River Road Driving Tour

11161 River Road

Riverside was the home of the Ragsdale-Coleman families for 113 years. The oldest part of the house was built before the Revolutionary War, possibly around 1770.

Riverside has weathered the years well and has several original mantles and baseboard painted to resemble marble.

The following article was written by Kenneth Cook,
writing for The Record-Advertiser - South Boston News, September 20-25, 1973

Eight-tenths of a mile after leaving Creekside the road into Riverside turns south. It's the only one of the River Road houses not visible from it, and the reason is simple--it is situated a little over mid-way between the Road and the Dan River, a distance of more than a mile. The drive runs through rolling fields, past barns and other farm buildings, before reaching Riverside.

Approaching the house, one is immediately struck by the simplicity of the place. Here are ancient trees and shrubbery, and several outbuildings, but two things one would expect to see are missing. There is no boxwood, nor is there a family cemetery.

The house is old; family tradition holds that the kitchen wing was built prior to the Revolution. Riverside is best known as the home of the Ragsdale family. In 1810, John J. Boswell of Lueneburg County sold to Nathaniel Ragsdale 540 acres on Dan River for 850 pounds. The year before Mr. Ragsdale had purchased the same 540 acres for the same amount of money from Charles Barker. Since both men were from Lunenburg, and since it is not explained in either deed, the reason for Mr. Ragsdale's having bought the same tract twice must be that the two men were joint owners.

Nathaniel Ragsdale was married in 1809 to Ann C. Boswell. Her parentage is not known; possibly she was related to the Boswells from whom her husband purchased the Riverside estate. As far as is known, they had only one child, a daughter, Martha Frances, who married Dr. E.A. Coleman of Creekside.

At some point after their marriage the Ragsdales enlarged Riverside through the addition of a two-story wing on the 18th. century portion, the new wing has beautifully carved mantels and trim. Much of the woodwork is marbleized or grained in imitation of mahogany, birds-eye maple and other woods. It is by far the finest marbleizing and graining in Halifax County.

Nathaniel Ragsdale died in 1851, aged 76, and was buried in the garden at Creekside. He willed his land, home and other property to his wife, and at her death to their daughter, Martha Frances Coleman. She was asked by her father to give to each of his grandchildren his or her share of the estate as each married or came of age. The estate, valued at $52,911.30, included 40 slaves. Mrs. Ragsdale survived her husband 19 years, dying in 1870. She was buried with him at Creekside.

The eldest of the Ragsdale's grandchildren, Nathaniel Ragsdale Coleman, was born in 1843. In 1875 he was married to Anne Nelson Page of Albemarle County, who came to Halifax on October 13, 1873, as tutor to the children of John Clark of Longwood, later of Banister Lodge. Mrs. John Clark was Elizabeth Simms Coleman, half-sister of Nathaniel R.Coleman.

Anne Nelson Page met Nathaniel Coteman the day she arrived in Halifax, by train, at Scottsburg. The Clark carriage was there for her with a note saying that William H. Clark's funeral was being held. Arriving at Banister lodge, where the funeral had started, "a young man came up and introduced himself as Mr. Coleman and said his sister, Mrs. Clark, had asked him to take charge" of her. "He was very kind, and polite, and made me feel more at ease."

These thoughts Anne Nelson Page recorded in a diary she kept during 1873. Through her almost daily entries we are a century later privileged to witness the growth of their romance. Excerpts from her diary follow:
October 18: "I like Mr. Coleman so much and think he is very handsome indeed. He is not very young now, nearly 30, I suppose, but lively and full of fun. "
October 21: "While I was at the piano, Mr. Coleman walked in. , . spent the day and left late this evening . . . I think Mr. Coleman is ever so nice, he talks so agreeably and has so much sense. He and I had a splendid ride in the buggy this evening ... I think 'Uncle Nat' is a real nice fellow. "
October 26: "Saw Uncle Nat at church. He walked to the carriage with me and was as nice as ever. He is the handsomest man I ever saw. Has lovely eyes. I wonder if I will ever cease to be foolish."
November 2: "Saw Mr. Coleman at church. Said he came to make excuses for not coming Saturday. His sister was very ill and he had to stay with her. He helped me in and out the carriage, so I had a glimpse of his blue eyes! Oh, you little goose!"
November 3: "An old German man has been here all day tuning the piano ... Uncle Nat sent him down to tune it, at his expense, and that was very sweet of him. I heard he said he had it tuned expressly for Miss Annie, as he expected to hear her play on it often this winter. My head is quite turned by such a compliment! I hope I shall play for him often. I think if I was two people I could fall in love with him right easily."
November 11: "Mr. Coleman came about noon and spent the day. He brought me some sweet little rosebuds. They are the only ones I ever saw in November, so I'll put them in my journal."
November 30: went to church . . . Mr. Coleman was there and looking as handsome as ever. He and the Bruces helped us in the carriages and road by us till they had to turn off. Uncle Nat gave us some apples to keep us from starving."
December 24: "Mr. Coleman walked in about eleven o'clock ... brought me a box of French candy in the morning and had a splendid volume of Shakespeare on the tree for me . . . Uncle Nat is nicer than ever; I sure do like him."
December 25: "Tom Bruce bet me a book against a photograph that Mr. Coleman would address me before the season is out. Of course I know he won't, but I like and respect him so much am sorry I made the bet."
December 27: "Mr. Coleman and I took a delightful drive this morning, went around by Wolf Trap Depot ... Mr. Bruce's bet came true this evening. Oh, dear, I shall never forget how awfully I felt. He took me so entirely by surprise that I couldn't give any decided answer, and then he was so sweet, I felt more like crying than anything else. I wouldn't have had this happen for anything. We were such good friends before . . . "
December 28: "I am going to give Mr. Coleman a decided answer in the negative tomorrow; didn't have the courage to do it today. Weak little sinner! I do like him so very much, and wish I could love him, but I will be afraid to trust myself after this . . . Saw Mr. Bruce at church; he said he thought his bet was nearly won; of course I said he was entirely mistaken . . . "
December 29: "Mr. Clark got his buggy and sent Mr. Coleman and me to the mill after some flour. That was a very memorable drive; my resolutions of yesterday all vanished, & now I am engaged to him. He was so sweet I couldn't hold out any longer ... I do love Mr. Coleman but am afraid to write it down ... God help me to make him a good wife and be more worthy of his great love. I am so proud to think of his loving poor little me, and so happy, too, if it was not for one cloud-my faithlessness to my first love."
Following their marriage in Albemarle County, the Colemans made their home at Riverside. In 1889 Dr. and Mrs. Coleman, "in consideration of the love and affection which they bear to the said N.R. Coleman, their son," plus $5, gave to him 806 acres on Dan River,"where the said N.R. Coleman now resides, being that part of the lands formerly belonging to Nathaniel Ragsdale, lying south of the county road and part of the lands inherited by Fannie Coleman under the will of her father."

Nathaniel R. Coleman died in 1917 and was buried at Grace Church. Five years later his widow and their two daughters Nathalie C. Brydon and Frances C. Williams sold Riverside, which then contained 760 acres, to J. Edward and Thomas T. Traynham for an unknown sum.

The Traynhams owned the estate until 1933, when William M. Tuck, special commissioner, sold it at public auction to the Potomac Joint Stock Land Bank of Alexandria for $7500. Two months later the land Bank sold it to William M. Owen of Halifax County for $4600. Mr. Owen sold it to his son, Carter, in 1960, and he in turn sold it to F & G Developers in 1972. Harrell R. Ford purchased the estate in 1972 and still owns it.

For much of this century Riverside has been tenant propertv. Unlike many other places it has. fortunately always been occupied by families who appreciated it and cared for it. Because of its family associations and its interior finish, it occupies an unique position among other better-known county homes. It is a position which it well deserves.

After 9/10 of a mile, you'll see a sign on the right that says
"Down To Earth Quail Hunting Preserve". This is Elm Hill

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