More than three centuries ago Francis Eppes came to the Jamestown Colony in time to be a member of the first House of Burgesses. In 1635 this same Colonel Francis Eppes of the King’s Council in Virginia received a royal grant of 1,700 acres in Charles City County, as well as fifty acres more for his “personal adventure” and 650 acres more for bringing with him three sons and thirty servants.
Thus the Eppes family had its beginning in Virginia about a decade after the first settlement in 1607, and the descendants of the first “adventurer,” after more than three centuries in Virginia, still exercise a generous hospitality in the old homestead located in the original royal grant. Hopewell now surrounds it, but the site of the “Wonder City” was only one of the Eppes farms, and this farm received the name of Hopewell in memory of the ship Hopewell, that brought the first Francis Eppes to America. The mansion is located at the point where the Appomattox flows into the James, and commands a view hardly exceeded in beauty by Mount Vernon itself.
Appomattox Manor has survived the “wars and tramplings” of two conquests: the British in the Revolution, and the Federals in the War Between the States. The present home is about a century younger than the original grant, for it dates back only to 1751, when it was built to replace the first home which was pulled down. Quaint and rambling, with its gables and dormer windows and many porches, it is perhaps the oldest colonial home in America that shelters, after three hundred years, the descendants of the original owners of the estate.
The gardens at Appomattox Manor have had a colorful history. The first garden, near the river, was literally trampled under foot by the British, and the second garden was made nearer the house and was stocked and cultivated with especial care. About 1845 Dr. Richard Eppes brought to it many seeds and cuttings from Europe and the Holy Land. This garden in turn was trampled down by the Federals when the Manor became Grant’s headquarters. But even the sixty-five cabins built around it for war use did not destroy many of the fine shrubs and trees planted a score of years before. After 1865 Dr. Eppes made the third garden, using a Confederate rampart for one enclosing wall. Today the whole estate is a garden of memories and dreams. This seeming “haunt of ancient peace” has had its part in all of the war dramas of America, so that the very shrubs and trees, the vines and flowers, have some-thing of a martial lineage.