.

One Looking Glass, One Dressing Box, Clothes Brush, Wash Bowl, One Chamber, Pair Flat Irons

A looking glass (mirror) and dressing box imply status and luxury. A woman may have kept cosmetics, combs and brushes in a dressing box. Harriett may have brought these items to the marriage. Flat irons were heated in a fire and used to press clothes. Chamber here may refer to a pot used to collect overnight urine and avoid a trip outside in the night.

What’s Missing?

A household inventory in rural Powhatan in the early nineteenth century would have included many more tools and farm implements. It would also have included a number of slaves to assist with the household tasks and farming. The 1830 census for Peter Ogilby includes several slaves, indicating that perhaps Harriett’s father, Isham Ball, “loaned” a few of his slaves to the couple. This provided help for Harriett and insured they wouldn’t be sold to pay Peter’s debts. Truly luxurious items like silver, crystal, clocks and even a buggy are also missing.


Harriet and Peter lived a comfortable life above their means. Peter did not farm on a big scale; there was probably only a kitchen garden to supply the family’s needs. Peter was a minister later in life, and he may have already been preaching by the time of this inventory in 1825. The inventory is available online at the Library of Virginia, Amelia County, 1839-010, John O. Hundley, etc vs Heirs of Richard Ogilby.

Peter Ogilby Estate

A Mystery Solved

When my ancestor Isham Ball died in 1860 in Powhatan County, Virginia, his will made very specific provisions regarding the inheritance of his daughter, Harriett Ball Ogilby.  Isham wrote, “The Share of my daughter, Harriett Ogilby, wife of Peter F. Ogilby under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in Trust by Wm C. Netherland of Powhatan County for the use and benefit of my said daughter Harriett during her life and that of her children in such manner that the said Peter F. Ogilby shall have no control over the property or the profits thereof in any way whatsoever.”1

I wondered, in a prior blog post, why Isham directed that his son-in-law have no control over Harriett’s inheritance. I found the answer in the online chancery files at the Library of Virginia.2

Peter incurred a debt of $124.00 on 4 March 1820. When Peter failed to pay the debt as ordered in a judgment against him, he was arrested on 27 August 1825. There had been other financial challenges and Peter apparently could not raise the cash and declared insolvency. The Sheriff put all of Peter and Harriett’s unencumbered possessions up for sale and Isham Ball bought them and paid Peter’s debt. In exchange Peter granted Isham all of his interest in the estates of his brother Patrick, and parents Judith and Richard Ogilby of Amelia County, Virginia. When the estates were settled in Amelia County in 1838, Isham Ball presented the agreement to the Court and received the share of his son-in-law, Peter Ogilby.

Isham Ball notably stepped in to protect his daughter and grandchildren from Peter’s financial difficulties and Peter was released from the Amelia County jail. Certainly Isham Ball considered this episode and others when he wrote his will. He was prudent to protect Harriett’s interests.

Peter and Harriett’s assets were listed as part of his insolvency declaration. I can only imagine Harriett’s dismay at seeing her child’s cradle, her pots and pans, spinning wheel and coffee pot auctioned off to pay her husband’s debts. Fortunately they were purchased by her father and the couple retained possession of their belongings.

The list of items provides a snapshot of how Peter and Harriett were living in 1825.3 A copy was included in the 1838 division of Judith, Richard and Patrick Ogilsby’s estates. The young couple didn’t own a lot, and the belongings indicate a middle class life. A looking glass and books indicate someone who could read and who cared about appearances. Feather beds were coveted household possessions. There were a few tools but not enough for serious farming. Perhaps Peter had already started preaching.

And do take note of the clerk’s beautiful penmanship.

Peter Ogilby Estate

  1. Isham Ball’s Will, 1 Oct 1860, Powhatan County, Virginia, Will Book 15, pages 467 – 468. County Clerk’s’s Office, Powhatan, Virginia.
  2. “Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.” Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes. John O Hundley ETC vs HEIR(S) OF Richard Ogilby BY ETC, 1839-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Web. 2 April 2017.
  3. Hundley vs Ogilby, page 22

Writing History

Well, its been awhile since I wrote a blog post. A new grandchild was born, then the holidays, a little travel, a dreadful case of the flu-you know how it goes. Genealogy has been ever present on my mind, and my only new year’s resolution for 2017 was to finish the Taylor family history I began in 2008. The book is complete and almost ready to go to the printer. It covers five generations of Taylors who resided in Powhatan through the early 1900’s.

Have you ever picked up a genealogy book? Many are 500 pages of names and weigh about five pounds. Mine’s a slim book of essays about the life and times of six select ancestors. There’s still merit in publishing a book of names, but in this digital age the names and vital statistics of most of my ancestors can easily be found on my tree at I want my grandchildren to get to know the person, to walk in their shoes, and understand their lives. Here’s an excerpt about Robert Taylor (1738 – 1826), my fifth great-grandfather.


The American Revolution began in 1776, the year Ann Olive Taylor, third child of Robert and Frances was born. The Taylors certainly had little time to think about the powerful events happening around them, and indeed all remained peaceful and quiet on their farm. The British, led by Benedict Arnold,  ransacked Richmond, about thirty miles downriver in 1780, but never came near the Taylor farm where Frances was delivering a fifth child, George.  There is no record of military service for Robert.  He was nearly forty when the war began, and may have been considered too old for the hard life endured by the troops. Robert provided beef and wheat for the troops, an action that made him a traitor to the British, and indicated his support of the revolutionary cause. Robert spent 12 days “collecting beeves” and was reimbursed £208 for this service. Larkin Smith of Cumberland County described this service, “…going over the country in every direction collecting beef for the army. Thinks there was law in those days regarding every man who had beef cattle to give up such a portion of his stock according to numbers to provision the army & it was made his business to drive these cattle & bring them within reach of the camp.”1 Robert must have contributed some of his own cattle to the war effort, because he was reimbursed £1-8-4 for contributing 170 pounds of beef to the war effort. Robert also furnished thirteen bushels of wheat for the troops. Wheat was plentiful in Powhatan, and its residents furnished hundreds of bushels of wheat for the troops.  The wheat was ground into flour by local millers and sent along to the troops. Provisioning the troops did not always go smoothly. Richard Couture writes in Powhatan: A Bicentennial History,of local millers putting  the flour outside, causing it to be ruined, and adding that “Further, 40 or 50 thousand bushels of wheat could be gotten from the county, but there was no transportation.”2 Colonial logistics for moving goods were difficult in the best of times, and clearly chaos during war.

Elizabeth A. Rust relates the following story about the rector of the Peterville Church, attended by Robert Taylor and his family, “ In 1772 Reverend Alexander MacRae was rector. He was a Scotchman and did not enter into the spirit of the times of the American Revolution and was warned to leave. He disregarded the warning so one night a messenger told him that a dying neighbor wanted to see him. He was waylaid and led to a tree where he was whipped. The tree has long been cut down, but was known as the “Parson’s Pine.”3 Robert Taylor’s community clearly supported the American Revolution.


1 “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.” Larkin B Smith, Pension Number S. 6114, Service Va. Database and Images. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

2 Couture, Richard T. Powhatan: A Bicentennial History. Richmond: Dietz, 1980.

p. 84. Print.

3 Rust, Elizabeth A. “Survey Report Peterville Church.” Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project. Library of Virginia, 29 July 1937. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

A Very Poor Apology for a Wife

samuel-thomas-millerIn the dispositions and characters of my uncles and aunts there was, I presume, a considerable difference; some were openhearted, affectionate and generous, others were close and selfish. Some were frugal, others were loose-handed. Those most cherished by my mother were Uncles William, Daniel and Archer and Aunt Betsey. For my uncles, James and Valentine, she retained neither respect nor affection. For Uncle Isham she had more regard for his good management than love for his generosity; for in the latter quality he was singularly deficient.  Life of Samuel Thomas Miller, page 17

Most of what I know about my ancestors is derived from dry courthouse records like wills, deeds and chancery causes so I was delighted when I recently came across a beautifully written memoir by Samuel Thomas Miller, son of Ann Ball. Ann was sister to my 4x great grandfather Isham Ball of Powhatan County, Virginia. Much of Miller’s childhood was spent shuttling among his Ball aunts and uncles, and his memoir is surprisingly frank. Miller calls Sally Hendrick Ball, my 4x great-grandmother, a very poor apology for a wife (page 17).

Even if I weren’t related to all the Balls in this book, I would still find it fascinating reading. It provides a first hand glimpse of life in Chesterfield and Powhatan County in the 1800’s. Some things apparently never change; there are abused wives, alcoholics, mischievous children, gamblers and scholars who worked, played and loved very close to where I grew up. There was even a Ball race track at Broad Rock. Written in 1911, the book has no copyright and you may download it here. Happy reading!

The Seven Daughters of Isham Ball

7 daughters isham ball_edited-1Isham Ball’s will and his obituary reveal Ball to be a man of strongly held religious beliefs who cared deeply about his daughters and their children. He was careful in the wording of his will, clearly stating that the husbands of his daughter, Harriett, and granddaughter, Elizabeth, were not to benefit from their inheritances. Why did Ball feel so strongly about this? Were there questions of character?

Harriet Ball and her husband, Peter Ogilby, moved west and by 1843 were living in Union County, Kentucky, where Ogilby was a leader of the Zion Church. A church history indicates that Ogilby had differences with another member and in 1844 this “finally resulted in the exclusion and publication of Peter F. Oglesby as an impostor.” The 1850 census lists Ogilby as a clergyman in Caldwell, Kentucky where he died in 1866. Like Isham Ball, Ogilby was a deeply religious man with strongly held beliefs, and it is likely the two clashed over theological differences, leading Ball to put Harriett’s inheritance into the care of a trustee.

Sarah Elizabeth Taylor was the daughter of Isham Ball’s deceased daughter, Martha. Martha had married Richard Taylor and lived just a few miles from her father. In 1850 Elizabeth married her cousin, Joseph Taylor, son of Daniel Taylor. They lived in Powhatan County and Isham would have known the couple well. There is no direct evidence to explain why Isham felt compelled to exclude Joseph in his will, but it is noteworthy that Daniel Taylor passed over Joseph and  chose his youngest son George as executor of his estate.

Joseph Taylor went to court in 1861 and 1868 to compel the trustee, his cousin, William D. Taylor, to release the inheritance to his family. Sadly, the funds were invested in Confederate dollars in a Richmond bank and by 1868 the Confederate money was worthless.

Ball’s daughter Susan is not mentioned in his will. Susan married a neighbor, Archer Stratton in 1827. The 1850 census shows Stratton in Rankin, Mississippi and married to Eliza. Presumably Susan Ball died without children as Ball does not list any Stratton grandchildren in his will.

Ball divided his land between his three youngest daughters. It is likely that he had already given the older girls property when they married. Julia died in 1856 of a brain inflammation. Her husband, John and their children lived next to Isham. Daughter Emmaline and her husband James Eggleston also lived in Ballsville.

Sarah Jane Ball’s husband, Samuel Drake, died quite young and the Drake family lived with Isham Ball. The Drakes were closely allied with the Taylor family in many ways, including marrying the daughters of Isham Ball. Samuel Drake’s grandmother was Martha Taylor, sister to Robert Taylor. The Drakes and Taylors were neighbors on Bell Road.

I’m reading The Home Place by Robert Drake, great-grandson of Sarah Jane Ball Drake, great-great grandson of Isham Ball and Taylor descendant. This branch of the family moved to Tennessee after the Civil War but never forgot their ties to Ballsville, Virginia. Robert Drake shares his family tales and memories with great style and charm. Look for the 1998 version on Amazon.

Thank you great-great-great-great grandfather Isham Ball for this interesting will and legacy. I’m glad I found you and your seven daughters.






Isham Ball, A Remarkable Man

Isham Ball (my 4th great-grandfather) was born in Chesterfield County about 1778 during the Revolutionary War. He was the youngest of James and Susannah Ball’s 11 known children. James had been a tavern keeper and when he died in 1781, he was the owner of several successful plantations in Chesterfield County.

isham ball_edited-2Some Southern Balls by Donna Rachal Mills is a wonderful book about the Ball family roots in Virginia. She has recently published a subsequent study proposing that the Ball immigrant ancestor is Henry Ball, who immigrated to Virginia prior to 1661 from the London parishes of St. Bride, Fleet Street, and St. Andrew, Holborn. You can read the study online here. Curiously, this is my favorite area of London – I visit it every trip.

George Washington’s mother was a Ball and many family historians (and residents of Ballsville) try to connect the two Ball families. Ms. Mills definitively asserts there is no evidence to support a familial connection, so please don’t claim George Washington as a member of the family!

Isham married Sally Hendrick, daughter of John Hendrick and Judith Womack, in Chesterfield County on August 13, 1798. John Hendrick ran an ordinary in nearby Cumberland County, so it is not surprising that Isham was operating the Ball Tavern in Powhatan County by 1810. Soon he was the owner of 760 acres near Ballsville in Powhatan County.

Isham and Sally had four daughters, including my 3rd great-grandmother, Martha, wife of Richard A. Taylor. Sally died about 1808 and Isham next married Jane Morris with whom he had three  more daughters.

He must have been well-regarded in the community because his name can be found often in Powhatan County public records where he was appointed as a road surveyor, tavern keeper, jury member and more. I was delighted to see that Isham Ball served as a school board member, as I was a school board member for nine years. He was also the first postmaster of Powhatan County.

The Religious Herald published Isham Ball’s obituary on October 25, 1860. I located a copy at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society at the University of Richmond. I’ve added paragraphs for reading ease.

“Died, in his 82nd year, at his residence, in Powhatan, on the 12th of September, 1860, Mr. Isham Ball. In many respects, the subject of this notice was a remarkable man, and a remarkable Christian. From his temperament he could never be or do anything by halves.

Until past the middle of his life, he was a confirmed infidel. The circumstances of his conversion are deeply interesting. While keeping tavern at Ballsville, a pious lady, who was traveling, spent a Sabbath with him. In searching over the books of the house, for something to read, she found an old dusty volume with which she was greatly delighted. On leaving Monday morning, she obtained from Mr. Ball a reluctant promise that he would read the book that had given her such comfort. This he felt more inclined to do, as he found it was a book that had been left him by his mother. He read it, and the result was that all of his infidelity was swept away; he was awakened to a sense of sinfulness, and was most happily converted.

This book he prized next to his Bible and kept it til his death. The title page had been lost and consequently, the name of the author is not known. It was Mr. Ball’s anxious inquiry of all the ministers to whom he was in the habit of relating his conversion, to learn the name of the writer who had been the means of his salvation. He never learned it on earth. He has met and learned the author’s name, before the divine throne on high.

This was in the year 1822, when Mr. Ball made a profession of religion by being baptized into the fellowship of the Grub Hill church, by Elder E. Baptist. Not long after, he became a member of the Muddy Creek church in Powhatan, of which, till his death, he remained an endeared and useful member.

In all matters pertaining to the church he was uniform and active. He was just such a church member as to be greatly missed now that he is gone. His leading traits as a Christian, were his strong faith and abiding happiness. For years he seemed to have attained this assurance. He was a constant and careful reader of God’s word. Religion was his every day theme. He was always ready to speak of the things of Christ and give a reason for the hope that was in him.

He had the pleasure of knowing before his departure, that all of his children and most of his grand children had embraced the Saviour! who was all his hope and all his desire. A few days before his death, he attended a meeting at which time two of his grand children were converted; one whose baptism he witnessed just before his brief sickness; and the other one was baptized just after his funeral was preached. His end was one of peace.”


Powhatan Road Trip: The Ball Tavern

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.”

0181A 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.

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Detail from 1880 Laprade map of Powhatan County located at the Library of Virginia.


Agreeable To Its Meanders

“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.

taylor Map Blomquist Book
Map created by Ann K. Blomquist pictured on page 19 of Taylors and Tates of the South.

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.

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Map of Powhatan County : Made under the direction of A.H. Campbell P. Engr in charge of Top Dept D. N. V. From surveys / by Lieut. C.E. Cassell P. Engr. View the complete online map online at the US Military Academy Library.

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!

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1880 map of Powhatan County

Powhatan Road Trip: Travelers’ Rest

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.

Travelers RestDrive 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.

Robert Taylor Mutual Assurance Policy 1802 – Version 2
Sketch of Robert Taylor’s home for his Mutual Assurance policy in 1802. The policy is held at the Library of Virginia.

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.

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This sketch of Edmund Toney’s home is part of his 1802 Powhatan County Mutual Assurance policy. View the policy at the Library of Virginia.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.34.04 PMToday 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 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:

  1. 1731 John Taylor
  2. 1742 William Taylor
  3. 1765/1771 Robert Taylor
  4. 1826 Mary J. Williams Taylor (life interest)
  5. 1826 Blagrave Taylor (Robert Taylor’s grandson)
  6. 1861 Heirs of Blagrave Taylor (wife Amanda Ligon Taylor, children: Philip Malangthon Taylor, Oswald Blagrave Taylor, Emma J. Taylor and Valera Trueman Taylor)
  7. 1915 Samuel Palmore
  8. 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.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.21.19 PM.png

Have I made the case for Robert Taylor’s home? I welcome your thoughts.



Powhatan Road Trip: Rosemont

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.

RosemontJust 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.