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Powhatan County: Three Private Historic Homes and Powhatan County Historical Society

Wednesday, May 23, 8:30am5:00pm
Members $119 (Join today)
Powhatan County
Part of the See You On the Bus category.
Part of the program.

Online reservations for this travel program are closed. If you are interested in being placed on a wait list, please contact Cathy Boe at (804) 342-9657 or at cathy@VirginiaHistory.org.

Join us for this members-only bus trip to Powhatan County, where we will visit three private historic homes and the Powhatan County Historical Society.

Powhatan County was named for the Indian chieftain who ruled the Native American inhabitants of tidewater Virginia in the early seventeenth century. Siouan-speaking Indians once dominated this area bounded on the north by the James River and on the south by the Appomattox River. The first account of their settlements was recorded by the explorer John Lederer in 1670. Following the arrival of the French Huguenots in 1700, Tidewater planters came to claim new land for their tobacco crops. Other early settlers to the area were former indentured servants who were coopers, blacksmiths, cordwaingers (leather tanners), and carpenters. The county was formed from Cumberland County in 1777, and its seat of government was the town of Scottville, the present Powhatan Courthouse Village.

Homeowner: Constance Kennon Harriss

Norwood, noted as “Greenyard” on an 1822 survey, was purchased in 1835 along with 600 acres of land by the present owner’s great, great, great, grandfather, Robert Beverly Randolph. His wife’s family, the Heths, owned 1,500 acres east of Greenyard, and that property and home were known as Norwood. Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s father, John, was buried in 1842 at present day Norwood, and the property belonging to the Heths became part of Randolph’s estate. Randolph’s daughter, Nancy, married Lt. William Henry Kennon, USN, and inherited present day Norwood in 1841. The home at Greenyard was a brick farm house, two-over-two-over-two when it was purchased by Randolph. He greatly enlarged the home with wings, transverse halls, a winding staircase, and porches. He also built two brick outbuildings in the yard, the kitchen on the east and an office/school house to the west. Three large brick barns were built farther to the west. They are still standing but no longer used. The James River is approximately one-half mile north of the house, and the canal was used to ship coal, tobacco, and grain to Richmond from this property. Later, Norwood would have a canning factory and two dairy barns built to the west. The barns burned around 1970, and the canning factory was demolished in the 1990s. The present owner, Constance Kennon Harriss, inherited Norwood in 2001 at the death of her father, Charles Randolph Kennon III.

Homeowner: Cheryl and Paul Vrooman

Morewood was a 2,000-acre tobacco plantation, constructed in 1820–21 by William Old for his new wife, Martha Judith Harvie, whose first husband died in the Richmond Theater fire. Their son, Major Charles Old, married Anne Carter Leigh in 1850. She was the daughter of Julia Wickham and Benjamin Watkins Leigh, a prominent attorney in Richmond. Major Charles Old served in the 4th Virginia Calvary during the Civil War. Anne Carter Leigh’s brother brought Stonewall Jackson’s body back to Richmond. Anne Carter Leigh and Maj. Charles Old lived at Morewood until their deaths, but they were so demoralized and exhausted after the war that the old plantation was allowed to deteriorate. It was sold in 1917 after Anne Carter Leigh’s death. The home is a brick Federal with an off center entrance, which was unusual for its time. It is two rooms deep with twelve-foot ceilings on both floors. The living room windows and mantel have extraordinary carvings that took two years to complete. Morewood is best known for its ice house, considered to be a historic treasure. The ice house will be open for the tour as well as the gardens, which include an orchard, rose garden, and kitchen garden created by the present owners, Cheryl and Paul Vrooman.

French's TavernFrench’s Tavern-Swann’s Creek Plantation - Indian Camp
Homeowner: Caroyln Neurhor

Francis Eppes IV was granted 2,400 acres of land by George II in 1730. Eppes named the property Swann’s Creek Plantation. Swann’s Creek was a tributary of the Appomattox River. The house was built soon afterward. Upon Eppe’s death in 1734, the property was equally divided between his daughters Ann and Martha. Martha Eppes married John Wayles from Charles City County, who was serving as the king’s attorney in Virginia. The couple has one daughter, also named Martha. Daughter Martha Wayles, later a widow of Bathhurst Skelton, married Thomas Jefferson in 1772, and her portion of Swann’s Creek Plantation was renamed Indian Camp after Indian Camp Creek nearby. Jefferson, through his marriage to Martha Wayles, held ownership of the house for five years. In order to settle Wayles’s enormous debts, Jefferson sold the property. A cousin, Francis Eppes Harris, purchased a portion of the property and set up a store. The storekeeper, Hugh French from Loudon County, later purchased the store. He adapted the plantation manor house as a tavern, operating the tavern for thirty-five years and buying back almost the entire amount of the original 2,400 acres. The house maintains nearly all of its original wainscoting, flooring, mantels, and windows. The unique feature of the house is the swinging wall, which can be raised and hooked into the ceiling of the parlor.

Powhatan County CourthousePowhatan County Historical Society

The Powhatan County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the county’s unique past for present and future generations through collecting, educating, interpreting, and researching local history. The organization is located in an early nineteenth-century former jail, which is part of the Powhatan Courthouse Historic District. This national historic district includes the Powhatan County Court House, built in 1848–49. This Greek Revival style temple-form building measures approximately 40 feet by 54 feet. There is strong circumstantial evidence that it is the work of Alexander Jackson Davis. Associated with the courthouse are the contributing former clerk’s office, a “T”-shaped brick structure dated to the late-eighteenth century; and Scott’s or Powhatan Tavern, a 2 1/2-story, late-eighteenth century brick tavern.

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