Gravely/Buford/Millner & Hatcher – Soapstone, Virginia

Bob & Kathy DeLong came up to Virginia from Texas to see the Peyton J. Hatcher family cemetery at Soapstone, Virginia on May 8, 2008.  I met “Biker Bob” on the internet.  He is a descendant of the Hatcher family. 


Bob and Kathy stand at the Peyton J. Hatcher family cemetery.  The walls are about 20 x 40 feet.  There are field stones insise and outside.  The only marker is within the wall.  Peyton J. Hatcher purchased the land in 1851 and it was in the same family for 127 years until we bought 85 acres in 1978.

      Much more with photographs on the Soapstone community.  Click here to continue.    A deed in Pittsylvania County Clerk’s Office dated 21 Sep. 1849 between John Millner and wife Eliza and Peyton Hatcher and wife Martha of Bedford County: “35 acres and 110 poles on the South Fork of Sandy River, one grist mill and one saw mill “Mill Tract.”  A “Wheelwright’s Shop” is mentioned.

          On 24 March 1851, William B. Millner sold Peyton Hatcher 300 acres on the Sandy River for $1,200. 

          Pittsylvanie Court Order, April 1852: “A proposal for changing the Danville Road from Henry County crossing the Sandy River below the ford at the mill by a bridge and then turning on the south side of the mill through Peyton Hatcher’s property and intersecting the road at the top of the hill.”  Here’s the mill:

          This is a 1905 photograph of the 1818 Soapstone Mill on Sandy River. At this time the mill was operated by James McDowell who is holding the baby, Lewis Bullington. At left is Belium Bullington and Mae Bullington. On the porch is Mae Bullington and John Bullington holding the long rifle. Along the front row are Addie McDowell, Ria the maid, Martha McDowell Bullington (Martha is James McDowell’s sister who married Jackson Bullington in 1860. Jackson was killed in battle on May 31, 1862 and never saw his son James Robert Bullington who was born Nov. 4, 1861 and died Apr. 22, 1914), Laura Bullington, Jennie Fuller, and Robert Bullington. On the mule are Ernest Fuller and Mal Payne. Romulus C. “Mal” Payne (born 1874)  was the postmaster and owner of a large country store just up the road as short distance from the mill. The two dogs are unidentified.  Older members of the community said that there were two 18-foot waterwheels in the back.  One supplied water power to grind wheat (not the wheat groing on the wooden shakes) and the other for corn to make flour and corn meal.  The mill is said to have burned a long time ago.  Parts of the foundation remain.

          Here is the Ricketts family at Soapstone about 25 years ago.  Bobby, JoAnn (Hawke) and Paul are now 37, 39 and 35 years old. This is the Soapstone mansion house built by Thomas Garrett in 1819.  The large beams and other lumber was sawn at the sawmill which was just above the nearby mill pond of the mill.  There are three soapstone chimneys topped with hand molded brick.  The front and right sections originally did not connect.  The cemetery is to the right (east) of this house.         

          This is my sketch of the Soapstone community as it was in the 1800s.  Old time residents told me of their fond memories of growing up in the area. 


          Ada P Witt and husband Peyton U. Witt were living in the Soapstone house in 1900 when she mailed this registered letter at the post office in Mal Payne’s store down the hill.  The store was between the mill and the old house and cemetery.  This receipt was in the hosue when were purchased it in 1978.



          Speaking of the post office.  While I was working on weeding small squash plants in the garden between the house and cemetery, this 1857 three-cent coin turned up in the soil.  The revelance is that the coin was created to facilate paying for postage which was then three cents.  The coin, being silver, was very small and easily lost.  We are happy that this one was lost, no doubt, by one of the Hatcher family. 

          While we were at Soapstone we stopped by an old cemetery on the Riley Farm Road (SR 849), just east across the Sandy River hollow from the old 1819 Soapstone house of Thomas Garrett.  We lived on that farm for about four years but I never researched the people in the nearby graveyard.  

          William Banks Millner bought the property in 1836.  In this iron-fenced cemetery is a headstone which reads “Erected by W. M B. (?)  Millner in memory of their son W. M. B. Millner born 21 May 1845 died 10 Jun 1845.” 
          After some research and consultation with Jim Hankins of Atlanta, who helped me place some of the people, we put together a sad story.  Another stone was for Harriett G. Gravely, born June 13, 1843 and died February 18, 1861.  Since she was only 18, it is likely that she died in childbirth.

               Inscribed on the same stone is Jabey (Jabez) B. Gravely, born October 3, 1836 and died September 18, 1861. Jabez Gravely (Jabez is often misspelled and the Gravely’s of this area usually used one e) age and death date indicated that he would have joined in the Confederate cause.  On May 27, 1861, Jabez Buford Gravely enlisted with Troop E of the “The Pittsylvania Dragoons” of the Virginia Calvary.   Troop E, which was organized on January 7, 1861, was commanded by Capt Cabell E. Flournoy.  The company assembled and rode out of Chatham, the Pittsylvania County Seat, to the Ashland Camp of Instruction, which was north of Richmond.  After training they took the cars (railroad) to Staunton to join General Robert S. Garrett’s forces.  The Confederate were trying to keep open the Parkersburg-Staunton Turnpike, which was an important supply road bringing supplies from the west to Richmond.                 Unfortunately, Gen. Garrett became the first general to be killed in action.  He was shot at the Battle of Corrick’s Ford on July 13, 1861.  The Confederate forces of between 4,500 and 5,400 men were heavily outnumbered by the Union’s 20,000 men.  The Confederates were forced to retreat.
          General Robert E. Lee left Richmond on July 28, 1861, along with aides Col. John Washington and Lt. Walter Taylor.  Col. Washington was killed on September 13, 1861.  Then the records indicate that Private Jabez B. Gravely was killed at Monterey, Virginia on September 18, 1861.  Monterey is 46 miles northwest of Staunton on the turnpike.  Monterey is now inside Virginia and the county seat of Highland County.  The turnpike continued across the Cheat and Rich mountains towards Parkersburg.  West Virginia was a part of Virginia until 1863. 
          Apparently, Jabez B. Gravely’s body was brought home for burial.  The convenient railroads from Staunton to Richmond and the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which was completed in 1856, made the transport possible.  Later on, many Confederate soldiers could not be returned to their home places. 
    Another gravestone in the same cemetery on state road 849 (Riley Farm Road) has the inscription: In memory of William Buford, born April 13, 1785, died October 6, 1848.  “Surviving sons have erected this humble memorial as a tribute of their grateful and reverent love.”  I believe this is the father of Algernon Sidney Buford.  During the Civil War, A. S. Buford was in charge of the Virginia Depot in Richmond.  In 1865, he became president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad.      Susan Robinson, wife of William Buford, Born April 3, 1785, died October 6, 1848.  Ichabod Griggs, born in 1808, in buried in this cemetery. “In memory of Ichabod Griggs, died 31st Dec’r 1856, aged 48 years.”  This appeared in a Danville, Virginia newspaper on February 12, 1857: “Ichabod Griggs hung himself near Danville, Va.  No cause for rash act, except that he was to have been married on the next day.  The license was found in his pocket.”   Obviously, either one or both changed their mind about the marriage at the last minute. In the 1850 census, Ichabod Griggs, a laborer age 39 (census ages are often wrong), is living near 34-year-old lawyer A. S. Buford.  I believe that A. S. Buford’s father William was buried in the same cemetery in 1848.                A short distance up the road is this very old house.  The large tree boxwoods lining the walkway to the house were probably 10 or 12 feet high when we move nearby in 1978.  The owner cut them to the grown.  They have grown back this much in over 25 years.  I think that William B. Millner may have lived here and the house may be older. A short distance up the road is this very old house.  The large tree boxwoods lining the walkway to the house were probably 10 or 12 feet high when we move nearby in 1978.  The owner cut them to the grown.  They have grown back this much in over 25 years. I think that William B. Millner may have lived here and the house may be older. Soapstone was named after the soft green mineral which was mined here mainly for a cap on tobacco barn flues.  Soapstone retains heat, is easily shaped, and resistant to cracking with heat.    This information is from the 1860 census of Pittsylvania County:
Family No. 48:    
Thomas Flippin 60 M Millright        Real estate $5,000 Personal property $22,500
Elizabeth F  “          45 F
Bettie A Meadow 14 F
Family No. 49:
David McDowell 57 M  Miller Real estate $5,000 Personal property $500
Elizabeth   “            44 F
Frances      “           27 F
James M    “           25 M Mill Hand
Martha McDowell  22 F (see photo below)
David T.    “           20 M
Robert B.   “           18 M
Elizabeth    “           18 F
Susan Adalade “Addie” 15 F (see photo below)
Family No. 50:
William B. Millner 52 M Farmer      Real estate $5,000 Personal property $20,000
Mary H.          “       41 F
William B.      “       13 M
Frances E.       “         8 F
Thomas R.       “        4 M
Family No. 51:
Peyton J. Hatcher 47 M Farmer        Real estate $5,000 Personal property $6,000
Martha J.     “        43 F
Richardson J. “      21 M
Charles R.      “      19 M
Uriah M.        “      16 M
Peyton U.      “        4 M

The large amount of personal property includes the value of slaves.  Peyton J. Hatcher’s son Richardson J. Hatcher (born 1838)  remained on the farm after Peyton J. Hatcher died in 1875. 
                               David McDowell was born in 1803 and was a long time miller at the Soapstone Grist Mill.  Two of his daughters are in this photograph.  Martha A. McDowell (born May 1838), left in this photo, married Andrew Jackson Bullington on December 5, 1861.  “Jackson” was a member of the “Cascade Rifles,” which wax Co. K of the 38th Virginia Infantry Regiment of the Confederate army.  The Cascade community is about eight miles south of Soapstone.  At right is Susan Adalade “Addie” McDowell, who never married.  The baby is Mae Bullington Scearch.  According to Martha’s 1888 pension application, Jackson was “accidentally wounded” on a march near Richmond and sent home where he died on May 31, 1862.                     Jackson Bullington’s neighbor across the creek was also in the Cascade Rifles.  Uriah M. Hatcher (1843-1814), a son of Peyton J. Hatcher, enlisted in Co. K on June 2, 1861.  He was wounded in action at Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, the very day that his neighbor Jackson died at home.  After a hospital stay, he returned to duty and was again wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862.          Uriah’s older brother Richardson J. Hatcher inherited the family farm.  His daughter Josephine Hatcher (b 1872) taught school at the Soapstone School on the old road west towards Henry County.  Uriah moved to Danville and joined the Danville Police Force.           This large framed photograph, taken around 1900, was in the Soapstone house when we moved there in 1978.  At center is Harry Wooding, who was Danville Mayor and Judge for almost 50 years.  Lawrence McFall found a descendant who identified Uriah Hatcher as the man just behind and above the left shoulder of Wooding.  

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