Joseph Evan Davis 907 Children of the Confederacy Chapter President Matthew Myers of Belton, and Vice President Allison Bolt of Taylors, enjoyed a weekend trip to historic Richmond, Virginia. They toured the White House of the Confederacy and Civil War Museum. Among the many artifacts enjoyed during the tour was the field tent of General Lee, his saddle and the hat he wore at the Surrender at Gettysburg. After leaving Richmond, they toured Shirley Plantation.
The Shirley Plantation is the oldest family-owned plantation in America. The twelfth generation is now living in the home and offers the first floor for tours. The land was granted in 1613 as West and Sherley Hundred. In 1638, a portion of the land was granted to Edward Hill. The home has seen American history in action over four hundred years. The Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 saw the plundering of the home. The home, overlooking the James River, was occupied over the years by family members including Ann Hill Carter, the wife of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, parents of General Robert E. Lee. After the death of Light Horse Harry Lee, Ann Hill Carter Lee returned to Shirley Plantation to live with her parents, and young Robert spent his childhood and youth there.
Shirley Plantation, granted to Edward Hill in 1660, features the pineapple (the Colonial symbol of hospitality) in the hand-carved woodwork in the house, and as a three-foot finial on the peak of the roof. And for good reason -- Shirley was a well-known center of hospitality in Colonial times.
The Hills and Carters entertained the Byrds and Harrisons, not to mention Washington, Jefferson and other prominent Virginians at Shirley. Visitors today see an 800-acre working plantation operated by the tenth and eleventh generations of the Hills and Carters, who continue this tradition of hospitality.
During the Revolution, Shirley was a supply center for the Continental Army. Twice, it was a listening post for both sides in the no-man’s land between the British at City Point, now Hopewell, and Lafayette’s army at Malvern Hill.
A century later, during the War Between the States, Shirley survived the Peninsula Campaign and the struggle for nearby Richmond, the Confederate capital. Anne Hill Carter, wife of Henry Light-Horse Harry Lee, of Stratford and mother of Gen. Robert E. Lee, was born at Shirley. The famous Confederate General widely regarded as one of the greatest Americans of all time, received part of his schooling in the converted laundry house.
The present mansion was begun in 1723 by Edward Hill III, a member of the House of Burgesses in the Virginia Colony, for his daughter Elizabeth, who married John Carter, eldest son of King Carter. It was finished in 1738 and is largely in its original state.
The home is recognized as an architectural treasure. Its famous carved walnut staircase rises for three stories without visible means of support, and is the only one of its kind in America.
The superb paneling and elegant wood carving are fine examples of the work of 18th-century artisans. Shirley is a home filled with family portraits, furniture, crested silver, and memorabilia.
A number of superb brick outbuildings, built in 1723, form a unique Queen Anne forecourt. These include a large two-story kitchen, laundry house, and two sturdy barns, including one with an ice cellar beneath it. This is the only standing example of this building method in the United States. Other original structures include the stable, smokehouse, and dove cote.
This historic estate provides an intimate study of a way of life spanning three centuries. A visit to Shirley is a step into American history.
Shirley Plantation has been designated a National Historic Landmark. No funds are received from any foundations or government agencies. The entrance fees paid by visitors help to preserve and improve this unique part of our heritage.