Summer Hill
Mehixton Plantation
44Hn94
 


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Broaddus Flats
Assassquin Plantation
44Hn254

Dover Steam Mill
44Go327

18th Century Cellar
44Hn121

19th Century Kitchen Cellar
44KW236

Rock Springs
Native American Camp Site
44Hn51
 

The History of the Summer Hill Site (44Hn254)

by Tom Hobbs

The history of this property is well known, despite the fact that Hanover County is one of Virginia’s so-called “burned counties,” where the oldest records are mostly non-existent.

In 1672, Colonel John Page, who had immigrated to Virginia in the 1650s, obtained by headright several thousand acres ‘in the upper freshes of the Pamunkey River.’ As a tobacco planter and merchant, he soon set up a fully working plantation here and, as it turned out, named his new farm after the nearest creek—Mehixton. This practice of naming their plantations after Indian places would follow the Page families for decades, e.g., Muskimino near the Chicahominy in James City and New Kent Counties, Pampatike in King and Queen Co., and Werowocomoco in Gloucester Co. The latter name was apparently changed quickly to Rosewell, and this Indian name was retained to describe only a major Indian village on the York River shoreline near Carter’s Creek.

The location of Page’s main house at Mehixton, its dependencies and a mill is still unknown, but it was probably near Totopotomoy Creek. The author located (and recorded with DHR) several years ago an enticing 17th century house site located in a field adjacent to this creek and only just around a bow in the Pamunkey from Assassquin Plantation, the home of David Crafford. John Page never resided at his Mehixton farm, but a close relative may have. Colonial Williamsburg archeologists excavated Page’s main residence in Williamsburg several years ago.

So who built and lived in the substantial house, whose basement section alone measures 42’ X 24,’ on the far end of Page’s original 3,600-acre tract? John Page’s two sons, Francis (1657–1692) and Matthew (1657–1702) were heir to most of their father’s property. However, both were long deceased by the probable building date of 44Hn94 (1735?). A more likely candidate would be one of Matthew’s six children, but not Mann Page I (1691–1730), who resided at Rosewell and who began building the great mansion house there.

Since most of the remainder of Matthew’s children were girls, it is quite possible that construction of the house went to one of their husbands, as most of them married men of some substance. We can only assume that most of the Mehixton property (probably all of its eastern portion near Totopotomoy Creek) was passed down to Mann I, as he lists in his 1730 will “all the slaves and stock of Cattle and Hogs in my Mehixton property.” Not specifically mentioned in his will is the valuable property founded by his grandfather as Page’s Warehouse and by this period being referred to as Hanover Town. Could the western portion of this large estate, including Hanover Town and site 44Hn94, have passed quietly to a sibling ?

Strangely, the entire Mehixton estate seems to return to the Gloucester Pages, as Mann II lists it in his will of 1780. In this document, Mann II wills nearly all of his vast land holdings in Virginia to sons Mann III, Robert and John, with very little to young sons Matthew and Gwyn. Clearly, son Robert and his wealthy wife Elizabeth Carter must have decided to take Mehixton as their home, as he is buried in the graveyard at Summer Hill. It is this couple that the author feels built the brick house overlooking the Pamunkey River, perhaps as early as 1735.

Family legend has it that Robert started the frame house called Summer Hill on a rise overlooking flat farmland stretching over to Hanover Town. The River Road, now State Rt. 605, had been built in the mid-18th century to link Hanover Courthouse with tobacco ports Hanover Town and Newcastle. Robert Page did not live long enough to enjoy Summer Hill, and the completion (1803) of the large frame house fell to Mann Page III. Summer Hill, now down to about 1000 acres, was then willed to Charles Landon Carter Page and then to his daughter Mary Mann Page. Her marriage in 1853 to William Brockenbrough Newton of nearby Westwood Plantation saw for the first time a new surname on the western portion of Mehixton property in more than 150 years. The Newton family still owns Summer Hill.

War is no stranger to the Summer Hill property. Its Revolutionary history may be limited, however, to a single tragic episode, i.e., the burning of the main house on the estate. Lord Cornwallis’s route to Yorktown took the British army through this part of Hanover County; its cavalry may have torched the home of a Patriot family, whose allegiance had shifted in the most recent generation. The American army, along with a sizeable French force, was in close pursuit. A French cartographer in the Marquis de Lafayette’s army drew an accurate map of Hanover Town, with John Page’s old warehouses and a ferry slip down on the Pamunkey River, but not any homes outside the town.

Site 44Hn94 seems to have deteriorated slowly into ruin as the 19th century progressed. Despite all the activity, both Confederate and Union, on Summer Hill during the War Between the States, not a single artifact from that conflict has been found on our excavation. Logging operations in the 20th century steered clear of this site, probably because of the large basement hole and the threat that posed on expensive machinery. The strata, therefore, at 44Hn94 is completely undisturbed.

Date posted: 07.30.03

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