When my husband invited me to attend a national home winemaking conference in Ithaca, New York, my initial reaction was negative. I reconsidered when I looked at a map and realized that Ithaca was only an hour from Auburn, New York. Suddenly flying nearly 3,000 miles across the country seemed like a very good idea. I immediately arranged to visit four second cousins I hadn’t seen in over 50 years.
The Chandler siblings were born and raised in Auburn, but their mother, Anne, and grandmother, Kathleen, were native Virginians. Most summers they loaded the family station wagon and drove to Chesterfield County, Virginia to spend a few weeks among friends and family. They would stay with my grandparents, and my mother’s siblings would gather to visit with their cousin Ann and Aunt Kathleen. Cousins Candy, Nancy and I were roughly the same age and I anticipated their visits with great eagerness. New York cousins were quite exotic to this little Virginia girl! We shared cold watermelon and fresh corn from Papa’s garden, hunted for four leaf clovers, made daisy wreaths and whiled away the hours on a swing underneath the shelter of a towering tree. Our little fingers shelled pans of butterbeans, just picked in the garden. I was rarely allowed to help with the harvest as my mother feared the many snakes who resided among the tomatoes and beans. While the aunts and uncles lingered, chatting in the twilight, we filled mason jars with “lightening bugs”.
More than 50 years later I was delighted to spend an afternoon visiting with my Chandler cousins. We reminisced about muggy Virginia summer days, swapped photos and stories and talked about our shared Virginia heritage. Thank you Lou, Candy, Nancy and Cindy for such a warm and memorable visit.
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 Ancestry.com. 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.” Fold3.com. 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.
October 6 marks the 88th birthday of my mother, Arline Mae Taylor Sykes. I pulled out a book I made of our old family photos to reminisce about Mom, and I realize that I only have three photos of my mother as a child. Just like my father, there is not much material to document her childhood. I would only have two photos, but when Marilyn Sanderson Farmer learned of Mom’s death in 2010, she found an old photo of our mothers as girls. They went to the old Broad Rock Elementary School together and and were playmates.
Marilyn’s shared photo is more than a treasured early photo of Mom, it is a lesson for all of us on preserving memories. If you have a box of old family photos now is the time to bring the box down from the attic and spend time with a family elder identifying the photos. Then please share them! Scan them and send them to the cousins. Use Facebook to reach out to friends like Marilyn did. You could have someone else’s elusive family photo. Mom is bottom left in this picture.
The photo below is among my favorite family photos. It’s held by Mom’s youngest sister, Florence Ann. Her daughter, Debbie, put all of the old family pictures in a book years ago and when I began my genealogy quest in 2005, they kindly allowed me to borrow the album and photograph all of the pictures. Mom and Aunt Florence Ann helped me identify everyone and then I posted the photos to my Ancestry.com account.
Aunt Florence Ann is the baby in her grandmother, Martha Blanche Pinchbeck Taylor’s lap. Mom is first on the left in the middle row. This is the only known photo of all the Taylor siblings together as children, along with some cousins too. It was probably taken at the family home in Chesterfield County in July 1938.
Isham 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.
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.