The Cosby House

The Village of Fredericks Hall
Contributed by Claudia A. Chisholm

Another home, the COSBY HOUSE along with its owners and residents, is noteworthy in the continuing narration regarding the Village of Fredericks Hall. This property is located in an area known as Cedar Hill, off Route 656, in a rather remote section between Fredericks Hall and Cuckoo. The dwelling house has been uninhabited for some time, therefore the overall panorama appears unkept. Within view of the dwelling house is a lone chimney which is reported to have been a part of a slave cabin. The overgrown cemetery is the only other reminder of some of the people who resided there. Quaint in design by today's standards, there are indications the frame story-and-a half house was built some time in the early 1800's. Upon visiting the COSBY HOUSE in 1979, this researcher noted the dwelling house in relatively good condition; however, the circumstances are quite different today. As one approached the property, an eye-catching feature of the old home was the large stepped twin chimneys which embraced most of the north end of the house. A single and less noticeable chimney was on the southern exposure. Apparently the COSBY HOUSE was modernized during the 1900's. Dormer windows are believed to have been removed when the roof was replaced. The front porch shows evidence of change in style and size. A small addition appears to have added to accommodate for modem conveniences. In reviewing the records of earlier years, we find once again a parcel of land being owned by a descendant of the original Harris family of Fredericks Hall. In 1817, Frederick Harris, Jr., sold to Thomas Nuckolls 249 acres on the south fork of Little River,, )'After purchasing the property, Thomas Nuckolls allowed his son, James Duke Nuckolls, to take up residence on the land without benefit of title. Shortly before his death in the mid 1820's, Thomas Nuckolls conveyed the COSBY HOUSE property to his son. The deed in part reads..."on which he the said James D. Nuckolls at present resides lying on the south fork of Little River"(2)This would certainly indicate a dwelling house either before 1817 or shortly thereafter. Thomas Nuckolls was a man of considerable means. He married Ann Terry, daughter of James and Henrietta Terry on March 4, 1785. Thomas Nuckolls died without a will; therefore, the following children are recorded in unpublished family papers. The oldest son, James Duke Nuckolls, was bom February 26, 1886 of whom there will be additional comments later. Other children were: George Byars Nuckolls who married October 1, 1828, Myra R. Boxley, daughter of Pallison and Susanna Dickinson Boxley; Mary Nuckolls, believed to have been unmarried; Stephen Terry Nuckolls who married November 16, 1827, Maria Trice, daughter of Anderson and Martha Sandidge Trice; Alexander married November 17, 1817 Ann Burruss; Samuel; Nathaniel; Lucinda married John Burruss Oct. 6, 1817; Nancy; Jane who married Richard Harris (3)

In 1838, Robert S. Cosby received a letter from his brother in Walton,Georgia. In it he says, " informed me that you had bought DukeNuckolls out on account of your growing family and can you make a Support onit no you can't and pay your taxes and midwife fee. Sell out and come tothis country. Here is the place for growing families..." Tell sisters if thev are not married to marry some body that will startright to Georgia.(8)Robert S. Cosby married Frances A. Hughes in 1821. Her parents were Charlesand Polly Hughes and her grandmother was Elizabeth Terrell, all of HanoverCounty, Virginia. In 1825 Charles Hughes gave his daughter two slaves,Maria and Hannah. There are a number of letters written by Frances HughesCosby's family in the archives of the Louisa County Historical Society Museum. These documents tell of the state of affairs within the Hughes family as well as happenings in the areas in which they lived.(9) Robert S. Cosby was the son of Duke Cosby and Amelia Harris. (Amelia Harris was the daughter of Robert Harris and Mezpina Walton who are believed to have inherited a part of the Grand Patent at Fredericks Hall of William Harris, Jr. in 1725). In the Louisa Museum there are documents and letters pertaining to the business and personal life of Robert S. Cosby and the Cosby family. There are a number of interesting letters written from Robert's brothers, Austin M. and Charles Rufus Cosby from various locations, mostly from the state of Georgia Robert Cosby, like his father Duke Cosby, was a farmer and tavern keeper. Louisa records show that Duke Cosby operated a Tavern from 1807 to his death around 1819. In his will and the division of his estate, there is no mention of a Tavern; however, he left his home place and all adjoining parcels to his wife, Amelia D. Cosby. The records show Duke Cosby's license ceased in 1819; at which time Robert S. began applying for a license. In the late 1830's, the licenses were issued to both Robert S. and Amelia D. Cosby. After 1842 and the death of Amelia D., the license was issued to only Robert S. " his house for private entertainment."10 Whether the Cosby's made their own beer for dispersion in the Tavern is not known; however, the following recipe was found among the family papers.

11 To Make 15 Galls of Beer
2 114 Galls. good molasses
112 Bushel wheat Brans, to be clean sifted
1 peck Hops

The above to be all well mixed with 18 gals. water and boiled about two hours and when milk warm, add about 1 1/2 coffee cups of yeast. Let the cask be filled quite full-as soon as it works and the foam falls, let it be well-stopped and it will be fit for use in eight days and not sooner. If the molasses is not very good it will not be amiss to add I qt. more. I forgot to mention that after boiling it is to be strained- The yeast is to be put into the cask before the Beer is put in." (11)

In 1856, it was ordered that "Alfred M. Goodwin, Oscar Herring, George 1. Gardner, Atwood Wash and William G. Barrett five freeholders of this county are hereby appointed Commissioners (any two or more whom being first duly sworn may act) to supentend (sic) the general Election of County and District Officers of the County of Louisa at Cosby's Tavern a place of voting in the 5th District of this County on the 4th Thursday of the present month May 1856 (being 22 day May.) Nelson Lipscomb is appointed the Officer to conduct the election at Cosby's Tavern as being a voting place until 1860." The records of Louisa County for 1861 to 1867 appear to be missing; therefore, we do not know how long the Tavern was a voting place. (12)

Three known children were born at the COSBY HOUSE to Robert S. and Frances H. Cosby. Their son, Charles T., married Sarah H. Hancock and they appear to have lived on Rock Creek for a time. Mary Virginia, the only daughter, never married. In 1837, she attended school at the home of Joseph W. Pendleton. He was paid $75 for her "board and tuition". The second son, Joseph T. Cosby, was also unmarried. This son lived at home with his parents for a time. In the fall of 1854 he moved to Chesterfield County to work at the Steam Saw Mill. He wrote the following letter in September to his parents at Fredericks Hall.(13)

"My Dear Father,
I take my pen this evening to write you and Mother a few lines but hardly know what to write. Your letter you wrote me by Andrew was very good but I received one by mail a few hours after that hurt me very much. Dear Pa and Ma did I not have your consent to go to F Hall to Live? & after that to come here? did I not suffer many hardships there? did I not suffer many here? and was I not sick and surrounded by Cholera here? Was I at anytime more than halfpaid by my rich masters? Have I not lived a single life long enough? did you not give me permission to court and I loved? and seek the welfare and happiness of us both? Could I be happy and-be unhappy? did I not want business of my own or at least such as would give me Sunday and a church to meet with? All this did not produce such a letter as this before me. Pa is perplexed and Ma is in tears! I wish I had been with you to have cried too, you think I am going to settle so far from you, it will be 100 miles. Pa says, you seem to have forgotten me and your best of Mothers. Dear Pa I may seem to be forgetful but cannot forget you and Ma. I have a great many more things to attend to now than when I lived with you and besides a great many real troubles. I will tell you some. I have spent very little money since I came here my trip to Hampton cost me $14. and what money I have now and what Mr Dunnington owes me will make only about $35. My clothes I ware every day have been so dirty that they are nearly all washed away and what are good are so stained with the chestnut saw dust that they are hardly fit to ware. I shall have to spend some of my money to get me some more. And Mr D. has not paid me and he may take his time for it for what I know. he did not come down last Monday as he promised and when he will come is more than any one can tell. Andrew will want me in L next week and I shall want to be there myself but if Mr D. wishes to disappoint me again he can do it and what can I do. If I go to see you as I would gladly do my business would be put back a week later and I cannot ride on the Va.C.R.R. free now and would have come back to Richmond again rather than be killed in a stage going over the mountains. Besides all this I received a letter 4th from Hampton stating that the writer had given out an anticipated trip to Lynchburg so that stretches out 300 miles between us, but they were well. If Mr D. does not come b Saturday night I shall be in Louisa Sunday I think and If he does not pay me and my money gives out I will walk to L. and if times get too hard for merchants I can get $1.50 a day for hewing timber But Ma thinks that fanners are so much defendant on God that I ought to think of that and be one. I expect to feel my dependence on Him no matter where I go or what I do. A farmer does not always think of and feel his dependence on God as he should. I need only refer you to four of your nearest neighbors R.T. Bibb, E.T. Harris, N.W. Harris & M. Baker I shall now close for my paper is getting short by saying I remain your affectionate son.

Joseph T Cosby (l4)

By October of 1854 we find Joseph T. and Andrew (?) in Lynchburg, Virginia where they are operating a store. He tells about Lynchburg and the various railroad constructions taking place there. Then he relates what happened to him when he came to Louisa (11)..."I thought I had seen trouble but did not see any till during some three weeks after I saw you last. My affairs in Louisa I thought obliged me to go there. If I got married and to return with a lady that was poor and what I might own have to be made over to somebody else pressed on my mind so that I almost went deranged. I wrote to the lady about some things I had heard about her which put her in the highest sort of a passion and she wrote to me denying the report and telling me to return or burn her letters and not to write to her again and in the future we must be as strangers. It was a task not hard to perform. I sent them to her with the request she would send mine to F. Hall if she mailed them, for I intended to have gone west before now, but cannot get my business right here yet and think it probable I shall not till Christmas. I do not know where I shall go yet but think I shall go to Arkansas though I may go back to Louisa. Concerning the ladies affairs it turns out that her mother left about $10,000 worth of property to her husband during his lifetime and the lady was to have her expenses paid from the income of that property and at the death of her husband (Mr. Nowland)the lady was to have it all."(15) Apparently the first wife of Charles rufus Cosby, (brother of ?robert S.) had died sometime prior to 1857. In a letter written the latter part of that year, Charles relates the following to Robert S. at Fredericks hall "àhe had married last may most a year ago to Elizabewth Lester aged 34 in good health but I don't think I shall have to rock the cradle-only when some of my married daughters come to see me." (16) Robert S. Cosby took his Amnesty Oath on 15 May, 1865.(17) His will was written in 1868 and probated in 1880. He was survived by his wife, Frances and their three children. The COSBY HOUSE was left to his wife for life, then to his unmarried daughter, Mary Virginia Cosby. Robert S. Cosby had a spinster sister, Louisa B., who lived on a parcel of his land to which she was given life rights. After the death of Mary Virginia and Louisa B., the property was bequeathed to Joseph T. Cosby, brother of Mary Virginia. (18) In the early 1900's, Joseph T. conveyed all his personal and real property to his two nephews, Walter R. and Thomas H. Cosby. These were the sons of his brother, Charles T. Cosby. Walter never married and before his death his interest was deeded to his brother, Thomas Hancock Cosby. (19) Thomas Hancock Cosby married a widow, Minnie Maria Gentry Strong on September 23, 1933. She was the daughter of Abner C. and Bettie M. Davis Gen try. By her first marriage, to Nattie T. Strong, Minnie had the following children: Abner Eugene Strong who married Mary Brooks Shiflett; Clifton Morris who married Eva Butler; John who married Thelma Sprouse; McKinley who married twice, Juanita ? and Janie ?; Non-nan who died at the age of 7 with leukemia; and Catherine who married Martin Sharp. Minnie also adopted Marshall (Moses) Tate and Willie Humphry. Thomas H. Cosby and Minnie had no children.[20] Thomas H. Cosby died September 5, 1957, and Minnie died January 16, 1961.21 Her heirs sold the COSBY HOUSE to Henry L. Lam in 1966.(22) The most recent conveyance was to Wall and King Construction, Inc. and others.(23) It is reported the property is presently being used for a wildlife refuge.


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