The Give Me Liberty interactive digital trail is now live!
It is now known that Native American Indians lived in this area for many thousands of years before the European explorers arrived. It is generally accepted that Indian tribes lived in this area for perhaps 12,000 to 14,000 years before the Spanish explorers and (later) the English settlers arrival. It is also widely accepted now that our Native American ancestors crossed over a land bridge from Asia into Alaska and migrated South – eventually populating both the North American and South American continents.
In fact, long before the arrival of European explorers, virtually the entire North American Continent was home to thousands of native tribes living in thousands of villages and towns from coast to coast. There were also nomadic bands, but most lived in villages and towns. They planted crops, domesticated many different animals, and actively traded with other villages and tribes –with many of them traveling over well-worn trading routes extending over hundreds of miles.
Native American Indians of our area and those across the North American Continent spoke many languages, were deeply religious, possessed a keen understanding of nature, and had a highly developed sense of art. It has also been found that they realized the depth of the generations that had gone before them. While recorded history of these people is scant to non-existent, they left behind literally millions of stone artifacts which nature has preserved for thousands of years. In our display, visitors will see some of the hundreds of such items found in Louisa County as well as a timeline illustrating when various native peoples were present. One exhibit panel tells about a previous archaeological exploration at Panamint Farm.
Patrick Henry was born at Studley Plantation in Hanover County on May 29, 1736. His mother was Sarah Winston, daughter of Isaac Winston and Mary Dabney. His father was John Henry, son of Alexander Henry and Jean Robertson of Aberdeen, Scotland.
After reading law on his own and passing the bar exams, Henry quickly became known for his brilliant oratory and his defense of the constitutional rights of the citizens, particularly with respect to religious freedom, taxation and suffrage. He was considered a “radical” and a “firebrand.” As a lawyer, he represented the “common man.” As a politician, he was said to have an uncanny insight into the future consequences of the acts of the British Parliament against the colonies and to quickly understand the discontent of the common man and turn public fervor into legislative action.
As the colonies began to openly rebel against British rule, in Virginia, Henry led the way. Henry’s oratory gained its first public notice in The Parson’s Cause, when he criticized the king for disallowing a statute, the Two-Penny act, passed by the General Assembly of Virginia for the good of the colony. He represented Thomas Johnson, collector of the parish levies, against Rev. James Maury, both of Louisa.
Henry’s success at this trial propelled him into the public arena and, with the help of influential friends, he filled Thomas Johnson’s seat in the House of Burgesses, 1765- 1769. In c.1766, Henry moved his family to Louisa. The remains of his home, Roundabout, still exist.
From his position in Louisa County, Henry rode the circuit of court days, Louisa’s being the second Monday. Henry purchased Scotchtown in 1771, served in the House of Burgesses until 1774, was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, was a Virginia Militia leader in 1775 and became the first Governor of Virginia, serving five one year terms, 1776-79 and 1784-86.
The life and times of Patrick Henry provide an excellent backdrop from which to educate and display the Colonial period and the Revolutionary War period in Louisa as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through photos, interpretive signage, costumes, household artifacts, etc. adults and children can learn about their community’s character during this period of nation building including tavern life, schools, churches and religion and tobacco farming.
The county of Louisa was formed from Hanover County in 1742. At the meeting of the first Court held on December 13, 1742 at the home of Matthew Jouett (father of Jack Jouett), one of the first acts of the Court was to grant permission to Mr. Jouett to "Keep an ordinary at his home in this County by the Court House." Thus began the pivotal point or nucleus of a community to be known as Louisa Courthouse and later to become the Town of Louisa.
The ordinary or tavern, located at the site of the courthouse, served as a place of refreshment and lodging for the Justices and visitors to the monthly courts and also to such travelers who might go through the county on the roads from Richmond to Charlottesville. This, however, was not the only function of the establishment. It served as a gathering place for persons on scores of duties or pleasure bent. Legal notices and newspapers were on file, mail was distributed and the tap room was a clearinghouse for news and gossip. The tavern carried a small stock of necessities which could be purchased. It is to be hoped that Mr. Jouett and his successors served their customers with a more substantial and cleanly fare than that which prevailed in 1782, when the Marquis de Chastellux made his pilgrimage through Louisa Courthouse on his way to visit Mr. Jefferson at Monticello.
In his account of his trip, he records that on 17 April, 1782, while traveling from Willis' Ordinary, which was located in the vicinity of where Bumpass or Buckner are today, he still had about twenty seven or eight miles to ride to the only tavern where it was possible to stay before reaching Mr. Jefferson’s; this being Boswell’s Tavern. He had been strongly advised by M. de Rochambeau, who had traveled the same road two months before, not to sleep at the tavern at Louisa Courthouse, it being the worst lodging he had found in America. However, in his curiosity to see the place and using the pretense of inquiring for the road, Chastellux went in and saw that there was no other lodging for travelers than the landlord's own room. The landlord, Major Thomas Johnson, was a man of enormous girth - to the extent that he was confined to an armchair in which he lived, slept, and ate, unable to arise. Rochambeau described the place as the dirtiest, most shocking, most stinking barracks he had ever seen and that the Major lived with a wretched woman who wasted his property and left him to die of uncleanness and misery. This was the same Major Johnson who opposed the removal of the courthouse to another site in 1787, no doubt due to the fact that he, as a Justice would be unable to attend court on account of his highly inflated condition.
On the night of June 3-4, 1781, Captain Jack Jouett, Jr. made his historic 40 mile ride by horseback from a tavern near the village of Cuckoo in Louisa County to Monticello to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson and members of the Virginia Legislature of approach of the British Colonel, Banastre Tarleton and his dragoons, who had been assigned the task of capturing the patriots.
Pulitzer prize winner Virginius Dabney, in an essay for the 1966 summer issues of the Iron Worker, said, in part, “…... Jack Jouett’s arduous and dangerous nocturnal dash, much longer and more difficult than Revere’s, has never been the subject of a ballad remotely comparable in popular appeal to Paul Revere’s Ride. This is the primary reason why his name is almost completely unknown beyond the borders of his native Virginia….”
Captain Jack later moved to Kentucky, served three terms in the Kentucky Legislature, and helped it to attain statehood. His son, Matthew Harris Jouett, was probably named for Jack’s grandfather, Matthew, who owned the tavern at Cuckoo. The young Matthew received his law degree but preferred to be an artist. He studied under Gilbert Stuart in Boston and was described, when he died at age 40, as “an artist of rare genius and of considerable celebrity.”
Louisa played a key part in the Civil War, not only furnishing a Company of men, the Louisa Blues, as a part of the 23rd Virginia Infantry of the Confederate forces, but also as the site of the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Trevilian Station, six miles west of the town limits.
This battle occurred on the 11th and 12th of June, 1864 and was the only major Civil War battle in the county. It took place when Sheridan attempted a raid on the Virginia Central Railroad in an attempt to break General Lee's vital supply line from the Valley. Some 13,000 cavalrymen were involved in the battle, of whom 1,619 from both sides were either killed or injured.
Field hospitals were set up at the Trevilians Depot and at Netherland Tavern together with additional churches, private homes, the Courthouse and other buildings. "Oakland Cemetery" on West Street in Louisa provided the last resting place for 94 marked but unknown victims of this fierce battle .
Museum space will be provided to the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation for use and to display their extensive collection of Civil War artifacts, now in storage or at various members’ homes.
For more information, follow the link to the Trevilian Station Battlefield driving tour.
On April 17, 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union. On the 17th, the Gordonsville Grays received orders to report to the parade ground. Joined by Companies from Staunton and Charlottesville, they departed on the train from Gordonsville to Harpers Ferry. On April 22, Robert E. Lee arrived at Gordonsville en route to Richmond.
Gordonsville and the railroads which joined there were of immense value to the South during the Civil War. The use of railroads during war were an unknown factor at this time, and the Civil War would later be referred to as the first "railroad war."
In March 1862, the Exchange Hotel, was taken over by military authorities and received the wounded from the battlefields for the duration of the war. It became known as the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital. Dr. B.M Lebby of South Carolina was the director and its operation continued under his leadership until October 1865.
The wounded and dying from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought by the trainloads. Although this was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. Twenty-six Union soldiers died here.
By war's end more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital and just over 700 would be buried on its surrounding grounds and later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville.
For more information visit The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum
By the end of the Civil War in 1865 more than 625,000 people had been killed. Every state in the nation was impacted by the war, and Virginia more than many. 65% of the battles took place in Virginia , which meant the loss of Virginian men, railroads, crops, livestock, and homes. Confederate money became suddenly worthless, leaving many Southern families penniless and without the slaves they had relied on for labor. Sharecropping sprung up and along with it corruption, scandals, and an unstable economy under President Ulysses S. Grant.
In late 2002, the Town of Louisa purchased the historic Louisa County High School. Restoration began in 2005 to adapt the building for the new Louisa Town Hall and Arts Center.
Included on the 12.4 acre site is the handsome two story former residence of the families of J. Frank Sargeant and W. A. Claude Pettit, Jr. J. Frank Sargeant, who built the house in 1914, owned the local hardware store. Claude Pettit, Jr. was a local businessman and Chrysler dealer.
The residence, known locally as the Sargeant-Pettit House, was turned over to the Louisa County Historical Society for the expressed purpose of creating a County Museum and is now the headquarters for the Louisa County Historical Society.
The Sargeant Museum features exhibits telling the story of the county and its place in American history.
Hours are Monday-Friday from 10-4 with special programs offered on specified weekends throughout the year. See our calendar for event details.
History is presented in countless ways, from the stories of nations to individuals. Few venues for encountering the past are as easy to engage with as living history sites where the material culture and structures of the past give context to the lives of those who created them.
Several years ago, when the Historical Society first began to discuss with Mr. Ned Gumble of Virginia Vermiculite his desire to see the Michie House and accompanying smoke house restored, there were two important criteria the Society considered. The first was whether a house we chose to move to the Sargeant Museum site would allow us to authentically represent our history from the colonial era onward. The second important consideration was whether the building was a size that could be moved, reconstructed, and maintained at a reasonable cost.
The Michie House, built sometime just after the close of the Revolutionary War is representative of a thousand other structures built in Louisa County between 1750-1850. It was also just the right size.
After creating a plan for what can become a larger heritage site in the future, working with the Town of Louisa, and raising the needed funds, the project became a reality. The Michie House was dismantled in March of 2013 and reconstruction, with related public workshops and programs, began in June. Our thanks, on behalf of the entire community of Louisa County, to all those who made it possible through their financial support and the sharing of their skills and resources.
The heavy timbers, pegged together with oak, will now stand another 200 years where present and future visitors can experience hands-on educational programs that help us bring Louisa County History to Life!
During the colonial period in Louisa, children were educated in community schools, churches, and later field schools. These schools were paid for by the families of the students. Neighbors would join together to hire and board a teacher who might also be the clergyman or church reader. Students of families with means were prepared to enter college by attending boarding or parson’s schools. By a law passed in 1672 poor children were apprenticed and by 1705 were required to learn to read and write.
In 1760 Reverend James Maury and Revered John Todd, two local clergymen, created classical-style schools in Louisa. These schools were elite and included such students as James Madison, Dabney Carr, and Thomas Jefferson. Around 1830, the Michie House, now located on our property at the Sargeant Museum and Heritage Farm, was used as a field school, taught by Matthew Maury Michie.
Public education did not exist in Louisa until 1871 when the citizens voted that one mill on the dollar would go toward the schools. In 1871 Louisa Courthouse had nine public school teachers. The first public school in Louisa was established on Elm Street in 1877. By 1880, there were several one-room schools such as the restored Trevilians Schoolhouse, now located at the Sargeant Museum and Heritage Farm.
In the early 20th century Louisa received the first matching funds from the state for public education. With these funds the historic Louisa High School was built, located in the town on Fredericksburg Avenue. This school and the buildings and 12.4 acres surrounding it, including the Sargeant/Pettit House, was purchased by the town in late 2002.
In 2017 the Trevilians one-room schoolhouse, which was in use from 1880 to 1920, was relocated to the Heritage Farm. The schoolhouse was well-maintained by a Louisa County family for many years after it closed as a result of school consolidation. Now the historical society provides programs in the schoolhouse, such as the Frugal Fridays and Family Days programs, in which costumed interpreters remind people what education was like here not so long ago.
The story of African-American schools in Louisa County reveals glimpses of a remarkable community. A wealth of information about African-American education in Louisa is contained in The African-American Schools of Louisa County, Virginia, presented by the Louisa County Historical Society.
Did you know there were gold mines in Louisa County? Other minerals were mined here as well, hence the name of the town "Mineral." Our newest exhibit at the Sargeant Museum is the Town of Mineral's historic mining history. We will add more items as we discover the treasures in our archives, most of which were gifted to us by the Mineral Historic Foundation. Check back soon for updates.
Who lived in the "Michie House" and how can their lives tell the story of Louisa County?
In 1728 Gilbert Gibson received a land grant from the Crown for 400 acres on the South Anna River.
The Michie House would later stand on that land, as would Gibson’s Mill, known as Gibby’s Mill on Gibby’s Creek. The story of the Gibsons begins in the Tidewater region and shifts to Henrico County by 1707 where Gilbert Gibson received 300 pounds of tobacco for trapping a wolf. He continued to move west and when Louisa County records began in 1742, Gibson appeared before the court to request a cart path to his mill, for selling liquor without a license, and numerous small infractions of the law. His is a colorful history set in the earliest days of the county through the French and Indian War.
Captain Robert Michie, who helped lead the Louisa militia to Yorktown in 1781, bought the property from the Gibsons in 1790. The deed includes the phrase, “including the house in which your son William now lives.” Was that reference to the house that now stands behind the Sargeant Museum? We can’t be sure but, if not, it was surely one almost identical to it. Robert was the son of Scotch John Michie, who arrived at the port of York in 1716. Michie, with his friend James Watson, were captured at the Battle of Preston and deported as political prisoners to Virginia. Arriving penniless, both Michie and Watson became major land holders in Louisa County by the end of their lives, which remained intertwined through the next generation.
Captain Robert Michie married Ann Watson. Their son William (named after his uncle, another son of Scotch John, who founded the Michie Tavern along the road to the Shenandoah Valley) was the one for whom Robert bought the Gibson property in 1790. William married Mary Ann Walker Maury and they lived in this small house until very late in their lives when they inherited Robert’s property on the death of Ann Watson Michie at age 90.
Matthew Maury Michie later inherited the Michie House, taught a field school there for a number of years, and in the hard times following the Civil War, sold the house in 1876. After changing hands several times, the property came into the Peers family until it was sold to Virginia Vemiculite in the 1970s.