Turners Period Ends at Belle Grove

Nov. 8th 2012

Well the past three days have been somewhat of an odyssey. As I started to prepare the next chapter of Belle Grove’s history, little did I know that I would run into so many road blocks. You would think that as we got closer to the present time, information would be easier to come by. But that doesn’t seem like the case with Belle Grove’s history. I was able to find more from the 1670 – 1860’s than I have been from the 1860’s to the present. And what is so amazing its that I know that records during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were destroyed or lost. But at least we are capturing what we can before it is lost to time.

Before our “working vacation”, we had last posted about the letter requesting amnesty to President Johnson from Carolinus Turner for his role in the Civil War. From this letter we found out that Carolinus Turner’s wife, Susan August Rose Turner had an uncle, Captain William Jameson that had served in the U.S. Navy during the war. Since then I have found out that she also had two brothers that served in the Civil War, Alexander Rose, her older brother and Dr. William Rose, her younger brother. Both served in the war and both were killed. I haven’t been able to find out which side they served on yet.

Carolinus and Susan would live at Belle Grove and have five children, Caroline “Carrie” M. Turner, Anna August Turner, George Turner, their only son, Susan Rose Turner, and Alice Pratt Turner.

Carrie Turner would marry Dr. William N. Jett in 1874. Dr. Jett was a widower with six children from his first wife, Virginia Mitchell. Dr. Jett and Carrie would have their own child, George Turner Jett in 1876. Dr. Jett, Carrie and Virginia Mitchell and three of Dr. Jett’s and Virginia’s children are buried at Emmanuel Episcopal Church located just as you enter Belle Grove Plantation.

Caroline “Carrie” M. Turner
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Dr. William Jett
Husband of Caroline “Carrie” Turner
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Anna Turner would marry Captain Robert L. Robb in 1869. They would have five children. Here is a note on Robert Robb. His mother, Frances Bernard Lightfoot was the daughter of Sarah “Sallie” Bernard Lightfoot, daughter of Frances Hipkins Bernard for whom the current mansion at Belle Grove was built for. One of their children, Carolinus Turner Robb would pass away just under two years old. Anna Turner Robb is also buried at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Sarah “Sallie” Bernard Lightfoot
Daughter of Frances “Fannie” Hipkins Bernard
Grandmother of Robert Robb

George Turner would marry Jane Murphy McGuire in 1876. They would have nine children. George and Jane are also buried at Emmanuel Episcopal Church along with their son Edward McGuire Turner and daughter Susan Rose Carter Turner Mitchell.

George Turner and Jane McGuire Turner
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Alice Pratt Turner would marry George B. Matthews in 1875. They would have one daughter, Alice T. Matthews.

Susan Rose Turner would marry Frederick Campbell Stewart Hunter in 1874. Frederick was a lawyer in King George and would go on to become a county judge in 1880s. They would have three children, son Frederick Campbell Stewart Hunter, daughter Caroline C. Hunter and son Thomas Lomax Hunter. Thomas would grow up to do some wonderful things in his life. He would attend William and Mary College in Williamsburg and Georgetown University. In 1908 he would pass the Virginia bar and work as a lawyer in King George, Virginia. In 1929, he started writing a column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch called “As It Appears to the Cavalier”. He would write this column until his death in 1948. He also published a book called “Columns from the Cavalier” in 1935. He would serve as a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates for King George from 1918 to 1920. During World War I, he would serve as a food administrator for King George. He was given the honor as Poet Laureate of Virginia in 1948.

Thomas Lomax Hunter
Grandson of Carolinus and Susan Turner

All three of Susan and Frederick’s children were born at Belle Grove Plantation. None of the Hunter family is buried at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. From what I have put together Susan and Frederick lived at Belle Grove with her parent from the time they were married.

In 1876, Carolinus Turner would pass away at the age of 64. He would pass away from consumption. Consumption is just another term for tuberculosis. Thanks to one of our readers, I now have a copy of Carolinus Turner’s obituary that appeared in the Alexandria Gazette on December 19, 1876 that was reprinted from the Fredericksburg Herald:


The many friends of Carolinus Turner, of King George Co., will regret to learn of his death, which occurred on Monday last at his home in that county. Mr. Turner was a large landholder, and previous to the war, owned a great many servants. He was a gentleman of excellent education, and commanded the respect and esteem of a large circle of friends.”

After the death of Carolinus Turner, it seems that Susan, his wife moved from Belle Grove to one of their other properties. From a Federal Census in 1880, I found her living alone as a widow in King George with just one laborer and one servant.

Carolinus Turner
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

At his death, Carolinus was buried at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. The land for this church was donated in 1860 by Carolinus. Just in front of his grave is also the grave of Susan Turner’s mother, Anna August Rose who passed away in 1853. Susan Turner, wife of Carolinus Turner would pass away in 1891. However, she is not buried with Carolinus or her mother. I have not been able to find where she is buried at yet.

Anna August Rose
Mother of Susan Turner
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

One note on the Church: From the deed record I recently found from the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center, when Port Conway was established there was a previous church area listed on the deed. It makes me wonder if Emmanuel was raised over a previous church site that already had a cemetery attached to it. This would explain why Anna Rose was buried there in 1853 before Emmanuel Episcopal was built in 1860.

I have not been able to find a will for Carolinus Turner. As prominent as he was, I don’t think he would have died without one. But at this time, we don’t have a copy of one. I do know that Belle Grove was passed to Susan and her husband Frederick.  They would live at Belle Grove until 1893.

There is also a court case in which a property called “Smith Mount” in Westmoreland County was said to have been given to George Turner Jett by Carolinus Turner. In this case dated 1895 between William N. Jett, Guardian  verse George Turner Jett it states that Susan Turner give to William Jett in 1878 a lot in Port Conway that had a house on it. It was for the use and benefit of Caroline M. Jett, his wife during her life and then for the benefit of Dr. Jett. It was to be given to  whoever Caroline designated by deed or will of Caroline. However Caroline died without a will in 1883, leaving one child, George Turner Jett who was now 20 years old. His only property was “Smith Mount” given to him by his grandfather Carolinus Turner. It states that the Port Conway lot is small and more suitable for a businessman. Dr. Jett at that time lived 18 miles from “Smith Mount” and wants to sell it. (I am not sure if that means Dr. Jett wants to sell “Smith Mount” or the lot at Port Conway) But George Jett is a minor. It then lists George Jett as a defendant. My guess would be that Dr. Jett wants to sell “Smith Mount” and wants George to move to Port Conway. But it looks like George doesn’t want to do so. I don’t know the outcome of this case yet.

One more note on George Turner Jett. I have found his name listed on a college catalog for William and Mary College for the session between 1991 and 1992. At the time, George would have been 15 or 16 years old. It doesn’t say if he graduated or not.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 50 Comments »

Eyewitness to History

Sep. 5th 2012

At the end of the Civil War, Belle Grove once again was involved in another important piece of American history. General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1965. Most consider this the end of the Civil War even though there were still Confederate forces in the field until June 23, 1865 when the last major fighting occurred. On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln. This event set off one of the most famous chases in history.

John Wilkes Booth

David Harold

John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirator, David Harold spent 12 days on the run traveling through Maryland and Virginia. On April 24th, ten days after the assassination, Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty, leader of the 16th New York Cavalry Regiment received orders to assemble a detachment of twenty-five men and report to Colonel Lafayette C. Baker, Agent of the Department of War who was accompanied by two detectives for the intelligence service; Luther Baker, cousin of Colonel Baker and Everton J. Conger. Everton Conger had been a Lieutenant Colonel for the Union and had suffered three severe wounds during combat. He had been assigned to detached duty in Washington D.C. joining Colonel Baker’s intelligence service. This intelligence service would later become the Secret Service we know today.

Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty

Colonel Lafayette C. Baker

Everton J. Conger

In my research of this pursuit, I have read many accounts of what happened. But just recently I have come across an account that has not received much attention. This account is from a Private who was involved in the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth. In reading his account, he has given me a much better view of the timeline that this detachment spent at Belle Grove. The account I am sharing with you comes from the Portland Journal newspaper by reporter Fred Lockley in three separate installments in early February, 1937. This Private was named John W. Millington. Private Millington was born at Chestertown, N.Y., and enlisted in Company E, 93rd New York volunteer infantry, on December 3, 1861, when he was 18 years old.

Private John W. Millington


“On the morning of April 15, 1865, I was on guard, when news came that President Lincoln had been shot at Ford’s theatre.” wrote Millington. “We were ordered to form part of a cordon to prevent the assassin from escaping. Our company was deployed through the brush. It was a chilly day and a cold rain was falling. A few days later we were ordered to Washington, where we served as an escort at Lincoln’s funeral. We were held in Washington, quartered in the J street barracks. On April 24 I returned from a patrol and put my horse into the stable, leaving him saddled, and fed him and went to the barracks to get something to eat. Before I had finished eating, “boots and saddles” was sounded and there was a rush to the stables. We were ordered to fall in as fast as we led out, disregarding company formation. As my horse was already saddled, I slipped on his bridle, led him out of the stable and mounted. I was next on the left of the sergeant. We were ordered to count off in fours. We went to Pennsylvania Avenue and out 14th street about opposite the old Willard hotel. We halted just in front of the office of Colonel Baker, chief of government detectives and scouts. Our lieutenant, Dougherty, reported, and in a few moments he and two detectives, Lieutenants Conger and Barker, came out and mounted, and the order to march was given. We rode to the wharf of the navy yard, on the east branch of the Potomac, or the Anacostia River, where we took the steamer John S. Ide and started down the Potomac.

Navy Yard Bridge

Lieutenant Dougherty showed us a photograph of Booth and told us he had crossed the Potomac near Port Tobacco.” “We arrived at Acquia Creek and went ashore about 10 o’clock that night. We started scouting through the country, searching all houses and buildings, routing out the inmates and making a thorough search. Next morning early we met some men who had been fishing. They said that a closed hack had passed a few days before, with two men in it. A Confederate captain was in charge, who warned them not to come near. They thought one of the men in the carriage resembled the photograph that we showed them of Booth. We were then on the road to the Rappahannock, toward Port Conway, where we arrived about 2 0’clock. We had not eaten since leaving Washington, so we were told to fall out and rustle some rations. When I returned, with four comrades, we saw some of our company crossing the river in a scow about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide.

Port Conway Ferry House and Post Office (1925)

This ferryboat could hold 10 men with horses, at a trip. In our turn we crossed the river. Mr. Rowlen, owner of the ferry, said he had ferried a carriage a few days previously, and that Captain Jett, formerly of Mosby’s command, was in charge. He believed we would be apt to find him near Bowling Green, about 15 miles from Port Royal, and he volunteered to guide us. Our command was across the river by 4pm and we started. We had traveled about three miles and were approaching the Garrett farm, when we met a man on horseback, who turned and fled. Some of our men pursued, but he escaped in the young pines and as it was nearly dusk he escaped. We arrived at Bowling Green at 11 o’clock that night. We left our horses, with every fourth man counted out to hold the horses. We surrounded the hotel, where we captured Captain Jett. At first he refused to tell us where he had left the two men, but after some forcible persuasion he agreed to show us. He said he didn’t know who they were, except that they were Confederate soldiers who had got into trouble in Maryland and wanted to hide out until the trouble had blown over.”

William Storke Jett


“The ferryman at the Rappahannock told us that Captain Jett of Mosby’s command had crossed with two men in a closed carriage a few days before. Our company arrived at Bowling Green about 11 o’clock that night. We surrounded the hotel and captured Jett, who, after forcible persuasion, agreed to guide us to where the two men were. He said they were Confederate soldiers hiding out on account of some trouble they had got into. He led us back on the road by which we had come, to within about three miles of Port Royal. He pointed out a house some distance from the road.

Garrett’s Farm

We opened the gate carefully and, after surrounding the house, knocked at the door. Garrett came to the door. Asked where the two men were, he said “I know nothing about any men being here.” Our officer said to a trooper, “Untie your picket rope. We’ll hang the old man and see if it will refresh his memory.” “A young man ran from the direction of an outbuilding and asked, “What do you men want?” Our officer said, “We want the two men who are stopping here and at once.” He said, “They’re in the barn.” Part of our company was detailed to surround the barn and part to surround the house. I was with the party sent to the barn. Our lieutenant, who heard some whispering in the barn, called, “Come out at once.” One of the men inside the barn asked, “Who are you?” Our officer said, “It doesn’t make any difference who we are, but we know who you are. You had better come out at once.” “The man in the barn who had done the talking was the man we were after – Booth. He refused to come out. He said, “If you will withdraw your men 30 rods, I will come out and we’ll shoot it out.” We could hear Booth accusing the man who was with him, David E. Harold, of being a coward. Harold was willing to surrender and Booth said, “You’re a coward to desert me.”

David Harold Captured

Finally, Booth called out and said, “Harold will surrender, but I will not.” Our captain said, “Tell Harold to pass out his arms and come out.” Booth said, “Harold has no arms. They belong to me.” “Our officer told Harold to come to the door. He came and as he opened the door Lieutenant Dougherty grabbed him and pulled him out. With a picket rope he tied him to a locust tree, called me and told me to guard him. I said to Harold, “Who was in the barn with you? Was it Booth?” He said, “Yes, Booth is in the barn.” and he added, “Booth told me, when he asked me to help him, that he was going to kidnap Lincoln: he didn’t tell me he was going to kill him.” I said, “When you learned that Booth had killed Lincoln, why did you help him to escape?” Harold said, “Booth threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him get away. Booth came out of the rear of the theatre immediately after shooting Lincoln and we went to Dr. Mudd’s home. After Dr. Mudd had set Booth’s leg we went to Port Tobacco and hid that day. That night we got a fisherman to take us over the river into Virginia. It was so rough that the fisherman said it was unsafe, but Booth told him we had to cross at once and he would kill him if he didn’t take us.” “Once more the officer summoned Booth to surrender. Booth responded, “I’ll fight you single handed, but I’ll never surrender.” Detective Conger went to the opposite side of the barn and lit some loose straw under the sill. I heard a shot and a moment later saw the door was open. Booth had been shot through the neck. They brought him out, carried him to the Garrett house and put him on the porch.

John Wilkes Booth dies on Garrett’s front porch

A soldier was sent to Port Royal for a doctor, who arrived about daylight. Meanwhile, the barn had burned down and some of the men were hunting in the ruins for relics. They found two revolvers and one of our boys got Booth’s carbine. The revolvers were spoiled by the fire. Booth lived about three hours. He was wrapped in a government blanket, his body was placed in a old wagon and a Negro drove the rig to Acquia Creek, which we reached at dusk.”

John Wilkes Booth’s body on the Monitor


“Booth’s body, wrapped in a government blanket, was placed in a wagon, which was driven by a Negro,” Millington wrote. “When Booth was carried from the barn to the porch he was unconscious, but presently came to, and when a doctor who had been called tried to give him some medicine, he shook his head and said it was useless. Booth then added, “Tell my mother that what I did I did for the good of the country.” “The two Garrett boys had returned home shortly before we got there. They had been with Mosby’s command. One of them had a young wife and there was a tearful scene when our officer told the boys they would have to go to Washington with us. Captain Jett was allowed to escape. I understood at the time that if he guided us to Booth and Harold he would not be held.” “When we arrived at Acquia Creek we went aboard a vessel. I was ordered to stay in the cabin and guard Harold. Another trooper was stationed outside the door. Harold was soon sound asleep on the floor. When I was relieved, I was cold, as I had no overcoat, so I went below and lay down near the boiler and slept until we arrived near one of the monitors at Washington. After we were made fast, the lieutenant ordered me to help carry Booth’s body aboard the monitor. We laid his body on the deck. I was tired and hungry and much more interested in getting to barracks for a good meal and a good sleep than knowing what was to become of Harold and Booth’s body. I stabled my horse and went at once to my bunk. When I awoke, about 10 o’clock, the papers had long articles about the killing of Booth and the capture of Harold.”

In the account, Private Millington wrote “We were then on the road to the Rappahannock, toward Port Conway, where we arrived about 2 0’clock. We had not eaten since leaving Washington, so we were told to fall out and rustle some rations.” This statement confirms the information I had uncovered that the detachment had made a stop at Belle Grove. In my information, the detachment had split up in King George to form to search parties. It was at Port Conway and Belle Grove that they met back up. My information stated that half of the detachment had gone to another plantation (most likely Walsingham Plantation) and the other half had come to Belle Grove. Everton Conger was with the detachment at Belle Grove. Due to his severe wounds that he had received during the Civil War, traveling on horseback had taken a toll on Lieutenant Conger. He was allowed to sleep in the main hallway at Belle Grove.

Site of Garrett’s Farm
No house or farm remains, just woods

It wasn’t until I read this account that I knew for sure the amount of time they spent here. From the account, it looks as if they were in Port Conway for about 2 hours. More than likely Everton Conger was one of the last to leave Port Conway, allowing him time to rest.

View of where Port Conway Ferry should have been

The ferry that Private Millington spoke about is the ferry located at Port Conway. I am still doing research on the ferry owner, Rowlen. I am not sure if that is the correct spelling or not yet. But I do know that where the ferry was at Port Conway is now a wooded area about 100 yards up river from the present day James Madison Bridge. Thanks to Carolinus Turner, that location is now part of Belle Grove Plantation.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 16 Comments »

The Little Country Church

Jul. 23rd 2012

During the time that Carolinus Turner owned Belle Grove Plantation; he started slowly acquiring the half acre lots of Port Conway and returned them to the property of Belle Grove Plantation. He did however; donate a one acre lot to the local parrish to build a small church on. This church would become Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Before 1859, church parishioners had to take the ferry across the Rappahannock River to attend St. Peter’s Church in Port Royal or travel to St. Paul’s in Owens. After 1843, they also could attend St. John’s in King George. Carolinus Turner, owner of Belle Grove Plantation donated a one acre lot of Port Conway to build a church for the local population.

St Peter’s Church
Port Royal

The church was thought to be designed by a Baltimore design firm, architects Nierness and Neilson. J. Crawford Neilson and John R. Nierness were known to have designed other churches in Virginia in a Gothic style similar to Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

J. Crawford Neilson was born in Baltimore in 1817 and studied civil engineering in Brussels, Belgium and established his practice in the United States. John R. Nierness came to Baltimore from Vienna, Austria, where he attended Vienna Polytechnic. In 1848, Neilson and Nierness entered into a partnership.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church is constructed of stretcher-bond brick and has a gable roof. The front of the church is dominated by a 2-story entrance tower. The principal entrance is set with an equilateral arch consisting of paneled double doors topped by a wheel –like motif transom. The windows are elongated pointed arches. There are two windows that face the front and two on each side of the building. There is a basement entrance is located outside of the building on the south wall.

The interior of the church is painted white, but is thought to have had an original decorative paint scheme. There is a central aisle that is flanked by wooden pews that are painted white. These pews have a Gothic ends and are thought to have been varnished and later painted white. The front of the church has a raised sanctuary where the recessed altar is framed by an arch. This part of the interior is thought to date to the 1960s. There is a Gothic style wainscot running along the west wall.

Interior of St Peter’s Church – Port Royal
Emmanuel’s Interior is very similar.

At the back of the church there is a gallery with additional seating. This gallery also contains the original Henry Erban organ which is housed in a Gothic Revival style case. The room is illuminated by a brass pseudo-colonial chandelier.

St Peter’s gallery and organ.
Emmanuel’s interior is very similar.

The side and back section of the church yard contains grave sites that date back to 1800s. The oldest grave site is that of Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner. Their tombstone, which dates to 1751, was moved from its original location to the church. Their bodies were not moved with their tombstones and remains in an unknown location. Notable families that are buried within this small cemetery are the Turners, Strothers, Robbs, Jetts, and Hooker Families. Most of these family members were born, lived or died at Belle Grove Plantation. The exception would be that of the Strother Family. This family was from the Milbank Plantation that is next door to Belle Grove Plantation.

Tombstone of Maj Henry Turner 1731 and Elizabeth Turner 1752
The stone was moved, but not the remains.

Tombstone of Maj Henry Turner 1731 and Elizabeth Turner 1752
English Symbol

Tombstone of Carolinus Turner – Owner of Belle Grove Plantation (1839-1876)

Tombstone of Caroline “Carrie” Turner Jett
Daughter of Carolinus and Susan Rose Turner
Wife of Dr. William Jett
It is her etching in the window upstairs at Belle Grove

Tombstone of George Turner and his wife Jane
Only son of Carolinus and Susan Rose Turner

Tombstone of John Palmer Hooker
Owner of Belle Grove Plantation (1930-1974)

Tombstone of Mary Ensley Murrell Hooker
Wife of John Palmer Hooker
She was the last resident of Belle Grove Plantation (1981)

Tombstone of John Hooker (1929)
Infant son of John Palmer and Mary Hooker
He is the youngest grave in the cemetery

There is one monument other than Major Henry and Elizabeth Turner tombstones that represents a family that is not buried in this cemetery. This monument is the Hipkins-Bernard monument. It is a six foot obelisk that has the date of 1849 and the name J.H. Bernard on it. It also has a plaque that was added in 1983 that states that this monument was once located on Belle Grove Plantation. It was to mark the unmarked grave site of John Hipkins, Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins, Frances “Fannie” Hipkins Bernard, Eliza Bernard, William Bernard II and five of William’s infant children.

Tombstone Monunment for the Hipkins – Bernard Family
The remains of this family are not located in the cemetery

Plaque for the Hipkins-Bernard Monument – There is a mystery here!

The church is surrounded by a brick wall that was erected sometime in the 1960s. The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

View from the entry of Belle Grove Plantation

In 1861, the Reverend Alexander Shiras was rector for both St. John’s Church in King George and Emmanuel Episcopal Church. During 1862, he reported the following:

“The war borne somewhat heavily upon the Parish (Hanover Parish), scattering its families, carrying off its young men and almost dissolving the congregation. Regular services were steadily kept up and others held for the soldiers occasionally stationed in the neighborhood.”

The area of Port Conway and Port Royal saw many struggles between the Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Most homes were either destroyed or damaged. Churches would also see the same fate. Emmanuel Episcopal Church somehow managed to survive. That is a story that has been handed down as to the fate of this small country church.

During the Civil War, when Port Conway was occupied by Union forces, a soldier walked into Emmanuel Church and sat down at the organ. The building had seen some damage from shots fired at it. The soldier started playing the organ. It warmed his heart and made him homesick for his church back home. He was so moved by it that he convinced the other soldiers not to destroy Emmanuel Episcopal Church. This sweet, little country church was spared and was repaired after the war.

The Reverend Henry Wall, who became the rector in September of 1865, reported the following:

“Emmanuel Church at Port Conway was now fit for occupation. It has been repaired by aid of the liberality of kind friends of the Church in Baltimore and New York and my personal friends of the subscriber in Alexandria.”

Today, Emmanuel Episcopal Church still holds services every 3rd Sunday of the month.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 42 Comments »