Seaton


Seaton, Halifax vicinity. This Gothic Revival cottage, set off by its scalloped dormer bargeboards and the crenellated parapet of its small front porch, was the creation of the Halifax master builder Josiah Dabbs. Seaton was completed in 1857 for William M. Howerton, son of tobacco entrepreneur Philip Howerton. The house illustrates the popularity of the Gothic style among the gentry just prior the Civil War.

A two-story wing was added in 1887. At the same time the parlor was remodeled with the installation of an early Jardine pipe organ salvaged from a local church and here framed by an ornate Moorish-style wooden screen. Preserved on the grounds are remnants of 19th century romantic landscaping as well as several early outbuildings, including a large 1887 carriage house. Seaton remains the home of Howerton descendants and assemblage of early decorations such as carpeting, curtains, and furnishings.

(41-50) VLR: 3/18/80: NRHP: 5/19/80


Seaton, a Halifax County landmark, is located off U. S. Route 501 just north of the city of South Boston. The wood-frame Gothic Revival structure was constructed by the builder Josiah Dabbs in 1856-57 and substantially enlarged by a 2 1/2 story addition and kitchen wing, in 1887. Erected for William Matthew Howerton the house remains in the family of the original owner and is in a remarkable state of preservation.

The house is set on a stone and brick foundation. Both the original and 1887 sections are covered by weatherboarding. Imbricated shingles are used on portions of the later section. A belt course runs above the first-story windows on the older section. Ornamental bargeboards embellish the house's eaves course. The main (west) elevation contains a one-story porch which has square paired posts, open-pointed arches, a lattice rail and a battlemented shed roof. Sheltered by the porch, the main entrance consists of a rectangular transom-light doorway that retains its original paneled double doors and louvred and screen outer doors. A secondary entrance is located on the south elevation and is contained within a hyphen that joins the main house to an 1887 kitchen. The original kitchen, situated east of the house, was converted into a section of the 1887 carriage shed. The house contains two exterior end chimneys: a three-course American bond chimney is located on the north wall of the original house and a seven-course American bond chimney is found on the south wall of the 1887 kitchen.

Fenestration on the older section consists of original 6/6 hung-sash windows flanked by louvred shutters. Fenestration on the 1887 section consists of geometrically patterned Queen Anne sash as well as 6/6 hung-sash windows. The windows on the 1887 facade are contained within a projecting bay and include colored panes on the attic story. A number of windows are flanked by louvred shutters. The earlier section is covered by a gabled roof broken by three dormers also ornamented with fancy bargeboards. The 1887 section is covered by a combination of hip and gable roof. Both roofs have ornamental cresting.

Seaton is distinguished by an exceptionally well-preserved interior. The furnishings were assembled during the 19th century and are positioned as they appear in a late 19th- century glass negative. The original central-hall plan was made asymmetrical by the 1887 addition. The hall is dominated by an open-well stair that ascends to the second floor. The stair has a square newel, rounded handrail and square balusters. All second-floor rooms retain their original pine flooring, and the first-floor rooms their 19th century carpeting and pine flooring. The walls and ceilings are plastered throughout the house. Doors and windows have simply executed surrounds. The first-and second-floor mantels are also simple in execution. In 1887 an ornate open-work wooden screen, Moorish in inspiration, was added as a divider in the parlor. About the same time a ca. 1830 Jardine pipe organ, removed from a church in Halifax, was installed in the house.

Seaton retains several 19th-century outbuildings. The carriage shed is located to the east (rear) of the house. The hip roof, wood-frame building was constructed in 1887 at the same time the kitchen was converted into a stable forming the east wall of the building. The structure is covered with weatherboarding and contains 6/6 hung-sash windows. A cupola breaks the roofline.

Seaton, a documented work of the Halifax master-carpenter Josiah Dabbs, is one of the best preserved mid-19th-century Gothic Revival cottages in Southside Virginia. Built in 1856-57 for William M. Howerton, the son of the tobacco entrepreneur Philip Howerton, the residence is an expression of the architectural taste of one of the county's leading families and illustrates the popularity of the Gothic style among cultivated people in the years just prior to the Civil War.

Enlarged in 1887, the house has remained in the builder's family to the present day. The effects of the first owner and each succeeding generation have remained on the property resulting in a great accumulation of material culture pertaining to 19th-century life in Halifax County. A well-landscaped, park-like setting contributes to the house's 19th-century appeal.

The first members of the Howerton family came to Halifax from Essex County 'in the late 18th century. They acquired considerable land and developed large plantations on the Dan River, Stokes Creek and Larsons Creek. Philip Howerton came to Halifax ca.1817 after services in the War of 1812, He became a landowner in 1828 when he purchased 522 1/2 acres and "Oatland." By 1850 he had increased his holdings by more than a thousand acres. As a large landowner he became interested in developing efficient farming methods. This is attested to by his purchase in 1830 and 1832 of patent rights to an "improved thrashing machine." in 1836 Howerton established a tobacco factory and later became a partner in the firm of Easley, Howerton & Co. in 1849 he bought out his shares and formed a partnership with his son, P. & W.M. Howerton Co.

William Matthew Howerton, the only son of Philip, was born in 1826 and educated at the University of North Carolina. By 1849 he became a partner in the tobacco factory of his father. Howerton was elected a member of the General Assembly in 1852 and founded a Halifax newspaper, The Virginian Echo in 1859. He was elected to represent Halifax county in the Congress of the Confederacy but never assumed the office. Howerton purchased two tracts of land in 1852 and 1855. The Land Tax Book of 1857 lists the building value of his tract as $1,500. In 1856 his tobacco factory was destroyed by fire soon after the addition of improvements valued at $2,200. This was a great loss to Howertan, and in April 1859 he conveyed to his father title to all of his property. At this time he was $3,000 in debt and was forced to secure a bond from his father. Howerton never assumed legal possession of his former lands and died in 1875 at the age of 49 years.

The house has remained in the possession of Howerton descendants and has undergone very ittle alteration. The major modification consisted of the addition of a 2 1/2-story wing and kitchen in 1887. Many of the original furnishings remain in the house and are complemented by later family purchases. Original 19th-century carpeting and curtains remain, as well Howerton family papers.


There Were No Tears At Seaton When Custer Died

By ANDEANE DOOLIN
8-17-67

Gen. George A. Custer, dubbed "yellowhair" by the Indians, once camped with a troop of his men in the front yard of "Seaton", the Wallace Moore home near Centerville just a few days after the Civil War ended, arousing the ire of the lady of the home, Mrs. William Mathew Howerton.

Mrs. Howerton was the grandmother of the present owners of Seaton, Mrs. J. Wallace Moore and Miss Adriana Webb, who have lived there all their lives. Steeped in family tradition and surrounded by family treasures, the two ladies can spin you a tale about their widespread family's doings that will keep you enthralled for hours.

Their grandfather, Capt. William M. Howerton of the 26th Virginia Regiment, CSA, built Seaton in 1852, moving there from his home, "Oakland", that Is now known as "Green's Folly"' and houses the Green's Folly Golf Club. Howerton married the former Adriana Tucker of Raleigh, N.C., and brought his gently-bred wife to Seaton, soon to leave her for the Civil War.

Left with two daughters, Mrs. Howerton ran the farm and looked after its management best as she could, and was left relatively unscathed by the war.

Unscathed, that is, until General Custer and his men arrived. Custer came with his regiment a few days after the war ended, and camped in the front yard until a rainstorm came up and forced him and some of his officers and war correspondants into Seaton's dining room.

Being a true Southern gentlewoman, Mrs. Howerton knew what to expect of the Yankee raiders, and marched into the dining room and collected all of the family silver in her skirt, much to Custer and his men's discomfort. She carried the silver outside and gave it to one of the trusted Negro slaves with instructions to "hide it well", and hide it he "did.

The clever servant sneaked out to the stable and moved 'Custer's private mount, lifted some of the boards in the stall, dug a hole underneath and buried the silver. He placed the boards back and spread straw on the floor and led Custer's horse back into the stall. Needless to say, the silver was never found by Custer and his men, and reposes on the dining room sideboard today.

Custer had brought a large herd of cattle with him, presumably to feed his troops as they marched, and they confiscated all of the Howerton's wheat and grain to feed them when they left. Mrs. Howerton asked Custer what did he think she was to use as feed for her own cattle, and Custer haughtily replied with a wide sweep of his arm, "Graze, Madam, graze."

A gentle, soft-spoken woman, family history has it that when Custer was reported killed by the Indians on the Battle Big Horn, Mrs. Howerton said that she was "not a bit disturbed," and looked somewhat satisfied at the wrong-doing gentleman's demise.

Her family said that this was the only time in her life that Mrs. Howerton was ever heard to say anything harsh about anyone.

Capt. Howerion died when he was 49, in 1874, and his wife carried him back to Raleigh to be interred in her family grave yard, and she is buried there, too.

One of her daughters, Harriett Eliza, married David Agustus Webb, and they lived at Seaton, and their two daughters were born there, and are now the present owners of Seaton.

Although Webb was born in Halifax County, his family lived primarily in England, and Mrs. Moore has a family portrait of one of her father's uncles, George Agustus Webb, who died in India.

One of the British soldiers captured in the last big battle in Calcutta, he perished along with hundreds of other people in Calcutta*s infamous "Black Hole," and his wife and family were also killed in India at the same time.

It is difficult to imagine a man with such a Byronistic look as a professional soldier. His portrait shows a man with dark, dreaming eyes, a broad brow topped with dark curls, and long, slender fingers of an artist or musician. His namesake and nephew, the present owners' father, David Agustus Webb, was an energetic man.

Scholar, teacher, musician and planter, he also collected things of great beauty and value. Webb helped organize the first Negro school and church in the county, and then helped teach.

A great lover of music, Webb had a huge pipe orgam that stretches all the way to the ceiling installed in his front parlour.

"He still couldn't get it all in the parlour" Mrs. Moore said, "There is a large piece with a cross on it that is supposed to go on top, but he didn't have room for it." Seaton, named for a college friend of their grandfather's, once had 12 rooms, but two of the dressing rooms have been converted to bathrooms.

The dining room boasts a Nathaniel Terry dining room table and chairs to seat 12 people, and Mrs. Moore said that the fifth generation of her family is now eating its meals from it.

"My grandsons have inherited my love for Seaton and its history, and they love it as much as I do, although Chip is dividing his love of history and family tradition with railroads." she said.

Chip is very proud of an old railroad bell he has on a post outside, and is equally proud of a railroad luggage wagon installed in the front yard.

However, railroads take back seat to his love of Seaton and its traditions.



This information is provided by The Virginia Department of Historic Resources
and is being republished here with the consent of
the Gazette-Virginian & the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.

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This page was last updated December 2, 2003.