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Wappocomo
Wappocomo viewed from Cumberland Road (West Virginia Route 28) in July 2013.
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General information
Type Residential
Architectural style Georgian
Location Cumberland Road
(West Virginia Route 28),
Romney, West Virginia
Country United States
Coordinates 39°21′37″N 78°45′10″W / 39.360345°N 78.752835°W / 39.360345; -78.752835
Completed 1774 (main house)
1861 (stone addition)
Client Nicholas Casey (1774)
Col. Isaac Parsons (1861)
Owner Peter Casey
Nicholas Casey
James Gregg Parsons
Col. Isaac Parsons
Susan Blue Parsons
Garrett Williams Parsons
Charles Heber Parsons
Charles Heber Parsons, Jr.
Charles Heber Parsons III


Wappocomo is a late 18th-century Georgian mansion and associated farm overlooking the South Branch Potomac River north of Romney in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Wappocomo is located along Cumberland Road (West Virginia Route 28) and the South Branch Valley Railroad. The mansion at Wappocomo is unique among the historic residences along the South Branch Potomac River, as its formal façade faces toward the road and the western flanks of South Branch Mountain rather than toward the river.

The original structure at Wappocomo was built in 1774 by Nicholas Casey (1745–1833) with bricks used as ballast to stabilize ships loading tobacco in the James River. The Wappocomo property had been a part of "the South Branch Survey" of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron's Northern Neck Proprietary. Casey's father Peter Casey (1715–1787) acquired the Wappocomo property from Lord Fairfax. Through the marriage of Nicholas Casey's daughter Mary Catherine Casey (1773–1846) to James Gregg Parsons (1773–1847), Wappocomo passed into the possession of the prominent Parsons family which had resided in Hampshire County since 1740. James Gregg Parsons' father Isaac Parsons (1752–1796) represented Hampshire County as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1789 until 1796. During the ownership of Col. Isaac Parsons (1814–1862), a stone addition to the mansion was completed in 1861. As of 2013, Wappocomo remains under the proprietorship of the Parsons family.

Fugitive slave Jacob Green escaped from Wappocomo in August 1855 with four other slaves from neighboring plantations, and returned in October of that year and persuaded four or five more slaves to escape with him to Pennsylvania. Col. Isaac Parsons and his nephews James "Zip" Parsons III (1831–1893) and a Mr. Stump went north to pursue the escapees, resulting in the arrest of James Parsons III. Parsons' arrest led to a dispute between the Parsons family and Charles James Faulkner over legal fees in 1857. Parsons' trial caused a further dispute between the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania over the latter's refusal to execute the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad's main passenger depot is Wappocomo Station, located at Wappocomo farm since 1991. Wappocomo Station consists of a ticket office housed in a 1940 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad red caboose C2507, presently owned by the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society and currently leased by the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.

History[]

Background and construction[]

Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron

The land on which Wappocomo is presently located was originally part of "the South Branch Survey" of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron's Northern Neck Proprietary.[1][2] The South Branch Survey extended from the north end of The Trough to the confluence of the North and South Branches of the Potomac River.[2] Lord Fairfax had originally planned to maintain the South Branch Survey as his personal manor, but later had James Genn survey the South Branch Potomac River lowlands for sale, with land lots ranging in size from 300 acres (120 ha; 0.47 sq mi) to 400 acres (160 ha; 0.63 sq mi).[2]

Prominent Hampshire County pioneer Peter Casey (1715–1787) received the Wappocomo parcel known as Lot Number 21 of the South Branch Survey from Lord Fairfax.[1] Casey's son, Nicholas Casey (1745–1833), married Grace Foreman (1762–1796), the daughter of another Hampshire County pioneer and colonial military officer William Foreman.[3] Nicholas Casey inherited Lot Number 21 from his father, and in 1774, Casey built the present mansion at Wappocomo.[1][4][5]

The bricks utilized in the construction of Casey's mansion had been manufactured in England, and were used as ballast to stabilize ships loading tobacco in the James River.[4] These bricks were then transported overland through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians in bullock carts.[4] During this time, the mansion was named Wappocomo, which was derived from the Native American toponym "Wappatomaka" for the South Branch Potomac River.[4]

Parsons family acquisition[]

Casey's daughter Mary Catherine Casey (1773–1846) married James Gregg Parsons of Hampshire County (1773–1847) in 1795.[1][6] Parsons was the eldest son of Isaac Parsons (1752–1796) and his wife Mary Ellender Gregg.[6] The Parsons family was a prominent family whose ancestors arrived to the Thirteen Colonies from England in 1635, and relocated to Hampshire County around 1740.[1][7] Isaac Parsons represented Hampshire County as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1789 until his death on August 25, 1796.[7] By 1778, Parsons owned 161 acres (65 ha; 0.252 sq mi) of Lot Number 16 and all of Lot Number 17, which was adjacent to the Wappocomo property.[8]

James Gregg Parsons and his wife Catherine inherited Wappocomo from her father, and they raised their 12 children there.[1] Following his wife's death, Parsons acquired the Wappocomo plantation.[9] After his death on January 25, 1847, his last will and testament dated November 7, 1846 and probated February 22, 1847 devised Lot Number 21 including Wappocomo (referred to in the will as the "Casey tract") to his son Colonel Isaac Parsons (1814–1862).[1][9] James "Big Jim" Parsons, Jr. (1798–1858) inherited the Collins tract (Lot Number 20) and his son David C. Parsons (1803–1860) inherited Lot Number 13.[1][9] James Gregg Parsons' sons also inherited the nearby "Jake Sugar Rum tract, the McGuire tract, and five town lots in Romney."[9] Col. Parsons eventually acquired Wappocomo outright.[10] Col. Parsons married on May 18, 1836 to Susan Blue (1817–1889), the daughter of Uriah Blue, Jr. and his wife M. Elizabeth Donaldson Blue.[11][12]

Jacob Green affair[]

Charles James Faulkner

In August 1855, Jacob Green, a slave owned by Col. Isaac Parsons, escaped from Wappocomo farm with four other slaves from neighboring plantations.[13][14] In October of that year, he returned to Col. Parsons' plantation in Romney, and persuaded four or five slaves from neighboring farms owned by Parsons family relatives to escape with him to Pennsylvania.[13][14]

A party of eight to ten men, including Col. Parsons and two of his nephews, James "Zip" Parsons III (1831–1893) and a Mr. Stump, went north in pursuit of the escapees. In the course of the pursuit, they captured two of Stump's escaped slaves, who were sent back to Hampshire County.[13][14] James Parsons III was the son of Col. Parsons' brother James "Big Jim" Parsons, Jr. (1798–1858) and his wife Elizabeth Miller Parsons.[15] With information obtained from the two recaptured slaves, Col. Parsons went to Johnstown, James Parsons III to Hollidaysburg, and Stump to Altoona, where they hoped to intercept Green as he headed west on the Allegheny Portage Railroad and Main Line Canal toward Pittsburgh.[14] James Parsons III intercepted Green at Hollidaysburg, but local Abolitionists thwarted his attempt to capture Green, and he was arrested and arraigned for kidnapping.[13][14]

Upon learning of the arrest of his nephew, Col. Parsons sought the assistance of Charles James Faulkner, a prominent Martinsburg lawyer and United States House Representative from Virginia's 8th congressional district, and of James Murray Mason, a United States Senator from Virginia.[13] Faulkner and Mason both offered their legal services for James Parsons III's defense.[13] The Virginia General Assembly pledged its support to Parsons and to Virginia's slaveowners in defending their constitutional rights and to protect them from prosecution.[13][16] Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise appointed John Randolph Tucker to attend Parsons' trial as a "special commissioner" of Virginia.[13][14][17] The dispute between Virginia and Pennsylvania escalated, and on January 31, 1856, an article published in the New York Herald read "Threatened Civil War between Virginia and Pennsylvania."[14]

Col. Parsons, Faulkner, and Tucker traveled to Hollidaysburg for James Parsons III's trial.[13] Faulkner provided for Parsons' legal defense, leading to his acquittal as having acted legally under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.[14]

In September 1856, Faulkner billed Col. Parsons $150 for his legal services. Parsons disputed the charge. In a series of articles in the Virginia Argus and Hampshire Advertiser, he declared that Faulkner had originally offered his services at no cost; that he had been lauded publicly for his generosity in doing so without ever denying that he had been working pro bono; and that he was practicing "duplicity and deception" in trying to win a reputation in his district through "specious acts of munificence".[13]

Faulkner later served as United States Minister to France; following the American Civil War, he again served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, from West Virginia's 2nd congressional district. James Parsons III and his brother William Miller Parsons (born 1835) were later proprietors of the Virginia Argus.[15][18][19]

Social events[]

Wappocomo and its 1861 stone addition viewed from the South Branch Valley Railroad's Wappocomo Station.

Following its construction by Col. Parsons in 1861, the ballroom in the upper story of Wappocomo's stone addition served as the scene of many events and parties.[10] According to tradition, as many as 100 couples have danced on the ballroom's wooden floor.[10] It was the custom of the Parsons family to allow guests who were visiting the mansion for the first time to write their names and the date of their visit on the mortar between the addition's stone blocks, of which many signatures are still legible.[10]

American Civil War[]

Following the 1862 escape of Lieutenant John Blue, a spy for the command of Stonewall Jackson, from his captivity by Union Army soldiers at the Wirgman Building in Romney, Lt. Blue visited Wappocomo to attend a social gathering.[20][21][22] Lt. Blue felt safe visiting Col. Parsons and his family at Wappocomo due to the presence of a Confederate States Army company under the command of Captain Stump nearby.[22] Col. Parsons and Lt. Blue decided to ride their horses from the mansion down to the Old House Run on the property where they viewed a small squad of Union Army soldiers.[22] Col. Parsons and Lt. Blue assumed the soldiers they saw were a detachment of Cpt. Stump's company, and upon realizing that they had encountered Union soldiers, Col. Parsons and Lt. Blue retreated toward the Parsons' home.[22] The women at the Wappocomo mansion heard Col. Parsons and Lt. Blue returning on horseback, and one of the ladies ran outside to open the gate to allow the men to enter from the road.[22] Col. Parsons and Lt. Blue entered through the gate, and the young lady of Col. Parsons' household closed and locked the gate before the Union Army soldiers pursuing them could enter.[22] As the soldiers spent time breaking the gate open, Col. Parsons was able to make his escape.[22] Lt. Blue attempted to escape up a steep hill, but was unable to and was subsequently overtaken by several Union soldiers and surrendered.[22][23] Following his arrest by the Union Army, Lt. Blue was taken to Cumberland, Maryland.[23]

Post-war ownership[]

Wappocomo was owned by Col. Parsons until his death on 24 April 1862 during the American Civil War.[10] Following his death, the plantation was inherited by Col. Parsons' wife, Susan Blue Parsons, for the purpose of raising and educating their children.[10] During the ownership of Susan Blue Parsons, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad completed construction of its South Branch line which bisected the Wappocomo property and traversed the mansion's front lawn.[24] The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's South Branch line connected Green Spring and Romney, and officially opened for traffic on September 1, 1884.[24] Susan Blue Parsons died on 2 October 1889,[10][25] and on 20 December 1890, Wappocomo was sold to Col. Parsons' son, Garrett Williams Parsons (1852–1935), for the total sum of $16,885.72.[5][10] The remainder of Col. Parsons' heirs were paid their shares resulting from this purchase.[10] Garrett Williams Parsons married on November 12, 1878 to Mary Avery Covell (1852–1914), the daughter of West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind principal John Collins Covell (1823–1887).[5][26][27] After the death of Garrett Williams Parsons on September 29, 1935,[28] Wappocomo was inherited by his son Charles Heber Parsons (1886–1952) and the mansion and farm were subsequently inherited by his only child, Charles Heber Parsons, Jr. (1932–2002).[10]

Under the ownership of Charles Heber Parsons, Jr., the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's South Branch line located on the Wappocomo property became part of the Chessie System in 1972.[29] In October 11, 1978, the rail line transferred to the ownership of the West Virginia State Rail Authority, after which, the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad South Branch line became known as the South Branch Valley Railroad.[29] Since the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad commenced its operation on the South Branch Valley Railroad in 1991, its main passenger depot has been Wappocomo Station, located at Wappocomo farm.[30][31][32] The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad runs between Wappocomo Station and Petersburg via The Trough.[30][31][32] Wappocomo Station consists of a ticket office housed in a 1940 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad red caboose C2507, presently owned by the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society and currently leased by the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.[30][31][32]

Part of Wappocomo's original land tract located near the corporate limits of the city of Romney was sold for residential building lots and for the Fruit Growers Storage facility, a refrigerated storage plant for fruit stands along the South Branch Valley Railroad near the mansion.[33][34] The Fruit Growers Storage facility also provided refrigerated storage for fruit that was to be shipped as freight on the South Branch Valley Railroad.[34]

Washington Place[]

Washington Place

On November 7, 1874, Col. Isaac Parsons' widow Susan Blue Parsons conveyed 2 acres (0.81 ha; 0.0031 sq mi) of Wappocomo's land to freedman William Washington, his wife Ann, and their children.[11] Washington had previously worked on Washington Bottom Farm, from which he took the surname of his owner George William Washington.[11] This deed enabled the Washington family to reside on that land lot as long as any of the individuals specified in the deed lived there.[11] On September 17, 1892, Garrett Williams Parsons and his wife Mary Avery Covell Parsons conveyed Washington an additional 3 acres (1.2 ha; 0.0047 sq mi) of land.[11] The old log house built by Washington on this former Wappocomo land lot is presently known as Washington Place, and it is thought to be one of the first residences built by freed slaves in Hampshire County.[11]

Architecture[]

Exterior[]

The original 1774 structure of the mansion is a square two story Georgian-style structure with a basement and attic, an architectural style prevalent in Virginia at the time of Wappocomo's construction.[4] The mansion's main structure is built of large weighted ballast bricks and features walls that measure 1 foot 6 inches (0.46 m) in depth, thus allowing for deep inset windows.[4] The home's main structure also features two inside chimneys on either side, which once stood higher above its steep roof.[35] The mansion's formal entrance is covered by a small portico supported with wooden columns and engaged columns at the wall.[10]

While other historic homes located along the South Branch Potomac River face the river, the mansion at Wappocomo is unique in that its formal façade faces toward Cumberland Road (West Virginia Route 28) and the western flanks of South Branch Mountain.[10] This may be due in part because the home is located approximately 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the river.[10] The optimal views of the South Branch Potomac River may be accessed from the home's second floor rear windows.[10]

Interior[]

The home's wooden sill plates and joists were sawed by hand and the "rot nails" used for their construction were manufactured in the blacksmith shop on the Wappocomo plantation.[36] The residence at Wappocomo also features unusually high fireplace mantelpieces, wide grooved window moldings and casings with base panels, solid paneled doors, and interior woodworking throughout, all of which was also hand made.[35] Every room of the main structure originally contained a corner fireplace.[35]

Both of the mansion's two floors consist of four large rooms with high ceilings, and each of these rooms is exactly the same size and shape.[37] An attractive grand stairway is located at the end of the mansion's central hall and it extends from the first floor to the attic.[10] The stairway's handrail is crafted of walnut, and it is connected to the stairway's shallow steps by a balustrade consisting of three small balusters per step.[10]

The basement rooms at Wappocomo are located almost entirely aboveground.[35] The home's foundation is constructed of large stone blocks, into which was crafted a large open fireplace that once exhibited a swinging iron chimney crane.[35] The space around this large open fireplace within the mansion's basement formerly served as a kitchen, where most of the cooking and food preparation took place.[35] Entry into the home's basement is accessible through a wide and heavy exterior door.[35]

Stone addition[]

Mill Creek Mountain viewed from the South Branch Potomac River.

In 1861, a stone addition to the original 1774 Georgian structure was built and completed.[10] The large stone blocks used for the construction of the addition were quarried from the plantation's Mill Creek Mountain, a ridge located across the South Branch Potomac River to the west of the mansion.[10] The stone blocks were hewed by sawyers, then transported across the river to the mansion, and lifted upon the addition's scaffolding with wheelbarrows.[10] A Mr. Ferrybe supervised and managed the stone addition's construction.[10]

The 1861 stone addition's two floors consisted of two large rooms on each floor.[10] The addition's four rooms featured ceilings 12 feet (3.7 m) in height.[10] The two upstairs rooms were transformed into a large ballroom, while the two downstairs rooms were used as a dining room and kitchen.[10]

The stone addition exhibits two stories of deep verandas extending across its eastern front façade.[10] The verandas were once supported by tall columns spanning from the addition's ground level porch, to the roof of the second story porch.[10] An exterior stairway once connected the lower porch to the upper porch.[10]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Zimmerman 2012, p. 9.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Brannon 1976, p. 286.
  3. Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 152.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Brannon 1976, p. 313.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 722.
  6. 6.0 6.1 MacCabe 1913, p. 254.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 45.
  8. Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 144.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 MacCabe 1913, p. 255.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 10.15 10.16 10.17 10.18 10.19 10.20 10.21 10.22 10.23 10.24 10.25 Brannon 1976, p. 315.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 130.
  12. MacCabe 1913, p. 269.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 "Jacob Green, Runaway Slave: The Pursuit of Jacob Green by the Parsons Family and the Problem of Free States". Historic Hampshire County, West Virginia: West Virginia's Oldest County. Charles C. Hall, HistoricHampshire.org. http://www.historichampshire.org/black/JGreen.htm. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 "What is the Underground Railroad?". Allegheny Portage Railroad, National Park Service website. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/alpo/historyculture/upload/UGRR-for-web.rtf. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 MacCabe 1913, p. 260.
  16. Virginia House of Delegates 1856, p. 246.
  17. Virginia House of Delegates 1856, p. 454.
  18. Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 357.
  19. "About Virginia Argus and Hampshire Advertiser, 1850-1861.". Chronicling America. Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities. OCLC 11111337. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84037876/. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  20. Brannon 1976, p. 248.
  21. Federal Writers' Project 1937, p. 12.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 22.7 Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 578.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Maxwell & Swisher 1897, p. 579.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Brannon 1976, p. 19.
  25. "Death Record Detail: Susan Parsons". West Virginia Vital Research Records. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcdetail.aspx?Id=4967636. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  26. MacCabe 1913, p. 279.
  27. "Marriage Record Detail: Garrett Williams Parsons". West Virginia Vital Research Records. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_mcdetail.aspx?Id=10997836. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  28. "Death Record Detail: Garrett Williams Parsons". West Virginia Vital Research Records. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcdetail.aspx?Id=1954716. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 123.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 "Location of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad: The Caboose Station at Romney". Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad website. Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. http://www.potomaceagle.info/location.php. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "History of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad". Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad website. Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad. http://www.potomaceagle.info/history.php. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Munske & Kerns 2004, pp. 125–126.
  33. Brannon 1976, pp. 315–316.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Brannon 1976, p. 20.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 35.6 Brannon 1976, p. 314.
  36. Brannon 1976, pp. 313–314.
  37. Brannon 1976, pp. 314–315.

Bibliography[]

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