Twenty miles north of Richmond and five miles east of Ashland, in Hanover County, is the old Virginia plantation known as Hickory Hill. This was the home of the late Williams Carter Wickham, brigadier-general of cavalry, C.S.A., and is now the residence of his son, Henry Taylor Wickham, a member of the State Senate, who began his public life as a young member of the House of Delegates in December, 1879. Hickory Hill was long an outlying appendage to Shirley-onthe-James, much of it having come into possession of the Carter family by a deed dated March 2, 1734, released in consideration of one ear of Indian corn payable annually on “the feast of St. Michael the Arch-Angel.”
The dwelling house was built and the garden begun in 1820, when William Fanning Wickham-son of John Wickham of Richmond-and his wife, Anne Carter of Shirley, made their home on her share of the estate of her father Robert-after whom General Robert E. Lee was named-son of Charles of Shirley, son of John of Shirley, son of Robert of Corotoman, known as “King” Carter. The original house was destroyed by fire in 1875, and the present dwelling then erected.
The grounds and garden were laid out by Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Wickham in 1820, on broad and long lines. The avenues of cedar and box, as originally planned, are still standing and in vigorous growth. The garden is a rectangular plot 355 feet by 440 feet, approximately four acres.
The principal feature is the old Box Walk, an avenue of sempervirens boxwood, 307 feet in length, the box trees varying between thirty and forty feet in height and forming an arch above the fifteen-foot walkway. To the right of the entrance extends a walk one hundred feet in length, flanked by lines of suffruticosa box which adjoins the maze of suffruticosa. To the left of the entrance the walk extends 340 feet. At intervals other broad walks appear.
The cherished ornaments are the magnolias and some of the original roses brought by Anne Carter from Shirley in 1820 and planted by her, and many of the offspring of those old-time beautiful and fragrant roses, such as the Noisettes, Champney, La Tourtrelle, White Rose of Province, River’s George the Fourth, La Reine, Giant of Battles, Baron Provost, Seven Sisters and the ever-blooming pink daisy.
The War Between the States brought desolation in its train. When General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, desperately wounded, was taken prisoner, his brother Robert E. Lee, Jr., made his escape, as graphically described in his Recollections and Letters of General R. E. Lee. Here Rooney Lee parted forever with his wife and two children, going to the prison at Fortress Monroe. Here an angel from heaven, immortalized by the Southern poetess, Margaret J. Preston, in Agnes is Gone, parted with her lover. It was to Hickory Hill that J. E. B. Stuart came on the night of June 12, 1862, to grasp the hand of a desperately wounded soldier then a paroled prisoner, and near here Stuart fought his last battle. Twice each year during 1863 and 1864 both armies swept over Hickory Hill, its gardens, it grounds and its plantation-but it has survived, and the bloom of its beauty has not faded.