Belleville, on North River in Gloucester County, was an original grant from the crown of England, in the early settlement of Virginia, to two friends, John Boswell and John Booth, the latter having, already, an adjoining grant on Ware River.
These two gentlemen for many years were wholesale tobacco buyers, doing a customhouse business between London and Gloucester, storing the hogsheads of the fragrant weed in a warehouse, to be rowed, on propitious days, in scows to Elizabeth Town, at that time a port of entry on the other side of North River. The office in which these transactions took place is still standing, a sturdy, brick building, afterwards used as a kitchen with huge chimney and cavernous fireplace, across the top of which, in the memory of the writer, there hung bunches of “yarbs” of all sorts, strings of huge red peppers, small hot ones to season pickled oysters, ears of red and white pop corn, and tiny onions; and on each side, well into the fireplace, were low settles on which the children, white and colored, sat in the firelight to listen to tales ” ‘Fo’ de war when y’all warn’ born.” Especially prized was the rather awe-inspiring one of “De night de stars done fall, and Aunt Lucy see de elements all comin’ down, and wake up unc’ Harry and say, `Harry, for Gawd sake git up-de jedgement day done come!’ and unc’ Harry say, `Go way fum hyar ‘oman, whoever hyar tell o’ de jedgement day comin’ in de night?’ an’ he tu’n over for he secon’ nap.”
The original dwelling, tradition-which in course of time becomes history-says, was built in 1658, and was a large, H-shaped brick building facing the river, and was burned, leaving a quaint wing of five rooms to which was later added a staunch, frame building.
The original foundations have lately been uncovered by the present owners, Dr. and Mrs. H. E. Thomas of New York.
On the fourteenth day of April, 1705, this property was transferred by indenture to Thomas Booth, a descendant of John, and so on by direct descent through Frances Amanda Todd Booth and Warner Throckmorton Taliaferro, her husband, to their son, William Booth Taliaferro, whose daughter, Miss L. S. Taliaferro, has indentures, deeds and other papers relating to Belleville dating back as far as 1696.
Up until the Civil War, Belleville was a real plantation, with its extensive bounds, large barns, stables, carriage houses, servants’ quarters, weaving house, shoe shop, blacksmith shop, saw pit, carpenter’s shop and harness shop, where everything used on the farm was made. It used to be said that Mr. Warner Taliaferro could go out in his boat, built by his carpenters, from lumber from the trees in his own woods, sawed on his own yard, put together with nails wrought by his blacksmith, and rowed with oars made by his men.
Belleville has always been a very lovely and greatly beloved spot, with its beautiful view of the water, handsome trees of many varieties, numberless shrubs, magnificent crepe myrtles and flowers galore. The beautiful garden of later years was laid out by the second Mrs. Warner Taliaferro-Miss Leah Seddon of Fredericksburg. A walk through the center of the original garden-at the end of which still stand two little brick houses used then to house garden implements and store vegetables-was bordered with boxwood so well trimmed that the youngsters of olden times used to run along the top, now grown after these hundreds of years to mammoth proportions, making a wonderful aisle with branches interlacing overhead in lovely Gothic-like arches.
Upon the death of General William Booth Taliaferro, Belleville descended to his son, George Booth Taliaferro, and some years later, after being in one family for two hundred and fifty years, was sold by him to A. A. Blow, who made material changes in the house.
There has always been a charming air of hospitality around this old homestead, and many people prominent in the social and political life of the State have been entertained there.