Black Walnut District, Halifax County, Virginia
Historical Monograph
Written by Kathryn M. Kuranda, R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc., 1996 .
Comments and questions to Halifax Web WorX.



HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF BLACK WALNUT PLANTATION
RURAL HISTORIC DISTRICT
Chapter III
(See Chapter II - County Historical Development)

Introduction

This chapter presents a chronological overview of the Black Walnut Plantation Rural Historic District, including a discussion of the original land acquisition and ownership under successive Sims family dependents. The chapter also provides insight into the role of the plantations, in terms of land use and development. Built resources associated with the development of the Black Walnut Plantation also are discussed to portray its evolution from a single, large-scale farming complex into three integrated farming units all operated by the Sims family. The Black Walnut Plantation Rural Historic District, which was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by VDHR, encompassed Black Walnut Farm, Edgewood Farm, and Fort Hill Farm. The Black Walnut property was listed individually in 1991. Built resources associated with the two, late-nineteenth century farming complexes, Edgewood and Fort Hill, are no longer extant. Resources surviving from the Black Walnut Plantation include the ca. 1790 manor house, schoolhouse, dairy, smokehouse, kitchen, two slave quarters, two tobacco barns, and a small percentage of the agricultural fields. The Black Walnut Farm remains under private ownership.

The chapter concludes with a discussion of Black Walnut's subdivision into smaller farming estates during the late-nineteenth century, a regional trend that continued into the twentieth century. A chain of title for the three parcels is included in Appendix 1. Figure 8 is a genealogical chart of the Sims family.

Initial Survey and Settlement, 1700s

In 1741, Richard Randolph of Henrico County was granted a land patent of 10,300 acres situated along both shores of the Staunton [Roanoke] River, Licking Hole [Little Roanoke] Creek, and Black Walnut Creek, in what was then Lunenburg County. With the creation of Halifax County in 1752, 3,100 acres of Randolph's original land patent was cut off and annexed to the newly established county. In 1748, Richard devised this parcel to his son, John Randolph. Randolph never resided on this property since the family's primary residence was Henrico County where they owned several plantations along the James River. During this early period, however, the property was referred to as the "Black Walnut Plantation" indicating some type of improvement on the site (Berger & Associates 1990:4; National Register Nomination, July 1991, DHR File No. 41 - 06).

Acquisition by William Sims, 1768

Twenty years later, on June 1768, John Randolph sold the entire 3,100-acre parcel to William Sims of Cornwall Parish, Charlotte County. The deed from John Randolph to William Sims described the tract as being part of a larger tract known as "Black Walnut Plantation" and a small plantation opposite to the mouth of the Little Roanoke River (Berger 1994:9;T.L.C. Genealogy 1990). William Sims and his brothers, David and Matthew, moved to Halifax County from Charlotte around 1770. During William Sims brief tenure, tobacco was cultivated as the main crop, along with other crops and livestock. After five years of ownership, William Sims sold his 3,100-acre property to Matthew Sims for five shillings. Matthew Sims settled on part of the property and, in February 1774, surveyed off 1,750 acres and sold it to his brother, David Sims (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:53-54; T.L.C. Genealogy 1990).

Early Settlement and Land-Use, 1770s-1800s

Plantation Development under Sims Family

Matthew Sims, 1773-1790. The lands retained by Matthew Sims were established as his homestead, where he built his manor house. The main house, which dates to ca. 1770s, probably stood as a one-story or one and one-half story single-pile, four-room house with interior end chimneys (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06). The earliest documented outbuilding associated with the Black Walnut plantation was constructed southeast of the main house and consisted of a one-and-one-half story, wood-frame building (Figure 9). This building terminates in a steeply pitched roof that is sheathed in standing seam metal. The late-eighteenth century structure was used as a schoolhouse; the building is still extent on the Black Walnut property.

Matthew took an active role in the Episcopal church, as did many of Halifax County's leading citizens. The boundaries of Halifax County and the Episcopal parish, Antrim, coincided. In 1783 Matthew and several other leading citizens were designated to collect tithes in the western section of the county (Chiarito 1983).


Matthew married Amey (Oney) May of Charlotte County in 1774. Matthew died in 1790 and left behind his wife and nine children. An inventory dated November 1790 shows his estate as including 40 slaves, personal belongings, crops, and livestock. Agricultural crops listed in this inventory included "200 barrels corn, crop of tobo. 1790 supposed 15000" pounds. Livestock included 45 cattle and horses, and 13 hogs. Amey May Sims acquired title to a 325-acre tract of land, including "the mansion house". According to Matthew Sims' inventory, the remaining twenty slaves were divided among his children. His son, Matthew, received "1 Negro man slave, Taylor, 1 Negro woman slave, Page, 2 Negro girls, Julia and Hannah". His daughter, Lettie Sims, was bequeathed "1 Negro man slave, Daniel, 1 boy slave, Lott, 1 girl slave, Dorcas". Charles Sims was left "l Negro man slave, Easop, 1 Negro slave girl, Tamer". Nancey Sims was bequeathed "1 Negro man slave, Davie, 1 Negro girl slave, Jeanney". Martricia received "1 Negro man Slave, Toney, 1 Negro woman Slave, Elie, and child, Visay". Oney was bequeathed "1 Negro boy Slave, Harry; 1 Negro girl Slave, Little Nanney; 1 Negro boy Slave, Ceasar". Elizabeth Sims received three slaves, including "l Negro man Slave, Antony, 1 Negro boy Slave, Emanuel, 1 Negro girl Slave, Unity" (T.L.C. Genealogy 1991:6).

David Sims, 1774-1783. David Sims settled on the 1,750-acre portion of the original Randolph land grant that he purchased from Matthew in 1774. David operated the plantation for a decade, from 1774 until his death in 1783. In January 1774, he married Lettice May from Charlotte County. David established himself as a prominent planter, and served as vestryman for Antrim Parish beginning in 1782 (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:54-55). When David died in 1783, he left behind his widow and four children, Betsy, Priscilla, Patty, and John. His inventory at the time of his death was quite substantial, and included 30 slaves, 70 cows, three oxen, 57 sheep, 59 hogs, 11 horses, household furniture, and farming equipment. Most of his real estate was bequeathed to his son, John, and held in trust until 1803, when he became old enough to operate the plantation. During this period, the plantation continued to produce tobacco, in addition to corn, beef and pork. A 1797 inventory listed 27 slaves, 39 head of cattle, 90 hogs, 45 young pigs, 35 geese, and several horses (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No. 41-06; Berger & Associates January 1990:4,1 1; Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:55).

Land-Use and Development, 1800s-1890s

Plantation Development Under Sims Family
John Sims, 1803-1852. John Sims, David Sims son, was largely responsible for Black Walnut's success as one of the most prosperous farms in Halifax County. John Sims received his inheritance in 1803, which included the 1,500-acre tract of land and 29 slaves. John Sims acquired additional landholdings in the county throughout the 1800s, becoming one of the largest landowners in the area. Only three other landowners, William Logan, Richard Logan, and John Coleman, held more land by 1850. John Sims operated the Black Walnut plantation for the next five decades, until his death in 1852.

John Sims received his formal education at Hampden-Sydney. In 1809, he had acquired the 325-acre tract and mansion house from his uncle Matthew's heirs. The following year, John Sims married Maria Wilson Clark. During their marriage, they resided at the Black Walnut manor house. John and Maria Sims had four children: Mary Elizabeth, Phebe Ann, Mary Wilson, and William Howson. In 1815, their residence was valued at $2,000.00.


Interior appointments included 8 calico window curtains; 1 carpet; 12 chairs with gold leaf; 1 piano; 1 sideboard; 1 mahogany bureau; 1 bureau; 1 chest of drawers; 1 clock; and 2 silver salvers (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:55). Maria Sims died in July 1822, and John Sims devoted the rest of his life to rearing his four children and managing the large estate (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:55-56).

In 1833, John Sims was named the executor of William Bailey's estate. As a result, he was responsible for handling the sale of Bailey's crops, which included primarily tobacco and wheat (VHS MSS1 B1565 b2l).

The Black Walnut Plantation reached its heyday by the mid-nineteenth century under the careful management of John Sims. The plantation in 1850 was described as consisting of 1,000 acres of improved land and 1,200 acres of unimproved land. His prosperity also was illustrated by the significant increase in slaveholdings. Between 1820 and 1840, John Sims increased his slaveholdings from 77 slaves to 137 slaves. By 1850, his labor force included 150 slaves.

Tobacco was cultivated as the main cash crop, however, the plantation was diversified and raised such commercial commodities as grain, livestock, and dairy products (Table 3). A second farm in the county operated by John Sims encompassed 337 acres and raised a variety of crops, including corn, oats, tobacco, cotton, and butter.


The Black Walnut Plantation complex grew to encompass a variety of domestic and agricultural outbuildings; the main house served as the focal point (Figure 10). Domestic outbuildings, including a smokehouse, dairy, kitchen, and icehouse, were placed in a U-shaped cluster to the rear, or west, of the main house. Slave quarters and agricultural outbuildings were more isolated from the main living area. A formal boxwood garden was laid out south of the main house, and a terraced vegetable garden was situated to the northwest. A variety of native and ornamental trees and shrubs landscaped the grounds, and the entire complex was enclosed by woodland. A family cemetery was situated northwest of the house (National Register Nomination, July 1991, DHR File No. 41-06; Berger & Associates 1994:17).

John Sims' prosperity was illustrated by the substantial modifications made to the manor house during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, at which time the central section of the house was raised to a full two-story height. The house was altered again with the construction of a substantial two-story frame addition connected by a central hyphen, resulting in its present H-shaped configuration (Figures II and 12). The 1848 tax assessment for this property shows an increase in valuation due to "improvements" (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06). The plan of the house consisted of two center-hall, single-pile units joined by a center hyphen (Figure 13). The exterior walls were sheathed in beaded wood siding. The building's massing terminated in a gable roof sheathed in metal standing-seam panels. Wooden block modillions ornamented the front and rear eaves and partially returned cornices. Central brick exterior-end chimneys were located on each gable-end. Small attic vents punctuated the gable ends (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06). The three-bay main facade was characterized by its symmetrical composition. A one-story hipped roof portico was centered on the facade and delineated the front entrance. Nine-over-nine-light, double-hung, wooden sash windows were aligned across this facade. The window openings were framed by louvered wood blinds. One-room units flanked the rear two-story section, and a one-story porch extended across the rear elevation (Figure 14) (Berger & Associates 1994:17; National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06).

Only a few of the plantation's outbuildings are extant from this period of development, and include a wash house/cool storage, a smokehouse, a slave cabin, a corn house, and a two-room brick kitchen also was situated directly behind the main house (Figures 15 and 16). All of these buildings were constructed of wood frame and terminated in steeply-pitched gable roofs (Berger & Associates 1994:17).

Two tobacco barns and another slave quarter also still survive, and are situated southeast of the main house (Figure 17). These outbuildings were isolated from the main domestic complex and were characterized by their log construction. All of these buildings exist in a ruinous state.

William Howson Sims, 1852-1890. At the time of John Sims death in 1852, the estate had increased substantially in value and grown to encompass roughly 2,500 acres. Other real estate included 245 sheep, 12 oxen, 300 hogs, and 100 head of cattle (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06; Berger & Associates IMb:13; Berger & Associates 1994:12). John Sims bequeathed the majority of his real estate, including the mansion house, to his son, William Howson Sims. Smaller landholdings were distributed between Maria Garrett, his only surviving daughter, and his grandchildren. Maria Garrett received 47 slaves and small properties, while his granddaughter, Elizabeth Coleman, daughter of Mary Elizabeth, received 46 slaves (Berger & Associates January 1990:7,13; Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:56-58).


William Howson Sims managed the substantial Black Walnut plantation between 1852 until his death in 1890. William Howson was educated at Hampden-Sydney, and passed the bar. "However, innovative farming techniques were more attractive to him than the practice of law, and his time was devoted to the running of his plantation" (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:58). During his tenure, he acquired title to the additional portions of the Black Walnut tract, as well as purchasing other landholdings in Halifax County. William Howson also assisted his aunt, Phoebe Howson Clark Bailey, with the operation of her plantation, "Oak Hill". According to correspondence on file in the Bailey Family Papers, Phoebe Bailey's nephew, W.H. Sims, would mount his horse and spent the night at her plantation to assist her with affairs (VHS, Bailey Family papers).

In 1844, prior to inheriting the Black Walnut property, William Howson brought his wife, Sallie J. Wilson, and their four children, Eliza Broadnax, Maria Clark, John, and William Bailey, to reside at the manor house (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06; Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:58). During the 1860s, both of his daughters were sent to Richmond to attend private school. John Sims attended Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1867, while William Bailey was educated at "Creek Side". William S. later graduated from Virginia Episcopal School in Alexandria (VHS, Bailey Family Papers).


In 1857, roughly 22 acres were sold to the Richmond and Danville Railroad Company. By this period, William Howson Sims owned 16 tracts of land in Halifax County, employed four overseers, and owned 116 slaves to manage his extensive landholdings. The 1860 Census identifies William Howson Sims as a "planter" owning $57,000.00 worth of real estate and $238,270.00 worth of personal property.

With the commencement of the Civil War, William H. Sims did not join the Confederate army and, instead, continued to operate his plantation. It is likely that William Howson concurred with general opinion that the war would be short and successful, because as the war progressed, Sims' efforts for the Confederate cause increased. In March l862,Sims was conscripted and was slated to serve as a private in Captain Moore's Company of the 84th Virginia Infantry. William H. appealed his case to the Halifax County Conscription Exemption Board, and was allowed to hire a substitute. Sims was required to pay $30.00 to provide his substitute with a uniform (VHS MSS1 B1565 b 16-18; Boisseau 1980; VHS MSS1 B1565 b236-256). Sims wrote his uncle about the news. In the same letter, he also noted that Governor Letcher had mobilized the Richmond militia to fight (VHS MSS1 B1565 bl8). At that time Union troops were landing at Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads to begin a march upon Richmond. Sims was conscripted again the following year, and was exempted. Joseph H. Lambeth served as his substitute (Boisseau 1980:35; Gilliam and McKinney 1987:58).

After the Confederate government ceased the practice of substitution, William Sims applied for an exemption. While approval of his exemption was pending, he prepared to join the army as part of the Black Walnut Cavalry Company (Co. 1, 3rd Virginia Cavalry) (VHS MSS1 B1565 b236- 256). Sims did not join the cavalry company but, instead, remained at Black Walnut.

In June 1864, the Battle of Staunton River took place. The Union objective was the destruction of the R&D railroad bridge over the Staunton River. Confederate forces prepared defenses on the Sims' side of the river, and on the eastern bank. Following the battle, a permanent Confederate garrison was established on Sims' property that was manned by both troops and 800 slave laborers.

William Sims was conscripted again in August 1864, at which time he was officially assigned to the Danville Division of the Confederate Subsistence Department, under the command of Col. A. H. McCleish. His duty was to collect foodstuffs in the Halifax region and forward them to the army (VHS MSSI B1565 b260).


According to the 1860 Agricultural Census, William Howson Sims had 1,800 acres under cultivation and 2,000 unimproved acres. During the Civil War, William Howson responded to the state's dire food shortages by practicing agricultural diversification, harvesting crops such as tobacco, wheat, Indian corn, oats, peas and beans, potatoes, grass seed, and hops (Table 4). Horses, cows, oxen, sheep, and pigs also were raised on the plantation. Other products included 260 pounds of wool, 300 pounds of butter, and three pounds of beeswax (Berger & Associates 1994:13).

Throughout 1863, Sims continued to transport agricultural goods to the Clover Depot of the Richmond and Danville (R&D) railroad (VHS MSS1 B1565 b236-256). By the following year, William Howson was forced to discontinue shipping agricultural goods from the Clover Depot due to a lack of available railroad cars for storage or transport (VHS MSS1 B1565 b2l4). William Howson also lost several of his male slaves after they were requisitioned by the Confederate army (VHS MSS1 B1565 b236-256). In October, Sims' overseers also were conscripted (VHS MSS1 B1565 b 171-190).

To exacerbate the situation, the region experienced a drought during the summer of 1864. Sims' efforts to purchase wheat for the army met with little success. In October, Sims collected 14 bushels and 25 pounds of wheat for the Quartermaster Department (VHS MSSI b236-256). In November, 1864 Sims provided the Army Quartermaster with 1,948 pounds of baled oats; 2,093 pounds of fodder; and 1,242 pounds of corn. On March 9, 1865 he provided 11,284 pounds of straw (VHS MSS1 B1565 b2l6, b236-256).

Sims also sold beef to the Confederate troops and slave laborers stationed at the garrison (VHS MSS1 B1565 b2l6, b236-256). Sims signed a pardon on August 2, 1865. Union troops continued to occupy the Black Walnut Plantation following the conclusion of the war, however, this did not halt commercial activity. On April 17, 1865, Sims sold 1,500 pounds of oats, one barrel of flour, and three and one-half barrels of corn (VHS MSS1 B1565 b2l6, b236-256,b262).

Following the Civil War, William reduced his landholdings. By 1870, the amount of acreage under cultivation dropped to 225 acres, with 1,000 unimproved acres. William H. most likely rented land to tenant farmers; in addition, many of the former slaves continued to live on the plantation, serving either as tenant farmers or paid laborers. Tobacco continued as the primary cash crop during this period. Although tobacco production was less than half of the amount produced during the previous decade, William Howson remained one of the top five tobacco producers in the Roanoke District. Other agricultural crops included wheat, corn, and oats (Table 5). A variety of livestock were raised during this period, including horses, mules, oxen, cattle, sheep, and pigs (Berger & Associates 1990b:13-15).

By 1880, William H. had 245 acres of tilled land, 150 acres of meadow and pasture, and 1,000 acres of wooded land. By 1880, his livestock was reduced slightly to include seven horses, four mules, seven oxen, 40 sheep, and 35 pigs. Agricultural products were diverse and included eggs, butter, honey, and fruit (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06; Berger & Associates 1990b:13-15).

Subdivision of Black Walnut Tract and Continued Operation Under Sims Family, 1880-1900s


The Black Walnut tract remained intact as a sizeable Southside plantation until 1880, at which time it was divided into three separate parcels, including the 600-acre Fort Hill tract and the 365-acre Edgewood tract. John Sims acquired title to the 600-acre tract and William Bailey Sims acquired the 365-acre tract. When William Howson Sims died in 1890, the remaining lands were divided between his two sons, his widow, Sallie J. Sims, and his daughter, Maria. His will bequeathed the manor house and 300 acres to Sallie J. Sims. The Sims family continued to operate the three separate plantations as a unified farming complex throughout the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3. 1987:59; National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06; Berger & Associates April 1990:16; Berger & Associates 1990b:4,7).

Black Walnut Farm, 1890-1900

Sallie J. Wilson and Maria Clark Sims, 1890-1900s. Following the death of William Howson in 1890, the Black Walnut manor house passed to his wife, Sallie J. Wilson Sims. During the 1890s, tobacco and corn continued to be the principal crops at the farm. The 1900 Census indicates that most of the Sims neighbors were African-American farmers who rented their land (Berger & Associates 1994, HABS VA-1290:3).

Upon Mrs. Sims death, the house passed onto her daughter, Maria Clark Sims, who occupied the house for the following decade (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06). During the early 1900s, Maria Clark deeded the Black Walnut manor house and her 300-acre tract to her brother, William Bailey.

Edgewood Farm, 1880 - 1900
William Bailey and Anne Cameron Ruffin Sims. 1880-1900. Edgewood was established as a late-nineteenth century plantation that was formed from a portion of the original Black Walnut tract. In 1880, William Howson Sims deeded his youngest son, William Bailey Sims, the 365-acre parcel that became known as the "Edgewood Farm". William Bailey married Anne Cameron Ruffin in 1883. In 1888, William Bailey acquired an additional twenty-acre parcel from William Howson, where he constructed his main dwelling.

During this period, William Bailey had 110 acres under cultivation; the remaining acreage was maintained as meadow or woodland. Crops cultivated during this period included tobacco, wheat, Indian corn, oats, and butter. Livestock included oxen, cows, hogs, and poultry (Table 6) (Berger & Associates 1990b:14).

William Bailey and his family resided at the Edgewood Plantation until 1910. After Maria Clark Sims death, William Bailey acquired title to the Black Walnut tract, and moved his family from Edgewood to the main house at Black Walnut (Berger & Associates April 1990:19). By 1914, the Edgewood and Black Walnut tracts had been reintegrated.

Between 1880 and 1889, William Bailey constructed a Queen Anne style dwelling, which was known as "Edgewood". During the late-nineteenth and twentieth century, the plantation grew to encompass additional domestic and agricultural buildings, including tenant houses, tobacco barns, animal sheds, stable, storehouse, and other miscellaneous sheds (Figure 18). The buildings at Edgewood Farm reflected the region's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century vernacular traditions (News & Record, 6 August 1992; Berger & Associates 1994:22). None of the built resources associated with the Edgewood Farm are extant.

The main house was designed as a late nineteenth century Victorian farmhouse embellished Italianate and Queen Anne stylistic features (Figure 19). The two-story wood-frame dwelling was prominently sited along an elevated rise, and was set back from the road (Berger & Associates April 1990:16). The building was raised on a quarried granite foundation and terminated in an intersecting gable roof sheathed in standing-seam metal. An interior brick chimney was centered on each roof ridge. The building's T-shaped plan was formed by a two-story, double-pile unit that intersected with a single-pile unit (Figure 20). Horizontal wood siding was used to cover the exterior walls, and simple vertical wood boards defined the corners of the building. Ornamental wooden brackets embellished the front and rear eaves; scroll-sawed applied elements were located in between the brackets. Narrow cornice moldings were used as window surrounds (Berger & Associates 1994:22). The three-bay principle (east) facade was defined by a one-story, shed roof porch that extended its full length. The porch was supported by bracketed, turned wooden posts.


The area immediately north of the main house was characterized by a large open area that contained miscellaneous agricultural buildings, including log-flue cure tobacco barns, a storehouse, and a log barn. The tobacco barns were sheathed in rough-cut board-and-batten siding. Shed roots extended from one end of the gable roofs, which served to protect furnaces. Two small sheds also were situated to the rear of the house. Both terminated in metal seam gable roofs. One structure was sheathed in horizontal wood siding, and the other was clad in vertical wood planking (Berger & Associates 1994:22).

The log tenant houses and several tobacco barns were constructed southwest of the main house along a gravel road. A clapboard tenant house was sited southwest of the main drive, near Route 600. The side-gabled structure was punctuated by a center chimney. The entire structure was raised on concrete footings. Another structure was situated near Route 600 that consisted of a clapboard, saddlebag cabin. The building terminated in a side-gabled roof sheathed in standing seam metal. A small porch was located on the main, four-bay facade. Another one and one-half story cabin was situated further northwest, at the end of a small lane. The two-room structure contained two separate entrances. The central interior partition contained a brick stove chimney (Berger & Associates 1994:22, 28).

Additional domestic and agricultural outbuildings at Edgewood Farm were located along a lane that extended west from the main road. These were comprised of miscellaneous log buildings, such as tobacco barns, a smokehouse, a corncrib, barns and sheds. Most of these structures were constructed using rough-hewn logs with diamond corning notching.

Fort Hill Farm, 1880s - 1895

John Sims, 1880-1895. The Fort Hill Farm was established in 1880 when William Howson deeded his oldest son, John Sims, approximately 600 acres along the Roanoke River. This property became known as "Fort Hill", named after the Confederate building fortifications that were constructed on this site during the Civil War. John Sims held onto Fort Hill until 1895, at which time the property was transferred out of the Sims family's ownership (Berger & Associates 1994:43). John Sims cultivated tobacco and corn as the principle commercial crops.

The Fort Hill complex encompassed a main house, and several domestic and agricultural outbuildings (Figure 21). Most of the outbuildings were sited east, southeast, and south of the main house, and included sheds, tobacco barns, barns, and a stable. None of the built resources associated with the Fort Hill Farm are extant.

The main house was constructed during the late-nineteenth century as a two-story, wood clapboard 1-house embellished wfth Greek Revival and ltalianate stylistic features (Figure 22). The building was sited on a knoll at the center of the tract, taking advantage of views of the Staunton [Roanoke] River. The building terminated in an intersecting hipped roof sheathed in metal seam. The roof had a bracketed dentil cornice. Three interior brick chimneys punctuated the roof ridge; the chimneys had corbelled caps. The principle (east) facade was symmetrically arranged with a one-story, hipped roof porch centered on the three-bay facade. The porch was supported by square wood posts. A polygonal bay window projected from the north end. The interior plan was T-shaped and comprised a central hall flanked by one room (Figure 23). Another room was located to the rear of the central hall (Berger & Associates 1994:43).

Two small gable roof sheds were situated west of the main house. Both are wood-frame structures. A rough-hewn log tobacco barn also was located west of the main house. The structure measured 21 feet by 18 feet and employed diamond corner notching (Berger & Associates 1994:57). Other agricultural outbuildings were situated along a lane to the south of the house. These included a wood-frame barn, a windmill, a shed or corncrib, and a stable (Berger & Associates 1994:49,57).

Twentieth Century Land Tenure

Black Walnut Farm and Edgewood Tract
Additional agricultural outbuildings were added to the Black Walnut complex during the twentieth century, including a two-bay wood-frame garage, a tool shed, two machine sheds, and a corncrib. This cluster of buildings was situated further north of the main house, accessible by a gravel lane.

William Bailey and Anne Cameron Ruffin Sims, 1900s-1928. William Bailey and his wife, Annie Cameron Sims, resided at the Black Walnut house following Maria Clark's death in 1914. They lived there with their four children: William H., Jr., who died at age three; Jane Ruffin; William Bailey, Jr.; and, Anne Ruffin. William Bailey, Jr. was educated at the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and attended the University of Virginia. Anne Ruffin married Dr. Emanuel Wallerstein in 1937 (Edmunds, Personal Correspondence, Sims Papers).

Anne Cameron and Jane Ruffin Sims. 1928-1947. William Bailey died in 1928 and left all of his real and personal property to his wife, Anne Cameron Sims. Anne Cameron continued to reside at Black Walnut and operate the farm into the late 1940s, along with her unmarried daughter, Jane Ruffin. William Bailey, Jr. had since married and relocated to Richmond (National Register Nomination, June 1991, DHR File No.41-06; Berger & Associates 1990b:7; Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:59).

Plantation life at Black Walnut continued on a grand scale during this late period, with breakfast including fresh fruit, partridge, and fish all of which were obtained on the plantation. During the 1939 National Tobacco Festival, Mary Pickford and her escort, David Bruce, were entertained at the Black Walnut estate where they were served "blackeyed peas, stewed tomatoes, ham, biscuits, and fried chicken" (Edmunds, Personal Correspondence, Sims Papers).

Jane Ruff in Sims and Anne Ruff in Wallerstein, 1947-1978. When Anne Cameron Sims died in 1947, she bequeathed the manor house and 550 acres to her daughter, Jane Ruffin Sims. Equal shares of the remaining property were divided between Jane and her siblings, William Bailey, Jr., and Anne Ruffin Wallerstein, including the "plantation house known as 'Edgewood"' (Berger & Associates 1994, HABS VA-1290:3). The two daughters subsequently acquired their brother's share of his land from his widow. According to Mrs. Richard Coles (Pocahontas) Edmunds, a relative of Anne Ruffin and Jane Ruffin Sims, "horses, cows, and lambs had their names, and were mourned if they died." (Edmunds, Personal Correspondence, Sims Papers).

Jane Ruffin Sims died in 1977, at the age of 86, and bequeathed her portion of the estate to her sister, Anne. Anne Ruffin Wallerstein acquired title to both the Black Walnut and Edgewood tracts, in addition to other landholdings. Upon her death, she bequeathed all her interest in the Black Walnut estate to her son, Sterling (Gilliam and McKinney, Volume VI, No. 3, 1987:59-61; Berger & Associates 1994:38). In 1978, a total of 1,674 acres were sold to Dr. William and Ruth Watkins (Berger & Associates 1990b:7). Dr. Watkins continues to own the Black Walnut Plantation.

Fort Hill Farm
Theodore Frederichsen, N.H. Sailey, and Lillie Louth 1895-1920. John Sims retained ownership of Fort Hill until December 1895, at which time he sold 1,135 acres to Theodore Frederichsen. As part of this transaction, he retained the rights to the planted tobacco and corn fields and access to the farm buildings (Berger & Associates April 1990:38). Frederichsen, a resident of Genoa Bluffs, Iowa, moved his family from Iowa to his new farm in Virginia. His household included his wife, Catharine, and eight children. Shortly after acquiring the Fort Hill tract, substantial improvements were made to the property. Cattle were shipped in from Iowa. Principal crops grown included hay, corn, and tobacco (Berger & Associates 1994:16).

Catharine died in 1903 and Frederichsen married Lillie Louth two years later. Three years after the marriage, the Fort Hill tract was sold to N.H. Bailey of Forest City, Iowa. His widow, Abbie F. Bailey, and her family occupied the Fort Hill Farm by 1910. By this date, the land had been subdivided into smaller farms. The following year, Bailey sold the entire property back to the Frederichsen's. Theodore died in 1913 and bequeathed the real estate to his wife, Lillie, and his children. Lillie obtained one-half interest of the 1,167-acre property and the remaining property was divided between the children. A petition was filed by Theodore's children contesting the will. The case dragged through the court until 1922; by the time the case was settled it stipulated that the plantation be divided into smaller parcels and sold at public auction. Two years before settlement, Lillie Louth sold her interest in the property to W.S. Nichols (Berger & Associates 1990b:9; Berger & Associates 1994:15-16).

By 1914, the Fort Hill Farm had been subdivided into four tenant farms. Four tenant houses were added to the Fort Hill property during this period. All of these tenant houses were located at some distance from the main house. The buildings vary in size and include a one and one-half story structure; a one-story, four-room structure; a one-room structure; and a two- room structure. A two-story dwelling was situated southeast of the main house. The building measured 30 feet by 15 feet, and terminated in a side-gabled roof. The three-bay front facade has a veranda across its length. The interior adapts a hall-and-parlor plan (Berger & Associates 1994:49).

Tenant Farms, 1920 - 1940s. In 1920, the Fort Hill property was put up for auction, however, there were no interested buyers other than W.S. Nichols, who purchased another 413.15- acre parcel. The following year, Nichols acquired an additional 756.72 acres (Berger & Associates 1994:16).

For the next twenty years, the plantation was owned by a series of investors and a local bank. The Fort Hill Farm was offered for public sale again in 1941. By this date, the property had been subdivided into five farms ranging in size from 100 acres to 500 acres; a dwelling house and associated agricultural outbuildings had been constructed on each farmstead (Berger & Associates 1990b:9,17).

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This page was last updated on Febuary 26, 2003 .