A Father’s Love

17/06/12 11:40 PM

As today is Father’s Day, I looked back through the history of Belle Grove for a good Father’s Day post.

So forgive me, I am going to skip ahead in the history story of Belle Grove, just for today.

Belle Grove Plantation – River side 2012

This part of the history of Belle Grove comes from the second family to own it, the Hipkins-Bernard Family. In 1790, John Hipkins purchased Belle Grove Plantation from Captain Francis Conway, founder of Port Conway and cousin to James Madison.  The following information was taken from a narrative I found at William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was written by a descendent of John Hipkins, James Patton of Gaymont Plantation, now known as Rose Hill Plantation.

John Hipkins was the son of Samuel and Margaret Upshaw Hipkins of Essex County. It is thought that John was born sometime around 1754.  John married Elizabeth Pratt, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Pratt. She was born on March 8, 1754. John and Elizabeth were married in the early 1770’s. John and Elizabeth lived the early part of the marriage in King and Queen County and seemed to have moved to Caroline County, which is the county just across the river from Belle Grove in December, 1778, when his name appeared on the roster of the Port Royal Kilwinnig-Crosse Lodge #2. Three years later his name appeared on a deed and the tax records for 1782 listed him as a resident of the county and the owner of eight slaves. John served as Magistrate in King and Queen County. He took the oath of Sheriff of Caroline County on November 9, 1802.

On May 14, 1775, Francis “Fanny” Hipkins was born the John and Elizabeth. She would be their only surviving child. Fanny’s parents, most especially her father, spared nothing for her. John even had one of his ships named after her. This ship would later be captured by pirates and lost along with its cargo and crew.

Frances “Fanny” Hipkins Virginia Historic Society

We have uncovered a portrait of Fanny. This portrait comes from a collection at the Virginia Historic Society. In it you can see that they spared no expense for her with her strings of pearls, earrings, lace, feathers and miniatures on gold chains.

Fanny would marry William Bernard of King George County on April 9, 1789, one month prior to her fourteenth birthday. William would turn nineteen that September.

Marriage Announcement in the local paper Second column – just above the border

Shortly after the marriage John would take William into partnership, establishing the firm Hipkins & Bernard, in order to improve him (Bernard) and to keep him employed. William did not take stock in the business, being just eighteen and the business was conducted on John’s capital. This arrangement lasted for two years when on September 1, 1791; it reverted back to John Hipkins & Company. John thought that if storekeeping wasn’t for William, maybe farming would suit him better. So John bought Belle Grove Plantation from Francis Conway, in 1790 with the thought of giving it to his daughter and son-in-law. John then built the center section of the house that currently stands at Belle Grove for William and Fanny, which they moved into in 1791. John sold Belle Grove to William for a sum of five shillings.

Here is one small note about Belle Grove and Rose Hill Plantations. In the fall and winter months, if you stand on the River side of Belle Grove, you can see the house at Rose Hill up on a hill across the river. Maybe John wanted to keep an eye on his only daughter.

When Fanny and William moved into Belle Grove, they already had a daughter, Sarah “Sallie” Salvin Bernard, who was born at Rose Hill in 1790. She would be followed by three more siblings, John Hipkins Bernard (1792), Elizabeth “Eliza” Bernard (1794) and William Bernard (1796).

Sarah “Sally” Salvin Bernard Lightfoot

William Bernard II Virginia Historic Society

In April, 1800, a second partnership was attempted, this time the firm was William Bernard & Company. This formation was in order for John to retire from active business.

On April 30, 1801, Fanny passed away, leaving William with four children, a large plantation and a business to run.  Fanny was buried on the property of Belle Grove in “mother’s garden”. On July 6, 1803, Eliza Bernard passed away and was placed with her mother in the garden.

This business continued along the same pattern as the first partnership with John being the most active. By 1803, William again withdrew his whole attention from the business. John and William spent most of the rest of John’s life in court, trying to settle the estate and business issues.

John Hipkins passed away in 1804. He was buried next to his daughter and granddaughter on the property of Belle Grove. His plantation, Rose Hill was passed to his grandson and name sake, John Hipkins Bernard. Being that John Hipkins Bernard was only twelve at the time, his grandmother, Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins, held the property in trust for him.

William Bernard would marry a second time to Elizabeth Hooe in 1804. He would also move the family from Belle Grove Plantation to a new plantation in Stafford County, Virginia, called Mansfield. Belle Grove would be leased until William Bernard II become of age to inherit it in 1814.

Deed for Belle Grove Plantation to William Bernard II 1814

John Hipkins inherited Rose Hill Plantation upon the death of his grandmother Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins in 1829. Elizabeth joined her husband, daughter and granddaughter at Belle Grove.  John Hipkins Bernard would marry Jane Gay Robinson. He would change the name from Rose Hill to Gaymont in her honor. The home was known as Gaymont until the current owner changed the name back to Rose Hill Plantation.

Jane Gay Robinson Bernard
Gaymont Plantation (formerly known as Rose Hill) Library of Congress

William Bernard II would marry Sarah Dykes and have two surviving daughters, Eliza Bernard (1815) and Sarah Ann Bernard (1817). William and Sarah had a total of seven children, with two sets of twins. Five of those children, including the two sets of twins would pass away as infants. These infants were buried with William’s mother, sister and grandfather at Belle Grove.

Sarah Dykes Bernard Virginia Historic Society
William Bernard II Signature 1820

William Bernard II passed away on January 31, 1822 and was also buried at Belle Grove. With his sudden death and no will, William Bernard I stepped in as guardian of the two infant children and daughter-in-law. He would manage the estate until 1839.  On December 11, 1839, William sold Belle Grove to the husbands of Eliza and Sarah Bernard for one dollar. Sixteen days later, Belle Grove was sold to the Turner Family. Sarah Dykes Bernard moved and later pass away in 1860. She was not buried with William.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 49 Comments »

49 Comments on “A Father’s Love”

  1. Very interesting!

  2. Thank you. There is so much more to the story, but I had to cut it down for the blog. We are going to have the complete story at the plantation when we open.

  3. Wonderful history, looking forward to more. Thank you…

  4. Thank you! I have so much more to share with everyone. It’s hard to decide just what to start with!

  5. Reblogged this on simple thyme prims and commented:
    Wonderful history!..

  6. Thank you so much for sharing our story with your readers! We hope they will join us too!

  7. foxress Says:

    Really interesting. I love that he could see his daughter’s house from his across the river. Such a Dad! Some things never change.

  8. You know I wonder if his death just three years later might have been from his broken heart. Just wait though, there is more to this story yet to come!

  9. It makes it even more exciting the hear the history of the house. Can’t wait for more.

  10. Thank you! We have so much more to share. I just can’t decide where to start!

  11. Dianna Says:

    Amazing all the history that’s known about the previous owners. I was shocked that Fanny married before she was 14. and had 4 children by the time she was 21!

  12. Yes, the history I have found has been amazing! You know that they married earlier in life because they didn’t live as long then.

  13. John Says:

    Magnificent profile shot of the house. Marvelous Photography.

  14. Thank you! I am learning as I take pictures. Maybe one day mine will look as good as yours!

  15. Thank you for your diligent research. I found fascinating material on a relative I never knew existed on Ancestery.com. Looking forward to more things from you.

  16. Thank you! Are you related to someone at our plantation? I am always looking for a new connection! We look forward to sharing a lot more!

  17. Outstanding preservation project. It will be interesting to follow the progresss. Thank you for visiting Justice for Raymond.

  18. Thank you! We look forward to reading more of you blog! Our work has just begun and I still have so much more history to share!

  19. What a fascinating history! I bet you can feel it….

  20. Thank you! Yes you can feel it when you are there. It is all around you. From the long driveway to the house, from the views of the river and historic Port Royal across the river, to the walk through the house, to seeing the outbuildings. It’s just so hard to describe that feeling. I can just tell you and hope one day you will be able to come an experience it for yourself!

  21. Curls & Q Says:

    Love the history! We are genealogists so this is so interesting! We have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. Refer to our post for the instructions!

  22. Thank you! We have so much more history to share! Thank you so much for the nomination! We really appreciate it!

  23. Curls & Q Says:


  24. Perhaps you could self-publish a book about the plantation? Historians have pieced together the history of these FFV individuals to tell the story of early Virginia and all the digging you have done can be onerous if you try to do it for every plantation around.
    . I wonder if Fanny is related to the Lees (William Henry Lighthorse Harry Lee in particular). They would have lived nearby up the river I think.

    Also, why does ’Lightfoot’ follow Bernard in Sarah’s name? Dianne

  25. I have been asked that question about writing a book several times. I still need to fill in some holes in the history yet. Then maybe. I don’t think Fanny is related to the Lee Family. I will tell you that we do have a Lee that is contacted to the plantation, but I have not been able to contact him to Robert E. Lee… yet. Sarah Salvin Bernard married Phillip Lightfoot. Being that this portrait is of her in later life, I added her married name.

  26. kam Says:

    Thanks for sharing! Looks like the house in “Curious case of Benjamin Buttom.

  27. You know, I saw that movie, but don’t remember the house. I guess I need to watch it again.

  28. Love reading about the history of Belle Grove and wonderful historical post for Fathers Day. Look forward to more!

  29. Thank you! I am working on the next post. Coming soon!

  30. belocchio Says:

    I’m a history buff, and this is the most interesting blog I’ve come across. You are living a fabulous life. Virginia

  31. Thank you! I will have to go back to the beginning history next. We jumped about 120 years ahead! And the first family made a big mark on this house and country. By the way… have you seen Edward Bun lately?

  32. belocchio Says:

    I haven’t. But I understand that Oswald, Gentleman Rabbit, has taken him to London to see his tailor. Oswald so likes an elegantly dressed rabbit. Virginia

  33. I hope he knows a good tailor! You know you should so write a children’s book about their adventures! I would buy it for the plantation!

  34. belocchio Says:

    My Dear Friend,
    That is exactly what I am doing. After I wrote five chapters on my blog I received so many comments wanting to know all the scoop about dear Oswald that I started writing the book. But now that Edward Bun has come into the picture (and I had absolutely no idea this was going to happy), I realize as the Rabbit Record Keeper I am not entirely in control. Oh Joy.

  35. Enter new character… happens all the time! I think it is so cool!

  36. Lillie Says:

    How exciting that you have so many details about the history of this lovely house. I have a real fondness for old houses. I can almost hear the old footsteps and I usually feel some sort of ‘sighing’ when I’m lucky enough to visit one. Not at all surprised Hurley can sense something here! The more history, the more leftover energy hanging about. Thanks for a great Father’s Day post!

  37. Thank you! I have to say I had to cut this story a little in the interest of our blog readers. If you come to visit, you will have a chance to read the whole story! Yes, I know that there is some of the past still hangiing around the house. They let me know the first time we came to see it. 😉

  38. Very fascinating history! Thanks for sharing!

  39. Thank you! We have tons more to come!

  40. So fun to read. We don’t have history like that here in So. Calif.– thanks for the post.

  41. Thank you for stopping by! There is more to come!

  42. frogsview Says:

    Thanks for stopping by and ‘liking’ my blog posts! Have a great day. I like the content and photos on your blog as well!

  43. Thank you! We hope to you will stop by again! We look forward to seeing more of yours too!

  44. chrisstov Says:

    An interesting and fascinating history. Thank you.

  45. Thank you for following the story! It’s going to get better!

  46. Absolutely fascinating! You must feel like one of those History Detectives on PBS piecing together the story!

  47. I really do! Wait until you read about my adventure yesterday! It was really something!

  48. I have always wondered about those fathers of old — and maybe even some fathers of today — who had secret children outside of their traditional marriage.

  49. You know, I don’t think I will be able to find that part out. Most of that was keep hush-hush so its not in a written record. I would have to find out about it through family stories.