Liberty Hall

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A Brief History of Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall’s story began in Northamptonshire England, in Green’s Norton with Robert Green.  He was the youngest son in a rather healthy family of strong, tall men; so was unlikely to move up the inheritance chain and was in need of opportunities.  Fortunately for Robert, while his family had noticeably healthy genes, they also had great connections to the Court, (including his 5th Cousin Katherine Parr – the only wife Henry VIII actually liked) and his father William was a member of King William III’s Royal Bodyguard.  (To be in the Royal Bodyguard one must be strong, healthy and over 6 feet tall; so not just a vanity Court position.) So young Robert, perhaps with a a grant from the King himself, set off to America at just 17 years of age in 1710.

 

Robert’s mom also contributed to his fortunes (least she could do to make up for all those bigger brothers she gave him) through her own big brother, Sir William Duff, a Scottish Quaker, with whom Robert traveled to the New World to make his fortune.  Uncle Duff had received many of his own patents prior to departing for Virginia, though I am not sure how or have much of a clear story on him.  We know that Uncle Duff joined the Monthly Meeting at West River in southern Maryland, a slightly “freer” religious area than Northern Virginia.  We also know that Uncle Duff lived a stricter lifestyle than Robert, a traditional Anglican, which caused Robert (only 17 upon his arrival) to quickly seek out his own life independent from his Uncle.

 

Legend has it that Robert named his first parcel of land, this plantation, “Liberty Hall” because it was a place at which “A man could be at his liberty...”  We assume he might also have added, under his breath, “from Uncle Duff.”

 

Robert had a successful life, serving as vestry man for St. Mark’s Parish, and he was also a member of the House of Burgess, a Justice of the Peace and Sheriff for Orange County.  He (and his wife Eleanor) had 7 healthy sons, all taking after the Green family line in being very strong, healthy and tall as well as inheriting their mother’s flaming red hair; thus earning the nickname “The Red Green’s of Culpeper.”

 

Aside from being healthy, the Green family was blessed with significant military, civil and economic talents.  Robert’s luck in receiving a patent for land so well situated, with 2 strong streams flowing through the rolling hills of the pasture land and bordered by two strong rivers ensured the long-term success of the plantation and his family.

 

At the time of its inception, Liberty Hall, was located in the County of Essex, within an area that would be established (through a very long legal battle) as Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck of Virginia.  During its first owner’s life, Liberty Hall began in Essex and passed to Spotsylvania County on December 17, 1721, to Orange in 1734 and settled in Culpeper in 1749 (though after Robert’s will was probated in Orange). 

 

Throughout history, Liberty Hall has raised cattle as well as horses for sport.  Attesting to this fact are numerous advertisements in colonial papers for cattle and horses for sale and for stud at Liberty Hall.  From the early 18th century to mid-19th century the Hall was also the location of two robust Mills, which included a county store with various goods.  The largest Mill was in the Hazel River (on what we call Danny’s Island) and was part of the Hazel River Navigation Company complete with Lock and Canal system.  The rock foundations of the docking area and rings to securing transports are still there along the bank. 

 

The plantation’s land, given its strategic advantages of river borders and strong streams, was host to both armies during the Civil War.  Thankfully, as the house was uninhabitable due to the fire shortly before the war, Liberty Hall was not destroyed.  Many relic hunters have found treasured buried here and continue to enjoy unearthing the plantation’s secrets even today.

 

Throughout its 300+ year history, the plantation has consistently sustained operations for cattle, equestrian sports, a center for hospitality.

 


 

The Various Owners of Liberty Hall

 

Thomas Rutherford assumes ownership of Liberty Hall in 1876 from John & Eleanor Green, which marks the end of the 166 years of direct ownership by the Red Greens and their descendants.  Thomas Rutherford was likely a descendent of the Slaughter family and thus is also likely a Green descendent as well. Rutherford rebuilds the Hall and was able to salvage much of the original wood frame (East Indian Mahogany and heart of Pine) of the house and used that to plank the interior floors of the house.  The 3 room basement of the main house is original and was undamaged in the fire, built in the early 1700’s with 3-foot-thick stone walls.  Rutherford also likely added the Smokehouse/Summer Kitchen, which is a square building originally made of all brick that sits just NW of the main house.

 

Henry & Alice Ratrie receive the plantation from Rutherford in 1891.  The Ratrie’s use the Hall as a show place (in addition to raising cattle) and were very active in the social scene, hosting frequent gatherings reported in period newspapers, during the close of the 19th century.  They added what was likely a carriage house with loft apartment as servant’s quarters, which originally was not connected, as well as a larger kitchen.  On the plantation they likely built the red wood barn and used for hay and winter feed storage for their cattle.  Sadly, both Henry & Alice died just prior to their daughter’s marriage to Robert Stark at the Hall in February 1910.  (Henry died in October 1909 and Alice on Christmas Day 1909.)  They raised 4 children in the Hall including their daughters Alice and Elizabeth who lived and managed the plantation after her parent’s death. 

 

Robert & Alice Stark officially receive the deed to the planation in 1913 and continued the Hall’s tradition of hospitality and cattle until after her husband’s death in 1942.  Elizabeth, Alice’s older sister continues living with the Starks (unmarried) until her death in the late 1930’s.  The Starks raise their two daughters, Nancy and Lucy at the Hall.  During their ownership a Works Progress Administration (WPA) report was made on Liberty Hall (which includes some facts that contradict documented history) and a current description of the house itself as of 1937.  The house’s exterior at this time was weatherboard wood, though has the large front porch with 4 square columns.  The interior is reported to having 9 rooms (7 large and 2 small) with wood floors throughout. 

 

Paul & Edna Carrington, (Yankees from New York City!) bought Liberty Hall from Alice in 1942, likely as she was unable to manage the place by herself after her husband’s death.  The Carrington’s worked hard on improving the plantation and the main house, and much of their work is still evident today.  No doubt inspired by Gone with the Wind, the Carrington’s planted the beautiful trees that line the drive up to the house as well as adding the brick portico on the front of the house.  According to newspaper accounts, Paul Carrington commuted to the Hall from his job in NY, so the beef cattle operation (which continued on throughout their time) most have been run by a 3rd party.   After selling the Hall, the Carrington’s decided to stay in VA and retired in Charlottesville.

 

John & Elisabeth Pulvermann bought the Hall from the Carrington’s in 1964 and kept it for a little over a decade.  John immigrated to the USA from Hamburg, Germany in 1940 and became a naturalized citizen in 1943; through prior to his naturalization he traveled extensively as an export manager.  Elizabeth (Logan) was a Society Editor for a newspaper in Essex NJ, having graduated from a 2-year college.  They were married in 1942 in Massachusetts, and John continued to travel for his work.  After 20 years of marriage, they decided to relocate to Liberty Hall (who knows why??) and lived here for just over a decade, until John’s unfortunate death in 1976 from a heart attack.  Elisabeth was definitely a lover of history, as after she sells the plantation she relocated to James City Virginia, where she lived out her widowhood supporting many historical preservation efforts in the area, passing away in 2013.

 

Gerald & Grace Sullivan – 1976 to October 20, 1992

(still researching)

 

Marsyl S. Hammond, a former Newport RI debutant and member of the east coast society, took on the plantation in 1992 with a much greater focus on raising horses over cattle.  Marsyl lived the majority of her life in the Northern VA area, carrying on the Stokes family interests in leisure sports and enjoying the interest of vast family fortunes.  After the passing of her second husband, Ogden Hammond, Marsyl takes on the plantation herself and goes to work building and improving the land to raise and train thoroughbred horses.  Marsyl’s horses are frequent winners at Pimco.  Marysl built the long red metal barn with indoor arena and the majority of the paddocks surrounding the two stables.  In 2001, shortly before her death, Marsyl Hammond gifted an easement for Liberty Hall Plantation to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation; thereby preserving the current plantation’s boundaries, land and residential use from non-agricultural development or fundamental change. 

 

Clifford & Beth Kearns purchase the plantation in 2003 from the Hammond estate and made many improvements.  The Kearns reinforced the 2 story Red Barn (added by the Ratrie’s), with tack and wash rooms and finished apartments in the loft of the barn.  They added the large shop & equipment buildings (red metal building next to indoor arena) and added a commercial walk-in freezer for the Farm to Table beef business.  The Kearns brought back the formal operation of the plantation, managing the cattle and equine business directly (though stable managers), added the sign at the front gate and participated in the Culpeper Farm Tours.

 

Daniel & Sarah Coleman became owners of Liberty Hall in May 2018, relocating from Pie Town NM and Phoenix AZ.  Like all of the previous owners, their story is an interesting one.  Having met and married in Phoenix, both Dan and Sarah considered New Mexico their “home” though neither was actually born there.  This fluid sense of citizenship is not unusual for Phoenix – similar to Los Angeles, where no one is actually from.  Sarah’s parents met as teenagers in Clovis NM (NE part of state,) but traveled the country for her father’s Airforce career.  Adopting the common BRAT ideal that “home is where Christmas is” New Mexico is where Sarah called home.  Dan was born and raised in Pittsburgh (of course we are Steelers fans!) but relocated to Rodeo NM (far SW corner) with his mom (Jane Candia Coleman) when he was just a teenager.  Here is where Dan learned the western lifestyle and cattle ranching from his step-father, Glenn Boyer.  Dan bought his first ranch (separate from her parent’s place) in about 1999 and continued to trade and grow his land/herd over the years. 

 

By 2017 the Coleman’s had amassed 3 children, 12 horses, a computer consulting business, a non-profit corporation and 2 polo clubs in Phoenix (where the kids went to school) AND a 1,300 acre cattle ranch with another polo club in Pie Town NM – it was just TOO much!  So the whole family hopped in a plane in search of a single place that could provide; Polo (their family’s passion), horses, cattle, great schools and cultural opportunities.  Sarah, who is an amateur historian, planned the road trip to include many stops along her family’s ancestral path.  They started in Maryland (where the first of their ancestors arrived in 1633) and drove through 7 states over a 3-week road trip looking at potential homes along the way.  One of the first was Liberty Hall in Brandy Station – which obviously caused a great impression on the family!  

 

After putting in their offer for Liberty Hall, Sarah began researching the property and the Green family only to find that Robert Green (1710) was her 9th Great Grandfather!  (They descend from Robert’s grandsons (through John) that relocated to Kentucky following the Revolutionary War and married into the Sarah’s maternal ancestors within the Haynes/Bell family.)  While this is certainly cool in the “fun facts” department, it’s not really that surprising when you consider how quickly human generations pile up and intertwine when in a close space. 

 

The Coleman’s moved into Liberty Hall in May 2018 and even brought along their NM ranch foreman Kenny Bruton (crazily enough, he’s a descendent of the Williamsburg Bruton’s!) Kenny focuses on maintaining the cattle business and continues to return to NM where he is a professional hunt guide for Elk and Mountain Loin.  The Coleman’s are very proud to continuing building upon the dreams of their ancestors and to pass on the traditions and values of New Mexico and the “Old West” style.  They are hopeful that Liberty Hall will continue to be enjoyed by their descendants and the Virginia community for centuries to come.