A Father’s Love

Jun. 17th 2012

As today is Father’s Day, I looked back through the history of Belle Grove for a good Father’s Day post.

So forgive me, I am going to skip ahead in the history story of Belle Grove, just for today.

Belle Grove Plantation – River side 2012

This part of the history of Belle Grove comes from the second family to own it, the Hipkins-Bernard Family. In 1790, John Hipkins purchased Belle Grove Plantation from Captain Francis Conway, founder of Port Conway and cousin to James Madison.  The following information was taken from a narrative I found at William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was written by a descendent of John Hipkins, James Patton of Gaymont Plantation, now known as Rose Hill Plantation.

John Hipkins was the son of Samuel and Margaret Upshaw Hipkins of Essex County. It is thought that John was born sometime around 1754.  John married Elizabeth Pratt, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Pratt. She was born on March 8, 1754. John and Elizabeth were married in the early 1770’s. John and Elizabeth lived the early part of the marriage in King and Queen County and seemed to have moved to Caroline County, which is the county just across the river from Belle Grove in December, 1778, when his name appeared on the roster of the Port Royal Kilwinnig-Crosse Lodge #2. Three years later his name appeared on a deed and the tax records for 1782 listed him as a resident of the county and the owner of eight slaves. John served as Magistrate in King and Queen County. He took the oath of Sheriff of Caroline County on November 9, 1802.

On May 14, 1775, Francis “Fanny” Hipkins was born the John and Elizabeth. She would be their only surviving child. Fanny’s parents, most especially her father, spared nothing for her. John even had one of his ships named after her. This ship would later be captured by pirates and lost along with its cargo and crew.

Frances “Fanny” Hipkins Virginia Historic Society

We have uncovered a portrait of Fanny. This portrait comes from a collection at the Virginia Historic Society. In it you can see that they spared no expense for her with her strings of pearls, earrings, lace, feathers and miniatures on gold chains.

Fanny would marry William Bernard of King George County on April 9, 1789, one month prior to her fourteenth birthday. William would turn nineteen that September.

Marriage Announcement in the local paper Second column – just above the border

Shortly after the marriage John would take William into partnership, establishing the firm Hipkins & Bernard, in order to improve him (Bernard) and to keep him employed. William did not take stock in the business, being just eighteen and the business was conducted on John’s capital. This arrangement lasted for two years when on September 1, 1791; it reverted back to John Hipkins & Company. John thought that if storekeeping wasn’t for William, maybe farming would suit him better. So John bought Belle Grove Plantation from Francis Conway, in 1790 with the thought of giving it to his daughter and son-in-law. John then built the center section of the house that currently stands at Belle Grove for William and Fanny, which they moved into in 1791. John sold Belle Grove to William for a sum of five shillings.

Here is one small note about Belle Grove and Rose Hill Plantations. In the fall and winter months, if you stand on the River side of Belle Grove, you can see the house at Rose Hill up on a hill across the river. Maybe John wanted to keep an eye on his only daughter.

When Fanny and William moved into Belle Grove, they already had a daughter, Sarah “Sallie” Salvin Bernard, who was born at Rose Hill in 1790. She would be followed by three more siblings, John Hipkins Bernard (1792), Elizabeth “Eliza” Bernard (1794) and William Bernard (1796).

Sarah “Sally” Salvin Bernard Lightfoot

William Bernard II Virginia Historic Society

In April, 1800, a second partnership was attempted, this time the firm was William Bernard & Company. This formation was in order for John to retire from active business.

On April 30, 1801, Fanny passed away, leaving William with four children, a large plantation and a business to run.  Fanny was buried on the property of Belle Grove in “mother’s garden”. On July 6, 1803, Eliza Bernard passed away and was placed with her mother in the garden.

This business continued along the same pattern as the first partnership with John being the most active. By 1803, William again withdrew his whole attention from the business. John and William spent most of the rest of John’s life in court, trying to settle the estate and business issues.

John Hipkins passed away in 1804. He was buried next to his daughter and granddaughter on the property of Belle Grove. His plantation, Rose Hill was passed to his grandson and name sake, John Hipkins Bernard. Being that John Hipkins Bernard was only twelve at the time, his grandmother, Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins, held the property in trust for him.

William Bernard would marry a second time to Elizabeth Hooe in 1804. He would also move the family from Belle Grove Plantation to a new plantation in Stafford County, Virginia, called Mansfield. Belle Grove would be leased until William Bernard II become of age to inherit it in 1814.

Deed for Belle Grove Plantation to William Bernard II 1814

John Hipkins inherited Rose Hill Plantation upon the death of his grandmother Elizabeth Pratt Hipkins in 1829. Elizabeth joined her husband, daughter and granddaughter at Belle Grove.  John Hipkins Bernard would marry Jane Gay Robinson. He would change the name from Rose Hill to Gaymont in her honor. The home was known as Gaymont until the current owner changed the name back to Rose Hill Plantation.

Jane Gay Robinson Bernard
Gaymont Plantation (formerly known as Rose Hill) Library of Congress

William Bernard II would marry Sarah Dykes and have two surviving daughters, Eliza Bernard (1815) and Sarah Ann Bernard (1817). William and Sarah had a total of seven children, with two sets of twins. Five of those children, including the two sets of twins would pass away as infants. These infants were buried with William’s mother, sister and grandfather at Belle Grove.

Sarah Dykes Bernard Virginia Historic Society
William Bernard II Signature 1820

William Bernard II passed away on January 31, 1822 and was also buried at Belle Grove. With his sudden death and no will, William Bernard I stepped in as guardian of the two infant children and daughter-in-law. He would manage the estate until 1839.  On December 11, 1839, William sold Belle Grove to the husbands of Eliza and Sarah Bernard for one dollar. Sixteen days later, Belle Grove was sold to the Turner Family. Sarah Dykes Bernard moved and later pass away in 1860. She was not buried with William.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 49 Comments »