St. Tammany Farm is north of Highway 903 (the River Road), on state Rte. 617 (Old St. Tammany Road), Bracey, (Mecklenburg County), Virginia. Its eastern boundary is the abandoned bed of the Seaboard Railroad; its western is Parhams Creek. It is intersected, north and south, by both Rte. 617 and I-85. St. Tammany Farm acquired its present identification in the 1950s, when then-owners Carstairs and Verna Bracey christened it in honor of the old town of St. Tammany as well as for the ancient St. Tammany Road, which ran through the property.
The incorporated town of St. Tammany (1792) was the predecessor of the unincorporated post office and railroad station of Bracey.
Use of the land at St. Tammany Farm predates recorded history. Artifacts of Native Americans have long been found in freshly plowed fields, especially in areas close to springs feeding into Heweys Creek, which runs east to west through the farm. One of those springs is under the bed of the railroad.
In 1754 Humphrey Hewey acquired by grant from the king 400 acres in what was then Lunenburg County (present Mecklenburg County), adjoining his own land and “Jones’s Line,” on the Mill Branch of Parhams Creek.
Probably the Mill Branch was what soon became known as Heweys Creek, which does flow into Parhams Creek. More than 100 years later, about 1870, when Mont Bracey built a large mill, with a high dam, on Heweys Creek, it was still known that there had been an older, smaller mill, with a smaller dam, on the creek, the owner of which was said to have been Humphrey Hewey. Was Hewey’s the mill that had already, by 1754, given the stream its name of Mill Branch? Or had there been a mill there that predated even his?
And when was the first permanent residence occupied on that property? In the twentieth century there was still evidence of an early homesite on the south side of Heweys Creek, near a spring and east of Mont Bracey’s mill site. As with so many sites of old homes in the rural southside Virginia landscape, at least one oak grew near the house, and outlasted any buildings. About 1955–1960 an outbuilding was moved from under the giant oak of that homesite, and relocated north, to join other outbuildings around the “newer” house. Some time after 1970 that giant oak fell.
But despite Hewey’s name being tied to that creek and despite the story of his mill, apparently he wasn’t the one who owned what became St. Tammany Farm. That was Theophilus Feild/Field, of Prince George County. In 1748 Feild was granted 1,304 acres on “the Lower [east] side of Parham’s Creek.”
During Feild’s ownership flax was apparently grown on the farm. There were two known retting ponds.
In May 1826 Theophilus Field, son of Theophilus Field of Prince George, and his wife, Louisa R. Field, sold 616 acres to brothers Charles and Wright King, for $2,400. The place was then known as “Field’s” and continued to be so known during the Kings’ ownership. Those 616 acres were part of the tract patented by the elder Field. The land was on Parhams Creek and bounded by the lands of Thomas Walker, land called Temple and by the creek, west of which were the lands of Henry Walker and the late Colonel Samuel Goode. [Mecklenburg County, VA, Deed Book 22, p. 102]
In 1827 William Hogan, of St. Tammany, was employed by Charles King to build a house on that plantation, and Hogan worked on the house in 1828 and part of 1829. Both Charles and Wright supervised. One of those who participated in the construction was Gloucester, a slave of Charles King, whom King had bought from William B. Jones [great-grandfather of Pattie Lambert Bracey, a future resident of the house]. According to Zach Jones, son of William B., Charles King had stated that he had become attached to Gloucester, “from the fact that he had been acquainted with his family of negroes” [Deposition of Zachariah Jones, Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA, located in The Library of Virginia] and had decided to keep Gloucester for himself. [Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA, located in The Library of Virginia]
And although Charles and Wright owned the land (and house) jointly, Charles King and his family lived at the house.
Hogan’s bill for the job of building the house was “upwards of six hundred dollars.” [Deposition of William Hogan, March 8, 1854, in Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA]
The house was built on a flat area north and uphill from Heweys Creek and uphill from a spring on its north. To the west and east the land rose. The house faced east. At least between the house and the St. Tammany Road were oak trees, which with the passage of the years grew quite large. Only two remain now.
The house Hogan and his crew built for King was a three-bay frame structure on a fieldstone foundation. It was two rooms wide, one room deep, two full stories with a full, finished attic. It had two exterior brick end chimneys. At the back was a one-story “shed.” At least the four rooms of the main part of the house had quality wainscoting and mantles. The original front door opened into the larger northern room. From that room a step led to the door of an enclosed stairway that turned and went up to a second-floor door. Above that another enclosed stairway led to the floored attic. The house possibly had a front porch.
Also on the plantation at that time were a kitchen (a separate, log building), at a right angle south and just west (i.e., behind) the house, and a smokehouse, also at a right angle to the house, south and just east. An estimate made twenty years later placed the value of all the buildings, when new, at three to four thousand dollars.
Later Benjamin H. Bass, a house carpenter originally from Brunswick County, did extensive work for King at the plantation. He probably built the granary (originally south and east of the smokehouse), barns, and many other buildings.
Some work was done on the interior of the house in 1832. In that same year William B. King (probably born circa 1805), then the overseer, built a barn on the plantation. Somewhere on the farm lived Samuel Walker or Waller, a partner with Wright and Charles King in the cultivation of the plantation. For a time, Gloucester (mentioned above) was working under Walker. Apparently Gloucester was still in Charles King’s possession, and still working on that farm, at the time of King’s death. [Deposition of Zachariah Jones, Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA]
In 1833 Richard R. King was the overseer. Under his care were Jacob, Ned (hired from Mrs. Shaw), Gloucester, Ned, Pully, Hampton, Daniel, Phillis, and Eliza. In that year Charles King had some stables built and some more work done on the dwelling, which he “finished … in good plain manner.” [Deposition of Richard R. King, Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA]
In 1850 John Cleaton, 22, was the overseer.
Charles King and his brother Wright were partners, both in farming their jointly held lands and from about 1823 to 1834 in the trading of slaves at least as far south as South Carolina and Georgia. In the spring of 1827 Charles and Wright King and James L. Wright made a selling trip south. In 1828 both Charles and Wright attended the Major Taylor sale and purchased slaves, whom they presumably then traded. In 1830 Charles King went south to sell slaves. [Deposition of Green Blanton, Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA] On 7 January 1831 a sale of slaves took place at Major James Harwell’s. In the fall of 1832 Charles King made a selling trip to the south; he returned in February 1833. [Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA]
Charles King was also a money lender.
The slaves owned jointly by the brothers, at least in the late 1840s, were: Ned, Jacob (died 1849), George (died 1849), Isham, Eliza, and eight children: Anderson, Angy, Peter, Sam, Archer, Buck, Tom, and Lily. Apparently Charles had possession of all but Isham, who was with Wright King. [Chancery Suits, File 63, Mecklenburg County, VA] In the slave schedules of the 1850 census, Charles King had a total of 24 slaves; Wright King, 21.
Charles King was born about 1782 or 1783. He married twice. He and his family apparently moved to the new house about 1832. And he died there, in February 1853. A known daughter was Sally Ann, who married Mansfield R. Seymour about 1831. They lived with Charles, at the new house, in 1834 and 1835, leaving on 3 January 1836, at which time, while Charles King was two miles north, at George Rogers’s store, Seymour took with him two slaves girls, Agnes and Martha, without King’s permission.
Other apparent children were Peter M. (probably born circa 1818), Caledonia (born about 1840; married Lewis Kelly before 1856; in 1870 they were living in Belfield [Emporia], VA) [1870 U.S. census, Mecklenburg County, VA], and Malvina V. (born about 1838; married David A. Harmon, a miller, before 1856; in 1860 and 1870 they were living in Dinwiddie County, VA. [1860 U.S. census, Dinwiddie County, VA, Revenue District 2, p. 33; 1870 U.S. census, Dinwiddie County, VA, District 2, p. 96.])
In late 1855 the buildings on the farm were valued: the granary, $150; the weaving house [location not known for certain], $50; the work house [location not known for certain], 430; the kitchen, $60; the overseer’s house [location not known], $30; the smokehouse, $25; eight tobacco barns [located north of the house, near the property line], $150; corn crib, $30; carriage house, $20; and improvement to the dwelling [which I think means that was the value of the dwelling], $255.
Subsequent to King’s death, his executor, neighbor Samuel H. Goode, rented out the property, to Hugh Davis (“Ball”) Bracey, second son of Pascal (“Peter”) Bracey (who lived about a mile to the north). The rent was $150 a year. Hugh, wife Frances, and daughters Cora (born circa 1854) and Florence (born circa 1856) lived at the house from at least 1855 to at least 1857. By 1860 Hugh, a dentist, and family were living at what became known as the “Page House,” and older brother William Hicks Bracey, also a dentist, and his family (wife Bettie and children William H. [born circa 1858] and Lola [born circa 1859]) were living at the “King house,” by then owned by their father, Peter Bracey.
On June 4, 1857 the 616 acres belonging jointly to the estate of Charles King and to Wright King were sold at auction for $7 per acres ($4,312) to northern neighbor Paschal Bracey. On 31 May 1863 Paschal Bracey died intestate. In the subsequent division of the estate, son Altamont Hart (“Mont”) Bracey (born 1841) received the King house. Mont was the second oldest child of Peter’s third marriage, to Angelina Simmons.
Several of Peter’s children served the CSA during the Civil War, including eldest sons William and Hugh, both of whom were in Company F, 14th Virginia Regiment, the “Chambliss Grays.”
William (enlisted 12 August 1861), after contracting typhoid fever and recovering, received a discharge for physical disability, at Suffolk, Virginia, in April 1862. He returned to the “King house” and the location is shown on the Confederate Engineer’s Map of 1864 as “Dr. Bracey.”
Hugh, who enlisted 1 May 1862, served until Lee’s surrender, although he was not present at Appomattox. In the fall of 1863 or 1864 he had been detailed to serve in Mecklenburg as a farmer, to raise provisions for the soldiers. In 1863 and 1864 he sold the land that he owned in Virginia, including his residence, which was sold to Samuel Page (the origin of the name of the house). Presumably he and his family moved back to live with his mother (his father, Paschal, died in 1863). Part of the criteria for obtaining a discharge to serve as a farmer was to be charge of 15 or more “hands” (i.e., workers; most likely slaves); Paschal had well over 15 slaves and if Hugh was back home, he would have been in charge of those workers.
In about 1866 both William and Hugh and their families moved to Florida. In 1870 William was in Alachua County, Florida, and his occupation was listed as “surgeon dentist.” Hugh was in Volusia, Florida; in 1870 his occupation was given as “farmer” and in 1880 as “dentist.”
On 2 December 1863, Mont Bracey, on leave from Company A, 3rd Virginia Cavalry, married his first wife, Martha (“Pattie”) A. Jones, of Lombardy Grove. When he returned home after the war ended, he, Pattie, and baby Lelia moved into the King house, presumably when William left for Florida. Mont and Pattie lived there for the rest of their lives. Pattie Jones Bracey (“the first Miss Pattie”) died on 5 June 1897.
According to Mont Bracey, when he first came to the farm (1865–66) things were so “poor” there that he had to spend the first part of each day dragging off farm animals that had died in the night, because he couldn’t afford to buy young animals. I strongly suspect that the “each day” part was a bit of an exaggeration, to make a point. However, by 1874 he was well on the road to economic recovery and had built up his farm; the August 22, 1874 Rural Messenger (Petersburg, VA, p. 270) reported a visit to Mont’s farm, which pleased them greatly. With the help of but five farmhands, he had 75,000 hills of tobacco (which the reporter expected to yield 10 hogsheads of tobacco [which I believe would have been red tobacco]), 15 acres in cotton (expected to yield 10 bales), and very fine corn, expected to yield “upwards of two hundred barrels.” He also had many hogs, horses, cows, etc., all in excellent condition, which he attributed to his clover lots. The reporter (B.J.R.) quoted him as saying that when he “commenced farming” his determination was “to live at home, raise my own meat, corn, stock, &c., but I did not succeed until I had my clover lots.”
Mont Bracey and “the first Miss Pattie” raised a family of six at their house. During the reporter’s visit of 15–17 August 1874, there would have been four children in the household. The reporter complimented both Mont and Pattie: “We spent Monday night with Mr. Brac[e]y and his good lady, who, by the by, understands presiding over the domestic affairs of her household, with as much tact and skill as her husband does over his farm.”
When Mont Bracey moved to the farm the outbuildings he found were at least the original smokehouse, the original kitchen, the original granary, a storage building, a building used as a stable, and the eight (red) tobacco barns north of the house. The stable was actually the shed addition built entirely around a center two-story structure, which is what survives. That building is now referred to as the granary. Its staircase is interesting, appearing to have been built by someone versed in ships’ construction, for it is put together in a manner that would have allowed its parts to have been able to shift with the movement of a ship.
Also somewhere north of the house was an old log building, 20x20, with wide board flooring, east and west doors on wooden hinges, and a staircase similar to the one in the present granary. All but the eight tobacco barns and the log building still survive (2006).
The original granary, built by either Bass or Hogan, was moved, by Mont, a little north from its original position. In the early twentieth century the building served as a garage for the family automobile and now (2006) as a workshop.
In the 1880s, according to family tradition, Mont enlarged and “modernized” the old King house. An addition was made to the south end of the house, adding on a room, of the same size as the northern room, to each of the three levels. The enclosed stairway between the first two floors was dismantled and a new, straight, open staircase was added in what had been the south room and what now became the center hall. It is a fine, very sturdy staircase. Unfortunately, when those remodeling the house cut into the floor of the second story, they neglected to compensate for the support lost to the floor when its connection into the south wall was removed.
The front door was moved from the north room to the old south room, now the center hall. Evidence of the doorway and of the enclosed stairway was masked, as best it could be. The southern chimney was taken down and rebuilt on the southern end of the addition. The base of the old, original chimney remains under the house.
On the front of the house the smaller windows of the 1820s house were removed and replaced by the then-stylish very large windows of the 1880s, one in each room, except the downstairs center hall, which had the front door.
Also built at that time was an outbuilding referred to as the office, which stood in front of the house, on the left (north). It probably also served as a schoolhouse for the younger of Mont’s children. Mont lived in the office between his marriages. In the early 1960s the office was moved and attached to the southern end of the main house. In 1980 a gazebo was built where the office had originally been.
Mont remarried, to Pattie Lambert (born 10 October 1871), on 11 October 1899. They had four sons, two of whom survived to adulthood. Altamont Hart Bracey II was born on 4 October 1900. On 10 November 1911 the fourth son was born; Haseltine Carstairs Bracey was named for J. Haseltine (Hase) Carstairs of Philadelphia, a good friend of Mont. Carstairs’s “nanny” was Eva Mayo.
When the railroad (which became the Seaboard Coast Line) was being built through the St. Tammany area, three long rectangles of cut granite were delivered to Mont Bracey, courtesy of the “railroad people,” or so the family oral history states. Into one of the blocks were carved his initial, AHB. Those blocks replaced wooden steps up to the front porch.
In 1912 cash crops Mont was raising were tobacco, peanuts, and cotton. They also sold butter, eggs, and watermelons.
During one June of that decade (the newspaper clipping is torn) the editor of the local newspaper (The South Hill Enterprise
) was in the neighborhood and dropped in to see Mont: “… it is indeed a feast for the eyes to drive up to a farm like Mr. [A.H.] Bracey owns. It shows most progressive farming and a most sublime way of living. When a man can sit comfortably in the shade of his own lawn, submerged in flowers, with plenty of honey in sight, and also all that goes to make up a most delightful home, and say, ‘I am monarch of all I survey,’ it is indeed a most gratifying thought. Mr. Bracey has all of these and more.” [The South Hill Enterprise
, 7 June 191[?] ]
Mont Bracey died, at the house, on 16 July 1917. Mont’s second wife, Pattie Lambert Bracey (“the second Miss Pattie”) also died at the house, on 9 July 1950. Mont and the second Miss Pattie are buried on the hill behind the house. Mont had picked out the site.
The “second Miss Pattie” and son Carstairs remained at the house. Carstairs farmed.
In 1926 the house acquired electricity via a Delco (battery) plant, installed in the original smokehouse. A GE one-cylinder kerosene-powered generator provided the direct current. An exhaust pipe went out south beside a window. On the east side of the building a shelf was installed and on this sat sixteen lead batteries, which would be charged up by the engine. Two wires ran from there to the corner of the-then back porch on the southern end of the dwelling, and then into the house. The main rooms had overhead lights, operated by pushbutton “switches” with a solid brass plate. One of these, and the original overhead lights, still remains in the house. There was only one plug in the house, in the bedroom occupied by Pattie Lambert Bracey.
In the mid 1930s electric current by wires was available from the Rural Electric Authority (REA) and the change was made to that.
Also in the 1930s a room was added to the northern end of the original house. Originally this room served as a dining room.
In the late 1960s the one-story addition on the back of the house was remodeled, as it had been at least once earlier.
The last crop of tobacco was grown on the farm in the 1990s.