|Mildendo was named for the city of Mildendo, the metropolis of Lilliput in Johnathan Swift's famous book, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, published in 1726. The house was probably built in 1760.
By Kenneth Cook for publication in the News & Record and written August 19, 1975.
What can be sadder than a deserted house, a mass of wood and
brick, of extreme historic and architectural interest, boasting the
most beautiful of situations, but lacking the greatest of all essentials--life? A house no longer a necessity, whose duty has been accomplished, whose destiny has long since been fulfilled, left to fade into the past.
This, then, is Mildendo, the seat of the Carringtons and the
Kells, home in spirit to the Coles as well. Such is its present
state that the visitor is all but brought to tears. All is silent;
there are few signs of life as it once was.
The grounds about the house are now simply part of a larger pasture, and the gardens, once considered among the loveliest in the state, are discernable only by a few remaining shrubs. Mildendo itself, once the scene of gracious living, is no longer habitable. Its end certainly is within the foreseeable future.
The purpose of this article is to set down its history while
Mildendo still stands, and to settle, hopefully, once and for all,
two of the inaccurate traditions associated with it. There can be
no better time than in this, our Bicentennial year.
The lands of the Mildendo estate first came into the Coles
family through grants to and purchases by John Coles, the first of
the family to come to America.
He was born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, the son of Walter Coles and his wife, Alice Philpot. His father was for 40 years prominently connected with affairs of state, and served as Provost of the city of Enniscorthy for a number of years.
One of seven children, John Coles was educated in England. According to an article in the VIRGINIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY, "while still a very young man, on account of having incurred the displeasure of his father, he came over to Virginia, about the last years of Governor Spotswood's administration, precise year unknown."
The date of his emigration was between 1730 and 1735. He settled in what is to become the city of Richmond, on what is today called Church Hill. He was one of the earliest settlers there. When William Mayo laid out the 32 squares, each containing four lots, of the new city for William Byrd II in 1737, there already were some scattered houses, one of them belonging to John Coles.
The Richmond home was located on present-day 22nd Street, between Broad and Marshall Streets, and stood until about 1871, when it was demolished. Again according to the Virginia Magazine, it was a part of the Monte Maria Convent in its last years.
John Coles only spent the winter in Richmond. During the summer he and his family repaired to Enniscorthy, their home in Albemarle County, named for the city of his birth.
Not long after his emigration John was possessed of a rather
large fortune. This has led some to infer that his father forgave him of whatever had come between them and given him his share of the paternal estate. A wealthy merchant, he was to become one of the largest landowners of his day in Virginia.
His holdings in and around Richmond included city lots and
several farms (he once gave a whole city square for a single fine horse!). The Enniscorthy tract in Albemarle embraced several thousand acres, and there was a similar tract in Louis County.
Mr. Coles' largest holdings were in southside Virginia, in that part of Lunenburg County that was in 1752 to become Halifax. A single grant of 5600 acres lay on both sides of Staunton River. Between 1746 and 1748 he received six surveys. They were: 300 acres on both sides of Buckskin Creek; 65 acres on the south side of Staunton River; 400 acres on both sides of Buckskin Creek; 400 acres on both sides of Buckskin Creek; 300 acres on Buckskin Greek; and 1513 acres on Black Creek.
John Coles was married, circa 1738, to Mary Ann Winston, daughter of Isaac Winston and Mary Dabney of Hanover County. The Winstons
were, according to William Byrd II, "a good old family." John and
Mary Ann were to become the parents of five children, namely:
Walter Coles, born November 14, 1739, died October 7, 1780;
Sarah Coles, born August 15, 1741, died October 16, 1778;
Mary Coles, born April 19, 1743, died January 22, 1823;
John Coles, born April 29, 1745, died February 5, 1808; and
Isaac Coles, born March 2, 1747, died June 3, 1813.
(One of John Coles' brothers, William, emigrated to Virginia several years after John. He married Lucy Winston, the widow of Dabney and a sister of John's wife Mary Ann. They had three children, the youngest of whom, Mary, married John Payne. He was a devout and highly-placed Quaker, but her family was less than thrilled with the match; they felt that she had "thrown herself away" on him. The eldest of their children, Dolly, married James Madison, the future
President of the United States.
(Sarah Winston, the sister of Mary Ann Winston Coles and Lucy Winston Coles, married, as her second husband, Col. John Henry. Their son was Patrick Henry.)
John Coles died on October 16, 1747, and was buried under the chancel of St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, where he was serving as senior warden at the time of his death. (His widow, Mary Ann, would marry twice following his death.) His children's ages ranged from seven years eleven months down to only seven months.
By his last will, dated October 11, 1747, John Coles left all his children and his widow well provided for, but he left the bulk of the estate to his eldest son, Walter, thus upholding the old-world ideas of aristocratic inheritance. Included in Walter's bequest was "all the land I bought of Richard Ward and John Wingham, on Staunton River ... to him and his heirs and assigns forever; also the following slaves, Primus, Jun, Billy, Doll, Lucy, Jenny, Jemmy, Cate, Abram, Tamar, Will, London, Dublin, Nan and Moll, with all their increase ... with all the stock of cattle, hogs, horses and mares on said plantation, after his two sisters and brother Isaac have their part of the stock laid off for them."
Walter Coles, the eldest child of John Coles and Mary Ann Winston, was born in Hanover County November 14, 1739. Very little is known of his early life; he was less than eight years of age when his father died. He was brought up in the Anglican (Episcopal) Church, and was a student at the College of William and Mary (perhaps in its preparatory school) from mid-1753 to early 1755.
By the time he was in his early 20's, he was living in Halifax County. Until his death in 1780 he would be a useful, public-spirited citizen.
He was elected to represent the county in the House of Burgesses
in 1765, serving from November 6 of that year until March 31, 1768.
He was re-elected in 1769 and served until 1772. Again elected in
1777, he was sitting in the House at the time of his death.
Mr. Coles' name first appears as a member of the Vestry of the Antrim Parish on August 24, 1767, when he was one of 11 members present for a meeting. At that time, it was ordered that he, James Bates and Benjamin Dickson, or any two of them, view the church Allen's Creek recently built by James LeGrande and re-port "whether the same is done in a workmanlike manner."
At a meeting held November 30, 1767, he, Robert Wooding, Evan Ragland and William, Thompson, or any three, were appointed to purchase someplace "as they shall think proper for a Glebe for the Parish," and report to the next meeting.
He was also present at meetings of the Vestry held April 2, 1768, and January 17, 1769. On December 20, 1769, Coles was one of the Vestrymen appointed to view work done on the Glebe buildings. After this, his name does not appear in the Vestry book.
Mr. Coles served as a Justice of the Peace for the county in
various years from 1764 to 1776. In 1776 he was one of the gentlemen Justices sitting "for the purpose of examining several natives of North Britain, subjects of George III, residing within the county." The men were Scottish merchants doing business in Halifax, and as a result of the hearing they where ordered to leave.
In August of 1765, he appeared in Court and "produced a Commission from His Honour the Governor" appointing him Major of the Militia for
the county. "By virtue whereof he took the usual oaths to His
Majesty's person and government."
In May of 1768 he was appointed to take the list of tithables for the county, and received the same appointment in April of 1769 and again in July of 1776.
Walter Coles was recommended to the Court in July, 1769, as a
person to be appointed sheriff of the county, but there is no indication whether or not he was appointed. He was again recommended in
July of 1771.
At the November, 1769, term of Court, Coles qualified as a justice of oyer. (according to Webster's International Dictionary,
an oyer is a pleading, a hearing or an inspection in open court
which a party might demand of any instrument of which the opposite
party was bound to make profit; in England, a commission formerly issued to Royal judges, sergeants and others, empowering them to hear and determine treason, felonies and misdemeanors on special occasions.)
According to the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the state (colony) of Virginia paid to Mr. Coles more than 41 pounds (41/9/5, to be exact) in 1777 "for drums and sundries furnished the Halifax Militia." of which he was a Major. At an unspecified date, he was paid 43/5/0 for arms which he purchased.
Besides running a large plantation, Coles operated a grist mill, located near Staunton River on Buckskin Creek. It was built after July, 1769, when the Court gave him leave to do so. He also operated a ferry from his land across Staunton River to Charlotte County. Known, naturally, as Coles Ferry, it will be discussed later in this article.
Walter Coles was married, in 1767, to Mildred Lightfoot, whom he doubtless met when he was in Williamsburg for meetings of the House of Burgesses. The Lightfoots had a townhouse in the capital. At the time of their marriage, Walter was 28, Mildred not quite 16.
Their marriage received this notice in the "Virginia Gazette"
of Williamsburg: "Mr. Walter Coles, Esq., one of the representatives in assembly for the county of Halifax, to Miss Mildred Lightfoot, a daughter of the late Col. William Lightfoot, of Charles City."
Mildred was born February 11, 1752, at Tedington, the Charles
City County home of her parents, Col. William Lightfoot and Mildred Howell. She was raised in surroundings of great wealth; old inhabitants of the county said that the family "lived like kings and queens and ruled a little principality."
In the midst of over 5000 acres, the Lightfoots did indeed live
in splendor. Their coat-of-arms, executed in gold, was framed in the pediment of the porch of the mansion. Inside, furnishings were lavish. There were portraits and paintings by artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Peter Lely. A toilet set in solid silver graced the master bedchamber.
Lavish entertainment was dispensed at "Ledington. Fourteen could
be served from a silver dinner service of English origin. Plates for the host and hostess were of gold. A 1717 Christmas dinner menu listed 22 kinds of meat, fish and game alone!
Walter and Mildred Lightfoot Coles made their home in Halifax County on land inherited from his father. Just when the house, which they called Mildendo, was built, is not known. From the fact that John Coles, in his will (1747), refers to the place as land, it is probably safe to assume that the house had not been built then. At that time there probably were only slave quarters and an overseer's house there.
By directions in his will, all of John Coles property was to be held together undivided and under one management until Walter reached the age of 21. If this was done, then the original house probably was not built until after his 21st birthday, in 1760.
No record of the original Mildendo has been found. No plan or description is known to exist. We know only that it occupied a beautiful hilltop site overlooking the Staunton River, and that it had one of the most unusual names ever.
Mildendo was named for the city of Mildendo, the metropolis of Lilliput in Jonothan Swiftts famous book, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, published in 1726. Swift, born in Dublin, Ireland, was a contemporary of Walter's father, John Coles, perhaps even a friend. This could explain why Walter selected the unusual name for his house.
Walter and Mildred both had large inheritances. Surely the must have lived at Mildendo in the splendid style to which they were accustomed. As she had done at Tedington, Mildred continued to drive a coach-and-four.
Only one glimpse of life at Mildendo has come down to us. In 1768, Dr. Walter Bennett, of Poplar Mount, Halifax County, paid an extended visit to Walter, his first cousin (his mother was Mary Coles; she spent her entire life in Ireland, dying there in 1755), and recorded it in his journal:
"I went ... to Colonel Walter Coles of Halifax County. Here I staid for two months, very happy, and was treated with the greatest friendship and kindness by him and his wife, for which I shall ever esteem them. They have but one child, a daughter named Mary, about six months old. He lives on a hill over the low grounds of the river Staunton ... Here I met Mr. John Coles and Mr. and Mrs. Mutter, also Mrs. Tucker, who had one child, a daughter three years old, and it appeared to me that they were all very happy. During the visit I got, acquainted with Col. Paul Carrington of Charlotte County. I took my leave of all friends, and Col. Coles rode with me across the river
and would assist me with ten pounds, although I had several I had
made while there ..."
(The following identifications of persons mentioned by Dr. Bennett seem necessary:
Mr. John Coles - was a brother of Walter, born 1745, died 1808, married to Rebecca Elizabeth Tucker.
Mr. and Mrs. Mutter - she was Sarah Coles, a sister of Walter and John, born 1741, died 1778, married to George Nutter of Norfolk. The last name is sometimes given as Mutter, again as Nutter. Nutter is believed to be correct.
(Mrs. Tucker - was yet another sister of Walter of Mildendo. Born Mary Coles in 1743, died 1823, married to Henry Tucker, a half-brother of her brother John's wife, above. Her 3-year-old daughter was Sarah Coles Tucker, born 1765, married 1784 to George Carrington; they lived at Oak Hill, Halifax County.
(Col. Paul Carrington of Charlotte - was Paul Carrington, Sr., of Mulberry Hill. His son, Paul, Jr., would later marry Mildred, the daughter of Walter Coles. His second wife was Henningham Codrington)
Seven children were born to the Coles, all apparently at Mildendo: Mary, 1767; Mildred Howell, 1769; Sarah, 1770; John, 1772; Walter, 1775; Isaac, 1777; and William, 1779.
Their life together was short. Walter Coles died November 7, 1780, at Mildendo, at the age of 41. He surely was buried there, although there is no proof of this. Mildred Lightfoot Coles was a widow at 28, with seven children whose ages ranged from 13 years down to one year.
Mildred's own father died when he was 42, leaving her mother a widow at 27, with her oldest child just 12. Walter's father, John Coles, died at age 42 . leaving his wife a widow at 27, with their eldest child, Walter, just 12, How's that for coincidence!
Walter's will, written November 7, the same day he died, was Presented at Court on November 16, proved and recorded. Following are extracts:
"I, Walter Coles, of the county of Halifax and Parish of Antrim, being perfectly in my senses and mind, but knowing how uncertain life is ... I bequeath my soul to God who gaveth it, in humble hope of life eternal, through His great goodness and mercy, and my body to the earth from whence I came, to be decently but not expensively buried.
"...my estate to be kept together as long as my wife, Mildred remains unmarried; she is to have management of it, supporting and maintaining herself and the children out of it, and taking each year
one third of the net Profits for her part, but if she should marry, then she shall have nothing to do with anything more than the law of the country gives her a title to.
"I give three daughters, Mary, Mildred Howell and Sarah Coles, 65,000 weight of merchantable crops, inspected tobacco, cash, to be paid them when they marry or their brother John arrives at the age of 21. Till one of which shall happen, they are to be maintained out of the whole estate; and to my daughter Mary a young Negro named Aggy and two young girls called Dinah and Lucy; to my daughter Mildred Lowell, three Negro girls called Sally Cooper, Nancy and Rose; and to my daughter Sarah three Negro girls, Letty, Betty and Flora, with all their future increase to each of them, their heirs and assigns forever; and if either of them my said daughters should die before they marry
or are 21 years old, her money or tobacco as well as her Negroes with their increase shall be equally divided between her sisters.
"I give to my son John the lands I own in Halifax County except 165 acres lying on Staunton River above the lands of Drury Baugham,
with half my Negroes, deducting those given my daughters, including Sam and Beck, with all the children Beck now has, and all her future increase, with one half my stock of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs, and Plantation utensils, to him, his heirs and assigns forever.
"I give my son Walter the tract of land I purchased of Mattox Mayes, lying in Charlotte County on Staunton River and containing 628 acres, with the plantation utensils, and except out of the land in Halifax given his brother John, also one fourth part of my horses, sheep, cattle and hogs, and one fourth of my plantation tools, to him, his heirs and assigns forever.
"I give and bequeath to my son Isaac the tract of land lying in Charlotte County on the fork of Staunton River and Cubb Creek, together with the plantation adjoining which I bought of Parrott and one fourth part of my slaves, stock of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs, and plantation tools.
"I give to my son William all the tract of land adjoining my brother Isaac Coles in Halifax on Buckskin Creek, lying altogether above my brother's tract of land on said creek. Also the other fourth part of my slaves, stock of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs and plantation tools.
"My desire is that the whole estate should be kept together till
my son John comes to the age of 21 years, unless my daughters should marry. Then their tobacco is to paid and their Negroes delivered. Each child's part is to be divided and the three younger sons'
estates separately managed and delivered to them, with any monies that may have been raised from them since the division, as they arrive at the age of 21 years. And if my wife Mildred should be then unmarried
that she shall from that time hold and enjoy for her life the mansion
house plantation, that is, from the lands of Drury Baugham down the river to Buckskin Creek Plantation and thence out to the back line so as to take in 1000 acres, with her choice of 8 house servants out of the Negroes belonging to my four sons, 6 working hands and one third part of the stock of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs and plantation tools, given my son John, and one third of the estates of each of my other sons Walter, Isaac and William. That she shall during her widowhood have an absolute right to dispose of and lay out any money that may be in hand over and above the sum of tobacco given my daughters and may think proper for the interest and advantage of the estate, and for each of the children in particular, and if she should die before my son John comes of age, any money made in that estate shall be equally divided among my four sons ... that she my dear wife Mildred shall have the use of all the furniture in the house and kitchen, that there should be no appraisement of my estate, but an inventory taken, and that all just debts be paid as soon as possible. And the tobacco as fast as it is raised for the discharge of my daughters' fortunes should be put out to interest with good security for the advantage of the estate.
"Everything not disposed of by this will I give half to my son John, the other half to be equally divided between Walter, Isaac and William.
"If my wife, Mildred should marry before my son John comes of age 21 years, I must earnestly request my brothers John and Isaac Coles to undertake the guardianship of my children and management of my estate, and that they will be particularly attentive to the education of my children, which from the goodness of their hearts and the brotherly affection they have ever discovered to me when alive, I have not the least doubt of their doing.
"This is my last will and testament, sealed with my seal ..."
The inventory taken of the furnishings of Mildendo following
the death of Walter Coles gives us our only idea of what the house may have been like. Even from this list, it is not possible to say how many rooms there may have been, whether it was one or two-story, or such. The physical appearance of the original Mildendo must remain a mystery.
The inventory includes: 16 pewter dishes, 38 pewter plates, 10 pewter basons, 6 smell pewter basons, 3 bell metal skillets, brass kettle, copper kettle, 5 iron pots, preserving pot, tin coffee pot, tin sauce pan, iron ladle, flesh fork, 2 iron spoons, 12 skewers and 2 tin buckets;
Four brass candlesticks, 3 pair of snuffers, tin lanthorn, 2 chafing dishes, 3 frying pans, pepper box, flour box, plate basket, 4 pine tables, 2 pewter dish covers, 2 iron skillets, 4 pot hooks, 4 pair andirons, 4 flat irons, pestle and mortar, 30-gallon iron pot, 20 candle moulds, and a pewter still;
Four damask table cloths, 9 cheaper table cloths, two Virginia table cloths, 12 pillow cases, 8 counterpanes, 6 bed quilts, 21 blankets, 3 Virginia carpets, 10 feather beds, 4 mattresses, and 12 pair of sheets;
Desk and bookcase, dressing table, stand, mahogany cradle, 6 cherry chairs, 12 black walnut chairs, 2 armchairs, 10 bedsteads, press, 2 chests, 3 mahogany tables, 2 cherry tables, black walnut table, 3 pair tongs, and to shovels;
Set of tea china, 3 china bowls, glass bowl, 10 Queen's China plates, 16 butter pots, 11 Queen's China dishes, 2 pudding dishes,
6 tart pans, 6 custard cups, 2 sugar boxes, 2 bread baskets, 3 trunks, sugar dish, 2 tea. pots, 2 looking glasses, 2 silver-mounted knife cases, 12 knives and forks, and 2 knife boxes;
Two pewter ink stands, 12 pictures, 4 salt cellars, mustard not, vinegar creit, 2 pepper castors, 24 bottles, rum case, 2 pewter chamber pots, tea kettle and stand, 4 piggins, 2 tubs, 3 churns, loom, 4 slays, 6 spinning wheels, 4 flax wheels, and 6 pair of cards;
Weaver's shuttle, 2 warping boards, 2 tea boards, 4 waiters, 22
china mugs, china lamp, glass salver, 12 wine glasses, 18 vials, 12 cannisters, 11 large silver spoons, 10 small silver spoons, 10 silver tea spoons, pair sugar tongs, 2 punch ladles, soup spoon, and a
Queen's Ware coffee pot;
Large jar, 6 jugs, 21 gallons of rum, 4 gallons of wine, hogshead of cider, 30 gallons of cider, pair of large scales, pair of money scales, 6 mitts, 12 milk bowls, large iron pot, silver-hilted sword, 2 razors and straps, pair of silver-plated spurs, and shaving box and brush;
Riding chair, parcel of leather, set of calico bed curtains, 5 pair window curtains, 7 casks, 32 bushels of salt, ton or iron, 3 guns,, 2 wagons, 2 ox carts, 45 head of horses, 229 head of cattle, 260 hogs, farm equipment and 118 slaves.
Mr. Coles' inventory also lists a library of at least 164 volumes; by modern standards this may sound small, but in 1780, in Southside Virginia, it was a remarkable collection. The Mildendo library
Bibles--2; Voltaire's works--32; Pope's works--7; Elements of Criticism--2; Bollin's Ancient history; Yorrick's Travels--2; collections of poems--5; Burns' Justice--2; Gardner's Dictionary--4; Robertson's History of Scotland--2; Acnsworth's Dictionary--2; -Thompson's Works--2; English grammar; French grammar--2; Hamelton Murray--3;
Fanny Murray--1; Rousseau--3; Prious' Poems-1; Act of Guinea-1;
Rambler--2;_Dryden's Virgil--3; Reverie--2; Addison's Miscellany-1; Forbes' Works--2; Essays-1; Gentleman's Magazine--l; Launcelot Graves--2; Gardener's Kallendar-1; Campbell's Lives--2; Belfield's Erudition--2; Yorick's Sermons--l;
Sale's Lexicon-1; Salmon's Gazetteer--1; Spectator--8; Swift's Works--12; Smollet's--10; Horace-1; Original Poems--1; Epigoniad--1;
Milton's Works--l; Churchill's Works--3; Derham's Phisics Theology--l;
Sallust--1. Tysot on Disease--l;; Latin Grammar--2; Telemacus--1; Sallust--l;
Modern Travels--1; Apochrypha--2;
Humphrey Clinker--2; Boyer's Telemachus--2; Roderick Random—1; Plutarch's Lives--1; Shakespeare's Works--1; Smith's Sentiments-1; 4 !II Guthrie's Epistle to Atticus--1; Chapman's Roman Senate—T; Nuptial
Dialogues--1; Dictionary--1; Schrevelie's Lexicon--1; Laws of Virginia--1; Stark's Justice--1; pamphlets--1; Retired Gardener--l; Gentlemen's Farriery--1; and Voltaire's State of Europe--2.
Following the death of her husband, Mildred Lightfoot Coles lived on at Mildendo, running the plantation and raising her children. In March of 1782 she was granted letters of administration of the estate.
In November, 1793, Mildred Coles (through her husband, Paul Carrington, Jr.), Sarah Coles, Isaac Coles and William Coles (through Isaac Coles, their guardian), sued in county court for division of the slaves and personal estate of their late father. Through their attorney, John B. Scott, they also requested partition of some 5,963 acres of land.
In March of 1794 the court ordered the slaves and personal estate
"divided agreeable to the will of Walter Coles the elder, by first taking out the legacies specifically devised to the daughters and then allotting to the defendant, Mildred Coles, her choice of 8 house servants out of the balance of the slaves belonging to said estate; then to divide the remainder of all slaves belonging to the estate into two equal parts, and out of them allocate to said defendant 6 working hands and divide the balance most agreeable to the will."
As regards the land, 5,165 acres of which lay in Halifax County and 798 in Charlotte, commissioners were named to "go to the land ... to make partition and severance." A thousand acres of the Halifax land was to be assigned to the defendant agreeable to the will and one-third of the remainder as her dower. The several plaintiffs were to be assigned his or her portion according, to law. The commissioners reported in March, 1794, that the division had been made.
Of the seven children of Walter and Mildred Coles, only three were to survive their parents.
John, fourth eldest, died in 1782 at the age of 10.
Walter Coles, fifth child, died unmarried at age 18. He willed his estate to his mother, sisters and brothers.
Mary Coles, the eldest, died in 1793 at the age of 26. Like her brother Walter, she willed her estate to her mother, sisters and brothers. Part of her mother's legacy was 15,000 pounds of tobacco "with part of which I request her to purchase a watch."
Gilliam, the youngest, died at age 20 in 1799. All his estate was willed to his sisters Mildred and Sarah and his brother Isaac.
Mildred Howell Coles, next-to-eldest child, was married in 1786, at Mildendo, to Paul Carrington, Jr., youngest child of Col. Paul Carrington and Margaret Read of Mulberry Hill, Charlotte County.
Born in 1764 and educated at Hampden-Sydney and at the College or Wi1liam and Mary, he was a soldier in the Revolution, studied law under Attorney-General Randolph, was in the House of Delegates, a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1788, a member of the Virginia Senate (speaker for one day), and Judge of the General Court of Virginia.
The Carringtons lived at Sylvan Hill in Charlotte County, "the abode of peace and happiness." To them were born seven children. Paul died January 8, 1816; Mildred died April 24, 1840; both are buried at Berry Hill, Halifax County.
Sylvan Hill c.1805, Saxe, Charlotte County, Virginia
Sarah Coles, the third eldest child, was married August 1, 1799, at Mildendo, to James Bruce. The Rev. Alexander Hay officiated at the ceremony.
Mr. Bruce, a native of Orange County, left home at an early age to begin a career in merchandising. By the time he and Sarah were married, he was established in Halifax. He died the third wealthiest man in the United States in 1837, the originator of the chain store system and the country's first agricultural millionaire.
Sarah Coles Bruce died May 21, 1806, having had three children. James Coles, the eldest, was the only one to survive; Charles and Mildred died young. Mrs. Bruce is presumed to be buried at Mildendo in an unmarked grave, along with her two young children.
Isaac Coles, the next-to-youngest child, will be discussed later in this article.
Mildred Howell Lightfoot Coles died May 1, 1799, at Mildendo,
and was buried beside her husband in the family cemetery. By her will, she partitioned her estate as follows:
To her daughter, Mildred H. Carrington, 100 pounds current money, to be paid out of money lent to Samuel Venable, and a bay horse now in the wagon called by the name of Captain;
To her daughter Sarah Coles 100 pounds from the same source "and my charriot and horse called by the name of Chanler," a Negro girl, daughter of Judah;
To her son, Isaac, 100 acres of land adjoining the Ferry, bought of Drury Kersey, and half of all the money and tobacco belonging to
my estate at my death after paying the legacies left to the girls; half of the hogs, cattle, horses and sheep;
To her son, William Judah and all her other children, half of horses, hogs, cattle and sheep/and the remaining half of monies and tobacco;'
To her granddaughter, Nancy Carrington,a Negro girl, Dicey; "in case the boys do not choose her to have the girl, they shall pay her 100 pounds of current money and a handsome bed quilt;" also, a pair of gold-silver buttons that belonged to her aunt Polly Coles;
her granddaughter, Lightfoot Carrington, the remainder of money due on bond of Samuel Venable, and a handsome bed quilt;
To her nephew, Isaac Coles, son of Isaac Coles, Esq., 20 pounds and a white counterpin;
To her sons, Isaac and William, the residue of my estate of whatever nature or kind not heretofore given to be equally divided between them;
Should her son William die before he arrived at the age of "one and twenty or married," the whole of the estate given him was to go to her son, Isaac.
Col. Paul Carrington and Paul Carrington, Jr., were named as her executors.
On the death of Mrs. Coles, the major portion of the Coles estate, including Mildendo itself, passed to Isaac, her only surviving son. Third of four sons, and next to youngest child, he was born at Mildendo January 15, 1777.
|Partial image of a portrait of Isaac Coles contributed by Danny Ricketts.
Col. Isaac Coles was one of the first 11 congressmen and one of the 12 signers of the U.S. Constitution. Before he died he moved to Pittsylvania Co. and is buried northeast of Chatham off the Chalk Level Road. Click on the image to see a photo of the tombstone.
Educated at Hampden-Sydney College and the College of
and Mary, Isaac was often confused with cousins of the same name. To set himself apart from them, he took the initial "H" into his name (since he was from Halifax County). Thereafter he was often referred to as Isaac "Halifax" Coles, but in fact the "H" stood for nothing.
A wealthy planter, Isaac served as a state senator from Halifax. He made his home at Berry Hill, which he had purchased from his uncle, Isaac Coles, brother of his late father.
During his ownership, Mildendo was most likely a tenant property; it was not occupied by family members at any rate. At an unknown date between 1799 and 1814 the house was destroyed by fire.
Isaac H. Coles died February 9, 1814, at Berry Hill. His place of burial is not known, but he is presumed to be in the family cemetery at Mildendo.
A bachelor, he willed the bulk of his estate to the children of his sister, Mildred Howell Coles Carrington of Sylvan Hill. In fact, so great was their inheritance that their father, Paul Carrington, Jr., left them nothing in his will. The whole of his estate went to his wife and their youngest child, Isaac Coles Carrington.
Because his late sister, Sarah, had been married to James Bruce, one of the wealthiest men in the United States, he left nothing to
her children. In his will he wrote: "My friend Bruce, whom I am sincerely attached to, must know his wealth is sufficient for their happiness, if money is necessary."
Isaac Coles' estate, settled "agreeable to a decree of the High Court of Lynchburg District," was bonded in the amount of $500,000. By the fifth item of his will he gave to his nephew, William Allen Carrington, "the home house tract, with all the Negroes and stock on the plantation." This was Mildendo.
An inventory was taken of the personal property on the estate
An inventory was taken of the personal property on the estate on March 9, 1814. Included among the 52 slaves were Jack, carpenter, Cane, a wagoner, and Daniel, a blacksmith.
The remains of the furnishings of Mildendo were also listed as follows: 9 pictures, 2 folding tables, looking glass, tea table, 4 old chairs, 2 Windsor chairs, desk and bookcase, desk chair, 5 tea cups, 3 saucers, 3 coffee cups, carpet, 2 old sugar boxes, knife box, 6 old knives and forks, stand, bed cot, old press, candlestick and snuffer, window curtains, bed, and an old table.
Compared with the list of furnishings of Mildendo taken at
the time of Walter Coles' death in 1780, this list is meager indeed. Was this all that was saved when the house was burned? Possibly so.
WILLIAM ALLEN CARRINGTON
William Allen Carrington, who inherited the Mildendo plantation from his uncle, Isaac "H" Coles, was born March 3, 1796, the son of Judge Paul Carrington, ., and Mildred Howell Coles, of Sylvan Hill, Charlotte County. Since his place of birth is given as Halifax County, he is presumed to have been born at Mildendo, his mother's home.
Little is known of his early life. He was a student at Hampden-Sydney College in 1810, according to the "Dictionary of Biography, 1776-1825," of the College. Because he was only 13 at the time, he probably as in the preparatory school.
He was nearly 18 years old when, in 1814, he inherited the Mildendo plantation. In April of 1815 his father, Paul Carrington, Jr., was appointed his guardian by Halifax County court and bonded for $50,000. When he died, the court, at its January, 1816, term, named Edward Carrington as Allen's guardian. His bond was $40,000, with James Bruce as his security.
In 1817 and 1818 Allen Carrington travelled in England and France with his brother, Edward, but returned home about a year sooner than Edward.
William Allen Carrington was married January 8, 1819, at Falkland, Halifax County, to Sarah Embra Scott, daughter of Capt. Charles Tomkies Scott and Priscilla Read. Bondsman was Walter Coles Carrington of Long Branch, the groom's brother; witnesses were James Bruce, his uncle-by-marriage, and William Britton.
The fourth of 11 children, Sarah was born at Falkland in January of 1800, exact day unknown. She was noted beauty and belle in her youth, and was recalled as a very lovely lady in her old age.
Capt. Scott was a planter and a man of wealth and prominence in Halifax. His estate, Falkland, containing several thousand acres, lay on the Dan and Banister Rivers, and was one of the finest in the county. He was an officer of Dragoons in the Continental army, a Coronet and a member of the original Society of the Cincinnati in Virginia.
Her mother, Priscilla Read, was a daughter of Col. Isaac Reade, Sr., of Greenfield, Charlotte County. By tradition, Priscilla was a very pretty girl and an excellent mistress and hostess. She was married at the age of 15.
At about the tine of his marriage to Sarah Embra Scott, Mr. Carrington built the present Mildendo. By family tradition, he patterned the house after a cottage that had caught his eye during his European travels.
The exact date of Mildendo's construction has always been in doubt. A check of the Land Tax Books at Halifax County Courthouse
has narrowed it to within a three-year period.
In 1819, Mr. Carrington was taxed with 1085 1/2 acres of land, located "20 miles northeast" of the courthouse. The tax value was $1356.87. A. column headed "value of buildings" was blank.
Records for 1820 and 1821 are missing (as are most other years), but in 1822 he is taxed for 1971 acres, an increase of 885.5 acres. The land was valued at $2463.75.
In 1822, however, in the column for "Value of buildings," the figure $3780 suddenly appears. From this, according to several other local historians who are familiar with county records, it would be logical to conclude that the present Mildendo had been built.
The house was built on an impressive site, a high hill overlooking the low grounds of the Staunton River and commanding a beautiful view into Charlotte County across the river. On three sides the hill slopes gently away, but on the fourth--the river side--it drops abruptly to the low grounds.
To describe Mildendo, containing nine rooms and four halls, as unusual, is an understatement. There is no other house like it in Halifax County, probably nowhere else, either. Its beauty lies in part in its uniqueness.
The following description of the interior room arrangement is based on a sketch of the floor plan made for this writer by Mrs. Elizabeth Kell Harding, whose family owned Mildendo from 1918 to 1967. (A copy of this plan's used with this article.) This is the way it was when the Kells first moved there, before any changes were made.
The house, measuring approximately 80 by 40 feet, is situated so that it faces nearly south. It is one story in height, with partial basement on the east end and no attic. There were originally four chimneys, two in the center of the house and one at each end; those at each end are gone now.
Inside, the house is divided into three sections. the front section consists of the large hall, 56 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Being under the south slope of the roof, the ceiling height is 10 feet. The middle section, containing four large rooms, is 80 feet long, 16 feet deep and, being under the center of the roof, has a ceiling height of 14 feet. The back section, containing five rooms and three halls, is 80 feet long and 12 feet deep. Because it is under the north slope of the roof, the ceiling height is only 10 feet.
The front hall has four windows in the south (or front) wall, two on either side of the front door. A door in either end of the hall led onto porches that were in the two corners of the front facade (the southeast porch is gone).
Between the hall and the middle section of the house are five doors and two windows. Two of the doors, in the center of the hall, lead into the center interior rooms. The door in the northwest corner leads into the west room of the center section, and a similar door in the northeast corner leads into the east room of the center section.
The fifth door, next to the northeast door, leads into a closet. The windows, placed east and west of the central pair of doors, open into the central rooms.
The two central rooms are connected by a door in the center of their Partition wall. Each has a door in its north wall leading into small rear halls, and each has an open fireplace. In the east central room, this is in the east wall, and in the west central room, in the west wall. Additionally, the west central room has a door south of the fireplace leading into a closet.
The room on the east end of the center section has a fireplace in its west wall, two windows in the east wall, a door in the north wall leading into the room on the northeast corner, and a door in the south wall leading into the front hall. A window in the south wall overlooks what was the southeast corner porch.
The room on the west end of the center section has a fireplace in the east wall, two windows in the west wall, a door in the north wall leading into the northwest corner room, and a door in the south wall leading into the front hall. A window (now a door) in the south wall overlooked the southwest corner porch. To the north of the fireplace a door opens into a rear hall extension.
There are five rooms and three halls in the back section of the house. The room at the northwest corner had a fireplace in the west wall, flanked by a closet on either side (the chimney and north closet are gone now, but the south closet remains ). In the north wall are two windows; a door in the east wall opens into a hall,and a door in the south wall opens into the west center room.
Next to the northwest room there is a rear hall, which is "U" in shape. It has two entrances from the outside on the north wall (one of these is now closed and turned into a window), and it surrounds a small room that has a window in its north wall and a door to the hall in its south wall. This "U" shaped hall, as will be noted on the floor plan, gives access to five rooms.
The room in the center of the rear section has a window in the north wall; doors in the east and west walls lead to the rear halls.
The east rear hall, running north and south, has four doors. Three connect with rooms to the east, west and south, and the fourth opens to the outside on the north.
East of this small hall is a small room that has a door in the west wall connecting with the hall, a door in the east wall to the northeast corner room, and a door in the south wall to a closet. A window is located in the north wall.
The room in the northeast corner has a door in the west wall, a door in the south wall and a door and a window in the north wall. An open fireplace was on the east wall (gone now replaced by a window).
One can only speculate on the uses of these rooms, but very probably the two rooms in the center of the house were the parlor and dining room. Those on each side probably were bedrooms, and so, too, one suspects, were the five rooms across the back.
The interior woodwork was simple in design. Nearly all rooms had chair rails, some had picture moulding. Mantels were straight forward but handsome in their own way. The most impressive room in the house was the great front hall. Doubtless it served as an all-purpose family room in summer months.
The grounds of Mildendo covered about 10 acres, and were shaded
original growth forest trees. The gardens, known throughout Virginia in their day, stretched from the house to the brow of the hill over the river. It was a lovely, old-fashioned flower garden, surrounded by cedars and osage orange trees and dotted by numerous boxwoods. An avenue of tree box extended through the middle.
West of the house was the plantation office, a log building. Also of logs was the gardener's house, situated at the far front corner of the garden.
Behind the house there were the usual outbuildings, including the smokehouse, kitchen and ice house, all three of which stood in line with each other.All had rock foundations; the ice house was of logs, with a steep, A-frame roof. Somewhat back of these three buildings was the cook's house, also a log structure.
The Coles family cemetery was located several hundred yards back of the house, and was enclosed with a stone wall.
So far as is known, William Allen Carrington aspired to no public office, preferring instead the life of a planter at Mildendo. Indeed, the only office he is known to have held was that of a member of the Board of Trustees of Hampden-Sydney College. He was elected, on July 17, 1820, "in the room of James Madison, President of the United States, resigned."
Being a member of the Hampden-Sydney board was a tradition
in Carrington's family. Others who held a seat on it were:
Col. Paul Carrington, Sr., his grandfather, who was one of the 12 original trustees appointed by the Hanover Presbytery February
1 and 2, 1775;
Judge Paul Carrington, Jr., his father, who served from 1803
Col. Clement Carrington, his uncle, of Charlotte County, 13-14;
Hon. Henry Carrington, his uncle, of Ingleside, Charlotte County, 1827-1846;
Paul S. Carrington, his brother, of Ridgeway, Charlotte
Isaac Coles Carrington, his brother, of Sylvan Hill, Charlotte County, 1841,-1866;
Natianiel E. Venable, his brother-in-law, of Longwood, Prince Edward County, 1827-1846;
Charles Scott Carrington, his son, of Mildendo, 1870-1891;
Capt. Charles T. Scott, his father-in-law, of Falkland, Halifax County, 1795-1819;
Gen. John B. Scott, his wife's grandfather, of Halifax County, 1791-1806;
Hon. James Bruce, his uncle-by-marriage, of Woodbourne, Halifax County, 1805-1830; and
Hon. James Coles Bruce, his first cousin, of Berry Hill, Halifax County, 1830-1865.
During their ten years of marriage, William Allen Carrington and Sarah Embra Scott had issue of six children. They were:
Charles Scott Carrington, born August 26, 1820, at Mildendo, to be discussed later in this article.
William Fontaine Carrington, M.D., born January 26, 1822, at Sylvan Hill ,Charlotte County, also to be discussed later.
Mildred Lightfoot Carrington born July 26, 1823, at Mildendo,
married in 1841, (bond dated June 16), at Mildendo, to William
Goodridge Venable, her cousin. He was born May 2, 1819, at Haymarket, Prince Edward County, son of William Lewis Venable and Frances Watkins Nantz. They had no children. Mildred died April 14, 1843, probably at Haymarket, where she may be buried. Dr. Venable married another cousin and moved to Ditchfield, Victoria County, Texas. He died February 29, 1908 at Falling Springs, Virginia
Catherine Scott Carrington, born May 26, 1825, at Mildendo, was twice married. the married first, on August 6, 1860, at Mildendo, Judge Lucas Powell Thompson; the Rev. Alexander Martin of Charlotte County, a Presbyterian minister, officiated. Judge Thompson was 63 and a widower at the time of their Marriage. He was born in Nelson County, son of John Thompson and Rebecca E. Powell, and was Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Virginia. They lived in Staunton and in Richmond.
The date of death of Judge Thompson is not known. Catherine
married secondly, after 1887, as his second wife, her first cousin, Dr. Paul Jones Carrington. He was born at Long Branch, Halifax County, March 21, 1825, son of Walter Coles Carrington and Alice Cabell. Dr. Carrington's first wife was Margaret Augusta Thompson, daughter of Catherine's first husband, Judge Thompson, and his first wife, Susan Caroline Topscott; the first Mrs. Carrington was born in 1825, died June 4, 1887, and is buried in Christ Episcopal Church cemetery near Mount Laurel.
Catherine and Dr. Carrington lived in Mount Laurel, where he
practiced medicine. (During his first marriage, soon after the Civil War, he had moved to Washington, Arkansas, but did not stay long, returning to Halifax County.)
Catherine had no children by either of her husbands. She died June 25, 1893, but her place of burial is not known. She may be at Mildendo in an unmarked grave. Dr. Carrington died April 17, 1900, and likewise is buried in an unknown location.
"Research following the publication of this article shows that the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William A. and Sarah S. Carrington, was named Cathering Lightfoot (not Scott) Carrington and that she was married only once to Judge Lucas P. Thompson in 1860.
Her correct name and that of her only husband were written in her own hand on her 1892 DAR application and her 1893 Hollywood Cemetery, VA tombstone.
She was remembered for her devotion to her family. She spent all of her life helping those living at and near Mildendo, and caring for her elderly husband until 1866 and mother until 1872 at Hilltop, Staunton, VA. Known as "Aunt Kate" by the family, she subsequently took care of the children of her widowed nephew, William Allen Carrington, in Houston, Texas.
Tragedy struck Catherine when her great niece, Patty Carrington, was killed in a horrific July 2, 1889 Thaxton, VA, train wreck while Catherine was escorting her from Texas to Virginia."
Jim Hutcheson email@example.com.
Paul Scott Carrington, M.D., was born May 26, 1827, at
Mildendo. He married, circa 1855, Marcia Roy, of Gloucester County. In February of 1871 Dr. and Mrs. Carrington were living in New Orleans. Neither their dates or death nor their places of burial are known.
Willie Ann Carrington was born in June, 1829, about two months after the death of her father. She died October 30, 1846.
William Allen Carrington died April 25, 1829, in Philadelphia, at the age of 33. His exact place of burial is not known, but he is thought by family historians to be buried in Philadelphia.
By his will, dated May 3, 1828, he appointed his "beloved wife" his executrix and his brother Paul executor of his estate, and requested that no inventory or appraisement be taken.
"I leave my beloved and faithful wife Sarah the whole of my
property on the following condition, in lieu of dower, viz: She
is to have the use of all my estate, real and personal, during her life, if she remains unmarried. But if that event takes place, immediately the property is forfeited, and becomes equally the property of my children, to be taken possession of by their uncle, Paul Carrington, or in case of his death, my will is to be carried into effect by the Court regulating such matters."
"If my wife remains unmarried she may divide my property among my children; circumstances making it impossible for me to distribute my property myself. She must act in my place, acting in all respects with an eye to the interests of our children and alert to her duty to her God, let it be for them that she lives. My land must not be sold except by the laws of the country; but if circumstances make it necessary to sell my Negroes, it may be done with the consent of my brother, Paul, but the amount must be vested in real estate
subject to the same distinctions as the other part of the land. The conditions on which I leave my property to my wife are made not in a want of confidence in her, but with her consent, from conscious feelings for the welfare of my family, and a conviction that the estate had better be kept together for the education and support of our children while they are young, and also high confidence in her capacity and inclination to act as well as could for their welfare."
The will of William Allen Carrington was presented at court May 25, 1829, and was bonded in the amount of $25,000. Contrary to his wishes, an inventory of his estate was taken, but was not appraised. It was presented at court November 23, 1829, and included the following:
Library of 200 volumes, piano with stool and cover, carriage, 8
beds, 11 bedsteads, 20 counterpins, 16 pairs sheets, 8 bolsters, 36 pillowcases, 36 towels, 48 washstands, 5 mugs, and 2 bureaus;
Four small tables, set of curtains, large desk, 5 dozen chairs, 2 sofas, 2 settees, 2 card tables, 2 hearth rugs, 3 carpets, 8 candlesticks, 2 dozen butter pots, 6 dozen bottles, 8 pairs andirons,
and 8 pairs shovels and tongs;
6 pots, 4 sets tubs, 8 ovens, loom, 2 sets of dining tables, set of silverware, case of decanters, set of knives and forks, dozen tea spoons, dozen large spoons, set of tea china, a dozer tumblers, 2 dozen wine glasses, dozen jelly glasses, Physic press, set of waiters, and a set of common delphware;
Also 62 slaves, 20 horses, 53 head of cattle, 90 sheep, 72 hogs, 2 waggons, 2 Ascot carts, horse cart, 12 ploughs, hoes for 22 hands, gear for wagon and six plough horses, set of pails, 8 wheels and dozen pair of cards.
Following her husband's death, Sarah Embra Scott Carrington lived on at Mildendo, managing the plantation and raising their children. Little is known of her life during these years, and her name appears in the court records only twice.
In 1849 she paid a special tax levy of $21.30. The report indicated that there were then no white males on the place over 16 years of age. There was one slave between 12 and 16, 39 were between 16 and 100. There were 15 houses and other buildings. Listed was a carriage valued at $300 and a piano at $250.
Mrs. Carrington was still living at Mildendo on June 1, 1860, when the "Census of the Free Inhabitants of the Northern District of Halifax County" was taken. She the reported that three people were making their home at Mildendo: herself, age 58, occupation given as a farmer; Catherine Carrington, 35, housekeeper (she was, in fact, her daughter); and Isaetta Carrington, age 4.
Real estate was valued at $40,000, personel estate at $55,383. There were 58 slaves on the plantation, 30 male and 28 female. In addition, there were 14 house servants. One woman, Mariah, was 100 years old.
Of the plantation's 1,750 acres, 1000 were said to be improved, 750 unimproved. Land was valued at $40,000, farm implements at
$500. Livestock, valued at $2792, included 11 horses, 9 asses and mules, 14 milch cows, 8 working oxen, 20 "other cattle, " 56 sheep and 80 swine.
During the year ended June 1, 1860, agricultural production at Mildendo included: 1800 bushels of wheat, 3000 bushels of Indian corn, 1020 bushels of oats, 35,000 pounds of tobacco, 168 pounds of wool, 20 bushels of peas and bens, 10 bushels of Irish potatoes, 10 bushels of sweet potatoes, $25 of orchard products and 500 pounds of butter. Home manufacture was put at $200; animals slaughtered were valued at $865.
In the preceding Census retort, Mrs. Carrington gave her age as 58 which would have made her birth year 1802. The only other available source, the genealogy of the Coles family, gives it as 1800. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify either date.
By virtue of the authority given her by her husband's will, Mrs. Carrington gave several of their children their respective shares of the estate.
The first of these transactions took place on July 31, 1843.
In consideration of one dollar, she 'granted, gave,
bargained, sold and conveyed' to Charles Scott Carrington, then of Prince
Edward County, "one undivided fifth part of a parcel of land situated in the county of Halifax commonly called Mildendo." She stated that "I have a good right, as being permitted by the last will of my late husband, William L. Carrington, to distribute his property among his children."
That same day, Charles reconveyed the said fifth part in Mildendo back to his mother for $1. Almost 12 years later, on June 2, 1855, Mrs. Carrington sold back to Charles, then of Halifax County, for the sun of $2665.69, the undivided fifth of Mildendo, "on which she now resides."
The said Charles S. Carrington covenants with the said Sarah Carrington that he will permit her to keep and hold quiet and peaceable possession of the said undivided part of the said Mildendo tract free from all hindrance and encumbrance from or by him, for and during her natural life ... to take,
dispose of the rents, issues and profits ... to use the said land for and during her natural life in the same manner as if she were the tenant for life."
On February 23, 1870, Mrs. Carrington sold to her son, Dr. William F. Carrington, of Halifax County, for an undivided
fifth of Mildendo, "reserving however to herself the use and possession of the said fifth part for and during her natural life."
(On. October 7, Dr. Carrington sold the one-fifth interest in Mildendo to his brother, Charles, for $2665.59. The sale was subject to the estate for life of their mother.)
Mrs. Carrington conveyed to her son, Paul Scott Carrington, a similar undivided fifth part of Mildendo on January 20, 1871, for $1.
As with the transfer to Charles and William, she reserved to herself "the use and possession of the said fifth for and during her natural life."
(On February 1, 1871, Paul S. Carrington and his wife, Marcia R. Carrington, living in New Orleans, conveyed his one-fifth to his brother Charles.
The purchase price was $2824.55, and again the sale was subject to their mother's life estate.)
As of February 1,1871, Mrs. Carrington was still living at Mildendo. Sometime after that, exact date not known, she moved to Staunton. It is doubtful that she bought property there. More than likely she made her home with her daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Judge Thomson, at their home, Fairy Hill.
Sarah Embra Scott Carrington died in Staunton ,August 12, 1872. Her exact place of burial is not known, but according to the Coles family genealogy, she is buried in Richmond.
Her will, written March 12, 1861, was presented in the Hustings Court of Staunton and is there recorded. By it she directed the disposition not only of property held under the will of her late husband, but also that acquired by her since his death.
To her son, Charles, she gave a slave, Ezekial, his wife Martha, her children and future increase. To Paul she gave $500. Her son-in-law, William Venable, husband of her late daughter, Mildred, she gave the slaves that had previously been advanced to her and still held by him.
Each child was to account for advancements made from the
estate, to wit: Charles S. Carrington, property valued at $4000; William F. Carrington, property valued at $8043.75, Paul S. Carrington, Property valued at $4050; and Catherine S. Thompson, property valued at $2000.
Her intent, she said, was to give each child an equal share of the estate, excluding the slaves given to Charles and the $500 given to Paul.
Her son Charles, his heirs and assigns, were to hold the property allotted to Catherine during her lifetime, for her own sole and separate use, "exclusively of her husband, and wherewith he is not to intermeddle." No part of her bequest has to be subject to his "control, debts or engagements." All profits were to be paid to her or whoever she might direct. Should she so desire, Catherine was to be given personal control of her property.
If Catherine left children at her Heath, such property was to pass to them (but only if she so directed in her last will and testament). Should she leave no children, then the property was
to be divided between her brothers Charles, William and Paul, share and share alike."
By a codicil dated January 8, 1862, Mrs. Carrington directed that two slaves, Milly and Cupid, lent to her daughter Catherine at the time of her marriage to Judge Lucas P. Thompson (Judge Lucas P.Thompson's grave is Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton VA., April 21,1866.), be held
by Charles S. Carrington for her sole use and benefit. The slaves were subjected to the same restrictions and trusts as the remainder of her portion of the estate.
Codicil #2 was written October 2, 1866. By it she gave Catherine all her silverware, of every kind and description, all her household furniture, "including the piano, and her carriage and horses. To Charles she gave the Ruses encyclopedia and her family Bible. The residue of her library was to be equally divided among the four children.
To her three namesakes, Sarah C. Venable, Sarah R. Carrington
(daughter of Paul), and Sarah E. Carrington (daughter of Charles),
and to Ivy Carrington, her adopted daughter, she bequeathed "a handsome morning pin," which she directed her executor, her son Charles, to have made and presented "as mementoes of my regard and affection." A pin was to also go to Mildred S. Carrington, daughter of William.
Dr. William Fontaine Carrington
In any study of Mildendo, one must include Dr. William Fontaine Carrington as an occupant, if not an owner, of the plantation. On a purely chronological basis, he follows his mother.
Carrington, the second eldest child, second son, of
William Allen Carrington and Sarah Embra Scott, was born January
28, 1822, at Sylvan Hill, Charlotte County. He was graduated
from Hampden-Sydney College in 1841 with an A.B. degree, and
received his M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
He was a surgeon on a federal warship in the 1850's (during the administration of President Franklin Pierce) and visited a number of ports in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
During the Civil War he served as an assistant surgeon and surgeon. He was on the steamer "Baltic,” and at a hospital in
Raleigh. An inspector of hospitals in Pensacola (March, April and
May, 1861), and he was also a surgeon at Richmond 1864) and Wilmington (1862-1864). Dr. Carrington was medical director of the Army of Northern Virginia.
William Fontaine Carrington was married on May 28, 1845, at Longwood, Prince Edward County, to Elizabeth Goodridge Venable, daughter of Nathanial E. Venable and Mary Embry Scott. Born at Longwood July 21, 1823, she was described as "a woman of distinguished beauty and exquisite character, much admired, and not merely for her beauty."
William and Elizabeth were first cousins, their mothers being sisters. Not only this, his grandfather, Paul Carrington, Jr., and her grandmother, Mary Carrington, wife of Samuel Venable, were brother and sister. This would also seem to make then second cousins!
Dr. and Mrs. Carrington had issue of five children, all born at Longwood; they were:
Mildred Lightfoot Carrington, born 1846, died 1883, married
to Joseph C. Hutcheson. (He was a lawyer who practiced in Houston, Texas and served as a U.S. Congressman from that area for two terms. He brought his brother-in law, William Allen Carrington, into his law practice shortly after the Civil War.)
|Mildred Lightfoot Carrington
||Mildred & Jos. Chappell Hutcheson
||Her children w/ Jos. Chappell Hutcheson. Taken after her death.
Photos contributed by James Sterling Hutcheson, Jr., great great grandson of Dr. William Fontaine Carrington and Elizabeth Venable Carrington. (May 11, 2007)
William Allen Carrington II, born 1849, an Ensign in the Confederate Navy. He became a distinguished lawyer in Houston. He died July 14, 1892 from injuries sustained in a runaway accident on Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He was married three times. (His first wife, Martha W. Love from Mecklenburg Co. VA and his two children all died tragically prior to his own violent demise. He then married a Penfield from Philadelphia who died 2 years later in childbirth. His third wife was a Botts. They had another child, Kate Carrington. She and the mother survived him. Contributed by Jim Hutcheson, and Joanne Seale Wilson)
Maria Nash Carrington, born 1852, married 1876 to Major Benjamin F. Weems of Houston. She died in 1920 in Washington, D. C. her son Warton Weems wrote this letter in 1952
Austin Downs Carrington, born 1856, a cadet at the U. S. Naval Academy. He resigned and went west as a mining engineer, and was drowned in Arizona in 1886.
Nathaniel Venable Carrington, born in 1860, died young.
The primary reason for including Carrington as an occupant of Mildendo is the fact that his wife's unmarried sister, Sarah Scott Venable, is buried here, on the bluff at the back of the garden, overlooking the low grounds. ”An accomplished musician, considered by some to have the elements of genius." She was born July 9, 1821, died April 13, 1873.
If her sister, Mrs. Carrington, had not been living at Mildendo at the time,what conceivable reason could there have been for her being buried here? Her stone was erected by her niece, Maria Nash Carrington (see above).
Less than 10 months later, on February 1, 1874, Elizabeth Goodridge Venable E Carrington died. She too was buried at Mildendo, beside her sister. Her tombstone bears the inscription, "A devoted Christian, wife and mother."
Following her death, Dr. Carrington married, February 25, 1880, Georgianna Barker Adams. She was born in 1849. They had only one child, a daughter, Anne Fontaine Carrington, who married W. P. Montague.
Dr. Carrington died September 14, 1883, at Hot Springs,Arkansas. Though his place of burial is not known, he is thought to be in Hot Springs. Neither the date of death nor place of burial of the second Mrs. Carrington are known.
Charles Scott Carrington
Charles Scott Carrington was the first member of the family to be born at Mildendo after his father built it. Seventy-plus years later, he was the last member of the family to own it.
Born August 26, 1820, the eldest child of William Allen and Sarah Embra Scott, Charles was educated at Hampden-Sydney College, graduating in 1839. He later studied law, and was admitted to practice in Halifax in 1842, according to this entry in Common Law Book 3:
"Charles S. Carrington, being a known practitioner of law, came into court and took the several oaths ... and therefore has leave to practice law as an attorney in this court."
In addition to practicing law in both Halifax and Richmond, Charles was president of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company, a
member of the board of Trustees of Union Theological Seminary from 1848 to 1855, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Hampden-Sydney College from 1870to 1891.
A major in the Confederate States Army, he rendered
considerable service to the Southern cause on the county level.
In 1861, "the volunteers of this county having been
ordered into actual service of the state of Virginia and being
about to leave the county in a few hours, it is ordered by the court that the sum of $5000 shall be levied in the next levy for the purpose of equipping and furnishing said volunteers in a fit and appropriate manner, exclusive of arms...
"Charles S. Carrington is hereby appointed a receiver and collector to solicit and collect loans from the citizens of this county for the purpose aforesaid, money to be repaid by the county, of such sums as they may be willing to advance to the county ... and, out of such funds received to pay to the commandant of each volunteer company of the county a sum sufficient to uniform and equip such of the rank and file..."
Mr. Carrington was named "treasurer of the court" for the
purpose of handling the funds. He personally subscribed the first $100. In June, he was paid $15 for expenses incurred in
going to Richmond to distribute the money that was raised.
In May of 1862, the court appointed an agent to procure a supply of
salt" from Stewart Buchanan & Co., and to receive contributions from county citizens to pay for it. Some 10,608 bushels were gotten. Charles S. Carrington contributed $10.
On several occasions during the Civil War, the Governor of Virginia issued a draft for citizens to furnish slaves to work "in the public defenses near Richmond." The call issued in October of 1862 directed the sheriff of the county to collect said slaves "at News Ferry Depot, Boston Depot or Clover Depot, as may be most convenient, on Tuesday, 4 November next ... and proceed
with them to the city of Richmond, and deliver them to the agent
of the Confederate Government on the corner of 18th and Cary streets..."
Charles S. Carrington supplied three slaves, as did his mother, Sarah Scott Carrington. Similar calls for slaves were issued in March 1864 — Charles, one, and his mother, one; February, 1865 — Charles and Sarah, one slave each; and April, 1865 — Sarah, one slave.
Charles Scott Carrington was married in 1854 (exact date not known) to Susan Smith Preston McDowell of Lexington, daughter of the Hon. James McDowell Governor of Virginia from 1843 to 1846,
and his wife, Susan Preston. Miss McDowell was born at Colatto, the McDowell home in Lexington.
Five children were born to the Carringtons. They were: Fontaine Carrington, died in infancy.
Thomas Carrington, died in infancy.
Charles Scott Carrington, Jr., born June 21, 1856, died 1896, unmarried. Buried in the McDowell family plot, Lexington Presbyterian Cemetery.
Sarah Scott Carrington, "gentle, gracious and good," was married in 1888 to Dr. William Spencer Currell. Dr. Currell, an educator, was a professor at Washington & Lee University and at Hampden-Sydney College; he was Dean of the English department at the University of South Carolina, which school he also served as President. They had eight daughters. Sarah Scott Carrington Currell is also buried in the McDowell plot in Lexington.
James McDowell Carrington, died 1925, age 63, unmarried.
In mid-1873, at the time of the division of the estate of
his mother, Sarah Embra Scott Carrington, Charles Scott Carrington was the owner in fee simple of three-fifths of the Mildendo estate, having purchased the individual shares from her and from his brothers William and Paul. That left only two-fifths of the estate to be divided.
Each of the four surviving children had to account for advancements received by each. They agreed that their advancements amounted to: William - $9809; Charles - $6824: and Catherine - $3000.
They also agreed among themselves that the value of the two-fifths of Mildendo subject to division was $8000.
Dr. Carrington agreed than he was precluded from participating in the division.The share of Charles S. Carrington was put at $1242. Dr. Paul S. Carrington had already sold his interest in it to his brother Charles for $1692; that amount was understood to include the $500 legacy that his brother bequeathed in her will.
Catherine Carrington Thompson's share in the two-fifths was put at $5066. Charles had already paid her $66, leaving her interest in Mildendo the amount of $5000, computed to be equal to one-fourth of the whole estate.
Thus Charles was the owner of three-fourths of Mildendo, with Catherine holding one-fourth for life. In the event of failure of issue, her share would fall to her three brothers.
William, however, was advanced to such an extent as to preclude his participation in the possible division of the fourth. Thus the fourth would, in the event of her failure of issue, be divided between Charles and Paul. Paul's share was valued at $654.50, and he sold his interest to his brother Charles for that amount.
On July 12, 1873, Dr. William Fontaine Carrington and Elizabeth
V. his wife, Dr. Paul Scott Carrington and Marcia R. his wife, and Mrs. Catherine C. Thompson, entered into a deed recognizing Charles Scott Carrington's ownership of three undivided fourths in fee simple and two-thirds of one-fourth in remainder of the Mildendo estate.
Just when and how the fortunes of Charles Scott Carrington began to fail is is not known. On September 24, 1886, she and his wife executed a deed of trust to W. W. Gordon and E. C. Venable, trustees, to secure payment of a negotiable note in the amount of $5000, dated that day and payable 30 days thereafter on the order of the trustees at Planters National Bank of Richmond.
To secure the note, they gave the trustees "all right , title, interest and ownership" to his share of "that certain tract or parcel of land with improvements and appurtenances in Halifax County known as Mildendo, containing 1680 acres...".
In case of failure on the part of the Carringtons to satisfy the note, the trustees reserved the right to sell Mildendo, but
only after such sale had been duly advertised "in a Richmond newspaper" for a period of 60 days.
The Carringtons executed a similar deed of trust on January 25, 1887, for the same amount--$5000--and on the same terms. The
trustees were Charles S. Venable and Harrison Robertson. In addition to Mildendo, the deed of trust also included "a lot or parcel of land ... in the addition of Jackson and Bidwell, West St. Paul, Dakota County, Minnesota," and certain personal property.
Two days later, on January 27, Charles S. Carrington took out a note for $5000, payable four months after date to himself, at Planters National Bank of Richmond. Said note was endorsed first by Mr. Carrington, then by Isaac H. Carrington and then by S. W. Venable. It was a renewal of the note secured by the two deeds of trust.
Default having been been made in satisfying the terms of the deeds
of trust, the trustees, E. C. Venable and John W. Roley, proceeded
to sell Mildendo. The sale was duly advertised in the Richmond Dispatch on August 21, 1888.
"PUBLIC SALE of Staunton River land - - In pursuance of the provisions of two deeds of trust executed by Major Charles S. Carrington and his wife ... the undersigned trustees will sell to the highest bidder, by public auction, on the premises, on Friday, October 26, 1888 the truly valuable estate known as Mildendo.
"It is situated near Coles Ferry, in Halifax County, Va. immediately on "Staunton River, and contains 1680 acres.
"The land is of excellent quality, well adapted to the growth of grain, tobacco and other crops, and is in a good state of cultivation.
"The tract contains a large proportion of low grounds in a state of fertility, and also a large body of original forest of the finest oak timber.
"The improvements consist of a large and commodious dwelling-house with the usual out-buildings, while the farm is provided with all necessary stables, corn houses, barns and other buildings required for a large plantation . . .
"Terms: One-fourth of the purchase money will be required to be paid in cash, and on the residue a credit of one and two years, will be given, the purchaser executing negotiable notes therefore, with interest from day of sale added..."
For reasons unknown, the sale of Mildendo scheduled for
October 26, 1888, was postponed to Saturday, February 2, 1889. The
sale did not take place however. In January, a suit was filed in Halifax County Circuit Court to prevent such a sale.
The suit papers began:
Charles S. Venable, trustee &C., and Mrs. B Ross and Robert A. Lancaster & William H. Lucke, who sue for the benefit of themselves and all other creditors, under a certain deed of trust from Charles S. Carrington and wife to Charles S. Venable and Harrison Robertson, dated January 25, 1887, who may come into this suit ... plaintiffs, vs.
John W. Riely and E. C. Venable, trustees, and S. W. Venable, beneficiary under to certain deeds of trust from Charles S. Carrington and wife ..... said Charles S. Carrington, Paul Carrington, Catherine Thompson and W. Allen Carrington, defendants;
The object of this suit is to enjoin and restrain John W. Riely
and E. C. Venable, trustees, under two certain deeds of trust from Charles Carrington and wife ... from selling or proceeding to sell the property conveyed therein, being an undivided interest in the tract of land known as Mildendo, until the further order of this court; and to have the court administer and execute the trusts of said deeds, and of the deed of January 25, 1887, from said Carringtons to Charles S. Venable and other trustees; to have said trusts' subject ascertained and set apart in severalty by partition, or a sale made of the hole of said tract for purposes of partition, and to have said sale made in separate parcels under the decrees of the court...
In their presentation, the plaintiffs stated that Charles Scott Carrington was "greatly embarrassed financially," being indebted to numerous creditors in an amount of between $30 and $40 thousand. The majority of this amount was owed to Mary B. Ross and Lancaster Lucke.
The assets of Mr. Carrington consisted mainly of his interest in Mildendo, three-fourths in fee simple and two-thirds of one-fourth in remainder. It was doubtful, the plaintiffs said, that he would not be able to pay the large indebtedness out of any other source other than the land.
Deeds of trust having been executed by the Carringtons upon the property, and default having been made in payment, E. C. Venable and John W. Riely, trustees of said deeds, moved to execute sale of the estate. The plaintiffs felt that the sale of the estate in whole, as intended by the trustees, would not bring a fair price, and asked the court to prohibit sale. They requested
that the sale be made in parcels instead.
Following presentation of arguments on February 2, the judge of the circuit court, S. G. Whittle, found in favor of the plaintiffs. An injunction was issued preventing the sale by Venable and Riely.
The chancery suit dragged on in Halifax County Circuit Court for five years, during most of which time the Carringtons continued to live at Mildendo. How many times the parties involved appeared in court is hard to say, but it was about 12.
Charles Scott Carrington, owner of Mildendo and main figure in the suit, died intestate at Mildendo on December 24, 1891. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery at the back of the gardens.
He was survived by his wife, Susan Smith Preston McDowell Carrington; two sons, Charles S. Carrington, Jr., and James McDowell Carrington; a daughter, Sarah Carrington Currell; a brother, Dr. Paul S. Carrington; and a sister, Catherine Lightfoot Carrington Thompson (who was then married to a Carrington, but continued to be referred to as a Thompson in the suit papers).
On February 27, 1892, on motion of Charles Scott Carrington, Jr., the court granted him certificate for obtaining letters
of administration of the estate of his father.He took the
required oath, with his mother as his surety, and acknowledged bond in the amount of $200.
At the November, 1892, term of court, Judge Whittle appointed commissioners to take certain accounts--all the real estate owned by the late Mr. Carrington at the time of his death; all liens and encumbrances on the estate, especially Mildendo; and who is entitled to interest in the remainder of one-fourth of Mildendo owned by Mrs. Catherine S. Thompson for her natural life.
They found that the real estate owned by Mr. Carrington consisted of three-fourths in fee and two-thirds of one-fourth in remainder of Mildendo, containing 1680 acres, and a lot in St.Paul Minnesota.
Personal property consisted of 8 mules, a horse, 6 oxen,
30 head of cattle, a carriage, 2 wagons, 2 carts, all agricultural and other farm tools and implements, and household furniture then in Mildendo. He also had a library of an unspecified number of volumes "now stored at Beckwith & Parham's Bookstore in Richmond."
The commissioners also reported on the debts owed by Mr. Carrington. First class debts mounted to $1283; second class,
$39,349.54; and third class, $13,645.50; for a total of $54,278.04.
First class debts included two notes for cash advances "to
pay off hands at Mildendo," a cash advance from a Richmond commission
merchant, and a note for grain purchased. Second class debts were
notes and bonds payable to various banks, companies and individuals,
while third class debts were bonds due Mrs. Mary B. Ross.
During most of the time of the chancery suit, Judge Whittle ordered the Carringtons to pay rent on Mildendo. Mrs. Susan S. P. Carrington, wife of Charles Scott Carrington, paid $350 in 1891 and the sane amount in 1892. In 1893, she and her son,
Charles Jr., paid$450. The rent was collected by county sheriff
C. C. Carrington.
At the November, 1893, term of court, Judge Whittle ordered that the administrators and heirs-at-law of the late Charles S. Carrington pay to Mrs. Catherine Latham (of Philadelphia, who had purchased the deeds of trust held by S. W. Venable) the money owed to her by the late Carrington.
When they were unable to do so, the judge ordered that the
trustees, E. C. Venable and John W. Riely, proceed to sell Mildendo "by public auction, on the premises, to the highest bidder, after having advertised the time, terms and place thereof for 60 days in the Daily Dispatch, a newspaper printed in Richmond, and by printed handbills posted conspicuously for at least 30 days at three or public places in the neighborhood of Mildendo."
(Commissioners had been appointed the previous year to partition to Mrs. Catherine S. Thompson her life estate in Milder do. This the did "with the assistance of M. French, county surveyor." They set aside 432.5 acres, "36 acres of low grounds ... of about an average quality ... 396.5 acres of upland, of rather above an average quality, upon which is situated less thanaveragee amount of improvements, the whole being within two acres of one-fourth of the land in quantity and, according to our judgement, one-fourth in value.").
The sale took place at Mildendo on Saturday, March 3, 1894. As directed by the court, the land was first divided into four parcels and, on the day of the sale, these were offered for sale in succession. There was no bid for any one of them.
Mr. Riely then had T. E. Lacy, the auctioneer, put up the
parcel as a whole and the 1305.31 acres were cried out to John S. Carrington for $5875. This amount being several hundred dollars less than the sum decreed to Mrs. Latham and the expenses of the sale, Mr. Riely then offered for sale the 432.5 acres that had been assigned to the late Mrs. Thompson (who died June 25, 1893). This was cried out to S. A. Conner for $800, making the total
of the sale $6675.
The only four to bid on the land were John S. Carrington, S. A. Conner, Henry C. Rice and Mrs. Latham. They asked that the whole
1737.81 acres be put up, but Mr. Riely at first declined. Asked to do so a second time, he consented, and Mr. Rice made the high and final bid of $7200.
The court approved the sale of Mildendo at $7200 to Henry C. Rice at its April, 1894, term. He paid $6500 in cash, which was distributed thusly:
To Mrs. Latham, or her attorney, $6003.73;
To Mr. French, surveyor, $7.50;
To T. E. Lacy, auctioneer, $25;
To Richmond Dispatch, for advertising, $120;
To Halifax Record-Advertiser, for handbills, $2.50;
To Trustee, his commission, $146; and
To cost of suit, $195.27
Henry C. Rice was given immediate possession of Mildendo by the court. He indicated that he had "no desire to disturb the persons now cultivating the land," so they were ordered to pay him all rents for 1894. All persons then in possession of said lands were ordered to surrender them to Mr. Rice at the end of 1894.
Mildendo no loner belonged to the Carrington family, who, with the Coles family, had owned and occupied it since the 1740s. Mrs. Charles Scott Carrington probably went back to Lexington to live. She died there in 1909, and was buried in the McDowell family plot in the Presbyterian cemetery.
Henry C. Rice
The deed to Mildendo was drawn January 18, 1895, giving Mr. Rice title to all 1737.81 acres. He directed that 962.46 acres be conveyed to S. A. Conner, which was done. The Conner tract had no dwelling house on it, so Mr. Rice sold him the office which stood near the Mildendo residence. This was moved across the ravine to the Conner property and enlarged as a house. (It is still standing and occupied, near the entrance to the farm.)
Henry C. Rice was born at South Isle Plantation, in Charlotte County, across the river from Mildendo. He attended Hampden-Sydney College, graduating in 1862, and was a member of the Hampden-Sydney Company in the Civil War.
He was born in 1841, the son of Dr. Izard Bacon Rice.
Dr. Rice was born in Halifax County in 1804, attended Hampden-Sydney in 1822-23, and received his M.D. degree from the University of
Pennsylvania in 1827. He settled first in his native Halifax, but then purchased South Isle. He died there in 1865.
Henry C. Rice did not live at Mildendo. He and his wife, Maria Gordon Pryor, lived at South Isle, which they renamed The Oaks. Their four children were: Mary Blair Rice, married to Roger L. Niles, of New York; Henry Izard Bacon Rice, unmarried, of Hartford, Conn.; Roger Pryor Rice, married to Elizabeth Welch of New York; and Theodorick Pryor Rice, married to Argyle C. Rice, of Norfolk.
During the Rice ownership, Mildendo was tenet property. Two
of the families who lived there were the Scotts and the Palmers.
Mr. Rice died in 1916. His will, written in 1905, was proved in Nottoway County July 7, 1916. "I will and bequeath to my honored, valued, and beloved wife, Maria Gordon, my landed estate, Mildendo, and all other real estate and personal property which I possess. I do this because all of my children have been provided for by the will of their grandmother."
Dr. Frederick George Kell
On March 28, 1917, Mrs. Maria Gordon Pryor Rice, widow of
Henry C. Rice, then living in Norfolk, sold Mildendo to Dr. Frederick George Kell, of Welch, West Virginia. The purchase price was $5100.
"All that certain piece or parcel of lend in Roanoke District ....
containing, by survey of M. French, 775.35 acres, being a part and parcel of that certain tract of land known as Mildendo, which was sold, in the suit of C. S. Venable, trustee, etc., vs. C. S. Carrington ..."
Dr. Kell moved his family to Mildendo in 1918. For him, it
was a homecoming of sorts, since he had been raised on the adjoining Coles Ferry Plantation. It was an area to which, according to his family, he had wanted to return.
Dr. Kell was born September 15, 1878, in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents, Thorton and Emily Kell, came to the United States from Durham, England. They sailed on the "City of Brussels", landing in New York on May 10, 1871. Living briefly in Pittsburgh, they settled in Canton, Ohio.
The Kells bought the Coles Ferry Place in 1888, but not move there until November of 1889. Dr. Kell, 11 years old at the time his family moved, was the next-to-youngest of eight children (seven sons and a daughter); there was also an adopted daughter.
Mr. Kell was a stonemason and contractor. One building he
built after coming to Halifax County was an Episcopal Church Charlottesville.
The family lived in the Bob Smith house at Coles Ferry. This house had a floor plan reminiscent of that at Mildendo -- a long hall across the front and three rooms behind. This house replaced the home of Col. Isaac Coles, the one in which George Washington spent the better part of several days in 1791. The Coles house was destroyed by fire, and so, too, was the Smith-Kell house.
The tavern et which the rest of the President's party stayed
was on the place (Frederick Jr., has a framed photograph of
sitting on the stone steps of the building, about age 3 ). A post office once operated on the place, and was called Kell's.
During his childhood at the Coles Ferry place, Dr. Kell knew
the Charles Scott Carringtons of Mildendo. Mr. Carrington often invited him to come and eat cantaloupe with him. The family attended the funeral of Mr. Carrington, held at Mildendo in late December, 1891.
During these years, Mrs. Thorton Kell once received an urgent call from one of the Carrington ladies to come to Mildendo if she could. Her baby was crying and she had no idea what was wrong. When Mrs. Kell arrived, she looked at the baby, asked for a rough-edged coin, and with it cut the skin on his jaw. He was teething, and Mrs. Carrington didn't even know it. Shortly the baby stopped crying.
Dr. Kell graduated from Scottsburg Normal College, Halifax County, in 1898, then attended the University of Virginia for two years. He received his D.D.S. degree from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, in 1903. He practiced dentistry in West Virginia.
He was married in 1903, to Annie Hale, who was born in 1880 in Pearisburg, the county seat of Giles County. Her parents were Edward Clarence and Lucy Guthrie Hale. They had four children, viz: Elizabeth, now Mrs. Victor Harding of Mt. Laurel; Frederick, Jr., of South Boston, Edward of Altavista; and Forrest, now deceased.
When his dental work began to affect his health, Dr. Kell's
physician advised him to retire from
active practice, which he did. It was then that he decided to move his family to Halifax County. Knowing that Mildendo was for sale, he bought it.
Dr. Kell gave us dentistry almost completely - after moving to
Mildendo, doing only limited work for folks in the neighborhood. He partitioned off the south end of the hall, and had his office here; it was reached by the door in the end of the hall. His desk was in the alcove adjacent to the north central chimney.
When the Kells loved to Mildendo, several of the original outbuildings were still standing. Among them were the ice house, kitchen, smoke house, cook's house, and gardener's house. The chimneys on either end of the house were torn down during their early years there, both being badly deteriorated.
The gardens had by then been destroyed. All that remained were some boxwoods and two huge holly trees,. The view from the elevated site, however, remained. Staunton Hill, the magnificent Bruce mansion some two miles up-river, was visible from Mildendo. So, too, was South Isle, the Rice estate, down-river.
Si months after purchasing Mildendo, even before moving his
family there, Dr. Kell sold 226 acres to R. G. Conner. On
November 6, 1935, he deeded the remaining 549.35 acres to his wife, Annie.
Dr. Frederick George Kell died in 1946 at Mildendo, and was
buried with his wife's family in Pearisburg. His widow lived on at Mildendo, but, in 1948 built a small, modern house in the yard and moved into it. Mildendo was abandoned as a residence for good.
Mrs. Annie Hale Kell died October 25, 1971, at the age of 89.
She was buried with her husband in Pearisburg's Birchland Memorial Park.
Mildendo, however, had been sold by the family four years earlier.
In a chancery hearing that preceded the sale, a local
real estate agent was asked to describe the residence:
"It is peculiarly built," he said. "It's built cross-ways.
In other words, you enter the front door and a hall goes east and west, more or less. I've never seen one built like it before. It's one story, frame, and I don't think, because of its location, it would attract anybody interested in restoring it."
The sales flyer carried this description of the house:
"Mildendo, the main dwelling on the property which is still standing, is of historical significance and of quaint and unusual construction, having the appearance of possibly having been built for a tavern. Across the front of the building, as you enter the main door, is a hall running along the front of the the building, with numerous rooms on one floor and fronting on the hall rather than the front of the biding.
"According to legend, George Washington is reputed to have spent several days here upon entering Halifax County, while resting himself and his entourage before proceeding on his journey in 1791, or thereabouts."
Robert W. Conner
The sale of Mildendo took place at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, 1967, at the house. The property, containing 225 acres, was sold to Frank T. Conner, who directed that it be conveyed Robert W. Conner and Lucy Armistead Conner.
The rights of the Carrington descendants were recognized by a clause in the deed which reads: "This conveyance is subject to whatever rights might be existing by reason of the old cemetery on the property."
Although the Conners farm the land, Mildendo itself is abandoned except for partial use as farm storage. The interior woodwork is gone; so, too, is part of the roof, most of the windows and doors, and most of the floors. The house outlived its usefulness. Before too very long it will be just a memory.
There are three separate cemeteries at Mildendo, all of within sight of one another.
The Coles family is buried several hundred feet directly
back of the house, but nothing remains to indicate the site.
A farm building sits almost in the middle of it. Fragments of its surrounding stone wall were still so be seen when the Kells moved there, but even these are gone. There were no stones of any kind to mark the graves.
Being people of wealth, it seems strange that the Coles --
Walter and Mildred -- would not have had handsome monuments. Her
family, the Lightfoots, were buried beneath some of the handsomest
armorial tombs in all Virginia. It is a strange, inexplicable situation.
Besides Walter and Mildred Lightfoot Coles, four of their
children -- Mary, John, Walter, and William -- are surely buried here.
So, too, it is thought are two other children, Isaac, the
bachelor son who inherited Mildendo, and Sarah, the the wife of James Bruce. Two of Sahara's children, Charles and Mildred Bruce, who died young, are also likely here.
The Carrington Cemetery is, as stated previously in this article, situated at the back of the formal gardens, on a bluff overlooking the low grounds of the Staunton River. Only two graves are marked, those of Elizabeth Goodridge Venable, first wife of Dr. William Fontaine Carrington, and her unmarried sister, Sarah Scott Venable.
There are six or seven more graves here, unmarked. Years ago, according to Fred Kell, Jr., before the ground washed and the periwinkle got too thick, the depressions could easily be seen.
On the side of the hill below the cemetery, about half way down, there is a large indentation that seems to almost have been dug back into the hillside. The Kells were once told that this was part of a burial vault. Who might have been buried there, if anyone, is not known.
The slave cemetery is situated several hundred yards from the Carrington cemetery, across a deep ravine. It, too, is on the brow of a hill, overlooking the river low grounds. The graves are marked with fieldstones. Mr. Kell, Jr., said that burials took place in the cemeteries during his father's time, up until the 1940s.
May 12, 2007 - Cary (Carrington) Perkins notes that Alice Cabell Carrington is also buried at Mildendo. The source is the family Bible of her husband Walter Coles Carrington, written in his own hand,
No one knows what the gardens at Mildendo were like, and little remains today to give us any ideas. Mildendo was one of four Halifax County homes included in HISTORIC VIRGINIA HOMES AND CHURCHES, written by Robert A. Lancaster, Jr., and published in 1915. One of the gardens, he wrote:
".... the windows (of the house) on one side open directly upon a lovely old flower garden, which slopes down to the Staunton River. The splendid oaks which surround the house were the original forest trees."
In a description of the grounds written in the late 1920s,Dr. Kell said: "The lawn is rolling . . . containing about 10 acres, with the following kind of trees: mulberry, hackberry, walnut, oak, elm, hawthorn, locust, catalpa, maple, boxwood, and two holly trees said to have been planted by the wife of one of the owners, having been brought from England by her. These trees measure 9'8" and 10'2" in circumference."
The only holly tree to be seen at Mildendo today is a small
one near the house; perhaps it is an off-shoot of one of the big ones. Many other of the trees remain. There is a row of osage orange
trees, something one finds at nearly every old place.
About midway between the house and the cemetery there are six large are specimens of tree box. Planted in two rows, they must be the remains of a larger boxwood avenue. Near the graves, and at the far side of the garden area, there are more box bushes.
According to Lancaster's book, "many Indian relics have
been found at Mildendo, and many of these may be seen at the
Valentine Museum." No such relics are known to be in the Richmond museum, but that is not to say they may not be.
Elizabeth Taylor Childs, registrar of collections, states that when the book was written in 1915, "the Valentine had room after room of Indian artifacts on display. Most of them have been carefully stored for future cataloguing and research."
The late Dr. Kell found a pestling bowl and pestle down on
the low grounds. The bowl was about 10 inches in diameter by six inches deep, with the pestle about six by four inches.
Numerous other relics were found, including hundreds of arrowheads, pieces of pottery and other fragments. A bag of soapstone
slab fragments were found that had drawings on them. These were
badly broken. All these artifacts have led to the belief that there was considerable Indian activity on the plantation.
About half a mile up-river from Mildendo there is what is thought to be an Indian mound. At one time it was surrounded by a ditch deep enough for a man to stand in and not be seen. Silting has partially filled it in, but it still can be detected.
Two traditions have long been a part of the fact and fiction surrounding Mildendo. Neither has any basis in fact whatsoever. The first of these involves George Washington, the other Sarah Coles Bruce.
Returning to Mount Vernon from his Southern Tour in 1791, George Washington passed through Halifax County. When he reached the Staunton River on Sunday,June 5, he met Col. Isaac Coles, a friend and a member of Congress. Col. Coles invited him to his home, and there the President stayed until Tuesday, June 7.
Tradition has long held that it was the original Mildendo that had the honor of sheltering Washington. Much as one would like for this to be true, it is not. Col. Coles, the brother of Walter Coles, lived on the Coles Ferry Plantation, which adjoined Mildendo. To be sure, there was an Isaac Coles living at Mildendo in 1791, but he was only 14 years old. He was the son of Walter and Mildred Lightfoot Coles.
In 1791, Walter Coles had been dead 11 year.His widow was living at Mildendo with several of their children. Even though the President did not sleep at Mildendo, this is not to say he did not visit there. Indeed, he probably did. After all, it was the oldest and, one assumes, most -pretentious of the Coles homes in the county. Also, the President probably knew some of
Mrs. Coles' Lightfoot relatives and may have wanted to pay a courtesy call on her.
The second of the Mildendo traditions involves the marriage of Sarah Coles, daughter of Walter and Mildred, to James Bruce.
Written and re-written so many times that it has came to be accepted as fact, the story goes like this:
In August, 1799, soon after his arrival in Halifax County,
James Bruce was Married to Sarah Coles, a celebrated wit and one of the greatest heiresses in the state. The ceremony was hastily performed so as to gratify the wish of the bride's dying brother, her only relative. Among those present for the ceremony was Mrs. Elvira Cabell Henry, the widow of Patrick Henry, Jr., and as the time was too limited to secure a ring, hers was used to seal the marriage. In 1819, Mrs. Henry became the second Mrs. Bruce.
For the most part, this story is utter rubbish. True, the ceremony did take place at Mildendo: true, it was early August -- August 1, to be exact; and true, it was hastily performed for reasons unknown, as indicated by the wording of the marriage bond:
"The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas
there is a marriage suddenly intended to be solemnized between the above bonded James Bruce and Sarah Coles ..."
Here, however, the truth ends. First, when Sarah and James were married, her mother, Mildred, was still living; so, too,
were her sister, Mildred Coles Carrington, and two of her brothers, Isaac, then 22, and William 20. So much for the dying brother.
As for the ring and Mrs. Henry, this part of the story is a fantasy. Elvira Cabell and Patrick Henry Jr., were not even until February 9, 1804, over four years later. This is not to say that both Elvira Cabell and Patrick Henry, Jr., might not have been at Mildendo for the ceremony. It's entirely possible, since both were cousins of Sarah Coles.
Traditions die hard.
"Below The James"
The following excerpt is from BELOW THE JAMES, by William Cabell Bruce, a fictionalized account of life at Staunton Hill, the Charlotte County estate of his father, Charles Bruce, about 1875:
"To my right, as our horses trotted along, after we lost
sight of Mr. Bob Smith's, was Mildendo, the seat of the Carringtons, aristocrats as true to type as the Randolphs. The name of this
house, of course, was borrowed from Mildendo, the metropolis of Lilliput in Gulliver's Travels . . I was later to be told that the
Carringtons of Mildendo were given by the Negroes on both sides of the Staunton River a very high rating as 'quality.' Referring to one of the ladies of the family, who was never seen moving about except in a carriage -- a fact due far more, it is only fair to say, to redundancy of the flesh than to partician arrogance - one of the negroes was heard to whisper, in terms full of mingled admiration and awe, 'Her foot never touches de groun'.'"
Coles' Ferry was established by an act of the General Assembly in February, 1772, in the 12th year of the reign of George III:
"Whereas it is represented to the present general assembly that public
ferries at the places hereafter mentioned will be of
great advantage to travellers and others .... be it therefore
enacted ... that public ferries be constantly kept at the following places .. . from the lands of Walter Coles in the county of Halifax, over Staunton River, to the lands of Joseph Fuqua, in the county of Charlotte, the price for a man three pence, and for a horse the same."
(At the same time, the assembly found that another ferry, from the lands of William Fuqua in Charlotte to the lands of Walter Coles in Halifax, was unnecessary, and it was ordered discontinued.)
For many years Coles' Ferry was the major north-south crossing point on the Staunton River. One of the stone mileposts located at McKendree Methodist Church, gives the distance from there to the Ferry as 17 miles; it was erected in 1828.
George Washington crossed the Staunton River at Coles'
Ferry in 1791. Tradition holds that Baron von Steuben stopped there during the Revolution.
Coles' Ferry was, in its day, more than a river crossing. It was a small village, with a general store, a tavern (or "ordinary") where Washington's party stayed, and a post office. The latter served a wide area in both Halifax and Charlotte Counties. That was a century and a half ago. Today there is nothing but a gully where the road used to be.
All stories should end on a happy note. Unfortunately, the story of Mildendo cannot. The end of any old house is sad, but when that house is one like Mildendo, so much a part of the history of Halifax County, it is even sadder.
Perhaps it was intended this way. Since the first house was
built about 1768, sadness has been an integral part of its history.
Children dying in infancy and youth, husbands and wives dying
after only brief years together, the first house destroyed, the
second one lost through financial reverses, a desecrated family cemetery.
Like so many other old places, Mildendo outlived its usefulness,
and so was abandoned. Left to the elements, with no repairs made,
its decline was rapid and sure. Within the not too distant future, Mildendo will be no more.
The following lines are from MEMORIES, by Lyman C. Draper:
I can't go home again. The old house I knew in my childhood is no more. Where once were carefree playmates, there are now none. Those happy days, wading in the spring branch, and climbing the walnut trees, are gone forever. The house is no longer as it was, but only loose boards and creaking doors and windows with broken panes. Under the fine shade trees, where friends and relatives would gather on Sunday afternoons and relax on the beautiful grass, under the trees, now nothing but weeds."
Kenneth H. Cook
19 August 1975
For their assistance in the preparation of this article on Mildendo, my sincere appreciation is expressed to:
Mrs. Mildred Carrington Hart Ewell, Charlottesville;
Mrs. Elizabeth Kell Harding, Mount Laurel;
Frederick G. Kell, Jr., South Boston;
Mr. and Mrs. Bobby W. Conner, Nathalie;
Staff of the Halifax County Clerk's Office;
Miss Judith Woody, Carrington Memorial Library, South Boston;
Mrs. Martha Aycock, Reference Librarian, Union Theological Seminary, Richmond;
Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor Childs, Registrar of Collections, The Valentine Museum, Richmond;
Edwin H. Hoy, Clerk, Charlotte County Circuit Court;
Mrs. Martha Le Stourgeon, Director of the Library, Longwood College, Farmville;
Mrs. Virginia G. Redd, Manager--Records and Research, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney;
Mrs. Katherine M. Smith, the Virginia State Library, Richmond.
Information came from a number of printed sources, in addition to the individuals named above. Some of the major ones were:
BELOW THE JAMES, by William Cabell Bruce;
THE CABELLs AND THEIR KIN, by Alexander Brown;
CAPTAIN STAUNTON'S RIVER, by Herman Ginther;
THE COLES FAMILY OF VIRGINIA, by William B. Coles;
HENING'S STATUTES AT LARGE;
HISTORIC GARDENS OF VIRGINIA, by Edith Tunis Sale;
HISTORIC VIRGINIA HOMES AND CHURCHES, by Robert A. Lancaster, Jr.;
HISTORY OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, VIRGINIA, by Herbert Clarence Bradshaw;
INTERIORS OF VIRGINIA HOUSES OF COLONIAL TIMES, by Edith Tunis Sale;
OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE NAVIES IN THE WAR OF REBELLION, Capt. C. C. Marsh, editor;
THE READS AND THEIR RELATIVES, by Alice Read Rouse;
TYLER'S HISTORICAL QUARTERLY MAGAZINE;
THE VENABLES OF VIRGINIA, by Elizabeth Marshall Venable;
VIRGINIA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY;
VIRGINIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY;
WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY (Series I and II).
SARAH "SALLIE" COLES
daughter of Walter and Mildred Lightfoot Coles
born 1770; died 1806
married 8/1/1799 to James Bruce (1763-1837)
she was 29 at time of her marriage
issue of three:- James Coles, 1806-1865
There can be no truth to the oft told story of how Sallie Coles hastened her marriage to James Bruce to satisfy the wish of her dying brother. All of her brothers were dead in 1799 except Isaac, and he
did not die until 1814. The rest of the story is that Elvira Cabell Henry, the recent widow of Patrick Henry was present at Mildendo for the ceremony, and that since James and Sallie were having to hurry up the wedding,
and he did not have time to secure a ring, she took off her wedding band and gave it to them to use. This part of the story CANNOT be true because Elvira did not marry Patrick Henry, Jr. until 1804! (They were married only a short time, and he is buried at her home at Union Hill, where they were living.) However, Elvira may have been at Mildendo when Sallie Coles and James Bruce were married, as they were cousins.
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