|THE CLARK-ROLLER HOUSE - - on county road 746 between Mt. Laurel and Watkins Bridge is especially noted for its beautiful grounds and huge boxwoods.It will be open to the public for the first time ever on Sunday, April 30 (1978). (Cindi Crews photo) News & Record
BY MRS. R.C. EDMUNDS
Halifax County Home Tours
Sunday, April 30, 1978
Old John Clark married Priscilla Sims in October, 1801,and they probably lived in the back and older section of this house. In his will he, in 1827, let her take charge of his great plantation, making home for their younger children, Martha Ann, John Thomas, and Charles. If either she or the children married, that could be changed. Ann, marrying Thomas Gordon Coleman of "Long Branch" plantation, 8.0 miles north of Halifax, would live there. Martha, who died soon after her 1837 marriage to Patrick Forster, had a plantation near Mt. Laurel and a lot on Church Street in Halifax. John Thomas, after marrying Henrietta Coleman, daughter of Henry Emory Coleman of "Chester", lived there many years. He later bought it and still later sold it to his brother-in-law, John T. Coleman.
He became a clergyman, who was commended by Bishop Meade in his "Old Churches" for having established three churches in the county and caring for the needy. It seemed unusual for a clergyman to have the vast lands and many slaves which were his charge until his fortunes became less prosperous after the Civil War. Even in 1857, however, he sold the Nichols property to Benjamin Garrett near Clover station. After the war he sold much more. Riding horseback in all directions, seeing about people as well as property, he was an impressive person in his time. He and his second wife, Mary, by the 1850's were living here in what the owner now, and the author, believe was his father's old home.
|THE STAIRCASE - - in the newer front part of the Clark-Roller home is this handsome elliptical one, rare in the county. One wonders who was the architect of such a gracful creation. Some have suggested John Evans Johnson, the architect of Berry Hill, as that person. (Cindi Crews photo)
He, with churchly as well as Southern hospitality, invited the Episcopal Seiminary from Alexandria to refugee here,which seemed safer than the Capitol City area, although the only battle ever fought in Halifax was to be at nearby Staunton River Bridge. Only ten came and among them a ministerial student named Burke who espoused the local cause. Burke was shot as he stepped on the bridge and was buried shelteringly in the Clark cemetery. Reverend Clark himself is buried beside St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Clover where a plaque honored his church service. The plaque has been given to Mrs. C.L. Roller.
Like many Halifax County manor houses, the original Clark house has been overshadowed by a frontal Green Revival entrance, but the rear portion here has especial cliarm. The planks outside are beaded. At the roofline there are double dentil cornices, a few inches apart, which give unique effect. The old brick chimneys and the expansive lawn about the place add to the quaint atmosphere. A red tin roof covers both sections of the house, probably arranged when Rev. John Thomas Clark built the front part of the house.
In the back hall a straight staircase, scarred by long use but having carved trim on the bottom rails, is sturdy. Trim Trim about the windoes and doors is simple and different from the paneling and cornices about those in the newer part Of the house. They resemble those in other county houses of the 1810- 1830 period, i.e., "Mildendo," Springwood," the Paul Carrington house, the William Adkisson house, "Black Walnut" and others. The mantelpiece in a room now used as a big modern kitchen would grace any parlor anywhere, being painted now a bright yellow. Upstairs there are three bedrooms on this side of the house, two of which have tester beds. The third has a rocking cradle of long use.
The front addition, which rears to unusual height and is surrounded by boxwoods and a grove of trees and shrubs, can be seen from the secondary road which leads to Watkins Bridge. Rev. Clark sold nearby land to T.C. Watkins in 1881.
Door trim in this part resemble that at "Berry Hill", "Tarover", "Redfield" and other 1840-50 houses. The square reception hall is separated from a hall of approximate size by a carved pine arch. This is unique in the county and resembles that at the Hawes House on Leigh Street in Richmond and that , was in "Sabot Hill, now burned, in Goochlano County,. A photo of such a hall here was sent to Mrs. Henry Tucker of the Leigh - Tucker house in the courthouse village by the Conways who lived at her house in Richmond in 1898. This is unrecognized by any local citizen but appears to be this Clark-Roller house. To the right is a narrow curving staircase, in the style of that at the Wickham-Valentine House in Richmond.
Left of the front hall is a parlor notable for the pale tan marble carved mantel. Floor length windows in an already lofty room have called for long curtains.
(Addition information published by the Gazette-Virginian written also by R.C. Edmunds:)
The Clark-Roller house on the Watkins Bridge Road was built by John Clark before 1820, added to in the 1850s by his son , the Rev. John Thomas Clark, and sold by him in 1870 to Orin Weed. The Roller family has lived here for the last 90 years.
John Clark left half million dollars when he died in 1827, a fortune second only to that of the Bruces. Two sons lived in "Banister Lodge" and "Clarkton". At his mother's death, John Thomas was to inherit the place.
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