Black Walnut District, Halifax County, Virginia
Riverview - The Conner Home
• The houses listed on this tour are private residences and are not open to the public.
CONNER HOME - The home of Mr. & Mrs. Frank Conner.

Halifax County Home Tours
Sunday, April 30, 1978

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Conner, located on route 616 at Watkins Bridge in the Mt. Laurel community, is one of two old homes featured on the annual tour sponsored by the Halifax Woman's Club. The following article on the house, once known as "Riverview", was written by Mrs. R.C. Edmunds.

The tour will be held Sunday, April 30, (1978) from 1:00 to 6:00 P.M. Tickets are $3.00.


When pretty Mary Garrett (Vest) was four years old, her mother, Maria Sims Garrett, died at "Giant Poplars" in Halifax, so she lived some years with her greataunt, Mary Bailey, on Maple Avenue, and then with her father and stepmother at "Chester" near Clover Depot. Many of her Clark relatives had lived at the other John Coleman "Chester."

As the 25 year-old widow Vest with two Vest children, she had charmed the dairy-writer and teacher at "Banister Lodge," Anne Nelson Page, who noted that she was also charming the slightly older Tucker C. Watkins Sr. Her great-uncle and step-grandfather, Reverend John Thomas Clark, performed the ceremony when she married Vest, and he did so now for her wedding to Watkins.

Since the minister after the war had to sell part of his vast lands, he sold them the next plantation to his own on the Watkins Bridge Road on March 24, 1881 on Route 616, This was east of Clover on the Clark's Ferry Road and also Mount Laurel Road, as it was called, 610 1/2 acres for $666.00. There was a deed of trust on 400 acres in 1883. The Watkinses themselves owned vast lands, he from his bachelor uncle, Thomas Watkins, joining this, and she from her Sims heiress mother, Maria.

They built a big hospitable home, utilizing a marble mantel from the Garrett "Chester" (a grandson, Dr. William R. Watkins, in South Boston). They were hospitable to the motherless descendants of Maria, who lived near Jacksonville, Florida, making home for them for years at a time. Theirs was a selfsustaining plantation. Shoes, leather, clothes, cloth of wool or cotton, were made on the 3,600 acres, and red meat, poultry meat, vegetables, fruit, lard, soap, pickles, preserves, meal, flour, etc., were produced without going to market. In spite of their lands, we find the Watkinses buying from Charies Finch, owner of the Coleman's "Chester" in World War I times.

Led by the Cheneys in 1911, urbane Chicago people were settling in Charlotte County. In 1923 Mrs. Sam Holmes (Eleanor) bought the next plantation to the Watkins one, building a long log bungalo in 1928. In 1918 Russell Jones bought one-third of the John Randolph "Roanoke" plantation in Charlotte, where he lived until he built a new house in Halifax a decade ago and where he presently resides, alert and informative at 96 years of age in 1978. He arranged the sale of "Kenmore" to a triumvirate of Chicago friends, the lawyer Sam Holmes, Ralph Bard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy in World War II times under Secretary Frank Knox, and Fred Preston, who did not live long to enjoy their, "Hunting Creek" corporation, as it was named.

They established their "Half-In Club" (a poker term) to which Washington and Chocago celebrities flocked. Raleigh Warner Sr., father of the present Chairman of the Board of Mobil oil Company, came, and Secretary Knox came three or more times a year.

Sam Holmes and Company were grantees December 22, 1941, of one-third interest in 3,600 acres. Timber was sold to Spencer Lumber Company, July 31 1943. Eleanor S. Holmes and Company on January 10, 1944, sold some land to Mary Speer Bard, partition, says Deed Book 167, Page 432, 3,600 acres, less 664 on 676 acres. Fred C. Preston gave deed of quitclaim to Mrs. Bard of same November 20, 1943.

Ralph Bard, as one of the few who were aware of the atom bomb plan, was interviewed by Time magazine 20 years later. Did he have regrets?

Ralph A. Bard had order from USA of 2,648.31 acres August 1. 1958, said Deed Book 274, page 98. He and Holmes divided the property, Holmes having about 680 acres south of Watkins Bridge, and Bard the rest. He bought 60 acres March 23, 1961, for $6,000 from the corporation, said Deed Book 291, page 442. He and Mary lived there a while. Will Book 50,, page 74, gives her will.

Fanny and Franklin Tucker Conner had bought 4.15 and .05 acres from Bard and Company January 29, 1954. They had land from the B.L. Connor estate June 4, 1958. They bought 70.01 acres from Bard and his second wife, Mayde, on April 25, 1962, says Deed Book 299, page 368, the house furnished for $21,185.00. Land which is now about 80 acres was part of the 2,487 - acre plantation. It went west 65l feet, north 5.10 and 435 feet and northeast 798 feet to the mouth of Hunting Creek on Staunton River, 3,030 feet to Watkins Bridge, then south on Route 746 a distance of 900 feet to intersection of Route 746 and Route 616. Mailbox is on latter road.

The Bard and Holmes couples enjoyed the Chicago friends who had come this way to Charlotte County, led by the Cheneys in 1911. Several local Charlotte ladies, Mrs. Titsworth of "Roanoke" plantation , & Miss Elise Clark of "Clarkton" joined the Halifax County Garden Club in the 1950's. Mrs. Titsworth and Mrs. Holmes opened their homes for a tour. Mrs. Holmes' huge Oriental rugs and museum quality oil paintings seemed amazing in her log house. The log house was used by the Circle Bar-B Ranch until destroyed by fire a couple of years ago. It is a riding camp for young people conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Warren Bowen, who live in the remaining log cabin. The camp began in 1970.

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