Historic Homes
Halifax County, Virginia

Round Hill

by Kenneth Cook, News & Record.
Taken from Kenneth Cook's files in the South Boston Library, Halifax County Woman's Club Homes Tour - December 9, 1973.

Sitting back from the road on a knoll that gives the mansion its name, Round Hill, the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Shelton, is almost totally obscured by great trees. Only in the dead of winter can it really be seen from 832, the Chatham Road.

The driveway runs between wooden fences and over gently rolling fields before reaching the mansion, surrounded by original outbuildings and beautifully landscaped grounds.

Its views are superb.

Round Hill was built for Paul Carrington Edmunds and his wife Phoebe Ann Easley, who were married January 18, 1860. The land was given to the couple by his parents, John R. and Mildred Carrington Coles Edmunds of Redfield. Her parents, James Stone and Elizabeth S. Holt Easley, gave the money for its construction.

That Round Hill is the child so-to-speak, of Redfield, is readily apparent as soon as one sees the mansion. Except that it lacks the wings and has a different porch, the facade is nearly identical. Both have the same fenestration, the same curious frames of molded brick over and partially around the windows. Even the cornice, the overhang of the roof and the elaborate scrolled brackets are the same as at Redfield.

Built of brick burned on the place and laid up in Flemish bond, Round Hill has two stories, a cellar and nine rooms. The walls are plastered and papered with wainscoting. There are interesting marble mantels with Tudor arches. The roof is a combination of hip and gable, like that at Redfield. One of the most unusual aspects of Round Hill is the fact that the upstairs ceilings are about a foot higher than those downstairs.

Paul Carrington Edmunds was born in 1836, educated under private tutors and at the University of Virginia. He studied law at William & Mary, was admitted to the bar in 1857, and commenced practice in Jefferson City, Missouri, the same year. He soon returned to his native Halifax to engage in farming, and served as a first lieutenant, Co. A., Montague's, Battalion, in the Confederate Army.

From 1868 to 1888, Mr. Edmunds was a member of the Virginia Senate. In 1884 he was delegate to the Democratic Convention in Chicago. He was elected, as a Democrat, to the 51st., 52nd. and 53rd. Congresses (1889-1895). He was not a candidate for re-election in 1894, choosing instead to retire to private life.

Several interesting family stories about Paul Carrington Edmunds and Round Hill are related. He had a guick temper, it is said, and once, when he was asleep, some ladies from Halifax came calling on his wife and family. To escape he jumped out the window in his nightclothes.

A portly gentleman, Mr. Edmunds is said to have have once wired the Lynchburg train to wait for a big man. When he was able to catch it and get on, the conductor asked, "Where is he?" Replied Congressman Paul, "Don't you think I'm big enough?"

Local superstition held that Mr. Edmunds rode about his yard at night on a white horse. Prowlers were kept away by a phosphorus wash on the windows that reflected the light. On moonlit nights, from the front gate, the mansion would appear to be completely lighted, when actually it was totally dark.

Kitchen at Round Hill - Standing on the edge of the back yard at Round Hill, the two-room, Greek Revival styled kitchen has, like the mansion itself, been restored. This picture was made in 1958 by the Historical American Builldings Survey.
(Kenneth H. Cook Collection)
The Round Hill land, formerly part of the Springwood estate, had minerals on it, and when John R. Edmunds gave the 864 1/2 acres on Polecat Creek to their son, Paul, they reserved the mineral rights and the right "to enter upon and establish mining operations, particularly in procuring of plumbago and coal, and to occupy the requisite amount of land for such purposes and rights for the convenient operation needed in such operations." When he died in 1873, John R. Edmunds willed the mineral rights to five of his children, viz, Elizabeth C. Edmunds, Sallie Edmunds, Mildred C. Edmunds, Littleton Edmunds and Edward C. Edmunds. He referred to them as "my mines of plumbago on Blackload and minerals of all kinds on that tract of land conveyed to my son Paul C. Edmunds.

A northern firm operated the Round Hill Mine for a period of about two years in the 1870s, leasing the land from the Edmunds. They found that with increased rent and the long distances the lead had to be hauled, the operation was not profitable. The lease was allowed to expire.

In 1870, James S. Easley bought Round Hill from his son-in-law and daughter. When he died in 1879 he left it to his daughter and then to his grandchildren, but specified that his son-in-law could live there for life; he valued the place at $12,000.

Carrington Edmunds died in 1899.

On January 21, 1893, Mrs. Edmunds and five sons sold Round Hill, then containing 981 acres, to R. Holt Easley. Later the same year he sold 400 acres back to the Edmunds. He also sold about 373 acres to Eugenia M. Schaeffer of Lynchburg. The Edmunds apparently moved away in 1895, the same year they sold Mrs. Schaeffer 110 acres. The Schaeffers were in business with the Easleys, and built the house called Woodland, better known as the James Easley house. Mr.Schaeffer was president of the Banister-Dan Mills.

In 1901 the Schaeffers sold Round Hill to Heloise McMillan and Pink Gillespie Hommes, widows and very probably sisters. There were various deeds of trust against the place until they sold it to George Boetler in 1907. He and his descendants occupied the mansion until 1953.

George Boetler died intestate, and in 1915 his wife Helen gave her rights in the estate to their children, Basil and Mary. Mary had married Robert Finney in 1908, and in 1919 they moved from Washington to Halifax County, purchasing 150 acres from her brother Basil for $5000.

The Finney family occupied Round Hill until 1953, when the mansion and 155 acres were sold to Mr. and Mrs. David W.W. Moore. It was from the Moores that the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Shelton, purchased it in 1961.

During the ownership of the Moores and the Sheltons, Round Hill has been restored to a state befitting a mansion of its beauty and quality. It has been opened before to tour groups by both families in 1951, 1953, 1957 and l964.

The missing structure? - Virginia State Library Photo
Several original outbuildings remain at Round Hill, but one that was standing in the early 1930's has disappeared completely. The Sheltons have never found a trace of it. Many of the windowpanes in the mansion still bear the initials of former occupants and guests scratched there decades ago. The date of the construction of Round Hill is open to speculation.

It is assumed the mansion was built in 1860, after marriage the of Paul Carrington Edmunds and Phoebe Ann Easley. Various other dates as early as 1852 have been given, and Robert Gordon Finney said the date 1853 once was found on an attic floor board. Thus it would seem no one really knows for sure.

A couple of interesting sidelights to the history of Round Hill should be added here. In regard to the mines, Dr. Wooding has found pits on places on the opposite side of the road where hopeful digging apparently went on for many years.

Mrs. Peggy Finney Burgess of Arlington recalls that the brick kitchen near the mansion had two rooms, not connected inside but separated by a solid wall five bricks thick. In cutting through a middle brick was found missing - in its hole was a chmois bag holding two huge iron keys. Why were they there within a solid brick wall? And what did they once unlock? No one knows.

For the Christmas Tour, Mr. and Mrs. Shelton will decorate with natural greens - pine, running cedar and boxwood - from the place. The beautiful staircase will be draped with running cedar, and the tree decorated with wooden ornaments from the Black Forest in Germany.

Round Hill is located about five miles from Halifax on highway 832, the Chatham Road. Its entrance, on the west side of 832 about a mile from its intersection with 360, is clearly marked with a sign.

Research by Mrs. R. C. Edmunds, written by Kenneth Cook.

More photos from Kenneth's files:

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