Greenview History

 

A Historical Review of Greenview Plantation

The following information has been compiled after an extensive research of microfilm records available the VIRGINIA STATE LIBRARY, from family records of previous owners and excerpts from the rare antique edition of the book RELIQUES OF THE RIVES, (copies at VIRGINIA STATE LIBRARY and THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA at Charlottesville.) Dr. Paul Buchanan, retired former chief of Architectural Research for Colonial Williamsburg, conducted an on--site survey and provided additional historical confirmation.

 

The history of Prince George County is almost as diverse as the history of Greenview Plantation. All of what is present day Prince George was once part of Charles City County. In 1702 the General Assembly split Charles City County into two portions with all the lands lying south of the James River to become a part of a new county. This new portion was to be named Prince George County after Prince George of Denmark, Consort of Queen Ann of England. The division had been deemed necessary due to an undue hardship being imposed upon those citizens living south of the James in having to cross the river by boat in order to attend court or public meetings.

Excerpts taken from the Virginia Library Archives disclose a surveyor's recording of the lands of Greenview for Shaw Raines on the 17th of May 1715. These same lands were surveyed and recorded again on the 28th of November for George Rives. Some time after that, a dwelling was constructed by his son, Timothy Rives. It was a basic one room over an English basement with a single end chimney on the east wall. Dr. Buchanan dated this portion at no later than 1730. In 1742 an addition was added to the north end which also included a second story over the entire structure. Later, around 1760 the entire house was remodeled and reconstructed as a timber frame to its current size. No further changes were made after that and it has remained relatively unchanged to this day.

The manor house today is no less impressive as when it was completed in 1760. There are three floors over an English basement, comprising an impressive living space of approximately 7500 square feet. Two massive towering chimneys reach a lofty of height of almost fifty feet and adorn both the east and west end walls. Originally there were ten fireplaces throughout the house but when the house was restored in 1975, one had to be sacrificed for a modern oil furnace. The remaining nine have been reworked to include dampers and are now usable.

A striking and most unusual feature of the house is the twin doors located on both the front and back of the house. One door leads into the great hall of the manor house and the other leads into that portion of the house that would later serve as a tavern.

Some time after 1790 the property left the ownership of the Rives family and was purchased by the Raines family. They lived here only a short time before it was sold again and this time to the Temple family. During their tenure, it served as a tavern and also one of the first voting precincts in the area. The area then became known as the Templeton District. The Temples made it their home for approximately forty years before it was again sold, this time to William E. Proctor. During the ownership of the Proctors it continued as a tavern and a stage stop on the Jerusalem Plank Road, a toll road that ran between Courtland and Petersburg. Mr. Proctor served as its President. A regional post office was later established at Greenview and he was appointed Postmaster. In 1870, he established the Prince George School for Young Girls. His daughter served as schoolmistress.

Much like the Rives, the Proctors were a noteworthy and influential family and deeply involved in the affairs of the county. During the Civil War, their son, William H. Proctor, served as a Captain in the Confederate Army. He was later wounded at the Battle of Hanover Courthouse and lost his left leg. Upon returning to Greenview, he grew despondent over the restrictions now imposed on him by his condition and in 1884, he committed suicide. A very vivid account of this event as described in the Index-Appeal, a fore-runner of the Progress-Index, was made available from descendants. A copy is also available from microfilm files located at the Virginia State Library. Ironically, legend has it that both the North and South used Greenview as a Headquarters during the battles around Petersburg and this fact coupled with its remote location probably caused it to be spared the torch

The lands surrounding Greenview are still owned by the Proctor-Peeble family Sometime in the earlier portion of this century, the house was vacated as descendants moved out. Tenant farmers moved into the house in the early thirties and continued to live here until the mid-forties. With no upkeep the ravages of time began to take its toll and a once grand old lady slowly began to sink into an advanced state of disrepair. Then in 1975, the house and 14 acres were purchased by a retired couple, whose hobby was buying and restoring the best of these old homes for resale. Unfortunately, they would only perform limited restoration before resale. But, thankfully, these efforts were beneficial in that they served to halt the inevitable fate that had claimed so many other old homes.

In 1976, Messrs. Kenneth E. Beach and Benjamin N. Keys, Jr., purchased the manor house and 14 acres from the couple who had done the initial restoration. Under their ownership, a more stringent, dedicated, and loving restoration was begun. Before long, Greenview had been returned to its former pristine beauty as a Colonial Plantation Manor House. It not only provides today's generation with an insight into early Colonial frontier life but future generations can view a viable example of their heritage as well.

Surrounding the Manor house are many impressive plants and trees of enormous size. giant hollies, cedars, crepe myrtles, tree boxwood and a grandfather of a pecan tree adorn the front lawn while seven enormous trees of the mahogany family and seven walnut trees adorn the rear. Legend has it that the mahogany trees resulted from the many strange seeds that often were found in sacks of coffee brought to the farm from the tropics. Hence, the name coffee trees. The cooks would either throw these seeds out into the yard or plant them just to see what would come up. It has been told that, during desperate times these seeds would be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. Thomas Jefferson was said to have taken some of both the seed pods and young trees to Monticello. Also found on the grounds in the spring are scores of the world's smallest and rarest daffodils with blooms no larger than a small thimble. Legend has it that they came from the Royal Botanical Gardens in England.

The Great Depression of the 1930's, which brought both hard times and despair to so many families across this young nation, did not spare the owners of Greenview. Faced with lean times the Proctors were forced to sell many of the giant tree boxwood that surrounded the great lawn. They were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. McCrea who were diligently involved in the restoration of house and grounds of the Carter's Grove Plantation near Williamsburg. It must have been a sad day indeed at Greenview when they were moved.

Due to it's location on a hill top reputed to be the highest elevation in Prince George County, Greenview stands majestically and awe inspiring when viewed from a long stretch of State Route 35. The location of the house on this promontory amidst a great lawn of ancient trees provides the ultimate in comfort as it can be cooled on the hottest summer day by even the slightest of breezes.

Today, Greenview plays host to visitors from all over the world who come to see both the house and the unusual waterfowl collection in residence . The future looks even brighter now as she enters the twenty-first century, A workman, involved in her restoration, was heard to remark, "I don't believe that those folks realized it, but in a primeval wilderness, they damn sure builded far better than they knew"! What more could anyone add.

BNKeys, Paranormalplus.com2003

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